Baseball’s back baby! Earlier today I gleefully watched the Detroit Tigers defeat the Minnesota Twins in their opening game of this 2015 Major League Baseball season. Also in sports, tonight at the oddly specific starting time of 9:18PM is the Men’s College Basketball National Championship between the Badgers and Blue Devils from Wisconsin and Duke respectively. Yet as much as I would like to go on about the impressive offensive and defensive day for Yoenis Cespedes, David Price’s pitching performance, or how Frank Kaminsky’s future NBA success may be directly correlated to his ugliness, there are more important issues to discuss.
Loyal readers of this blog (all one of you, including myself) know that I frequently draw upon the oeuvre of John Oliver. I’ve long been a fan of the Daily Show style of humorously delivered news and their comical correspondents, and Oliver is my favorite right now. After filling in for Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last summer while Stewart worked on the film Rosewater, Oliver showed his hosting chops and has impressed and amused many with his infectious smile, exaggerated hand motions, conversations with himself, and all around British charm. However, like his colleagues Stewart and Stephen Colbert before him, under all that lovable goofiness is a highly intelligent man looking to cut through the bullshit to deliver the news, albeit with funny pictures and dumb jokes about his penis. Now that he has his own show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO, Oliver is at the forefront of what news he wishes to delve into each week. You can see why I’m a fan.
Today I am once again looking to Mr. Oliver for inspiration, and his most recent discussion is one that is very important to the current state of the States and the rest of the world: global surveillance, specifically the spying done by the National Security Agency, better known as the NSA. This has been a hot topic since June 2013 thanks to a 29 year old American computer technician named Edward Snowden. Now 31, Snowden once worked for the CIA and NSA before fleeing the United States for Hong Kong where he leaked US government documents to reporters to reveal the extent of global surveillance conducted by America on enemies and allies alike, as well as on American citizens living in the US and abroad. He currently lives somewhere in Russia, presumably in or around Moscow where he occasionally meets with journalists.
Depending on whom you ask, you will hear Snowden referred to as “hero”, “traitor”, and “Who?” alike. It seems that the jury’s still out on Snowden across this country of mine and everywhere else; I myself am still not sure what to make of him and am certain the story is far from over. Nevertheless, whatever kind of whistleblower he is, Snowden has served a critical role in getting people to question their privacy rights and how much they are willing to give up for supposed safety measures. This is a very important question to ponder at any time, yet especially so now as key elements of the Patriot Act – the controversial law that allows wiretaps and monitoring of suspected terrorists that was quickly signed into effect after the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001 – are due for dismissal or reauthorization on June 1.
I have included John Oliver’s latest major segment from his show’s YouTube channel. It is just over 30 minutes, but trust me, it’s worth spending a half hour and three minutes of your time on. Oliver actually met with Snowden in Russia last week and interviewed him in his typical, unconventional style. In the interview, he does a good job of not only working in joking quips, but gets at the primary issue of confusion for most people regarding this topic and Snowden’s involvement in it. Oliver correctly identifies that it is difficult for most people to understand how the government acquisition of information occurs and does his best to have Snowden discuss it in terms that we laypeople can more easily comprehend. Enjoy.
Gives new meaning to the term “junk mail”, eh?
No matter what your opinion of Snowden is, it is always important to ensure that your freedoms are both being protected and continued to be granted to you. It is hard to determine where the line is on some issues, and we definitely don’t want anyone to be able to commit any more atrocities, large or small, in America (or anywhere, but especially here!), yet we cannot allow fear to dictate how we behave or what we do. When you do let a group of people scare you into acting a certain way, well, the terrorists win. That’s what a terrorist is: someone who uses fear, usually of things like, oh, I dunno, death, to force you to cease living the way you were (or at all) to fit within the confines of their own agenda. I’m not saying that the United States government is a collection of terrorists bullying its citizens and the world into behaving the way it wants, but I don’t want it to become such and it is more likely to do that by continuing to monitor everyone’s every action. I’m okay with Kim Kardashian’s butt breaking the Internet, as long as it’s not crashed by government servers.
Thanks for reading/watching! My special thanks to John Oliver and his HBO crew for making their show segments so readily available and for once again giving me something smarter to talk about than sparkly multicolored koosh balls (but admit it, you want me to write about that now, don’t you?). If you have anything to add or ask about, or a request for something you’d like me to write about (KOOSH BALLS!) hit me up via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy the final men’s college hoops game of this season tonight, and the remaining 161 regular season MLB games for each club throughout October. Be sure to swoosh back here next week for an in-depth discussion of the latest class of recognized legends of the greatest genre of music.