“18% Of EV Drivers In California Switched Back To Gasoline Cars” – (OilPrice.com)

In a pleasant change of topic from my previous series of posts published last month, I came across an interesting statistic as reported by Irina Slav of the platform Oilprice.com. As noted in the title of this post (and the article I am giving commentary on), allegedly EV’s are not the game-changer that 18% of Californians thought they would be.  Coming from a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry, there really must be something to this news.


Let’s find out!

Close to a fifth of all EV drivers in California have switched back to gasoline cars because charging their electric cars was a hassle, according to a new study bound to send ripples across an industry that has plans for market domination.

The study from the University of California, published in Nature Energy, looked at drivers who bought EVs between 2012 and 2018 and found that 18 percent of battery electric vehicle buyers switched back to gasoline-powered cars, as did 20 percent of plug-in hybrid buyers. The main problem cited by respondents to the surveys that the authors conducted was with charging times.

Insider, in a report on the study, quoted Bloomberg’s car analyst Kevin Tinan as explaining that he had just tested a Mustang Mach-E. It had charged—in a household outlet—at a rate of just 3 miles of range per hour. This makes just 36 miles of range for overnight charging, Tinan noted.

The technicalities of EV charging rarely make the headlines, and the reason is that they are a bit inconvenient for EV proponents. If you buy an EV that you use every day, you won’t be able to do it by charging it at home. The reason is that household outlets give out some 120 volts of power, which makes for the aforementioned rate of charging.

Public charging points, in comparison, put out 240 volts, which means faster charging. Then there are Tesla’s Superchargers, which give out 480 volts. Yet even with a Supercharger, it would take an hour to “fill up” an EV batter. This compares to just a handful of minutes to fill up a gasoline-powered vehicle.


I am unsure if it is deliberate or not, but there is already a small bit of misinformation about available charging infrastructure (as in available to the consumer!) at this point. While it is true that most home charging of EVs likely does occur at the painfully slow 120V’s of a household outlet, 240V/208V charging can be installed for home/business/condo use. While the tier 1 or 2 single-phase charging infrastructure available to households is indeed slower at adding miles (or kilometres in the rest of the world) than 3 phase level 3 systems, 240V/208V can be installed in residential settings. There is just an extra cost for doing so.

Yes, you do have to pay an electrician to come to your home and properly wire everything into place. Though these rates may fluctuate depending on where in the US one lives, this Home Advisor article puts the total cost at around $3000 or below.


The national average for installing a standard electric vehicle charging station ranges between $456 and $1,072, while the median cost is $759 each. The price of the stations alone runs $400 to $2,000, depending on whether you choose a Level 1 or a Level 2. Hardwiring a Level 2 or installing a circuit for plug-in types adds another $500 to $1,500.



Since I am speaking of level 2 charging equipment, using the upper end of the costs as represented here brings us to around $3,500 plus taxes (unless rebates are available). Indeed, it is definitely NOT nothing. But at the same time, assuming it to be a one-time purchase that will be usable for all future vehicles (assuming you stick to EV’s AND don’t move), it’s not that great of an expense. You are shelling out $40,000 to $60,000 or more for the vehicle, after all. It’s not much to take onto the car payment itself and pay in installments. And if you can’t, then EV manufacturers should get on that!

I’m sure electricians all over North America and beyond would jump at the chance of being the official electrition of *EV BRAND HERE*. Who doesn’t like guaranteed business!

According to Edmunds.com, most consumers drive their brand new vehicles for about 6 and a half years and used vehicles for around 5 and a half years. In that time, on top of oil changes, fluid flushes, and various other maintenance (depending on the make and model), most consumers will be shelling out at least $2,000 for gasoline per year. Indeed, this number will vary for everyone, and electricity (your new ongoing cost) isn’t free. But it’s a whole lot cheaper than gasoline. And again, this is NOT including other maintenance costs of internal combustion engines.

* * *

While a paragraph such as this:

Insider, in a report on the study, quoted Bloomberg’s car analyst Kevin Tinan as explaining that he had just tested a Mustang Mach-E. It had charged—in a household outlet—at a rate of just 3 miles of range per hour. This makes just 36 miles of range for overnight charging, Tinan noted.

. . . isn’t EXACTLY misleading (no one should expect a reporter OR Ford to pay the cost of a level 2 install just for a test drive), it indeed is leaving details out.

Another area that I should also touch on is the study that is being cited. Using the abstract, we can determine the main factors for the reversal of the adoption of EVs in California.


We show that discontinuance is related to dissatisfaction with the convenience of charging, having other vehicles in the household that are less efficient, not having level 2 (240-volt) charging at home, having fewer household vehicles and not being male.



We are keenly aware of the first reason and somewhat aware of the 3ed reason. However, the other 3 reasons are somewhat surprising and borderline irrational (particularly not being male. That isn’t how I would have thought that bias would play out!).

Not being sure how one would tackle those issues, i’ll stick to the convenience factor. Though owning an EV can be made a somewhat viable experience for everyday use, at present there is always a catch. In order to gain the maximum amount of convenience out of your experience, you need to shell out for a level 2 charging station. And when it comes to the road trip scenarios (or just needing to travel long distances a lot), charging stops have to be factored in. While it’s easy for me to just say “go with the flow! Enjoy the downtime!”, this won’t cut it for some people. A factor that must be taken into consideration going forward.

Obviously, the current EV landscape is not for them as it stands. However, this would seem to be easily alleviated simply by creating some kind of battery swap or rent-a-battery program. Pop the drained one out, plop the fresh one in, and off you go for another 300 or so miles (or whatever the capacity is, minus cabin comforts). Depending on the configuration of these vehicles, I can see this as being an even faster process than waiting for a tank to fill with fuel., thereby eliminating one of the few selling points petroleum as a fuel source has left. 

We will see how the EV industry tackles this problem. I don’t see it as being the impediment that the oil industry would like it to be, however.


What’s more, according to the study from the University of California, two-thirds of EV drivers didn’t use public charging stations, although the reasons for this were not specified.

Such studies don’t bode well for the future of EVs.


Not exactly correct, but I know who is paying your salary.

When I consider the Nature study linked above, most of the problems are fairly easily remedied when factors of convenience are eliminated. 2 of them are essentially the same (other inefficient vehicles in the household, fewer household vehicles) and will eventually be solved by obsolescence. And is not a male can easily be tackled by marketing.
Hell, all of these can be easily reversed by a good marketing campaign. After all, if a good marketing campaign can sell a consumer into an irrational activity or habit, then it can certainly sell a sensible one!

The fossil fuel industry is great at this marketing trickery (“We don’t sell Oil or Coal, we sell Energy!“). Remember when BP tried to rebrand itself Beyond Petroleum, but a massive pipeline spill in Alaska (not to mention the Deepwater Horizon disaster) smashed that facade like a brick through a window?
If Big Oil can attempt to sell us on what they are not, then EV’s can sell themselves as the viable alternatives that they are.

I am nothing if not pragmatic.


The Biden administration—and the state of California—have superambitious plans for EV adoption, and so have all big carmakers. But studies such as the one from nature Energy suggest success may not be as certain as some would like it to be. Car dealers are already aware of that: a recent article in the Wall Street Journal noted EVs still make up a tiny minority of total car sales and cited one car dealer as saying, “The consumer in the middle of America just isn’t there yet.”


This is fairly true. I live on the Canadian Prairies, which are fairly comparable to many northern middle American agricultural states (Nebraska, Montana, etc). And indeed, very few people here (outside of people like me who keep their finger on the pulse of this stuff) view EV’s as anything more than a futuristic technology. And a not-insignificant number of people simply scoff at the idea of EVs entirely.

While this IS indeed the reality, it must be considered that most people are coming to these conclusions based off of outdated and/or misleading information. While there does exist a cohort that proudly proclaims that they will never go EV, most people are far more receptive once they learn what is now available.

While range limitations are in fact still a legitimate consideration for people such as farmers or anyone with a very long commute, the vast majority of the populace of most states and provinces lives much of their lives either in or near an urban center. As such, the average driving need of most people can easily fit within the limitations of many new EV offerings.

Part of the reason why so many people are still running off of misinformation lies with the car manufacturers themselves. Aside from the offerings of a handful of largely newly minted and unknown EV-only manufacturers (with Tesla and Rivian at the forefront), the automotive industry has been slow to embrace and push EVs. While the reasoning for the hesitation is understandable from the business perspective of legacy automakers (re-tooling isn’t going to come cheap, and there WILL be casualties along the way. No industry as large or complex as the modern-day auto industry can turn on a dime), even the EV-focused manufacturers have failed to sell themselves adequately.

Having just browsed the offerings from both Rivian and Tesla, it’s easy to see why many label them as more providers of a status symbol than leaders of a revolution in automotive manufacturing. When it comes to Tesla, you have the choice between  4 sedans and a god-awful monstrosity masquerading as a pick-up truck (or is it an SUV? Uh). Rivian has a truck that actually LOOKS like a truck, but alongside that . . . essentially a Hummer clone on wheels.

Some people don’t mind a sedan, and some people don’t mind an ungodly monstrosity on wheels. But left out are most average folks, driving SUVs and crossovers ranging from small, to medium to roomy. And most of all, missing is the familiarity of an already trusted model. Until the existence of this giant cohort is acknowledged, EV sales will drag.


Right to Repair


While it is tempting to draw this post to close, it occurs to me that there is another segment of the population that the EV transition risks alienating. That is backyard (and otherwise amateur) mechanics. While the transition itself will not necessarily affect them (skills can be upgraded if they so desire), the manufacturer’s stances on right to repair may have a negative effect on such individuals.

First of all, I should explain what is entailed by the term Right to Repair. Essentially, it is your right to either self repair your device, or to bring the device to a source other than the manufacturer for repairs. However, this is often made very difficult (if not impossible!) by various manufacturers by way of hardware or software blocks, warrantee clauses, and other trickery.  Though the most notorious 2 offenders sell products designed in California and manufacture green farm equipment, the trend is spreading all over the manufacturing space.

Though the above video is primarily focused on the technology industry as opposed to the automotive industry, it should be noted that Tesla is one of the companies that does all it can to prevent outside repairs and modifications (including software) to its vehicles. While this stance on software can rightfully be defended on one hand (it would be easy to cause potential instability, with Tesla taking the blame for the failure no matter why it occurred). However, given that the range of some models can be increased with a paid software update (or during emergency situations), is it wrong to want this capability out of the vehicle you purchased WITHOUT paying the thousands extra?


In its newly updated Model S sedan, Tesla is selling a 70kWh battery that is secretly a 75kWh battery. The company has been selling them for almost a month, and is just now telling the world about it. Even better? If you bought one of those 70kWh Model S sedans, you can pay $3,250 to “unlock” the extra juice. Bizarre? Absolutely. But maybe brilliant, too.

There’s a long history of “upgrading” cars to give them more horsepower or better cosmetics. It’s just that most of those upgrades are usually done by adding physical bits to the car — a new turbocharger or better tires or an exhaust system. The idea of upgrading a car with software via an over-the-air update is something totally new, especially when the hardware is already in place. There is one physical upgrade made to the car, though: Tesla says it will swap the 70 badge on the back of an upgraded Model S for a 75 badge the next time it comes into a service center.



As you can see, this is old news (pre-Trump. VERY old news lol). Nonetheless, it is interesting how Tesla selling the EV equivalent of a preinstalled expandable gas tank that is about a quarter less volume than a typical tank is considered Brilliant. I get that people love Elon, but bloody hell . . . If any of the big 3 tried this crap, Elizabeth Warren would have their CEO’s in front of congress.

Either way, I’ve strayed from right to repair. So back we go.

As outspoken advocates have known for years, it is hard to put Right To Repair on people’s radar. While various media platforms and individuals like Louis Rossman (you may remember him from my post outlining the GME/AMC amusement of 3 months back) try their best, it can be hard to make people care. Having grown up in this throw-away era, and having little interest in fixing my own stuff (despite purchasing some equipment for the purpose at one point!), I get it.

Having recently shattered the camera lens on my nearly brand new Motorola Razr flip phone (yes, this is a thing), I also see what people like Rossman are trying to do for consumers. Such a form of damage would void the warranty of the device (unless my research is incorrect). However, given that it is so new, I am not even sure if repair shops (be it Rossman, or any independents located in my city) would even have the part yet. Fortunately, the camera still can see through the damage, so I didn’t lose any functionality. Given that I am carrying around a device with several loosely held shards of razor shard glass, however, I hope someone can do something about it.

I’m reminded of the first-gen Blackberry Curve I had years ago which I had to repair with tape. The plastic cover over the sunken screen somehow got cracked, so I quite literally ended up with a Crackberry.
Good ole Blackberries . . . most of the males around me that bought them back in the day ended up with moto razer’s within around 6 months. As it turns out, 18 to 20-year-old males are hard on devices initially designed for the business cautious.

How things change.

Getting back to Right to Repair and the EV transition, however, we have to focus on a group that I would normally be tempted to write off. A group that I referred to earlier in fact. The cohort of the driving public that insists they will never operate anything but a good ole internal combustion engine.

Though some people are this way because of preference, there is another reason to adopt this attitude. The older the ICE vehicle model and engine they have, the easier they are to fix. While the sentiment is common amongst car enthusiasts,  mechanics or otherwise people that don’t like wasting money, you can also find this sentiment on farms all over North America.

Not only do older vehicles, combines and other farm equipments tend to be easier to work on than more complex newer models, they are also unencumbered by the industry’s recent trend towards monopolizing repair of said machinery. Though I have to thank Louis Roosman for bringing this to my attention, it’s something I have heard about anecdotally from working with people connected to the agricultural industry. A really unfortunate thing since most farmers don’t have the time to screw around with going to a dealer and waiting on repairs in the middle of the working season. Time is money, and no farmer can afford downtime.

Given the way that agricultural equipment manufacturers are behaving, it isn’t hard to see why many would prize their older but still functional equipment over new, expensive, and more technological (and also, impossible to repair on the fly) equipment. The elimination of the internal combustion engine may well take away the last machine that they can legally work on without ramification.

Though one of the selling points of EVs is their overall lack of moving parts (and as such, the ease in repairing them), the bad ethics demonstrated by arguably the industry’s leader in terms of the right to repair is not a great precedent to be setting.

While right to repair isn’t on most of our agendas (nor is the EV transition, really), it really should be. Because this is not just a problem of farmers, out of towners and otherwise people most of us don’t consider in our day to day consumer activities. It is a problem for all of us, because pricy repairs WILL eventually affect all of us, and planned or forced obsolescence WILL affect all of us. And to think big picture, planned and forced obsolescence is terrible for the environment. Though many components of technology can be reclaimed and technically recycled into new products, the process is hardly clean. Most residents of western nations tend to not see that part of the electronic life cycle since so much e-waste tends to get dumped in 3ed world nations. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is.

The Growing Crisis of E-Waste in Developing Countries



Obsolescence is not just unnecessarily expensive and resource-intensive, it has effects on local economies and ecologies long after the item leaves your local blue bin, donation box, or e-waste collection facility. While no one can guarantee that the used lithium-ion batteries of this most recent crop of EVs won’t meet a similar fate, all one can do is pay attention. Don’t let out of sight mean out of mind.

Like any of the other resource depletion topics outlined above, right to repair ain’t sexy. But neither is infrastructure, on which the entirety of a functioning society is built. If we allow our infrastructure to fall into disrepair, then we all suffer the consequences. The same goes for unethical repair behaviours by manufacturers.



Marijuana Abuse, Mood Disorders & Suicide – Is There A Link? / Other Explorations

Though the study (and the article I linked to) both were published a month ago, this project has been on the back burner for some time. Due to a combination of other distractions and projects,  and a need to get my message on point (since I wade into the realm of the controversial with this writing), this ended up taking much longer than I expected.

Nonetheless, let us now jump right into it. As usual, feel free to leave any commentary you have in the comments section.


Marijuana abuse by youth with mood disorders linked to suicide attempts, self-harm and death, study finds


Heavy use of marijuana by teens and young adults with mood disorders — such as depression and bipolar disorder — is linked to an increased risk of self-harm, suicide attempts and death, a new study has found.

Unintentional overdoses, suicide and homicide were the three most frequent causes of death, according to the study published Tuesday in JAMA Pediatrics.

“The perception is that marijuana is safe to use, but we need to educate parents and kids that there are risks involved, particularly with heavy and high potency cannabis use,” said study author Cynthia Fontanella, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral health at the Ohio State University’s College of Medicine.

“And clinicians need to intervene to identify and treat cannabis use disorder as well as kids with mood disorders,” Fontanella said.


First of all, we need to dig into Unintentional overdoses, because this context seems to be broadcasting an incorrect message. And frankly, the link they provided is no better.


Cannabis use disorder was significantly associated with nonfatal self-harm (adjusted hazard ratio [AHR], 3.28; 95% CI, 2.55-4.22) and all-cause mortality (AHR, 1.59; 95% CI, 1.13-2.24), including death by unintentional overdose (AHR, 2.40; 95% CI, 1.39-4.16) and homicide (AHR, 3.23; 95% CI, 1.22-8.59). Although CUD was associated with suicide in the unadjusted model, it was not significantly associated in adjusted models.


That entire paragraph is problematic in itself, but again, the contact would seem to broadcast a false message. Unintended overdoses . . . on what?

While no one seemed to bother going into detail with what substances actually killed these people, the outcome of the 2010-2017 Ohio study ended up coming to this seemingly agenda-driven conclusion:


Conclusions and relevance: Cannabis use disorder is a common comorbidity and risk marker for self-harm, all-cause mortality, and death by unintentional overdose and homicide among youths with mood disorders. These findings should be considered as states contemplate legalizing medical and recreational marijuana, both of which are associated with increased CUD.



The message of this would seem to tie a whole lot of the listed factors TO CUD, or Cannabis Use Disorder. As such, the recommendation to other states (most of which didn’t take this advice, thank goodness) is to think twice before you legalize. All of this brings to mind many questions about the data used in the study, and the lives of the various people that are behind the faceless statistics.

1.) There are many motives for murder. Even when illegal drugs are taken to consideration, the picture still isn’t clear (obvious scenarios ranging from domestic violence, gang-related violence relating to turf).

2.) While it was not deemed important to fill in the blanks in terms of what types of drugs killed that segment of the statistical pool, this oversight leaves an entirely different problem seemingly unsolved. Where are THESE substances coming from?

3.) The most important factor being left on the table by this study is in the background of all the people themselves. It is acknowledged that they all have mental some sort of mental illness. However, what are/could be the origins of this illness?

More on this to come.

Getting back to the initial article:


Marijuana use disorder

Cannabis use disorder, also known as marijuana use disorder, is associated with dependence on the use of weed. A person is considered dependent on weed when they feel food cravings or a lack of appetite, irritability, restlessness and mood and sleep difficulties after quitting, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


Though I didn’t specifically mention food cravings in my last visit with this definition, I find this part interesting since it reminded me of quitting smoking. Honestly, I don’t know that the food cravings ever really went away even after my last smoke (which was well over 5 years ago, now). Instead of craving a smoke or a cigar during long spells of late-night boredom, I often find myself reaching for a snack instead. 

That may say more about me than it does about medical science. But it also reminds me of the concept of replacing addictions with other (lesser) addictions, a concept first made clear to me by the infamous James Fry. In the case of James Fry (and his journey to sobriety as detailed in his books, nonsense aside), the alternative was religion. Or should I say, God (whatever that means to you, AA does not care).

However, that is getting somewhat off-topic (and I’ve already delved into this previously). None the less, however, you can’t have proper treatment of addictions (be it in kids or adults) without adequate programs.

But that is but one part of where our systems fall short of what is truly needed.


“People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults,” NIDA advises. About 4 million people in the United States met the diagnostic criteria for a marijuana use disorder in 2015, the NIDA estimates.

Experts say that number will have grown due to a rise in potency in today’s varieties of weed, along with the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults in 15 states and medical use in 36 states.

Studies in adults show a strong association between overuse of weed and suicide attempts and death. A study of adult same-sex twins found those who were dependent on marijuana were nearly three times more likely to attempt suicide than their twin who was not dependent on weed.

Another study of 1,463 suicides and 7,392 natural deaths in the United States found a link between any use of marijuana by adults and suicide risk after adjusting for alcohol use, depression and use of mental health services. And there was an increased risk of suicide for both men and women who were dependent on marijuana, according to a four-year study of 6,445 Danish adults.


1.) Same-sex twins (or ANY pair of twins!) will not necessarily share the same environmental characteristics as the other, so it hardly seems worth noting the association. Well, unless the goal is looking at how genetics may factor into the picture. Even then, who is to say that the twin’s endocannabinoid systems are necessarily equal?

At this point, that research is still ongoing.

Indeed, that is a bit of a cop-out straw man(“Who said anything about the endocannabinoid system?!”). Nonetheless, the important thing is that it’s not just genetics.

2.) In line with that last statement, I can’t help but wonder how much consideration the lives of the deceased have been given. That is to say, marijuana and other substance abuse issues aside, what kind of life did they live before their seemingly untimely demise of either suicide or preventable causes?

In the final paragraph above, it looks like some consideration was given in this realm, with alcohol use, depression and use of mental health services seemingly accounted for. Yet, given the abysmal state of mental health services all over North America (and likely throughout the world), I am left with a question mark.
What were these people’s lives like? Was it a case of mental illness predating the unfortunate circumstances of life in today’s hyper-capitalist era? Or is it a case of the trials of life bringing on unenviable mental anguish? Or is the answer somewhere in between?

Most individuals that are contented in life do not struggle with substance abuse issues. I know, it’s risky to use flat-out generalizations like that with the individualistic cats that humans are, hence the word most. However, these people don’t generally need to escape from their troubles, hence the often social use of substances. Drugs are a highlight in life and reality, rather than a crutch.

While the definition of what a hard life is will change depending on who you ask (and is often influenced by where they are in the economic hierarchy of society), for our purposes, a difficult existence is in the eye of the beholder. No matter what the problems plaguing people are, there is generally something worth looking into.

Where I am going with this, is into the flaws of most suicide prevention programs as they exist today.

Locally and around the world, these programs exist to try and change people’s minds before they take what is viewed as a permanently regrettable action. Such organizations have their heart in the right place, oftentimes homing in on addictions, past traumas and other problems that push people towards suicide.
Where I stand opposed to such organizations is when they attempt to eliminate the choice of suicide without tackling an of the many environmental factors that push people into such mindsets. Which in many cases are the result of systemic injustices and equalities that are not likely to ever change (and in fact, tend to worsen as time goes on).

For example, the equipping of extremely high bridge spans with netting to prevent jumping, or proposing AI-based systems that could potentially detect suicidal behaviour in a person (based on their past health records) months or years before the action. Say what you want, but NOT looking into the underlying issues seems very akin to the anti-suicide nets employed by Foxconn.

I come at this not only from a humans rights perspective but also from a point of empathy. While idiots often speak of the selfishness of suicide, I have to consider the other side of the coin. I personally know of a person who suffers the daily consequences of a past sexual assault trauma that was not dealt with in their teens, and of which may well never be dealt with. Though they do the best they can to mask the problem with (mainly) marijuana, suicide has been mentioned before. And I have never countered because . . . that isn’t my place.

What do you expect me to do . . . calm the person down with the tired argument that is “Come on, it can only get better from here!”. They have been dealing with this for close to 20 years, and STILL, the mental health resources that could make a difference are either unavailable or financially out of reach. Why would this person take me seriously when life experience itself flies right in the face of my empty hopeful request?

The system screwed them over back then when they were most vulnerable. And the system is doing the exact same thing now, 20 years later. Post-traumatic stress disorder or not, mental health care is a joke in this country, and almost everywhere else really. So who am I to say “NO! There is another way!”.

Consider another anecdote drawn from my life. I grew up viewing the consequences of what happens when a worker becomes too injured to continue working (and thus, obsolete to the system). That is to say, I grew up on social assistance watching my parent inhumanly fight for every nickel.

Workman Compensation Board’s don’t pay out long-term injury claims as an unofficial rule, leaving the onus on the taxpayers and the welfare system. I know this because when my parent received an approval notice from WCB saying that their long-term shoulder injury claim had been approved, the case manager showed up at our door to pick it up to be photocopied. I remember the nice man and his nice briefcase, sitting right at our kitchen table.
Whether the notice was sent out in error (and he was dispatched on a 600km 2-way journey to clean up the mess) is unknown to us. We just know that my parent’s claim has been continuously denied ever since, and there is no way to appeal this process without a bank filled with lawyers fees. 

These people invariably end up in the welfare system. This system further shames these people by requiring lists of jobs actively applied for, which must be signed by employers (full sheets turned in monthly). Many of these employers refuse to help enable these welfare bums.
And as if the disdain from complete strangers was not bad enough, you even start to hear this bullshit from some family and friends. Because people are unable to empathize with the difference between “I slept wrong and now my shoulder is sore as hell!” and permanent repetitive action-based injury.

This almost completely hidden lack of options for the long term injured working class leads to its own mental health crisis. From substance abuse to suicide (if not outright acts of violence), long term workplace injury has become it’s own category within the spectrum of mental health. 

It really affected my psychological frame of mind to have my doctors say one thing (that my stress injury was work related) and WorkSafeBC say the opposite (that it wasn’t work related). Being forced to work in an inappropriate vocation by the agency charged with the protection of workers was too much for me. I got to the point where I was not only suicidal, I believed WorkSafeBC was trying to kill me. That they refuse to correct their errors I find unbelievable.

When my back injury got to the point where I needed medication for the pain, my doctor’ locum wanted me committed; she thought I was delusional, because I said that WorkSafeBC forced me, with my history of back injuries, to work in this vocation they had chosen for me. No, they would never do that!

Now I’m dealing with the BC Ombudsman. On and on it goes . . .


I empathize with the story in its entirety because I have heard it all before. It all played out before my eyes between 2000 and the present day. The notable difference (aside from my residence in Manitoba, and this guy in BC) being that my parent was never able to pursue it legally, or otherwise. Even the part about the bullshit pain-inducing modified duties is in my parent’s story!
In their case, it was scrubbing an overhead hood vent of grease with cold water and dish soap. These were modified duties for a SHOULDER INJURY!

Though it has now been around 21 years since this stuff began, the case has never been settled and has almost certainly passed any point of appeal. And my parent as a person has never been the same since. Though part of that is self-induced problems on their part, one can’t underestimate the mountain of bullshit they indeed lived through. All because they DARED to do their job to an even higher standard than was expected of them, and as a result, paid the price.

The life lesson  I took from this is that your value is as a vessel of productivity. Nothing more.

After the system had successfully trained my family member (along with millions of others) into quiet unquestioned obedience, they were eventually cast aside like an outdated and worn-out piece of equipment. Its usefulness has been extracted, so off to the trash heap with what remains.

Though my family member never tried to pursue his claims any further, I once wrote a lengthy letter to my local Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament detailing the struggle of my parent and asking about what he (as an MP) had to say about the matter. And by wrote, I mean just that. I put pen to paper and went through about 7 or 8 different drafts before settling on the one that was just right.

And the response was . . . NIL. Nada. A whole lotta FUCK ALL. Not even a cookie-cutter form letter.

Having written to my local Conservative MP’s several times in the past few years now, this lack of response is not something I am surprised by anymore. Whilst it pissed me off the first time (I put a lot of time into that letter!), it’s just how it is now. Even the NEW conservative MP does not respond to his mail!

Despite sending out newsletters with a cut-out that says “Tell me how I am doing?“!

At this point, I still respond to the newsletters with my politely phrased left-leaning critiques of the conservative’s typically oil sands energy-heavy plans for Canada’s future. I suspect that they only respond to the ageing populace of voters (the majority in my area) of whom this pipe dream all makes sense. After all, they all grew up with strong Canadian energy outputs. It MUST be a great investment in a greening and renewables-embracing world!

If the Progressive Conservatives are fine with milking the hell out of a population with MAYBE a 20-year lifespan, so be it. And the same goes for many oil sands-dominated businesses and investors in Canada’s Western Provinces. Of they want to bet their entire future on nostalgia and a population that could be wiped out by COVID 19, who am I to say no!

Nearsighted idiots be damned, however, I am now WAY off-topic.

Getting back to it, I don’t know if the list of employers applied to is still required for social assistance, but it was a crock of shit.

To my family, friends and every person sharing this crazy existence with me, I first implore you to consider every option that is available before doing anything rash. No matter what decision that anyone comes to, however, I will never judge them nor attempt to stand in their way. You have been let down.

If that statement enrages you, then frankly, you have your priorities misaligned. Where you should be focusing is on the pathetic state of mental health care worldwide. And aside from that, your focus should be on figuring out how to build a world that is WORTH living in. Since it would be very easy to fix this crisis by simply putting a bandage on it and pumping everyone full of medication.

In order to support better outcomes, we need to look at the systemic causes. Also worth considering is what it means to be human. What it means to have a purpose in life.

And yet again, I find myself connecting another external issue to this, the future of work.

Though the current status quo is broken in the most obvious of ways, it’s profitable. The constant discontent and destruction of humans is (and always has been) good for business, an essential tenant of economic growth and domination. Given this backdrop, many of the realities that have become commonplace in everyday life (particularly in the US) became extraordinarily easy to explain. While many acknowledge that the key to a healthy society is healthy citizens, it’s hardly an outcome desirable for many who are heavily invested in today’s status quo. Though the majority of the population of the US (and the world, generally) tend to be overworked, overstressed, and underpaid, it’s great for the businesses that thrive in this environment. Everything from frozen and fast food industries, to pharmaceutical conglomerates and recreational drug retailers. In a world of broken promises, there is much money to be made in tailoring to the dysfunction.

Speaking of tailoring to dysfunction . . . few industries showcase this systemic industrial cynicism better than the recovery industry. For those willing to pay (or who have wealthy backers), there are many options available to help achieve sobriety. If you are an everyday drug addict who has a loved one willing to nominate you for a coveted place on a show like Intervention, you may well also get access to these options of the wealthy.
For the vast majority, however, you are stuck with whatever is available in your local area. Which tends to be some flavour of the horrifyingly ineffective Alcoholics Anonymous program. 

It’s tempting for me to take a grand ole leap and blame 99% of the ailments of modern society on some mixture of neoliberalism and capitalism. Though the obvious item (in the context of the United States) that comes to mind for me at the moment is mass gun violence, it’s not hard to map the path of almost any other issue you can think of right back to this single root. Though this issue coming straight to mind was likely on account of me just finishing reading Columbine by David Cullen (I highly recommend), we can still make the connections.

  • With gun control, it is obvious. Restrictions mean just that, restrictions. There is profit lost when any ole person can’t waltz into a gun shop or a big box store and pick up 10 of any weapon they desire. 
  • While mental health is not as easy to follow, you still wind up in the same place (albeit in the opposite direction). Even researching the diverse mental maladies that exist in all of the varying cohorts of humanity costs big money, let alone dealing with the problem with what we do know. Maintaining the mental health of a complex society of hormone-driven beings by way of therapy is expensive. Though it is certainly a lucrative market if you own a patent for anti-depressant medication.

Mental health is simultaneously too costly a problem to properly tackle AND a source of revenue for a segment of the pharmaceutical industry. Though I have to be careful not to dismiss solutions just because they are manufactured by pharmaceutical behemoths, it’s hard not to see the pragmatism of it all. If it’s too expensive for localities to handle many (if not all) of their mental health requirements, may as well let corporate America pocket the proceeds of filling in the gap.

Though I would argue that one of the biggest keys to solving the various manifestations of the mental health crisis of the western world lies in many systemic changes, this is also precisely why nothing has ever been done. There are benefits to driving people to work 2, 3 (if not 4!) jobs JUST to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. There is benefits to keeping a majority of workers on constant vigilance for any signs that their jobs will be outsourced or (increasingly) automated away. There is benefits to exploiting you both when you are valuable and when you are down.

Not to us! But definitely for the people that you should be angry with.

Suicide is a symptom. To tackle the problem of skyrocketing suicide rates by way of simply focusing on preventing the end result by any means necessary strikes me as akin to treating a lung cancer-induced hack with strong cough medicine. You may think you have a visible improvement, but the problem is still there, slowly growing worse and worse.

While the specifics are hard to nail down, I’m certain that a big part of the solution to this problem lies in figuring out how to break the modern-day status quo. The modern-day status quo ignores our humanity in favour of viewing us all as cogs of a giant machine.

Plentiful. Replaceable. Disposable.

While I don’t know how to fundamentally remake pretty much the entirety of what it means to be a human, I do know that not doing so soon is going to make the Covid 19 mental health crisis look like a picnic. Like everyone else, I am also far too entrenched in this status quo to even imagine what one that isn’t dominated by fiat currency would look like. I can not imagine what a truly socialist (or even communist) world would be like.

I don’t know if the solution to our future lies in capitalism, socialism, communism, or some future hybrid of multiple (if not a new path entirely). All I DO know is that something has to change. The systemic status quo has been inhumane for decades (if not always). And given the path of automation, I suspect that it is on the brink of being unsustainable.

Well, it always has been unsustainable in terms of resources and the environment. In that context, I’m more thinking in terms of the economy. When huge numbers of consumers are forced out of the job market, they mostly stop spending money. When huge cohorts of consumers quit spending money, large swaths of the economy start shrinking and going out of business. And when the phenomenon becomes pronounced enough, entire national economies (if not the entire global economy) all start to sputter.


Gathering some thoughts


Though the article I choose to quote for this piece involved primarily marijuana and suicide, as observed, my brain struggles in such tight environments. As it does when I have to hold on to 2 seemingly contradictory ideas at the same time.

One of those being my stance on marijuana, and drugs in general.

I am all for the legalization of every banned substance across the board. I back this stance with the notion that focus should be placed on addiction recovery, as opposed to fighting the unwinnable battle that is taking down all points of supply. Since many areas are dealing with the unfortunate reality that is super strong opioid variants that kill, decriminalization has garnered some significant weight from a variety of police and civilian organizations in Canada and the US. While I would love to take it a step further, it’s music to my ears nonetheless.

It’s unfortunate that the road to competent policy has to be paved in blood. But if it gets us there, at least the loss of those affected was not for nothing.

Where I am more focused, however, is in the role that drugs play in the modern status quo. That is to say, they often make things more bearable. First, it’s an escape. Then a crutch. And before you know it, it’s one’s whole life.
Given that I can see this, it may seem contradictory to be entirely pro-legalization but empathetic to addiction sufferers. And that is certainly one way to interpret it. The wrong way, however.

I don’t doubt that drugs (in particular, the nastier and more addictive of the substances, both legal and illegal) definitely play a part in keeping the cattle distracted and in line. Marijuana may already have found a place in that paradigm judging by this article. Hell, pharmaceutical companies manufacture and sell drugs like Adderall And Concerta explicitly for this purpose. There is a reason why a Donut shop can unironically adopt the slogan America runs on Duncan.

While I do acknowledge that drugs are (in a sense) part of the problem, I have to view it from the context in which we live. Drugs, as they are consumed now, are merely a product of the paradigm in which they (we!) exist. Though drugs exaggerate the problems of modernity by providing a seemingly easy escape, this could change in a less toxic paradigm.

More than that, I consider the right to experiment with substances to be a human right (so long as no one else is harmed in the process). Some may scoff at this notion being that it could be said that I am personally green lighting people’s right to snort, smoke, or inject literally anything. I can’t really deny this. I don’t know why someone would want to do many things, but who am I to stand in their way. People engage in many activities knowing full well what the risks are. How is this any different?

What I will say, however, is that if governments and societies as a whole get the coming transition right (whatever that means), I doubt that people would need an artificial escape from their world. While I can see a future for psychedelics (weed, shrooms, Acid) as well as party drugs like E (or Molly as it’s known now), I don’t see room for the destructive drugs. Be it nicotine or heroin, contented people generally don’t need such crutches.

With that, I’ll return to the initial article.


First study in children

The new study used Ohio Medicare data to identify both cannabis use disorder and self-harm attempts and outcomes in youth between the ages of 10 and 24 years old. The study could only show an association between cannabis dependence and negative outcomes, not a direct cause and effect.


I’m glad that they note this, albeit late in the article.


Prior studies show children with mood disorders are highly likely to use and abuse marijuana, Fontanella said, partly because they don’t like the side effects of many prescribed medications.

“Mood stabilizers and psychotic medications can cause weight gain, say up to 30 or 40 pounds … stiffness of their neck or eyes … and it can cause sedation,” Fontanella said. “So, they may not use their medication and may self-medicate with cannabis to treat the mood disorders.”

It could also be that using weed might contribute to the development of mood disorders, however.

“Research shows cannabis use is associated with early onset of mood disorder, psychosis and anxiety disorders, so it can lead to the onset of severe mental illness,” Fontanella said.

At this point, however, science is not sure which comes first, partly because few if any studies have been done in teens and young adults.


Though I have never heard of the first study, there is certainly an interesting lesson to be learned. If young children are choosing to self-medicate over the options that the expert adults are making available to them, then it might be a good idea to go back and take another look. No, I am not saying that self-medication (in this instance, or in any other instance) is wise (be it with marijuana, or any other substance). What I am saying, however, is that those are some pretty prominent side effects.

As for the 2ed point (marijuana can bring on mood disorders), I also agree with the author.

As I have mentioned in other posts at different times, the way that the US (and the world) has governed marijuana for the past 50 years or so has helped contribute to this problem. That is, the problem that is this era’s street-level produced and distributed marijuana is not the stuff that our parents and grandparents once smoked. It is way more potent, with raising THC levels and little (if any) CBD levels.

Though the science of CBD still isn’t clear (thanks, again, to the war on drugs!), it’s starting to be understood that it (CBD) acts as a sort of Yin to THC’s Yang. Or to put it in a less stoner-esk way, CBD actively blocks THC from overstimulating a given pathway in the brain’s hippocampus (thus preventing some of THC’s well-publicized negative effects).

Based on these results, the research team proposes that CBD blocks the ability of THC to overstimulate the ERK pathway in the hippocampus and thus prevent its negative side-effects.

“Our findings have important implications for prescribing cannabis and long-term cannabis use. For example, for individuals more prone to cannabis-related side-effects, it is critical to limit use to strains with high CBD and low THC content,” said Laviolette. “More importantly, this discovery opens up a new molecular frontier for developing more effective and safer THC formulations.”

How CBD Blocks THC Euphoria Explained

There was also this:


Amazingly, the researchers also found that CBD alone had no effect on the ERK pathway. “CBD by itself had no effect,” noted lead study author Roger Hudson, a PhD candidate at the University of Western Ontario. “However, by co-administering CBD and THC, we completely reversed the direction of the change on a molecular level. CBD was also able to reverse the anxiety-like behavior and addictive-like behavior caused by the THC.”

Laviolette says they will be following up these studies by continuing to identify the specific features of this molecular mechanism. The research team will examine ways to formulate THC with fewer side effects and to improve the efficacy of CBD-derived therapies.


This finding alone is interesting (no effect without the THC), since it makes me wonder if the CBD as a wonder drug of the gray market is a placebo. That is to say, does CBD truly give a calming effect outside of its partnership with the euphoric high of THC?

I guess only time (and research) will tell.

Either way, as for how this all ties into my marijuana prohibition rant, it boils down to how the marketplace guided itself in a way that benefits the sellers, but not the buyers. There is much money to be made in rapidly increasing the potency of your offerings to keep up with your core customer base’s tolerances (your repeat customers make up the bulk of your income, after all). As for how these rapidly rising THC doses will affect new users (particularly teenagers) and recreational users . . . who cares?

A dollar earned is a dollar earned.

When Dick Nixen (😂) kicked off the drug war in order to rein in minorities and get them pesky hippies back in line, his intentions (however racist) were not to promote the creation of superweed. And all the operatives that have kept the industry going throughout the years likely never intended to accidentally conduct one of the biggest psychological experiments in history by way of upping the potency of their product. But as it happens, society turning its collective back on the marijuana industry resulted in the guiding hand of economics taking over, with all other considerations going by the wayside. And now that the experiment has been exposed as the dangerous failure that it is, many of the so-called authorities of society (Doctors, cops, politicians)  want to use the symptoms caused by their failure to take proper action as grounds to stick with the status quo! 

Had Prick Nixen not decided to take the US down the path of racially tinged prohibition, what would the world look like today? 

Had the US government (along with others in the world) not so stringently denied funding and resources towards research into cannabis, would scientists still be puzzled at the relationship between marijuana and mental health today? 


“Research suggests that marijuana exposure impacts the brain’s ability to process emotion. Could this interact in a deleterious way with the developing brain?” said Dr. Lucien Gonzalez, who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on substance use and prevention. Gonzalez was not involved in the study.

“It doesn’t prove that using cannabis causes depression or self-harm, but also doesn’t definitively refute it,” said Gonzalez, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

“Complicated associations appear to be found, and we just don’t fully understand them yet,” Gonzalez said.

While science sorts out the answers, “family-based models and individual approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy” have been effective in treating youth with marijuana use disorder, Fontanella and her team said. They also called for the rollout ofa national study to further examine the mortality risks for youths and young adults who struggle with overuse of weed.


It does not prove it, nor does it refute it.

As elaborated before, I don’t like how this study seems to gloss over the reasons that people would turn to marijuana (or any other substance) to begin with. While I agree that studies into the risk of people using weed (or anything) in excess are justified, we should also be asking Why. In fact, that is arguably the most important inquiry since answering it can at least theoretically put us on the path to limiting new cases of addiction (while also promoting recovery and healthy environments in the service of healing existing addicts).

Time to close this piece.

While I don’t have all of the answers to how to fix our broken and failing societies, I can give at least one piece of advice. Stop looking for a single pill, as though it all can be fixed by way of a single solution. To borrow an annoying and overused trope, it’s not about the blue pill or the red pill.

It’s about the purple pill.

Just kidding.

It’s about understanding the complexities of human life and by extension the complexity of human societies. And since these societies are as complex as the humans that make them up, so too are many of the problems within.

If I were to name one of the biggest flaws of most humans, I would say that it’s our inability to see the big picture. While our inability to predict what seems like the obvious in hindsight is one thing, our overall reaction of attempting to solve complex problems by simplifying them could well be our downfall. This is not to say that big issues shouldn’t be reduced down to their component parts for the sake of comprehension. It’s more, our habit of attacking a problem by focusing on a small part of it is inherently destructive.

I mentioned that I had read a book called Columbine earlier . . . let’s take school violence. It’s not a mental health problem, it’s not a gun problem, its . . . all of the above. It’s all of the above, and more. Though it can be debated how much of each is pertinent in the formula.

While focusing on the relationship between marijuana and self-destructive (if not fatalistic) behaviour is a worthwhile study, it should not be undertaken without consideration of other factors.



Has The Time Come To End Cancel Culture? – An Exploration Of Free Speech

Today, we tackle yet another issue of the day. The scourge that has become known as cancel culture.

Like many seemingly macro issues of this era in which we are living (COVID? Trump? The end of the American Empire?), I have been peppered with this term for years. But I have never really taken the time to get a full grasp of the concept.
I used to be all over this stuff in the early days of this blog. In fact, I recall being annoyed by weeks wherein 4 or 5 issues (all of which required a fair amount of research and preparation) would come up. Since working full time and chores left only time for maybe 1 or 2 explorations.

At this point in life, however, I am not nearly as inclined to comment on what I view as topics of the sheep. This blog gave me a platform to pursue explorations away from that realm, and thus my focus has shifted away from many of these mainstream type collective issues, Cancel Culture being one of them (on account to many of its detractors, shall we say, fitting a very narrow description).

I decided to take a delve into Cancel Culture after all when I happened upon this open letter on justice and open debate, which as trending high in one of my twitter feeds. It was admittedly less about the letter than it was about who signed it. A list ranging from Salman Rushdie and Noam Chomsky to J.K Rowling, Barie Weiss and Margret Attwood. 

I will start by openly admitting that I come at this from a point of bias. Having very recently commented on the repeated antics of J.K Rowling’s seemingly pro-terf stances and knowing the controversial article that Barie Weiss wrote for the New York Times, my interpretation of their reason for signing this letter is apparent. Knowing some of the backgrounds of Noam Chomsky, Salmon Rushdie and Margret Attwood, I suspect they signed for much more noble reasons.

Reason’s which made me decide to comb through this letter with a fine-tooth comb. All in an effort to see if I can finally come to a conclusion to a question that has been in the back of my mind for a few years now . . . Is absolute freedom of speech worth the consequences?

In my online life, I more or less behave as an absolutist on the platforms I oversee. I never deleted a non-spam comment from any of my posts. I reserve the right to do what I want, but I don’t. 
I have heard the argument for absolute freedom of speech from many people and in many places. While you often run into confusion when freedom of speech runs into private servers and spaces, another angle I often see left out if the ramifications of truly free speech. For example, when divisive leaders are allowed to spout off all manner of dog whistles and flat out bigotry and bias, is the resulting uptick in things like hate crimes and emboldened bigots worth it?

Though the fascists of the 3ed Reich (and no doubt other examples, some even more recent) rode the liberal tenents of free speech into power, that didn’t stop them from revoking that right when their numbers were dominant enough. How does one deal with ideologies similar to this?

Should past examples of the worst of humanity (for example, the Weimar Republic) be taken into consideration in this analysis?

Let’s begin.

Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.

If I am honest, this is starting to come across as yet another piece written by a provocateur touting biased or debunked ideas. The type of person that would mistake a well-earned critique for censorship or otherwise. But, such is my bias.

For the sake of honest critique, I’ll put those feelings aside and continue.

This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other. As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences. If we won’t defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn’t expect the public or the state to defend it for us.


That’s it?!

I don’t know WHAT I was expecting . . . or what about this letter drove people into fits of controversy . . . but that was anti-climactic as hell. Despite the lengthy list of signatories, it’s apparent that few actually contributed to this letter (beyond their name, anyway).

To be fair, however, I should have known better. I came into this assuming I would find a reasoned argument of the merits of freedom of speech. In fact, I even expected a sort of discussion about the price of free speech (is it worth paying?). Since the whole point of this letter was defeating idiot bandwagon-jumping mobs, I should have known that all I would find was yet another pro-absolutist regurgitation with little else to offer to the conversation.

In all honesty, it is hard for me to focus on the topic of modern-day free speech since it has become so complex due to technological considerations. A big reason for this being that most of us have never paid attention to any of the backend functionality of most of the devices we use to interact with the internet (be it on a phone or a computer). One of these aspects being the transition of a good 95%+ of our internet traffic from open packets into encrypted packets (no matter what site we visit). This security measure (known as HTTPS) was implemented first to secure login credentials, and later to keep one’s entire interaction with a platform or website away from prying eyes. 

Consider it this way. Back when I was in high school, it would likely have been entirely possible for any given ISP that you or I was utilizing to access the internet to log and store nearly every digital interaction we had (from MSN Chats to emails sent on Hotmail or Yahoo). With every one of these interactions happening through encrypted connections today, however, one’s home or mobile ISP no longer has any access to such data. They can see WHAT websites you use, but nothing further than that.

Which brings me to 2 modern-day fights for internet privacy and freedom that are woefully under-reported in the media, particularly in pro-freedom of speech spaces.


2.) LEAD

Having seen this coming (after the topic was brought to my attention by a tech podcast last October), I tackled the problem in its own post HERE. Taking the stance that the US (and potentially other) governments around the world would eventually render blind end to end encryption illegal and stop it at the ISP level, I explored how one might achieve the access these governmental entities desire. Such is antithetical to most interpretations of privacy and free speech, but frankly . . . Welcome to reality! The world will not always conform to your ideology!
You can think ahead and do things the RIGHT way. Or you can fight until it’s too late, then settle for some sub-par solution.

Since currency is considered speech at least in the United States, I also predicted the future replacement and outlaw of today’s ubiquitous cryptocurrencies.

Another aspect of the modern-day freedom of speech argument that isn’t often overlooked is how our rights can conflict with those of the privately owned and funded platforms that we utilize. Accusations of censorship have now made their way all the way to the White House.

Which reminds me of yet another threat for the list above:

3.) Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship

I have also delved into this aspect of the free speech conversation with some depth in the past.

a.) Free Speech

b.) Free speech – revisited

I have a whole smattering of articles on the subject, but I remember these 2 vividly because they encapsulate a common annoyance I have with many people involved in this conversation. The notion that sovereign social media entities under the laws of the US and most other jurisdictions, have to honour the same free speech principals as the US government does. Otherwise known as exactly what POTUS attempted to implement with his executive order.
As with the encryption problem described above, I decided to use my brain and consider what a solution to this problem might look like. To that end, I ended up envisioning social media platforms built and funded organically (via crowdfunding?), possibly based outside of the United States, England or otherwise the western world.

The only problem with this setup is that I was uncertain if the use of such a website (on account of being reliant on typical funding structures) could be free. Thus begs the question . . . how much is free speech worth to you?

To the limited audience of my argument, apparently nothing. People like to complain and make youtube videos demanding an end to censorship (particularly egregious when these people have the cash or the audience to make a difference if they choose to). But most seem content to do just that . . . keep complaining.

And thus, I said to hell with it. 

I will now segway away from the often-overlooked technological aspects of the free speech discussion and into my critique of the absolutist speech position.

As stated before I got into the open letter, I am in my actions, a proponent of the absolutist free speech philosophy. Whilst I have the same control over my various platforms as anyone else (this blog included), I rarely exercise this control. Even on the entry that has generated the nastiest comments I’ve dealt with on this platform, I’ve never deleted a comment. If I am perfectly honest . . . for reasons akin to those outlined in the open letter above. Because having the comments of various segments of the same cohort (ranging from the deranged to the seemingly more level-headed) does far more to illustrate readers about that group than I ever could.

Which brings me to what I consider to be the uncritiqued side of the absolutist speech position. Does the risk outweigh the reward?

For a huge number of people (likely including many to all of the signatories to the open letter), I suspect that answer would be a simple “Yes!”, end of discussion.

As George Carlin once said:

“Here we fucking go again”

Alright. George Carlin was an absolutist free speech supporter. He also had what some (who am I kidding . .. many!) would view as unenlightened views on issues like eating disorders, street cyclists and many others (depending on who you ask). He was a human, nothing less and nothing more.

Maybe he got it right. Or, maybe you should consider what is the true definition of a free thinker.

Getting back to it, the first thing about the absolutist speech position that bugged me (when I started pondering it, anyway) was it’s place on the extreme end of that given dichotomy. Not that it matters I suppose, but I can think of only 1 other topic in which placing yourself on the extreme edge would be considered rational (vaccination). And even that is considered a hot potato in many circles both left and right. Come to think of it, it also plays into my argument.

Let’s start there.

The absolutist freedom of speech position towards anti-vaccination rhetoric is simple . . . let them speak, and let the light of reasoned argument disinfect the nonsense. Okay.
Like all the other starry-eyed proposals of the absolutist speech position, it all sounds good in practice and looks great on paper. But in the micro-targeted realities of our modern-day online existence, the disclaimer actual results may vary is required at an absolute minimum. If allowing pro-science and anti-vaccination proponents equal access to microphones is the answer, why is measles starting to make a comeback from it’s once mostly eradicated state?


The measles virus was down and out. Now it’s primed for a comeback

To be fair to my opponents, I can’t go on without addressing the microtargeting elephant in the room. The fact that we are STILL assessing the total damage inflicted by silicon valleys Move fast And Break Things philosophy of the last decade is hardly the fault of free speech advocates.

In fact, remember when social media was a bastion of free speech?

Well, until a huge segment of the population that was used to uncritically absorbing information from the boob tube jumped onto social media. To be fair to the boomers and Xers, they are not the only cohorts spreading misinformation. The fast pace of platform evolution and lack of a system to educate users of the often hidden aspects of these platforms (such as microtargeting!) renders many people vulnerable to unintended manipulation. A scary thought when you consider that state actors are now using these technologies to incite all manner of craziness within the borders of their enemies.

Having said all of that, however, I can’t help but think that anti-vaccination and all of the side effects attributed to it (most of which end up being suffered by the unvaccinated children of often vaccinated adults) wouldn’t be as big a thing if such dangerous medicine weren’t allowed to be platformed to begin with. You can’t do much about gullibility or lack of media awareness in adults, but child protection agencies WILL take action in the case of other instances of child abuse.

Yes, I consider the refusal to innoculate children from dangerous or painful diseases to be a form of child abuse.

Moving on from the subject of medicine, I come back to something mentioned earlier in the piece. White nationalism and supremacy, and other ideologies that rely on the freedom of a leftist paradigm in order to establish one for the fascist right.

People like Richard Spencer are at least open and honest about their intentions.

Earlier in this piece, I falsely asserted (because to be frank, I assumed) that part of the reason for the failure of the Weimar Republic that governed Germany in the years following WW1 was a lack of laws keeping bigoted speech in check. Since I put a line through that sentence, you are likely already aware of the false nature of that sentence.

“Contrary to what most people think, Weimar Germany did have hate-speech laws, and they were applied quite frequently. The assertion that Nazi propaganda played a significant role in mobilising anti-Jewish sentiment is, of course, irrefutable. But to claim that the Holocaust could have been prevented if only anti-Semitic speech and Nazi propaganda had been banned has lit-tle basis in reality. Leading Nazis such as Joseph Goebbels, Theodor Fritsch and Julius Streicher were all prosecuted for anti-Semitic speech.

“Pre-Hitler Germany had laws very much like the anti-hate laws of today, and they were enforced with some vigour.”



As I was shown, the growth of the nazi Party obviously had much more to do with the great recession than it did with the speech limitations of the time. Something to be wary of today, in our era of ill-preparation for a pandemic resulting in an increasingly decimated economy.

Taking this into consideration, am I still in favour of hate speech laws?

At this point, I can honestly say that I am unsure. 

I guess it all depends on whether or not we regard all speech as equal, or we break things down into categories. Since we live in civilized nations filled with adults (at least in theory . . . I’ve been doubting that assessment in recent years, however), I don’t see an issue in creating at least 2 categories that one can apply.
Category 1 being speech that is not at all harmful to human welfare or society in general. Then you have category 2, which would obviously contain ideas considered harmful to human welfare or society in general. Into the 2ed category, I would place such ideologies as anti-vaccine sentiment and the various forms of white fright (white supremacy, nationalism, etc).
Rather than charging people for making and sharing a bigoted video online (or otherwise having bigoted views), I would go more for stopping the seed in its tracks approach. Allow people to share this stuff on social media, even publicly if they so desire. Just stipulate by law that such material will NEVER be algorithmically spread to others.
This ensures more free speech and expression than is currently available on today’s platforms (just ask Alex Jones). And it also helps to address the issue that many readers may have by now figured that I had completely forgotten about . . . cancel culture.

I will admit that I am doing with my argument, something that annoyed me when others did it (making the assumption that social media platforms should bend to our whims). On one hand, noted.
Writing, editing and implementing the code necessary for enabling such algorithms is likely not going to be cheap. Nor will the necessity of employing human moderators to sift through all of the notices generated by both the algorithm and platform users. Having said that, however, they DID sign up for this.

Social media came in like a bull and broke democracy. Now we have to pick up the pieces. Pony up, or shut up.

Moving on, I acknowledge that my proposed system of 2 or more classes of speech isn’t without logistical problems. For example, various instances of the American right rising up against societal demons in the music and video game industries present a perfectly cogent cautionary tale (how do we avoid the changing tides of political interference?). Not to mention that political or not, it all boils down to subjectivity. What individual or group in a society can be trusted with such an important task?

The supreme court?

There is no doubt that I will think of things later that I forgot to include in this piece. In fact, one that occurs to me right now is the lack of evidence whether or not platformed bigotry makes a difference in overall societal hate crime rates. And then there is my question of where the line ends between personal speech and incitement.

However, I will end this here.

People might notice that I didn’t take a stance either for or against absolutist free speech. This is deliberate, as I didn’t write this explicitly to change minds (like that is going to happen!). This was more my attempt to both shed some light in some areas of the Free Speech conversation that really need more press (encryption laws, mainly) and otherwise to kick start a conversation outside of the usual pablum.

Any idiot can defend the right of a nazi to call for your or my demise. However, does the potential of this future becoming reality REALLY need to be a tenant of freedom of speech?

The question is . . . Would Richard Spencer?

Oh yeah!


Jason Kenny’s Speech Writer Get’s Outed

Breaking news! Jason Kenny has made himself look the part of a donkey in the national spotlight once again!


I want to thank the Montreal Simon blog for the delightful out of context imagery. This is what you get when you search “Jason Kenny Donkey”

Now that the silliness is out of my system, I can turn back to the real purpose of this post.

As readers of the recent years content of this blog know, I am not a fan of Jason Kenny. I am not a fan of any of the people that the PPC has to offer, but among them, Jason Kenny is one of the most idiotic. Having said that, however, even I have to admit that his attitude is completely in line with what I have come to expect from Alberta. A province filled with citizens proclaiming an inflated sense of importance based on a single economic resource of decreasing value in the overall worldwide marketplace. A delusional house of cards that seemingly can only end badly once the reality of the situation becomes impossible for even the most blinded to recognize.

Like a banana republic in an age where the world has moved on from consuming bananas in massive quantities. The sales are still there . . . just not nearly what they were in 2006 (or even 2019). Thus, investing in such an industry becomes asinine.

But this post is not really about Alberta, Prairie or Canadian petrol politics. It’s not really even about Jason Kenny’s policies. It is more about Kenny’s speechwriter. Or for clarity, my personal quest to see if the man should face reprimands for his actions. It would be easy to make the decision on a partisan basis. But since I get annoyed when people on the right do this, I won’t become a hypocrite of my own creation.

At least not in this instance lol.

I will be basing my quest on this CBC News article on the subject, published and posted on June 26th, 2020.


Kenney speechwriter said homosexuality is ‘socially destructive’ and called First Nation an oppressive regime

Government spokesperson said Paul Bunner’s views have evolved over time

Further writings by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s speechwriter came to light Friday, columns stating that homosexuality was “individually and socially destructive” and characterizing an Alberta First Nation as an “oppressive, collectivist regime.”

Calls by the Opposition NDP for the firing of Paul Bunner were resisted by Kenney on Thursday after a column from 2013 resurfaced wherein Bunner dismissed the “bogus genocide story” of Canada’s residential school system and said Indigenous youth could be “ripe recruits” for violent insurgencies.

Multiple other columns and articles written by Bunner, shared with media by Alberta’s NDP, span a period starting in the late 1990s up until 2016.

Kenney hired Bunner in early 2019. Bunner worked as a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper from 2006 to 2009.

Harrison Fleming, a spokesperson with the premier’s office, said the overwhelming majority of the articles released by the NDP were decades-old.

“As I am sure you can appreciate, societal norms have changed greatly over time. For example, NDP ‘saint’ Tommy Douglas previously called homosexuality a ‘mental illness,'” Fleming said in an email to CBC News. “People’s views have evolved over decades — and that includes Mr. Bunner.”

Fleming said the matters addressed in the columns “have long since been settled law.”

During a news conference held Friday, NDP Children’s Services critic Rakhi Pancholi called for Kenney to fire Bunner and issue a public apology.

“Today, we know that Mr. Bunner has a long record of writing racist, sexist, Islamophobic and homophobic articles,” Pancholi said. “The sheer volume of prejudice he has published over the years is stunning.”

Oh wow, a reference to Tommy Douglas.

Don’t get me wrong . . . he does have some dabblings into eugenics that took me completely by surprise upon looking him up some time ago. However, this was in the 1930’s (and he later rejected the hypothesis). This was LONG before the late 1990s and 2016.

On homosexuality

In a column posted in the conservative weekly newsmagazine Alberta Report in August 1997, Bunner wrote that “AIDS gets more ink than it deserves” and in a subsequent editor’s note attempts to pre-empt incoming criticism for a cover story.

“The story is an attempt to figure out why [Ralph Klein’s] government seems bent on delivering wards of the state to homosexual households, to summarize the arguments against gay parenting, and to search for some backbone in the ostensible social conservatives in the Tory cabinet and caucus,” Bunner wrote on Aug. 11, 1997.

That same year, Bunner wrote that a columnist was correct in his assessment that “100,000 abortions a year in Canada is a social tragedy, that homosexuality is individually and socially destructive.”

In 1998, Bunner wrote an editor’s note reflecting on criticism the Alberta Report received for a 1993 cover story with the headline “Can gays be cured?”

According to Bunner, that cover story provoked a flood of critical letters and phone calls, while others launched a campaign against Alberta Report’s advertisers to boycott the publication.

“The piece placed us about as far out on the ‘cutting edge’ of journalism as you can get,” Bunner writes.

Citing a Newsweek story published in 1998 titled “Can gays convert?”, Bunner appeared to celebrate the piece, writing, “If Newsweek is taking our angles, are we becoming mainstream?” and pondering whether then-premier Ralph Klein will notice a “golden opportunity for a thorough debate” on the future of homosexuality in the province.

“When [Klein] notices that the Republican party in the United States is standing firmer against the radical gay agenda than it has for years, and that an increasing number of bright, articulate homosexuals are either abandoning the lifestyle or urging their perpetually angry, dangerously hedonistic friends to tone down the political rhetoric and show a little sexual restraint,” Bunner writes, “perhaps Mr. Klein will let voters in on a discussion that for too long has been dominated by lobbyists, academics and journalists, human rights tribunals and the courts.”

Pam Rocker is the director of Affirming Connections in Calgary, a group that supports inclusive ministries and faith organizations.

Rocker said Bunner’s comments were unsettling given his position in the government.

“It’s extremely unsettling to know that somebody who is planning what our leader is saying and talking about, and how it’s being talked about, [is] somebody who has this history,” Rocker said.

I agree.

And we’re just getting started.

On First Nations

In September of 1997, Bunner wrote about the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, writing about a provincial judge’s “bold call” for an investigation into the “scandalous political goings-on” at the reserve.

Citing what Bunner refers to as “unsolicited calls” from members of the First Nation and from information provided by “dissidents,” Bunner criticizes the First Nation and its leaders.

“A community of people who are willing to give up their personal freedom to an oppressive, collectivist regime is a pretty sorry excuse for a culture. Moreover, it is a perfect recipe for real genocide,” he writes.

Two years later, writing about the same First Nation, Bunner refers to its leaders as “corrupt despots” who “keep their subjects ignorant, sickly and poor in order to control them.”

Cora Voyageur, a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and professor specializing in Indigenous sociology at the University of Calgary, said Bunner’s articles revealed a mean-spirited and unhelpful point of view.

“I think that Paul Bunner should be let go. Because what I’ve read in the various articles that he’s authored, there’s a trend there,” Voyageur said. “And it doesn’t necessarily show Indigenous people in a good light.”

On gender roles and feminism

In 1998, writing about the Eaton’s department store chain in Alberta Report, Bunner laments recent changes to the store’s marketing and corporate image.

“Post-makeover, the new Eaton’s men are either light-in-their loafers aesthetes, pathetic cuckolds or stay-at-home choreboys,” Bunner writes. 

“The women are executive ice queens or wanton nymphs, universally young, sexy, skinny, tough and liberated from the stifling roles of mother and wife. There is no doubt who’s on top in the new Eaton’s culture: estrogen rules.”

That same year, Bunner expressed his doubts about the efficacy of attempting to recall childhood memories in the field of psychology, partly attributing such methods to feminist ideology.

“The hysteria surrounding child sexual abuse was swamping reason. And feminist ideologues were flooding into the counselling field, their barren hearts bent on overthrowing the patriarchy, whatever the cost,” Bunner wrote.

One thing is for sure . . . there appears to be no group that is oppressed by white, male, patriarchal cultural norms that Bunner doesn’t have strong opinions about. Long before online phenomenons like the Intellectual Dark Web became a thang and brought these (and all other) opinions straight to our collective fingertips, Paul Bunner was saying it.

We will now switch with the article to how Jason Kenny and how the Alberta Conservatives have chosen to handle this situation.

Speaking Thursday and commenting specifically on Bunner’s writings on residential schools, Kenney said that column did not reflect or change the policy of the government of Alberta.

Kenney said his government had worked to solidify the relationship between the province and Indigenous communities, investing in projects like the Indigenous Opportunities Corporation.

Voyageur, a residential school survivor, said Bunner’s writings were extremely unhelpful.

“I know what went on there. I saw it, I experienced it,” Voyageur said. 

“To have other people say this didn’t ever happen, is … I don’t even know what to think about it.”

Paul Bunner is on the same level as a holocaust denier, a flat earther, or a climate denier. As a citizen of Canada, he has the right to make all of these views publicly known without interference from the federal government. Just as I have the right to call Jason Kenny an arrogant and ignorant twit, along with the rest of the naive supporters of bitumen in Canada who refuse to listen to both reason and read the market tea leaves.

To quote Elizabeth May and the Green Party, in the most ballsy public showcase of this viewpoint yet: 


Like a true partisan, I hath gone on a tangent again. Whoops lol.

Anyway, Jason Kenny is thus far refusing to fire Paul Bunner as his speechwriter, despite calls from Rachel Notley’s Alberta NDP (among others) to do so. An action that isn’t surprising, given that the man was once Stephan Harper’s speechwriter. There is nothing more boomer and conservative then banking on traditions (be they based on calendar days or biases).

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday that he “fundamentally disagrees” with the contents of an article written in 2013 by his speechwriter that dismissed the “bogus genocide story” of Canada’s residential school system.

But Kenney did not commit to firing speechwriter Paul Bunner for the article, titled “The ‘Genocide’ That Failed,” written for the online magazine C2C Journal.

“Somebody who was a journalist for 40 years undoubtedly wrote things with which I disagree,” Kenney said. “That does not reflect or change the policy of the government of Alberta.”

He said his government had worked to solidify the relationship between the province and Indigenous communities, investing in projects like the Indigenous Opportunities Corporation.


Uh. The Canadian elected official equivalent of “I TOTALLY have a native American friend! I am NOT racist!”.


“Somebody who was a journalist for 40 years undoubtedly wrote things with which I disagree,” Kenney said.

Yes, I am sure that is the case for a great many of us in terms of journalists. However, with which we disagree doesn’t typically include flat out homophobia, racism, sexism and an otherwise refusal to see ones own privileged status.

As for my personal take . . .

Paul Bunner has the right to say whatever stupid, idiotic, biased and outdated shit that he chooses to publicly. Just like the rest of us. However, someone with his recent and constant history of standing by toxic vitriol should be FAR from ANY official capacity to influence the power structure.

Though the Alberta conservatives earlier argue that many of these articles are quote decades old, that is hardly the reality of the situation. Since he published most of his articles starting in the mid to late 90’s, that puts the oldest of them at 25 to 30 years old.

Hardly decades.

If I cite Tommy Douglas (as the Alberta Conservatives did earlier) . . . he wrote his thesis in 1933. 87 years ago . . . otherwise known as decades ago.

But even aside from the semantics generated by the timeframes involved, people can change. If people are always to be held to their old set standards and their changes in tune always diminished, how can we hope to gain any momentum towards the changes we seek?
If the person started in the wrong place but is working towards bettering themselves, then that needs to be considered.

However, that is not the case. Though Paul Bunner started his controversial writing career 25 to 30 years ago, his most recent article of biased controversy was published in 2013. While that may seem like a century ago in both Trump and COVID years, it’s only 7 years ago.

7 years ago, this was his conclusion:

The dangers in this ought to be obvious and can hardly be overstated. Already, vast swathes of the public education system are uncritically regurgitating the genocide story as if it were fact, thereby adding to the legions of Canadian voters who will be suckers for future Phil Fontaines and Harold Cardinals and their never-ending demands for more tax dollars and greater political autonomy. It will slow any progress on integration, democratic reform and financial transparency on reserves and do nothing to reduce the terrible social pathologies afflicting Indians on and off the reserves. Worse, if future generations of young Aboriginal people are indoctrinated in the belief that Canada wilfully tried to annihilate their ancestors, some of them, at least, will be ripe recruits for radical segregationist movements, perhaps even violent insurgencies as imagined in Douglas Bland’s frighteningly plausible 2010 novel Uprising, about Aboriginal terrorism in near-future Canada.


The man should be nowhere near any levers of power. Certainly not if he is making his bread and butter off of the taxpayer’s dime.

The fact that the man has had such a lucrative career in Canadian Conservative politics says a lot about the Conservative party in itself. Really, a message between the lines that those aware of these things were already aware of. None the less, it’s never too late to be the bringer of positive change, Jason Kenny.

Don’t get me wrong . . . appeasing them Millenial (and now, Zoomer) snowflakes isn’t exactly high on the agenda of the Boomer dominated Conservative Party. None the less, we are the future. The current conservative base is . . . the future up to 2050.

The Myth Of AA – Do 12 Step Programs Harm More People Than They Help?

This piece was originally going to be a part of my Marijuana – An Exploration series of long-form posts. However, it quickly became apparent that this topic was very much worthy of its own entry. So here goes.

We will start with the origins of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Founded by Bill Wilson back in 1935, the organization and it’s accompanying 12 step methodology has since become the primary means of dealing with addiction in North America. Borrowing tenants from both Christianity and Philosophy, AA comes together as a biblically structured guide back to sobriety.
In the United States alone, it’s estimated that 23 million people suffer with substance abuse disorders. Of those, 55,000 are said to attend AA meeting groups nationally. Others encounter the AA program though over 11,000 treatment centers of which use the 12 step approach nationwide.

After 2 decades of intensive study both in the fields of medicine and theology, everything would come together while Bill Wilson was laid up in a hospital room back in 1934. Having watched various members of his own family struggle to control their addictions to various substances, Bill had been pondering a new way of tackling substance abuse in his bedridden state. Upon running some of his ideas by NYU’s Dr. Ebby Thacher (addiction specialist), the program they designed and curated would become one of the most well-known treatment programs on the planet.

The only program, according to some doctors.

In my 20 years, I have not seen anything that comes even close to the 12 steps. In my world, if someone says they don’t want to do the 12 steps, I know they aren’t going to get better.

Dr. Drew Pinsky


Unfortunately, what I just said was fiction.

Not the Drew Pinsky quote. Rather, the entire backstory regarding the origins of Alcoholics Anonymous. The truth is far more colourful than the bland lie that I just fed you.
Bill Wilson was layed up in a hospital room back in 1934. And he was indeed visited by a man named Eddy Thacher. Rather than a doctor at NYU, however, Eddy was instead Bill’s old drinking buddy. Ebby had found Christ and given up alcohol, and he thought his friend Bill would benefit from such an epiphany, as well. Since Bill was agnostic at the time, however, he declined his friend’s attempt at help. The thought of devoting himself to a higher power was not at all appealing.

Well, until it was.

In aiding his detox regiment, Bill’s physician (William Silkworth) subjected him to the Belladonna Cure. In a nutshell, he was delivered hourly doses of a poisonous plant called Belladonna (alongside a few other compounds). The rest . . . is history.

But later, as he writhed in his hospital bed, still heavily under the influence of belladonna, Wilson decided to give God a try. “If there is a God, let Him show Himself!” he cried out. “I am ready to do anything. Anything!”

What happened next is an essential piece of AA lore: A white light filled Wilson’s hospital room, and God revealed himself to the shattered stockbroker. “It seemed to me, in the mind’s eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing,” he later said. “And then it burst upon me that I was a free man.” Wilson would never drink again.


So, this was how the AA program got its start. A man tripping balls on god knows what . . . came to Jesus. Or, Jesus came to him?

Either way, given the typical prognosis of alcoholics at the time, the fact that this happened is not all that surprising.

At that time, the conventional wisdom was that alcoholics simply lacked moral fortitude. The best science could offer was detoxification with an array of purgatives, followed by earnest pleas for the drinker to think of his loved ones. When this approach failed, alcoholics were often consigned to bleak state hospitals.

This also holds true of Bill Wilson. As this was not his first round of Belladonna. It was his 4th.

Perhaps the most famous patient was William Griffith Wilson, better known as Bill W., the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. In the early 1930s, Mr. Wilson was consuming more than two quarts of rotgut whiskey daily, a definite health risk according to Alexander Lambert, who found in his copious research that consumers of cheap or bootlegged alcohol were far more prone to seizures, delirium tremens and brain damage than those who drank the expensive stuff. Between 1933 and 1934, at his wife’s urging and on his wealthy brother-in-law’s dime, Mr. Wilson was admitted to Towns four times. The cost upon admission was steep: up to $350 (roughly $5,610 today) for a four- to five-day stay.

Although Mr. Wilson made some progress in temporarily abstaining, he relapsed after each of the first three hospitalizations. It was around this time that he reunited with a drinking buddy named Ebby Thacher. Unlike previous times, when they went out on wild binges, Mr. Thacher told him that he quit booze and was a member of the Oxford Group, a church-based association devoted to living on a higher spiritual plane guided by Christianity. As a demonstration, on Dec. 7, 1934, Mr. Thacher took Mr. Wilson to the Calvary Mission on East 23rd Street and Second Avenue, where the most drunken of New York’s Depression-era down-and-outers went to be fed and, it was hoped, “saved.”

A few days later, a drunken Wilson staggered back into the Towns Hospital. There, his physician, William D. Silkworth, sedated him with chloral hydrate and paraldehyde, two agents guaranteed to help an agitated drunk to sleep, albeit lightly. This was especially important because the medical staff members had to wake patients every hour for at least two days to take the various pills, cathartics and tinctures of the belladonna regime.

On the second or third day of his treatment, Mr. Wilson had his now famous spiritual awakening. Earlier that evening, Mr. Thacher had visited and tried to persuade Mr. Wilson to turn himself over to the care of a Christian deity who would liberate him from the ravages of alcohol. Hours later, depressed and delirious, Mr. Wilson cried out: “I’ll do anything! Anything at all! If there be a God, let him show himself!” He then witnessed a blinding light and felt an ecstatic sense of freedom and peace. When Mr. Wilson told Dr. Silkworth about the event, the physician responded: “Something has happened to you I don’t understand. But you had better hang on to it.”

Hang on to it he did. Indeed, this experience ultimately led Mr. Wilson to abstain from alcohol for the remaining 36 years of his life and to co-create the novel program whereby one alcoholic helps another through a commitment to absolute honesty and a belief that a higher power can help one achieve sobriety.

 We also learn something about his background that wasn’t obvious before. He came from a background of wealth.
Either way, as you now know, Ebby Thacher lead Wilson to attend meetings of the Oxford group. However, it was only after meeting Bob Smith during an Oxford group meeting in Akron, Ohio that Alcoholics Anonymous as we know it today, was born.

In May 1935, while on an extended business trip to Akron, Ohio, Wilson began attending Oxford Group meetings at the home of a local industrialist. It was through the group that he met a surgeon and closet alcoholic named Robert Smith. For weeks, Wilson urged the oft-soused doctor to admit that only God could eliminate his compulsion to drink. Finally, on June 10, 1935, Smith (known to millions today as Dr. Bob) gave in. The date of Dr. Bob’s surrender became the official founding date of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In its earliest days, AA existed within the confines of the Oxford Group, offering special meetings for members who wished to end their dependence on alcohol. But Wilson and his followers quickly broke away, in large part because Wilson dreamed of creating a truly mass movement, not one confined to the elites Buchman targeted. To spread his message of salvation, Wilson started writing what would become AA’s sacred text: Alcoholics Anonymous, now better known as the Big Book.

The core of AA is found in chapter five, entitled “How It Works.” It is here that Wilson lists the 12 steps, which he first scrawled out in pencil in 1939. Wilson settled on the number 12 because there were 12 apostles.

In writing the steps, Wilson drew on the Oxford Group’s precepts and borrowed heavily from William James’ classic The Varieties of Religious Experience, which Wilson read shortly after his belladonna-fueled revelation at Towns Hospital. He was deeply affected by an observation that James made regarding alcoholism: that the only cure for the affliction is “religiomania.” The steps were thus designed to induce an intense commitment, because Wilson wanted his system to be every bit as habit-forming as booze.

Suddenly, I find myself thinking of James Fry’s controversial memoir titled A Million Little Pieces. Interestingly enough, the title was also released as a movie adaptation last year. Though the ratings are fairly low, I’ll be my own judge.

Of all the problems that exist with the book, however, I can’t help but think that James didn’t embellish his disdain for the 12 step recovery program prescribed by the treatment center in Minnesota. To borrow a quote from the now infamous book (of which I still own a copy):

“I’d rather have that (relapse and death) than spend my life in Church basements listening to people whine and bitch and complain. That’s not productivity to me, nor is it progress. It is the replacement of one addiction with another.”

“I know I won’t ever believe in the Twelve Steps. People like you keep saying it’s the only way, so I’m thinking that I might as well just put myself out of my misery now and save myself and my family the pain.”

“Addiction is not a disease…Diseases are destructive medical conditions that human beings do not control…I don’t think it does me any good to accept anything other than myself and my own weakness as a root cause.”


Though James Fry has not been immune to controversies even following the first book (as per the above link), one thing that seems not to have changed is his sobriety status. An accomplishment that was not achieved through the typical AA 12 step regiment. Not only were the 12 steps not effective in his case, it can be (and is) argued that the program actively undercut his attempts at bettering himself.

The value of his book was his search for a solution for his problems consistent with his own beliefs.

Frey was not religious. Yet he was force fed AA’s Twelve Step philosophy at every turn in his treatment. Frey rejected AA and its whole redemptive approach: “I’d rather have that (relapse and death) than spend my life in Church basements listening to People whine and bitch and complain. That’s not productivity to me, nor is it progress. It is the replacement of one addiction with another.”

The treatment he received actually impeded his efforts to recover: “I know I won’t ever believe in the Twelve Steps. People like you keep saying it’s the only way, so I’m thinking that I might as well just put myself out of my misery now and save myself and my Family the pain.”

Although American treatment programs (including the Betty Ford Center, Hazelden, and virtually every drug and alcohol treatment program in the U.S.) are all predicated on the Twelve Steps, this approach has never been demonstrated to be particularly effective. Among Frey’s true statements was his report that the success rate – “Patients who are sober for a year after they leave here” – was 17 percent at the hospital where he was treated.


Is the AA program an active affront to religious freedom?

In itself, no. As a tool for reform as prescribed by the justice system, potentially.

AA acolytes and others who support the Twelve Steps argue that the steps are not really religiously-oriented. This, although “God,” “Him,” or a “higher power,” is mentioned in half of the Twelve Steps. The third step in particular: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him,” is often justified by the claim that God can be understood as being anything!

However, every state supreme and federal appeals court which has adjudicated the issue has concluded that AA and its Twelve Steps are religious. Thus, it is illegal – a violation of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state – for courts to “sentence” people to attend Twelve Step programs. This ruling is consistently violated around the United States, while rarely being challenged.

Frey was “not gonna believe in AA or the Twelve Steps. The whole thing is based on belief in God. I don’t have that, and I never will.” Being forced in a supposedly medical treatment to accept God would be a violation of a patient’s rights in anything other than American substance abuse treatment. Aside from violating the principle of informed consent, discounting people’s core beliefs does not enhance their motivation to change.

American society has always been about fitting millions of squared, triangled, hexagonal, and every other shape under the sun into round holes. Standardization is good for the industries that keep America thriving. Or should I say, standardization was good for the industries that kept America thriving until it became cheaper to outsource to cheaper territories of operation.

Now all that remains is but a shell of what once was. Dilapidated factories in depopulated towns and cities. And hundreds of thousands of displaced and obsoleted former workers. Conditioned for a lifetime on the virtues, sense of purpose and accomplishment that a hard-working life brings a person, they now wander aimlessly and jobless, everywhere.
Some take this anger out on their family members (domestic abuse). Others attack whatever minorities the elites in power choose as their scapegoat this era. And others still (including some in the aforementioned groups) self-abuse in various ways, including self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.

As it stands, 23 million Americans are said to struggle with substance abuse issues currently. Taking into account the after-effects of the COVID 19 pandemic (how many people will be out of work even after it’s over?), this number may well grow.
If I look even further down the road and take the next automation revolution into consideration, is it possible that the current 23 million number could double (or even triple)?

Addiction is now such a factor of everyday life in America that addiction treatment is now its own industry, valued at 42 Billion dollars. With the alcohol industry alone taking in 260 billion back in 2018, that is no small figure.

However, everyone knows that there is much money to be made in exploiting the downtrodden (most notably A&E). While that is problematic in itself, it represents an arguably small part of the problem. Only around 3 million people have the resources to come into contact with treatment centers, to begin with. Almost every single one of those people will encounter the 12 steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous program, however.

While AA’s success rate tends to be hard to pin down on account of the anonymous fluidity of the overall organization, it is thought to be around 5 to 10 percent. While it is considered to be better than no recovery program at all, does AA deserve its status as the unofficial gold standard in treatment programs?

Let’s consider some of the alternatives. Though there are many more than I had previously realized, I’m going to stick to the most common ones (though you can find many more HERE). The most well-known alternatives appear to be:

SMART Recovery



Women For Sobriety

Again, that list is far from exhaustive in terms of the options available, both online and IRL. Though all options are likely not available where everyone resides, one would hope at least one or 2 exist. At the very least, the online communities are available wherever you are.

Let’s start with SMART Recovery. They appear to employ what they call a four-point program which helps guide there members to continued abstinence-based sobriety. From their website:

Key Areas of Awareness and Change

SMART Recovery’s approach to behavioral change is built around our 4-Point Program®: (1) Building and maintaining the motivation to change. (2) Coping with urges to use. (3) Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in an effective way without addictive behaviors. (4) Living a balanced, positive, and healthy life.

Motives and Goals

Motivation is a key element in nearly all you do. Consider that all human beings share several primary goals: survival, the avoidance of pain, happiness. Any addictive behaviors you engage in are to pursue these primary goals. We can help you see that you may be meeting these goals short-term but impairing your ability to meet them in the long-term.


What you believe about addiction is important, and there are many beliefs to choose from. You may believe, for example, that you’re powerless, or that after the first drink you lose all control and can’t stop. These beliefs may actually be damaging to you. Similar examples include, “I’ve tried and failed, so I can’t do it. I need alcohol to cope.” Or, “Because I’ve tried to quit and failed, I’m no good.” Those beliefs, and many like them, can’t be justified because the evidence just doesn’t support them. We will help you identify, examine, and modify your beliefs about yourself, your problems, and how to change.


People often engage in addictive behavior to cope with emotional problems, including anger, guilt, anxiety, and low self-esteem. SMART Recovery teaches you how to diminish your emotional disturbances and increase self-acceptance. Then you can have greater motivation and the ability to change and to live more happily.


Changes in thinking and emotions alone are not enough. Commitment and follow-through are essential. We encourage participants to become involved in enjoyable activities that replace their problematic addictive behaviors.

How SMART Provides Help

Our meeting format is straightforward and organized. Our facilitators are trained to follow the SMART Recovery program and principles to help participants change their behavior. Some of them have had addictive problems, and some haven’t. That doesn’t seem to make any difference. Remember, SMART Recovery is a mental health and educational program, focused on changing human behavior. SMART Recovery meetings are serious but often fun. We don’t dredge up the past, about which we can do nothing. We can do something about the present and the future. Our meeting discussions focus on how to apply SMART’s tools for change so that you can go on to lead a more productive and connected life. Near the end of the meeting, the “hat” is passed for donations, which are encouraged but not required.


I like what I see, so far. But more importantly, is it effective?

According to a study (which I learned of HERE, in the name of full disclosure), the answer appears to be yes.

Background: Overcoming Addictions (OA) is an abstinence-oriented, cognitive behavioral, Web application based on the program of SMART Recovery. SMART Recovery is an organization that has adapted empirically supported treatment strategies for use in a mutual help framework with in-person meetings, online meetings, a forum, and other resources.

Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of OA and SMART Recovery (SR) with problem drinkers who were new to SMART Recovery. Our experimental hypotheses were: (1) all groups will reduce their drinking and alcohol/drug-related consequences at follow-up compared to their baseline levels, (2) the OA condition will reduce their drinking and alcohol/drug-related consequences more than the control group (SR), and (3) the OA+SR condition will reduce their drinking and alcohol/drug-related consequences more than the control group (SR only).

Methods: We recruited 189 heavy problem drinkers primarily through SMART Recovery’s website and in-person meetings throughout the United States. We randomly assigned participants to (1) OA alone, (2) OA+attend SMART Recovery (SR) meetings (OA+SR), or (3) attend SR only. Baseline and follow-ups were conducted via GoToMeeting sessions with a Research Assistant (RA) and the study participant. We interviewed significant others to corroborate the participant’s self-report. Primary outcome measures included percent days abstinent (PDA), mean drinks per drinking day (DDD), and alcohol/drug-related consequences.

Results: The intent-to-treat analysis of the 3-month outcomes supported the first hypothesis but not the others. Participants in all groups significantly increased their percent days abstinent from 44% to 72% (P<.001), decreased their mean drinks per drinking day from 8.0 to 4.6 (P<.001), and decreased their alcohol/drug-related problems (P<.001). Actual use relationships were found for the OA groups, between SR online meetings and improvement in PDA (r=.261, P=.033). In addition in the OA groups, the number of total sessions of support (including SR & other meetings, counselor visits) was significantly related to PDA (r=.306, P=012) and amount of improvement in alcohol-related problems (r=.305, P=.012). In the SR only group, the number of face-to-face meetings was significantly related to all three dependent variables, and predicted increased PDA (r=.358, P=.003), fewer mean DDD (r=.250, P=.039), and fewer alcohol-related problems (r=-.244, P=.045), as well as to the amount of improvement in all three of these variables. Six-month follow-ups have been completed, and the results are currently being analyzed.

Conclusions: These results support our first experimental hypothesis but not the second or third. All groups significantly increased their PDA and decreased both their mean DDD and their alcohol-related problems, which indicates that both interventions being investigated were equally effective in helping people recover from their problem drinking.


Since that comes across as rather self-serving, how does SMART compare to other alternatives (AA included?).

A Longitudinal Study of the Comparative Efficacy of Women for Sobriety, LifeRing, SMART Recovery, and 12-step Groups for Those With AUD

Background: Despite the effectiveness of 12-step groups, most people reporting a prior alcohol use disorder (AUD) do not sustain involvement in such groups at beneficial levels. This highlights the need for research on other mutual help groups that address alcohol problems and may attract those who avoid 12-step groups. The current study addresses this need, offering outcome data from the first longitudinal, comparative study of 12-step groups and their alternatives: The Peer ALlternatives for Addiction (PAL) Study.

Methods: Adults with a lifetime AUD were surveyed at baseline (N=647), 6months (81% response rate) and 12months (83% response rate). Members of the largest known secular mutual help alternatives, namely Women for Sobriety (WFS), LifeRing, and SMART, were recruited in collaboration with group directors; current 12-step attendees were recruited from an online meeting hub. Online surveys assessed demographic and clinical variables; mutual help involvement; and alcohol and drug use and severity. Analyses involved multivariate logistic GEEs separately modelling alcohol abstinence, alcohol problems, and total abstinence across 6 and 12months. Key predictors were baseline primary group affiliation (PGA); primary group involvement (PGI) at both baseline and 6months; and the interaction between baseline PGA and 6-month PGI. The critical effects of interest were the interactions, expressing whether associations between changes in PGI from baseline to 6months and substance use outcomes differed by primary group.

Results: None of the interactions between baseline PGA and 6-month PGI were significant, suggesting no differences in the efficacy of WFS, LifeRing, or SMART, vs. 12-step groups. Nevertheless, some PGA main effects emerged. Compared to 12-step members, those identifying SMART as their primary group at baseline fared worse across outcomes, and those affiliating with LifeRing showed lower odds of total abstinence. Still, these effects became nonsignificant when controlling for baseline alcohol recovery goal, suggesting that any group differences may be explained by selection of those with weaker abstinence motivation into LifeRing and (especially) SMART.

Conclusions: This study makes a valuable contribution in view of the extremely limited evidence on mutual help alternatives. Results tentatively suggest that WFS, LifeRing, and SMART are as effective as 12-step groups for those with AUDs, and that this population has the best odds of success when committing to lifetime total abstinence. An optimal care plan may thus involve facilitating involvement in a broad array of mutual help groups and supporting abstinence motivation


While one could read this and come away with the message that SMART is no better than any of the other options, the final paragraph above makes me think that I may be approaching this the wrong way. Frankly, in the one size fits all fashion of the pro-AA proponents I am arguing against.

In the realm of addiction (or substance misuse management, to borrow a term from Russell Brand), there will be no clear winners (in terms of best recovery options). And even if I do end up eating that statement at some point later, it should be less about crowning a king and more about acknowledging options for an incredibly diverse populace.

Since many of these programs call themselves abstinence-based, it also makes me wonder if that must be the only option for a population as diverse as . . . the world.

The expectation of total abstinence from something one considers pleasurable has always struck me as a tall order. Don’t get me wrong, people get there in various ways. But it seems that is an incredibly high expectation to hold any person to, considering that most of us engage in some form of habit that could cause us grief if we tried to go abstinent cold turkey. Whether or not the habit (or addiction) is harmful is not the point.

It all boils down to guilt.

I’m reminded of 13 years ago when I decided to quit smoking. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a heavy smoker. None the less, close friends introduced me to flavoured cigarillos. And a job at a c-store introduced me to initially menthol cigarettes, than regular cigarettes. Though you never think you can’t quit, it seems that you don’t know until you try.
With the expectation of abstinence comes an inevitable feeling of guilt if you happen to be human and fall off the wagon. Thus begins the vicious cycle.

I remember going through it when I quit smoking. Though I was far from a 50 year 3 pack a day smoker, it was still a struggle. Looking back, had I known not to feel guilty every time I relapsed, I may have kicked the habit even sooner.

Even though this all happened over a decade ago, I still get the occasional craving for a cigarette. It has nothing to do with stress or situation, it’s more time of year. Involving a seemingly innocuous memory of all things.
A close friend of mine had planned a Halloween party, which was to occur in 2 or 3 days. I was walking home from either his place or my job (at the time), both of which had me use the same route. All I remember is looking forward to that party as I smoked a menthol cigarette. It was around 11pm. The moon was out, the air was cool and crisp, and the leaves were falling all around me.

In the years since, pumpkin spice season has always marked my most difficult period to stay smoke-free. Don’t get me wrong . . . now that menthol cigarettes and flavoured cigarillos are illegal in Canada, it’s easier. But it’s still an interesting reoccurring phenomenon.

Interestingly enough, we’re still catching up in terms of the flavoured vaping juices that were used to addict a whole new generation to nicotine. 

Either way, I have gotten off-topic.

In the same way that expecting every addict to conform their recovery around the tenants of AA and the 12 steps are harming some people’s chances of recovery, the expectation that recovery is defined as abstinence may well also be doing more harm than good.

While this argument would seem asinine to the purveyors of an ideology that grounds itself on the concept that is “You are not strong. You need *Insert Deity Here*”, this ideology would seem to provide a terribly limited path forward. Particularly if ignorant or disingenuous people on your journey convince you that this is the only way to go forward. If this won’t work, then what chance do I have?

It makes one wonder how many family members or friends have washed their hands of problematic friends or relatives based on their failure to take to a ridiculously hard to maintain future lifestyle. A liftstyle that is almost certainly primed for failure.

Interestingly enough, such recovery programs do exist.

What is Moderation Management?

Moderation Management (MM) is a behavioral change program and national support group network for people concerned about their drinking and who desire to make positive lifestyle changes. MM empowers individuals to accept personal responsibility for choosing and maintaining their own path, whether moderation or abstinence. MM promotes early self-recognition of risky drinking behavior, when moderate drinking is a more easily achievable goal. MM is run by lay members who came to the organization to resolve personal issues and stayed to help others.


From the same website, I like this particularly honest and helpful entry.

Is MM for every person with a drinking problem?

No. Research suggests that no one solution is best for all people with drinking problems. There are many possible solutions available to each individual, and MM suggests the each person finds the solution that is best for him or her.

MM is good place to begin to address a drinking problem. If MM proves to be an ineffective solution, the individual is encouraged to progress to a more radical solution.

I may as well conclude this entry here.

When I started this entry, I asked the question Do 12 step programs harm more people than they help?. If I am perfectly honest, I thought I know the answers before I even started my research. I know . . . someone with a non-theistic point of view would approach this topic from a biased point of view. Shocker!

In reality, however, there are many nuances to be considered. As such, the answer to that question would have to be Yes and No.

Should the un-medicine based regiment that is Alcoholics Anonymous be the standard of rehabilitation (as is often the case)?

Should the success stories of the AA regiment (be they because of, or in spite of) be disregarded on account of its abysmal overall success rate?

If this research has taught me anything, it’s that the word recovery may mean many different things for many different people. In fact, it SHOULD mean many different things to many different people, if the personal welfare of the person is really the end goal.

Am I highly amused by the fact that the most common recovery regiment in North America was the result of a drug-induced hallucination brought on by a 4th attempt at attaining the incredibly difficult?


If it works for you . . . you do you. Just remember that the rest of us are not necessarily like you.



Patriotism In Today’s World – Part 1

As most people likely know, yesterday was Independence day in the United States. Here in Canada, we celebrated our own version (Canada Day) 2 days earlier. No matter where you are in the world, you likely have an equivalent on your calendar.
Like many things I once took for granted, patriotism is one of the many things that I initially left unquestioned. As that statement hints, such is no longer the case. For a number of reasons, at this point.

For a long time, I relegated it to the realm of the Sheeple. Just another label and ideology for those that can’t seem to live without. Of course, one has to be careful not to take this conclusion too far, for it is also possible for blazing one’s own trail (for lack of a better description) to become just as powerful an ideology. It’s the reason why I don’t label myself as an iconoclast, contrarian or anything else of the sort. Whilst there no doubt exist good examples of the cohort, any viewpoint that discourages individual reasoning in favour of a generalized conclusion is suspect.

This is not to say that I don’t live without ideology. Such is not possible. I just don’t have a need to be dominated by one (or many) that mould most of my conclusions for me. Like everything else, it’s all about moderation. You look around and adopt what works, and the rest goes into the blue bin.

My earliest experiences with patriotism (a case that is likely true for most of us) came in a form that many may not recognize as such. That form is school spirit.

At least in the western world, high schools generally have a handful of sports teams, all competing under one common brand (associated with the school). My school had the Spartans, neighbouring schools in the city had the Vikings and the Plainsmen. Athletes usually enjoy a higher tier social status than most others, and school administrators themselves foster this status by cutting into educational time by scheduling often compulsory team spirit rallies. You know, get the whole school into the gymnasium for a couple hours to cheer on and celebrate the accomplishments of our athletes.

Our athletes . . . the indoctrination is still powerful LOL.

Being an inch over half way to 60 at this point, I don’t recall how many hours of my life were spent (wasted) sitting through such pageantry. However, for someone that didn’t give a damn in the slightest (even then!), one minute was too many. Of course, back then I didn’t care for a different reason (I didn’t care about anything ), but none the less, the point still stands.
I would not come to make the connection to patriotism until many years later. Though the connection likely isn’t anything more than coincidence, the parallels are interesting. Though the 2 (patriotism for one’s country and school spirit) exist independently of one another, I can’t help but think that one could influence the other. Even if one considers the dynamic of having many friends competing as Plainsmen, but being stuck attending a Spartan loyal school . . . you get the drift.

To be fair, a big component of this is the annoying nature of many sports fans. Canadian hockey fans tend to be some of the worlds worst (of course, based on my own anecdotal experience). If Cricket and Soccer can be viewed as unifying of cultures and nations, than hockey is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

However, we are now in the weeds. WAY in the weeds lol. Time to retreat.

Sporting loyalties aside, the parallels in traditions between the celebration of school spirit and patriotism are hard to miss. Both actively encourage division. As for whether school spirit traditions can influence patriotism based traditions throughout life . . . I have no idea.

Considering that most western world constitutions forbid mandating participation in such rituals (particularly in schools), however, giving the possibility some scrutiny can’t hurt.

Part 2 will explore the more recent problem of patriotism in collision with the growing trend towards fascism in recent years.

Part 3 (?) will explore the question of whether patriotism is still relevant in today’s increasingly borderless world.

“Autonomous Vehicles Might Drive Cities to Financial Ruin” – (Wired)

In a recent post exploring the rise of AI and the dramatic effects, it will have on contemporary society as we know it, one of the issues it (I) covered was the soon to arrive issue of unemployment on a MASSIVE scale. Comparisons are made to past transitions, but really, there is no precedent.  Not just on account of the percentages, but also due to our population alone. There are WAY more of us making tracks now than during any past transition. The stakes could not be higher.

I explored some possible solutions to make the transition less drastic, my favorite being universal basic income. Though I explored that in enough depth to be satisfied, Wired has highlighted a new and equally important problem with this transition.  The issue of local budgets becoming EXTREMELY tight on account to autonomous vehicles more than likely operating outside the traditional confines of must city revenue streams (gas taxes, parking tickets, etc).

If we go into these situations unprepared, the conclusion seems altogether terrifying. Cities that were already structurally deficient in many ways in THIS paradigm now fall apart, filled with aimless and angry people, automated out of existence.

Then there is the now past peak of worldwide oil production, a wall we will also begin to increasingly hit in the coming years. Then again, one terrifyingly dystopian issue at a time.


In Ann Arbor, Michigan, last week, 125 mostly white, mostly male, business-card-bearing attendees crowded into a brightly lit ballroom to consider “mobility.” That’s the buzzword for a hazy vision of how tech in all forms—including smartphones, credit cards, and autonomous vehicles— will combine with the remains of traditional public transit to get urbanites where they need to go.

There was a fizz in the air at the Meeting of the Minds session, advertised as a summit to prepare cities for the “autonomous revolution.” In the US, most automotive research happens within an hour of that ballroom, and attendees knew that development of “level 4” autonomous vehicles—designed to operate in limited locations, but without a human driver intervening—is accelerating.

The session raised profound questions for American cities. Namely, how to follow the money to ensure that autonomous vehicles don’t drive cities to financial ruin. The advent of driverless cars will likely mean that municipalities will have to make do with much, much less. Driverless cars, left to their own devices, will be fundamentally predatory: taking a lot, giving little, and shifting burdens to beleaguered local governments. It would be a good idea to slam on the brakes while cities work through their priorities. Otherwise, we risk creating municipalities that are utterly incapable of assisting almost anyone with anything—a series of sprawling relics where American cities used to be.

A series of sprawling relics where American cities used to be.

Like this?

The fact that Detroit blight jumps right to the forefront of the mind when the topic of urban wastelands is broached, is unfortunate. I don’t live anywhere near the city (nor have I ever visited), but even I know that the remeaning residents are often doing anything in their power to improve their environment. The evidence is scattered all over Youtube and social media in general.

I decided to use the example, frankly, because I didn’t like the way the author seemed to gloss over the notion of the deterioration of cities using the term relics. A relic to me is something old and with former purpose, but now obsolete.
Cities (like Detroit) will likely never be obsolete.  They will just continue to suffer the continued effects of entropy, while still being necessary for the survival of their inhabitants.

It may just be a linguistic critique, but it still doesn’t sit well with me.

Moving on, the other reason why Detroit (and really, many similar cities all over the US) come to mind is that it’s not the first time innovation has left locales in the lurch.  Detroit (and the others as well) have other factors at play as well (white flight being one), but a big one lies in the hands of private entities. Automation itself requires fewer positions, and when combined with an interconnected global economy, the results can be tragic.
As much as I am fascinated by technology (and view it as being the new societal stasis from now on), it’s hard not to see it as one of the largest drivers of income inequality.
Workplace innovations are almost as a rule, NOT good for anything but the bottom line. As you need fewer workers (and can employ them in places with inhumanly low wages), it’s almost inevitable that inequality will only balloon.

In the past, one could balance this out somewhat with the service sector, an industry that is a necessity everywhere and can reliably create cash flow from essentially nothing. It has served as somewhat of a crutch for some unemployed people. These jobs are by no means on par with previous positions (something many slanted commentators overlook either ignorantly or deliberately), but none the less, they serve a purpose.

Or, at least they do for the time being.

The first big round of automation and economic shifts hit the manufacturing sector hard, leaving in its wake the many examples of civil and urban decay. Though the new economic realities of free trade were not really an issue for the service industry (generally, the opposite actually), that paradigm may well be starting to shift.
Already, automation is slowly making its presence seen in the world of service. On top of this, online retailers are gradually rendering once absolutely necessary brick and mortar retail stores and complexes obsolete. While I can see some areas of the service sector as being permanent, local retail is not one of them. At least not in the numbers it generates today.

Hot or cold food is a challenge from a logistics perspective (when the lengthy supply chains of your average online retailer are considered). This, coupled with people wanting to eat out every so often, will hold a place for the family restaurant (or possibly even the fast food outlet) in the local landscape for the time being. Stores on the other hand (particularly larger retailers) are a different matter.

There will exist local shops, I have no doubt there. But I doubt that the selection (or prices) would come anywhere close to what consumers can now get in big box retailers, or will then be able to get with big online retailers. This, combined with the increased automation of future service encounters, could make things very challenging for anyone with any hesitation towards technology. I suspect that many such people will move (or be pushed out) of larger cities and towns, far from the machine.

The demise of big-box retail is, on one hand, a good thing. They tended to be notoriously toxic when it came to local economies to begin with, not beyond many types of bullying tactics in order to maintain such perks as tax-free status. Consider the case of the big box retailer that relocates a couple miles over to another country in order to break a union, skip out on a local tax, or whatever action they deemed punitive. Therein the county ends up reaping all the negatives of such an enterprise without having any of the positives.

The world can do with less big boxes sucking up energy and contributing to an EXTREMELY energy inefficient way of life that we can no longer afford for a number of reasons. But having said that, economically, this will only succeed in turning almost the whole of most countries into the loser county to the big boxes relocation. One or 2 cities that are home to the distribution facilities will see some benefit, but that is it. The rest see nothing but the infrastructural wear and tear, and the trash.
And things probably won’t be rosy even for the seemingly lucky host cities of these distribution centers, because of the power these entities now have. Take the case of Seattle.

It would seem that I am now miles from where I started off (autonomous vehicles & city budgets). But it all plays into the very same thing. Just as I suspect that the majority of future retail distribution will be based out of a small number of warehouses and based around a largely autonymous transportation (be it truck, plane or drone), I can also see such a model for autonomous vehicle distribution.
When the time comes when rented autonomous vehicles are reliable enough to allow the majority of people to ditch one of the largest expenses in their lives (a vehicle), it will become increasingly financially feasible to own and maintain large fleets of always ready autonomous vehicles. Like how self-hauling rental services operate almost ubiquitously on the North American continent with one control center, I can see an alike entity operating huge fleets of self-driving vehicles.

Though these vehicles will utilize some local services (mechanics, cleaners, maybe electricity), as the article states, I doubt it will ever come close to covering the costs of maintaining the infrastructure on which they depend on for their operation. Which more than likely means that consumers will be footing the bill, be it through taxes or user fees.

The problem, as speaker Nico Larco, director of the Urbanism Next Center at the University of Oregon, explained, is that many cities balance their budgets using money brought in by cars: gas taxes, vehicle registration fees, traffic tickets, and billions of dollars in parking revenue. But driverless cars don’t need these things: Many will be electric, will never get a ticket, and can circle the block endlessly rather than park. Because these sources account for somewhere between 15 and 50 percent of city transportation revenue in America, as autonomous vehicles become more common, huge deficits are ahead.

Cities know this: They’re beginning to look at fees that could be charged for accessing pickup and dropoff zones, taxes for empty seats, fees for parking fleets of cars, and other creative assessments that might make up the difference.

But many states, urged on by auto manufacturers, won’t let cities take these steps. Several have already acted to block local policies regulating self-driving cars. Michigan, for example, does not allow Detroit, a short drive away from that Ann Arbor ballroom, to make any rules about driverless cars.

A preemptive strike.

Not that such surprises me. Auto companies already are blurring the line that once separated them from tech companies. I say this due to a bit of exposure to the computers that drive today’s vehicles, having helped a self-taught mechanic tinker with the tune of his 2013 Ford F150. The internet is a limitless resource for this sort of thing. I taught him the basics of how to use this tool, and he ran with it.

It’s not surprising that automobile manufacturers are greasing the gears in statehouses all over the country already. I wouldn’t be surprised that other tech entities are also doing the same thing.

This loss of city revenue comes at a harrowing time. Thousands of local public entities are already struggling financially following the Great Recession. Dozens are stuck with enormous debt loads—usually pension overhangs—that force them to devote unsustainable portions of their incoming revenue to servicing debt. Cities serve as the front lines of every pressing social problem the country is battling: homelessness, illiteracy, inadequate health care, you name it. They don’t have any resources to lose.

The rise of autonomous vehicles will put struggling sections of cities at a particular disadvantage. Unemployment may be low as a national matter, but it is far higher in isolated, majority-minority parts of cities. In those sharply-segregated areas, where educational and health outcomes are routinely far worse than in majority white areas, the main barrier to employment is access to transport. Social mobility depends on being able to get from point A to point B at a low cost.

Take Detroit, a city where auto insurance is prohibitively expensive and transit has been cut back, making it hard for many people to get around. “The bus is just not coming,” Mark de la Vergne, Detroit’s Chief of Mobility Innovation, told the gathering last week, adding that most people in the City of Detroit make less than $57,000 a year and can’t afford a car. De la Vergne told the group in the Ann Arbor ballroom about a low-income Detroit resident who wanted a job but couldn’t even get to the interview without assistance in the form of a very expensive Lyft ride.

As explored before, I suspect that the scaled economies of owning and operating massive fleets of self-driving vehicles may help with this problem. But with the shrunken job market and other local problems coming down the pipe, this hardly even seems a benefit worth mentioning.

That story is, in a nutshell, the problem for America. We have systematically underinvested in public transit: less than 1 percent of our GDP goes to transit. Private services are marketed as complements to public ways of getting around, but in reality these services are competitive. Although economic growth is usually accompanied by an uptick in public transit use, ridership is down in San Francisco, where half the residents use Uber or Lyft. Where ridership goes down, already-low levels of investment in public transit will inevitably get even lower.

When driverless cars take the place of Uber or Lyft, cities will be asked to take on the burden of paying for low-income residents to travel, with whatever quarters they can find lying around in city couches. Result: Cities will be even less able to serve all their residents with public spaces and high-quality services. Even rich people won’t like that.

America has been under-funding essential services across the board for decades. The fact that this is likely to REALLY bite the nation in the ass when they are least prepared to deal with it, is just the cherry on top.

Also, I don’t know that Uber and Lyft will necessarily get replaced. I suspect that they may still exist, but just with much fewer employees. Who knows, one (or both) may become one of the autonomous vehicle behemoths I see existing down the road.

As for the comment about rich people . . . get real. Nothing matters outside the confines of the gated communities in which they reside. Even when the results of their actions are seemingly negative to them in the long term.

Money is a powerful blinder.

It will take great power and great leadership to head off this grim future. Here’s an idea, from France: There, the government charges 3 percent on the total gross salaries of all employees of companies with more than 11 employees, and the proceeds fund a local transport authority. (The tax is levied on the employer not the employee, and in return, employees receive subsidized or free travel on public transport.)

This helps the public transportation angle, indeed. But it doesn’t even touch the infrastructure spending shortfall, a far more massive asteroid to most localities.

At the Ann Arbor meeting, Andreas Mai, vice president of market development at Keolis, said that the Bordeaux transit authority charges a flat fee of about $50 per month for unlimited access to all forms of transit (trams, trains, buses, bikes, ferries, park and ride). The hard-boiled US crowd listening to him audibly gasped at that figure. Ridership is way up, the authority has brought many more buses into service, and it is recovering far more of its expenditures than any comparable US entity. Mai said it required a very strong leader to pull together 28 separate transit systems and convince them to hand over their budgets to the local authority. But it happened.

It’s all just money. We have it; we just need to allocate it better. That will mean viewing public transit as a crucial element of well-being in America. And, in the meantime, we need to press Pause on aggressive plans to deploy driverless cars in cities across the United States.

Public transit is just a part of the problem. I suspect a very small part, at that. And likely the easiest to deal with.
You can not have a public transportation system (or at least not a good one) without addressing infrastructure deficits. And this is just the transportation angle. You also have to contend with water & sewage, solid waste removal,  seasonal maintenance and other ongoing expenses.

Indeed, it is a matter of money and funding allocation. However, the majority of the allocation HAS to start in Washington, in the form of taxation on wealth. As bitter of a pill as that is to swallow, the failure of that course of actions may well make us nostalgic of post-2016 turmoil. Pretty much every leader post-Regan added a little more fuel to the powderkeg, but failure to prepare for coming changes adequately may well set the whole damn thing off.

As for pressing pause on the deployment of driverless vehicles in the cities of the world, we already know that such a plan won’t work. The levers of power are being greased as we speak. Thus, the only option is preparation. Exploration. Brainstorming.

There likely is not going to be a paradigm that fits all contexts, and there will be no utopias. But there is bound to be something between the extremes of absolute privatization and dystopia.

“Comprehensive Animal Protein Study Compares Environmental Impacts” – (Ecowatch)

Interesting timing on the part of the publication of this article.

During this past weekend, a vegan co-worker of mine made an attempt to essentially sell the lifestyle to me. I don’t recall exactly how this conversation started, but either way, it ended with me grudgingly agreeing to watch a documentary called “What The Health”. Something I was a bit hesitant to do because:

1.) I don’t really trust documentaries anymore. The documentary Micheal Hates America does a good job of illustrating just how easy they can be used as a tool of manipulation.

In this age of podcasts and other such long-form platforms, consider how most of them handle information. Generally, you have an interviewer (or a small panel of interviewers and/or guests) unfamiliar with the often complex material being presented. If the information seems to have some semblance of sense to it, people often accept it at face value. This is amplified by the fact that these hosts often are considered trusted vetters of information, even though it’s not always clear exactly why. Whether it’s someone dabbling outside of their area of expertise, or just someone without any focused education playing the part of the academic gatekeeper, the result is essentially the same.

Online popular culture (which is increasingly bleeding into an offline popular culture, and beyond!) is littered with the end results of this flawed vetting method. Whether it’s Canadian psychologist’s that should never have seen any spotlight, or the reemergence of long-disproven hypotheses with obvious roots in racist starting points, this stuff is quite literally EVERYWHERE.

It’s all bullshit, and it’s bad for you. To quote the wise comedian that seen our future long before we were willing to even entertain it.

To bring it back to documentaries, this genre is (in a sense) just an older form of what is more or less the same methodology of information dissemination that we just explored (the podcast). You sit and watch / listen as a case is made, and you generally accept what you see / hear.  Because, why would they lie to you?

Unfortunately, long gone are the days of me being able to blindly trust almost anything at face value, let alone the known tool of manipulation that is the documentary.

2.) I don’t trust this documentary.

First, because it’s from the same producer as the infamous Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. And second, because even lightly scratching the surface unearths a world of nonsense, as demonstrated by quite literally the first Google search result one comes up with the query What The Health Criticisms.

Yes, that may seem like a loaded query. But when looking into something like this, you have to employ de-manipulation tactics like that. If not, you will almost certainly be digging through pages and pages of self-published propaganda and blind yes-men testimonials before ever hitting anything critical.
A fact that doesn’t escape me when I hear people talk about having researched a topic in depth, despite often times mysteriously ending up with a very niche and un-nuanced conclusion.

Either way, I may or may not watch the film. The Red Pill wasn’t nearly as biased as I thought it would be (though wise friends still have blunt critiques of it).
Some may thnk that watching it is the honest thing to do (“How can you critique what you haven’t even seen!”). Logic dictates that information within the film that is proven false is just as false without viewing it as it is WITH viewing it.

We will see.

Either way, onto the Ecowatch article. Alike my last encounter with Ecowatch, this piece will be less critical than it will be exploratory.

Let’s begin.

Scientists behind a study published less than two weeks ago said that avoiding meat and dairy is probably the single best consumer choice you can make for the environment.

There is no arguing this, PERIOD. To throw a bone to my militant vegan audience members.

There is much to say about the truth in that statement. Before you even get to the meat protein stage, energy has to go into feeding this food grade livestock in the form of plant matter.
Then comes the matter of cow farts and methane. Livestock agriculture leaves German car makers in the dust in terms of noxious emissions. Fine, cow farts leave most vehicle emissions, PERIOD, in the dust.

It had to be said, though. I still see many aging TDI’s on the road.

Along with the pre-production, production and post-production pollution associated with meat and dairy is the huge energy dedication just in storing it. With little toleration for temperature variation on the higher end of the spectrum, these items must ALWAYS be properly refrigerated.

We have all likely come across the end results of not following this process, at some point or another.  Here’s what happen’s when that person owns a bankrupt grocery store.

Meat,and dairy are extremely energy intensive. You won’t find me disputing that fact.

But if you want to watch your footprint while still eating meat, a study published Monday, which authors say is the most comprehensive comparison of the environmental impact of various animal proteins, has you covered.

The study, published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, compared farmed livestock, farmed fish and wild-caught fish and found that livestock and farmed catfish took the greatest toll on the earth, while farmed mollusks and wild-caught fish caused the least damage.

Livestock isn’t surprising. But the farmed fish observation is.

“From the consumer’s standpoint, choice matters,” lead author and University of Washington (UW) School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences professor Ray Hilborn said in a UW press release published by Phys.org. “If you’re an environmentalist, what you eat makes a difference. We found there are obvious good choices, and really obvious bad choices.”

But Hilborn said the study wasn’t only useful for guiding consumers. It could also help governments in charge of free trade agreements and agricultural or environmental policy.

“I think this is one of the most important things I’ve ever done,” Hilborn said. “Policymakers need to be able to say, ‘There are certain food production types we need to encourage, and others we should discourage.'”

Researchers looked at 148 assessments of the environmental impacts of different animal proteins along all stages of production, comparing each product’s energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient pollution potential and acid-rain-causing emissions.

The animal proteins that had the least impact on all four criteria were farmed mollusks like oysters, mussels and scallops and wild-caught sardines, mackerel and herring. Wild-caught pollock, hake and cod as well as farmed salmon also had a relatively low impact.

Unsurprisingly, farmed livestock had a high impact, with beef emitting about 20 times more greenhouse gases than farmed mollusks, chicken and salmon or some wild-caught fish.

Excellent. I can all the poultry I want.

However, farmed fish like catfish, shrimp and tilapia required more energy than most livestock because the water they live in has to be constantly circulated using electricity. Farmed catfish had greenhouse gas emissions about equal those of beef.

Fine by me, since I don’t really like any of those (short of tilapia, occasionally).

The mind wonders who would catfish. The stuff is wild in my neck of the woods, but it’s certainly not the first choice of edibles within our watershed. At least not for me.

Farmed mollusks actually had environmental benefits because they absorb the excess nutrients that are often the result of other types of agriculture.

The study also found that a diet that included low-impact farmed and wild-caught fish was actually better for the environment than an all vegetarian and vegan diet.

1.) I am not surprised by this finding.

The Zebra mussel, invader of many waterways thanks too improper disposal of bilge water in some areas and improper cleaning of pleasure craft when traveling from one watershed to another in other areas, is slowly choking off many North American waterways. Including Lake Winnipeg (as though that lake doesn’t have enough problems already).

2.) HA! Take that, militant vegans!

But enough gloating.

The study did not assess the impact of animal protein production on biodiversity, however, which researchers say they would like to tackle next.

As of 2016, nearly 90 percent of fish stocks were either overfished or fished to capacity, so examining the impact of various fishing practices on biodiversity would be especially important for assessing their true ecological cost.

I’ll be watching for that information.


“Tesla’s Giant Australian Battery Saved Consumers $35 Million In Four Months” – (Ecowatch)

Today we will be analyzing another Ecowatch piece. This time, however, the issue is not solely (or mainly) based on the source or the presentation of the information as published. The problem is more in a macro issue surrounding the emergence of this new technology that is often overlooked in its coverage. And not just Ecowatch either, almost all media platforms are prone to fall into this trap. Traditional, mainstream, independent and ideological. By ideological, I am mostly referencing niche oriented outlets such as Ecowatch, but one can also swap that out for political leanings.

It is not all bad news, however. Let’s go through some of the positive, and work towards the criticism.

Since switching on in December, Tesla’s massive battery in South Australia has already drastically lowered prices in the region’s frequency and ancillary services market (FCAS) and has taken a major share of that market, Renew Economy reported.

During Australian Energy Week, McKinsey and Co. partner Godart van Gendt boasted about the stunning efficiency of the 100-megawatt Powerpack system, which is connected to Neoen’s Hornsdale wind farm.

For the purpose of the ignorant (me included), frequency and ancillary services market (FCAS) refers to mechanisms and infrastructure tasked with ensuring constant power grid reliability. To quote Wikipedia:

The term ancillary services is used to refer to a variety of operations beyond generation and transmission that are required to maintain grid stability and security. These services generally include, frequency control, spinning reserves and operating reserves. Traditionally ancillary services have been provided by generators, however, the integration of intermittent generation and the development of smart grid technologies have prompted a shift in the equipment that can be used to provide ancillary services.


In this case, the Tesla setup replaces traditional natural gas (or other) backup options.

“In the first four months of operations of the Hornsdale Power Reserve, the frequency ancillary services prices went down by 90 percent, so that’s 9-0 per cent,” van Gendt said Thursday, as quoted by Renew Economy.

“And the 100 megawatt battery has achieved over 55 percent of the FCAS revenues in South Australia. So it’s 2 percent of the capacity in South Australia achieving 55 percent of the revenues in South Australia.”

The Australian Energy Market Operator calls upon the FCAS to provide back-up energy whenever generators fail or fall short. This service has typically relied upon costly gas generators and steam turbines, with electricity rates up to $14,000 per megawatt during these outages.

But Tesla’s big battery, which was designed to feed South Australia’s unstable power grid, has changed the game. Whenever it has needed to discharge its power to the grid, costs have hovered as low as $270 per megawatt, as The Guardian noted.

As Renew Economy noted, “various estimates have put the cost savings to consumers from the FCAS market alone at around $35 million, just in the first four months of its operation.”

What’s more, the Powerpack system has responded much quicker to power outages (within milliseconds), with the benefit of no greenhouse gas emissions.

There is no doubt that the North American and European markets would benefit from the mass implementation of such a service. A great way to help gloss over the problems associated with the operational capacity of carbon neutral generation methods like solar and wind. And with wide enough development, one could likely expand beyond just covering shortfalls and go right to helping to feed peak demand. Rather than having to rely on fossil energy to keep up with peak demand hours, one could just release from a reservoir instead.
Indeed, it takes a lot of energy to power the macro North American or European grids. But presumably, this power pack technology will go down in price with mass adoption (as is the case with new innovations). As such, which is cheaper in the long haul?

Feeding 12 gas/coal/nuclear plants indefinitely? Or making a big purchase (likely in stages over time, a gradual transition) but also saving money by not needing to have as many generation plants operating at any one time?

For the sake of interest (at least to me), here are the macro grids of both North America and Europe.

Being those enormously vast power grids are both vulnerable to all manner of human and nature induced disaster and inefficient, this new technology can possibly help in that regard as well. Huge grids are necessary when New York City or Montreal are far from Niagra Falls or James Bay (and other sources of electricity).  But in combination with new alternative energy sources, these power packs should help eliminate the need for these huge grids. If not entirely, then they should reduce overall reliance on them. Helping to keep technological outages hopefully isolated locally or regionally. As opposed to limited to 2 or 3 entire interchanges that happen to be running close to maximum capacity. Something that has happened at least twice in North America and once in Europe (if memory serves).

The only real issue that I see here (at least so far) is the source. At least at the moment, Tesla seems to be the only entity doing the legwork in terms of the research and manufacturing of this technology. Which seems to be working successfully both in central Australia and in Putro Rico. While that is alright at this early juncture (well, maybe not the Putro Rico part, if I am interpreting it correctly. As explored HERE), not so much with the further prevalence of the technology. Complete monopolies are not good for anyone (well, besides their beneficiaries), and this is no different.

This piece may come across as paranoid. But at this early time, long before any of this has become ubiquitous enough to be essential to smooth economic operations of societies worldwide, it’s good to at least attempt to find a new frontier than the previous. Though I come across many articles articulating a mid to long-term where future wherein the technology of renewables crushes old fossil fuel interests, one has to ensure that were not just trading one nemesis for another.

For example, by going all in on just one profit-driven entity just because their leader is held in high regard by many people. Or due to old interests starting to realize the way the winds are blowing, and buying their way into a seat at the table.




Big oil is dabbling in emerging energy markets because this is where the market is headed. Though their current forms may paint a different picture in the mind, the purpose of these companies is (and always has been) to make money. In the past, that revenue has mostly been based around petrochemicals. But we are headed in a different direction in coming decades. There is no better example than China to see this theory of mine, in action.
Only one country is betting on fossil fuels (possibly 2, considering Canada’s asinine desire to unload hard to prepare bitumen on a world that is moving away from petroleum).

In short, though the future is indeed bright, one has to stay vigilant. Where there is money to be made, the old ways of capitalism are bound to make an appearance if no attempt is made to keep them at bay.

DNA Genology Services, Baby Pictures On Social Media, And Other Privacy Issues In Today’s World

It’s interesting when something you were pondering in your mind suddenly makes an appearance in the media. Though it hasn’t happened for awhile (a few years), it did today.

In Hunt For Golden State Killer, Investigators Uploaded His DNA To Genealogy Site

Recently, advertising and popularity for services that help map out your ancestry by way of your DNA have been more prominent in the cultural matrix. I have been critical of these services from day 1 due to the prospect of a private company retaining a copy of your DNA profile. Though I have had naysayers question this conclusion (“What could they possibly use it for?!”), I was steadfast. Even if a use hasn’t been developed YET, we live in a rapidly technologically advancing world. I figured that if ever this DNA data was usable in terms of marketing data, then these private entities are sitting on a goldmine.
Do they have the right to sell or share your DNA profile as part of the agreement in using the service? Did you check that fine print?

Though that was my mid to long-term concern of such services, a story about law enforcement subpoenaing such services in looking for matches to samples they had come across opened a whole new avenue of concern. A concern that we don’t have to wait around for either.

Some years back, my family went through a genealogy tracking phase of sorts. Some family member had opened an account on some genealogy tracing platform, and most of my relations with digital access (me included. I was a teenager) contributed things like information and photos. Though the tree that we built is gone (the person paying decided not to renew), you can still find bits and pieces of information archived all over the public domain. When you combine these breadcrumbs with other breadcrumbs publicly (and likely unknowingly!) shared by family members on social media, you can build an accurate picture.
It’s the main reason why I was annoyed when may in my family were taken in after a medium childhood friend of one of my aunts claimed that my dead grandfather dropped by during a session. So strange that someone with a memorial Facebook page dedicated to him should drop by in a session by one of its main contributors. I chronicled this 2013 experience HERE.

A realization of all of this was that even if you are extremely careful at managing your information, photo’s etc, that is only half the battle. You can lock down and keep things under wraps, but it can easily be undone if friends and close relations either don’t know (or don’t care) about sharing these details publicly.

It occurred to me that this type of situation could also occur when it comes to these DNA sharing services. Since relations have DNA profiles that are fairly similar, then law enforcement could (in theory) find a close enough match VIA a family member, allowing them to force you to submit a sample (VIA a subpoena or warrant).
Of course, a common reaction may be “Well, if you didn’t do anything wrong, then what are you worried about?”.
Indeed, there will be a net benefit in some cases. However, because humans are humans, there will be inevitable cases where this is abused. Possibly to falsely imprison someone for a crime they didn’t commit. It’s happened many times already, even with so-called sophisticated forensic techniques.

Many (most?) law enforcement agencies still use the Polygraph. If that doesn’t give you some pause than I don’t know what will.


In terms of my future DNA as a marketing toolkit hypothesis, these libraries are likely to be even more useful. Owing simply to the fact that marketing does not necessarily have to be about individual targeting (though that is certainly the most ideal). You can also effectively market to large cohorts.
These days, such blocks that come to mind could be based on geolocation (based on your IP address) or other metadata as collected from social media (gender, interests, hobbies, etc). In the future, you may be able to create cohorts from anything from ancestral information to character (or other) traits.

Another thing that I have been contemplating of late which goes hand in hand with the previous topic, is the sharing of information, photographs, and other personal material without the explicit consent of the people involved. People that don’t consent because they can not consent.

The dead come to mind. I have doubts that my grandfather would approve of his image and name being used so frivolously online. Much like his living siblings, as evidenced by the brick wall they put up when my families ancestry inquiries reached them.

The bigger concern for me, however, are among the living. That is, parents and family members of babies and children that share these images far and wide before the child is even cogent of their native launguage (let alone the possible far reaching consequences). Also worth noting is this annoying trend of opening social media accounts for these children.
We all likely see examples of this on a daily basis. A child of only 3 weeks can now get more public exposure than many past individuals could over their entire lifetime. Though most social media platforms have rules against underage accounts in their terms of service, this only covers those questionable acounts (and only if they are brought to their attention). But babies and children shared on legitimate profiles are generally of no concern.

This is a fairly new issue, yet another that has sprung up with the growth of social media’s prevalence in everyday life. Though social media has been around for a decade, like many other implications, I suspect this one has not yet been fully realized.

When someone brings up the age of consent, they are generally talking about when a young adult is considered old enough to willfully agree to sexual activity. This age varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
I wonder if it is time to take a similar step, only in terms of information and media. Since babies and children are young or too immature to fully comprehend the complexities of having their information and photos floating around online (and there is no reversing it by the time they DO come of age), is it time to restrict such public displays of the information?
Note that I am not saying that someone shouldn’t be allowed to share family photos between friends and family. Just that this stuff should not be made public (even inadvertently!) before the concerned individual has a say in the matter.

In most cases, I doubt that much will come out of this. None the less, however, it is only right that autonomous individuals have full control of their information. If we don’t tackle this issue now, could it result in future lawsuits down the road?