Should legalizing weed be young people’s top priority?

One thing that’s bugging me about Vice‘s interview with Obama is that how dismissive the president is is about the importance of marijuana legalization.

“I understand this is important to you, but you should be thinking about climate change, the economy, jobs, war and peace,” he said. “Maybe way at the bottom you should be thinking about marijuana.”

He goes on to give an answer that’s surprisingly supportive of the idea of decriminalizing pot, and that’s been grabbing headlines all day. But is it fair to say that marijuana should be at the bottom of people’s list of political priorities?

Well, first of all, I don’t think it actually is young people’s top priority, it was just the question that got asked the most online in advance of the interview. People are interested to hear what the president has to say on the matter because he talks about it a lot less than he talks about the economy and ISIS. But even if it were their top priority, would they be wrong?

Drug policy touches almost every major issue of our time, from social justice to education to, most obviously, the economy. The benefits of legalization have been discussed to death, but we’re starting to see evidence of the effectiveness in Colorado, where tax revenues are strong and unemployment is low. I wasn’t able to easily find comparable information for Washington, but if you’re interested in creating jobs and improving tax revenues, you could sure do a lot worse than legalizing weed. Then there are the social justice benefits. As the president said in the interview, drug policies disproportionately affect people of color. Legalization could improve educational opportunities, since students who with marijuana convictions can lose their financial aid. The list goes on and on.

But most importantly, it’s a concrete and achievable policy idea. It’s low hanging fruit. If I had to pick one thing to make the world a more prosperous and just place, marijuana legalization would definitely be near the top of my list of ideas, not the bottom.

Shocked, But Not Surprised

That’s how I felt when I read about the the Chicago PD’s “black sites” last week. In fact, that seems to my perpetual state these days. From drone strikes and assassinations to the Snowden documents to the Zimmerman acquittal to the ongoing, relentless of women in the public sphere.

The shocks just keep mounting. A man sentenced to life in prison for delivering $20 worth of weed. Seven police officers and prosecutors lie and say a man assaulted a prosecutor. Junk science sends man to prison for life.

The truly disturbing thing about all of these things, I think, is that the perpetrators fully expected to get away with the things they did. I mean, the NSA has had whistle blower problems for 30 years. The Chicago PD knew the people they detained in their black sites wouldn’t stay there forever. Those police and prosecutors had to have known it was possible that the incident they lied about could have been filmed. But they all did — do — these things anyway. Because they know that they won’t face any serious repercussions for it. That’s the shock that just keeps reverberating.

Meet the Redpill Right

Jay Allen presents a unified theory of internet assholes (essentially what I was grasping towards, but failed to reach, at the end of my TechCrunch article on neoreaction):

They want you to lift the veil pulled over your eyes by the progressives who secretly control society. Like Neo escaping the Matrix, your choice is to wake up and see how the world really is, discarding religion, subjectivity, and feminist indoctrination. Conspiracy theorists, Men’s Rights Activists, Pick-Up Artists, GamerGate, even the Neoreaction: all of these communities share a common creed, tech-fluent and superficially self-aware. To outsiders, it’s distinctly conservative. But they don’t see themselves as conservatives at all.

Welcome to the Red Pill worldview, where the entire world is a game and the people who are winning are the best players.

Full Story: Boing Boing: A beginner’s guide to the Redpill Right

Another interesting phenomenon is the way these different but overlapping movements are trying to hijack, or at least capitalize upon, each other. For example, MRA guy Roosh Valizadeh starting a GamerGate themed website called Reaxxion.

See Also:

The Baffler on Neoreactionaries

The Future Of The Culture Wars Is Here, And It’s Gamergate

The Paranoid Style in Gaming Misogyny

Instead of prosecuting torturers, Obama prosecuted the guy who revealed the program

Timothy B. Lee writes:

But the Obama administration has had a different attitude when it comes to those who revealed the existence of the CIA torture program. In 2012, the Obama administration charged former CIA official John Kiriakou for leaking classified information related to the torture program to reporters. Threatened with decades in prison, Kiriakou was forced to plead guilty and accept a 30-month prison sentence. He’s in prison right now.

Full Story: Vox: Instead of prosecuting torturers, Obama prosecuted the guy who revealed the program

3 Things to Read in the Wake of the Non-Indictment in Fergeson

The web is full of stories about the non-indictment of Darren Wilson today, so you probably don’t need to hear from me about it. But if you just home from work and only just started trying to sift through the links of the day, here are a few suggestions.

First, Ezra Klein says what a lot of people were thinking: Officer Darren Wilson’s story is unbelievable. Literally..

Usually a story as fishy as Wilson’s would be enough for an indictment, but it’s highly unusual to actually hear testimony from the accused in a grand jury trial, Jeffrey Toobin writes for the New Yorker. After all, the grand jury trial isn’t meant to determine Wilson’s guilt or innocence, just whether prosecutors have enough evidence to merit a case. That’s why some have described the grand jury trial as an alternative to a real trial.

Toobin writes:

Some might suggest that all cases should be treated the way McCulloch handled Wilson before the grand jury, with a full-fledged mini-trial of all the incriminating and exculpatory evidence presented at this preliminary stage. Of course, the cost of such an approach, in both time and money, would be prohibitive, and there is no guarantee that the ultimate resolutions of most cases would be any more just. In any event, reserving this kind of special treatment for white police officers charged with killing black suspects cannot be an appropriate resolution.

In other words, the trial itself is yet another example of the gross inequalities in our country.

Zooming out from Fergeson, the The Salt Lake Tribune reports that killings by Utah police have outpaced other homicides in the state:

Over a five-year period, data show that fatal shootings by police officers in Utah ranked second only to homicides of intimate partners.
In the past five years, more Utahns have been killed by police than by gang members.

Or drug dealers. Or from child abuse.

And so far this year, deadly force by police has claimed more lives — 13, including a Saturday shooting in South Jordan — than has violence between spouses and dating partners.

The article doesn’t dive into racial dynamics of police shootings in the state, but you can bet that it’s not pretty. Just another reminder that the police are out of control.

Mutation Vectors: Speculative Geopolitics Edition

Status Update

I spent yesterday afternoon at Maker Faire volunteering at the Tesseract Design booth, where I was lucky enough to watch Crawford 3D scanning people and then printing out little plastic busts of them. Talk about a New Aesthetic experience. I also got to see a a real-life Flintstones car and a bunch of Tesla coils.

Spending today recovering from too much heat and not enough water, and catching up on some reading.


“The current struggle for Scottish independence has about as much to do with the events depicted in Braveheart as America’s ongoing racial struggles have to do with the events depicted in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” writes Amanda Taub for Vox. In fact, the movie is outrageously historically inaccurate even by Hollywood standards. Fortunately, Taub also wrote a nice ‘splainer on the whole situation. Meanwhile, Quinn Norton puts it in context with other contemporary independence movements.

On a weirder note, China has been manufacturing islands in a bid to gain legitimate control over the South China Sea. M1k3y speculates that China could eventually become the first off-world power.

Elsewhere in hypothetical geopolitics: if Reddit were a country it would be a failed state.

And for a taste of something completely different, how about the Islamic roots of science fiction?


After binging through the entire new season of Trailer Park Boys, we just started the latest season of Channel 4’s Utopia which as I’ve mentioned was one of my favorite shows of last year.


Continuing the fequent Mutation Vectors motif of me finding out that one of my favorite bands has a new album out months after the fact, this week I found out that Bruxa who I raved about before put out a new album in July on a pay watcha want basis.


Mailpile, a web-based e-mail client that aims to balance security and usability, is now it beta. You can check out my story on them from back when they had just finished their crowdfunding here.

Mutation Vectors 8/24/2014


You can bury your head in old books, but the world will find its way to you somehow. Ferguson is one of those things that found it’s way in. In the past two weeks it’s gone from a story about white fear to one about the militarization of the police to one about the countless ways America has failed black people.

Of course, we keep having this conversation again and again and not much seems to change. Ta-Nehisi Coates is worth reading on this, as is his epic “The Case for Reparations,” which chronicles the long history of this country using and abusing black people. And it’s not just the U.S. having this conversation again and again, as Laurie Penny makes clear in her piece comparing the shooting of Michael Brown to that of Mark Duggan, which set of the riots in London in 2011. Yet, for some reason I have a strange sense of optimism that things are gonna change this time.

Meanwhile, where are presidential hopefuls on this? Rand Paul, to his credit, wrote an editorial for Time about the militarization of the police and even decried racial inequality in the justice system, but as far as I know hasn’t yet visited Ferguson. But where the Democrats? Matthew Yglesias ‘splains that Hillary Clinton refuses to comment on the issue because she doesn’t have a good primary challenger. But I think the bigger problem is that it’s not really advantageous for any Democratic primary candidate to rock this particular boat. A primary challenger might be able to use Ferguson to score some points in the primary, but then in the general they run the risk of being branded a radical anti-white crusader and lose critical independent votes in critical swing states. I mean, it’s not exactly as if Clinton, or whoever gets the nomination, is really in danger of losing many votes to a guy who employed and co-authored a book with a neo-confederate. It’s part of the good cop/bad cop routine that the two major parties play. (And of course it works both ways — if you’re conservative, then the Republicans, generally, are the good cops and the Democrats are the bad cops.)

The arrests in Ferguson and the death of James Foley have left me, as a journalist, feeling bad that I’m doing such safe work. But Ryan Schuessler left Ferguson because too many journos were being assholes. There’s a lot to unpack there that ties into other thoughts and feelings I have about the professional of journalism, but that will have to wait.


Austin Osman Spare: The Occult Life of London’s Legendary Artist


I haven’t been listening to much music lately, but when I have it’s usually been Coil. Stuff from throughout their career, but one that particular caught my ear recently is Black Antlers, which I hadn’t listened to much before.

Mutation Vectors 8/2/2014

As I’ve mentioned before, when things get quiet on Technoccult it’s usually because I’m struggling to keep up with my day-to-day work. And I have been lately, but I do feel like I’m back on top of things, at least for a moment.

Still, I don’t have a lot of media to share. Part of that is because I’ve been busy, and part of it is that I’ve been recoiling in disgust from both general news and tech news lately. I’ve been spending what little spare time I’ve had lately reading about ancient mythology and revisiting my interest in the history of that thing we call “magic.” Of course that’s escapism, but is there really anything wrong with that? (Neil Gaiman says no).

It seems like I’m not alone. Joshua Ellis writes: “everyone I know is brokenhearted.” This may have something to do with our particular social circles, but I’ve noticed this too.

Though it’s hard to say exactly how new a problem this is. After all, about 2,500 years ago, Prince Siddhartha got similarly fed up with the pain and suffering in the world and dropped out of life, became a Sramana monk and eventually founded Buddhism. He may never have existed, but there are a huge number of scriptures attributed to his teaching. Enough different ones, apparently, to justify genocide.

I refer of course to Jack Kornfield’s recent article on Burmese Buddhists attacks on the Muslim minority in their country. Kornfield doesn’t have much to say about the situation other than that it’s bad and that the Burmese don’t really understand the teachings of the Buddha, which sounds overly simplistic to me, but it’s still worth a read. (See also: Buddhism is not a democracy movement).

Other stuff I’ve read lately:

Currently reading: Mockeries and Metamorphoses of an Aztec God: Tezcatlipoca, “Lord of the Smoking Mirror”

In Defense of Trigger Warnings

Scott Alexander on the backlash against trigger warnings:

But this is all tangential to what really bothered me, which is Pacific Standard’s The Problems With Trigger Warnings According To The Research.

You know, I love science as much as anyone, maybe more, but I have grown to dread the phrase “…according to the research”.

They say that “Confronting triggers, not avoiding them, is the best way to overcome PTSD”. They point out that “exposure therapy” is the best treatment for trauma survivors, including rape victims. And that this involves reliving the trauma and exposing yourself to traumatic stimuli, exactly what trigger warnings are intended to prevent. All this is true. But I feel like they are missing a very important point.


Psychotherapists treat arachnophobia with exposure therapy, too. They expose people first to cute, little spiders behind a glass cage. Then bigger spiders. Then they take them out of the cage. Finally, in a carefully controlled environment with their very supportive therapist standing by, they make people experience their worst fear, like having a big tarantula crawl all over them. It usually works pretty well.

Finding an arachnophobic person, and throwing a bucket full of tarantulas at them while shouting “I’M HELPING! I’M HELPING!” works less well.

Full Story: Slate Star Codex: The Wonderful Thing About Triggers

How Did Democracy Become a Good Thing?

Interesting contrarian take on the rise of contemporary democracy:

The story of modern democracy is one in which democracy lost its social and economic content at the very moment it gained political ascendancy.

What happened was the separation of the “economic” and the “political” into separate spheres. It was only under the conditions of this separation that a widely dispersed political power, through the universal suffrage, began to appear possible. Power relations, which had hitherto been fundamentally political issues, of lordship and so on—like who owed what to whom, and who could do what to whom, and who could make whom do what they wanted—were transformed into fundamentally economic issues, having to to do with ownership and contract. So if you want to know why democracy—defined basically as a diffusion of formal political power among the people—went from being bad to good, from being not only impossible but undesirable to not only desirable but possible, one way of answering the question is actually extremely straightforward: the real power wasn’t in politics any more; it was somewhere else, in the newly separate sphere of the economy.

Full Story: The Junto: How Democracy Became a Good Thing

I don’t think it’s really fair to say that power shifted out of the political, but I think there’s a case to be made that capital has effectively insulated itself from the democratic process within liberal democracies, and has done so for a very long time.

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