If I lived 100,000 years, until the ice caps were gone, until Antarctica was an elite beach community, until the manifestation of the Kurzweilian singularity, until the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program was completed, until manufacturing jobs had moved from interior China to Southeast Asia and on to Africa and finally back to the ruined hellscape of America, if I lived that long I doubt I’d ever see or read about another human being as ignorant and vain and insufferably smug as you. You are a bad person, good day!
– Devin Howard
Unsatisfied with waging simultaneous wars against reproductive rights, poor people, the environment, organized labor, single mothers, and Ronald Reagan phones, Republican lawmakers in state capitols across the country are seeking to add another front to their unrelenting fight against basic principles of logic and fundamental human decency: drug testing the unemployed. Now, this isn’t exactly a stretch of the imagination, considering how many bills have been introduced to test welfare-recipients. It is however, really, really fucking dumb.
Even a cursory examination of available information demonstrates that the entire enterprise is riddled with problems: it’s constitutionally untenable (just ask Florida), it doesn’t save any goddamn money (in fact, it does the exact opposite, most welfare-eligibility drug testing programs actually end up costing taxpayers more money than is saved. Just ask Florida! (and Georgia). “But Wait!” You’ll say, “that isn’t the point, the goal of testing is to get users off the dope!” Well, here’s the thing – welfare and unemployment benefits are notoriously unreliable predictors of drug use. In fact, individuals receiving food stamps, unemployment payments, or other forms of public assistance are no more likely (and often less likely) than those in higher economic brackets. National surveys put the rate of illegal drug use at about 8%. Florida’s adventure into blanket testing of welfare applicants? 2% tested positive. Additionally, erecting barriers to access for welfare and assistance programs is ultimately just going to harm already disadvantaged children.
None of these even touches on the Orwellian nature of a bunch of ‘small government’ zealots legislating into existence a variety of intrusive bureaucratic mechanisms that will siphon off public money into the hands of some corporate behemoth to perform all of these drug tests. Nevermind the almost unbelievable ideological hyprocisy. Nevermind that only the poor and desperate will be faced with additional hardship, or that these efforts are straw-men pandering at its most cruel and tribalistic, backed up solely by conservative think tanks and the purveyors of dystopic corporate interests over at ALEC.
But hey, if you’re still down with this absurd, insidious type of legislation I’m sure you won’t mind repeated unconstitutional privacy violations when you apply for a student loan, or a federally backed mortgage, or a small business loan. Sure you won’t because you probably don’t even use drugs and will therefore happily pee in cups over and over and over again to access basic public services.
I’m going to let an awesome Gawker comment explain this one, from user skt.smh:
What dumbasses like Mitt fail to acknowledge, of course, is that 1/4 of the people who don’t owe federal income taxes are elderly people on Social Security, which is non-taxable income. Another 15% is from beneficiaries of the Earned Income Tax Credit and, *gasp*, the child and childcare credits. How dare those people have children and qualify for tax credits?!
And of course, not a single Republican falls into either of these categories. There are no elderly Republicans living off Social Security checks. There are no Republicans with children or who qualify for the EITC. I guess what we can deduce from this is that Republicans are both immortal and sterile. Thanks for the killer scoop, Mitt!
And a bonus from Wonkette user PuckStopsHere:
Oh my God. People think they are entitled to food! Are there no workhouses?
And a second bonus from my coworker Econ John:
What the fuck! My grandma thinks she’s entitled to food?!
As a snarky internet commenter I would say, “the whole earth is part of China, even the moon.” As an American I would say, “<Macho Man Randy Savage Voice> China’s tekin er’ jebs, they need t’ giiiiiiit out, and Obummer needs to quit apologizing for ‘Merica, ohhhh yeah!!!!” As a objective observer I would say, “Hmmm, US ‘pivots’ from Middle East to Asia to balance China by putting lots of military bases in the Philippines, expanding bases in Japan, Korea, Australia……..China starts challenging US regional allies on a regular basis? Makes sense to me.” Also as an objective observer I would say, “Reports of oil deposits on the nearby seafloor? Well, that explains it.”
But Devin, the US Ambassador’s car just got vandalized on the way to embassy. Ohhhh but internet commenter, China’s economy is starting to slow, the real estate markets are showing signs of bubbling, and access to the expanding middle class is experiencing a…..hiccup, and you think the Chi-coms are just gonna let this opportunity to deflect growing unease about the economy onto base, vulgar, nationalistic impulses (think US vs. Iraq) go to waste?
Or Hey Alexis, or Whats up Alexis, or What up Alexis (dropping the ‘s’ on ‘what’s’ clearly transforms the intended meaning of the salutation……I just don’t really know how. Makes it even less formal than ‘what’s up’ maybe? Maybe I could inflect it with a bunch of extra u’s at the beginning of up, like, ‘what uuuuup,’ to communicate nonchalance, which in turn could be considered a form of confidence? I honestly have no idea.
So far I’ve established that: salutatory choices have meaning……..and that’s pretty much it. Language means things to people.
Anyway, what are the chances that a hard-rocking, inked up (italicized to show that I’m down with the young artist pre-gentrification crowd (although they probably never refer to each other as inked up, but of course I know that and am using inked up ironically in this case (which begs the question: what I am not being ironic about in this letter? If nothing, then am I even being ironic? (its kind of like the difference between 0, and ∞ (zero and infinity for any of you retro-futuristic analog-only people out there (but if I’m talking to an audience then this is all ironic, not to be taken seriously, I’ve broken the fourth wall)))))) Brooklynite (such as yourself) would want to grab dinner with an awkward guy who really does like your ‘ink’ and your music?
What I’m saying is: would you go on a date with me? Somewhere in NYC, at some point (I’m also saying that irony is dead)? If you can untangle all of that, and want to hang out, get at me, or back to me, or hit me up, or whatever, at least the valediction is easy:
PS I stole the title for this letter/blog entry from this person: Behind the Box, who also thinks you rock and have awesome tats, or ink, or ‘tattoos’ as I refer to them.
If and when possible could you please deliver the following letter to the night sky for me? Assuming your Falcon Heavy rocket delivers even half its cost-per-pound claims it should only be about $18.70 to mail my .15 oz postcard into the celestial above. Just think of it as a micro-secondary payload.
Dear Night Sky,
This is Devin Howard, a long-time fan, sci-fi nerd, and general supporter of night-time vistas. I’m living in China right now, in Beijing actually, so about the only two celestial bodies I see regularly are the moon and sun. Particulate smog drowns out everything else behind a sickly gray veil of dust and automobile emissions. I hope things are going well up there in the cold, impersonal, yet hypnotically inviting black. Tell the stars I said hello, and all the planets and moons. It appears that human beings (read: human leadership) have relegated you to a position of importance somewhere between censorship debates and national debt brinkmanship. Maintaining endless war, limiting reproductive rights, denying global warming, and converting the earth’s population into captive consumers and dependents of a globalized corporate oligarchy (not you SpaceX) have become, apparently, more important endeavors. Anyway, just wanted to say hi, if you decide to destroy earth with an asteroid to prevent humans from escaping, virus like, and ruining other parts of the cosmos I’ll completely understand.
If you have ever used an earned income tax credit, if you have ever driven on a public road, or flown on a plane, or drank public water, or checked out a library book, or taken advantage of a student loan, or swam in a public pool, or played golf on a municipal golf course, or have worshipped in a tax exempt religious insitution then you are a socialist.
If you have ever sued in court, filed for a patent, been drafted for military service, used hospital services, used the internet, donated to a charity, or earned a degree at a public institution of higher learning, or ridden an elevator safely, or used mass transit, or are in possession of a passport, or typically notice restaurant sanitation grades then you are a socialist.
If your children take EOC tests, if you have ever bought and used postage, if you have ever visited a museum or ridden a subway, if you have ever been camping or set foot in a public park or zoo or national memorial or if you have ever voted on publically subsidized paper or computer screens then you are a socialist.
If you have ever condoned and/or supported US military intervention, in any conflict, ever; if you advocate for the armed enforcement of trading agreements or the protection of shipping lanes; if you have ever supported national, state, or local policies designed to stimulate business through the creative and diversified use of tax incentives, land grants, or other ‘sweeteners’, then you are a socialist.
If you have ever supported the allocation of tax revenue for prisons, paying police officers, hiring fire fighters, paying the salaries of district attorneys, building a stupid wall along the US-Mexico border, or any policies that require public funds to deport immigrants, or ‘tough on crime’ initiatives, or if you have ever accessed televised programming for free – then you are a socialist.
If you have ever read the nutritional content on a food or beverage product, or consulted the safety warnings on child related items, if you have ever, in your life, benefited from a Hurricane, Thunderstorm, or Severe Weather alert, if you have ever dialed 911, if you have ever enjoyed the right to a sick day or maternal leave then you are a socialist.
This video is so beautiful. We had a president who asked how many of these trees we needed. Well, how many pieces of art do we need, how many technological innovations, how many successful children and healthy babies, and Solid State Transitors, and Vaccines, and cease fires do we need. Every one of these trees represents 30 average human lifetimes worth of knowledge retained in silent observation. How many of these trees do we need? All that remain.
What, exactly, is ‘successful’ and why is it so much more valuable than ‘contented’? I’m confused about the purpose of the word. Is it a socialized expectation, is there a bar or line or quotient beyond which one becomes a successful person? I know lots of doctors, and lots of scientists, and lots of historians and business people, but none of them are Louis Pasteurs or Adam Smiths or even Dr. Phils, that last one being just shy of a quack but widely regarded as a successful human being. Maybe success is defined by liquid assets, condos and shares, equity and such? General Butt Naked, the Liberian warlord, could arguably be classified as successful. He killed over 20,000 people, engaged in numerous acts of child cannibalism, and yet, is somehow poised to retake a position of influence over an entire country. That position of influence includes a great deal of mineral wealth and power on a scale of, literally, life and death decision making over the population. Sounds pretty goddamn close to what most of us regard as a successful career: power, wealth, influence, freedom of action. Actually, freedom of action is probably the closest to true success, but before you offer up an argument that freedom is posterior to wealth and power, or, that monetary gain and political power are precede and result in greater freedom and are therefore inextricably tied to objective measures of success – there are just as many examples of individuals without wealth and power who enjoy freedom of action as there are with. What is success and where does it live? Perhaps success is self defined? Haha, I didn’t think so either.
Things and stuff are fairly easy to lament as toxic byproducts of a society that worships the individual and lavishes praise upon those who have managed to accumulate the most. Things and stuff can be anything: bass boats, in ground or above ground swimming pools, expensive barbeques, clothing, exercise shoes, two story split levels, fancy watches, designer overcoats, single malt scotches, consumer electronics, or entry level luxury cars, or any of those things and many others. Considering particularly the last 50 years of American history, the quest for suburban garages full of stuff basically hand delivered a Great Depression sized economic catastrophe to our doorstep in 2008. That’s a gross oversimplification, I know.
So a vacuous, pathological need for things is of course bad. It ruins finances, at macro and micro-economic levels, it reduces meaning and value to inanimate objects, and it does almost nothing for the quality of life of anybody in general.
However, I think things, that is, material possessions, are essential to happiness and operate in many ways as extensions of the oddball collection of traits and experiences we call ‘ourselves’. The difference here between things and stuff that falls into the category of hollow materialism and those which add meaning, texture, and depth to our lives is this: the important things have remained. They have survived. Through moves, children, disasters of various sorts, the bits of material culture we own that become valuable extensions of ourselves are those dinged up tables, the tattered shoes and t-shirts, the ancient toasters and sputtering vacuum cleaners. It is, in fact, the things with which we have a history of continuous interaction that become almost personified, imbued through some arcane and unobservable transfer of personality from the self to the surroundings.
Creaking laptops, old iPods, yellowed books, cornerless posters, wallets, favorite ties, furniture – sometimes these objects don’t have any real sentimental value, they are not anointed with the rich nostalgia of photos or letters or place, they are simply totemic. Comfortable touchstones that lend continuity to our memories and thus our personal narratives. Accretion of things actually provides a rich and detailed history of where we’ve been and when we were there, insofar as we are capable of remembering details about the items.
So no, things and stuff are not always bad. My college reading lamp, black, two-hinged, spring loaded, purchased from Wal-Mart, is sitting on my nightstand in my room at home in the United States, on it, in the dust is the faint outline of some other trinkets: a nixon watch (from my very enjoyable time as an employee at Boardparadise), and a leather bracelet I picked up at a Costa Rican market. I am drawing no line here between rational, responsible accumulation of things and the mindless, dogged pursuit of stuff, I just thought, considering how often I rail against consumerism and materialism, that I should explore a different side for once.