I like Missoula very much. After living here a few years, though, I have also concocted a theory of Other Missoula, home to the approximately 40,000 people who wear sweatpants to the mall. Those of you familiar with the Problem of Others are likely beginning to suspect that all my theories are products of wounded solipsism, and you are probably right. I would like to point out that Other Missoula is a real and terrifying thing, however, as demonstrated in this year’s Missoula Independent Best of Missoula poll. Best Athlete? Jordan Johnson, the indicted, suspended and now reinstated Griz quarterback who did not play this year because he was busy being acquitted of rape.
The problem with reporting on pop culture is that you’re really only reporting on your personal pop culture experience. If you see, for example, an article in New York Magazine about the new chick-lit book Brooklyn Girls,* you are forced to decide whether the “Brooklyn girl” is a real trend or just something Yael Kohen used to pitch a feature to her editor. This question is impossible to answer. Presumably there is a set number of people out there who are familiar with the concept of the Brooklyn girl and believe it describes real humans, but that number is unknowable. The trend writer is therefore forced to either risk reporting a specious trend as actual, a la the New York Times, or to present the new trend as a fake trend, ironically undercutting it even as she perpetuates it. Guess which option Jezebel chose?
We don’t know exactly how many, because releasing such information would jeopardize national security, but approximately 100 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are on hunger strike. Last week, a DC district court rejected the petition of four prisoners to cease force-feeding during the month of Ramadan, when observant Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. But don’t worry: prison administrators will only forcibly nourish prisoners through neogastric tubes when it’s dark out. If you read down a few paragraphs in the Guardian article, you will also find this:
US government lawyers also argued that the detainees bringing the case, Shaker Aamer, Nabil Hadjarab, Ahmed Belbacha and Abu Wa’el Dhiab, are not “persons” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and are therefore not protected under it.
Fans of War on Terror jurisprudence will be interested to learn that lawyers for the federal government have made this argument since 2006.
Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal ran stories about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court this week, and I urge you to read them. The FISC, which the Times insists on calling the “FISA court” after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, has established a body of case law that significantly expands the federal government’s domestic surveillance powers, and it’s all secret. You’re not allowed to know what the FISC determines the NSA and FBI can legally do, because that would help terrorists. In June, when the Senate asked NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander whether FISC would ever make some of its rulings public, Alexander said:
I don’t want to jeopardize the security of Americans by making a mistake in saying, ‘Yes, we’re going to do all that.’
So “no,” then? Here’s a link to Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language,” just in case Gen. Alexander is reading this. We know someone in his office is.
What a cold bath is July 5th. (Except for Mom. Happy birthday, Mom!) I spent all day yesterday lounging about a lake and drinking Coronas, arguably the most American beer. Freedom seemed another word for nothing left to do, and America seemed poised in the catbird seat of history. Just one day later I am back to work, and the catbird seats seems more like a chair with an actual cat and a bird in it—in a word, discomfiting. Today is Friday, and reality intrudes. Won’t you pause to remember the fireworks, then return to packing your child’s finger in ice with me?