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POTUS 2016


Here’s a thought experiment: what if the President stands for freedom, and returns the 4th Amendment to Americans who travel?

What if they stand for accountability, and incarcerate George W. Bush for violating international law when he used the U.S. Military to invade Iraq? They could also incarcerate Obama for violating Pakistani airspace with drones, killing civilians, and wresting American citizens of habeas corpus.

What if, after that, they stand for integrity and acknowledge that our draconian penal system has gotten completely out of hand, and that the freest nation on Earth cannot also simultaneously be the jailingest?

What if they force petrol companies to diclose the contents of their frakking fluid, so we can find out why cows die when they drink it and whether pumping massive amounts of this stuff into the ground will poison the aquifer while the western United States suffers from crippling drought?

What if, through executive order, they limit the power and caprice of the 21st century Imperial Executive Branch, so that the U.S. Government can go back to checking and balancing itself? (This would require a meta-executive order that limited executive orders, and the Narcissist-in-Chief would have to be willing to curtail his or her own power.)

What if they sink more federal money into alternative energy and ensuring the security of our food and water supply well into the future?

What if they pare down on inept and obsolete bureaucracies like the ATF, the TSA, and every other redundant, money-hemmorhaging set of buildings filled with goons who would probably be just as comfortable in Kim Jong Un’s Korea?

What if they choose to not engage in the mock outrage that fuels bitter partisanship?

What if they work with Congress to pass sensible campaign finance reforms, so the companies can stop buying Manchurian candidates? When the choice between Obama and Romney wasn’t really a choice (we’d still be in the same places today if Romney were President), what does that say about our supposedly bicameral system?

What if they create an ethos in the White House in which ethics, in addition to laws, must be abided to?

What if they force hospitals to stop having arbitrary pricing schemes and begin transparent billing procedures?

What if they tell the health insurance companies that the patient is the customer, and it’s high time they fire some people?

What if they tell doctors that if they’re in it for the money, they’re in it for the wrong reasons, because healthcare spending can’t possibly go from one in four dollars to one in three?

What if they tell NHTSA that the 30,000 people who die in traffic every year is a less important number than the 440,000 people who are killed annually by hospitals or doctors, so we don’t actually need every car to be robot-controlled, studded with cameras, and cost $50,000?

What if they stop torture and extreme renditions, since if we’re still engaged in these things, it makes us hardly better than China or Russia?

What if they closed Guantanamo, which holds actual P.O.W.’s instead of members of the legal make-believe category called “enemy combatants”?

If such a human were capable of achieving all these feats and still being elected President, they’d certainly recruit my vote and a Nobel Prize that would actually be earned. And why couldn’t they? Shouldn’t the Leader of the Free World be able to conquer everything on this measely list before lunch? Hope and Change would be slogans that might actually apply to them, and we wouldn’t actually need this Viagrasweatpantsrevolution.

 

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The Un-Americans


During Capitol Hill hearings this week, it was revealed that the NSA hasn’t stopped a single terrorist attack in the United States of America since the rollout of Bush the Younger’s total transparency initiative, which Obama said he would not continue yet then allowed to blossom into a glorious and terrifyingly scandalous National Laughingstock that now threatens even the health of the U.S. economy.

So, the same NSA that treats every U.S. citizen like a criminal, robbing him or her of their 4th Amendment rights and simultaneously making allies like Brazil and Germany hate us overnight, has done precisely nothing via their strategy of trying to find the needle in the haystack by adding more hay, which is precisely what critics like me have said this strategy would lead to: zero caught terrorists and the continued hemorrhaging of taxpayer dollars when the national debt is already $16 trillion. Add to that the abiding and well-earned hatred of every liberty-loving person on Earth, and the U.S. Government is finally making a stronger case that Al-Qaeda has been right all along than Al-Qaeda themselves are capable of making.

Dead leadership or not, the copycats being spawned are legion, and the more Obama, Keith Alexander, and John Bates push, the more the world will finally understand why the extremists do what they do: because our autonomy is being robbed by the autocrats and technocrats who are being enriched through the engineering of a Brave New World around us that even they won’t want to live in. This is why people blow themselves up. The Nazis are invading, they’re coming for your privacy, and when they’re finally finished, not only will they own all of your thoughts, but life will completely suck because your thermostat will tell the cops that your alibi is false and your doctor will find out how many pizzas you ordered last week alone. Your car will likewise snitch you out to your insurance company, not that you’ll be able to drive it anymore, and since that experiment met with such great success, we might just find that taking the human nervous system out of every equation (not just the driving one) is a fantastic idea that will keep us all safe all the time. It’s not just cultural autonomy that disappears as English marches on and replaces every other language in the 21st century–technology will ensure that individual autonomy disappears as well, if driverless cars are an example of anything.

Now Google et  al. is trying to get us to wear computers at exactly the same moment that we are starting to realize that the Digital Age brings us too much of a good thing, and the processing power in our pockets isn’t unidirectional. What could I possibly need from a jacket that can talk to the cloud, much less a pair of eyeglasses, a watch, a bracelet, or a luggage tag, when much of the “talking” it does will NOT be things that I’m telling it to discuss? Steve Jobs wanted us to live in a world in which the user interface with the digital product was seamless, because there were countless things going on in the background that the user didn’t control. Those things are starting to add up…and now that we know more of what they’re doing and saying we want much less of that shit.

When does everyone leave Apple and Microsoft in a mass exodus and switch to Linux? When do the companies develop products to shield us from the NSA as they simultaneously provide the NSA lists of who purchases them? When do the children realize that the craven world the grownups are creating is not something they should ever deign to be part of? All of these things are happening right now, to varying degrees. At some point along the way the poor will also realize that these terrible parts of the power structure that creates the income gap serve only to enforce it by continuing to enrich the already powerful in some way or other.

Our society is already broken and backward enough when we criminalize suicide yet use modern medicine to extend the human lifespan at least three decades beyond our natural state, while caring for the old bankrupts us all as we shift from spending one in every four dollars on healthcare in the U.S. to one in every three. There’s a reason why more children are in poverty than every other demographic sector, while Social Security pays out the “Greatest” Generation more than they actually put in. Now we’re forcing children who don’t need healthcare to buy it so we can pay for people whose lives we’ve extended well beyond the years that nature intended. More than 4% of our population is either in prison or on probation, yet we’re supposed to be the freeest nation on Earth. We put children, women, and the mentally ill to death in our country for crimes and no one else in the industrialized world does. We have a military budget as large as the next 40 most-militarized nations, yet our President is trying to hedge, and take as few recommendations from the NSA/Surveillance review committee as possible. Watch the little man who only understands the letter of the law, not right from wrong, squirm in the mess he created when he decided to lie to the American people about ending W.’s program.

If Obama really gave a shit about American values, he would have kept his word. If he were the statesman the Nobel Committee pretended he was when they gave him that silly award for being half-black and elected POTUS, he’d be working hard with other nations to establish international standards on surveillance instead of bitching about not wanting to “unilaterally disarm.” (The argument there is a terrible one: “China and Russia have shitty, spooky, surveillance-y governments, so we have to also, to stay ‘safe.'” ‘Cause safety is ZERO TERRORISTS CAUGHT!) If John Bates, head of the FISA court cared about American values, he’d let an independent advocate into his courtroom. If Keith Alexander did, he’d be looking only at foreign communications. In short, if any of these men had a better articulation between being men, being in power, and rightness and wrongness, they would be doing PRACTICALLY EVERY FUCKING THING DIFFERENTLY THAN THEY CURRENTLY ARE.

So stand up, Obama! Grow a fucking spine. Take a class in ethics. Review the 4th Amendment, and pretend you’re part of the solution while doing so, instead of part of the problem (read it like a normal patriot, not a lawyer looking for inherent logical permeability). Be a statesman, instead of a whiner and a uniter, instead of a divider. You have only the world to win in doing so. If you win the world, we also win the War on Terror. But if you keep showing 6.66 billion people that we should be feared and hated because we can no longer be relied upon to do what’s right, much less believe in the same tripe we force others to swallow around the globe “lost” won’t even begin to describe us. If you don’t start doing the right thing, right now, all America can hope for will be oblivion.

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Amendments to the Rules and Laws of the Internet for 2013


With all due respect to Anonymous and 4Chan, most of the several dozen Rules of the Internet are trite, glib, or silly, even when they are true. And with respect to the so-called “Laws of the Internet,” Godwin, Skitt, Poe, DeMyer, Cohen, Danth, Scopie, and Pommer likewise offer us little in the way of gravitas–you know, the dark scepter-like cynicism that is much more tangible in 2013 than it was in 2003, back when the internet was wholly convenient and never particularly scary, once you considered Rule 29 (on the internet, all girls are men, and all kids are undercover FBI agents or Perverted Justice Decoys).

So, since all laws need continual refreshing that is generally more comprehensive and thoughtful than this example,

“30. There are NO girls on the internet.

30.1. Rule 30 only applies to the deep internet.

30.2. If girls are found on the deep internet, CODE RED, RED ALERT, ALL SYSTEMS BREACHED!”,

I propose a new set of internet rules that I shall heretofore refer to as Amendments to the internet. None of these are particularly funny, as the internet isn’t funny anymore, now that Obama and Keith Alexander in the NSA are working so hard to radicalize every thinking thing in the U.S. that understands that laws and ethics don’t overlap 100% of the time. I mean, what did Angela Merkel fucking think? Our government treats every person in the U.S. like a criminal, citizen or not, so why did she think she’d be handled any differently?

So, here’s what I have so far:

1. Increasingly, everything that is true about the internet will be true about technoindustrial human culture.

Since everything that can be said about culture can also be said about language, and the internet is the prime medium through which this language is flowing, it will eventually become language itself. As it does this what will be true of the internet will also be true for us. Likewise, these Amendments will adhere more and more to human culture and not just the internet as time progresses.

2. “Free” hasn’t been free since 2003.

Someone gets something from every “free” service you’ve used at least since then. If you find out what they’ve been getting, you’ll realize there’s no such thing as “free.”

3. If you can’t opt out of a feature you don’t want, someone in power is insisting you have it.

That camera in your laptop that you never use and shouldn’t have had to pay for because you’re not a Skyper is there because the entrenched power structure has mandated that you leave yourself vulnerable to creepy hackers that want to look at you undetected. The EDR in your car that you don’t want to buy, either, is there to fuck over any creative explanations you may one day need to use to explain an accident to your auto insurance carrier.

4. The internet is less useful than you think.

When placed in a room of the right books, any literate person can do research faster offline. In exchange for access to more information, we have to winnow through mountains of utter crap and give up our privacy in order to have the “privilege” to do it. If the big five (Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo) take a pee squirt more of our personal information, they’ll be able to steal our identities and the whole internet will be moot.

5. The internet is not for you.

Did you ever wonder why the deep internet makes up about 80% of the information on the whole internet, or more, yet you never use the deep internet? Wait. Who uses the deep internet? What are they doing on it?

6. The same search algorithms that help you find EXACTLY what you’re looking for also tell Google what you’re trying to invent BEFORE you invent it.

And why wouldn’t they? You’ve often wondered how the search algorithm that Google uses can be so tight that it seems to read your mind, so it’s probably safe to assume that it can.

7. Given the opportunity, many people will surveil themselves because they find it “convenient.”

All those photos you uploaded of yourself to Facebook with your picture taken from multiple angles are training facial recognition software systems to one day be so robust that public street cameras will be able to send a list of names to a computer whenever people walk by them. I guarantee you this technology will do more harm than good. Also, the caller-ID devices of the late ’90’s and early 2000’s were exactly the kind of pen devices that the FBI used to have to go through the FISA court to get a judge’s order to place on your phone line, pre Patriot Act. People actually paid $30-50 to waive this right because it kept them from having to leave a pad of paper and a pencil by the phone.

8. The cloud is not your friend.

Just as the search engine can be used to steal your intellectual property, so can the cloud. Once again, see Amendment #2. There’s a reason why Prezi makes you pay to have your shit kept private.

9. A free internet can be just as scary and dystopian as a totalitarian one.

Now with the most recent Snowden revelations, China can say to the U.S. “OK, we see why you’ve let American citizens do whatever they want on the internet all this time. So you can spy on them.” Which is more scary, a nation whose people can’t tell the difference between The Onion and a legitimate news outfit, or the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth assuming that every single digital communication on the entire planet could potentially be taking place between enemies of the state? I know which of those two nations is far less likely to turn the world into a pile of rubble.

10. No technological “solution” ever works as well as the real thing once did.

For example, porn and wanking. The real thing was always better than wanking, regardless of whether the porn was digital or from a glossy magazine. Mobile phones still don’t make calls as clearly and reliably as land lines. Styluses suck compared to pencils. Quartz watches don’t run as long as automatics, and sundials never actually break. Our first truly human technology was probably fire, and the last time I checked, it can still pretty much trump every other technology eventually.

So, keep your eyes peeled, because Amendment 11 will probably be about how the singularity surrounds us in a sea of insect-like spy robots, like in Neuromancer. I’ll fill you in about this later, when I have more time to disparage the leader of the free world.

 

 

 

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Dawn of the Age of Limiting Returns


Last week in a grandiose moment I wondered about the screenplay coming soon to a theater near you about a strange blog in which everything the author conjectures turns out to be true. It would be a movie about a blog that no one reads that someone is reading, layered with metameaning and complicated but simple enough to tell in 90 minutes with a few necessary bare breasts and explosions thrown in for emphasis. You saw this narcissistic delusion (and others) here first.

So the Government is officially shut down, and in my last post I mentioned that when it becomes unclear whether the Leviathan is mostly good anymore, the ethical statesman has no choice but to shut it down. One head of the hydra was temporarily severed, though we failed to cauterize it because it doubtless will grow back soon because China doesn’t want to take an immediate 1.2% cut in their GDP if we stay shut down past the default. Plus, plenty of state agencies are still operating, but the national healthcare registry still posted your private health information in the system for all insurance companies to see, in strict violation of doctor-patient privilege, one of the foundations of a healthy relationship between a physician and her patient.

I’m sure the NSA and the Office of Fuck the People Using the People’s Money were both deemed “essential” and will continue running (business as usual) indefinitely, and nothing is thwarting the Utah Data Center’s construction and completion except the strange deus ex machina in the electrical system that keeps causing unexplained explosions (God and Joseph Smith alike must hate the UDC). Obama seems as convinced of the legality of his drone program as ever, Guantanamo is still holding prisoners, and we’re rendering terror suspects in parts of the world where we can torture people as I write this. Wall Street responded to the shut down in kind with an initial increase, because the companies are fine with or without the veneer of government to convince some people that the companies are not in precise control of absolutely everything, all the time. Everything here couldn’t have been more copacetic, except the economists kept reminding us that when Argentina defaulted on its debts in 2002, every citizen experienced an immediate 60% decrease in their net worth, and so the markets have started to worry. Pesky, terrible facts keep making us scared.

Meanwhile, the Occupy Movement misses its golden moment to put more strain on the threadbare resources of the National Guard and we remain without control over our Government of the People.

As we open our black lacquer boxes containing The Future That No One Wants like the dutiful, abiding consumers we are, we find that there are more devices, more device contracts, more adapters and dongles, and more buttons to push. While the buttons aren’t binding, everything else about the devices seems to be. The buttons also make up for their apparent harmlessness by doing less and less each time you push them.

Back when I watched TV through an old picture tube, when I pulled the knob on, it went on, and when I pushed it off, it went off. Now I have a flatscreen LCD TV with a power button with the 21st century symbol for “on” on it, and when I push this circle, the TV springs to life only about 50% of the time. No amount of added pressure to the button seems to improve my success rate, either.

I’ve started to notice the same phenomenon with the mouse on every computer I use, too. I click on something that is a clickable button, and I hear the mouse, witnesses hear the mouse, and…nothing happens on the software or the website. I often click mouse buttons only to find they need to be clicked again because nothing “registered” anywhere relevant. The power buttons on many of the computers I use also seem to have this annoying habit.

To make matters worse, the problem intensifies with every new button I am responsible for pushing or clicking on. If I get a Roku or a Blu-Ray player or a Nook or a PS3 I will guarantee myself a virtually endless stream of dissatisfying interactions with buttons, and more misanthropic opportunities to explore the feeling that we exalt “technology” for no apparent reason other than its own sake, which is precisely why I know the future is betraying us all and The Jetsons was just a bunch of modernist crap. I’m surrounded by stupid fucking buttons everywhere, and 50% of the time they’re completely wasting mine! Is this what “progress” was supposed to look like? Is this the curse of the Technoindustrial Complex?

But the button isn’t even a button even when it is a button. Not just because the “buttons” on websites aren’t real buttons and just computerized representations of them, but also because the button problems mentioned above are a metaphor for this new Law of the Internet: if a digital tool is around long enough, we will eventually find a way to render it useless.

Just look at how each new version of Microsoft Word hides all the tools you relied on constantly, relocating them to new folders, so that each time a new Office package comes out you have to re-learn all the software in it? Why was your useful shit relocated to an arcane location? Because some other douchebag users demanded that Microsoft include a nutsack-polishing feature in the newest version with its own button, and Microsoft actually complied! This is how software bloat happens, and it is killing every good program you know that you don’t use for recreation.

Also, look at what the Digital Age did to our writing in general. There’s much more of it, so there’s more terrible examples of it floating around, and all your saved files are a software upgrade or two away from being permanently unreadable. Remember all your WordPerfect and AppleWorks documents holding versions of your Great American Novel? Well, fuck you and your writing career–that’s not the software or version anyone likes anymore. I don’t remember spiral bound notebooks ever arbitrarily losing their ability to open in the days before word processing software.

Another example from hip-hop: all T-Pain and ‘Lil Wayne did for Autotune was make us wish we didn’t have to hear it anymore.

So the information age dawns and everyone is excited: now we can work from home and have more time with our kids, and telecommunications allow us to reach out to everybody, all the time. But Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard want you back at work, and that cellphone that the industry at first convinced you would be used to talk to grandma more often now just allows your boss to have more control over your personal time and life. All that newfound time with our families we were supposed to have because of living in a more connected world never actually happened to the most efficient workforce on the planet.

But fret not, because now you can showroom the expensive electronics store down the street and get better deals online! ‘Cept not only does this fuck the ma-and-pa shop down the street and also your whole neighborhood by default, but now with the rise in shipping costs and the addition of sales tax to internet purchases, there’s almost no point in even going to Amazon anymore. And if you pay attention to the amount of personal online information you’ll forfeit to shop there, maybe you don’t want to anyway.

And all those “free” apps that enhance our lives and do wonderful things for us? You probably wouldn’t want to use those if you really knew how much private and personal information they continually give away, including your GPS location.

Google even used to be awesome back when we were naive, there was no cynicism, and their company motto was “don’t be evil.” Now that we know every search you run will be handed over to the Federal Government upon request without subpoena, maybe it will turn out that finding stuff wasn’t so important to us after all.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll find out that neither is this Information Age. Maybe the grapes actually are sour.

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The Future That None of Us Want Is at Our Doorsteps


If you’re reading this, humor me for a moment and open your front door. Look around on the porch carefully. If you don’t use your best powers of observation, you’ll probably miss it.

But if you’re thorough enough, you’ll see it: a small cube of brushed aluminum or shiny black lacquer that looks like it could have been made by the Apple corporation. Don’t touch it, and do not open this package under any circumstances. It is everything you don’t want masquerading as life-changing, progressive convenience.

What’s inside this box? Lots of big data that companies are using to make mountains of money off of you without paying you a single cent. Health insurers using sophisticated models to insure less people and only those who don’t need health insurance for maximum profits. Target knowing your daughter is pregnant before you do. Your car insurance company installing a GPS and accelerometer in your vehicle. The RFID tag in your passport announcing your presence within hundreds of feet of the correct readers. Vending machines that know when you walk by and what sodas you like to drink. Parents tracking their children’s physical whereabouts, online behavior, and phone usage. Cars that can’t crash and drive themselves. Free apps that fulfill your wildest dreams…for a price that you don’t care about, but definitely should. A race between the richest nations on Earth to build the world’s fastest supercomputer with the greatest storage capacity known to man. And all these systems are about to start talking to each other. Then they’ll talk to your boss, your spouse, your health insurer, Federal Goons, and hackers.

Tiny technocrats are crammed inside  the box like sardines, calling the shots and designing the future without a scintilla of your input, in love with their own egos and the objects they create for the sake of creation, no matter the social or environmental costs. Whether you like it or not, someone will open their box before you wisely send yours back C.O.D., and this new world of hypersurveillance, vacuous Constitutional rights, and presumed guilt for everyone will be completely unfurled.

The NFL opened their package, and now you can’t take anything but a transparent purse to a professional football game anymore. So people that attend football games are treated with “reasonable” suspicion just as people who board planes are, or are unlucky enough to be riding a bus or train when the TSA shows up to say “Show us your papers…and anything else you got on you.”

What country do they think this is, again? How is our Government able to hire so many Americans who have lost their ways far enough to violate the privacy, freedoms, and Constitutional rights of other Americans?

This week the FISA court released an opinion written after the NSA revealed in 2011 that they had “accidentally” collected tens of thousands of private emails between American citizens. How many more “accidents” are to come? When Uncle Sam creates a panopticon and then requires humans to run it, isn’t human nature going to dictate that someone, somewhere always pries into someone else’s life to serve some kind of prurient interest? (And if you get a machine to run the panopticon then only the rules will respect the rules and the bureaucracy will become more nameless, faceless, inhumane, and Minority Reporty than it already is.)

Why are the Edward Snowdens and Bradley (Chelsea) Mannings of the word always white men? Because immigrants wouldn’t do the jobs that undermine the American experiment, because they moved here for our Constitution (and they wouldn’t be given security clearance, either). Snowden and Manning doubtless started off their careers just like every other white male American technocrat does: “OMG, just look at all the power I have and all the awesome things we can do with more technology!” And they cracked…because they were the two Americans left working in their industries who still had consciences. Here’s what DARPA needs to do to pre-empt any leakage of sensitive information in the future (fuck the future-sensing algorithm): hire people without moral compasses. It looks like the NSA and DOD only really slipped up twice on this rule so far.

Manning’s prosecutors alleged that his leaks caused the deaths of others, and then were unable to outline a single death directly caused by his information sharing with Wikileaks. They also argued that because of his leaks, the NSA won’t be able to use some of the tactics and techniques that made them effective, even though these are the very same kinds of things they should have never been doing all along. I’ve never actually encountered evidence that any of the NSA’s programs of suspicious legality have done anything at all for the War of Terror, and I read press like a wonk.

Bill Vollmer calls these goons that the Government hires to hurt other Americans the “Unamericans,” and he is absolutely right. According to the FBI, he’s gone from being a Unabomber suspect, to a suspected mujahadeen who traveled to Beirut to learn how to be a terrorist, to a suspect for mailing anthrax letters. All this is because he exercised his first amendment rights by criticizing the government and wrote art books. Each time the FBI investigates him they find nothing, but every time something bad happens in the War of Terror, they pay him a personal visit.

How many Bill Vollmers are there going to be before we realize that the jailingest nation on Earth that also has the most developed security and antiprivacy (aka SECRET POLICE) apparatus is a truly dangerous entity? And once we realize the threat we pose to the citizens of every nation (including our own) in our Government of the People, how long will it take us to shut it down? Remember, Stalin’s secret police helped keep over 30 million of his countrymen “safe” in the gulags. Why is it that the “safer” the NSA and CIA help us to get, the more dangerous and terrifying everything becomes and the more civilians become radicalized all around the globe?

And why can’t the boneheaded American public understand ethical slippery slopes? That what starts with a Hellfire missile sent to waste an American citizen without trial in Yemen because he runs a terror cell ends with a similar drone sending a similar missile down grandma’s throat because the Feds don’t like her homegrown medical marijuana?

Once again, we reach the familiar crossroads of but our Government has done horrible shit all the time. What about the BIA and delivering smallpox-inoculated blankets to Native Americans? What about (arguably) the killing of Che Guevara? What about the CIA-trained death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala that made entire villages disappear? What about McCarthyism? What about the Japanese internment camps during WWII? What about secretive, corporation-driven efforts made to prolong the institution of slavery? There are a thousand more questions to add to this list.

And the answer to any criticisms of naivete on the part of this author are that 1) our government has not done horrible, rights-violating shit historically to mainstream members of its own country (although the record shows we’re very adept at doing it to the poor, brown, black, yellow, red, and anyone else we manage to push to the socioeconomic hinterlands), and 2) we’ve never had the money or technological tools to do it at the scale that we’re doing it now. This is about bad shit done to everyone to a bad degree, and is precisely why some members of Congress feel better about stymieing any efforts to “get things done,” when “getting things done” in the legislative branch necessarily means criminalization and the abetting of a toothy, claw-bearing Levithian that makes the rest of the world sleep so poorly at night.

So, what to do about the box on your doorstep? Here’s my plan:

1) Donate to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

2) Print a bunch of extra copies of the 1st and 4th Amendments. Every time you walk through an airport security line, leave a copy of the 4th Amendment behind. If the TSA asks you to take it, tell them you had to give it up when you decided to travel by air. Send copies of the 1st Amendment in with your bills to your ISP, distribute them while protesting (especially when asked to leave), give them to your cable guy and the clerk at the Apple store, and attach electronic copies onto emails that you bounce back to companies that shouldn’t have your address.

3) Become a technocrat, somehow not get afflicted with the power knowing you can spend your shift watching hot chicks naked on their webcams that you secretly hacked into every frigging day, teach other technocrats that technology will not solve all problems, and that every technology creates its own problems that will have to be dealt with (and to leave the hot chicks’ webcams alone). If this is your goal, your life will be an upstream battle through shit, jizz, and testosterone poisoning, and you probably won’t get the stripper girlfriend or flat in Maui.

4) Tell the obstructionist congresspeople that they’re heroes and patriots. Then tell them why, because it won’t be why they think they are. You may have to use fake addresses or snail mail to get in contact with those who are not your direct representatives. Meanwhile, tell Grover Norquist that he’s also correct, but again, not for the reasons that he thinks.

5) Use the box as a paperweight, put holes in it and screw it to the wall as a toothbrush rack, return it to the unholy place from whence it came, check out and move to a cabin in the mountains, or write a book about it to raise the alarms. But whatever you do, don’t open the damn box!

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Dear Parents…You Suck!


My own mother thinks that she’s better than me just because she shat out a kid that didn’t want to be born. We were in the airport the other day, and she started of on one of those unbelievably condescending diatribes that goes like this: “Until you have children of your own, there are some things that you will never understand…” Every parent either secretly thinks this, or tells people without kids this regularly. Everyone who thinks they’re better than me just because they bumped uglies and brought another hungry mouth into this steaming horde of the 7 billion largely food-, water-, and shelterless can eat my dick.

The fact of the matter is, every parent has never been me, doesn’t know how to be me, and therefore will never understand certain things about the human experience. Every woman who doesn’t have a penis will forever suffer from lacking the deeper understanding of the universe that having a penis bestows upon you. Every breastless man will never fully appreciate the miracle of the human mammary gland to the same degree as a breasty woman, so there’s just some things he’ll never “get” either. Everyone who lacks Multiple Sclerosis will never truly understand what it’s like to have MS. Every parent with their head up their ass will never truly understand that everyone they ever meet will know more about certain parts of the human experience than they do. If you’ve never been a homosexual, you couldn’t possibly begin to understand homosexuality, regardless of your powers of empathy or the level of your education, as the parental argument goes.

So, while it might be a truism that if you don’t have children, you may never really know what it’s like to have children, everyone knows more about something than any particular given person. So why are parents the only people who feel comfortable pointing this kind of shit out? In every other line of interpersonal communication, calling attention to the fact that you think you’re smarter than your interlocutor is arrogant behavior. Why do parents think they have a free pass to act this way?

Because most parents are selfish pieces of shit, that’s why. They had a kid because they couldn’t figure out how to have a fulfilling live without one. They had a kid to help with the family business and bring more money into the household. They had a kid so that someone would care for them when they became old and infirm. They had a kid because they needed more background noise. In short, whatever the reason was that they had a kid, the reason was 100% about them, not about the kid. Maybe they thought that they might be good parents, and that factored into the calculus, but that consideration was minor, if it was made at all. People have children for narcissistic reasons, and then these same people have the gall to call me a narcissist simply because I don’t want to bring any more thinking things into this world that have the capacity to hurt. After all, I never asked to be born, so assuming that my unborn children are asking is a dangerous precipice.

So, these narcissists that bring babies to term in their rectal cavities somehow have the gall to call me selfish? Fuck you and the horses you rode in on! It’s not my fault that no government can figure out how to be financially salient once the population starts to drop. It’s not my fault that the only solution offered by the technoindustrial complex to the fact that 7 billion people are putting a considerable strain on the Earth’s resources is to shit out more kids so that countries can continue to have awesome social services. How does this phenomenon possibly end well? We eat ourselves out of house and home because we’ll have more money if we do it that way?

So, Jonathan V. Last, author of What to Expect When No One’s Expecting, fuck you. You are selfish for not understanding what a great cancer our species is to all the other lifeforms in the known universe. You are selfish because you don’t understand that the child I am electing not to have may well mean there is water for your snot-nosed entitled little brat to drink, and food for him to eat. You are selfish because you think that your genes might make some great contribution to humanity, which is why you didn’t adopt. You are the only real narcissist, as you think you’re good enough to take on the most important job in the world at a time in which it is arguably most imperative to the future survival of the human species to do it right. At least I’m smart enough to know I would fuck that up.

And as for you, Ross Douthat (More Babies Please), writer of the following ridiculous passage, “The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place,” believer in such unicorn-like concepts as “underpopulation,” which is more decadent? Someone who brings a child into an already overpopulated world because of their own insecurities, or someone who deliberately chooses to forgo the joys of parenthood so that other people’s babies might have enough resources to be able to survive or have a reasonably decent quality of life? After all, we don’t operate in a world with limitless resources. At best having a child is no more a sacrifice than not having a child, and at worst, it’s less of one, as children are an insurance payment on later life stability.

Douthat is right about the late-modern exhaustion: America has the most productive workers on the planet and is doing everything it was doing in 2007 with 10 million fewer of them. Our entire economic system is designed to work people to the bone for the enrichment of the companies owned by the 1%. This is yet another reason not to have a child.

But you can only argue that not having a child is privileging the present over the future if you completely ignore the fact that more people has lead to an overall decrease in the quality of life. Burning fossil fuels is privileging the present over the future. Eating bluefin tuna is privileging the present over the future, as does everything you do that isn’t 100% sustainable. When more than two-thirds of humans don’t have access to safe drinking water, having a child is privileging the present over the future.

So what if our tax codes are set up to only reward rampant population growth? Isn’t it up to our Government to decide how it will need to shrink when the birthrate drops? If countries cannot figure out how to be financially solvent just because the birthrate dropped, this is only because their governments have metastasized to an unsustainable girth. Then the politicians will have to figure out how to downsize and still provide necessary social services.

Me not having a child will help to force the Government to downsize. That’s actually a good thing, because in the era of Big Data and the neverending Global War of Terror, the smaller our McCarthyan witch hunts are for leakers and whistleblowers who take one for the team to warn us about the horrible world the NSA and DOD are trying to create, the better off freedom will be.

In short, having a kid is for people who

1. Naively believe in the benevolence of our post-9/11 Government.

2. Think there’s something special about their genes.

3. Want to join the ranks of those who think they’re necessarily better than people who are not part of their group, and feel free to tell others regularly about it (parents).

4. Are in complete denial about exactly how many resources humans rape off the Earth in order to live.

5. Are dumb enough to think their vegetarianism will come close to offsetting the amount of carbon their kid will belch into the atmosphere during his lifetime.

6. Have insecurities that cannot be addressed without bringing an innocent life into their hot mess.

7. Think that growth for its own sake is always a good thing and that it’s somehow not a government’s fault if it can’t figure out how to balance the budget when population shrinks.

8. Believe in the nonexistent concept of underpopulation.

9. Hate nature, wild places, animals, and ecologies (last time I checked, human beings are anathema to all these).

10. Think that it’s ok for old people to be made to live long after their quality of life is nonexistent, so that they can continue to take more than their share of social services (yes, the “greatest generation’s” social security compensation is bigger than any other generation’s will be, so what’s so fucking great about that? Just because people in your generation killed Nazis doesn’t mean we should go bankrupt trying to keep you alive into your 100’s).

So fuck you, parents. The next time one of your ilk tries to tell me he or she is better than me merely because you used your reproductive structures to their fullest potentials, I’m going to show you that I can argue better than you and think circles around you. Then, if you still choose not to shut up about how and why you think your shit comes out in a plastic bag scented of roses, I will demonstrate to you that there are some things that you will simply never be able to come close to understanding unless you’ve been a rugby player, like how to knock someone out quickly who doesn’t know how to shut the fuck up.

 

 

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Why Is a “Do Nothing” Congress a Bad Thing in 2013? (Or, Why is Joel Stein Such a Douchebag?)


I just read a recent editorial in Time magazine by Joel Stein (Bill Me Later, in the August 12, 2013 issue), a lavishly compensated idiot who has unfortunately conflated progress with passing laws for their own sake. He was writing about how hard it is to get anything done in Washington, and the gist of his piece was that because of partisan gridlock our current Congress is a “do nothing” Congress that has passed even fewer laws than the “do nothing” Congress in place during the Truman Administration. All of his drivel and doggerel was supposed to drive home the point that our Congresspeople are not doing their jobs.

But really? Congress is the legislative branch of our Government, which means they introduce bills and attempt to make them into laws. If Stein believes that our current Congress is doing a bad job merely because they aren’t making more laws, then he doesn’t understand the difference between real progress and just having more laws. A similarly asinine commentator on NPR today echoed Stein’s concerns that the Congress is passing very few laws and therefore aren’t doing their jobs.

We all saw in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 that no elected member of the Senate or Congress actually reads the bills they pass, and that no one in Washington had actually read the entirety of the Patriot Act. So if Stein is right, senators and congresspeople who are doing their jobs are just passing legislation that they haven’t even bothered to read. This legislation then becomes the law of the land: people will be incarcerated because of it. So, by Stein’s logic, Congress is not doing its job because it’s not passing enough laws and not enough people will eventually be incarcerated.

We already live in the jailingest nation on Earth. Any notions of “progress” that are dependent on more laws being passed will only increase the number of incarcerated individuals in this country. How is this progress? How is this constipated and backward notion of what liberalism is helpful to the American experiment in the slightest?

Moreover, how could more laws possibly be helpful, unless we’re talking about environmental protections or financial regulations that could prevent another 2008-style economic collapse? It’s not even clear that the America of the post-9/11 world is on the right side of history anymore. The actions of our own government meet the very definition of terrorism that our government uses to justify killing terrorists. In the last Iraq war, 10 times more civilians were killed than enemy combatants, amounting to something around 40 World Trade Center attacks in that country alone. And as if that weren’t enough, we went on to kill civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere in order to try to accomplish our political goals. We are 10 seconds away from the rest of the world realizing that the only thing that makes us “better” than Al Qaeda is the fact that we can kill far more people much faster than they can. After all, we can no longer claim having a superior morality to them.

We even killed al Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, an American citizen, while he was sitting outside at a cafe in Yemen two weeks after we killed his dad, both without trial, despite our Constitution saying that both of them had the right of habeas corpus. The only reason why we had to do that is because we violated his asshole father’s constitutional rights, we basically guaranteed that the son would become radicalized, and therefore would become a threat we’d later have to deal with.

But how naive does Joel Stein have to be to think that laws are actually still benevolent in this post-9/11 dystopia we’re racing at breakneck speed to create, and that therefore, more of them will necessarily always be better?

I’m sorry, but once we became the nation that started overtly torturing people, once we became the country that was willing to violate its own protections for its own citizens in its zeal to rid the world of “terrorists,” once we killed just as many civilians as Al Qaeda in the name of keeping them from killing civilians, once we bailed out AIG because it was “too big to fail,” and not once did a single architect of the 2008 financial collapse go to jail, we became a country in which a “do nothing” Congress was truly better than the alternative.

A “do something” Congress is one that kills innocents abroad, violates FISA court laws, creates loopholes for the richest multinational corporations and individuals to continue enriching themselves, broadens the income gap between the 1% and the rest, loosens environmental laws on rigs like the Deepwater Horizon, and pays private security firms billions to pay their mercenary employees hundreds of thousands of dollars a month while our “nothing better than blood and service” farm kids get sent to clear the area of IED’s for $25,000 a year (and get raped for the “opportunity” if they’re female).

And any ideations that would suggest that there somehow is merit in passing laws for their own sake when it’s not clear that we’re actually the good guys anymore are the nemeses of actual progress. Fuck you, Joel Stein, and fuck every other media darling that thinks that more is better when it comes to the instruments we use to incarcerate people in the jailingest nation on Earth.

I’m sorry, but when America has so truly and obviously lost its way, the only patriots in Congress are the obstructionists. If government is largely good, we want Congress to do stuff (but not necessarily pass laws for their own sake, because again, these will be used to incarcerate people). But if the very people running the government are no longer sure that it’s largely good, the best benevolence we can possibly hope for from our Government is…total inaction.