Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On "Our Posthuman Future"

A thorough review of Francis Fukuyama's take on transhumanism...that's only a decade or so late

According to recent research, stuff is often blue and/or orange.
Well, it only took me a full 10 years, but I finally got around to reading Francis Fukuyama’s “Our Posthuman Future.” Now, I’m a pretty big fan of the Fuk-meister’s conservative-tinged agitprop (he’s probably the only author to appear on the  New York Times Bestsellers List within the last 25 years to cite both Nietzsche AND C.S. Lewis as his primary writing inspirations), but I have to say I’m a bit disappointed with this 2002 offering.

Now, with something like “The End of History and the Last Man” (his most famous work, about the apparent “triumph” of capitalistically-driven democracy following the fall of the Berlin Wall), you pretty much expect an ass-load of political philosophizing. In fact, that’s pretty much inescapable considering the territory he was mowing there, but with “Our Posthuman Future” - which is supposed to be about the social dangers of transhumanism - there’s just an overabundance of it. In the 220 or so pages of “Our Posthuman Future,” Fukuyama spends at least 180 of them going on and on about “natural rights” and political rabblerousing regarding everything from “The Bell Curve” to Ritalin prescriptions. It seems as if Fukuyama nails just about every topic under the sun in “Our Posthuman Future” - everything, that is, except what our posthuman future is supposed to entail.

Fukuyama has always been sort of an aberration when it comes to conservative analysts. Whereas most of his more famous political brethren are all about hellfire and brimstone and super-duper-mega sensationalism, Fukuyama seems to temper his work with way too much damn “rationality” to fit neatly under the “Republican Firebrand” label. He often states that his theories are anything but infallible, he isn’t opposed to voting across-the-aisle, and one of the anchor points of “Our Posthuman Future” is a call for more government regulation. Fukuyama, obviously, is just about as liberal as they’ll let conservatives get.

Now, when we’re discussing “transhumanism,” I personally expect an exclamation-loaded, hyper-fatalistic call-to-arms to follow suit. Basically, I want to hear anti-transhumanism pundits go off the deep end, and start saying shit that sounds like it would’ve come out of Will Smith’s mouth in “I, Robot.” Fukuyama’s problem - outside of the fact that he never really addresses the topic he named his book over - is that he’s just too lukewarm considering the issue. Fukuyama spends about 9/10ths of the book explaining what recombinant DNA and bt-corn is, but outside of giving us a few scant examples of how genetic engineering is currently being used to foul up the whole of humanity - as with the Geron Corporation, who actually patented a designer genome for telomerase - Fukuyama leaves the deep research up to us. In the last ten years, there’s obviously been a lot of breakthroughs with molecular engineering, specifically in regards to genetically modified organisms - for a good introduction to such, I’d highly advise checking out the 2008 documentary Food, Inc., which I assure you will forever change the way you look at chicken sandwiches and corn on the cob.

That’s not to say that Fukuyama doesn’t bring a couple of interesting talking points to the table, however. His anecdotes about Joe Tsien’s experiments to give mice “super-memories” are pretty damn provocative, as is his predictions about the U.S. population circa 2050 (Fukuyama says that if current trends continue, the two biggest voting blocs in the USA then will be elderly women and super pissed-off immigrants from the Third World.)

The fundamental flaw with the work, however, is that it never gets into the nitty-gritty, Sci-Fi sounding bullshit that you sort of expect from a book on the subject. The entire book, for all intents and purposes, is just a variation of the refrain “genetic engineering is probably a bad idea,” totally ignoring all of the out-there, pants-pissing experiments going on in the world as we computer-speak. Did you hear about the person that was infected with a computer virus a couple of years back, or Monsanto’s bid to economically crush farmers that didn’t use their patented mycogen seeds? Yeah, you won’t be hearing anything that awesome/terrifying in this book, I am afraid.

As you can see here, the future of molecular engineering is very, very spirally.

Hell, if you look up transhumanism on Wikipedia, you’ll come across an artist’s conception of a hybrid human/cow thing that’s quite possibly the most horrifying image I’ve ever seen of anything ever. Even if Creative Commons would let me publish it here, I wouldn’t, just because it’s so damned creepy looking. That, I suppose, is what I was looking for in “Our Posthuman Future” - bizarre and conjectural nightmare fodder that’s just feasible enough to give me a case of the goose pimples that lasts a full afternoon.

But instead, all I just got was just another lecture about the same-old John Locke / John Money bull stuff, with only occasional dropped morsels about the absurdity and outrageousness of human bioengineering.

You let me down here, Frankie. You really, really did.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

The 2012 State of the Union Address

Translating Obama's Speech Into "Real Talk"

As part of some stupid constitutional thingy, every year, us Americans have our prime time television programs interrupted by a completely needless "status" report by the President the last Tuesday of every January. It's totally pointless and probably a violation of our civil liberties, but since I just got my Sega Genesis repaired, I really haven't felt the need nor the desire to look it up on Google.

Even worse, I had to watch this spectacle of absurd proportions for a class assignment, which I thought was prohibited by the Geneva Convention, but apparently, I guess not

Admittedly, I've never been a big fan of hot air and/or political rhetoric, so I didn't really go into this one feeling too optimistic. Then, I went on the YouTube, and noticed that there was an ENHANCED version of the 2012 State of the Union Address online for everybody to enjoy. (Oh, and if you are currently Stevie Wonder right now, that video is positioned at the very top of the screen.)

For the most part, I wasn't too enthused by this special edition of the Address. For one, I really didn't like the fact that Greedo fired first before Charlie Rangel shot him with his lazer blaster, but the director's commentary, I must say, was easily Criterion-worthy

We're all busy people, and we're all people disinterested in political poppycock. Therefore, as a service to the whole of humanity, I've decided to sit through the entire State of the Union Address and translate all of that Obama-Talk into common American English. Granted, he may not have said the stuff I transcribed, but odds are, it was either what he was thinking about or what his utterances really entailed for us, the proud citizens of Planet America

So, here's what you do: start the video, and stop it every time you get to one of the time stamps I have listed below to uncover what Obama's real sentiments are. You can thank me for saving you a squandered hour later on.

00:01:00 - - “Hey, you know who’s kind of awesome? The troops. Yeah, try and boo that shit, Holmes.”

00:01:30 - - “Speaking of which, remember when I killed Osama? That was some cool shit, wasn’t it? I mean, it really didn’t end Islamic extremism abroad or anything, but still.”

00:02:30 - - “Y’know, things would be a lot easier around here if we were more like the troops. Well, except for the part about getting paid $9 an hour. That part would probably suck.”

00:03:00 - - “I bet things would be a lot easier if we were less dependent on other people for stuff.”

00:04:00 - - “You know, because of the G.I. Bill, a lot of people got to go to college and get all educated and whatnot and become productive members of the middle class. Just sayin’ man.” 

00:05:30 - - “Let’s talk about outsourcing and globalization real quick. Long story short, it’s killing us. G’night, folks!”

00:06:30 - - “…but seriously, have you people ever THOUGHT that deregulation could be the center of all this recession shit?” 

00:07:30 - - “On the bright side, though, we’ve got jobs a-coming. Granted, you’ll have to provide your own mops and shovels, but still…” 

00:09:15 - - [Takes drag from Marlboro Red] “…but, I’ve got an idea, if you’re willing to listen.” 

00:10:16 - - “Look, man, I’m telling you, American cars is where it’s at…if by “at,” you really mean all those GM plants in Mexico.” 

00:11:00 - - “Yeah, that’s right, I said ‘Detroit was a success’, and yes, I have seen ‘Robocop’…”

00:11:32 - - “So today, I propose we centralize our efforts towards turning America into a wholly “safety-lock” economy.” 

00:13:13 - - “Dude! I just thought of something! How about we start taxing domestic multinationals? Shit, how come nobody’s thought of that before?” 

00:14:47 - - [Stretches and yawns] “Boy, my arms sure are tired. Must be from all of that exporting and shit we’ve been doing lately.” 

President Obama, seen here enjoying an invisible cup of water.

00:16:00 - - “Hey, speaking of some dirty mofos, how about them Chinese people, am I right?” 

00:17:00 - - “So as long as you’re willing to dedicate your life to programming soulless robots, you will HAVE A JOB in my America.”

00:17:46 - - “Dude…wouldn’t it be so hot if they just kissed right then?” 

00:18:57 - - “Because the way I see it, the job market is kind of like Pac-Man…” 

00:20:17 - - “You know that one teacher in ‘Stand and Deliver?’ I wish we could clone him and shit…”

00:21:48 - - “So yeah, we should just let all those retards sit around in high school, failing over and over again, and THEN let them out on the streets when they turn 18. RECESSION SOLVED.” 

00:23:38 - - “And if you colleges can’t control tuition inflation…” [Cracks knuckles] “…we gonna’ have us some problems.” 

00:24:10 - - “All right, so you know how earlier, I was talking about how there were all these openings in the science and tech sectors? Well, as it turns out, illegal immigrants are usually pretty good at that kind of stuff, so I got an idea…”

00:25:50 - - “And I totally think women should get equal pay. Right after they’re done cooking supper, of course.”

00:26:42 - - “Which is why I’m all about supporting small-time businesses, like Apple.”

00:27:10 - - “Look, man, we’ve GOTTA’ get that Death Star up before China does.”

00:28:47 - - “…and with this new information at hand, I have no other choice but to invade Canada.”

00:30:00 - - “So even if it did kill Weird Al Yankovich’s parents, I’m still a big fan of natural gas.”

00:31:10 - - “Now, I’m not necessarily saying that the government should have the right to force consumer products manufacturers to dabble in cold fusion research on the side, but...”

00:33:00 - - “I just hope we don’t get attacked while all of our fighter jets are still plugged in, though.”

00:35:05 - - “I propose construction plans for Mega-City One and Mega-City Two begin by the end of the year.”

00:36:01 - - “Because homeowners, unlike all of those damned construction workers, didn’t deserve such suffering. Wait…that last part didn’t come out the way I meant it…”

00:38:00 - - “So I was on the Internet last night, and I heard from this one guy that you can actually make companies abide by the same laws everybody else does. But then, my World of Warcraft connection got timed out, so I never found out what the hell he was talking about.”

The Obama family celebrates with Muammar Gaddifi, just weeks before the foreign leader was disposed by insurgent forces.

 00:38:38 - - “Well, that’s the last time I let Gallagher write my public speeches…”

00:40:42 - - “So under my watch, we will NEVER do all that stuff I just did three years ago.” 

00:41:16 - - “Meet Richard Cordray, or as he will henceforth be known, Batman.”

00:43:25 - - “And with that extra $40 a paycheck, Americans can finally have what they’ve been dreaming of since the recession began: the ability to purchase two Nintendo 3DS games a month.”

00:44:22 - - “Surely, she would agree with me: eff that guy that’s given her steady employment and respectable pay for the last 40 years of her life.” 

00:45:35 - - “Yes, yes, my proposed changes are sure to be quite controversial within the McDuck circles…”

00:46:10 - - “Not to be a stickler or anything, but technically, guys, it really should be the 98 percent…”

00:47:02 - - “Granted, I’ve never personally experienced any of that stuff, but it sounds like it’s got to suck pretty hard, though.”

00:47:34 - - “Yep, that ought to put all those rumors about me supporting Communism out to pasture…”
00:48:38 - - “Well, besides us, of course.”

00:49:09 - - “By the way, I never officially acknowledged the presence of my special guest of honor this evening, so please, everyone, give a warm round of applause to Mr. ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan.”

00:50:29 - - “…and if it isn’t, your breadsticks will be on the house.”

00:51:35 - - “Furthermore, I was also a big fan of his logs as a child.”

00:52:37 - - “Which, uh, isn’t the same thing as a centralized government. Um, I think.”

00:54:11 - - “Because, as we all remember, George W.’s plan to do the exact same with Iraq was a monumental success in every aspect.”

00:55:53 - - “So what I’ve got here is the Truman Doctrine. Now, with this here red marker, we’re just going to make a few slight changes to it. First off, let’s see if we can find a way to make “Communism” sort of look like “Militant, Centralized Islam” real quick…”

00:57:00 - - “…but I don’t mean that in an ominous, foreboding way though. Nope…not at all.”

Footage from the Obama Administration after party, where attendees allegedly watched Robert Gates "kick ass" on Rayman Origins until 3 in the morning.

00:58:06 - - “Now, I’ve heard there’s a certain country that shall remain nameless – let’s call it “Shina” – that’s been talking some serious shit beyond our backs, bros.”

00:59:40 - - “However, due to budgetary cutbacks, we only afford them half their uniforms from here on out.”

01:01:06 - - “I mean, who wouldn’t feel safe with emotionally, physically and psychologically scarred officers guarding our city streets?”

01:02:25 - - “…hey, did I tell all you about that time I KILLED OSAMA BIN LADEN? You know, that 9/11 guy? That guy we’ve been trying to find for ten years? You know, that guy I found? Well…I did.”

01:04:53 - - “So remember: healing America’s economy is a lot like organizing a covert, military invasion with the goal of assassinating a strategic figurehead…”
Round of applause. Fade out. And now, we're coming to you LIVE from the office of some guy from Indiana nobody cares about. For about a millisecond, I sort of thought about watching the Republican rebuttal, but since the TV Guide Channel was showing an hour block of "Designing Women" at the same time, I think we all know who won that battle.  

...and with that, the 2012 State of the Union Address (as well as about 250 plus years of American Exceptionalism) officially concludes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Visit to the Mount Berry Square Mall

Where Fake Plants, Apathetic Teenagers and Sega Still Reign Supreme...

You know, the significance of the shopping mall in the American consciousness is really starting to decline. At one point in my life, the local (and since I lived in the middle of freaking nowhere, “local” means a good twenty-something miles away) shopping mall wasn’t just my cultural Mecca, where you could see all the high school cretins wearing what they thought was cool and counterculture to the world, it was pretty much my only glimpse at a world outside of my backyard and grade school playground. It was only at the mall that I had access to obscure horror movies, and punk and metal CDs, and books that were actually halfway not crappy. To some, the aroma of the food court was a nauseating blend of fried dough and spilled Orange Julius, but to me? That was the scent of freedom...if by “freedom,” you really mean the “expansion of my options as a consumer,” which to an eleven year old circa the mid ‘90s, yeah, pretty much is unfettered freedom in all its majesty.

Kids today probably don’t have that same reverence for the shopping mall, that idolatrous temple of consumption that it is, that I did, for one very simple reason: unlike pre-pubescent me, they actually have the ABILITY to be exposed to stuff without begging their mom to trek three counties over for an afternoon. As long as you have Internet access, you pretty much have the world at your fingertips, and as such, the modern shopping mall is pretty much obsolete as a cultural watering hall. Sure, sure, I suppose it’s still a physical congregating place, where all of those teenagers that think they’re werewolves hang out by the pretzel stand and talk about how much ass they kick on Xbox Live, but darn it, it just isn’t the same experience.

In my day, going to the mall was pretty much your only chance to do a lot of stuff. If you wanted video games with high-end graphics, you’d better get your fill at the arcade, because after that, it was back to making do with the Game Boy. Wanted to scope out an unedited Slayer or NOFX CD? If you don’t snag that copy of “South of Heaven” now, buddy, you probably ain’t ever going to hear it. Hell, for me, that was the only time I got a chance to see girls that actually looked semi-attractive, for crying aloud. But as I said earlier, the mall is no longer the go-to place for all of these things to the modern generation of youngsters, and that makes me a little weepy, for a lot of different reasons.
A couple of weeks back, however, I had the opportunity to return to the mall that I considered the magical portal to the rest of civilization back in the fifth grade, marking the first time I stepped foot in the building since the W. Administration. Was that magical aura still there, and was there still some sense of cultural import to the place that, in my youth, was pretty much the only place of cultural import in my world?

Time to go shopping, why don’t we?

The name of the shopping mall is Mount Berry Square Mall, and I had the first of many, many epiphanies that afternoon when, after a good quarter-century of being on this planet, I just then realized that the place had a back entrance, which, wouldn’t you know it, was right next to the arcade. The walking time knowing that piece of information could have saved me fifteen years ago is positively incalculable.

Structurally, it was the same place I grew up loving; a lot of the common architecture was still there, and even some of the stores I used to visit were still in business. You have no idea how much it assured me when I ambled into Sears and saw that Foosball table placed in the exact same location it was when I was in middle school. No, seriously, you really don’t.

For those of you wondering if that much ballyhooed recession is happening or not, I can tell you that at least half of the store spaces in the mall were vacant, and in the mini shopping strip outside the mall, everything except a Toys R Us and some kooky regional diner were still in operation. Three years down the line, and every time I stare at an emptied Circuit City husk, I still get the willies.

I reckon there’s not too much to talk about regarding the stores. Outside of a Christian-themed coffee shop, the store selection was your rather humdrum collection of Hot Topics, Bath and Bodyworks and Victoria’s Secrets. But what the shopping mall lacked in shopping options, it more than made up for it with the atmospherics.

I’ve never really been a garden-y person, but there’s something about shopping mall fountains and shrubbery - especially here - that just makes me giddy and all Eco-crazy and what not. I really dug the natural lighting here, too, even though since I got there in the late evening, it was all pretty much for naught.

But hey, who needs silly things like sunshine when you have these giant-assed gumball machine displays?

Or how about these photo booths, which, apparently, are under 24 hour surveillance by some shadowy organization, per the warning sticker plastered inside the thing. And just how meta is a photo of a photo booth, eh?

Of course, not everything was the same as I remembered. Apparently catering to the crater-faced teenager demographic, I stumbled across this acne-treatment vending machine, which has to be one of the weirdest damn contraptions I’ve ever seen. And yes, I do know about all of that funky stuff you can pick up in Japan, in case you were wondering.

I guess I should have brought up the fact that the mall has a carousel in the middle of it, too. In fact, there’s a whole mini-carnival inside the mall, which includes a collection of sticker machines and a ton of anti-arcade games, like that one hurricane-simulating machine I’m sure you’ve encountered at one point or another in your day to day ventures.

As far as most ridiculous cash grab of the day went, it’s pretty hard to beat these machines that give you a standard paper shopping bag for the low, low price of fifty American cents. I’m guessing the one that spits out plastic sacks was broken that week.

Of course, the main attraction at any mall HAS to be the arcade. Arcades are getting increasingly rarer in the hallowed shopping centers of America, so the fact that Mount Berry Square even had a cave for arcade games was pretty damned surprising. As I waltzed past the food court - which had a plastic rock climbing wall smack dab in the middle of it - my heart skipped a beat. Could I be in store for a peek at retro game Valhalla as soon as I took that corner at Sbarro’s?

All in all, I’d have to say that the arcade here was one of the better “retro-cades” I’ve stumbled across as of late. Granted, it was nowhere near as bustling as it was during the Clinton years, but at this point, I suppose you can say the same thing about practically everything else in existence.

There were some pretty unusual selections on tap, including one of those Star Wars Arcade Trilogy cabinets from Sega (too bad it had a nasty brown stain going vertical-wise across the entire screen, though). Sadly, a good quarter of the machines were either out of order or messed up beyond play - as with the Mortal Kombat II cabinet with the broken cathode ray tube and the Daytona USA cabinet with a player one wheel that was, apparently, possessed by Satan himself.

I was absolutely flabbergasted to uncover what I thought was an old 1943 cabinet in the very back of the arcade. Upon closer inspection, however, the machine was actually this Jerry-rigged homemade unit consisting of an old CRT TV screen turned upside down and wedged into the coin-op cabinet while a hidden hard drive pumped MAME titles onto the screen, making this thing the most illegal thing that has ever been illegal. And on top of all that? The damn thing ate my two tokens, too.

After a good hour of gaming, I decided to call it a day and head out into the wild blue yonder. As a sociocultural experiment, I was somewhat reassured in knowing that, despite all of our modern luxuries, the shopping mall I grew up with is still a preferred haunt for aimless teenagers and community college kids that can’t get laid, even if the good ice cream stand went belly up a couple of World Cups ago.

So, is the neighborhood shopping mall still as important to the neighborhood in a modern sense?

Well, it certainly isn’t the premier locale for what’s new and diffusing throughout popular culture anymore, but I think it still has some life left in it.

After all: as long as presumably high consumers with lots of expendable dough crave themselves some Sega coin-ops and cheese-injected corn dogs, there will be a place for such hallowed grounds in the consciousness of oft-kilter America forever.


Me playing "X-Men: Children of the Atom!" 

Me playing "Virtual-On: Cyber Troopers!"

Me playing "The House of the Dead!" 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Use The Internet…

Forget SOPA and PIPA: A Recent SCOTUS Decision and the Megaupload Crackdown Serve as Far More Immediate Threats to our Cyber Freedom

On January 18 (which, coincidentally, was also the day I turned 26), hundreds of websites protested the proposed SOPA/PIPA legislation by “shutting down” their own services. Wikipedia’s English site went black, Reddit ceased operations for a full 24 hours, and Google “celebrated” the makeshift Web holiday by presenting its laziest doodle yet. For once, it seemed like everybody on the ‘net was working on the same page, to help combat federal policy making of the most repressive magnitude...by changing their Facebook profile photos for a day, in most instances.

And so, the Internet peoples celebrated and self-congratulated themselves, with the Web as a collective giving itself a big, fat pat on the back for standing up to the man in the name of cyber-freedom. This was our strike to the empire, our way of telling those fat cats in Hollywood and Capitol Hill that, as Dee Snider once so proudly declared, “we’re not gonna’ take it anymore.

But on Jan. 19 - that’s just one day later - something happened. Actually, two things happened, which seem to indicate that SOPA/PIPA isn’t our only free expression concern as denizens of the World Wide Web.

The first incident occurred on January 18, which means while all of us were trading high-fives for sticking it to the federales, a karate chop to the cojones of free expression was taking place right under our noses.

There’s this thing you’ve probably heard of called “the public domain.” You see, for creative works released prior to certain legislative acts (or in the case of at least two all-time classic horror movies, because you were screwed over by your distributor at the last minute), there’s no federally recognized “owner” for such works, meaning that, for all intents and purposes, those works are completely and totally free to distribute, air, mass produce, reconstruct or recreate, in any format you want.

Thusly, since nobody legally owns “Night of the Living Dead” or certain episodes of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” that means we can do whatever the hell we want with said media, without having to pay a dime to anybody. Small-time TV stations and fledgling cable channels have thrived off free content in the form of “public domain” works for decades, and in some cases, otherwise forgettable works have been elevated to nigh-classic status due to their universal availability.

However, following the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision in Golan V. Holder, the public domain status of over ONE MILLION works could be revoked, or gulp, SOLD OFF to the highest bidder, resulting in a.) the limitations of what we have access to read, perform and/or screen, and b.) the potentiality that certain properties can be purchased and amassed by non-estates for profit - and, oh yeah, in the process, give corporate entities new avenues to sue the shit out of you.

The following is a long and mostly boring recount of how this potentially uber-corrosive decision came to be. If you have an aversion to technicalities, just skip ahead to the next paragraph for the gist of why this stuff matters.

The decision in Golan v. Holder basically says that foreign works previously in the public domain are no longer protected as “free works” under the Copyrights Clause of the United States Constitution. Now, the Golan v. Holder case stems from this thing called The Uruguay Round Agreements Act, which was passed in the 1990s in an attempt to standardize international copyright agreements. What the recent SCOTUS decision says, in essence, is that this standardization no longer applies, and the copyright status of international works are subject to the copyright laws of the nation in which said media was created, not the US of A.

This is a troubling notion, for two primary reasons. For starters, the SCOTUS decision puts the legality of millions upon millions of works - films, music, stories, literature, plays, dances, everything - OUT of the hands of US courts, and in case you weren’t aware, most of the copyright laws outside of the U.S. are really, really shitty. Go ahead, do your research on British copyright law, and prepare to weep a crimson river. Note that this doesn’t apply directly to American works, but works copyrighted outside of US jurisdiction. That means that “all-American” works - including the formerly in the US public domain “It’s a Wonderful Life” - can be yanked out of the “free-to-use” column because a.) they copyright is currently held by foreign owners or b.) because the source material for said work is based on a copyrighted work in another country.

If you have a keen eye for cause-and-effect sort of stuff, you can see where this is headed; since copyright law abroad is generally more restrictive than it is in the States (meaning, in many countries, people can simply buy the copyrights to whatever they want), that means the floodgates could quickly open and drown us all in a million INTERPOL lawsuits.

Screen a formerly public domain film like “The 39 Steps” or “Metropolis?” That’s now enough to have the Swedes break down your front door, with arrest orders in one hand and presumably a bowl of meatballs in the other. Your junior high school wants to do a production of “Peter and the Wolf?” Well, now you are in league with a bunch of international criminals, and the entire school district can be sued into oblivion by the grandsons and granddaughters of Gestapo agents.

The ramifications here could be huge, with millions of books and musical pieces falling into the clutches of international brokers. What’s to stop foreign businesses and estates from locking up domestic rights to the work of CS Lewis, Wagner or Shakespeare, thus making U.S. citizens beholden to their copyright regulations as well? The short answer is, following January 18, 2012, absolutely nothing.

This freedom eroding announcement was followed up by yet another ominous event just a few hours later, when the feds announced that they were shutting down the popular Megaupload site for "infringing" upon the copyrights of countless recording artists, companies, filmmakers and TV producers.

By the way, Megaupload is a Hong Kong site, with a Hong Kong home office, that is operated by people from Hong Kong. Now, you may be asking yourself how the FBI managed to legally invade another country and take away their belongings. The answer, perhaps you already suspect: because we're America, damn it, and we're allowed to do that.

The U.S. is saying that the site operators have caused more than $500 million in damages (with the feds picking up about $50 million in assets while they were there), referring to seven members of the group as an international criminal cell called the "Mega Conspiracy." In other words? Holy shit, apparently all it takes for the US to go after you is give you a super villain nickname.

So, what do these two events mean for you and me, us regular sods on the Internet? Well, you may not initially think that public domain law and "locker" sites in Oceania have much of a sway on your life now, but these things do something very, very dangerous, and that's something called setting a precedent.

U.S. "justice" works a little like this. As long as we've written down something at sometime about something...no matter how trivial or minor...we can look back on that as a reason/excuse to do whatever the hell we want. You would be shocked - shocked, I say - by the number of Supreme Court decisions that were made based simply on the fact that, years and years earlier, some low-tier judge made a decision in a small court case out in the middle of nowhere...thus, serving as a catalyst for federal decision-making. It's arbitrary, it's stupid, and needless to say, it could result in a lot of harm for our civil liberties.

And in the last few days, we've had two MAJOR precedent-setting events transpire before our very eyes, which could lead to some very, very troubled waters ahead of us.

At the current, it's still a free Internet...but for how long, is anybody's guess.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Many Similarities Between Gangster Rappers And Republicans

The shocking number of parallels between the Grand Old Party and the world of hardcore gangsta' rap

At first glance, it would not seem like hardcore conservative Republicans and hardcore gangster rappers would have that much in common. In fact, it sort of seems like the two are exact opposites, if not ideologically, than definitely as far as skin tones go.
But once you get past the superficialities and really examine the two populations, you walk away with a rather startling revelation: for all intents and purposes, republicans and gangster rappers hold pretty much the same ideologies, and behave in practically identical fashions.
On the surface, it seems like there would be a WORLD of differences between the GOP and OPP, but in reality, it’s kind of difficult to separate one culture from the other. What do I mean, precisely? Well, just take a look at the uncanny similarities for yourself:

Both are ardent supporters of capitalism, free trade and unregulated commerce

“We have to make it easier for people to do the things that allow them to rise. We have to let them compete. We need to let people fight for business. We need to let people take risks. We need to let people fail. We need to let people suffer the consequences of bad decisions. And we need to let people enjoy the fruits of good decisions, even good luck.

That is what economic freedom looks like. Freedom to succeed as well as to fail, freedom to do something or nothing. People understand this. Freedom of speech, for example, means that we put up with a lot of verbal and visual garbage in order to make sure that individuals have the right to say what needs to be said, even when it is inconvenient or unpopular. We forgive the sacrifices of free speech because we value its blessings.

But when it comes to economic freedom, we are less forgiving of the cycles of growth and loss, of trial and error, and of failure and success that are part of the realities of the marketplace and life itself.”

Jeb Bush, “Capitalism and the Right to Rise” (2011)

“You don’t have to respect a nigga’ but respect his cash / ‘cause for the money, niggaz will murder ‘dat ass”

50 Cent, “Power of the Dollar” (1999)

Both are known for making homophobic and misogynistic statements

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.”

Rick Santorum, “On Lawrence v. Texas” (2003)

“Here is a bachelor comin' straight at ‘ya / I see trim and bag it, take it home and rag it /
the Big Daddy law is anti-faggot / that means no homosexuality.”

Big Daddy Kane, “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy” (1989)

“I tell you, you women, why don’t you just make it official, put on some burqas?

And I’ll guaran-damn-tee you nobody’ll touch you. You put on a burqa, and everybody’ll leave you alone, if that’s what you want.”

Rush Limbaugh, “In Defense of Herman Cain” (2011)

And we walked over to the ho / she continued to speak / so we beat the bitch down in the goddamn street.”

Ice T, “6 ‘N The Mornin’” (1986)

Both claim to be deeply religious, despite promoting hypocritical behaviors and ideals 

"It's vile. It's more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction. "

Mark Foley, "On the Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal" (1998)
 "Maf54: I may be now that your coming
Maf54: who you coming to visit
Teen:   haha good stuff
Teen:   umm no one really
Maf54: we will be adjourned ny then
Teen:   oh good
Maf54: by
Maf54: then we can have a few drinks
Maf54: lol
Teen:   yes yes ;-)
Maf54: your not old enough to drink
Teen:   shhh…
Maf54: ok
Teen:   that’s not what my ID says
Teen:   lol
Maf54: ok
Teen:   I probably shouldn’t be telling you that huh
Maf54: we may need to drink at my house so we don’t get busted"
Mark Foley, "IM Conversation" (2003)

"God gave me style / God gave me grace / God put a smile on my face, ha-ha" 

50 Cent, "God Gave Me Style" (2005)

"Y'all niggaz know know what I'm about / Fuck with my dough, then the guns come out."

 50 Cent, "Gunz Come Out" (2005) 

Both REALLY seem to like the Second Amendment

"I get asked sometimes where do I stand on the Second and 10th Amendment, and I have a little saying...we need a sign at every harbor, every airport and every road entering our state: 'You're entering a 10th Amendment-owned and -operated state, and justice will be served with the Second Amendment.'"

Mike McCalister, "Palms West Republican Club Speech" (2011)

"Goddamn, another payback with a twist / the motherfuckers shot but the punks missed / Ice Cube is outgunned / what's the outcome? / Will they do me like Malcolm...I deal with the devil with my motherfucking steel..." 

Ice Cube, "When Will They Shoot?" (1992)

Both aren’t known for being too friendly to Hispanics, Asians or Jews

Indeed, of the last seven justices nominated by Democrats JFK, LBJ, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, one was black, Marshall; one was Puerto Rican, Sonia Sotomayor. The other five were Jews: Arthur Goldberg, Abe Fortas, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan...if Kagan is confirmed, Jews, who represent less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, will have 33 percent of the Supreme Court seats...is this the Democrats' idea of diversity?

Pat Buchanan, “Are Liberals Anti-WASP?” (2010)

Pregnant Asian women pay $15,000 to agents to ensure they are in the United States when their child is born so that they can return home secure in the knowledge he or she will be a U.S. citizen with the right to a U.S.-taxpayer subsidized education in college.”

Pat Buchanan, “Is This Our America Anymore?” (2010)

“Aliens granted amnesty by the DREAM Act will have the legal right to petition for entry of their family members, including their adult brothers and sisters and the parents who illegally brought or sent them to the United States, once they become naturalized U.S. citizens. In less than a decade, this reality could easily double or triple the 2.1 million green cards that will be immediately distributed as a result of the DREAM Act”

Jeff Sessions, “DREAM Act Rewards Illegal Immigration” (2010)

"Crucifixion ain't no fiction / So called chosen frozen / Apology made to whoever pleases / Still they got me like Jesus"

Public Enemy, “Welcome to the Terrordome” (1990)

"Every time I want to go get a fucking brew / I gotta' go down to the store with the two / Oriental one-penny-counting motherfuckers / They make a nigga' mad enough to cause a little ruckus."

Ice Cube, "Black Korea" (1991)

“…I’ll stab yo ass / quicker than a Mexican…”

Geto Boys, "Mind of a Lunatic" (1989)

Both are proponents of cultural insulation and elitism

"You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on Earth, or we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness. We will keep in mind and remember that Barry Goldwater has faith in us. He has faith that you and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny."

Ronald Reagan, "A Time For Choosing" (1964)

"Niggaz ain't ready for war / to blast me / ask me / if I give two shits / if you ain't Pharoahs / Q.D. / my kids or my bitch"

Army of the Pharoahs, "Dump the Clip" (2007)

Both promote “family values,” despite rarely practicing them

"I believe they are awful and I have worked with them, but you are not going to argue here that out-of-wedlock pregnancy and related things are less damaging overall to a life's career than somebody who has been sexually harassed, which, by the way, may also occur in the teen pregnancy and the out-of-wedlock or non-married sexual activity."

Mark Souder, "Cervical Cancer and Human Papillomavirus Subcommittee Hearing" (2004)

"In this poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal  failing is seized upon, often twisted, for political gain. I am  resigning rather than to put my family through that painful, drawn-out  process. ... We are a committed family but the error is mine and I  should bear the responsibility. Not only am I thankful for a loving  family but for a loving God."

"But your host can't stand me / Wu-Tang for the kids, bust them off for family"

O.D.B., "Lift Ya Skirt" (2003) 

"According to the Brooklyn District Attorney's office, O.D.B. (who was born Russell Jones and recently adopted the moniker Big Baby Jesus) stepped before the judge and signed an agreement to pay $35,000 in back child support owed to Icelene Jones, the mother of three of his many children. The District Attorney says that the total amount owed was actually higher than that, but that $35,000 is the amount deemed acceptable by the family and the court. He is due back in court on July 24 to make sure that the agreement is honored."

They accept SOME people of color as honorary members

 “While some African Americans who have been characterized as an honorary White have light skin, e.g., Colin Powell…these are neither sufficient nor necessary for the status. Condoleeza Rice, the Secretary of State under George W. Bush, for example, has relatively dark skin and features associated with African descent but has been characterized as an honorary White based on her forms of speaking and self-presentation, her success in elite, White-dominated institutions, and her conservative political positions.”

Benjamin Bailey, “Language, Power, Race and Class” (2010)

"Eminem is actually quite pale and blond so this latter comparison appears to confer on him an honorary Black status within hip hop." 

H. Samy Alim, Awad Ibrahim and Alastair Pennycock, "Global Linguistics Flows" (2009)

Both seem to LOVE Machiavellianism  

"Schlesinger was just one of dozens of presidential advisers who behaved like little Machiavellis in the years when revolutions in Vietnam and Latin America brought hysterical responses on the part of the U.S. government. These intellectuals could see no better role for themselves than to serve national power.

Kissinger, secretary of state to Nixon, did not even have the mild qualms of Schlesinger. He surrendered himself with ease to the princes of war and destruction. In private discussions with old colleagues from Harvard who thought the Vietnam War immoral, he presented himself as someone trying to bring it to an end, but in his official capacity he was the willing intellectual tool of a policy that involved the massive killing of civilians in Vietnam.

Kissinger approved the bombing and invasion of Cambodia, an act so disruptive of the delicate Cambodian society that it can be considered an important factor in the rise of the murderous Pol Pot regime in that country. After he and the representatives of North Vietnam had negotiated a peace agreement to end the war in late 1972, he approved the breaking off of the talks and the brutal bombardment of residential districts in Hanoi by the most ferocious bombing plane of the time, the B52."


Howard Zinn, "Machiavellian Realism and U.S. Foreign Policy: Means and Ends" (1991)

“Makavelli in this? Killuminati / All through your body/ it blows like a 12 gage shotty"

2Pac, "Hail Mary" (1997)

With both, criminality seems to come with the territory

"People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got."

Richard Nixon, "On Watergate" (1973)

"Damn it feels good to be a gangster /a real gangster-ass nigga plays his cards right /a real-gangster ass nigga never runs his fuckin' mouth / cause gangster-ass niggaz don't start a fight"

Well, that last one does indicate one major difference between the two groups: primarily, the fact that gangster rappers are at least honest about their inherent hypocrisies and dirty dealings.