Posts tagged Wired

i-Give Up

(Via Cerpn @ Google Reader.)

Kids around the country are getting high on the internet, thanks to MP3s that induce a state of ecstasy. And it could be a gateway drug leading teens to real-world narcotics.

At least, that’s what Kansas News 9 is reporting about a phenomenon called “i-dosing,” which involves finding an online dealer who can hook you up with “digital drugs” that get you high through your headphones.

And officials are taking it seriously.

Kids are going to flock to these sites just to see what it is about and it can lead them to other places, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs spokesman Mark Woodward told News 9.

I-dosing involves donning headphones and listening to “music” — largely a droning noise — which the sites peddling the sounds promise will get you high. Teens are listening to such tracks as “Gates of Hades,” which is available on YouTube gratis (yes, the first one is always free).

Those who want to get addicted to the drugs can purchase tracks that will purportedly bring about the same effects of marijuana, cocaine, opium and peyote. While street drugs rarely come with instruction manuals, potential digital drug users are advised to buy a 40-page guide so that they learn how to properly get high on MP3s.

Oklahoma’s Mustang Public School district isn’t taking the threat lightly, and sent out a letter to parents warning them of the new craze. The educators have gone so far as to ban iPods at school, in hopes of preventing honor students from becoming cyber-drug fiends, News 9 reports.

— Ryan Singel, Threat Level (2010-07-14): Report: Teens Using Digital Drugs to Get High

So no, in case you were wondering, there is no bottom to this cognitive barrel: absolutely no drug panic so flimsily contrived that narcocratic Officials won’t use it as an opportunity to issue breathless press statements pleading for greater social control, or so obviously manufactured and transparently idiotic that the responsible gatekeepers of the newsmedia won’t gravely report about the Alarming New Trend, the worried reactions of Concerned Parents & Teachers, and the pressing need for Officials and Concerned Parents to be even more proactive in freaking the hell out, obsessively spying on their sons’ and daughters’ pastimes, taking away teenagers’ possessions, and controlling teenagers’ behavior. It’s not just that you don’t need to demonstrate that anybody is suffering, or even could possibly suffer, any kind of physical harm. The drug scare doesn’t need to involve any actual drugs; apparently it doesn’t even need to involve a physical substance. Or anything but the most tangential connection to basic facts of human physiology. A drug scare story without any drugs nicely distils the one really important feature of every drug scare story: all that you need to work up an adult panic is to find enough teenagers in one place (one or two on YouTube will do) who are trying to convince themselves that they’re having a good time without an adult’s prior approval — if some teenager somewhere is experiencing pleasure, never mind the cause, that alone is reason enough to call the narcs and issue yet another story leading off As if parents of teenagers don’t have enough to worry about…

So here, we find a whole gang of Responsible Adults holding positions of community authority — professional narcs, journalists, teachers and parents — all of them freaking the hell out because some teenagers somewhere might be trying to convince themselves that they’re having a good time listening to MP3s of binaural beat meditation music. A new craze? Sure, evidently there is a craze going on here. But who is it that’s acting crazed?

The politics of fear are the most dangerous mind-altering substance on the market.

Politics by other means

This appeared in the March 2008 issue of Wired:

On the morning of October 27, 1969, a squadron of 18 B-52s — massive bombers with eight turbo engines and 185-foot wingspans — began racing from the western US toward the eastern border of the Soviet Union. The pilots flew for 18 hours without rest, hurtling toward their targets at more than 500 miles per hour. Each plane was loaded with nuclear weapons hundreds of times more powerful than the ones that had obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The B-52s, known as Stratofortresses, slowed only once, along the coast of Canada near the polar ice cap. Here, KC-135 planes — essentially 707s filled with jet fuel — carefully approached the bombers. They inched into place for a delicate in-flight connection, transferring thousands of gallons from aircraft to aircraft through a long, thin tube. One unfortunate shift in the wind, or twitch of the controls, and a plane filled with up to 150 tons of fuel could crash into a plane filled with nuclear ordnance.

The aircraft were pointed toward Moscow, but the real goal was to change the war in Vietnam. … Frustrated, Nixon decided to try something new: threaten the Soviet Union with a massive nuclear strike and make its leaders think he was crazy enough to go through with it. His hope was that the Soviets would be so frightened of events spinning out of control that they would strong-arm Hanoi, telling the North Vietnamese to start making concessions at the negotiating table or risk losing Soviet military support.

Codenamed Giant Lance, Nixon’s plan was the culmination of a strategy of premeditated madness he had developed with national security adviser Henry Kissinger. The details of this episode remained secret for 35 years and have never been fully told. Now, thanks to documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, it’s clear that Giant Lance was the leading example of what historians came to call the madman theory: Nixon’s notion that faked, finger-on-the-button rage could bring the Soviets to heel.

… Kissinger had suggested the nuclear maneuvers to give the president more leverage in negotiations. It was an articulation of the game theory he had studied before coming to power. What were [the Soviets] going to do? Kissinger said dismissively.

— Jeremi Suri, Wired 16.03 (March 2008): The Nukes of October

This is how the State and its exquisitely trained court intellectuals protect you: they steal your money; they use your stolen money to hire armed men who will keep you corralled inside an artificial border; on the basis of their arrogated power over everything inside border, they then throw themselves into ridiculous posturing and pissing contests with other States, over whose artificial borders should go where, over geopolitical prestige and influence, and over politicians’ dreams of a historical legacy; and then, in the name of their own pride, they commission their trained theoretical experts to devise a thermonuclear game of chicken to play for leverage in the Great Game. It was, after all, only the lives of a few hundreds of millions of ordinary people that were hanging in the balance; not like it was anything important compared to the personal honor of Richard Milhous Nixon, or a negotiated settlement that wouldn’t embarrass the United States federal government in front of all the other governments.

… On the most obvious level, the mission failed. It may have scared the Soviets, but it did not compel them to end their support for Hanoi, and the North Vietnamese certainly didn’t dash to Paris to beg for peace. … More than 35 years after Giant Lance, I asked Kissinger about it during a long lunch at the Four Seasons Grill in New York. Why, I asked, did they risk nuclear war back in October 1969? He paused over his salad, surprised that I knew so much about this episode, and measured his words carefully. Something had to be done, he explained, to back up threats the US had made and to push the Soviets for help in Vietnam.

No, it didn’t.

Tyranny means never having to say you’re sorry

Here’s a brief clipping from Wired’s recent profile on Bill Baker, a structural engineer who specializes in gigantic skyscrapers. He’s currently working on a project for the Emir of Dubai which, when completed, will be the tallest building in the world:

In spring 2003, a pair of developers invited Baker and two of SOM’s managing partners to dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Manhattan skyline. The developers worked for a company in Dubai called Emaar, and they wanted to construct the tallest building in the world. Dubai was eager to make its mark, and because its ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (known affectionately by locals as Sheikh Mo), supported the project, there would be no litigious neighbors or pesky air traffic controllers to muck things up. There are some places in the world that are like, Let’s do it, get it done, Baker says. Dubai is one of those places. Emaar gave SOM two weeks to submit a proposal for a residential building, to be known as the Burj Dubai. The Dubai Tower.

— Andrew Blum, The Ultrabuilder, in Wired 15.12 (December 2007), p. 224.

In other words, this monumental building project got rammed through, while the people who have to live in its shadow and the airline operators that have to fly around it are legally prevented from doing anything to effectively voice their objections, let alone to get some kind of compensation for the inconveniences, costs and disruptions that such gigantic projects inevitably impose on their private property or their long-established business in common resources and transit lanes. That’s because Bill Baker’s gigantic skyscraper is the pet project of Sheikh Mo, the enormously wealthy, relentlessly self-aggrandizing, and completely unaccountable petty tyrant of Dubai, who can personally manipulate any legal proceeding, override any attempt by ordinary people to get some kind of redress, and shove around any business in the country, if any of them threaten to get in the way of yet another multimillion dollar monument to himself.

It takes a certain kind of mindset to crow about the will and the ability to trample on everybody else’s homes, lives, and livelihoods in order to get a big project rammed through as if it were the positive, can-do sort of attitude that the political-development complex ought to adopt always and everywhere. That mindset is no less tawdry and mean for being so common amongst the most powerful, influential and well-connected people on earth.

Anti-Abortion Terrorist Site Held Liable, After All

Anti-abortion terrorism took a punch to the gut today. With a 6-5 vote to reversing its previous decision, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the "Nuremberg Files," an anti-abortion terrorist site, could be held liable for what amounted to threats of murder [Wired]. The site had listed names, addresses, and other personal information about abortion providers and pro-choice advocates, and crossed out the names of listees who were murdered, listing them as "casualties" of war. The reversal of ruling follows a petition to the court with amicus briefs from a huge coalition of reproductive rights groups, the American Medical Association, and forty-three members of Congress, to hold an en banc review of the decision [GT].

Although it reversed its previous decision to throw out the case, the Court also ordered a lower court ot reduce its previous $108,500,000 award of punitive damages, to lessen the ratio between the punitive damages and the $12,000,000 award of compensatory damages.

Previously, the Circuit Court of Appeals had made a specious argument on First Amendment grounds, holding that the lower court’s ruling infringed the rights to free speech of anti-choice terrorists. The site, however, was an blindingly obvious example of clear and present danger if there ever was one.

Imagine that, say, Osama bin Laden issued a fatwa declaring that, in defense of Muslim power, hawkish Right-wing legislators should be murdered. And after the campaign of terror had already slaughtered a few of them, a militant Islamist group compiled an extensive list with legislators’ personal information, home addresses, photos of their car, and even information about their childrens’ daily schedules. Then they put it online, surrounding it with background images of the blood of dead Muslims and links to photographs of dead Iraqi babies. Then they referred to a Holy War against the persecutors of Islam. Every time another legislator was shot and killed, his name was listed as crossed-out, as a casualty of jihad. Every time one was wounded, it was dimmed, as a non-fatal casualty. The site would continue to do this even after there was credible information indicating that its list had been used in some of the murders. Would this be — rightly — seen as a terrorist site? Would there be 6-5 rulings on whether or not it constituted an exercise of the right to free speech? I think it would rightly be seen as part of a coordinated campaign of terror, inciting and enabling violence against its selected targets.

Anti-abortion individuals and groups have every legal right to post their views online. They have every legal right to go around posting images of bloody fetuses. They have every right to single out particular doctors for (non-libelous) commentary, even the most lunatic ranting and raving. But they have no right to make what, in the context of a coordinated campaign of anti-abortion terror, amounts to an overt death threat. I take this shit very personally. My mother has worked in reproductive health in clinics that provided abortions, including in one of the towns in north Florida which was later served by Dr. David Gunn until he was murdered in Pensacola. I have friends who work for abortion providers today. I am and intend to continue being a politically visible pro-choice advocate. I thank the Court for their ruling to hold anti-abortion terrorists responsible for their actions.

The case is also interesting in that it upholds the RICO charges against the defendents. This will be an issue in the upcoming Supreme Court hearings on NOW v. Scheidler, in which racketeering law was used against Operation Rescue, Joe Scheidler, and other perpetrators of organized anti-abortion violence. The Supreme Court held in 1993 that RICO law was applicable in the case; the jury found them guilty; the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the conviction. The Supreme Court has declined to hear a First Amendment challenge against the ruling, but will hear arguments on some technical points pertaining to the RICO charges.

Despite this ruling, I don’t expect that the Nuremberg Files will be leaving the news any time soon. Especially with such a razor-thin ruling, I think we can expect to see appeals headed straight toward the Supreme Court on this case. Given the razor-thin division of the Supreme Court on the issue of abortion, I think I can safely predict that we will continue to live in interesting times with regard to this issue for a while yet.

For further reading:

  • GT 4/23/2001 Repro Rights Coalition Challenges Anti-Abortion Terrorist Website
  • GT 3/29/2001 Ruling Against Anti-Abortion Terrorist Site Overturned
  • GT 3/11/2001 Anti-Abortion Terrorist Convicted for Online Bounty
  • GT 3/10/2001 Happy National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers!