The Continuity of Government

I have a morbid fascination with the worst-case scenario. When something horrible happens, what happens next? This is the reason I love disaster films like Pacific Rim, 2012, Independence Day, Godzilla (the 1954 original), Godzilla (the 1998 crap-shoot), The Day After Tomorrow, Deep Impact, and Contagion; because that’s when interesting things happen. Oh sure, all these films are far-fetched, but that’s why they’re so interesting, because they’re scenarios which we’re unlikely to prepare for. So if they did happen, how the people react and how the world reacts can reveal much about the world we live in.

Take Pacific Rim for example. Giant monsters start stampeding through major cities around the world. At first, we convince ourselves they’re isolated incidents, but after the fourth attack, we start to see the pattern. In response, we start building giant robots to fight them off because we’ve watched too much anime.

Actually, I’ve argued this to a few friends before. In this scenario, giant robots make a bizarre amount of sense because the alternatives are guns and bombs. And really, what would you do if you were fighting a human being? Throw a few needles at their legs, throw a firecracker in their face (which is likely to just piss them off), or grab them in a headlock and punch them in the face twelve times? Obviously the last one. Scale this up, and you have the bloody Jaeger program.

But eventually, the program doesn’t seem to be that effective. The solution? Build a wall, because that’ll stop the stampeding monsters. They each weigh around 3,000 tons! Unless the wall’s constructed from solid vibranium, what are the odds that it’ll hold up if a Kaiju so much as leans on it? But it’s at this stage that the world is panicking. They’re almost certain that the end of the world is upon them, so they try whatever they can to survive, even if it’s futile.

In contrast our heroes decide the most rational response is one final attack at the source of the invasion. Something they tried before and failed. So why they thought it would work this time is beyond me. But they are also panicking. Realizing the world’s coming to an end, one last attack, one last blaze of glory is all they’re after.

This is interesting. This is how they react when the end is nigh. With nothing left to lose, they try whatever they can think of to hold off the end, hold onto hope, and hold onto sanity. The one thing they don’t want to do is give up.

But this is a scenario that humanity is unprepared for, and we’d be insane to prepare for it. It’s so far-fetched that it’s not even worth considering as a potential issue. But there are other, slightly less horrible and slightly more plausible scenarios that we could plan for; and we have.

During the Cold War, the worst-case scenario was real possibility: Nuclear war. Everyone thought it would be almost inevitable, with both America and the Soviet Union continually glaring and each other, and fighting proxy wars all over the planet, that eventually someone would take it just a bit too far and trigger a war that would result in millions dead, and half the planet rendered uninhabitable.

And they planned for it.

They planned for everything. What if the war started, and the President wasn’t near a phone? Well, he had the Nuclear Football, allowing him to launch a counter-strike from anywhere in the world. Dark.

But what about after? What would happen after the bombs dropped, and the President and Vice President didn’t survive? Who would lead America? Well thankfully, there are plans for that as well. There are two members of the legislature, as well as the entire US Cabinet, eligible to take up the presidency, if anyone above them is unable to. The technical term for this is the line of succession, and virtually every country has this kind of thing enshrined in law. But in the US that’s only 18 people. If all them are gone, which is likely in a nuclear war, there’s no one left. If they all die, no one can take up the presidency, not without being elected and that takes time. So, how do we prevent this? Yes, they planned for that too. You see, during any event where the President of the United States, the Vice President, and everyone else in the line of succession are in the same room, at the same time, one is excused, brought to a secret location, given a full Secret Service detail, and in the event that something horrible happens, they are elevated to the presidency.

They are known as the designated survivor.

But would this ever actually happen? Probably not. But what if it did? How would America react? How would the world react? And how would their new President react?

Kinda like that…

Yes, in the new series, Designated Survivor, Keifer Sutherland plays the designated survivor… then the President of the United States, and the last surviving official of the US federal government. And that’s just the first three minutes. Continue reading

Alone in the Smooze

Let me explain to you how my brain works… this will be difficult.

Every time something good happens in my life, I assume it’ll go bad. This is a big problem when friendships are involved.

Every time I’ve developed, or started to develop, some type of friendship with someone, something always goes wrong. And it’s never my fault, it’s always them! Everyone hates me and it was always inevitable!

And I know what you’re thinking: That makes no sense. And it doesn’t. But that’s how my brain ends up processing the situation. It’s always something small and sometimes trivial that takes place, causing me to feel like it’s all over, and I should just throw it all away. It doesn’t take much for my brain to interpret something as absolute rejection, and convert it into absolute derision. And by the time I realize that, it’s hard to go back.

It wasn’t always this way. Back in high school, I was very clingy as a friend, and it would take a person cursing me out to get me to leave them alone. Which actually almost happened.

But now, I’ve gone in the complete opposite direction. Now I’m overly sensitive to it. Now any minor thing will get me to fall apart. And I think it might be due to my fragile self-esteem, and a debilitating social anxiety. It’s hard to approach people, and when I do, if they’re not 100% open, my brain just cries ‘abort’ and I walk away.

And I can only wonder if I’m alone in this.

Possibly not.

For instance: Discord! My spirit animal!

And I’ll explain how as I write another piece on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The show that never stops teaching me about myself. Continue reading

Not As It Seems

During the series one finale of Broadchurch (which, if you haven’t seen yet, you should), we learned who killed Daniel Latimer. We also learned that it was unintentional. The killer (whom I will not name here) didn’t mean to kill the kid, just scare him, but got a bit carried away. But obviously, that doesn’t excuse it.

Though it begs the question: What exactly was going through the minds of the writers when they came up with that? Not to say it was a bad idea. I actually liked it. But what is the reasoning, thematically, behind framing the big murder as unintentional, rather than deliberate?

Well, let’s analyse this carefully. If the murderer deliberately killed Danny, and was thinking: “I want this little prick dead!” It would’ve made it much harder to handle. Because the idea that a complete sociopath could live a life in a small town without anyone noticing, is a bit beyond the pale, and probably more appropriate for something like Dexter.

It’s also the reason I think Gracepoint completely screwed that up. Sure, it’s even easier to believe that Danny’s death could’ve been a complete accident, but a major theme of the series was the idea that even though there’s a shell of sweetness and joy, this small town has a dark centre that’ll slowly get exposed. But Gracepoint didn’t really have a dark centre, because Danny’s death was a complete accident. The moral equivalent of a brick falling on his head. Terrible, but not intentional.

Ending what is ostensibly a thriller by revealing it was all just a horrible accident isn’t really appropriate for a dark character drama. It’s more appropriate for an episode of My Little Pony!

Oh by the way: spoiler warning. I’m going to talk about My Little Pony again. Continue reading

How the Rainbow Stole Winter

I’ll be honest, I love winter. And I doubt it’s for the reasons you think it is.

It’s not because of winter sports. Mainly because I hate sports. Although, I say that, but just this past winter, I got back into skiing, which is something I hadn’t done in over a decade, and I genuinely had a lot of fun. And who knows? Maybe I’ll get another chance this coming winter. But it’s not really something I’d go out of my way for. It was fun, but expensive, and also very uncomfortable trying to fit my freakishly large feet into those tiny metal braces. (They’re not actually metal, but they might as well be.) And then there’s the cold weather trying to bite my face off. So, honestly, I can take or leave it.

So what about Christmas? Well, let me put it this way: I’m an atheist, and I don’t like my family, and I never get any gifts unless you count cash, which I don’t. So no, I can’t say I like Christmas.

So why do I like winter? The atmosphere. The world around you becomes soft and white, like a pure cotton blanket has been delicately placed atop it. And as the outside, cold and frightful, bares down on your home, you can remain inside, with a cup of tea, and good book, next to a warm fire (or space heater, depending on the fire code), safe, cozy, and content.

Basically, I like to hibernate during the winter. In fact, there’s this island in Lake Huron called Mackinac that I visited a few times as a child. The only way on or off the island is by ferry, so once winter hits, the entire place is locked down. Because of this, I have this secret fantasy. I want to spend a winter there. Actually, I want to spend a whole year, but winter would be part of it. At home, isolated, little contact with the outside, I’d only have to leave to replenish my food reserves, which would be relatively easy since it’s a small island. To me, that would be perfect. They have a newspaper! The Town Crier! I could work as a reporter there! Or possibly manage the local digital infrastructure, or be the go-to computer repair guy. I assure you, I can pay my way in even the most isolated of communities, and I would love it! However, this fantasy is slightly kicked in the head by the fact that there’s an airport and internet connection. But cut me some slack, I’m slightly dependant on the web at this stage. Without Google, I’d probably snap. And without regular shipments from the mainland, I don’t see how I could manage a computer repair business anyway.

But you get my point, right? I love winter. It’s the only time I have an excuse to never leave the house. And I’m sure many share my perspective.

But not Rainbow Dash.

No, she hates the idea of staying inside where one won’t freeze their nipples off, which is where she comes into conflict with Tank, her pet turtle/tortoise/who-gives-a-shit!? Because apparently, he’s planning to hibernate for the winter. And she does not like it. Continue reading

The Filly Who Wouldn’t Grow Up

I think I may be afraid of growing up. And that is a terrifying revelation to come to in your late 20s.

This is something I only recently noticed. Because next year, I’ll be graduating college for the second time, and I have no idea what’s going to happen. After all, my last college diploma didn’t do so well for me, if I’m honest.

For a start, I’ll have to move out of the college dorms, and I have no idea where I could move to and be able to pay for. I mean, if I don’t find a well-paying job, I might have to live is some shitty share house again! I don’t want that! Mainly because I don’t want another surly and obnoxious roommate whose major hobby is calling me a ‘fag’!

Though that’s unlikely to happen, regardless.

But can that really be defined as a fear of growing up? I’m not sure. I think it’s just fear of the unknown… fear of uncertainty… fear that I won’t be able to support myself. I’m not afraid of working, I’m afraid of not working. And given how the economy has been going these past few years, it’s not looking up.

But more than that, what if I get a job I hate? Alright, I’m getting paid, but I’m miserable at the same time, so it wouldn’t really be worth it. There comes a stage where you have to admit that the job you have is worse than starvation. I really hope I never reach that point. Then again, I’m learning IT, which is slowly making me want to live among the Amish.

Am I alone here? Almost certainly not. There are probably many people around the world genuinely afraid of what their future holds… and many ponies.

Yes, Apple Bloom. The precocious little filly who’s been spending the last several years desperate to lose her virginity– Uh, I mean, get her cutie mark, is now deathly afraid of it. Oh how times change… Continue reading

A Small Fish in a Big Pond

For some reason, these days I’ve been watching a lot of ‘Let’s Plays.’

You know what a ‘Let’s Play’ is, right? They’re those videos people post of gameplay footage, accompanied by their own boring commentary.

Generally, I watch them for the talk, because the right commentator can make even the most boring game in the world, a fascinating piece of work. Case in point: Gabe and Yahtzee, who do the ‘Let’s Drown Out’ series on YouTube. They’re entertaining, insightful, and hilarious as they talk about gaming news, answer viewer questions, and comment on random shit while one of them plays a game.

It may not sound that great, but for some reason, the formula works. And half the time I just pick a random episode and use it as background noise while I’m doing some menial stuff around the house.

One of their most recent videos featured them playing ‘Papers, Please,’ (which is a really good game, by the way) and their discussion naturally drifted toward communism. Or should I say: COMMUNISM!!! [shake fist dramatically]

That doesn’t work as well in text.

Anyway, it got me thinking about why communism has never worked in the past. And really, it all comes down to the fact that no country has ever had enough money to pull it off.

Alright, part of it is human nature. If you’re not getting rewarded for doing a good job over a bad job, why would you bother doing a good job? And if everyone gets paid the same regardless of skill set, why wouldn’t you just pick the easiest job you can find?

But let’s be honest, how many jobs out there can be described as, ‘shit’? How many jobs are lamented with the phrase, ‘it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it’? How many jobs does no one want to fucking do!?

So imagine a world where that’s no longer an issue. Imagine a world where toilets were self-cleaning, robots handled shipping and loading at factories and warehouses, where machines handled our customer service… Actually, we already got that last one, which proves my point. Eventually, that’ll become a reality, and there’ll be no demand for shit work. So what does one do? How does one earn an honest living? Well, in that world, we’ll be so bogged down with resources, we won’t care! We’ll just give you food, fuck it!

This was what was envisioned by Gene Roddenberry: the Star Trek economy. They have no money in Star Trek, so they do what they want to, not what they need to.

But why would they even bother working at all in that world? Well, for recognition, responsibilities, power, fun, or simply maintaining their own sanity! It’s not for personal gain, but personal growth.

But even with plentiful resources, there is only so much land mass on this planet. How do we control that? If we can get anything we want without working for it, how do we stop people just taking five-story mansions and claiming that as their own?

Which finally leads me to a very important point: I don’t think that’s an issue, because not only does no one person need a five-story mansion all to themselves, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t even want it if they had it!

Now, to be honest, I’m not someone you’d call ‘cheap’. I do have expensive tastes. I like fine wines, and imported Scotch Whisky. I like a good meal in a fancy restaurant, Earl Grey tea, and a well-made cup of coffee (which I still haven’t found in this town). I like a custom-tailored suit and tie, with nice shoes and a sweet hat. I like nice things. What I don’t like is a giant house with 27 rooms unless it’s a goddamn orphanage! Do you know what my dream home has? A bedroom, an office, a kitchen, a bathroom, and if I’m feeling cheeky: an entertainment room for all the entertaining I never do. And if I’m living with other people, like a wife and family for instance, we’re sharing most of that.

So why would anyone in their right mind want a house ten times bigger than they need!? Where half the time you’d enter a room and go: ‘Oh, this is new, never been in here before’? Where you can get lost on your way to the loo? Where every room just reminds you of how alone you are?

No one would want that!

And that brings us, in a roundabout way, to another episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Establishing, once again, that Twilight isn’t princess material, and for once, I mean that in a good way. Continue reading

The Stepford Ponies

I’m perplexed by conformity. This desire by some people to fit in, and be the same.

Not that I don’t understand people wanting to be part of a group. That I certainly get. We all want friends, and companionship, and what better way than by being part of a group? We are social animals after all.

No, what I don’t get is people seeing a group, and deciding to fit into it by changing who they are. That is perplexing to me. And you see this happening all the time; people adapting and giving into peer pressure, particularly teenagers. A lot of social fears are heightened at that age and the fear of being ostracised can lead someone to change their entire personality. Adapt to fit the crowd. Of course, these people are young, so they’re allowed to be stupid.

But I still see this happening, even years after I left high school. People are encouraged, and oftentimes forced, to adapt to the crowd and do things the way the majority does it. For instance, I’m currently learning Computer Programming (well, technically I’m on break right now) at college, and because of that, I have to run Windows on my laptop, even though I’d much prefer Linux. I know it’s a minor point for some, but it matters to me! However, one could argue a practical limitation here. It’s very hard to develop Windows applications on Linux.

But that’s not the only pressure I experience. For instance, I prefer open source software, and whenever I mention I don’t use Microsoft Office, people look at me like I got a third arm growing out of my chest.

I know, I know. It’s a very IT-specific point to make. I’m sure most people couldn’t give a shit about my software preferences.

But here’s my point: You shouldn’t let that happen. You shouldn’t let other people determine what makes you, you. Mainly because if we did that, we would stop being. If you’re the same as everyone else, we wouldn’t need you anymore, because we have everyone else. Which sounds very nihilistic, but it’s not untrue. What makes us important, and gives us value, is what makes us unique and different.

And I’m sure I won’t get anyone to question that. I’m sure everyone can agree that we should cherish what makes us unique. Right?

Well, perhaps not everyone. Which brings us to the fifth season première of My Little Pony! Or as I like to call it: Adventures in Stepford!

Ehh… creepy… Continue reading

We’re Gonna Take You Back To The Past

It’s been nearly two years since Edward Snowden either betrayed his country, or exposed a terrible injustice by fighting for truth and honour, depending on how you look at it.

I fall more towards the latter, if I may say. The PRISM program was a heinous case of government overreach. Not only was the NSA collecting an unprecedented amount of information on people, it was doing it without any cause to, or any apparent legal restrictions.

Now, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. I mean, I’ve watched 24, and I have to admit, I found it quite impressive and cool the way Chloe and the plucky gang at CTU used clever computer tricks to defeat the terrorists; Such as hacking their emails, tracing their cell phones, spying on them through surveillance cameras, and the like. And of course, we all knew the government was doing this kinda thing… to criminals. To people who should be monitored. Heck, that was what a good chunk of NetForce was about. They monitored and tracked people who were bad people, likely to perform terrorist attacks, massive computer hacks, and digital global takeovers. And all this means is that the rhetoric badgered on by one senator who said Snowden’s revelations somehow impaired their intelligence gathering techniques is frankly bullshit! Because we all knew, or at least suspected, that it was possible. Which meant criminals also already knew, or at least suspected, that it was possible and likely operated on that assumption. So, Snowden’s revelations didn’t change how they operated. It just justified their pre-existing paranoia.

But my point is: none of this is shocking. What was shocking is that it was being done to average citizens. The U.S. government was collecting terabytes of information on millions of people around the world, without any warrant or justification. It was a shotgun approach to espionage, and it seems they were doing it just to have the information, not necessarily to do anything with it.

Which brings us to the most bizarre thing about this whole fiasco, and that is the unusual reaction I’ve heard from many corners: Who cares? Who cares if the U.S. Government is collecting our information? It’s not like they’re going to do anything with it.

And that would be a fabulous argument, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s completely beside the point! Yes, they probably won’t do anything nasty with it. They probably won’t even look at it. They’ll just store the information on some server somewhere, and just let it rot. In which case, why even collect it to begin with? They have no need to collect our information, and can easily abuse it once they do. In fact, there have been cases of exactly that happening. Cases of NSA employees spying on their girlfriends with the information gathered by the program. And that’s only the cases that have been caught. These people are spies, you think they can’t hide that shit!?

Now, it’s true that the average citizen probably isn’t dating a spy. So they don’t have to worry. But that’s not the point. The point is, they shouldn’t even be collecting this information to begin with. There are limits to what law enforcement can do, and there are reasons those limits exist! The average citizen does not have a right to spy on my Skype messages, so why should the U.S. government? And I don’t want anyone, whether it be my best friend, or some prick in some NSA dungeon somewhere, aggregating details on my porn habits.

Wanting to maintain our individual privacy should not be a big ask.

But I think I know why some people don’t care. It’s because of Facebook. Hell, all social media is to blame for this! For years sites like Twitter, MySpace, LiveJournal, have all asked people to share the intimate details of their lives, despite the fact that it’s unlikely anyone else would give two shits. And because of this, news that the NSA has been collecting the data they thought was worth sharing makes them think: Hey, it wasn’t all pointless!

People have been willingly sharing the details of their lives with strangers around the world. So what do they care if the NSA just happens to be watching as well?

So I guess it’s a generational thing. Those young people who grew up on social media don’t see a problem, while those of us who are older and wiser, do. And it makes you think: What are the limits of this? What will be the point where we just give up on privacy all together? And it might be the point where a brand new and unprecedented technology eliminates privacy for us, whether we want it to or not. Perhaps a technology that allows us to witness The Light of Other Days.

Wow, that was a contrived opening, wasn’t it?

Yes, it’s time to talk about the incredible novel of time, space and insanity by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, The Light of Other Days. And let me tell ya, I’m glad I finally get to write about an unambiguously good book for once. Continue reading