Today, I wanted to share a thought piece I recently submitted to Quora, which I wrote over the course of weeks in reponse to the question, “Is the United States going to finally collapse?“. This is something I wanted to answer because I’ve been pondering it myself for some time. Ever since the days of the Bush administration, I’ve been made aware of the fact that the US was behaving precisely like an empire in decline.
A new video was recently posted online that shows North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un breaking out the dance moves, getting pranked, and engaging in some serious fight scenes. The video has gone absolutely viral and has everybody laughing – except for Kim Jong Un himself. In fact, the “Great Leader’s” outrage was such that North Korea made a public statement denouncing the video and demanding it be taken down.
According to the English-language Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo, the video was made by a Chinese man bearing the surname Zhang who reportedly studied at a university in South Korea. The paper goes on to cite a source in China saying North Korea felt the clip “seriously compromises Kim’s dignity and authority” and asked China to stop the spread of the video, but that “Beijing was unable to oblige.”
The reaction is predictable, and the request certainly betrays the North Korean regime’s internet-phobic tendencies, not to mention their ignorance of how the internet actually works. For starters, once something is posted on the internet, it becomes part of the digital ether and can never be destroyed. In addition, drawing attention to an internet phenomenon only makes it stronger! By condemning it, Kim Jong Un’s people just ensured it’s viral nature!
The video consists of the Dear Leader’s head being spliced onto a variety of bodies that see him getting down on a ball field, getting karate-kicked by Obama (who also has his head spliced onto various heads), skipping through a field with Osama Bin Laden, and doing some serious kung fu fighting. And it all takes place to a Chinese pop hit by the Chopstick Brothers, who have made viral videos of their own in the past.
Needless to say, it’s really quite funny. And it’s only made more so by the fact that the man-child leading the world’s most backward and ridiculous regime finds its so infuriating. So be sure to watch it, enjoy it, and contribute to its circulation!
It seems award season is upon us again, and I’ve received a nod from a respected colleague who decided to send a nomination my way! So thanks to Rami Ungar the writer, and best wishes on the Quiet Game as it goes into its third month since publication. And now, getting to the rules of this award, I must share the following 11 details about myself, make my nominations, and answer 11 questions. Here goes…
- I am an Aquarius
- I was born in Ottawa Ontario on a Saturday during the depths of winter
- I have a natural resistance to cold, being burly and furry, but have trouble with heat
- For the first twenty-five years of my life, people though I was older than I actually was. Now it’s the reverse! For some people, this may sound like a good thing. But for me, its just plain weird!
- I never really fit in with crowds. I always tried to, but found that I was destined to either stand on my own or make up my own social circles
- I have a natural thing for animals. Doesn’t really matter if they are cats, dogs, or a wild creature. We just seem to get each other
- I don’t get out to the theater much at all anymore, which seems nuts since I’m more invested in new movies than I ever was before
- In the space of a year (Dec 2006 – Aug 07), I traveled to southern Mexico, Europe, across Canada and visited New York City. It was a crazy and awesome year!
- Unlike a lot of indies, my desire to write and share goes beyond the desire to express myself creatively. Much depends on it for me, and the prospect of not succeeding is frightening to me
- I am very susceptible to germs, seeing as how I get sick with the seasons like clock work. You’d think a teacher would have better immunities. Sadly, no
- I love kids, but am not sure if I would ever want to have some of my own. But as I have been told many times, no one is ever really ready, so I don’t worry about it too much
Alright, that was deep. Now here are the 11 questions Rami came up with for myself and his other nominees to answer. A word of warning, I was not brief!
1. Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?
Yes I do. While I so often find myself railing against organized religion for its excesses and abuses, I have never been an atheist, nor do I consider it a likely possibility that we live in a universe devoid of any higher order. I guess I’ve always been a monist/deist, a person who believes that the universe is guided by a conscious force that underlies and connects all things, was responsible for its creation and the laws that guide it, but does not intervene or exercise direct control over things.
2. If you could meet any historical personage, who would you meet and what would you say to them?
Tough call. But if I had to choose, I’d say Montezuma II, the last emperor of the Aztec civilization and people. And once the troublesome problem of translating from English to Nahuatl was worked out, I’d give him one very simple bit of advice. “Kill the Conquistadors on sight!”
3. What scares you the most in the world?
The idea of something bad happening to someone I love, and that I couldn’t be there to stop it. Either that or that I could, through negligence or inaction. be responsible for something terrible happening to someone else. Don’t think I could live with myself either way.
4. Morning, afternoon, or evening person?
Definitely evening. Not an early riser by nature, and my most creative and active time is always late at night. Were it not for this incessant need to get a good forty winks a night, I’d work til the wee hours of the morning all the time!
5. What was the worst job you ever had the displeasure of holding?
Again, tough call. There was the two summers during school that I worked for the city doing maintenance on public parks and parking garages. For those unfamiliar with job-speak, that means you clean up garbage. During the months I worked there both years, I cleaned up a ton of puke, feces, urine, and disposed of I don’t know how many used needles, half-smoked joints and even a bottle of heroine. I also got solicited by a few prostitutes, and was accosted by several homeless people.
But then there was the few months I taught in a remote community on the west side of Vancouver Island. Out there, joblessness, idleness, isolation and the problems of drug abuse, suicide, broken homes and behavioral problems create a very tough challenge for teachers. I was there for three months, replacing a teacher who went nuts and ended up suing the school board over a nothing issue. That kind of hostile work environment and the politics of the dude’s lawsuit and how it effected work for the rest of us led to many people quitting and the school almost imploding. I slept very little for those 11 weeks, got sworn and freaked out at almost every day by the kids, and was happy as hell to get out when I did!
I’d say it was the teaching gig. No job was ever that bad before or since.
6. If you could dress up as anything for Halloween this year, regardless of price, what would you dress up as?
If price weren’t an option, I’d go as Iron Man. And the exoskeleton would be real!
7. What’s your dream job?
High-paid author, article writer and traveling guest-lecturer. Basically what I’m doing everything I can to become right now!
8. If you could be somebody else for a day, who would you be? (This could be anything from an actual person–President Barack Obama or Vera Farmiga, for example–or it can be anything as simple as “a dancer” or “a music producer”)
I would love to be Chris Hadfield and go around talking about science, technology, and what its like to go into space. And then I’d unleash a guitar riff on my classic guitar!
9. What is your favorite color?
Rainforest Green. That’s the kind of deep, dark green that puts me in mind of driving across this here island, breathing clean air, and then staring out at the ocean as the high waves pound against the cliffs and the sandy shore.
10. What do you think you’ll be doing in 10 years?
With any luck, living in a nice home in Victoria, writing novels and articles for an obscene (okay, decent) amount of money, and living with my wife and our cat and a dog. She will be working in government with a senior position, the animals will be happy and rambunctious, and we will be busy contemplating what’s next for our family 🙂
11. If you had to brave some sort of apocalypse or natural disaster in your city/town/village, who would want to brave it with?
Tossup. There’s my wife, the natural choice, but if we’re venturing into the realm of the fictional, I would say Daryl Dixon. He’s a good man to have around in a fight, and underneath his tough, redneck exterior beats a good heart.
Alright, that’s me done! And now we move on to my nominations and the questions I would like to see them answer. First, here are the people I would like to nominate for this award:
And here’s the questions I’d like all of them to answer:
- If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would go and what would you do there?
- If you had a million dollars, what would you do?
- If civilization were to end tomorrow, what would be your first priority? Securing a source of food, water and energy? Procreating to ensure the continuation of the species? Or preserving the knowledge of mankind?
- Would you rather have:
A. A puppy
B. A kiss from your sweetie, or
C. A well formatted hard drive?
- Describe your perfect relationship partner
- Who’s your favorite superhero and why?
- What was the best science fiction, horror, fantasy movie or television series you ever saw?
- If you had a chance to go to another planet, what would you take with you?
- Favorite pet (cat, dog, bird, etc.) and why?
- What stands out as the single greatest experience of your life?
- If you could do just one thing before you died, what would it be?
Thank you again, Rami, congrats to all the other nominees, and hope everybody is having a good week and looking forward to the weekend. Hope to hear from y’all again soon, and stay tuned for more on my end!
On Friday, Washington DC found itself embroiled in controversy as revelations were made about the extent to which US authorities have been spying on Americans in the last six years. This news came on the heels of the announcement that the federal government had been secretly cataloging all of Verizon’s phone records. No sooner had the dust settled on that revelation that it became known that the scope of the Obama administration’s surveillance programs was far greater than anyone had imagined.
According to updated information on the matter, it is now known that The National Security Agency (NSA) and the FBI have been tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting everything from audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that would enable their analysts to track foreign targets.
This information was revealed thanks to a secret document that was leaked to the Washington Post, which shows for the first time that under the Obama administration, the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing. Equally distressing is the names being named: U.S. Service Providers such as Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.
The document further indicates that all of this has been taking place since 2007, when news disclosures, lawsuits and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court forced then-president George W. Bush to look for new authority to justify his program warrantless domestic surveillance. It’s continuance and expansion under Obama has created a great deal of understandable intrigue, and not only because of promises made that “illegal wiretapping” would not take place under his watch.
The joint FBI-NSA program responsible for mining all the data is known as PRISM, and it may very well be the first of its kind. While the NSA and FBI have a long history of monitoring suspects via phone records and computer activity, and are both accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers, such a vast program has never before been possible. In the current information age, there is an immense wealth of information out there, and where better to access all of this than in Silicon Valley?
Not long after the news broke in Washington, London’s Guardian reported that GCHQ, Britain’s equivalent of the NSA, also has been secretly gathering intelligence from the same internet companies through an operation set up by the NSA. According to the same leaked information, PRISM appears to allow the GCHQ to circumvent the formal legal process required in Britain to seek personal material such as emails, photos and videos from an internet company based outside of the country.
But perhaps worst of all is the fact that this process is entirely above board, at least for the companies involved. Back in 2007, Congress passed the Protect America Act, and then in 2008 followed it up with the FISA Amendments Act, both of which immunized private companies that cooperated voluntarily with U.S. intelligence collection against prosecution. And late last year, when critics in Congress sought changes in the FISA Amendments Act, the only lawmakers who knew about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.
An anticipated, a bi-partisan amalgam of Senators came out to defend the initial reports of phone record monitoring shortly after it was announced. In a rare display of solidarity that cut across party lines, Democrats and Republicans from both the Senate and House came forward to say that the program was justified, only spied on terrorists, and that law-abiding citizens need not worry.
Once again, the argument “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear” finds itself employed by people who do not want to voice criticisms about a government spying program. Echoes of the Bush administration and McCarthy era all over again. Needless to say, all of this has many people worried, not the least of which are people opposed to government intrusion and the protection of privacy for the past decade.
Ever since it became possible to “mine data” from numerous online digital sources, there has been fear that corporations or governments might try to ascertain the habits and comings and goings of regular people in order to effectively monitor them. For some time now, this sort of monitoring has been somewhat benign, in the form of anticipating their spending habits and using targeted advertising. But always, the fear that something more sinister and totalitarian might emerge.
And with the “War on Terror”, the Patriot Act, domestic warrantless wiretapping, the legitimization of torture, and a slew of other crimes the Bush administration was indicted in, people all over the world have become convinced that “Big Brother” government is just around the corner, if indeed it is not already here.
The fact that such processes have continued and even expanded under Obama, a man who originally pledged not to engage in such behavior, has made a bad situation worse. In many ways, it demonstrates that fears that he too would succumb to internal pressure were justified. Much as he was won over by the Pentagon and CIA to continue the war in Afghanistan and UAV programs, it seems that the constellation of FBI and NSA specialists advising him on domestic surveillance has managed to sway him here as well.
One can only hope that this revelation causes the federal government and the Obama administration to reconsider their stances. After all, these are the same people who were convinced to stand down on the use of UAVs in oversees operations and to take measures that would ensure transparency in the future. We can also hope that the NSA and FBI will be required to once again have to rely on the court system and demonstrate “just cause” before initiating any domestic surveillance in the future.
Otherwise, we might all need to consider getting our hands on some stealth wear and personal cameras, to shield ourselves and create an environment of “sousveillance” so we can spy on everything the government does. Might not hurt to start monitoring the comings and goings of every telecommunications and Silicon Valley CEO while were at it! For as the saying goes, “who watches the watchers?” I’ll give you a hint: we do!
Also, be sure to check out the gallery of artist Adam Harvey, the man who pioneered “stealth wear” as a protest against the use of drones and domestic surveillance. To learn more about sousveillance, the concept of a society monitored by common people, check out Steve Mann’s (inventor of the EyeTap) blog.