Dystopia Arrives

The dystopia genre has enjoyed a lot of attention the last decade with hits like The Hunger Games, Blade Runner 2049, and Automata as a few examples. To me, a dystopian film is set in the near future with a focus on society more than technology. In my late teens and early 20s I loved reading the cyberpunk genre which often was a dystopian view but also focused on technology as a carrier of the film, like the more recent Ready Player One does. So dystopian and cyberpunk often blend to me and is more about the focus and story that may set them apart.

One thing common in dystopian movies is the breakdown of society, typically at the hands of a tyrannical government that does not see all citizens as equal. In The Hunger Games, society was segregated into districts that enjoyed more or less comfort. Soldiers from the capitol enforced the rules and made sure that impoverished districts stayed that way while demanding their citizens provide resources and play in games to the death, for the entertainment of the wealthy. Even the trip to the capitol in a train showed the gap with extensive platters of food, the likes of which some contestants had never seen in their life. Their homes were in a district surrounded by fences with the penalty of death for escaping. Medical care was basically non-existent in some districts and there was no way to challenge the system as democracy and voting were a thing of the past.

Similar elements can be seen in many movies including Equilibrium, Divergent, Elysium, Code 8, and the classic Fahrenheit 451 which was recently remade. We see aspects of these fictional societies in our own and it makes the movies more compelling.

We see governments becoming more authoritarian, the wealth gap widen, and millions of people being left behind. Little bits here and there keep adding up and we don’t notice the slow boil until it is too late. But I have to wonder, when does our own society reach the point that it can be considered dystopian?

I think dystopia has arrived.


During the last year, the political climate has reached critical levels as tens of millions have become disenfranchised in one manner or another. With COVID-19 devastating the entire world, even so-called “first-world” countries like the United States have seen record levels of unemployment, over-burdened food banks, over-populated prisons rocked by the pandemic, disenfranchised voters waiting half a day to vote, hospitals over capacity and turning away patients, freezer trucks used as temporary morgues due to overflow, and record levels of eviction and unhoused families. I can’t think of a book or movie that portrays it, but the “homeless sweeps” enacted in many cities are straight out of a dystopian nightmare.

The rapidly growing ad-hoc homeless encampments we see in cities are growing steadily which can increase risk to residents and businesses. Home-owners perceive their risk of becoming a victim of crime increasing and lobby to have them removed from their neighborhood. As the homeless are forced to live in tents set up in the right-of-way in front of half a million dollar homes, resentment grows. If this continues we will see a boiling point happen and there might be a homeless uprising. What do they have to lose? Jail or prison isn’t ideal by any means but it does give them shelter and food which are jeopardized every day.

Protests rocked the United States leading many cities to have government buildings and businesses boarding up windows, hiring security, while many are going out of business as the uncontrolled pandemic ravages communities. We’ve seen more fences going up in protest areas, around public space, and even around police stations.

The central element to dystopian literature and film is the tyrannical government that looks out for the upper class and has little to no concern for the rest of society. That can certainly be increasingly seen in U.S. politics the last decade and even now, congress is arguing about giving citizens a $2000 stimulus after struggling to pass a $600 payment. Meanwhile the bills are bundled with other legislation and proposals that do everything but help citizens. As certain elements of the government seek to consolidate power the level of resentment and protest increases significantly, as we saw. This has led to stand-offs and clashes between angry tax-payers and disreputable police.

This becomes cyclical as protesters become more organized and police become more militarized. The methods of law enforcement began blending with military tactics long ago and in many cases local police have become almost indistinguishable from soldiers. Police departments have been purchasing military equipment for years, giving them both offensive and defensive gear including vehicles that are overkill.

Even without gear that is considerably overpowered, police departments have the outward appearance of not taking their oaths to heart. Thousands of videos of incidents in which police used excessive force on protesters and journalists flooded Twitter in 2020. The disproportionate and indiscriminate killing of minorities have added a level of anger and contempt we haven’t seen before. Demands range from simple reform to accountability changes to the total abolition of police departments.

Think about your favorite dystopian book or movie and what aspects of that society make it dystopian in the first place. Compare those same attributes to what we have seen in the United States in the last twelve months. When you do, you might reach the same conclusion that our society has crossed the line and we live in the dystopia we have paid to enjoy through fiction until now.

So again, I think dystopia has arrived.

Photos: Presidential Race Called / Denver Celebration

I woke up this morning to the presidential race being called in favor of Joe Biden and started watching live feeds from around the country. After checking the Denver Channel 7 news feed from the helicopter I saw there were quite a few people at the capitol celebrating. Since I am fairly close I decided to walk down and experience it in person. The following pictures were taken on a Samsung Galaxy 8, so pardon the low quality. =)

First, it was a beautiful day and reached 76 days with the nice fall air. The news chopper as well as Denver Police Air 1 were circling above, as well as two small drones and a few birds. While watching the feed earlier it was interesting that a dozen Trump supporters were present, sectioned off with police tape. There were three lines of police separating them from the hundreds of Biden/Harris supporters. By the time I got there the police were already leaving the area despite a handful of Trump supporters remaining.

The police had blocked off around ten blocks to prevent traffic on three sides of the capitol as well as the Civic Center. This is obviously good for safety and worth it in the big picture, even if an inconvenience to local traffic. The empty roads in the middle of a busy city always fascinate me.

A few of the lingering Trump supporters stuck around having a discussion about politics which was encouraging to see. One supporter stood in the middle of those celebrating with a Trump Train flag as a cape and was joined shortly after by someone wearing all black and camouflage. Biden supporters asked him what his purpose was in demonstrating like that and he would not answer. I later noticed the flag-caped supporter getting into a car with a purple heart license plate confirming my hunch he was ex-military.

The Biden/Harris supporters that showed up were truly happy and celebrating the morning’s news. At one point a truck playing music for the crowd spurred a hundred people to do the electric slide.

Even with a few lingering Trump supporters, the crowd ignored them and just enjoyed themselves. After several hours at the capitol the group started marching into downtown and I headed home.

Regardless of your politics, I hope you appreciate that our country desperately needs to heal.

CNN, the TSA, and the ‘Theatre’ of Terrorism

News flash from CNN a few minutes ago:

Terrorists may try to hide explosives in toothpaste or cosmetics tubes, U.S. warns airlines flying into Russia.

A law enforcement source said the warning is based on new information and added that there is no known threat to the United States.

Wait a minute! For ten years now, Americans have had to limit toothpaste and other toiletries in their carry-on bags. Why exactly did we have to do that? If there is “no known threat to the United States” today, then why isn’t this silly restriction lifted? The original cause of this restriction was a hypothetical scenario from a consultant or academic I bet, not known cases of this being used. Even now, if we banned all toiletries including toothpaste, it would be trivial to sneak a significant amount of gel onto a plane.

Further, are they really saying that terrorists would be flying into Russia, via the U.S.? Come on, geopolitics 101 says that is absurd when there is more than a fair share of terrorists already living in proximity to Russia that would not require air travel.

Not only do we live under silly policies that enforce the illusion of anti-terrorism, but we are constantly reminded of how absurd they are. Yet, we still can’t manage to get rid of them and use tactics that have a long track record of actually working.

Are we so desperate?

The current state of U.S. politics is beyond dismal and entirely depressing. Our society only follows the corporate controlled ‘news’ channels that stump for their party-of-choice. Our congress is laughably ineffective in doing their job. The bi-partisan House/Senate can’t agree on anything, and little gets done in the pathetic number of days these overpaid politicians get paid to work.

Long ago, I told people that I would never vote for anyone that wants to be elected for a given office. If John Doe is running for President, I will not vote for him. He wants that position for a reason, and it isn’t his altruistic nature. The money, the power, and the fame drive people to politics. Even the no-name positions that we don’t care about, they are stepping stones for bigger offices.

The last few weeks remind me of why I will never vote for someone who wants office. They also remind me that our political system is full of manipulative unethical criminals, and little more.

Do you remember Eliot “Client 9” Spitzer, then Governor of New York was caught in a prostitution ring? As the Daily Show notes, he is now very forthcoming about his past. Of course, when he was caught soliciting prostitutes, that led him to now admit he didn’t maintain the ethical standards expected of him and led to his resignation.

Do you remember New York representative Anthony Weiner getting caught sending pictures of his penis to a female via Twitter? When challenged, he lied and claimed his account was ‘hacked’. Ultimately, because of his lies and unethical behavior, he resigned in the wake of the scandal.

Disagraced politicians, a dime a dozen these days. The number of anti-gay Republicans caught in homosexual encounters is enough to fill a blog. The amount of peace-loving anti-big-government Democrats that don’t support everything they claim to support could fill another blog. [Insert sentence about third political party going against their claims… oh wait.]

So jump forward to 2013. The U.S. population is around 313.9 million people. Are we so strapped for people that want to hold office, that we would actually consider someone who has already proven they do not have the ethical merit in recent years? Apparently, we are. Is it the fact that the oath many take simply says to uphold the Constitution, which most of them have a history of going against, and does not say to be an unethical lying slimeball jackass? Does that absolve them of their past transgressions, and make them justified and righteous in the public’s eye? Apparently, it does.

Eliot “Client 9” Spitzer is running for office again. Insult to injury? Spitzer has not “filed an ethics report on time with the city Conflicts of Interest Board.” If that wasn’t bad enough, and apparently it isn’t, Spitzer’s primary competitor is Kristin Davis. Who is that you ask? According to her, the leader of the escort service that supplied Spitzer with the prostitutes. Personally, I think she is telling the truth. After all, why would you lie about that going into politics?

Anthony “show my junk on Twitter” Weiner is also running for office again.

Remember Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who lied about his extramarital affair, claiming he was hiking in the mountains? Yeah, he is back, and running again too.

So again, I have to ask. Are we so desperate for politicians that we’d happily take these unethical assholes back and let them hold public office? Apparently so. Some of them are ahead in the polls already.

If you ever wonder why I don’t vote, remember this. If someone wants political office, I don’t want them. If someone has proven themselves unethical, I don’t want them. Until I see an election between two relatively honest and ethical people, then I refuse to vote. In doing so, I do not give up my right to complain about the election or outcome. Telling me I have to vote for one of two lying assholes to ‘gain’ the right to complain, means you don’t understand what our country was founded on.

At this point, I will happily accept the Harrison Bergeron model of politics.

eliot-spitzer

America; Not a Country, a Business

I watched “Killing Them Softly” a week or two ago. The movie got bad reviews, and I see why. All the right intentions, good cast, just fell short in many ways.

The best part of the movie, comes in the last few lines delivered by Brad Pitt, after killing three people the previous 24 hours and arguing over the pay owed to him.

I’m living in America, and in America, you’re on your own. America’s not a country. It’s just a business.

At some point during the last decade, I think society has become numb to how true this is. Lobbying congress is a multi-million-dollar industry. Corporations are people. PACs dominate unlimited anonymous spending to influence those in power. Companies use tax loopholes to pay pennies on the dollar, if anything at all.

Corporations and retail outlets are light years ahead of where the average consumer understands. Psychologists and lawyers are a stronger presence in marketing than anything else. Our laws are plagued with crafty wording that can be selectively abused, where crude oil is conveniently labeled as “diluted bitumen” so billion dollar companies don’t pay the same taxes, nor are they required to pay to clean up the mess they make. And it doesn’t matter that said company already admitted it was heavy crude.

We continue to spend staggering amounts on wars we can’t win; whether it is the war on drugs, Iraq, Afghanistan, or Terror doesn’t matter. Try to truly grasp those numbers and understand that war is an industry, and friends or family of our elected leaders profit heavily off these wars.

Meanwhile, our country lags in education, has millions in poverty or face hunger, maintains the biggest disparity in distributed wealth, and imprisons more people than any other country.

Our country is a business, and profit trumps all else. Until that changes, we are doomed to failure.

The Madness after the Boston Madness

The last few days have once again shown how utterly ridiculous parts of our society are. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, we saw news outlets fumble over themselves, eager to announce the next terror, while feigning disgust. Another device found! A controlled detonation! No, a fire! CNN led the way in pathetic reporting. A timeline of CNN’s inept coverage is as amusing as it is disgusting. A Fox news affiliate is a definite runner up, naming one suspect Zooey Deschanel instead of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. No wonder hundreds of thousands listened to the Boston Police radio live feed and took to Twitter for faster, and more reliable updates.

Of course, pundits, armchair experts, and every dimwit around lent their own conspiracy theories, further blurring facts and needlessly enraging sheeple that want to believe.

While the police response to this tragedy was certainly swift, I can’t help but think how premature everyone involved seems to be. The Boston Police tweeted that the terror is over after taking a second suspect alive:

CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody.

President Obama went on national television to remind us that such statements are premature, saying that “a chapter” in this tragedy was closed, but the investigation is ongoing. How can the Boston Police, who were unable to question one suspect, and have not had a chance to question the second, know that they were the only two involved? What if the two suspects are part of a larger group, with active members still out there ready to do harm?

How far does this have to go before society collectively realizes the madness we’ve descended into? At what point does the rational side kick in and make the masses aware of how pointless and counterproductive the response has been? Unfortunately, I know the answer to these questions, as the response from society to any and every tragedy has steadily gotten worse. With that follows knee-jerk responses from all walks of life, especially lawmakers.

The frustration of seeing society spiral downward, while being powerless to effect change, is maddening.

Stand Your Ground

The night started with a loud voice from outside, echoing between the buildings. Couldn’t see
anyone from any window but it was definitely very close. Since it couldn’t be from the balcony
or parking lot, and wasn’t the courtyard in the next building or mine, it had to be someone between the buildings but near the alley. I went out the front door and looked over the edge and saw someone. He was loud, sounded intoxicated or under the influence. He mentioned crack cocaine in his ramblings so i called
non-emergency police. Yes, someone who used to do bad things and avoid cops like the plague is the one calling them these days. That ‘neighborhood watch’ sign warns you about me in these parts. If you are
going to do bad things, don’t be so fucking obvious please.

Last time it was a drunk shouting at the top of his lungs in the parking lot. I called non-emergency and Denver District 6 rolled up in under 2 minutes, questioned him, ran his info and arrested him (warrants i assume). Tonight, DD6 rolled up in about two minutes, the officer approached the perp and told him to be
cool, saw me up above on courtyard level and asked me where the 2nd guy was. I told him if there wasn’t
a 2nd, he had been talking to himself all night.

I feel bad because for the most part, he wasn’t doing harm. He was loud, he was on private property
and he was talking about illegal activity. Any one of those things wouldn’t have been bad, but after hours of that, why should the tenants suffer? When the officer walked up, the perp was immediately worried and scared of going to jail. Even with the officer talking to me a floor above, the perp didn’t seem to realize I was there or why the officer showed up. When I realized he had been talking to himself and not someone that was out of sight, all I could think of was how the system has failed. Without getting into some huge political rant, why do we spend billions on overseas aid packages and wars when we have so many problems at home. I would have rather gone down there and given him a warm meal and an old shirt rather than call the police, but the state of society just makes that too risky. It’s really sad.

While the officer searched him and secured him, I started to back away so that the perp couldn’t see me. I realized quickly, “wtf”. I live here, this is my home. Why should I be afraid of him or anyone else that doesn’t belong. I know good people get hurt by bad people for just that sort of thing, but the principle is sound. The good guys shouldn’t have to hide, they shouldn’t have to run. I stepped forward against the gate and answered the officer’s questions loudly, daring the perp to look up at me. I know the law doesn’t favor my position, but if someone commits a crime on or near my property and I report it, if they come back for any form of retaliation it should really be open season on shitheads. Not only should I be able to defend myself, but the fact that if they came back to attempt to intimidate or hurt a good citizen should give me license to put my boot on their throat or drill them with a legally owned and licensed gun.

I know, too many douche bags that don’t have the ability to rationalize and get through that process without serious bias, that turns them into would-be vigilantes that ultimately kill their neighbor on accident or find a random perp miles from home to unload on. But like the one-off dangerous misdemeanor criminal that might come back on a witness, the over-zealous vigilante is similarly the one-off. Until that changes, the good guy can only stand up for their home and their rights.