My Last Trip to India

Cliché as it may be to disclose by this point — plenty of people born in America in 1986 have enough foreign parentage to share a similar experience — I remember standing in a Bombay kitchen with my grandmother, grating red carrots into homemade yogurt. Or folding dumplings, stuffing tamales or hanging fresh noodles up to dry, whichever your cultural equivalent might be. I call it Bombay and not Mumbai because it was still Bombay when the grating occurred. I worry I’m being insensitive by saying Bombay sometimes, even regarding gin.

My theory is that American children who grow up regularly visiting a developing country are imbued with a duo of emotional fortitudes: capacity for shock, and enhanced compassion thereafter. As a six-year-old, you can’t get your taxi window tapped on at traffic intersections by that many desperately ragged fellow six-year-olds without feeling something big. When you go back to first grade after winter break, things are confusing. The more you go back, the less important you find things other people your age find very important. Valentine’s Day cards for every single person in class, for example. You wonder if anyone else knows about the mangy feral dog with saggy nipples and flies who had to be shooed away loudly from the street food stand with a stick multiple times. Also, the smells you were smelling while observing this scene didn’t exist in any way, shape or form where you lived.

Please don’t take the last couple of sentences as indicative of how I feel about India. I don’t know how to describe my relationship with it. My father left at age twelve and never lived there again. His accent is down to about 3%. The other 97% is made up of an amalgamation of the other places he’s lived: Switzerland, Boston, New York and California. At this point, you’d just call it “American” and not give it a second thought as someone who’s probably not on the lookout for a functionally insignificant low single-digit percentage of an individual’s native accent.

I wish I could watch my 16-year-old father from afar at Logan Airport as he tried to make sense of the Boston accent during his first minutes in this country. I wonder if he thought someday he’d go back to India with everything he learned in this country of bountiful and well-endowed engineering schools, and help turn his native land into a technologically superior paradise. The Taj Mahal would pale in comparison to its gargantuan architectural works of splendid art, were it not made from India’s famously impermeable Rajasthani Makrana marble (physically unable to be further lightened).

Instead, India is home to some of the most egregious suffering on the planet, and has little in the way of progressive social reform. It plays host to some of the most savage imaginable crimes against women. Profound inequality, limited access to a quality high school education and a culture that openly embraces bribery and corruption all fuel violent tendencies in young men who are raised to believe the opposite sex is fundamentally and irreparably inferior. Organized crime is deeply ingrained within the economy, both legitimate and otherwise, and here’s the thing of it: I could easily be talking about America. We just happen to have fewer open-air sewers and aggressive rhesus monkeys wandering around.

On my second-to-last visit, India messed up my best friend’s visa and then her bowels. Her entire digestive tract, really, for days. And on my last visit, still fresh in my mind, I became trapped in three straight days of toxic “severe plus” Delhi smog that shut down schools and made international headlines. It’s been the worst and longest incidence of concentrated air pollution in 17 years; a perfect storm of crop-burning, fossil fuel and coal exhaust, factory output, deforestation and the right weather conditions to trap it all close to the surface of the Indian capital and surrounding areas. It is entirely man-made, and will repeat again, perhaps worse, next year.

Research suggests that breathing the air in the worst-affected areas for just one day is the equivalent of smoking 45 cigarettes. I was there for 72 hours, 135 cigarettes or one Mary-Kate Olson wedding. Much of the time I was there was spent on foot, in an auto or bike rickshaw or in a car whose air filter could only handle a reasonable quantity of pollution before becoming useless. The sun broke through the haze now and then as a watery copper beacon, like an old penny at the bottom of a pool, providing little in the way of light. Symptoms were immediate and severe, from respiratory distress and audibly lower-pitched voices to eye and throat discomfort I still haven’t quite kicked more than a week later. The level of fine particulate matter was, and still is, 30 times the safe limit set by the World Health Organization. Delhi’s problem dwarfs China’s, and China’s problem absolutely sucks. China, however, has proposed and implemented legislation towards maybe becoming better probably (it’s too soon to tell). India can’t even fly its smog-reduction sprinkler helicopters around because the smog is too goddamned thick.

Those monkeys I mentioned, they’re allowed to be around by the tens of thousands in urban areas because they’re sacred in Hindu mythology. Ditto cows. All animals play some part in the larger canon, and outside with no protection, they too suffocate and develop illnesses. Poisonous dust settles in water sources and on trees and crops. The medical impact of the 2016 smog emergency accounted for 6% of India’s total health expenditure. Tens of millions of Indians have died prematurely of a dozen different respiratory diseases simply from being outside. And when it comes to something like respiratory disease, does it even matter which one suffocates you, or how? Does it become “I hope you have whichever one dispatches you to your next incarnation the fastest?” Is that the modern-day equivalent of “I hope you feel better soon?” And yet the subcontinent’s propensity towards laughter in the face of adversity endures, with a timely slew of whip-smart political cartoons on the subject.

Before this visit, I was able to reconcile what I’d witnessed visiting India all my life with my thoroughly American upbringing. It began to make sense to me: You’d bring a live chicken on an overnight train so as not to have to buy one from what could be an unfamiliar and perhaps dishonest chicken salesperson upon your arrival. Now I’m debating the value of bringing my future children there. I wonder if the fact that seemingly nothing has changed for the better since I was six years old, staring at my dirty, smoky-voiced mirror image through a taxi window, means I should find another way to encourage that particular degree of emotional depth. They’ll need it to be the kind of people their father and I wish for them to be.


Buddy Christ

Interesting subplot in the Roy Moore saga:

Comparisons of Moore to biblical Joseph are spot-on.

If I was transported to the year -1, would I personally support, condone, or allow the marriage of (according to tenants of the Abrahamic faith) the teenage future possible mother of the son of the Abrahamic god to a much older man? It was normal. Joseph’s child marriage is simply one of the uncountable other child marriages that have taken place and still continue to take place all around the world.

Let’s be clear, when I say “child marriage” I doubt the first thought that comes to mind is a little boy exploited by their family and an older man. Babies are born every day into an environment in which men regularly molest, rape, and marry young women and molest and rape young boys. Let’s be perfectly clear now, in most cultures, including the US, young boys are raped and molested by older men at highly under-reported rates. These rates nearly compare to the highly under-reported rates of older men, especially those with any type of power, who are collectively raping, molesting, and marrying women.

Fun fact: I’ve read, observed, and witnessed this because I’ve spent time in societies that were exploited by imperialist nations and found they often have a more widely accepted tradition of raping and molesting young people. It is hidden less well there than it was (until recently) in imperialist nations. However, regardless of how well hidden or shrouded the practice is in any particular culture, its existence is consistent throughout cultures. Men with power exploit others.

We can graph out our idea of a less developed civilization with our idea of a more developed civilization, do a cross cultural comparison of development and concentrations of power, and see evidence that nations with more diffused power were exploited by nations with more consolidated concentrations of power. The fate of the historical notion of nation states rests in the way its power is distributed. Greater distribution leads to easier exploitation by neighbors or foes with greater concentration, because greater concentration allows for energy organization and extraction by a centrally powerful arbiter. This arbiter can then wield an acutely concentrated power to outmatch the individually diffused powers of a divided and conquered foe.

Unfortunately, greater consolidation of power also leads to greater concentration of risk. The internet certainly helps concentrate power for those who know how to wield it, but it also offers us a way to functionally keep power diffused while still remaining highly organized. As a population grows, factions splinter and one individual can come to influence the energy of larger and larger groups of individuals and wield that power as they see fit. We must figure out whether to thank or curse g-d and/or the universe for the diffused and currently fairly egalitarian power of the internet, because this moment of diffused power will help make us or break us as a species.

Men of the world, all of you. Why do you have moments of your life you have to repress?

1.Deal with your collective misdeeds in whatever regenerative, maximally, mutually, and collectively beneficial way is easiest for you to achieve in your particular situation. The internet is such a powerful tool!

2. After this, start living a consistent life without forgetting you and only you have the power to control every single one of your own actions. Increased power and ability to do this comes with time and lots of practice.

3. Finally, be part of building a collectively beneficial environment that enables and sustains a collectively rational lifestyle for everyone using whatever creative tips, techniques, and technology all our minds can muster. Everyone’s your equal, deal with it in a positive way.

A little veteran self-righteousness for your Veteran’s Day (Observed).

Hint: They’re all Traitors!!!

Let’s talk traitors! Label each number BT for “Bloody Traitor” or NT for “Not a Traitor”

1. A person who joins the military, doesn’t like it, and openly criticizes the military.

2. A person who never votes in their regional administrative organization’s elections and applies for welfare from that regional administrative organization.

3. A person who has friends from lots of regions of the world and openly criticizes the administrative organization claiming dominion over where the person was born.

4. A person who votes for an administrative leader who has economic and social ties to other regions of the world.

5. A person who generally wants to get rid of the administrative organization claiming dominion over where the person was born to replace it with something better.

6. A person who is actively thinking of ways to better diffuse concentrations of wealth and power, including dismantling the administrative organization claiming dominion over where the person was born.

7. A person who offers economic, political, moral, or spiritual support to some form of concentrated wealth and power that impacts other human beings without their consent.

8. A person who lies about who they are and what they’ve done in order to manipulate the image they are attempting to intentionally construct in the mind’s of others.

9. A person who sees greater connections between human beings from different regions than between administrative organizations and the human beings who were born in the regions over which those organizations claim dominion.

10. A person who works to create and then use tax collection loopholes in order to minimize their support for their local administrative organization while benefiting from that local administration’s services.

11. A person who works to create a regional administrative organization that will benefit that person and their friends at the expense of people who are not that person or their friends.

12. A person who likes a region they were not born in more than the region where they were born.

13. A person who does not know or denies the full, both good and bad, history of the region where they were born and then advocates or votes for a regional administration that reflects that ignorance.

14. A person who learns the full history of the region where they were born and then advocates or votes to dismantle a regional administration that reflects ignorance of that history.

15. A person who uses violence to accomplish something that, logically, benefits more people than it hurts.

16. A person who refuses to use violence to accomplish anything, even when it would benefit more people than it would hurt.

17. A person who doesn’t care what happens to the administrative organization claiming dominion over where the person is born.

News from Dystopia

The Judgmental Auctioneer
Sotheby’s newest star redefines the value of art

It seems like an evening like any other at Sotheby’s, though the buyers know tonight will be anything but standard operating procedure.  Known as a popular spot for trillionaires to embarrass billionaires, Sotheby’s has begun a bold new experiment in auctioneering. Using the personal judgment of their new auctioneer to decide whether wealthy aspirant owners deserve the prestige that comes from owning a certified classic work of human creativity, Sotheby’s has suddenly transformed the art world into something that transcends cash itself.

The bold move was initially viewed as a desperate attention-grab from the auction house, which has been battling to stay relevant in the age of eBay Platinum. It has, however, sparked renewed interest in the novelty of In Real Life (IRL) shopping. This is, in large part, thanks to the forceful presence of The Auctioneer.

Meeting The Auctioneer is a singular experience. The first thing The Auctioneer will tell you, or anyone who happens to be in the same room, about The Auctioneer is that The Auctioneer is the only proper noun or pronoun with which to address The Auctioneer. The second thing, at least in my experience, is that looking The Auctioneer in the eyes is offensive and reflects lessons the viewer must have learned from the white male patriarchy (WMP).

After the polite formalities are observed, The Auctioneer is ready to explain The Auctioneer’s unique style. “The Auctioneer knows what’s right, that’s all anyone needs to know.” The Auctioneer explains to me over a lunch of cavier and goji berries. “The Auctioneer went to the best schools and received the best education, but that’s not what makes The Auctioneer special. The Auctioneer is special because there is only one The Auctioneer. The Auctioneer’s lifelong struggle to enforce acceptance has informed The Auctioneer’s entirely unique, new, and special viewpoint. No one has ever had The Auctioneer’s viewpoint in the history of humanity.”

This spirit of hearty American individualism is on full display when the lights go up and The Auctioneer confidently strides to The Auctioneer’s specially made podium. The opening item of the evening is a beautiful 17th century European landscape (names of paintings and artists withheld out of respect to the new owners). Rather than set standard opening price, The Auctioneer simply glowers at the audience before asking who thinks they deserve the painting.

A hand shoots up, “I do.”

The speaker is a slender man in a gorgeous gown with red and gold trim. The Auctioneer narrows The Auctioneer’s eyes before spitting out a series of seemingly non-sequitur questions about the man’s food habits, political views, favorite charities, exercise schedule, which private school his children attend, and how many hours of sleep he gets each night. Apparently displeased with the response, The Auctioneer shakes The Auctioneer’s head and moves on.

This process repeats itself three more times before The Auctioneer finally seems satisfied with an individual and pronounces, “You deserve this.” The audience gives The Auctioneer a standing ovation before moving on to the next item.

After four of five lots, the most striking aspect of the scene is the absence of dollar values. Not once is the price of a painting discussed, only the quality of the purchaser. Over and over, The Auctioneer quizzes individuals and finds them unworthy, with The Auctioneer’s judgement as the solitary arbiter of value.

When the night’s proceedings conclude I corner a staff member to inquire further. The staff member, who requested anonymity, informs me every person in the audience has more money than god, so determining auction winners via monetary bids had become passé. Looking around, clearly that night’s winners had achieved something greater than merely purchasing a classic work of art, they had passed through a gauntlet and emerged as a validated human.

The judgmental model may not be for everyone, and certainly not for anyone with fewer than triple digit billions, but other industries are beginning to take notice. Certain top-secret classified stores on the Upper East Side are beginning to implement similar quizzes for prospective clients before allowing them to shop. Whether these tests will have the same force sans The Auctioneer remains to be seen.

BENS domestic intel ideas are bad

BENS report (link at bottom, how do you feel about the roster for their Practioners Panel?) from 2015 advocating consolidating US domestic intelligence…

nope 🐙 nope 🐙 nope 🐙 nope 🐙 nope 🐙 nope 🐙

Key bad idea passage followed by typical bad idea bullet points:

“There is widespread agreement that our domestic security apparatus must be improved. Our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are operating without an enterprise-wide concept at the federal level. This shortcoming impedes the federal government’s ability to optimally conduct domestic intelligence activities in support of counterterrorism and related missions and to provide effective oversight of these activities. It also hinders its ability to fully support and use the 800,000 law enforcement officers at the state and local levels in the national effort.”

In English they are saying that elites in America agree we need to scare people into thinking the government should be allowed wider domestic spying and detainment powers in order to stamp out emerging threats using an “enterprise-wide concept” (lol come on guys). The “shortcomings” they claim need addressing are there because the US gov put specific checks in place to make it illegal to spy on its own citizens, something that becomes more and more grey as domestic terrorism gets hyped as a threat. But are you more likely to die in America from a toddler or terrorist? (Hint: Apparently we need an enterprise-wide concept to root out this toddler menace.

What BENS Recommends:

The ensuing recommendations represent those actions that the Practitioners Panel believed offer the most immediate path for substantive improvement to the United States’ domestic counterterrorism posture, while also enhancing civil liberties protections. They include:

• Establishing integrated fusion centers located in the highest-threat areas by enhancing analytic capability and collocating selected federal intelligence components – such as from the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs), Field Intelligence Groups (FIGs), National Mission Cells, and other relevant federal national security intelligence entities – with state and local law enforcement.🤤 We also need some DATES and OLIVES. Better safe than WATCHING YOUR FAMILY BLOWN TO SMITHEREENS, YOU NAIVE FOOL!

• Increasing the mutual awareness of state and local law enforcement and FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces by creating mechanisms to ensure that information about current counterterrorism investigations is shared with state and local partners in real-time, and that closed case information is likewise provided to state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) assets so that they can determine whether to pursue independent investigations;😹Yes, let’s turn every local police unit into a Joint Operations Center fighting the evils of cats in trees (probably put there by terrorists, can’t be sure, intel is unclear) and opiates. I promise none of these business leaders had anything to do with the opiate epidemic.

• Enhancing intelligence analyst capabilities and interoperability through the development and application of high-quality, standardized training for intelligence personnel at all levels of government and the application of Goldwater-Nichols style joint duty and joint training protocols; 🙈 Agreed, Barry Goldwater and The John Birch Society were spot on about domestic security issues. And Goldwater-Nichols was a brilliant piece of legislation helping us kill non-Americans more better, i mean, Panama!

• Encouraging the service and retention of high-quality analysts through career path enhancement and incentives; 👩‍⚖️Agree. We need to make sure our serious professionals only come from a few schools of thought, or else how would we ever reach consensus and take action? Gotta take dem actions.

• Bringing greater federal focus on domestic intelligence structures and processes by assigning a Deputy-level officer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to manage the programmatic aspects of the federal domestic intelligence effort, and enhancing the use of the Domestic DNI Representatives to bring strategic coordination to the myriad federal agencies operating in the field;😵🤮🤢🤡Bureaucracy will save us all! So this person (wouldn’t it be so progressive if they were trans??? #progress#breakingbarriers) would be in charge of managing DNI reps that would liaise with domestic intel operations? Sounds like some Xtreme synergy to me.

• Establishing a domestic threat framework through an annual, interagency process to assess and prioritize domestic threats and intelligence needs;👨‍💼👩‍💼 Gotta have that annual interagency glad-handing. So sorry to the staff-level pukes for the increased workload. But these PowerPoints will keep us safe, so it’s all worth it.

• Enabling better coordination and management of federal intelligence efforts by including within the definition of the Intelligence Community (IC) those federal entities that undertake domestic intelligence activities but are not now included as members of the IC; thereby enhancing strategic planning and budgeting, and affording intelligence based oversight of their activities; 😧😨😩🤯 Uhhh…more consolidated intel. That sounds like a really, really bad idea to me. And not just from a conspiracy, big-brother perspective, but like, from an operational security perspective it makes the US intel community a much easier target. Increased membership always means increased risk.

• Strengthening the intelligence culture at the FBI by (i) creating a reporting relationship, as determined by the FBI Director, for the Executive Assistant Director (EAD) of the Intelligence Branch to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence with respect to intelligence priorities and community management (while preserving its direct reporting relationship to the FBI Director for operational matters); and (ii) enhancing internal recruitment, training and talent management programs for its
intelligence analysts; 😋🤩 I think the intelligence at the FBI could use some strengthening.

• Enhancing the capabilities of DHS’ Office of Intelligence & Analysis by focusing its attention on those missions unique to it, such as critical infrastructure protection; border and transportation security; aggregation of intelligence information from DHS subcomponent agencies (such as Customs and Border Patrol); and providing leadership and assistance to the integrated fusion centers and the remainder of the fusion center network, especially programs for countering violent extremism; and; 🤬🤬🤬 DHS does such a good job with our airports, why not give them purview over all our domestic travel?

• Improving Congress’ ability to provide oversight of domestic intelligence activities by having all domestic intelligence activities authorized and overseen by the Intelligence Committees, and by creating an Intelligence Appropriations Subcommittee in each chamber to appropriate funds to support those activities. 🧟‍♀️🧟‍♂️Thank god at least there will be some oversight from our Congress, which 100% does not take money from any of the people who wrote this.

These recommendations do not represent an endpoint for change nor are they a finite solution to confronting the terrorist threats to the homeland. Change must be a constant effort. As the terrorist threats continue to change and adapt, so too must our domestic counterterrorism structures. Failure to adapt will leave the United States vulnerable to terrorist threats that are increasingly difficult for our current structures and processes to manage. If enacted however, the recommendations will move the needle toward increasing the operational efficiency of our domestic counterterrorism enterprise, with proper attention to constitutional protections, at a time when federal, state, and local public safety officials are increasingly aware of the evolving threat and a new Congress provides an opportunity to legislate accordingly. 🍾🍷🍸🍹🍺🍻🥂🥃 There is no endpoint for American wars. War for everyone and war forever. Oh btw, there are young men in Afghanistan, 16 years old, who have never known a day of their life in which America was not bombing some part of their homeland.


American history in under 1000 words:

We exist as part of an unbroken chain of events leading back to the singularity, or the furthest point in the past we currently understand. We have 13.772 billion years of universal history to celebrate and learn from (with an uncertainty of 59 million years. For personal reference, modern humans emerged around 200,000 years ago, modern civilization around 6,000-12,000 (depending on your definition of modern) and figuring out and deciding to use electricity on a mass scale led to increased possibilities around 150 years ago). Instead of celebrating the full richness of our heritage and spelunking for lessons, we fetishize our 250-year old nation-state (the modern idea for the type of western nation-state, currently the most popular method for organizing and socializing large groups of people within defined geographical limits, is generally agreed to have been created in Europe around 369 years ago).

The history of the land in which I was arbitrarily born witnesses the volatile interaction and power disparities between groups of hyper-religious immigrants, kidnapped people forced into slavery because, coincidentally, they were born into a specifically constructed and defined ethnic group, indentured servants shipped from Europe to serve as cheap, unregulated labor in exchange for a promised chance to improve their personal stability and power, and wealthy business interests taking advantage of the lack of oversight the anarchic continent offered. The colonials rebelled far more successfully than their Hindu, East Asian, African, Muslim, or South American colonial counterparts due to a convenient proxy war between France and England, as well as the mitigating benefits of constructed racial attitudes in Europe. The colonial elites then experimented with and debated various social amalgamations and governmental types until finally deciding on a compromised legal document with parameters that appeased all 13 distinct groups of colonial elites.

The nation gained stability and power, due in large part to its geographical location and the logistical difficulties the historical superpowers faced in funding their interests. In a page right out of their former-sovereign’s playbook, the newly-minted United States of America constructed the concepts of “Manifest Destiny” and the “Monroe Doctrine” in order to collect more land, wealth, power, and influence. Fortunately for the former colonists, the Native American civilizations that inhabited the land they wished to acquire were easy prey after diseases brought by European humans and other animals weakened and reduced their populations by 90%. Continuing in the colonial tradition of using race and class based forced labor to progress, the nation eventually achieved its goals by wiping out or subjugating the remaining native survivors. As it established its western border, the young nation-state also looked outwards to other lands ripe for war, subversion, or sabotage.

Tensions between its founding groups came to a head less than 100 years into its creation and the nation split into slave-holding and non-slave holding states until the non-slave holding faction killed enough soldiers from slave-holding faction to force the rebellious region to capitulate to its demands. Unfortunately for the former slave-holding states, the president of the slave-holding states was then assassinated by a radical pro-slavery terrorist group. In response, the replacement non-slave holding leadership enacted a policy of revenge and exploitation in the guise of reconstruction, which decimated the lives of the people living within the reincorporated territory. As a reaction to these destructive policies, many people constructed ideals they believe represented the best of the elites who lost the American Civil War and decided to enact their own plan of revenge by terrorizing groups of newly freed slaves. Many of these freed slaves, though still officially oppressed, moved north, altering the racial dynamics of fairly homogenous northern communities. Less than 100-years later, through extensive domestic efforts, all former slaves and women (who were unable to vote for 150 years of the nation’s history) achieved de jure, if not de facto, rights within the shifting country.

During its near history, the United States of America regularly used abstract ideals specifically defined to justify its expansive foreign agenda and oppress domestic attempts to balance power between labor and capital. Victory in World War Two (a war primarily caused by Japanese-American trade relations and post-World War One’s excessively harsh punishments of the German people), along with an all-consuming global proxy war with a near-peer ideological enemy, were of vital importance to the socialization regime the United States Government used to instill a strong national identity in its population. The propaganda derived from these events also served a crucial role in evoking and maintaining dominion over the particular ideals the nation claimed as its own.

In the age of the Internet, the nation has seen a resurgence in the domestic unrest temporarily suppressed in the 1960s. During the 1960s, the combination of new psychologically manipulative military training, a proxy war in Southeast Asia, a draft to thin the ranks of subversives, new policing tactics for the War on Drugs justifying pretenses for mass incarceration of oppressed group, and domestic political subversions and assassinations, the United States Government was able to prevent the turmoil from getting out of hand. By moving consumerism to the center of their citizen’s lives, the government stabilized and prospered.

Unfortunately in 1991, the USSR, the other side of the delicate bi-polar global power structure of the cold war, collapsed, leaving the United States as a global hegemon without a raison d’être. Nationalistic and militaristic rhetoric propagated by a government struggling to justify ongoing international involvement exacerbated yet-to-be-healed historical grievances from oppressed domestic groups. In less oppressed groups, these grievances aggravated latent resentments towards the ad hoc, incomplete, or violent official attempts to mend a deeply socialized divide. This, along with official alarmism about the newly created state enemy, the “Muslim Menace”, set tensions high in the nation and contributed to upticks in domestic instability.

There are a lot of lessons to learn from this, but it’s important to remember it’s only 250 years of our 13.772 billion year history (with an uncertainty of 59 million years). There are a lot of lessons to learn elsewhere as well.

Rick and Morty is just fine

Radicalized fanatics of anything are annoying and wrong, particularly when the thing they’re radicalized fans of is fine otherwise. The radicalized fanatics of Rick and Morty are no different. I’m not surprised people looking for a one-stop-shop worldview idolize Rick. Radicalized fanatics of every worldview misinterpret and twist external inputs to fit their unaddressed internal neurosis. The need for control to mitigate the natural human fear of the unknown is a natural evolutionary mechanism, though arguably a fairly destructive one outside the hunter-gather context. Rick offers an easy answer to create a feeling of control by offering the idea that the existence of infinite realities and an infinitely large universe serves as proof that individual consciousness is meaningless, and therefore narcissism and self-interest are not only justified, but rational.

The problem is that while Rick is smarter than everyone about everything, he’s also an old, damaged human stuck in his impressive but still limited constructs when it comes to understanding his own consciousness and how it impacts his life. This simple fact makes his feeling of external control merely an illusion. External control, even on the scale Rick has achieved, is worthless without the accompanying internal control, a fact Rick recognizes about himself and with which he clearly can’t cope (wabalubadubdub). As Susan Sarandon’s awesome cameo character monologues at Pickle Rick, “Rick, the only connection between your unquestionable intelligence and the sickness destroying your family is that everyone in your family, you included, use intelligence to justify sickness. You seem to alternate between viewing your own mind as an unstoppable force, and as an inescapable curse. And I think it’s because the only truly unapproachable concept for you is that it’s your mind within your control. You chose to come here. You chose to talk, to belittle my vocation, just as you chose to become a pickle. You are the master of your own universe. And yet you are dripping with rat blood and feces. Your enormous mind literally vegetating by your own hand. I have no doubt you would be bored senseless by therapy. The same way i’m bored when I brush my teeth and wipe my ass. Because the thing about repairing, maintaining, and cleaning is: it’s not an adventure. There’s no way to do it so wrong you might die. It’s just work. And the bottom line is: some people are okay going to work and some people… well, some people would rather die. Each of us gets to choose.” Rick’s intelligence, and his self-aware knowledge of his own intelligence, facilitates great moments in Science. However, when paired with his unaddressed neurosis, this power also amplifies the destructive force of his inevitable self-destructive behavior.

Rick is a character to learn from, but not emulate. He’s a cautionary tale about a man who believes intelligence is to be singularly valued at the expense of all else. That man is wrong, and Rick and Morty is proving why.

Human creativity can imagine right just as easily as it can imagine wrong. Telling the difference between the two and then implementing your conclusions into your present reality is the great challenge offered to all conscious beings.

North Korea

I keep hearing people and US officials claim that the threat of a North Korean nuclear strike potentially “incinerating” a US city is the reason we must consider a preventive strike. Let’s talk about this using facts.

The North Korean government is led by Kim Jong Un.

The American government is led by Donald Trump.

The North Korean nuclear arsenal is estimated at about 13-30 warheads with a payload of 10-30 kilotons each.

The American nuclear arsenal is more complicated to explain, so here are some quick facts from Brookings to serve as an overview:

– The largest nuclear weapon type currently in the U.S. stockpile, the B83, has a yield of 1.2 megatons (1,200 kilotons)

– America has 7 types of nuclear weapon in its arsenal: W76 and W88 warheads for submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs); W78 and W87 warheads for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs); W80 warheads for the air-launched cruise missile (ALCM); and B61 (multiple variants) and B83 gravity bombs. Under the “3+2” plan, it is proposed over time to reduce the warhead types to three warheads for ballistic missiles, one gravity bomb (B61) and one warhead for ACLMs.

– Known as the “Davy Crockett,” the W54 weapon, a small nuclear warhead with a weight of 51 pounds fired by a recoilless gun mounted on a jeep, has the shortest range, 1.42 miles of any nuclear shell.

– America has officially lost and not recovered 11 nuclear weapons

– Under most scenarios, Donald Trump, the president of America, could have an ICBM carrying a nuclear payload in the air in 12 minutes.

– America has 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. Typically, at any one time two of these submarines are in long-term overhaul, meaning that 12 are normally operationally available. Four other submarines of the Ohio-class have been converted to carry conventionally-armed cruise missiles in place of SLBMs.

– Each Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine has 24 launch tubes. Under the New START Treaty, four tubes on each submarine will be converted so that they are incapable of launching an SLBM and thus will not be counted against the treaty’s limit of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM and SLBM launchers plus deployed and non-deployed nuclear-capable bombers. The U.S. Navy plans that the Ohio-class submarine’s replacement will have 16 launch tubes.

– America conducted 28 “deterrence patrols” with its Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines in 2012, ten by submarines based at King’s Bay, Georgia and 18 by submarines based at Bangor, Washington. The patrols last on average 70 days.

– America maintains 94 nuclear-capable heavy bombers maintained by the United States. This includes B-2 and B-52 bombers.

– America has an estimated 200 B61 nuclear gravity bombs deployed forward at bases in Europe for possible use by U.S. and NATO-allied air forces

– Five states are home to Minuteman III missile launch sites (Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming).

– America currently has 450 deployed Minuteman III ICBMs maintained by the United States. Under the New START Treaty, the U.S. Air Force plans to reduce the number of deployed Minuteman III ICBMs to 400-to-420.7

– The largest ballistic missile warhead currently in the U.S. stockpile, the W88 carried by the Trident II SLBM (submarine launched ballistic missile), is 455 kilotons.

– America has 778 total deployed ICBMs, SLBMs and nuclear-capable bombers as of March 1, 2014 (the New START limit is 700).[9]

– At the peak of the Cold War, America had 950 nuclear weapons deployed in South Korea.

– America conducted 1,030 nuclear tests before they were banned in 1992.

– America has 1,800-1,850 estimated warheads on deployed U.S. ICBMs and SLBMs. This also includes the number of nuclear bombs and air-launched cruise missiles at bases for deployed U.S. nuclear-capable bombers once the United States reaches the New START limit of 1,550 deployed warheads. The difference reflects the fact that, while New START counts all warheads on deployed ICBMs and SLBMs, it only attributes each deployed nuclear-capable bomber as one warhead, when the bombers can carry many more.

– America has around 2,700 nuclear weapons that have been retired from the stockpile and are awaiting dismantlement. There is a significant backlog in dismantling weapons.

– America had a total of 3,200 non-strategic nuclear weapons deployed forward in the Pacific region—Okinawa, South Korea, Guam, the Philippines and Taiwan—at their peak in 1967. The number began to decline after 1967, falling to 1,200 by 1977. The last forward-deployed nuclear weapons in the Pacific region were withdrawn in 1991.

– America has an estimated 4.650 total nuclear weapons—strategic and non-strategic, deployed and non-deployed—in the U.S. nuclear stockpile as of January 2014 (does not count an additional 2,700 retired weapons that await dismantlement).

– America had an estimated 7,304 non-strategic nuclear weapons deployed forward in Europe at their peak in 1971.

– America had an estimated 31,255 nuclear weapons in its nuclear stockpile at its peak in 1967.
From other sources:

– America has an extensive missile defense system comprised of (according to open source, unclassified intelligence) ground-based interceptor missiles, the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, Airborne systems, and Shorter-range anti-ballistic missiles. These systems have questionable reliability, but have seen successful tests.

If North Korea were to launch an ICBM with multiple targets, we need only look to America’s bombing own of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only nuclear weapons ever used, to understand the impact this might have on our population.

The 12-18 kiloton blast had a radius of about 1 mile, with resulting fires across 4.4 square miles, according to a report from the U.S Nuclear Defense Agency. In 1942, Hiroshima was around 350 square miles and had a population of around 420,000, making the population density roughly 1,200 humans per square mile. The deaths from the blast were somewhere between 70,000 and 130,000 human lives. Similarly, Nagasaki had a population of 240,000, with a density of roughly 154 humans/mi². However, between 40,000-80,000 humans were killed by America by the 18-23 kiloton Nagasaki bomb. This means that when making any calculation we can’t simply take the population density into consideration, but have to also consider the swollen population of a city during business hours. For example Manhattan, where I live, has an area of 22.82 square miles and a population of over 1.6 million, making the population density roughly 71,000 humans/mi². However, during an average workday the population swells to nearly 4 million, increasing the population density to around 175,000 humans/mi². (Note: these are all very rough estimates and I am not an expert in nuclear weaponry. Additional calculations for wind speed, weather, and radiation seepage would be needed to fully realize the number of casualties.)

With this in mind, and acknowledging New York City has the highest population density in the United States, North Korea’s maximum casualty expectation for a single nuclear detonation of 30 kilotons (I’m assuming a radius of 2 miles with 16mi² of fires), if centered in the densest part of our densest city during peak hours would be around 2-3 million, or around .9% of the total U.S population.

It is not merely highly unlikely that North Korea will ever strike the United States, it is highly improbable their capabilities, both in distance and precision, will allow them to reach our most densely populated city, leaving them with sub-optimal options if numbers of casualties is their goal. Their most likely targets, due to the increased limitations the distance to the east coast entails, would be Anchorage, Seattle, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Each of these cities has a significantly reduced population density compared to their east coast counterparts. This is not to say that a North Korean attack wouldn’t be intensely traumatic for the American people, but rather that North Korea in no way poses an existential threat requiring an unprecedented and illegal preventive strike.

The same cannot be said for the level of threat America poses to North Korea, or the entire world for that matter. The American arsenal, controlled by the president of the United States, Donald Trump, is capable of bringing about what is called a “nuclear winter”, a doomsday scenario that would see most life on Earth wiped out. While it is understandable and admirable the United States believes the world is better off if fewer nations have nuclear weapons, it is of little consolation when it retains 4,650 nuclear devices with up to 1.2 megaton payloads, 40 times stronger than North Korea’s strongest weapon.

With these facts in mind, it seems absurd for the president of the United States, Donald Trump, to claim the right and necessity of a preventive strike. A hegemonic militaristic nation with thousands more nuclear weapons many times more powerful than North Korea’s is claiming it feels threatened because theoretically North Korea could use its weapons against one of its cities. This is not reasonable foreign policy for a nation that spends more on its military than its nearest seven competitors combined. Combined.

It becomes even less reasonable when we consider the 150,000 American expats and roughly 28,500 US service members currently stationed in North Korea. If the claim is that the loss of American life is unacceptable (which implies the loss of non-American lives is more acceptable, a morality I personally find reprehensible), having people die “over there”, as Lindsay Graham has stated Donald Trump told him, does not mean American lives will be spared. In fact the loss of so many American lives would most likely lead to further military engagement with North Korea, resulting in an even greater loss of American lives (though admittedly these lives belong to members of the United States military, which I remain unconvinced the American government considers worth preserving).

Having participated in the multiple war games the United States conducts each year in South Korea in which it practices invading North Korea and overthrowing its regime, I can safely say I understand why North Korea might feel threatened and why they are currently attempting to demonstrate to the world that any attack would result in devastating consequences for their neighbors.

My unit when I was stationed at Camp Casey, South Korea for two years (2011-2013) was 210 Fires Brigade. Our stated mission was (and remains) “On order, 210th Field Artillery Brigade provides fires in support of Air Combat Command and Ground Combat Command’s counter fire fight. On order, transitions to offensive operation.” The common joke among my fellow Soldiers of the brigade was that we were simply a speed bump for North Korea’s million man army. However, from this vantage point, I was able to understand the full scope of the artillery batteries we were supposed to counter-fire if combat were to kick off. In fact, a year or so before I arrived in Korea the brigade was very nearly called on to provide this type of retaliatory fire during the yeonpyeong island incident of 2010. Fortunately, the situation did not escalate and the relatively stable peace was maintained. Regardless, the array of artillery batteries lined up in North Korea targeting Seoul are frankly terrifying, as they are well protected and prepared to launch at a moment’s notice, devastating a city of 24 million people.

Though usually not as serious as the yeonpyeongdo or the ROKS Cheonan incidents, tensions between North and South Korea have remained high throughout the decades-long armistice, often exacerbated by the presence of the US military. At any time since first acquiring nuclear weapons (2005-2006ish), North Korea could have used these weapons to attack their southern neighbor, with whom they are still technically at war. They have not done so, even at times of extremely high tension. It’s not in the interest of the North Korean government nor would any resulting scenario end in their favor. Therefore it is my conclusion that these nuclear weapons are simply bargaining chips the hermit kingdom uses to maintain their tenuous place in the global order.

With this established, my question is: why are is the United States rocking the boat?

While the armistice is not ideal and the North Korean government has repeatedly brutalized its own people (though South Korea, the United States, China, Russia, and every other country involved have brutalized their own people as well at various points throughout history, so it’s hard to take any sort of sanctimonious hand wringing about that point seriously), right now we have peace and stability. There is a path out of this scenario that maintains that peace and stability, but in the interest of whatever their goal is the government of the United States is pushing the boundaries of that peace. If something happens, it is not because of the actions of North Korea, or South Korea, or Russia, or China, which are all relatively predictable constants. Rather it would be because of the actions of the United States, which makes up the unpredictable variable in this equation thanks to its tumultuous and money-soaked democracy, which was on full display with the election of Donald Trump.

It is important to note that an individual entity, whether human or government, only has control over its own actions. The actions of others are outside our control, but can be influenced by deliberate behavior meant to assure, induce, coerce, or fool. The question I hope the United States is constantly asking itself is, “Are the actions of our nation contributing to or detracting from global peace and stability.” At the moment I’m afraid the Unites States is in the latter category, which, as Newton informs us, will have consequences proportional to the size of our dominating influence.

(As this is not an official paper I did not do a very good job of citing my sources. If anyone is interested in where I got this information I am extremely happy to take the time to share that with you. If no one cares I appreciate it because I’m lazy and like to get away with the least amount of work necessary to get my point across so I can go back to watching tv, playing video games, talking to friends, listening to music, or whatever else helps distract me from the soul-crushing possibilities this potential conflict might bring about.)

Fear of Muslims

12391411_10106867914950305_434552525704000528_n If you are afraid of Muslims you are not just a coward, you are a stupid coward.

I spent nearly every day during this past year of my life in Afghanistan talking to Muslims about and assisting Muslims with their own fight against terrorist and political organizations senselessly slaughtering their friends, families, and neighbors. The Muslims I spoke with were armed and some had family ties to Daesh or the Taliban or at least a decent reason to want to kill me. There were reasons for increased caution and extra security measures, certainly, but to spend each day, in a war-zone mind you, living in fear of Muslims was absolutely not an option. I wasn’t afraid because I was brave, rather it was simply because I wasn’t stupid. There will always be risks, and you do your best to mitigate those risks, but to accomplish your mission you must identify your goal and take actions that reflect that goal, and not let yourself be driven by your fear of what might happen if X or if Y or if Z. In the same way, the roots of Daesh lie in the disenfranchisement and economic exploitation of a large segment of the Arab population after years of imperialists looting the culture and economies followed by post-imperial dictators leading these hollowed out and crudely cobbled together nations propped up by the west as long as they were economically compliant. And of course, specifically, our invasion of Iraq and policy choices over the last 13 years. Defeating this organization and the slew of like minded groups that will inevitably spawn from their ideas will take many years of repairing relations, cultural integration and compromise from both ends, internal economic development, and political stability and self determination. If we decide some radical clash of civilizations is the only way, rather than committing to the policies previously mentioned, which will, make no mistake, see terrorist acts taking a limited number of innocent lives in the years to follow, we are sentencing ourselves to eternal global war and millions upon millions of future tragedies. Being afraid of Muslims because of some lunatic right-wing fantasy about global Christian holy war and the end of days with an epic clash of civilizations is playing into the hands of the American version of Daesh as well as the Muslim version. They are two sides of the same coin and they want to control you through paranoia and fear. Fear that the “other”, be it Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim, is only waiting for their opportunity to stab you in the back if you open the door to them.

So once again, if you are afraid of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world because of Daesh and their goals, then not only are you a coward, you are a stupid coward. We are at war with radicalization of all stripes and thinking there will not be casualties in the future is naive. However, cowardly appeasement of the enemy’s goals such as abusing Muslims and treating the entire population like members or potential members of Daesh means you are actively working against the interest and security of this nation.

Response to Pulse murders

The hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance surrounding the gun violence in our country has reached a fever pitch this weekend. In the same 24-hour period, in the same city, two incidents of extreme gun violence occurred. The first was committed by a 27-year-old male of European descent who shot a 22-year-old female singer in the head before he turned his gun on himself. This was premeditated as he drove two hours from his home to a city where she was signing autographs specifically to kill her. The second was a 29-year-old male of Afghan descent who entered a nightclub and killed or injured over 100 people. This was also premeditated, as he was apparently upset when he saw two men kissing in front of his wife and child the day prior. What is the difference then? According to many commentators and media outlets, one man was motivated by his religion, and the other man was motivated by…something else, we’re still figuring it out apparently.

This interpretation of gun violence, that a shooter’s motivation is based on a coherent religious or ideological thought, is a bald lie we tell ourselves every time there is an incident. Yes, the nightclub shooter used Islam and even ISIS as an excuse to give his brain permission to commit this act and cast himself as a hero in the celestial struggle between Islam and the evils of the West, but focusing on this as an act of “Islamist Terrorism” is a gross absurdity. It excuses our own thinking and lets us believe if only we stamp out this one brand of radical thought we can be safer.

For some context, in the same time frame there were 43 other incidents in America involving guns, resulting in 28 deaths and 31 injuries. This is in a single 24-hour period. So far in 2016 there have been 23,158 incidents involving guns resulting in 5,931 deaths and 12,144 injuries. Of these, 134 were mass shootings (four or more shot and/or killed in a single event, at the same general time and location not including the shooter).

To focus on gun violence only when really big events happen or the motivation behind the violence (racism, homophobia, terrorism, ISIS, etc) makes for an interesting narrative fails to explain the core of a violence that is deeply rooted in our society. Rather than look at these extemporaneous “motivations”, we must understand this core if we are ever truly to reduce the amount of violence we see from guns in America.

From 2002-2012 88% of homicides (of all types, not just guns, but I am extrapolating that this number holds as roughly the same when looking at gun-only homicides) were committed by men. For mass shootings over 98% of perpetrators are male. So if we look at gun violence in America in terms of constants and variables, a certain pattern emerges, particularly in mass shootings. Guns are a means to enhance one person’s physical power over another, whether to inflict death, injury, or simply the threat of death or injury, well beyond their personal strength or physical capacity. By interpreting and focusing on this function of guns, the use of guns by males is then understood as the assertion of their power or dominance (in this case the power of life or death) in a situation they would normally be unable to assert themselves with a balance of power so extremely skewed in their favor.

In an instant a man transforms from a position where their power had been stripped from them into a man who is now more powerful by far than anyone in his immediate vicinity. So if you are a man who had your “power” stripped by a celebrity woman (or any woman) who “thought she was better than you” or didn’t realize you were her one true love or rejected your hundreds of very nice emails or called security on you when you were just trying to see her at her house or apartment you spent a lot of time tracking down, you can take that power back in an instant. Or if you are a man who had your power stripped from you when you were walking down the street of Miami and saw two men kissing in front of your wife and child, emasculating you when you were unable to do anything because you live in a society where this thing you disagree with is accepted, you can take back your masculinity and power by shooting homosexuals who are part of the group who stole it from you. Really, if you are any man who needs to express their dominance for any reason, maybe someone cuts you off in traffic, or they didn’t show you the proper respect when they walked by you, or maybe even its not a specific reason, you’ve just felt powerless for a while and need to feel powerful for once, a gun is always available to you because we live in America.

The manner of the excuse to justify violence (racism, homophobia, religion, morality, etc) is immaterial. Men will always find an excuse and even revel in putting their violence in a larger context (inciting a race war, continuing the cosmic battle between Islam and the West, fighting the American government’s “jackboot thugs” to prevent them from taking over…the America(?), stopping the reptilians from taking over humanity, etc). We must understand that the cause of violence in America is the male quest to retake their power.

And this, the root of American gun violence, is why we must reform our gun laws. Now for whatever reason we have all agreed as a nation that our founding fathers were the most intelligent people who ever lived and would be really good at making laws in 2016 even without having any knowledge of how the world worked in 2016. We also all agree, for some reason, that that they obviously had assault rifles and hand guns in mind when they wrote the 2nd Amendment, so making guns entirely illegal seems to be off the table. Additionally, people still say they feel safer when they have a gun around even because there are all these “bad guys with guns” running around out there (and apparently it wouldn’t be better to arrest them before they shoot someone…?) who are just waiting for you to lose your right to bear arms before invading your home or attacking you on the street. With that being said, I think I have an idea that might satisfy all party’s needs while still reducing gun violence.

Make guns legal, but only for women. Make it literally illegal for a man, who is not in law enforcement, to even touch a gun. And if a woman wants to own a gun, make sure she has to go through extensive training and yearly recertifications so that she knows how to use that sucker like a pro. This means that when a bad guy with a gun comes around, you, the nervous man of the house, can always rely on your female partner to competently protect you. If you’re single and scared, find a woman you can be friends with and rely on to quickly come to your aid should you need it. This would have the added benefit of perhaps also reducing the gender disparity in domestic violence/sexual assaults rates in America.

This, however, is a short term solution. The long term solution is to reform masculinity itself. Unfortunately this is a global, generational issue seen in males in nearly every culture and nation. The current definition of masculinity is toxic to our society and must adapt to modern civilization. Perhaps it served when we lived in sparse tribes who were constantly warring and defending what little they had, but it no longer has a place in our modern culture. It is a vestigial behavior currently responsible for the deaths of millions of people around the globe every year based on nothing more than feelings of hurt pride or the desire to assert of personal power. Changing the way men think about themselves is essential if we want to reduce violence. However, this is admittedly difficult to legislate and requires an overall societal sea change, one I truly hope we are pursuing as a society.

So that’s my idea to help reduce gun violence anyways, what’s yours?

The most important thing to keep in mind is that in the next 24 hours another 50 people will have their lives ripped apart by gun violence. And then in the next 24 hours after that. And then after that. And after that. Indefinitely, every month, every year. If we do not do something, anything, anything at all about gun violence in America, we should stop pretending we care when this happens and just understand it’s a price we are willing to pay for loving guns more than we love human beings.

Statistics retrieved from: