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.

Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas' Free Lunch

That was a treat! How often can you leave work on your lunch break, grab a burrito, and plop your ass down 20 feet from a world-renowned symphony orchestra for a free concert led by this guy.

The San Francisco Symphony, fresh from a round of festivals in Switzerland and Italy, played an outdoor freebie for their appreciative hometown rabble Friday afternoon, the players laughing as nearby car horns and sirens worked their way into the refrains. It was delightful show, ignoring the program's admonition that "video or audio recording of today's performance is strictly prohibited" (Please! This is the iPhone generation.) Superconductor Michael Tilson Thomas took the helm, launching his talented crew of waiters (or so they appeared in their white tuxedoes) into the Roman Carnival Overture (Opus 9) by Berlioz, followed by the First Movement (Allegro con brio) from Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Opus 67. (See rant below.)

Texas: Where Innocent Men Are Sent to Die

Update: On Oct. 27, presumably thanks to the article discussed below, the Burleson County district attorney's office cleared Anthony Graves of all charges and ordered him released after 18 years in prison. Read Pamela Colloff's fabulous followup story, "Innocence Found." 

Imagine it. You're 26 years old. The police show up at your mom's apartment. Cuff you. Drag you down to the station and throw you in a holding room without explanation. You sit for half an hour. Nobody will tell you a thing. Finally a justice of the peace shows up, reads you your rights. Says you're charged with capital murder. You don't know what kind of Kafka nightmare you've been dragged into, but you do know it's a colossal mistake. That you need to get it cleared up right away. "Capital murder," you repeat, stunned. You repeat it 18 times, enunciating the syllables as though trying to grasp the meaning. As you are hauled off for interrogation by the Texas Rangers, you slap the side of your head, crying out, "Am I dreaming?"

Today, more than 18 years later, your case still hasn't been cleared up. Your most productive years have been squandered on Texas death row, and even now, after your hide was barely saved by a last-minute appeal, and the court threw out your conviction due to the most egregious sort of prosecutorial misconduct, the Texas authorities are attempting to retry you for a crime you didn't commit. A crime perpetrated by the man you barely knew—who fingered you and then recanted, both to the prosecutor before your own trial, and then again, just prior to his own execution for the crime, insisting he and he alone killed the members of that family as they slept. A crime for which, in your case, there is no motive. No physical evidence to implicate you. For which you have an alibi.

Your name is Anthony Graves, and you had nothing to do with any of this. 

A Rock 'n' Roll Twitter Intervention

So I've got this friend and coworker with a problem. (Out of respect for his privacy, let's just call him Adam Weinstein.) Adam is prolific. In addition to his regular job, the guy writes and blogs like a madman. He provokes the trolls on purpose, debates his blog commenters, and tweets like there's no tomorrow. So that's his baseline state.

But then he discovered the hashtag #rockretractions, and that's when things went south.

Adam dismissed it as blowing off steam during Mother Jones' busy production cycle—the two weeks of late nights when we ship pages off to the printer. But I knew better. Adam was hooked. #Rockretractions was a cheap, quick high. It started with the classics as a kind of gateway drug:

  • It has come to our attention that, in fact, Mother Superior acted quite prudently. #rockretractions
  • You know what? I got some satisfaction. Didn't even try, really. #rockretractions
  • She knows damn well that stairway she's building doesn't actually go anywhere. #rockretractions
  • In retrospect, that silhouette might not have been of a man. It was awfully little. #rockretractions
  • @daudig OK, she was a hound dog. But she was also a great deal more. #rockretractions
  • You can check out anytime you like, but please mind our other guests and leave only between 9 AM and 5 PM. #rockretractions
  • Dude totally looks like a dude, dude. #rockretractions

The GOP (Hearts) Hard-Working Americans!

Congressional Republicans are constantly claiming, especially in these pre-election days, they are down with hard-working Americans. And maybe they are—but which ones? Average hard-working Americans, or those who've made vast fortunes from all their hard work?

This week's statement from House minority whip Eric Cantor (R-Pa.) clears things up: "Despite the clear efforts by President Obama and Speaker Pelosi to increase taxes on hard-working Americans, there is ample evidence that a bipartisan majority of the House would support a clean bill to ensure that no American faces a tax increase in this difficult economic environment."

He's referring, of course, to the bill the GOP is holding hostage because it extends tax cuts for just 98 percent of working Americans—the ones who make less than a quarter million a year. So there you have it: The Republicans support ALL hard-working Americans!

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