Michael Mechanic

Michael Mechanic

Senior Editor

Michael has been a senior editor at Mother Jones for eight years, after spending the previous six as an award-winning features editor at the weekly East Bay Express. In addition to editing stories for print and web, he is in charge of the magazine's Mixed Media section. His writing has appeared in a range of newspapers and magazines including Wired, The Industry Standard, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Oakland, California, with his wife, two kids, three chickens, striped cat, and too many musical instruments to master.

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Michael has been a senior editor at Mother Jones for eight years, after spending the previous six as an award-winning features editor at the weekly East Bay Express. In addition to editing stories for print and web, he is in charge of the magazine's Mixed Media section. His writing has appeared in a range of newspapers and magazines including Wired, The Industry Standard, and the Los Angeles Times. He originally set out to be a scientist, and as an undergrad spent a year in an organic chemistry lab at UC-Berkeley, where he was a biochemistry major, trying to synthesize tropical frog poisons. He also earned a masters degree in cellular and developmental biology from Harvard University and a masters in journalism from Cal. In 2009, he was named a finalist for a National Magazine Award for his contribution to MoJo's "Torture Hits Home" package. (His contribution, "Voluntary Confinement," involved a reality TV show that held contestants in isolation.) He also won a 2014 Society for Professional Journalists award for "It Was Kind of Like Slavery," a photoessay with photographer Nina Berman. Michael lives with his family in Oakland, California, where he sits on his front porch and attempts to play the fiddle.

A mock solitary cell erected for a recent Senate hearing on the subject.

Fans of James Ridgeway, our stalwart senior correspondent, already know of his deep interest in a topic that most Americans prefer not to think about: America's routine use of long-term solitary confinement in its jails and prisons. An estimated 80,000 Americans are held in some form of solitary, he reports, despite evidence that it has profound negative physical and psychological effects on people and does nothing to make prisons safer—one of the primary rationales for its continuing use.

Among Ridgeway's Mother Jones articles and posts on the topic is the story of Troy Anderson, a mentally ill prisoner who has spent years in solitary with no end in sight; this recent check-in on the two remaining members of the so-called Angola 3—men who have spent 40 years in solitary because Burl Cain, Angola Prison's notorious leader (whom Ridgeway profiles in "God's Own Warden"), was angered by their political rabble-rousing; and a Q&A with Sarah Shourd, one of three American hikers who were captured by Iranian soldiers in 2008, accused of spying, and put in solitary for 14 months. You can browse all of Jim's articles on his author page.

In this clip, Nick Gillespie, editor of Reason.com and Reason.TV speaks with Ridgeway about his reporting for us and for the specialty blog Solitary Watch.

Remember this scene from 8-Mile? To dis' his nemesis in a rap battle, Eminem has learned in advance that the guy is a wannabe gangsta who is secretly named Clarence and attends Mitt Romney's elite private high school—where Romney's past "pranks" have been the subject of so much debate this week. Yeah, well, "Fuck Cranbrook!" says the rapper. Watch:

Ani DiFranco

"Which Side Are You On," the haunting 1931 labor classic by Florence Reece, the wife of a union organizer, has been covered by Pete Seeger, Billy Bragg, Natalie Merchant, and Dropkick Murphys, to name just a few. In January, with the release of her album of the same title, the inimitable Ani DiFranco added her name to the list. Actually, it's always been pretty damn clear which side DiFranco is on. (In this 1999 interview, we spoke at some length about her collaboration with labor organizer and rabble-rousing storyteller Utah Phillips.) DiFranco's reworked version updates Reece's sparse union-versus-management call to action to focus on the contemporary political machine. This exclusive video below, seen here for the first time, combines DiFranco's update with a montage of images submitted by her fans who were inspired by the song—you can find plenty more here. You can also download a free MP3 of the song here. And if this makes you want to hit the barricades, well, it just so happens that the Occupy and labor movements have big plans for tomorrow, so check back, because we'll be covering the protests as they happen.

Click here for more music coverage from Mother Jones.

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