Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Deathstar Memories

Back in the carefree Twentieth Century, things were different.
We AT&T operatives called our hive The Deathstar. Because of the logo. Every two weeks, I mysteriously got a check for "training" Customer Service Representatives. In essence, I was training people, who are in no way Representative of the buffoons who were their bosses, to do something that had nothing to do with Service. But that was the vile task to which I was assigned. Teaching the underemployable to be redirective upsellers. Some of these people are still friends of mine.
Others, I still duck down the Rug Shampoo Rental aisle whenever I see them coming.
One thing I will always carry in my heart from those days (the days before I left in a huff for a career in historical cetacean entertainment management) was the feeling that if I were ever to suffer a traumatic brain injury which left me without the ability to reason clearly without flash cards, I could still trust The Deathstar to give me a management position. And eventually a seat on their Board of Directors.
I was "teaching" mostly artists, students, and musicians how to navigate NetScape (!) platforms and access your phone bill in order to convince you that "It's not a mistake, ma'am." And then sell you some imaginary "service" thing that would cost you more money every month. (And involve a fee, as well as a tax, which we call a fee but explain as a tax if you ask.) My wards were way smarter than any of the managers team leaders who held them accountable to random quantitative specifications of vague qualitative expectations.
And all I had to do was enjoy team meetings that involved cake, flirting, and fifteen-minute smoke breaks every thirty minutes.
Of course, I had to "take meetings" with regional supervisory types. And in every case, I would rather have sat down with Jacinto from Facilities than with the CEO. Not because I would rather have a beer and talk colloquially, although I did do that every other Friday night.
Because I would rather not suffer the alternative: The meandering misapprehensions and misinterpretations endemic in the office world, personified by someone in grey who smelled like gum and either made uncomfortably long eye contact or couldn't make any at all.
At The Deathstar, I quickly learned to not read any "industry news" where I might hear of innovations in the rest of the industry. The Deathstar never acted as though it were part of any recognizable industry that provided the same service. Every change in the market was met with a completely wanton and purposeless act by someone whose name we knew because it was on the memo. Change always came from above, unsolicited and unexplained, while reactions left everyone unmoved and results unexamined.
Which is why I am confused by the Telecoms Immunity and Protection Act or whatever they're calling the latest offense aginst our Fourth Amendment rights. Although I don't understand how anyone could hold these morons accountable for anything, when most of them couldn't hold their ID card to the sensor that operated the parking lot's gate. You can read more about how my former employers are more important to some members of Congress than you or I here or just about anywhere you type "FISA."
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution goes a little something like this:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

It's one of the easy ones. I had to give a report on it in Fifth Grade, and I caught its intricacies, even when I was trying to learn trumpet. It's easy to interpret the Fourth Amendment. Have a yen to deny someone his or her Fourth Amendment rights? Feel free to unreasonably destabilize the safety of their stuff and indiscriminately search it without warning or reason. Now, don't. See how easy?
The FISA vote isn't something that I take lightly, especially after having worked in the telecommunications industry. In fact, like any conscientious American raised in a Catholic environment, I feel the appropriate sense of guilt. It was bad enough that I tacitly gave permission to some high school kid to go through all the numbers on your phone bill and tell you where each call went. And that the calls to Palau-Palau were made to a number someone had found in the back of BumBiters Monthly.
What anyone in Gubmint would do with that kind of information escaped me then and escapes me now; and they should have no access to it. Period. And if Makebelievia terrorists are using AT&T to call Blowupistan and make "plans," it really would behoove them to look into other options. I mean, do you need to waste $7.35 for the first minute? When you can use a card for 35 cents? Really?

And so The Electronic Frontier Foundation says: "Hundreds of millions of private, domestic communications—have been…copied in their entirety by AT&T and knowingly diverted wholesale by means of multiple “splitters” into a secret room controlled exclusively by the NSA." But Republicans in the Senate -- and an unfortunate number of Democrats who get huge chunks of cash from the Telecoms -- want to make sure that the people who have collected that information unconstitutionally can get away with it.
In the name of security. Of safety. Of national whozawazzis. Of something you're just supposed to be afraid of and shut up and don't hold anyone accountable to or responsible for. You won't understand, they'll say. Because they think you're stupid. And they're wrong.

If they want to protect anything in America, they should work at protecting the Constitution.

If you're in the mood, call a senator or congressor and tell him or her that it's their job.

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