Archive for the ‘Nerdcore’ Category

A Solution For The Fake “Fake News” Outrage

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Tim Berners-Lee on how to fix the internet:

Today, most people find news and information on the web through just a handful of social media sites and search engines. These sites make more money when we click on the links they show us. And they choose what to show us based on algorithms that learn from our personal data that they are constantly harvesting. The net result is that these sites show us content they think we’ll click on – meaning that misinformation, or fake news, which is surprising, shocking, or designed to appeal to our biases, can spread like wildfire. And through the use of data science and armies of bots, those with bad intentions can game the system to spread misinformation for financial or political gain.

The internet was originally designed to be decentralized so that if in wartime a city was taken out, the internet could simply route around the damage and keep communications working. The web was theorized as similarly decentralized, with many different sites offering content and users choosing from among those.

However, thanks to the consumer mentality, the internet is now centralized in the hands of a few successful but dying companies, making them arbiters of what is seen and heard, and therefore enforcers of a type of censorship of viewpoints that these companies perceive will offend some of their desired userbase.

As Berners-Lee points out, the solution is to “redecentralize” or stop our reliance on a few big sites and search engines, and instead to have many more variants such that the audience can find its own content without going through mediators, who have the exact same problem that big media does, which is a tendency to cater to the audience that uses them most, over normal people.

Email Has Died

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

So it turns out that not only is email not secure, the stakes are very high when an entire account gets compromised.

Hacks generally happen a few ways. Your password can be guessed, or a flaw in your software can be found, or someone can be induced to take action that will enable one of the other two options. Flaws in software are often misconfigurations, but often their are coding errors that can be exploited as well. These are too-common occurrences.

Keep in mind that we are looking at tens of millions of lines of code. How would you code audit, for example, Microsoft Windows? Even worse, industry will not stop them because industry is trapped in a business model that requires it to constantly publish updates, all of which add more code. Consumers will pay for software only if it comes with support, and that is signaled by constant updates, and those are only cost-effective when done by legions of low-cost entry-level programmers. Enter the perfect loop for hackers.

At this point, people with important jobs or anything to hide are making the calculus: how destroyed would I be, if all of this information were released to the public? The answer is that for all of them, the damage would be so vast that it cannot be risked.

Look for more paper letters in the future. Email has died.

“Urgent Firefox Update” Malware

Sunday, September 11th, 2016


If you use Firefox — and this is a better option than the kludgy Microsoft Edge or hoggish Google Chrome browsers — you may have encountered this malware. It spreads through ads used by third-party services such as one finds on major conservative sites like Drudge Report and Breitbart, and has shown up on both of them.

What you will see is that in a dormant window, such as a news story you opened and left in the background, the page will be redirected to a visual image like the one you will see above, and a prompt will appear asking you to download a JavaScript file in order to update your Firefox. This is a ruse and will install malware on your computer.

As a Firefox user noted:

From what I have gathered about bogus FF patch notices, they are associated with third-party-ad-supported web sites. Which, of course, means just about every website not affiliated with a brand or proprietary interest. The third-party links are usually benign, but often (and regularly) harbor malicious code.

Which means this is yet another advertising revenue business model problem. Since the advertising content is controlled by third-parties, visitors are at the mercy of whatever code advertisers allow / inject into browser traffic.

Likewise, websites dependent on third-party ad revenue are not the most rigorous at monitoring the ads, and do not want to annoy their advertisers. They even may protest “We did not know– we rely on people to alert us to problems, and then we take care of them.” But then, that is only what they claim.

Today, the main issue that should concern millions of FF and TB users is they have been de-sensitized by years of frequent updates– ironically, for actual security enhancements. As a result, many users no longer even question bogus notices which have familiar Mozilla graphics.

Firefox will notify you via a system window that appears outside of the browser window when an update is available. Any other method of “update” is a bad idea.

Anatomy Of A Twitter Shadowban

Sunday, August 28th, 2016


To find out if you have a Twitter shadowban, log out of your account or open a private/incognito window (barring that, you can use an anonymizing service like Anonymouse) and go to Twitter’s Advanced Search page. Here you can see which of your comments others can view.


If you are shadowbanned, your comments will not appear in searches for specific hashtags. Your first hint that you are shadowbanned occurs when you notice that only people who are following you can see your tweets, and you are getting no replies and likes from others, especially on hashtagged posts. It will look like you suddenly got unpopular, which is the point; Twitter is localizing you to your followers so that it can prevent your messages from reaching a wider audience.


Twitter shadowbans conservative content and in fact any content which the Leftist agenda. Normal cuck-RINO tweets will not upset anyone, but the SJWs who form Twitter’s censorship squad will remove anything that is politically incorrect (i.e. goes against the Cultural Marxist agenda) if they can find it.


This is a cynical move based on knowledge of Twitter’s algorithm that is meant to reduce the spread of dangerous ideas. By removing shadowbanned users from the search results, Twitter aims to prevent ordinary people from seeing non-conforming speech. This happens because the censorship team is made up of die-hard Leftists who want to advance their own agenda by depleting the reach of any alternate viewpoint.


Twitter justifies this behavior with the belief that it can revive its flagging service by removing “trolls,” a term it conveniently defines as those with un-PC perspectives. This is consistent across social media, because social media is run by Leftists as a Leftist propaganda organ.

The internet and world wide web were originally intended as a decentralized medium to avoid censorship and undue influence by special interests, but now that a handful of companies — Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Reddit and Tumblr among them — control most of its traffic, censorship has become possible because those who are not represented on these sites have much less reach than those who are. In this way, it has reversed the original promise of the internet, and turned it into a medium as controlled as television channels.

SJW censorship? Reddit’s EllenPaoInAction mod responds

Thursday, June 4th, 2015


On the original internet after its initial opening to non-military, academic and government interests, a lack of huge sites concentrating all traffic made free speech a non-issue. If one became a problem, people moved to the other.

In current usage, most people visit a half-dozen sites on a regular basis and go to others for specific tasks only, like ordering pizza or renting a car. This makes speech on the bigger sites an issue because most of these sites censor not just to remove the child pornography and hacking information, but to take away any data that might offend potential customers.

Happy hugbox for 18-to-35s who have taken refuge in a liberal beta vision of reality, Reddit took the lead in being free speech until recently, when it has formalized its clique status by banning “harassing” speech:

Systematic and/or continued actions to torment or demean someone in a way that would make a reasonable person (1) conclude that reddit is not a safe platform to express their ideas or participate in the conversation, or (2) fear for their safety or the safety of those around them.

The above is carefully constructed to appear legal, but it creates a broad and entirely subjective standard. Who fears for their “safety” based on words on the internet, unless those words consist of their home address and a direct threat? Who feels a platform is not “safe” to “express their ideas”? People who are easily offended.

With this new standard, Reddit is venturing into Facebook territory. The leading social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr have similar approaches to censored content, which generally takes two forms: (1) disturbing stuff that is not political, philosophical or religious speech or (2) political, philosophical or religious speech that offends others. We can separate a message that consists of nothing but ethnic slurs, crude jokes about fat people, rating women by appearance, and so on as the first category distinct from political commentary on the viability of diversity, the impact of obesity, or analysis of the differing average IQs of women and men as the second category. Facebook lumps much of this together and uses human power to determine what gets banned:

Facebook operates a fascinatingly strict set of guidelines determining what should be deleted. Pictures of naked private parts, drugs (apart from marijuana) and sexual activity (apart from foreplay) are all banned. Male nipples are OK, but naked breastfeeding is not. Photographs of bodily fluids (except semen) are allowed, but not if a human being is also shown. Photoshopped images are fine, but not if they show someone in a negative light.

[…]Moderators are told always to escalate specific threats – “I’m going to stab Lisa H at the frat party” is given as the charming example – but not generic, unlikely ones, such as “I’m going to blow up the planet on New Year’s Eve.”

It is, of course, to Facebook’s credit that they are attempting to balance their mission “to make the world more open and connected” with a willingness to remove traces of the darker side of human nature.

The problem with this solution is that it creates an invisible hierarchy of those who make the decisions as to what is accepted and this anonymity means that the difference between political censorship and removal of pointless blight and vandalism is erased. The effect of categorizing all traffic as “offensive” by type of content means that certain political viewpoints or topics can be removed using the justification that some of what was included in them qualifies under the banned category. One journalist found out just how arbitrary and partisan this process tends to be in reality:

My experience on both ends of the reporting regime suggests the process is neither rational nor transparent. Facebook censors operate under a cloak of anonymity, with no accountability to users. When the Supreme Court issues rulings, the justices present detailed, carefully reasoned (and often quite lengthy) written justifications for their decisions. So whether you agree or disagree with what the Court decides, you at least know the basis of their judgments.

Not so with Facebook. As powerful as the nine Supreme Court justices may be, they are no longer the most consequential arbiters of acceptable speech around. While the justices’ decisions affect over 300m Americans, and establish precedents for years to come, it is a rare individual who says or publishes something that rubs up against the wishes of the government. But for the 1.3 billion users of Facebook, anything you post could lead to an anonymously issued user report. The judgment comes swiftly—and, as far as this correspondent can tell, quite capriciously.

For a long time, Reddit dodged this problem by having no official censorship; it merely allowed groups of SJWs to police the site with mass downvotes and negative public attention, in addition to permitting journalists to expose problem users. This let Reddit keep its hands clean, continue claiming that it was a free speech platform, and yet have some of the most politically offensive content removed by a cadre of hardline politically-correct activists.

Reddit is now venturing into Facebook territory by creating a dividing line between “safe” and “unsafe” information. This distinguishes not by category (like “body parts”) but by a mixture of intent and effect on others, which can be totally subjective. One of the first hiccups with his new policy involved the disappearance of /r/EllenPaoInAction, a reddit sub-forum dedicated to discussion of new CEO Ellen Pao and her husband Alphonse “Buddy” Fletcher, who have a long history of alleged extortionate discrimination lawsuits, ponzi schemes and low work performance.

In addition, Pao raised some eyebrows with her admission that she is enforcing “social justice warrior” (SJW) — intensely politically-correct, civil rights oriented leftists for whom internet activism is a hobby (see Pao’s comments on Twitter) — standards in hiring:

Ms. Pao, who said she wants to stay long-term as Reddit’s CEO when a one-year interim period ends, said she has removed salary negotiations from the hiring process because studies show women don’t fare as well as men. She has brought in well-known Silicon Valley diversity consultant Freada Kapor Klein to advise the company. And she has passed on hiring candidates who don’t embrace her priority of building a gender-balanced and multiracial team. “We ask people what they think about diversity, and we did weed people out because of that,” she said.

It used to be that you had to avoid offending the boss with a strong political statement. Now, you must agree with the boss on political topics or you will not get hired in the first place. This above statement, plus the Reddit policy of removing “harassing” information, has made many users nervous and cynical. They are seeing a mostly free speech (minus child porn, illegal/stolen information, and “doxxing” or revealing of user real-life identities) platform become one where the users have to tip-toe around the various pretenses of different groups that are offended by any number of comments, some of them factually or logically true. The blending of removal of destructive activity and “offensive” speech, plus the clear direction of Reddit’s culture and hiring in an SJW direction, virtually guarantees that the platform will remove everything but politically correct speech.

It was of great interest then when the sub-reddit /r/EllenPaoInAction disappeared, with the moderator wfa19 leaving a cryptic message explaining the disabling of the sub-forum and removal of its messages:

This was intended as a discussion post about the controversy, not a place to be racist against Asians. Find somewhere else to post your stuff. I don’t want to be shadowbanned for this.

He refers to the notorious Reddit practice of “shadowbanning” or hiding everything a user posts from everyone but themselves, ostensibly to combat spam but used as a general purpose removal tool for troublesome users and some allege, politically-nonconforming ones. Once shadowbanned, a user has little chance of restoring his or her ability to interact with the site, and some users find that if they create new accounts on the same IP they are banned again, often for little more than offending one of the existing groups on Reddit. This message suggested that possibly a threat had occurred.

To clear up any drama, Amerika reached out to wfa19 to get his side of the story.

You were the moderator/founder of What inspired you to start this sub-reddit (or “sub”)? What did you hope would happen? Why do you think it was important?

I support Gamergate, as in we need more transparency in video game journalism, and I was kind of sick of having actual news on this being replaced by news on Ellen Pao on the front page of KotakuInAction. I wanted somewhere else for this stuff to go, so I decided to start it.

What kind of content appeared in /r/EllenPaoInAction? What types of comments? Were you satisfied with the quality of thinking in these submissions and comments? What do you wish had been there?

It was divided into two sections, either posts (usually articles) about what Ellen Pao or Buddy Fletcher had done, and just straight up shitposts, usually in text posts in Chinese gibberish to make fun of her being Asian.

On May 30, 2015, you wrote: “This was intended as a discussion post about the controversy, not a place to be racist against Asians. Find somewhere else to post your stuff. I don’t want to be shadowbanned for this.” What racist comments against Asians did you see? What percentage of the comments/threads did you think were racist?

When I originally started the subreddit, I wanted it to be a place where both sides could debate about the subject of Ellen Pao, and not be divided into separate hugboxes like Reddit has done on many other issues. However, when I made the mod team, I realized that they mostly from Fatpeoplehate, Mensrights, and other controversial subreddits. I was initially ok with this because I send out a pm to the mods saying that they should not delete any post that is for Ellen Pao and I wanted this to be a neutral sub. Unfortunately some of the mods and the userbase decided to basically turn it into a hugbox of sorts.

One mod decided to mod his main account, which turned out to mod extremely distasteful subreddits like CoonTown. He then immediately changed the CSS to include extremely racist pictures (one of which was a picture of Ellen Pao photoshopped to look like Mao Zedong with the Japanese Imperial Flag in the background), which I was not ok with. I unmodded him and unsuccessfully tried to remove the images from the CSS. This drew some ire from the mod team but there was no more drama. Then a bunch of users decided to shitpost links to the chinese front page of reddit, and racist more pictures of Ellen Pao comparing her to WWII Japan or Communist China. Then one day, bunch of mods of subreddits critical of Ellen Pao were shadowbanned. I wasn’t certain if my subreddit was on the admins radar, but considering my mod team, and the userbase of the sub, I didn’t want to take any chances.

Did anyone directly threaten to shadowban you, or was this more a response to what you saw as the direction reddit was taking after CEO Pao’s announcement that it was not a free speech space, but a “safe space”? Had you had any contact with admins or other mods regarding /r/EllenPaoInAction?

No admins had ever approached me about my decision to shut the sub down. I only did it due to the points I made in my previous question.

Was there any “crypto-racism,” e.g. dog-whistling or other coded symbols for racist ideas?

I don’t think so.

What was the reaction of the Reddit community to your taking the sub down? Were they supportive, and did they understand your reasons?

The only posts made about it were on subreddits like Subredditcancer, who already have a deep distaste of Pao, so nobody actually supported me taking the sub down. However, half of the top comments that were on that post were laughable (most of them insisting the subreddit was not racist, when the CSS had pictures referencing the Japanese Imperial Army and Communist China). Some people said that I was a coward, and I admit my behavior was cowardish in shutting the sub down, but I didn’t want to hand the subreddit over to anyone on the mod team because I knew the racism would just get worse.

If you could summarize your reasons, why exactly did you take /r/EllenPaoInAction down, and does it relate to either the failure of the sub to achieve the objectives you set out for it, or the negative behaviors that it evoked, or both?

The mods were racist, the userbase was racist, there was a ton of shitposting, the older the sub got, the less actual good content was posted, and it became a hugbox instead of an actual place of discussion.

If you feel comfortable with this question, can you tell us about yourself? How did you get involved in being critical or at least feeling that a watchdog was needed regarding Ellen Pao? Are you a longtime redditor? What do you like about Reddit?

I thought that there definitely is a problem with a company when the CEO’s husband is accused of running a Ponzi scheme, and I just think that there should be a place on a platform as big as reddit, to discuss the leader of the platform.

What do you think will happen with Reddit in the future?

The admins will eventually have to take some sort of action. The whole Cooper fiasco with Jailbait will re-sprout either with CoonTown, Fatpeoplehate, or somewhere else, and the admins will either decide to save face by shutting them down or decide to be a “free speech” platform and I’m almost certain it’ll be the former.

If people want to stay in touch with you and what you do, where should they go and what should they read?

Just send me a PM on Reddit.

How free markets fix problems

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

About a year ago, the piracy situation was dire. People were downloading copies of the latest Hollywood movies, free of charge, before they were in theatres.

The movie industry responded with a series of direct actions: it attempted to punish the wrongdoers in the courts; it tightened security around its product; it lobbied for harsher laws; and finally, it attempted to educate the population into avoiding the issue.

Much like software in the 1980s, which was expensive and hard to acquire, movies accrued pirates like open-air ordure attracts flies. In both cases, a product was rare, expensive and acquired through only a few channels, and then fell to a double assault: first, it was free, and second, it was more convenient through piracy.

With movies, the business model was similar: scarcity plus high demand meant huge profits. Piracy threatened that. And yet legal action didn’t seem to be working.

Now look:

In the States Netflix nearly doubled the number of new subscribers in the first quarter of 2010, from 1.7 to 3.3 million. In total, Netflix now has 22.8 million paid subscribers in the US, which generated a total revenue of $706 million in the first quarter of this year.


Movie piracy is not quite gone yet, but Netflix shows that people are willing to pay for access to movies online, even when plenty of pirated copies are available. The next step is to offer easy access to movies in the rest of the world, and get rid of the artificial delays in release dates. – Torrent Freak

The two ends of the problem — cost and convenience — converged. While not free like piracy, Netflix is cheaper than conventional DVD rental; it’s also cheaper in terms of time than spending a bunch of hours finding and downloading movies of uncertain picture quality and/or veracity.

The market restores equilibrium, as all natural forces do. True, the big profits may be gone from the movie business, but that’s what happens in every industry as it matures. Software is another example. Prices have fallen and profits are no longer as epic, and many tasks are now served by open source or shareware/freeware alternatives.

The next time someone makes fun of the libertarian or paleconservative in your life for preferring organic, granular, and emergent systems to rigid centralized rule, think of this. We could have had another 20 years of mind-blowingly expensive litigation instead.


Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

In stable countries, eugenics is the tool which can be used to change the general traits and abilities of the general population. It does this by selecting desirable individuals to become a majority rather than a minority.

It’s a fact that some people will always be better than others, in varying qualities, and if we are sane, we will remove the criminally stupid and replace them with higher quality individuals who we can trust not to wreck the biosphere with overpopulation and wasting of natural resources on mundane consumerism.

It’s evident there is a shortage of intelligent people in any country we observe, and an abundance of dim witted people who look human enough to be intelligent, but are nothing of the sort. If this was spoken to a population now, it would be suicide because it is simply not popular to tell stupid people they are stupid and must reduce their breeding, they would riot, smash and stampede.

So instead of declaring out-right genocide against the stupid, in stable regions that need to evolve, they can zone off areas for higher quality people who contribute toward civilization and leave the lesser to fend for themselves, to which they would only form a mob of starving, stupid peasants – after all, they have the “human right” to eat, drink and be merry, and they’ll kill to prove it, so why shouldn’t God just give it to them?

It’s cheaper to kill the huge distances between worthwhile people rather than the majority of people themselves, instead zoning them into their own territories, trying to keep out of reach, allowing naturalized selection to do all the work (post peak-oil, convergence of catastrophes, civil war, AIDS, etc). The zoned area would attain total self sufficiency, a seed for a better future.

Then it’s only a matter of helping nature by chipping off their numbers, piece by piece, carefully expanding the zone of the higher quality to enclose the whole country. Nature repeats this pattern, so should we.

Toward the next epoch of civilization.

Once a population of higher quality is concentrated, they could then begin to advance toward the next epoch of civilization itself. This involves a migration toward an extreme environment leaving the rotten population behind to die of its own incompetence, especially if it is too big to simply replace at the time.

There are new varieties of civilization possible, because civilization so far has been focused on soil based agriculture as the main support for it. This can be changed in the future with the use of Closed Environment Agriculture and Closed Environmental Life Support Systems. What’s more, is whatever is achieved with these will help space settlement needs and can be developed thoroughly before even leaving the planet, both allowing more compacted, higher civilizations.

These greater civilizations can be created in ‘transnatural niches’ for an advanced population – these are new settlements deep underground, in the oceans – on the bedrock and in floating cities, leaving flat land (for wilderness) in preference of mountainous land where biodiversity is generally lower and finally to thrive in ice deserts like Antarctica and Greenland, Svalbard, even the Sahara as an interesting contrast.

This benefits us in a number of ways:

  • It prototypes technology which can be vital for colonizing the entire solar system and beyond.
  • It provides many safe zones in the event of mass extinction or death of the biosphere.
  • It frees up territory which is rich in biodiversity for wildlife to exist undisturbed, reducing our weight onto the biosphere.
  • It uses our creative abilities to exploit regions that have little biodiversity and are difficult for life to survive in.
  • Your tribe/ race will gain the higher ground dimensionally and will have a survival advantage over those who are still dependent on standard agriculture.
  • There is more depth than surface area of land and so nations gain another dimension toward their borders, there is also more to the surface area of our planet than simply land. The “land carrying capacity” is just that, limited to the available soil of the land for standard agriculture.

Rethinking individualism

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Say you walk into a building at which you’re employed. You feel businesslike – coat, computer bag over shoulder, maybe a cup of coffee or tea in hand. Others look similar and climb into the elevator with you. Buttons are pressed.

Your eyes venture, but never into other eyes. Stainless steel walls in this contraption affirm your businesslike presence. At this point, are you not just an extension of these mechanisms with which you interact and rely on just to begin a day of productivity?

Then you salivate, swallow, cough. Others in the elevator pretend not to notice, but they do. Germs? Is that guy sick? Did he cover his mouth? Maybe you feel more human now.

Many of us leave the workplace each day only to catch up on television or hit a local bar. Either of those activities may make us feel alive but when the TV is turned off or the bar closed, most simply limp home to bed. This allows us to turn off further thought until the next morning, when the process repeats.

This type of “individualism” may ultimately lead to collectivism, because many of us want the same thing with different labels. For example, we believe the Polo socks, Banana Republic pants, and Claiborne shirt are enough to announce us as different, even while we herd into metal elevators and stroll over to our cubicle space.

From bodily functions to unplanned social interactions, we are human to the core. The lack of balance in our lives is embodied in that steel cage-like elevator and mindless job fit enough for a robot. We don’t try to fix what’s wrong with our processes – the ones that drive us each day to get up, shower, arrive at work dreary-eyed. That is human to a tee, and unfortunately it’s all too normal.

Most of the time we spend is on mindless work, and as a result, we lash out when we can in bursts – junk food, entertainment, the bar scene. It’s like an extension of modern-day education: you know you’re stuck in a building for eight hours (sound familiar?), but it doesn’t make you accept it any less because deep down, you feel passion in your life burning out.

Maybe when you’re young, you don’t feel it burning out in quite as pronounced a fashion, but there’s something off with eight hours of boredom day in, day out. That’s the reason children look forward to recess, and only resent authority more as they grow older and more intelligent. Even recess is regulated now. No physical contact was a big recess rule over twenty years ago; one hesitates to imagine what recess must be like in 2010.

In denying humanity from an early age, and over socializing the individual snowflakes we call our children, we create robots who are beaten into submission to do what they’re told, only to find that some of them are in fact individuals – more individual than we’ve planned.

These would be your shoot-em-up types, the ones that get sick of the mindless game and feel no opportunity at home or at school to lash out or be human – so if guns are nearby, why not end it in a blaze of glory? Unfortunately, options are limited at a young age, so lashing out involves a wide spectrum – not just conforming or shooting people.

Diagnoses of ADD and ADHD have skyrocketed in recent years, but when you think about how much more careful most people are with issues of reproduction – not drinking wine, not doing anything to damage a fetus – it’s unlikely these are new chemical imbalances in chlidren manifesting themselves in the classroom. Education hasn’t changed significantly in over 50 years. So what’s new?

Perhaps its our evolving methodology about how to deal with children. We think back to individualism actually leading to collectivism, and it makes some more sense. Modern kids go into a classroom, many from different backgrounds and no real common cultural thread. Some are more tolerant of eight-hour work days at the ripe age of six years old, some not so much. Those who are not are treated as the special snowflakes they are with specialized instruction, individual time with the teacher so they can catch up to everyone else – and be the same as everyone else. If they continue to resist, they are labeled problem children, or worse, assigned “special education”.

Never mind that the material doesn’t change to suit different needs – and never mind that would be more useful: find the strengths of people and focus on those strengths, while addressing weaknesses.

Instead, we do what’s easy and label it as pandering to the individual student mind. All this despite the widening disconnect between parents who want education to be day care and education, and educators who want to get through the next school year without having to stash whiskey in their desks.

A curveball in the recycling debate

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

In many towns, recycling is not only encouraged, it’s enforced. Some communities use a limited “toter” system where one has to pay more for additional bags if the toter is filled up each week. The flip side is, things like plastic bottles, metal cans, glass jars, and just about any paper product including junk mail can be tossed into recycling bins.

This is wonderful in a way – why let any idiot throw away however much trash he/she wants to each week when it’s clear there are reasonable limits a town can and should impose? But it also begs the question: what happens to all that paper, but moreso all those other products like glass, plastic, and metal once another truck using more gas and more manpower picks it up during a separate trip?

Recycling makes many people feel good, but feelings are not the best test of environmental soundness. When it makes more sense to recycle than to throw something away; government compulsion isn’t needed. And when recycling is a profligate use of natural and human resources, government mandates can’t change the fact. Big Brother can force you to recycle your garbage, but that doesn’t make garbage-recycling green.

[+] | Editorial

Good point. If recycling really answered any tough questions, it wouldn’t be as easy as throwing would-be trash in a different bucket.

It’s nice and easy – and it massages the ol’ ego – to sort your garbage and feel good about how much stuff is in the recycle bin this week that could have gone to the trash instead. We just assume that since recycling is a feel-good activity and approved by just about everyone, that we should feel much better when we see the second truck pull up every week and collect a different set of trash from the one that came an hour before. We feel productive; the trash is still taken to a far-off site; everyone wins.

Unfortunately, the writer had the opportunity to take the point further and talk about the real problem – humanity itself – but opted not to:

Popular impressions to the contrary notwithstanding, we are not running out of places to dispose of garbage. Not only is US landfill capacity at an all-time high, but all of the country’s rubbish for the next 100 years could comfortably fit into a landfill measuring 10 miles square. Benjamin puts that in perspective: “Ted Turner’s Flying D ranch outside Bozeman, Mont., could handle all of America’s trash for the next century — with 50,000 acres left over for his bison.”

[+] | Editorial

Let’s assume those facts are correct. What happens in a century? Does that calculation take into account population growth, and if so, how much?

Jacoby falls victim to the very thought process he’s calling out: he notes in the article that landfills are great because we get methane gas out of them and we frequently turn them into golf courses and parks, so everyone wins. Let’s just make tons of landfills since we have the space – out of sight, out of mind.

There’s no thought to why we need to recycle in the first place. Recycling came about as a solution to all the trash we produce in society. We produce lots of trash due to two factors: the number of people we have, and the amount of disposable stuff we consume, including McDonalds’ burger wrappings, disposable diapers, and styrofoam coffee cups.

So why no talk of solving the root problems? We can break them down pretty easily:

1. Amount of trash produced: we live in a throwaway culture, where tons of plastic is used to package products, where it’s encouraged to throw things away after only a few uses, and where people upgrade even laptops and cars every other year. As a result of insatiable consumer demand, many products are made to be disposable. Why would you build a car to last twenty years when people won’t keep it after ten, or even five?

Let’s also not forget that infrastructure has been set up to haul away garbage with minimal effort on the part of the consumer – whenever it’s easier to throw something away than keep it and fix it, that’s what people will do.

2. Number of people producing trash: Animals don’t produce non-biodegradable trash, unless you count housepets and their dog poop bags, toys, etc. So the amount of trash out there is mostly due to human activity.

How do we reduce the amount of trash a society produces? In part, by moving away from a consumer-driven culture, and in part by reducing the number of people who live within its borders.

You won’t see many newspapers – even editorials in newspapers – tackling those problems, because as daring as Jacoby seems to be when saying that greenism feels good but may not accomplish much, he’s only willing to touch the tip of the iceberg. The real problems remain buried, sort of like a golf course over a landfill.

Ignoring the patterns of nature

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Modern life takes effort. Just getting through to the end of the day — fighting egos and layers of management at work, then ignoring family drama, then a few hours of TV before bed — can take all you’ve got. But the last thing you need is some idiot telling you that “life is precious,” as if he wanted to raise your blood pressure.

Almost everyone has a slightly different idea of what “life is precious” really means. Since everyone has a voice, we naturally take this to mean that life is precious because all of us are here, and we each have an equally valid opinion! The problem with this view is that it ignores the larger patterns of nature, in which we are participants but not “in control” as we like to assume we are.

Our entire society suffers from this illusion of control. When we think about it, life being precious means the exact opposite of catering to the individual ego. Life itself is precious, not our interpretation of what we want right now. Life is the bigger natural process, a pattern of nature more than a tangible thing, and if we don’t pay attention to it, it’ll slip right on past while we zone out.

Even twenty to thirty years ago, growing up in a suburb meant playing kickball with the neighborhood kids; parents didn’t even have to watch every move you made; before the busy-ness of full time school started a kid could wander into the woods and let his imagination run wild – with or without friends or supervision.  Those days are over in favor of two years of preschool so Mommy can get her hair done and “have a life.”

Think about a supermarket. Buy the raw ingredients that require someone to cook them, or just stock up on the convenient products of an industry conveniently based around the things cheapest to make, like grains and sugars? The vitality of nature is removed from a Twinkie, or from machines draining hormone-bloated cows or squeezing eggs out of debeaked GM chickens.

Yet it’s easy to space out and ignore all of this. There’s a nice cool breeze in the supermarket, and pleasantly vapid music, and people who are paid to smile when you greet them. So you pile all the crap in the cart, swipe the card and head off home — one more thing checked off the list! One fewer obligation! Now you’ve got time for yourself again, to do something you really want to do instead of have to do.

The alternative is not so easy. Instead of thinking about what you want, as if the world is an optional part of yourself, think about how you fit into the world. Think about the patterns of nature, which evolved over billions of years, and how you’d live harmoniously with them. If we look at the food industry, we can see how we’d do that.

Replace centralized food production with self-sufficient, smaller communities. Don’t eat peaches in the middle of winter; eat them in season, when they grow around you. Grow tomatoes in the summer and eat them in the summer. Then grow your squash, tubers, grains and fruit and store them for the winter. Squeeze yourself back into the patterns of nature.

In doing away with the idea of not having certain foods in certain seasons, we disengage ourselves from nature – and hence, reality.  We have used our technology to obliterate the patterns of nature  because it “seems like” the individual wants more convenience and more options, even if that individual has no idea what to do with all those options. But if you want peaches in winter, you’ll need a globalized economy and centralized food production.

Before we decided to replace reality with a fake reality, the summer solstice and winter solstice were celebrated precisely because the summer gave us bounty and the winter was a sign of prolonged sleep for most of the food that gives us life.  But everyone knew it was a cycle, and a few short months from winter we’d once again be celebrating longer, warmer days.

As part of local communities, we inherently understood how much the land could bear and kept our populations low. We didn’t need so many laws, because what should and should not be done was clearer. We followed the rhythm of the seasons, and were less manic about staying in touch or checking in with the news. We didn’t need to be told what was real or important — we lived it.

To people who were raised to ignore and even fear natural processes, these ideas are sacrilege. Following natural patterns means we need to give up the idea that we are in control. But if we ignore these natural patterns, we become a species that is more tumor or virus than animal, and our sense of detachment heightens as we wonder if we will ever find anything “real” again.