America’s criminal justice system is a disaster for the nation. The political left has known this for years, but has been cowed into silence by right-wingers’ ability to attach a “soft on crime” label to anyone who dares speak up for reform.

So while it’s incredibly hypocritical that some people on the right are now pushing for (some) reform, it’s also welcome. If this becomes a nationwide movement, we’ll all be better off, no matter who gets the credit.

 

 

As I do periodically, I’m re-reading the late John D. MacDonald’s novels, including the Travis McGee series. The books are a trenchant testament to their era — and not always in good ways, such as the irredeemable sexism leaps out of the pages.

But the novels were also brilliant commentaries on the America of MacDonald’s time — and even ours, decades after their publication, when so much remains so smart and prescient.

Here’s a passage from A Tan and Sandy Silence, a 1971 McGee novel.

The trouble with the news is that everybody knows everything too fast and too often and too many times. News has always been bad. The tiger that lives in the forest just ate your wife and kids, Joe. There are no fat grubworms under the rotten logs this year, Al. Those sickies in the village on the other side of the mountain are training hairy mammoths to stomp us flat, Pete. They nailed up two thieves and one crackpot, Mary. So devote wire-service people and network people and syndication people to gathering up all the bad news they can possibly dredge and comb and scrape out of a news-tired world and have them spray it back at everybody in constant streams of electronics, and two things happen. First, we all stop listening, so they have to make it ever more horrendous to capture our attention. Second, we all become even more convinced that everything has gone rotten and there is no hope at all, no hope at all. In a world of no hope the motto is semper fidelis, which means in translation. “Every week is screw-your-buddy week and his wife, too, if he’s out of town.”

 

At the request of the European Parliament — one of the few legislative bodies that’s shown any serious concern about the massive surveillance programs run by the US, UK and others — Edward Snowden sent in written testimony that is well worth reading. Here’s a key paragraph:

I believe that suspicionless surveillance not only fails to make us safe, but it actually makes us less safe. By squandering precious, limited resources on “collecting it all,” we end up with more analysts trying to make sense of harmless political  dissent and fewer investigators running down real leads. I believe investing in mass surveillance at the expense of traditional, proven methods can cost lives, and history has shown my concerns are justified.

Read it all.

It’s the second day of the IndieWebCamp in San Francisco, where some talented tech folks are discussing, demonstrating and deploying tools designed to keep the Internet as open as possible. I’m learning a ton about things like microformats, webmention, and other useful (if, to relatively non-technical people like me, somewhat arcane) technologies.

Already, using easily deployed tools, I’m using this blog to create posts that show up on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ (I don’t use Facebook much). That’s easy because WordPress has built this kind of functionality straight into the Jetpack plugin.

What I’ve also done, using the IndieWeb plugin — created by a member of the growing community dedicated to making this all work — is to get Twitter replies and retweets to show up as comments on the blog posts. At least that was happening with a different theme; still waiting to see if it works in this one (UPDATE: it does!).

Ryan Barrett‘s work is key to this. He created something called Bridgy, which

sends webmentions for comments, likes, and reshares on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram. Bridgy notices when you post links, watches for activity on those posts, and sends them back to your site as webmentions. It also serves them as microformats2 for webmention targets to read.

As you can see if you look at the comments, it’s working nicely for me on this blog. I’m seriously blown away by what this suggests for the future of an open Internet.

I’ll be writing more about this in an upcoming Guardian column, and in Permission Taken, my new book project that’s dedicated to helping people understand the consequences of centralized technology/communications, and what we can do about it.

At the Guardian, Heather Long suggests we stop the typically American practice of asking everyone we meet what they do. We make our jobs our identity, she observes, and that’s a bad idea. I agree.

A note: Heather has been my editor in recent months, and she’s leaving for CNN. I wish her the best and thank her for being a superb editor.