Tag Archives: american politics

A Brief Justification for a Small Nuclear Holocaust

It works perfectly because I’m the last person on Earth anyone would suspect of possessing a nuclear weapon. I am a little worried though that I’ve gone past my sense of altruism and am now simply fascinated with killing that many people all at once. Like a mass evacuation from a wildfire that all emergency services completely lost control of, only no one will be sleeping in a YMCA.

The original spark of an idea came from when I read Watchmen. Okay, well, watched the movie, I never actually read the comic. I guess the comics had some weird psychic space squid kill a bunch of people. I can’t blame them from changing that to the movie. A mass nuclear explosion feels far more real. But it wasn’t the atomic explosion itself that inspired my new endeavour. Rather, why the true hero of the book, Ozymandias, decided that many people had to die.

Acquiring a nuclear weapons is remarkably easy. Well, if you watch the right documentaries, it’s remarkably easy. I watched a documentary on the Vice website and they were following some Middle Eastern arms dealers around, getting their stories and showing their relatable human side. Once such arms dealer was going to sell Osama bin Laden a nuclear bomb. Bin Laden went into hiding, and subsequently died, while this dealer was holding the bomb for him. He buried it in the garden of his back yard. He still had it when I emailed him.

The nice thing about working in information technology is that if it exists on the internet, I know how to find it. You average Netflix gawking and free porn wanking internet user wouldn’t have been able to find this guy’s contact information. Despite his appearance on the Vice documentary, I feel more comfortable giving this guy an alias. Let’s call him Walter. So, normal Google searches would never turn up Walter’s email address. But, there are a ton of websites that Google searches can’t reach. Most people call it the Dark Web and treat it like this ominous presence where only the strangest and most depraved content exists. Frankly, it’s mostly made up of conversation forums. Sure, those forums trade around some fucked up shit that either no one wants to see or will land you in jail. Otherwise, it’s pretty boring and most people who download an onion browser get bored within about thirty minutes.

Amongst the fucked up shit being traded around on some of these forums are quite sophisticated weapons. A lot of people speculate that this is how some independent research firms make extra side cash when military contracts aren’t paying enough. They also speculate that this is how said arms manufacturers dispose of weapon prototypes that their military contractors didn’t want. Speculation aside, with the right Tor browser and a few carefully placed keywords and I was balls deep in the world of international illegal arms deals.

Knowing that Walter was Arabic, I searched only Arabic forums. A buddy of mine developed a translator software that makes the Google translate app look like a Speak-and-Spell. He wouldn’t tell me how exactly he wrote it. All he would say is that it involved a lot of pirated copies of Rosetta Stone. However he put it together, it worked like a charm and the Arabic arms forums were easy to read and respond to. Everyone on the forums has a username that is 99.9 per cent of the time, not their actual names, so it’s not as if I could just search Walter’s name on the forum to find his contact info. I needed to entice him. I knew that some fundamentalist jargon would come off like an undercover cop, and mentioning bin Laden would only arise more suspicion in me. Knowing that the NSA or any other policing and security agency would never be able to trace these posts back to me, I decided just to go for it straight-ahead.

Wanted: Nuclear Weapons

That was my entire post. Anyone who saw it and had something to offer me could see my forum handle Thompson2929 (yes, I am part of the 0.1 per cent who decided to use part of his real name, but when you have a seriously common name like Thompson, there isn’t a ton to worry about not to mention it’s a name that doesn’t arise a lot of suspicion without it being a dumb name like Boneshredder6969). If you clicked my username, it would bring you to a profile page which included some secure contact information using onion email servers and encrypted messaging apps.

The forum had a few commenters making fun of my post and telling me my search is pointless and that cops like me needed to learn how to work forums better. Two days passed before I got a message from a scrambled number. The message said, “How do I know you’re not CIA?” I thought about all the cop shows I watched where the undercover had to snort a line of coke to prove to the gangsters he wasn’t a cop. That assumption that a cop would never do drugs if he was undercover always seemed so dumb to me. But it’s an assumption that creeps into the real world.

“Send me something that no cop would ever possess,” the message continued.

I’m still not proud of what I did, but I knew being this deep in I had to go all the way. I hopped back on the onion browser, found a kiddie porn forum, used some bitcoin to buy a few photos, and I sent them to Walter. The fact that it took me all of three minutes to buy those photos isn’t what disturbs me so much. It’s how many people were on those forums. Thousands, all exchanging different photos and videos. I won’t go into what I bought and sent over, but it was enough that it made me want to buy a few more nukes.

Walter bought that I wasn’t a cop. The photos did the trick and I did what I could to try and drive the image of them out of my brain. Nothing has worked to help me forget yet. We got messaging back and forth about what I wanted and he asked me if I saw the Vice documentary. I told him yes and he told me how he still has the same nuke and he’s eager to get it off of his hands.

“One million.”

I didn’t doubt the bomb was worth that much, but even on my six-figure salary I couldn’t afford that. I tried negotiating him down, but he was firm on the price.

“One million,” he wrote again. “I won’t take any less than one million dinar.”

Dinar is the Iraqi currency and even with the American dollar tanking as bad as it was, it was still worth a lot more than the dinar. A quick Google search showed me that one million dinar would be around $900. Suddenly, I felt bad, like I was ripping him off because he didn’t know any better. I even sent him a message telling him I did the calculation and asking why he didn’t want more. In short, he told me with his original buyer dead and no one else really wanting one, it was completely useless to him and was just taking up space. It was more of a burden to him now and he wanted it off his hands. Feeling bad, I sent him an even thousand in bitcoins. He was grateful and asked me for a postage address.

“Wait, you’re going to mail it?” I messaged. “How are you going to mail it?”

“What, you think there’s no post offices in Iraq?”

“No, I know there are post offices. But it’s a nuclear weapon. How do you mail one of those?”

“Just trust me. It’s a powerful weapon, but it’s actually not that big. I’ve mailed bigger.”

I wasn’t even thinking about the size of the package. I looked around at my studio apartment and down at my Fiat and panicked trying to figure out where I was going to put a nuclear bomb once it was here. I messaged Walter back asking how a package from Iraq to America was going to get through without thorough inspections. He told me he has friends all over and that he would mail it to one friend, who would then mail it to another friend, and so on until it arrived. It all has to do with safe mailing zones.

He wouldn’t give me the exact locations, but basically a package from Iraq can go to Lebanon, who can then send it to Greece, who then send it to Switzerland, who then send it to England, who then send it to the States. The distances are so short that they don’t get inspected as thoroughly and each of the previous countries are considered enough of an ally that the worry level is low. It took about four months, but the package arrived to the post office two towns over. I bought a P.O. Box there for this very package and any subsequent questionable package I might order.

Walter was right about one thing, it wasn’t that big. The box was about the size and weight of a fridge. All over, fragile stickers were pasted until there was barely any brown cardboard left. I thought for a moment about what would have happened if even a single mail carrier decided not to read the warnings.

It was pointless to bring it back to my apartment. I couldn’t imagine trying to carry it up the stairs to my studio. So I had myself already packed for my trip south. The package fit perfectly into the back of my Fiat. I had to put down the back seats, I could barely see through my back window, and I could feel the shocks on my back wheels drop, but it was in there comfortably.

In Watchmen, Ozymandias sets off his destruction in New York City. In a lot of comics, New York City seems like the centre of the universe. It just seemed too easy to me. Plus the city has such a massive population and it’s such a big city, I felt like the destruction just wouldn’t be felt as much. I even think the 9-11 attacks might have been more impactful if it hit a smaller town. Three thousand people is the entire populations of some towns in the south, and those are some of the bigger towns. New York was just too obvious.

San Antonio Texas is about 745 square miles. One megaton of nuclear explosion will have a blast radius of around eight square miles. The nuclear fallout will run for a few more miles outward depending on the wind, so I will definitely want to be completely out of the city once the blast goes off. Thankfully the bomb in the back of my car has a timer so I’ll be able to set it for long enough ahead that I’ll be out of the state before the explosion. I won’t be able to get completely home, it’s about a thirteen hour drive from my apartment to San Antonio, but I’ll be far enough out that nothing should affect me.

Is it odd that my entire thirteen hour drive I wasn’t once worried about my cargo? I mean, I was worried about being rear-ended and having the bomb go off prematurely. But the highways between states were quiet and the regular check-stops were quick to get through. I’m white, so the military patrol didn’t stop me. I’m not considered a threat to national security. I got the odd question about what was in the back of my car and I would tell them it was a refrigerator and that I bought it on a really good deal during an out of state shopping trip. Without a second question or any further inspection, I was free to go. There were plenty of cars that had been pulled out and torn apart by the military patrol. Families handcuffed with their faces in the dirt, kids with rifle barrels pressed against the sides of their heads. A few years back, there would have been outrage and protests and social media posts with graphic photos and videos. Now, it’s just Tuesday.

I slept in my car once I made it to San Antonio. I had one cop knock on my window and ask me why I was sleeping in my car. I explained to him I just had a long drive and needed some shut eye before I kept going. He asked why I didn’t stay in a hotel and I frankly I was honest with him. I told him I didn’t want to spend the money. It’s not as if I don’t have money, I just don’t like spending it. He seemed to understand. He asked about the giant box in the back of the car and I gave him the fridge story. He told me he was happy that I pulled over to sleep and that he had seen a lot of accidents from people falling asleep at the wheel. I liked this cop for a few moments. After I dropped off the bomb and I was driving out of the city, I saw the same cop with about a dozen others beating on a group of people in the middle of the street. He was using his night stick to beat on a woman and used his free hand to grab at her hijab. I don’t know if he was able to rip it off.

I picked San Antonio for a couple of reasons. It’s fairly well populated, like the seventh most populated city in America, it’s the closest major Texas city to the Mexican border and just a few miles up Highway 35 from Laredo where one of the most brutal detention centres across the Mexican border wall still sits, but the city also has one of the most emotionally charged American monuments and that’s exactly where I left the giant box in the back of my car.

The Alamo didn’t have a parking lot. But, there was some underground parking a few blocks away. I figured it would be close enough to get my points across. There was also a car rental shop just a couple blocks from where I parked my car. It was perfect. I said goodbye to my Fiat, which I did love but would eventually report as stolen and the wreckage from the blast site was so vast that nothing was recognizable, let alone a sub-compact car left in a parkade. I would get enough from my insurance from it being stolen that I could afford to buy another without dipping too much into my back account. But I did love that car.

From one car to another, I got a Volks Wagon Bug from the rental shop, left San Antonio, and drove west rather than the North that would take me home. I set enough time on the bomb that I would be far enough away by the time the blast happened. I followed Highway 10 and stopped in El Paso, eight hours exact before the bomb went off. I was sitting on the patio of a small cafe when the explosion happened. I imagined it would come on the TV news, but all I had to do was look east and I could see the mushroom could climbing upwards into the sky. I measured the bomb, based on its size, at about one megaton. It turned out to be one-hundred megatons. 800 square miles, gone in a flash. San Antonio was completely wiped off the map.

Towards the end of Watchmen, Ozymandias gives Rorschach, Dr. Manhattan, Nite Owl, and Silver Spectre an explanation as to why he wanted to kill so many people in New York City. Ozymanias wasn’t an evil person, in fact he was the smartest person on Earth in the comic. In the story, America and the Soviet Union come extremely close to complete nuclear war. A war, Ozymandias knew, would cost billions of people their lives. The two countries were perfect ideological enemies and with every inch closer they came to nuclear war, Ozymandias knew he had to make a tough decision that no one else would be brave enough to make or smart enough to conceive. He made a new enemy. An enemy that both warring sides could agree to fight against. A uniting force in the most common base language humans can understand: mass violence. That’s why San Antonio isn’t on the map anymore.

One country was attempting to marginalize and abuse people who make up a very large chunk of the world’s population. It’s not even one religion or one region’s immigrant population that they completely demonized. So many people were falling under the fist of an unjust martial law in this country and it was only a matter of time before all of these countries that America named as enemies would band together and perpetrate acts of war much worse than what I did. I made sure that none of these countries could be blamed for what happened in San Antonio. I made sure a whole new enemy was created that could unite more people together. But, as I watched the mushroom cloud in the distance, I had my first pang of doubt. What if this would create a witch hunt? What if someone tried to claim responsibility? What would media report on? What would government officials accept as truth? These were all questions I should have been asking myself before I bought a nuclear weapon. But it was too late. However history would play out from here was out of my control, but I also had to own it. I didn’t have to own it for anyone else. But I needed to own it for myself.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t watched the footage on repeat for hours on end. I would watch and wonder how many of those people who died were murderers, rapists, child killers, pedophiles, drug dealers, crooked cops, corrupt politicians, or greedy businessmen who would make sure to take the jewelry off of their dead mother before calling an ambulance. There’s something satisfying about knowing I wiped off that percentage of people off of the Earth in one fell swoop, even if it is only 0.014 per cent of the global population. It felt good, like when you eat an entire pizza all in one sitting. Just full and complete. It’s an amazing feeling. Until I remember how many decent people died right along with the horrible ones. I try to keep the thought out of my head. It kills my buzz.

To go along with my nuclear explosion, I wrote a manifesto and put it online and shared it through plenty of anonymous social media channels. It outlined that I destroy and kill for no ideology or political gain, that I merely like to watch the world burn. I am driven by nothing else but my own evil intentions and enjoy the suffering and fear of millions. People bought it fast. Within days, it had over a million hits. My onion email started receiving offers from Google Adwords it was gaining hits so fast. I made myself an invisible enemy that the world over can target. They’ll stop aiming at each other and start aiming at me.

I wrote this explanation for when they finally figure out I was behind it all. I figured that someone deserved the real story behind what happened in Texas. If whoever finds this is smart, you’ll hide it. If you’re even smarter, you’ll know when’s the right time to release this and correct the history books. As much as this needed to happen and its reasons needed to be kept on that supervillain level, there are still a lot of good people in the world who deserve a real explanation as to why so many died that day. I’m sure there’ll be a right time to tell the truth without undoing any good that would have come of this.

If you’re reading this, chances are I’m dead now. Given the same Seal Team Six treatment that bin Laden got. As innocuous and invisible someone like me tends to be, I’ll make a mistake somewhere.

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The Fallacy of Focusing on National Figureheads

Vitriol is an odd thing. And I hate being the guy who writes about the “social media age” like it’s this thing that appeared in the last couple of years. Even before Facebook, early adopters of online communication remember the glory days of website forums, chat rooms, and other social media sites that existed long before we had the term social media (most people remember Myspace, fellow Edmontonians remember Nexopia). But, despite sounding like a clueless blogger, the social media age has reared an excessive amount of vitriol from the public. I’ve covered this before in other essays and it seems to be a topic I’m fixated on. I don’t know why I’m so fixated on it. Early adopters of forums can remember the all-caps ranters and trolls long before it became a topic of social media etiquette. It’s the focus and targets of this vitriol that’s fascinating me today.

The current US leader is obviously on the receiving end of a lot of this online aggression and that’s quickly becoming old news (though a lot of what’s going on around him continues to be fascinating), so I want to focus on my homeland of Canada, and specifically the current hate-campaigns towards our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In my last open letter, I brushed on the fact that public opinion of him has been dropping. The online comments towards him and his activities have been looking more and more, well, American as of late. But he’s also been the target of some odd criticism.

One thing I’ve noted that he’s been criticized a lot about has been his international presence. The fact that he’s been an active diplomat for Canada has resulted in this odd argument that he doesn’t actually care about Canadians and he’s doing nothing for us. This is very odd for a lot of reasons. The first being that a major part of the job of Prime Minister is having that international diplomat presence. A world leader has to interact with the world.

The second odd thing about this is this assumption that if the Prime Minister is working on something international, then he’s clearly doing nothing domestic. The Federal Government is made up of a lot more people than just the Prime Minister. In fact, as of 2016, 258,979 people have been employed in some sort of Federal Public Service and 197,354 people are employed in that core administration of Federal Public Service. That’s a lot of people and believe me not all of them are working on the same international missions that Trudeau has been publicly working on. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that a very large majority of these 197,354 core administration and 258,979 Federal Public Service workers are focused on domestic issues.

There’s one very specific online incident that this brings to mind. There was a story that came out about a financial pledge Trudeau made for an international issue (what the issue was escapes me and at this time I’m having difficulty finding the exact story that was cited). The individual who posted about it expressed that the money that was being pledged for this international effort would be better used domestically for homeless issues. This would be a valid argument, if the current Federal Government wasn’t the first Federal Government in many years to be developing a national housing strategy. In fact, only weeks before this post came across my social media feed, the Federal Government released $12.6 billion to municipal foundations for affordable housing. Edmonton organizations alone received $18.2 million. Yet, this significant amount of funding wasn’t mentioned once during the entire social media based debate. All that was focused on was the fact that the Trudeau government was giving funds to other countries.

I could speculate endlessly about why important information about an issue that this individual obviously cares about would be so blatantly missed. It got plenty of news coverage, both online and on television, and plenty of elected officials took part in major public announcements. But, none of those elected officials were Prime Minister Trudeau.

Are we treating world leaders the way we treat celebrities now? Think about the way most people watch movies. The focus is placed on the major star power driving the film’s cast. Sometimes, we focus on the directly. Rarely, we focus on the writer. Sometimes there’s even a focus on the special effects studio. But never do we focus on set designers, make-up artists, production assistants, editors, grips, camera technicians, or the hundreds of other critical roles that go into a film. The same is becoming true for government. All we can see are the leaders, totally forgetting how much more goes into any governmental body.

If you’re looking to leaders to represent your interests, you’re looking in all the wrong places. Further, we don’t need leaders. We need representation. And this is how our governmental system is actually set up. Unless the leaders are picking fights with other countries or moving on motions that will drastically change the organizational structure of a country, the actions of the leaders are typically highly inconsequential.

The motions and activities that the government tends to move on stems from the local representatives: the Senators, Ministers, Members of Parliament (MP), and on the provincial level the Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). Even the City Councils can have some sway with the Federal Government. That $16.2 billion being released for affordable housing organizations was a major ask by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which is Chaired by Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson. Leaders don’t typically make unilaterally decisions on motions and Acts.

Everything that goes through government stems from motions drafted by MPs and MLAs, which reflect the interest of their constituents. With this in mind, it can be argued that yelling at the Prime Minister or the Premier or the President over Facebook is kind of an utter waste of time. If you want to see real change being made in government, contact your local MLAs, MPs, and even City Councillors. They are the voices in the ear of governments and they are the one who actually spur change. Not the leaders.

I would argue something similar for our southern neighbours. By no means am I going to say something like, “Just give the guy a chance, he might be really good.” But, what I will stress is that you shouldn’t focus your attention on trying to get his attention. Instead, look to your back yard. Who is your senator? Your governor? Who represents you in Washington? Those are the questions you should be asking and those are the elected officials who you should be focusing your attention on. The guy in the White House will never hear you, never pay attention to you, and frankly does not care. But your local elected officials do care and they will hear you. Get your local governors and senators on your side and you can do a lot more in Washington than you ever could by criticizing anyone on Facebook.

Again, we don’t need leaders. We need representations. And that’s how our government is structured. But we keep forgetting that. If you want to create social change, stop looking to leaders and start looking in your back yard.

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An Open Letter to Kevin O’Leary

Dear Kevin O’Leary,

Just… Don’t…

Just… Fucking… Don’t…

Just… What the fuck are you doing? Seriously… What the fuck… Just… Fucking Don’t.

Okay, now that’s out of my system, I can get into my rhetorical analysis of you framed as the start of a dialogue that I know you’ll never actually respond to.

Have you seen the show Ascension? It was broadcast on CBC, the channel that made you (in)famous through its Dragon’s Den reality series. And I stress that it was Dragon’s Den that propelled you into the public spotlight, and not Shark Tank for two reasons. The first being your rivalry with Arlene Dickinson, which has apparently followed you into your new political life. The second being, and I may be going out on a limb with this, no American who watched Shark Tank still has any idea who you are or what you do. And I focus on CBC because the typical conservative of your ilk tends to believe that the CBC needs to be defunded and shut down.

I bring up Ascension as an example of a Canadian version of something that simply doesn’t measure up to what we typically consume for media produced by our southern neighbours. The show sort of starts out like CSI in space, but does move into some interesting territory as the mini-series progressed. It doesn’t have the cult following that similar shows like The Expanse has, and many would point solely to the fact that Ascension is a Canadian program as to why it didn’t perform as well as it could have. Even being broadcast on Syfy didn’t bolster the show the way other space operas (and in my opinion, sub-par space operas) like Killjoys and Dark Matter have been. There’s something about Canadian content that feels like Canadian content and we automatically assume it isn’t as good because it’s Canadian content.

Kevin-O (can I call you Kevin-O? I going to stick with Kevin-O.), are you at all worried about being the Canadian content equivalent of the current state in American politics?

I mean, the comparisons are obvious. You’re a venture capitalist eyeing politics with the messaging that strong business practices are what could save the country. You practically stole the speaker notes (which apparently is also becoming common political practice). Many Canadians are furiously flocking to social media to stress that we are not Americans and we shouldn’t do things like Americans. The problem is, we keep trying to copy Americans, as seen in much of our Canadian content. And when we try to copy Americans, that’s when we tend to fail.

Even you, Kevin-O, are actually far from the archetype of the American tycoon. Your net worth is much less than most Wall Street bankers, which might be part of it, but your attitudes I’ve always found different. Yes, you’re a hard capitalist, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I don’t think the outward image you conveyed on Dragon’s Den at all reflects the real Kevin-O who goes home at night. While drafting this letter, I literally had to look up the company you co-founded (software developers SoftKey), but I could rattle off all the charity and philanthropic work you do. You’re big into entrepreneurship and financial education. You actively helped look for solutions to reverse climate change with Discovery Channel’s Discovery Channel Earth. Think about how many American politicians don’t think climate change is even real. Think about how many American politicians don’t trust the data from scientists who have been studying the effects of climate for decades. You literally worked with television’s biggest science channel to address the realities of climate change and look for solutions.

This is the Kevin-O who needs to run for public office. Smart business practices are important but when it comes to government, serving the individuals is far more important than balancing the books. Government is such a different industry from hard business that not all of hard business’ practices translate. This isn’t a simple transition from one to the other. You will have 35 billion people riding on your decisions, not just a board of investors.

If we look at the trend in modern Canadian politics, we can call Stephen Harper our George W. Bush, and Harper’s national isolation tactics and fear based (and frankly racist) domestic policy ideas are what caused him to fail. We can look at Justin Trudeau as our answer to Barrack Obama and even I will admit that Trudeau is starting to shit the bed a bit in public opinion. Was Jean Chrétien our Bill Clinton? I would argue that Bill Clinton was America’s Jean Chrétien and that Chrétien was Canada’s last truly great Prime Minister because he was distinctly and unapologetically unlike anything else going on in politics at the time. He followed no trends and the Canadian vote wasn’t a reaction to what was going on anywhere else. Canada needs to stop comparing itself to other countries and following the leads of others and instead look at itself, look at the world, and logically decide what’s the best course of action.

If we look at the case of Ascension or Heartland or Republic of Doyle or any of the other CBC programming that causes a chorus of groans from regular television watchers, we get a sense that Canadian content copying American content doesn’t really work. When we look at cases like Orphan Black, Kids in the Hall, Degrassi, Kenny versus Spenny, Are you Afraid of the Dark¸ and even Mr. Dressup, television shows with strong cult followings and set new standards for what content can do, you fully understand that Canadian content is at its utmost best when it stops trying to copy American content.

The Canadian political landscape is no different. We are at our best when we stop trying to take cues from south of the 49th parallel. I’ll agree that when Canadians describe themselves as “not American,” it cheapens the Canadian identity and experience. But at the same time, the Canadian identity is such an obscure construct that outside of waxing philosophical, it’s hard to describe. All you can do is look at the reality of the 35 billion people who call this set of borders home, look at how we can help things on the international front, and strategize from there.

So when I say, or rather beg (or maybe groan in frustration) to “Just fucking don’t.” What I mean is, don’t be that guy that so many Canadians expect you to be. Don’t be the guy south of the border, don’t be the guy howling at bad investment ideas. Be something better. You want to be an alternative? Be a real alternative. Don’t just copy what you saw work on TV. Work from a stronger and smarter plan. Don’t spew rhetoric about bad business and putting Canadians first. Explain reality and do what the best politicians always did best: help the greatest number of people. Period.

Don’t be the cheap Canadian version of something going on elsewhere. Set the standards and be something better.

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