Ross Ulbricht just received a lengthy sentence as punishment for crimes he committed against society. The terms of his sentence may be harsh, as he will I’ve out the rest of his life in a jail cell, contemplating what he had done. This is a fitting punishment for someone that extorted others, created pathways for people to sell drugs and took money from the entire operation, just like the mobsters of old. That’s not disturbing at all. Plenty of people on the planet do this kind of thing. It happens in every country and in every socio-economic class. What was interesting was why he did it, and what makes him so dangerous for doing it.

Ulbricbht ran the Silk Road, a complex system of servers that masks user’s profiles and accepts untraceable crypto-currencies as payment for goods and services. Truly a black market, where you could buy almost anything that you couldn’t openly buy in a public store. Interestingly, Ulbricbht didn’t sell any drugs. Maybe he might have sold some pot in college or something (he went to the University of Texas), but past that, he was’t involved in nefarious street crime. What he was involved with was much wider. But why would someone like Ulbricht get involved in Silk Road? One reason could be is that he thought he was’t doing anything wrong.

There is a lot of autonomy on the internet. Silk Road was nothing more than a secure website, much like eBay. The people that run eBay probably don’t claim responsibility for illegal activity that happens on their site. If you sell something and don’t pay sales tax on it (or charge sales tax), it is in violation of state and national tax laws. We have taxes to build roads, pay for social services and other things. Not paying of things like that would be wrong. Yet eBay does not enforce it, and maybe because they don’t care. They send a statement, which I am sure is meant to be used when filing taxes, but no one I personally know has used it come tax day.

It’s not a major issue when it is small, but it speaks to a darker place. What if Ulbricbht didn’t think he was doing anything wrong? What if he thought he was just running a website, and knowing what was happening on the site was enough for him to come up with a corny screen handle and protect his physical location, but that was about it? When people commit crimes, and know those crimes are wrong, and continue to do the crimes, they prove how dangerous they are. Ulbricbht was remorseful in court, but he was obviously educated enough to understand that what he was doing was wrong when he was doing it, meriting the full force of justice. He did expose a problem that is hardly talked about in the technology industry, white collar crime.

As with the eBay example and Ulbricht, crime are being committed by tech firms that find a shaky law, spend the appropriate amount of mental capital to solve a problem, make as much money as they can before they are exposed. Once caught, punishment is minimal, just like stock traders that defraud ordinary investors out of millions. You hardly hear of these people going to jail for life, much less 10 years. Often, these criminals know of their crimes, yet weight risk against reward, and wait until they get out of minimum security to spend their hidden wealth. Tech companies that develop a system or service that exploits a loophole, draws funding and then divests to another place to avoid having funds repossessed are no different. Creating products that break laws are also no different in that way.

So, are the people that run these companies crooks? Take Uber for instance. The ride share service is clearly illegal, but they continue to operate. Drivers that make money for driving people around (taxis or private hire cars) are required to hold independent contractor licenses in order to conduct business. A recent KRON article pointed out the fact that UBER does not enforce this. They do not even release driver information to the San Francisco governing bodies that could enforce it for them. Knowingly running an operation that allows this is criminal. They are white collar criminals.

And maybe, because they are well-to-do, educated men, they don’t believe they are doing anything criminal, even if they do accept the fact that they are doing something wrong. I would guess that most people in the United States would judge a black kid standing on a street corner with his friends before they would judge a successful businessman. Yet, a young man selling $20 bags of pot would hardly steal millions in taxes from the government. For wealthy businessmen, this happens far too much. If people working in or supporting the tech world thought of themselves as above the law because their street corner was the internet, then they might be apt to thumb their noses at the law, just like the kids on the corners do.

If the drones in the tech industry think it’s ok to break the law, then it is the government’s job to punish them, just as they did Ulbricht. Being form a socio-economic class that has been proven to not provide the tools to escape the doldrums of life is one thing, and being from a class where you are educated is another. The disregard for simple laws will prove to be the downfall of these companies.


Rocketships and lipstick

Being able to get up and walk into a little room, dump bodily waste, wipe an orifice, and then walk back to friends or a date without any undue scrutiny or guilt is a blessing. In parts of Asia and the Middle East, you can simply walk over to the side of the road, whip it out, and piss away. In the Western world, a combination of modern sanitary practices and the shame of exposing private parts necessitates crappers. In that, it builds in the need to have these rooms everywhere and the need for them to be available.

So it is not a big deal to use the bathroom. Think about it. You have to go. Your body is burning in pain because physically, it is telling you to get rid of something that will slowly poison you. And I am not even talking about taking a shit, I am talking about pissing. There are additional gender and social conventions to scrutinize, but for this post I will focus on public urination to illustrate a point. As I walk out of a bar and make my way home, I will need a bathroom. The amount of beer I would have consumed will certainly make this so.

And there are houses to piss on. Some of the houses have contours in their facades that allow for a body to slip into a shadow, giving privacy to the pisser from eyes on the street. But is public urination wrong, you ask? It can’t be wrong, for we let animals practice in full view of the world, something humans in San Francisco are not socially granted the right to do. We let dogs piss everywhere, and it is somehow ok when a human pissing is not. Is it not wrong for dogs to expose themselves?

Now there are interesting juxtapositions to humans/dogs practicing public urination. And we must examine these angles to see that the argument is not cut and dry. San Franciscans are not granted the right to piss wherever they please. We cannot just piss in the street. While it is not completely illegal, you can still be punished in the City’s finest catch you enjoying a pee. California Penal Code 370 and 372 define public urination as a public nuisance, and California Penal Code 647 define it as disorderly conduct. You can be punished for both actions, albeit misdemeanor tickets. The embarrassment of being caught for this should persuade the public pisser to reserve themselves when peeing on buildings.

The lack of bathrooms in the City makes it difficult. Homeless people and junkies will camp out in park bathrooms given the chance. Anyone with years of city dwelling experience knows this. The Main Library in the Civic Center has problems with sink showering in it’s public restrooms. The coin operated restrooms on Market street simply fail to really work, and I think I have seen them function as de facto hotels/shooting galleries. Without a place for people to piss, the walls and gutters of our home become social, gender-neutral urinals, something this forward-thinking City should maybe boast about.

Dogs, on the other hand, have little in the way of piss problems. I have found it difficult to walk down the street in any neighborhood and not witness a dog enjoying their ‘walkies’ and spraying some plants along the way. I do find it humorous watching dog owners scoop up dog shit with bags wrapped around their hands. For some reason, these people seem like the types that complain about how MUNI is so filthy, but would come into VERY close contact with body temperature dog shit. That’s is beside the point though. Dog owners do not have to spray down areas where their dogs pissed. Some building owners put up signs to warn dog owners to curb their dogs, but there are no laws stating that animals will be ticketed for not following the posted signs. The dog owners don’t even blink when their dogs pee in a public area like a park where children might be playing (in dog piss). That’s a socially acceptable thing.

So if humans are pissing in dark cracks late night after watering hole adventures and dogs are spraying down the playground sand before Jimmy builds his castle, who is in the right? I don’t know what sounds like more of a public nuisance. Dogs should be held to the same standards as humans or humans should be able to piss in public like dogs, without worrying about being scrutinized. And if not, San Francisco should think about equalizing urination for everyone.

Human Sheilds

One can’t help think that this housing problem in San Francisco is simply a changing of the guard, the movement of one group of people to another place, like muscling in on the Ohlone (this happened). This is clearly illustrated in the current state of affairs with wealthy, young workers flaunting their capability to pay astronomical rent when outbidding others on the opportunity to make other people rich. Renting does not benefit you, no matter what you think. You will never have a right to the property you pay for.

So maybe this is just the more capable forcing out the less capable. In a recent article by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, San Francisco natives lamented about their changing home, albeit with far less vitriol than the Mission housing activists. They say it’s because of the new techies, but I see it as a simple imbalance of groups that have always existed here in San Francisco.

And we used to have balance. The city has always had neighborhoods for different types of people. We have the Marina for the yuppies (young, urban professionals = y. u. p. = yuppie), the Mission for the scumbags/weirdos/artists, the Bayview for the thugs, the western neighborhoods for people that had kids and dropped out. It was all here. There was plenty of space for everyone, and unspoken borders kept you where you should be.

There are too many yuppies here in the city. And I have to characterize a yuppie as someone who is very young and therefore very naive about life. When I moved to the city for Los Angeles, I was in my very early 20’s and ignorant. After mistakes, I have now learned a few things about life. Yuppies, with there extremely high paying jobs, don’t really know what to do with their money. If there is a young person that makes a lot of money and say, invests is properly or saves it, then they automatically count themselves out of this categorization. If there have a lot of money and spend it on expensive clothing or ridiculous parties or worse, well, they should count themselves defined.

Yuppies are just dense. I am not saying that they are horrible people. They don’t kill people in the streets (most of the time) or engage in antisocial behavior (most of the time). They are mainly hardwired to self serve, to only think and care about the person in the mirror. Again, not horrible, but not exactly edifying to society. Patrick Bateman taught us that a hyper keen perspective on the pointless details of life were more important than acting civilized, and if these yuppies picture themselves woven into the thin blanket that the City has spread over it, there is little in the way of a moral block that will stop them.

And the reason this is so horrible is the effect housing in the city. The large number of yuppies is driving the economy. Rent skyrockets when you have too many people that are willing to pay astronomical prices just to live without understanding what they get. Most people would scoff at a one bedroom in an old wood framed house for $2500 a month..but not yuppies. They just pay. I marvel at what is happening downtown. I lived in the Tenderloin for eight years and can say that it is a shithole. It was an affordable shithole, but it is still a shithole. And when I hear that people pay over $2000 for a crappy studio while their rent controlled neighbor smokes crack and talks to themselves all night to the tune of $600 a month, I just can’t believe it. By the way, I still walk the old land from time to time, and it is still a filthy shithole.

The stupidity problem is something that will never be solved. Every major era in history has had to deal with this issue. It’s a byproduct of youth. Young people have the power to stand up to any regime, invent amazing things, change the world, but that is only some of them. The rest are emotionally unstable and only capable of following others over a cliff. The stupidity problem here in San Francisco, however, is one that I cannot dodge, hence these words.

Give me less

The roar of the wheels on rails juxtaposed with the idiocy streaming from mouths
Was it
For the morning, coffee already going cold.
There was a shuffle in my seat, a man in a suit stood and turned, a blonde woman with a foreign accent
Talked about showing her body to
A stranger.
This is the way people live,
Being not remembered and never sung,
Because sitting on a train to Fuckville is somehow more redeeming than wasting time in comfort.

The desire for something different

Humans need variety. If we didn’t need variety, we wouldn’t need our eyes or our hearing or our touch, not in a modern sense anyway. Those things, the things that push us in modern life to find something that sparks the new in our souls, would simply become useless tools. Without the desire to have difference, we could devolve into slugs that consumed on the way to the grave, knowing where we needed to go to eat, to sleep, to heal. We do need variety, we need it bad, because we have the plague of boredom, an affliction that simply will not disappear.

I need variety, but I do not like seeking variety, or at least I don’t think I like to. I like my routine. It’s comfortable, and when I leave the house, I know it will be there when I return. A standby in the clearest sense of the word. I have sought out difference, but only to be something different, not to fill the need to be entertained. One of these quests has been to find a different job. I have never liked to work; I think I am above it because I can see myself not having money and being able to provide for myself. I am not above it because I am royalty or anything.

To get a job, to seek this difference in my life, I did like everyone else did. I took the bus into some sort of retail sector and walked store to store, gathering applications. Some were like others, some were just stock that you buy from the human resources store, some actually had thought put into them because they wanted someone that put thought into what they did. I suspect that most of the places I was applying to didn’t want thinking at all, they wanted a body. This, I have come to realize later in life, is the difference between a job and a career, but even that can be argued. They all seemed the same to me as I sat and filled them out.

If for some reason you looked good on paper, you would get a telephone call from the manager and they would want to chat. This first call makes sense. If you don’t know how to talk to strangers, they you are probably no good for business. If you have a desirable skill, then people seek you out and you never fill out those stupid applications. The first conversation is important. You can’t say anything stupid, and you have to slow down your words so you can think about each answer, each joke, each reference. I was sitting in a face to face interview once and I kept lying about this and that (you have to lie in order to impress, it is just the rule), and I was asked about some book that I had mentioned. The woman interviewing me seemed abnormally crafty, so I could tell she was grilling me to see if I was bullshitting her. I made up a title, she wrote it down and they gave the job to someone else.

Face to face interviews are more of a gauntlet to run than a conversation about the job. In the telephone portion, you can chat, you can joke, and there is no love lost if nothing comes of the conversation. You hang up the phone and wait. When you go in, you are on the next step, but you have to do so much more. You have to dress up. This is where I feel like I have lost jobs. I have a fucking power suit or whatever, but no one has a power face. If you have acne or are months from your last haircut, the impression you make might be the nail in your coffin, placed there by you alone. You also have to act natural, or act naturally in a way that makes you seem normal. If you shaken by lack of money because you have no job, you might slip and say something out of the ordinary and then lose the job. You might swear like you normally do, you might use blue humor. These are all ways to do something stupid and continue on the quest for work.

Some of the best job interviews I have been on have been for jobs that I didn’t want/need. This is where I was out seeking difference. I would spread the net and when a fish came back, then I would have my fun before throwing it back. My current position was a great interview. I even flirted with my future boss a tiny bit, just to see if I could get away with subtleness and manipulation. She asked me questions and I was attentive and polite, and maybe a bit dashing with my smile. When I walked out of the job, I grinned, feeling that I had lost nothing. I ended up with the job.

Other job interviews I have been on have been bizarre. I was looking for a job, which pushed me past the anxiety and panic of just not showing up somewhere. This was for the need of money, and I still feel personally attacked when I go to job interviews out of need. Sometimes it is just my sensitivity to the situation, and sometimes the interviewers feel a certain liberty with desperate people. I had one interview with some very nice people at a software company, an interview that I felt comfortable in. The people that I was to be working with were talkative and receptive to my jokes, but when they brought in an executive member of the company for additional time, I felt attacked. This executive started to ask me what my trajectory through life was, beginning with my pre-college years. He wrote everything down, as if somehow my narrative would disqualify me for a position I was overqualified for.

Either way, finding a way to support yourself in this society is difficult. I listen to people opine on why certain types of people just don’t go out and get jobs. Getting a job is the problem, not having a job and working and supporting yourself. It’s all a potful game that is horrible to play. Yet, food doesn’t fall from the skys.

Childhood dreams

When you see a child staring into space, you have to wonder, “what is the spark in there?” You ask yourself the same thing when you see a child laugh or jump up and down at the prospect of over-gorging on ice cream or watching cartoons. When I was young, I had that same spark when I watched monster movies.

The monster movie genre was one of my favorites. Some giant beast, upset over who knows what, decides to kick the shit out of human cities, shrieking and flailing. There was no rhyme or reason, just chaos. I suppose the reason I liked it so much is that none of those movies had much in the way of plot twists. Maybe there was a love story, maybe there was a mad scientist. Maybe, if I was lucky enough, there were some space aliens along with the beast to help melt the cities with a death ray.

These simple stories packed enough unbelievable violence to keep me engaged and even taking sides with the monster. Such was the case with my favorite monster, Godzilla. This monster, in this writer’s opinion, was my favorite. Always angry, always willing to bash architecture, always willing to kill. What was even better, it was Japanese, so I was slightly confused by the strange acting. Oh, and radioactive, glowing breath.

Godzilla will always spark my interest. When I found out that there was to be a remake of the movie that paid attention to the Japanese concept, I felt 4. I am now old enough to appreciate the message of nuclear peace and collaboration between countries, but I more look forward to the mayhem that the giant lizard will bring to my chosen home, San Francisco.

When you are done kicking the shit out of my city, Godzilla, fulfill this young child’s dream. Melt me with your radioactive breath, and then stomp on the charred remains.