You know what would make an excellent religion? That the world is a computer game and so we must make offerings to the players controlling our lives and our universe.

What would an offering consist of you ask? Why, whatever you think would make your player happy. If you believe helping out the poor and the sick would make them happy, do that. Think amassing vast amount of resources while others starve is what would grease their gears? Get after it! The best part of being a Computerist is that you can tell if it’s working! Do the thing, if your life gets better, it is working! If it doesn’t try something else until it does work.

Of course then we have to decide what it means for a life to get better. This is also pretty much trial and error. Don’t like where you’re living? Move. If you’re always honest and your life sucks, maybe you should try lying. That might impress the player. Should I capitalize player? Nah, I like the idea of a lower case deity. It’s just some outer space nerd playing video games after all.

Wait, you might be say, shouldn’t you avoid insulting your player? I have no idea. Despite founding the religion, I have no more knowledge as to how to benefit from it than you do. So far it seems like my player likes me ok, knows I talk a bit of shit and the player doesn’t mind, at least if the quality of my life is any indication. It hasn’t been perfect, but I have to say, it’s been good. A few ups, a few downs, a lot of decency. Player, you’re doing fine by my book. Hopefully the fact I discovered you doesn’t fuck with the algorithm.

So, you make offerings to please the players, you have to just guess what your individual player wants from you, and you gauge the success of your offerings on the quality of your life, and adjust accordingly. I’m going to need someone else to take this on though, I already have a religion to run.

The COBC Response to the State of the Union

That guy who got significantly less votes than his opponent, but then is still president because the several people in North Dakota get as many votes as the entire West Coast, made a speech yesterday. I felt it elicited a response.

Regarding the World War Two veterans and the astronauts who went to the moon, great job. Really, that was super cool. It was awesome how the WWII veterans defeated an entire nation consumed with the hatred of foreigners and religious minorities. I loved it when they did that. Specifically when they destroyed the Nazis, because Nazis are scumbags. Going to the moon was awesome too, it was really sweet how the nation used the money made from a tax rate of about 70% on any income over the equivalent of $700,000. It’s almost like if we make really wealthy people pay back into the system that allowed them to get so stinking rich, then we can do really amazing things. Maybe we should try that again.

Pretty hilarious this guy talking about overcoming partisanship. Anyone who takes that seriously has been living under a twitter free rock for the last couple years. Anyone pretending to is a hack.

I see he invited the families of people murdered by illegal immigrants. You know who isn’t here? The families of children murdered by other children. The families of people accidentally murdered by their own children. The families of people murdered en masse by some strange psychopath with an arsenal fit for a squadron of soldiers. The families of people murdered by an abusive spouse. I feel bad for the families who lost their kids, but seems like a pretty horrible way to try and make a point, parading their grief as if it proves anything.

Ah yes, the economy. Remember when the policies of George W. Bush destroyed the economy, and then Barack Obama built it back into one of the strongest in the world? Because this guy does not remember it. His good buddy Sean Hannity, a moron, denied it was even happening while it very clearly and obviously happened. Glad it’s still going strong though, way to not destroy it yet.

As far as wages going up, I’m glad to hear it. When it hits $15 an hour in Las Cruces, in El Paso, in Kansas City, let me know. That’s the baseline. In New York it should be twice that, same as in Seattle, and in San Francisco. There is exactly zero rationality behind allowing a handful of people to have billions and billions of dollars, while others starve to death. There is no justification for anyone having so much money that they couldn’t spend all of it on themselves in a million years, while children sit freezing in their homes, gnawing on bread and drinking poisoned water. We have to abandon the idea that billionaires are a laudable part of the American Dream. Their existence is a travesty, a mistake. Raising wages significantly is only the first step, and it must go hand in hand with ways to bolster our small, independent businesses, but it is the first step.

It doesn’t matter how much energy we can export (or that we are a net exporter thanks primarily to the policies of the previous president). All that matters is that we stop destroying the planet to do so. There is a big ball of thermonuclear energy sitting in the sky, ready to power millions of homes. There’s a gentle breeze outside of my window ready to augment that power. The way we discovered to power our cars and lightbulbs 150 years ago was literally the worst way to do so. We should divorce ourself from this idiotic method and become the world’s leader in renewable energy.

Ha! He actually said that the government can’t function while the president is being investigated. That is the government functioning, dummy!

Prison sentencing reform is huge, and an actual bright spot. The First Step Act, a truly bipartisan bill, is a tremendous achievement. My favorite part is that the bill acknowledges that locking people in a cage for some period of time, having them grounded by the federal government for being naughty, does not improve our society. Not every person who has committed a crime could earn their way back into civilization, but every person ought to have a chance. When they do, when they graduate or earn that certification, when they find work, when they’ve been successfully reporting to a PO for a significant period, these people need to be recognized as full citizens, voting rights and all.

Oh, I was wondering if he was going to discuss the wall. You know what would make me believe this administration cares about immigrants? If they didn’t separate small children from families seeking asylum. If they acknowledged the role United States policy had in rendering so many Central and South American countries impoverished. Even just an acknowledgement that it was totally hypocritical for the children of immigrants who live here now, which is everyone that isn’t Native American, to deny right of entry to those who wish to follow in those ancestors footprints. It is all the more stunning given that we took the whole of the Southwest, including all of California, from Mexico by force less than 200 years ago. Imagine that happening today, the United States deciding to annex the rest of Mexico. If we did, it wouldn’t even be a fraction of what we have already taken.

Our approach to immigration should take into account the fact that the vast majority of people in this country are the progeny of immigrants. It should take into account that this land was occupied by societies that were 10,000 years old before Europeans arrived and tried very hard to destroy them completely. It should take into account those same Europeans built this nation through the widespread use of human beings who were kidnapped, beaten, tortured, had their children pried from their arms, and forced to work under threat of death for over 200 years. There is no “our” that this land belongs to, this land can only be morally justified if it is approached as an experiment, one in which people from all over the world can partake in. This was not the intent of the founders of this country, not really, but it is a contemporary manifestation of the idea of the Land of the Free. Open the borders wide, provide support systems for every single human, and treat each individual with respect and judicial equality, that is the American Dream.

Great, a new trade deal, I’m sure everyone in the Apple factories all over China are super excited. the fact is that if we aren’t working to ensure that the people building our phones, computers, cars, and televisions aren’t being treated as human beings, then we are destroying peoples lives by proxy. If there are people working in sweatshops, we are employing them. If the United States is to have any relevance in the discussion of raising the standard of living across the world, that is where it starts. From what I can tell, our trade deals only affect the amount of money people who already have billions make. The prices of these things might go up or down, but until they go up in order to provide a decent wage to the people constructing these things, it’s almost irrelevant. The only relevance is to the degree the poor in our country are affected, caused to be unable to buy the things that they need, and that is a discussion that revolves around minimum wage, not trade.

Yeah, medicine is really expensive. I’m legitimately glad this is being acknowledged. Also, you know how if you are pregnant, you have to have money to have your baby in a hospital? That seems bad, too. Also all those people who lose their houses over medical care, many of whom are insured. Hey, remember how the government uses a bunch of its money to provide roads, bridges, public schools, the post office, national parks, police, and defense? What if it provided healthcare too? It seems like that would fall right in line all those things. Unless you are making millions and billions off of our current lack of a healthcare system, you don’t have an argument. We need to give every person in the United States access to medical care regardless of their financial situation. As of right now, if we do cure AIDS and cancer, it will only be for those who can afford the treatments. That is cruel. It cannot be acceptable.

Here’s a bone for the pro-lifers. Remember when men were told that they had to raise any and every child they fathered, regardless of the circumstances? Oh, that didn’t happen? Huh, then maybe we shouldn’t ask women to either.

Venezuela was brought down through the government selling out its resources to make a few people rich while the rest of the country starved. If that’s socialism, we’re already there. If you mean the kind of socialism where the government collects taxes to provide basic resources to the citizens, things like roads, bridges, public schools, the post office, national parks, police, and defense, we actually aren’t that far off either. Ensure a basic standard of living through a progressive minimum wage, and ensure that every person in the United States has access to health care, and we are in. We essentially have a foot on two different paths, the one that leads to a Venezuelan situation is not far away, and creeping closer all the time, but neither is the one that leads us to being a truly first world, 21st century, society.

Talking about the Middle East always reminds me of a Bill Hicks bit about using our weaponized technology to instead shoot food into people’s mouths. I’m tired of this president, he could have decided to focus solely on the expansion and improvement of infrastructure, on developing an exploratory space program, on being the leader who fully invested in 21st century energy, and brought its vast riches to the United States. Instead the hands of billionaires are shoved up his backside, flapping his mouth about. These ventriloquists shout about horror and fear and hate, but in every instance, even where the problems are very real, its only purpose is to distract the masses from the happiness and resources that it is being deprived of, in order to ensure that these billionaires keep their Scrooge McDuck silos of gold.

I do not believe they will win. There is a bright side to this circus of a presidency, and that is the fact it has brought together millions of people who aren’t willing to live in this world anymore. I’m so happy to see women saying they won’t put up with the bullshit of entitled men anymore, and I am just as happy to see men agreeing with them. I love seeing progressive nations around the world embracing renewable energy, and am hopeful it isn’t too late. I’m heartened by the politicians getting arrested at airports for defending a human beings right to be of their religion. I’m so glad to see people standing up for their kids, be they gay, transgender, non-binary, or anything else. I’m particularly happy about the kids stating without question that they will not stand to live in a world where going to school feels like stepping on to a battlefield. I am no Pollyanna, there is so much work to do, and it feels like for every step forward we’ve taken in the last 300 years, we are taking two steps back. I see a future, however, in which we’ve gained each of those steps and a thousand times more.

Love you,

The Church of Black Coffee

p.s. I don’t know why I even talk, Bill Hicks always already said it better.

Humans aren’t very smart.

Here’s the deal, I’m not sure all the words and stuff we’re building prove any kind of meaningful intelligence.

As far as the words go, most animals have a way to communicate the desire for coitus, impending danger, and food. It might just be the case that they don’t have any inclination to talk about anything else. I’m not sure the fact us sapiens can’t keep our mouth shut about anything makes us smarter than them.

Then there’s the building stuff part. I gotta say, seems like any animal that doesn’t have to destroy its habitat to live in it is smarter than we are. Take the fridge away from most humans and they are dead in a week, that seems kind of stupid really. It isn’t just that we can’t live in the forest, it’s that we have to chop the forest down in order to not live in it.

We can’t even use the stuff that was already lying around, the stuff every single other species on the planet thrives on without any kind of a problem. We have to make totally new shit out of everything, we have to chop trees down, how else could we have pencils? Or a place to sit? We figure out how to make plastic, quickly realize that plastic is killing everything on the planet, and so decide to make way more of it.

Now, I’m not that naive, I know the background. Destroying the planet makes people rich, so isn’t it smart to do that? Well, what the fuck? Figure out a way to get rich without destroying the goddamn planet if you’re such a genius. Maybe you can’t, but that still leaves the question of whether it is intelligent to covet massive amounts of wealth. Doesn’t it seem like achieving even the smallest degree of wisdom would involve understanding the limited capacity money has to cause happiness?

Now before you go calling me a hypocrite, allow me. I’m writing words on a plastic computer sitting on a wood desk. If blathering on while destroying the planet means being an idiot, then I’m an idiot.

I don’t really have anything to add to that.

On Veterans

The argument can be stated as such.

  1. If you are willing to risk your life for a worthy cause, then you ought to be recognized by others for doing so.
  2. Enlisting in the military is risking your life.
  3. The military exists to defend a nation.
  4. The defense of a nation is a worthy cause.
  5. So those people who have enlisted in the military ought to be recognized by others for doing so.

I find premises 3 and 4 to be questionable, for many reasons, but that isn’t my point here. I have friends and family who are veterans and I care about them very much, and I believe they joined the military because they believe in premises 3 and 4, that’s my point.

Today is Veteran’s Day. A day in which we give thanks to all of the people who have served in the Armed Forces. How do we thank them? By having this day! Where everybody who is off of work sits around and thinks about how great all those veterans are, wherever they may be. Maybe we post a picture of grandpa and Uncle Joe on the internet with a caption about how proud we are. In the meantime, 40,000 veterans will be sleeping on the street tonight, almost half of those being veterans of color, and another 1.5 million veterans are on the brink of joining them. I wonder what they think about Veteran’s Day?

The government spends more than half of its money on defense. This is in a country where if you want to have your baby in a hospital you better have cash, and you better get your ass to work the next day. A country where you have to spend $80,000 to get a job that pays $40,000 a year. A country where vast amounts of people are struggling to survive off of food stamps that are under constant threat of being taken away. We spend so much money on defense, in lieu of so much else, and yet we let even those who served in that respect suffer once their tour of duty has concluded.

For today to mean much, it needs to be backed up by a system that takes care of those people who believed in 3 and 4 so much that they abandoned the possibility of an easier and more stable life to prove it. In a perfect world, today ought to be a day that we remember those ancestors of ours who fought in wars that actually meant anything. The fact that this nation constantly produces new veterans without really explaining what the hell anybody is fighting for is ridiculous.

So, an election already happened, so I can’t really encourage you to vote. Even if I did, this isn’t an issue people make paramount to their campaign, though those candidates in favor of strengthening social services are the closest. If I have any advice, I suppose it’s to not just let days like this drift by. Today is meant to be a day to reflect on the sacrifices of veterans, so let’s do that, but do so in a way that lends itself to action. It isn’t the sacrifices that veterans chose to make that ought to drive our reflection, but the veterans who have been sacrificed by the very nation they sought to defend.



Do Whatever You Want, You Have To Anyways.

The title of this piece is false advice. If you want to hurt people, don’t. If you want to hoard money for no reason while people starve to death, or work menial jobs forever to no happy end, don’t. However, if you want to move to the beach, do. If you want to open an ice cream stand, do. If you want to forget all of your debts and walk off into the woods, go for it.

Life is singular folks. Seems very unlikely that it happens again, at the very least not in the same way it is happening right now. Which means you’ve got one chance to do what you want in this world, it is this chance, it is today. Hate your job? Quit. Don’t like your neighbors? Move. Nothing gets better through inaction, no one is coming to save you. It is up to you.

I have even better news actually, it isn’t up to you. Everything you are ever going to do is set in stone. How do I know? I don’t, but I’m pretty sure. Here’s two pieces of evidence. One is just that this life doesn’t repeat itself, which means you go through it exactly once. Every time you have acted, responded, decided, it was the only time you will ever act in that particular situation. Which means questions of what you would do differently if you had the chance are irrelevant. You won’t. Furthermore, even if you did, if you were in the exact same situation again, with the exact same information, you would make the exact same choice. How do I know? Because in that situation with that information, you made that choice. Pretending you would magically make some other choice in that exact same situation is useless, as is pretending you might have been able to learn from the mistake of that choice before having made it and so chose otherwise. Spilt milk.

The other piece of evidence is just the very nature of the universe. It’s causal. X happens, causes y why every time. The pool ball analogy is a good one. If the cue ball hits the eight ball on the exact same table at the exact same speed and angle at the exact same positions, the eight ball will move the same way every time. This has been how things have happened since the beginning. Stars forming, planets, earthquakes, waves, clouds, rainbows, all just a reaction to the laws of nature and previous events. So it is with physical phenomena. You know what else is physical phenomena? Your thoughts, your decisions, your actions. Each is just a reaction to the laws of nature and previous events. Had toast this morning? That was determined by the big bang. Broke up with your boyfriend? Big bang did that. C’est la vie.

So, don’t worry about doing whatever you want, you’re going to. Don’t worry about mistakes you’ve made, you had no choice. Free will is an illusion. Since free will is an illusion and mistakes don’t matter, go ahead and do whatever you want. Of course you shouldn’t worry about doing whatever you want, you’re going to, which means you don’t have to worry about any mistakes you’ve ever made, because you had no choice, and since your mistakes don’t matter, you may as well do whatever you want. Of course you are going to do whatever you want, so don’t worry about possible mistakes, they were inevitable, because free will is an illusion, and since mistakes don’t matter, go ahead and do whatever you want. Why are you so focused on potential mistakes anyway? Maybe it’ll be awesome.

Quotes of Thomas Paine

I am not currently up to the task of either summarizing or analyzing “Rights of Man” by Thomas Paine, which I read recently.  A few quotes, very few given the number of powerful and entirely relevant passages available in this work, follow.

“It suits his purpose to exhibit the consequences with their causes. It’s one of the arts of the drama, to do so. If the crimes of men were exhibited with their suffering, stage effect would sometimes be lost and the audience would be inclined to approve where it was intended they commiserate.”

“Man did not enter into society to become worse than he was before, or to have fewer rights than he had before, but to have those rights better secured.”

“Man can be kept ignorant, but he cannot be made ignorant.”

“When it is laid down as a maxim that a king can do no wrong it places him in a similar security with that of idiots and persons insane and responsibility is out of the question.”

(Italics on that last quote are mine, I’ll tell you that I added them because it seems as though Thomas Paine was talking specifically about the insane idiot that is currently the president of the United States, just in case that wasn’t clear).



The Trolley (continued)

The brakes on the train lock up, they sound like a giant dragging his fingernails across a city wide blackboard. The man sitting on the bridge leans forward, as if he is trying to get a better look. You decide you’ll save the children, one life sacrificed to save five others, that in itself is sufficient justification. You rush forward, and the man looks over at you.

“Oh, hello Sarah.” he says.

It’s your cousin, someone you haven’t seen in years, but your kin all the same. You should have recognized him, but you didn’t. You falter, tripping over your steps, but your momentum is determined. Your cousin puts up his hands, tries to swing his legs back over the bridge, but it’s too late. You connect with him, and he topples over the side. When the train comes to stop it is with your cousin’s body edging up against the first child. The children are saved, you saved them. You also murdered your cousin.

A flash of light blinds you, seems to take up the entire world, and then fades away. You are standing on top of the bridge again, your cousin sits on the edge of the bridge. The brakes have just begun to squeal.

(to be continued)

The Trolley

In your town a bridge crosses an expanse of railway tracks that lead to a terminating depot. Often people stand on the bridge, watching the trains roll into their final destination, or take off again. It is not the majestic scenery of the nearby mountains or lakes, but in the context of a city, for those appreciative of the massive capacity of humankind for producing infrastructure, it is nice to look at.

One day, early in the morning, you are walking across that bridge. It is nearly empty, a rare event, with the lone observer sitting upon the railing of the bridge, his feet dangling over the tracks. Not an entirely safe position, but the man is clearly an adult, an impressively sized adult at that. A giant almost. You edge over to the railing yourself, so as to see the tracks, and you stop. Your heart seems to skip a beat. Down there, as if in a Dudley Doright cartoon, are children tied to the train tracks. Five of them. Screaming for help.

“Holy shit!” you scream.

“I know.” says the other man.

A train is approaching, it’s horn blaring. At this stage it does not move quickly, but neither can it apply the brakes quickly enough to stop before hitting the children, and regardless of its speed the impact is going to end the lives of each child. In a blur of thoughts one seems to ring out a little more clearly. The man is sitting directly above the track, and the combination of the frantically screeching brakes of the train and the weight of the man might be sufficient to save them. Why is he sitting there anyway? Why didn’t he call for help right away? Did he tie them to the tracks? There isn’t time to ask, you either push the man, surely killing him but saving the lives of the children, or you don’t, and the children will die.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.


(to be continued)