Who Needs Law School?

Recently I reported on Internet cause célèbre Ross Ulbricht, allegedly Dread Pirate Robers, founder and leader of online black market The Silk Road. Hailed by Libertarians far and wide as a hero fighting The Man, Ulbricht has been accused of building a website whose express purpose was to sell illegal items, including but not limited to, drugs. Ross’s mother Lyn Ulbricht recently appeared at Libertarian celebration Porcfest where she gave a speech about her son, then an interview where she spoke about the horrors that would be visited upon the citizenry of America should her son be convicted.

 

The narrator (presumably the person who interviewed Mrs. Ulbricht) says “This case is the birth of law for the digital future. Watch it as a spectator at your peril. How will the results affect everyone’s future regarding the Internet, liability, privacy, and Bitcoin?” and the response is, as you would expect, highly hyperbolic.

Mrs. Ulbricht believes that this case will set some sort of precedent whereby the Government will now begin to intrude on people’s freedom on the Internet, which would be an incredible leap from their existing behaviour of respecting people’s privacy online. And we don’t want that, now do we?

She goes on to argue that her son should not be held responsible for what people used the Silk Road for since he only hosted the web site, he didn’t sell any contraband himself. That means her little boy is protected under the Communications Decency Act which prevents website operators (like Facebook, for instance) from being held liable if a user posts something illegal on the site (like a death threat against the President, for example.) Further, Mrs. Ulbricht believes (likely as a result of attorney Joshua Dratel’s advice) that money laundering charges don’t apply here because bitcoin isn’t money! Check-and-MATE motherfucker!

Law school, bitch!

Law school, bitch!

Now, I am not a lawyer myself, so Mr. Dratel definitely has a leg up on me there. I have watched a shit ton of cop shows on TV, however. Not so much the courtroom dramas, but I still like to think that I have a fairly firm grasp on the fundamentals of the US legal system. So after I found this video posted up on Reddit, I decided to post my views on it.

  1. The TOR scare isn’t very valid. The government developed TOR and they know who uses it (lawyers, journalists, corporations) and why they use it (to protect State Secrets, corporate Intellectual Property, to protect journalistic sources, etc) so saying “And if you use TOR the gubment is going to call you a criminal!” is spurious. That will just be added as evidence along with other behaviors you engage in to build a case. Using TOR by itself means nothing.
  2. If I exchange a kilo of cocaine for a Cadillac El Dorado I cannot say in my defense “No money changed hands!” because that is a ridiculous argument. I am still trafficking in contraband and it doesn’t matter what I exchanged it for. If, however, I make the exchange for a precious commodity like gold or bitcoin, then money laundering charges may apply, especially if the commodity in question is sold for fiat currency. NOTE: That does not mean I agree that cocaine should be illegal, but I don’t have the power to change that law.
  3. Ross Ulbricht cannot say he cannot be held responsible for people selling drugs on his website since his website was designed to facilitate the sale of drugs. Further, since he held money in escrow for both parties, that makes him an accessory before and after the fact.

This counts as studying for the bar, right?

A few hours later, after interviewing one of the founders of 21st Century car service Beepi, I decided to swing by Wired.com to see what was happening. Turns out, there was an update on the Ross Ulbricht case:  Judge Katherine Forrest issued a 51 page ruling declining to dismiss all charges against Mr. Ulbricht, presumably while trying to keep a straight face in light of the ridiculous reasons offered by Mr. Dratel.

Among the charges she refused to dismiss were: narcotics trafficking conspiracy, money laundering, and hacking conspiracy charges, as well being charged with “continuing a criminal enterprise” better known as the “kingpin” statute used to prosecute criminal gang and cartel leaders.

Filed in April, the motion to dismiss raised interesting questions: Can Ulbricht be accused of running a drug-selling conspiracy when he merely ran a website that made the narcotics sales possible? And can he be charged with money laundering when bitcoin doesn’t necessarily meet the requisite definition of money?’

Judge Forrest apparently watched the same TV shows I did (not sure if she watched them while at law school or home) because her answer was yes and yes . Every argument was rejected (probably with “DUH” interjected every so often) starting with the idea that Ulbricht had merely provided a platform for hosting the Silk Road’s e-commerce, just like eBay or Craigslist.

“Silk Road was specifically and intentionally designed for the purpose of facilitating unlawful transactions, Ulbricht is alleged to have knowingly and intentionally constructed and operated an expansive black market for selling and purchasing narcotics and malicious software and for laundering money. This separates Ulbricht’s alleged conduct from the mass of others whose websites may—without their planning or expectation—be used for unlawful purposes.”

Dratel, had attempted to make the case that if anything, the Silk Road should be covered by a law known as the “Crack House Statute.” Passed in 1986, the law was created to hold landlords accountable for knowingly owning a property where drug deals were taking place. Dratel reasoning went along the lines that this law would be unnecessary if the more serious narcotics charges in his client’s case applied.

Forrest, however, countered that Ulbricht is accused of being much more than a negligent landlord. By allegedly designing the Silk Road to maximize user anonymity via Tor and bitcoin, she argues that he had invited drug dealers onto the property.

“Ulbricht’s alleged conduct is more akin to a builder who designs a house complete with secret entrances and exits and specially designed traps to stash drugs and money, This is not an ordinary dwelling, but a drug dealer’s ‘dream house.’”

She also noted that Ulbricht is accused of working to organize, control, and take a commission from all sales on the Silk Road—the kind of behavior that would make him an active participant.

“The allegations amount to Ulbricht acting as a sort of ‘godfather’—determining the territory, the actions which may be undertaken, and the commissions he will retain; disciplining others to stay in line; and generally casting himself as a leader – and not a service provider.”

Law SCHOOLED, bitch!

So far, I’m doing okay here, right?  The Judge and I agree that you cannot create a platform for the express purpose of creating criminal activity, then say “Holy shit, I didn’t believe anyone was actually going to DO it!  Although I made sure they understood they had to pay me a cut of the action if they DID decide to do it!” 

What about the bitcoin isn’t money, argument, though?  Both FINCEN and the IRS say it isn’t, but I have argued that barter still counts since the IRS will tax you regardless. Well, according to Judge Forrest, barter still counts when you are conducting drug deals.

“Sellers using Silk Road are not alleged to have given their narcotics and malicious software away for free – they are alleged to have sold them. The money laundering statute is broad enough to encompass use of Bitcoins in financial transactions. Any other reading would—in light of Bitcoins’ sole raison d’etre—be nonsensical.”

Apparently owning this makes you a paralegal.

This ruling is going to have a tremendous impact for a few other people, starting with Charlie Shrem, the former Bitcoin Foundation vice chairman who was arrested last January and charged money laundering for helping a Silk Road client exchange his bitcoins for cash. And of course, Cody Wilson who told a reporter for Wired magazine that DarkWallet is “money laundering software” because there’s no possible way for statements like that to come back and bite him in the ass.

And to ensure that no one took him out of context, Wilson went on to say “I want a private means for black market transactions, whether they’re for non-prescribed medical inhalers, MDMA for drug enthusiasts, or weapons.”

That’s a bold attitude, and one that I have no trouble admitting that I can admire. The question, however, is can he keep it up when the police are knocking on his door?

My 1st Trip to the High Times Cannabis Cup

As you may, or may not be aware, I have recently begun to make a name for myself as a journalist. After visiting Dogecon SF I began writing and publishing articles on cryptocurrency in general, and on Potcoin in particular. I chose Potcoin because I’m a cannabis enthusiast, and because it seemed like an interesting concept, a crypto devoted to a specific industry. So, when I heard that reps from the Potcoin Dev team would be attending the San Francisco Cannabis Cup, sponsored by High Times, I figured it would be a good idea to put in an appearance.

The legendary event.

The clincher on the deal was that Russell Thomas, the Chief Information Officer of Potcoin extended me a personal invitation to hang out at Booth 42, the Potcoin tent. Naturally I couldn’t resist, and I resolved to head on out and check on the festivities. First things first, however, I had to head to Oakland and get my recently-expired medical authorization renewed.

I checked the Google for the closest doctor and found the closest one that was open at 9:30 am on a Saturday. After gathering my camera and assorted gear, I moved out to go see the Doctor. The lobby was pretty straightforward, a mostly vacant space with a few pen-and-ink drawings on the wall, some cannabis-related magazines on a rack, and one or two business cards left behind for potential customers. Strangely, one of them was for a Chevy dealership. Not surprisingly, the reverse side of the card displayed a 2014 Camaro, an indication of the clientele they intend to attract, I suppose.

If no one in this photo owns a Camaro I will be shocked.

There were four other people waiting, a male-female couple and a pair of twenty-something men, all of whom were in town for the Cannabis Cup. While I waited for my opportunity to see the doctor I struck up conversation with the two young men and learned they were glass merchants who had developed a bong that also served as a drink dispenser. I handed them a business card and told them to give me a call when we all got to the Cup.

Then it was my turn to  see the doctor and I must say, now I understand why no one takes California’s Medical Marijuana laws seriously. My patient information form only had the bare minimum questions on it (presumably for my protection) and the Doctor was seen via a Skype call on a laptop set up on a desk in the treatment office.

The doctor couldn’t make it, you see, as he was driving at the time. Fortunately he kept his hands on the wheel during out two minute conversation where he asked me about my medical condition (back pain), and whether cannabis worked for my pain or not.

And that quickly I was authorized by a medical doctor here in California to use cannabis as a medical treatment. Welcome to the 21st Century.

Well, not really, but still.

The next step was to make the 90 minute drive to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds and the famous High Times Cannabis Cup. I didn’t have a ticket, but that wasn’t going to be a problem since Russ had a spare vendor pass that he was going to use to help me gain entry. After arriving on-site I gave him a call, but had to leave a message on his cell. Not trusting cell phone reception, I decided to go talk to one of the people at the Will Call booth. A few minutes of charm later, and I was entering the fairgrounds, seeking out booth 42.

Upon entering the Fairgrounds I learned that there were two separate areas, the outer ring and an inner ring dubbed the Medicated Area. One thing that I didn’t notice at the time, and would come into play later in this story, is that pretty much all of the food vendors were OUTSIDE the Medicated Area. And none of the places INSIDE the Medicated Area were selling anything that wasn’t pot-related, especially water.

Finding the Potcoin tent wasn’t especially hard, and after I introduced myself they told me that Russ had already left looking for me. Checking my phone I wasn’t overly surprised to learn that (once again) it had failed me, and there were no missed calls. (Thanks AT&T, keep up the good work.)

Pretty much sums it up.

A few minutes later Russ was back on scene, and he immediately busied himself handing out Potcoin T-shirts and Potcards loaded with 100 units each. The tent was pretty busy, so while Russ was handling customer service, I decided to go get some water. IT was a good idea, unfortunately I should have thought of it a lot sooner.

Within minutes of exiting the relatively cool shaded area underneath the Potcoin pavillion I found myself back in the heat and suddenly, without warning, I found that I was lost. And thirsty.

I have been trained in the military, and I studied martial arts for three years, I know how important proper hydration is. And yet, for some bizarre reason, I hadn’t had a single drop of water since I left my house at 10 am, four hours earlier. And suddenly, I had a stronger thirst than I have ever known in my entire life.

Everything had become a blur, my mind was focused on one task, finding water. My lips were shrinking, I could feel them drying out, shrinking against my face as I searched for WATER, the only thing on earth that had any importance to me any longer.  My brain decided that maybe I wasn’t fully focused the task at hand, so it provided me with some assistance, an auditory hallucination that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in the Boondocks.

She was more like a female Robert Freeman, but you get the idea.

I cannot stress enough how serious I am, this may sound funny, but I was fucking hallucinating. A 60+ year old crazy black cartoon grandma set up shop in my head and encouraged me to FIND WATER. She made absolutely sure that I did not stop moving, stop searching for that precious resource.

Through the haze I spotted a red and yellow wagon that promised to sell Giant Corn Dogs and, while I couldn’t give less than a fuck about those under normal circumstances, right at that moment they were simply an indication that I could find WATER there. After all, if they are selling food, they must have beverages, right?  Working on this logic I immediately moved to this Shrine of Salvation and, as politely as I could, asked for water.

You’re goddamn right.

 

Gauging by the reaction I received from the useless shitbags inside the place you would have thought I asked for a vodka tonic or a bag of meth.  They did not immediately react, is what I’m getting at. So I had to ask again, making sure they understood that if I did not get water, I was going to DIE. In fact, the exact phrase I used was “If you do not give me some water, right now, I will die. I am in an advanced state of dehydration.”

Maybe I should have asked for that vodka tonic, I don’t know. What I do know is, that after first telling me there was no water to be found, someone (they didn’t have faces) managed to procure one of those 4 ounce clear plastic cups and filled it from a tap that was part of a stainless steel sink.

Without fear of contradiction I will tell you that water immediately saved my fucking life. As soon as it touched my parched, shriveled lips and tongue, I could feel my body absorbing it and refreshing itself. It wasn’t ENOUGH, however, and the voice in my head kept exhorting me to get more, as much as I could possibly drink. So I asked for another cup of water and…the fucking shithead inside panicked and ran off leaving his fat, idiotic partner to deal with the crazy person who was babbling about being dehydrated and imminent danger of death.

WATER?!

Typical crackhead behavior, I imagine.

This is where the story becomes truly surreal. Please keep in mind that, despite the fact that I was so disoriented that I couldn’t find the food area, and disregarding the cartoon voice in my head, I was still conscious enough to know that I was a heat casualty and needed immediate aid. The first thing I required, the most immediate and simplest form of first aid, was a CUP OF FUCKING WATER.

Apparently this was not covered in employee training, so the fat sack of shit inside that corn dog booth was panicking, trying to find a way to escape from this conversation without having to refill my fucking plastic cup of water. The voice in my head suggested that I climb through the window, throw this worthless pile of shit out of the way, and drink directly from the tap. A more rational part of me (not sure if it was a second voice or just primal instinct) over-ruled this incredibly appealing advice, and I just tried to rationally explain to this person that if I did not get water in the next five minutes I was going to die. This, to me, seemed like the most likely outcome and I had no problem sharing this observation because, dumbass that I am, I figured it would be a simple problem to solve.

Corn Dog says “I just started here today…I’m not authorized to make any decisions.”

“That’s fine,” I replied with the sort of calm you are only capable of when you are hallucinating and believe your life is in imminent danger. “You don’t have to make any decisions. You just have to give me some WATER.”

This did not have the desired effect, I’m sorry to say, and he just fucking babbled some idiocy about his co-worker or security or some shit. Which was fine with me, because at that moment the only thing that would have pleased me more than the Police arriving would have been getting a fucking cup of water.

While this conversation is going on, my fingers were pulsating with the flow of my blood. At least, I assume that is why they were pulsating, maybe it was because the water in my tissues was boiling from the heat of the sun, I wasn’t really sure at the time, and now I don’t know if it actually happened.

A voice behind me indicated that some form of help had arrived and I turned to find someone in a yellow t-shirt, Event Security. This Angel of Mercy looked me in the eye and said “You have to calm down, you’re creating a disturbance.”

Fair enough, I can see how that might have been problematic for them. So I explained to her that I was in a state of advanced dehydration and I needed WATER right NOW.

To which she replied that, sure, I could have all the water I needed. I just needed to leave this area.

Fuck that.

I knew that if I moved before EMT showed up, I was going to die. So I began asking for water, and some lady walking by thrust a nearly empty bottle of water into my hands (thank you, Kind Lady, whoever you are) and I drank it immediately and went back to asking for more. Another kind (albeit stupid) lady hands me a 20 oz cup full of lemonade because apparently she thought fuck it, one beverage is pretty much like another right?

WRONG. Sugar will only make dehydration WORSE, never give someone who is dehydrating a caffeine or sugar beverage.

Seeing that I wasn’t going to leave and cease imploring people for goddamn WATER (the drug of choice for psychotics the world over) Ms. Yellow Shirt leaves me alone and some guy in his 50s comes along to talk me down.

“Thank you, can you get me some water?  I am going to die if I don’t get some water NOW.” I said as clearly, and patiently, as I could.

“I understand,’ he replies in the most folksy way he could. “You just need to be more quiet.”

The voice in my head advised I knock him the fuck out and try persuading Corn Dog of how important this situation was, but I didn’t listen to her. Instead I looked Tom Skerritt right in the eye and (as calmly as I could) told him “No, you clearly do NOT understand. If you DID understand, you would be getting me some fucking water right now.”

“Sir, are you okay?”  a new voice asked.

Now thoroughly lost I turned to find a group of people in blue t-shirts (and matching ball caps) but I wasn’t 100% sure if they were real or not. So, erring on the side of caution, I decided that they were real and told them “No, I am not. I am suffering from advanced dehydration. I need water, now.”

There were four of them, all just watching me quietly. Still, they were wearing blue not yellow, so they seemed legit. Later, when my senses were recovered I would see that they also had red first aid emblems on their gear also, but at the moment I was too busy feeling the pulse of my rapidly shriveling limbs to keep track of things like that.

“Come with us, we’ll take you to the First Aid tent.” one of these Blue Angels said to me.

“Are you really medical people or are you just some fake thing?” I asked numbly as I followed them, my body moving on autopilot.

“No, we’re real.” One of the others, now invisible to me, replied. Maybe it was another voice in my head, I reasoned, but fuck it. It could have been a hallucination, but since it looked like a normal human being and not a nude super model, that didn’t seem altogether likely.

As I followed the man in blue, I saw him make a sudden, crisp left turn and I felt a sudden surge of despair. His path had been so straight, so certain, and this turn so abrupt…where was he taking me?  Was he ditching us?  No, as it turns out, he was leading me right to the Promised Land, a pavilion with folding medical tables.

“Oh, you weren’t leaving us, you were leading us…” I babbled at him in wonder. “Such a minor difference in spelling. And yet, it makes all the difference in the world.”

This is where the story returns to being boring since all these kind, wonderful people did was give me a 20 ounce cup of water and let me drink it in the shade. Then, when I finished that, they gave me another one. Truly, these people were Angels sent down to earth.

The new symbol of Hope as far as I’m concerned.

As they watched over me they tested my faculties with various questions, and checked my vitals. During this period I could feel my legs and arms replenishing themselves from that glorious paper cup emblazoned with the Pepsi logo filled with that sweet, satisfying WATER. Sure, I couldn’t stand without falling over due to a combination of dizziness and lack of water in my limbs, but that situation wasn’t going to last much longer. The pulsing in my fingers, calves, and ankles was subsiding as my body absorbed all of that moisture so I was feeling much better.

Before I left the area I made sure to thank them for their courteous, professional manner then I headed off to get some food, and more water. I made my way back to the Potcoin tent, but I was still seriously fucked up from the lack of water so I didn’t hang out long.

I guess the moral of this story is that I love crypto so much I’m willing to die for it. Just kidding, the moral of the story is to make sure you DRINK WATER, thirsty or not.

Your life could depend on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Week in Moral Outrage

As you may know, I am a defender of the right to say something that I might not like. It is that freedom that underpins our democracy, the right to say something obnoxious. When I was in junior high school one of my teachers asked us if the right to free speech extended to shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater.

Even at the age of 12 I knew that was a stupid question to ask because it should be shriekingly obvious that Free Speech does not extend to public endangerment for your own personal amusement. In fact, anytime you hear that argument being made, you can be pretty sure you are not dealing with a genius.

The reason I bring it up is because the Internet has found another reason to have a shitfit, and once again it revolves around a dumbass making sure the entire planet is aware of their stupidity. Before we begin this discussion, however, please watch the video below. I’ll wait here.

Notice how the video starts with the narrator saying “I have her on tape making racist comments, calling me nigger.”  It does not start with her saying that, but you don’t have to wait long for it to happen. Well, I guess that depends on how you define “not long” because for the first 1:37 seconds it’s mostly the narrator talking to her, and her distractedly responding. The 1:35 part is the key, I think because it is at that point that he says “So you called me a nigger and I’m supposed to just sit back, huh?

My question is…exactly what the fuck did he think his options were?  Beating her ass?  Filing charges against her for using a slur?  I seriously want to know…what did he plan to do?

Please note that I am NOT defending this woman, I’m just asking why he felt it necessary to sit in his vehicle and engage this moron. What did he hope to gain from this?  An apology?  A dialogue on the importance of judging someone by their character or their actions as opposed to their appearance? A little Internet Drama, perhaps?  Because if that’s what he wanted, she sure delivered!  At the 2 minute mark she unleashes the crazy for the full enjoyment of the YouTube audience.

It’s not until the 3:22 mark that he closes his windows to shut out the sound of her stupidity. He doesn’t leave though, instead he sits there recording this woman as she silently screams at him when she isn’t yelling into her cell phone. WHY?!

It’s not like she is going to see herself on YouTube and suddenly realize how stupid she is. I would not put money down that she will be brushing her teeth and suddenly say “OH MY GOD I’M A RACIST?!  The FUCK is wrong with me?!

Um…whut?

You know why that won’t happen?  Because life doesn’t fucking live that way!

The woman, Janelle Ambrosia, apparently works as a stripper, an occupation that doesn’t generally attract the sharpest of intellects so I really don’t get why anyone thinks this is news. Yes, I know there must be literally MILLIONS of strippers who are doing it just to work their way through college and I shouldn’t be defaming the noble profession of exotic dancer, but offending people seems to be what I do best. Go with your strengths, right?

I’m gonna be a cardiologist! teehee!

On the spectrum of racist bullshit, the idiocy in that video barely even registers. And yet, people are busy losing their shit over it because RACISM BAD!

Hulk angry people are judged by color of their skin. All color, not just green.

Maybe one day our species will evolve beyond the need to hate people based on skin tone, but that day, unfortunately is not today. As the eminent sociologists at Insane Clown Posse so eloquently said “If not your (skin) tone, they’ll hate your size.”

Racism and sexism don’t work based on logic, they work based on stupidity and insecurity. This woman isn’t going to change her beliefs or behavior because the Internet admonishes her, and I somehow doubt the guy who took the video is going to get more airtime than she is. In fact, how many news articles even name him?

Meanwhile, she is being interviewed by news agencies, invited to tell her story on the radio, and I would bet money one of the skin magazines offers her some money for a photo shoot. So, good job making her famous, Unidentified Victim of a Racist Tirade. You have truly made the world a better place by bringing this to our attention.

UPDATE 6/6/2014:

The victim of what Alternet.org is calling “a vicious racial assault” is named Narvell Benning. He is contemplating the idea of pressing charges against Mrs. Ambrosia, and I hope he follows through because otherwise our society is doomed. You may send condolence cards and any donations to the grieving family of Mr. Benning who may never recover from the emotional scarring.

 

Dogecon SF

As some of you know, I am a big supporter of cryptocurrency, the so-called “internet of money.” I have eagerly followed all of the developments since I first heard about the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto and his creation bitcoin in 2009. In the past 5 years cryptocurrency has exploded in popularity, giving life to nearly 2o0 different coins, some of which are actually truly innovative.

And then there’s Dogecoin.

2014-04-25 16.14.27

Named after an internet meme based around an adorable Shiba Inu, this currency celebrated it’s 138th day of existence yesterday at Dogecon in San Francisco. Since I happen to live right across the Bay, I made sure to put in an appearance.

So did this Shiba Inu

So did this Shiba Inu

Just yesterday I was reading a review of the new bitcoin documentary “The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin” and the reviewer’s main complaint was how it centered around white males in their 20s and 30s. So naturally when I arrived at Automattic my attention was directed at the demographics of the con’s attendees. While there was definitely a lot of caucasians there, I found a healthy mix of Asians in attendance, and a couple black guys were in the audience as well.

Aside from the very personable Tina Hui from Follow the Coin, and Litecoin creator Charlie Lee, however, the stage was dominated by white males. I’m not saying that this is a problem, per se, but I can definitely see how other people would argue that it is a problem. The lack of minority (and female) representation in Silicon Valley is well documented, and the crypto movement seems to be an extension of this, although it is a much more difficult case to make since anyone can release their own crypto if they can cough up $50 for it.

And now that I’ve made a nice case for how the crypto movement is (inadvertently) racist, allow me to present a video from yesterday’s conference.

 

That was Andreas Antonopoulos giving one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard about cryptocurrency and its transformative powers. It’s easy to become jaded when all you hear is nonsense from the Libertarian anarchists that founded the crypto movement, but this is something entirely different. It was a well-reasoned, factually accurate message about the power of cryptocurrency to bring the world one tiny step closer to true equality.

Financial power is the most easily wielded, and most publically acceptable, form of domination in the world today. While I was a student at the University of Washington I studied the crushing effects of economic domination, not only on the Global South, but here in America as well. The War on Poverty morphed into a War on the Poor and the a great many poor people eagerly enlisted to fight against their own best interests.

Every time I hear someone talking about electing Hillary Clinton to the Presidency in 2016 I find myself wondering if they have any fucking clue what they are asking for?  This is the same Hillary Clinton whose husband repealed the Glass-Steagal Act instead of vetoing it on his way out of the White House.  The Obama Administration has been run since day one by Clinton insiders, all of whom had strong ties to Wall Street.

Where are we now, as a nation?  Obama has been following damn near every fucking policy of George W. Bush, but giving much better speeches while doing it.

We need a better way, and I think that Andreas is correct; that way is cryptocurrency, the blockchain, and all of the benefits that come with it. There will be some rough roads ahead, no doubt, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. When it was finished though, people were pretty fucking stoked about the final product, even if it wasn’t perfect.

 

The 3D Printed Tattoo

I recently saw a video of a 3D printer that had been modified to become an automated tattoo machine. It’s basically a MakerBot with a tattoo machine attached to it, but really this is only a prototype that serves as proof of concept.

What worries me is that as the technology advances software will become increasingly user-friendly to the point that even a child will be able to operate it. Not all tattoo artists need a Fine Arts background, but I think we can all agree that some knowledge of a Color Wheel sure does come in handy when designing a tattoo, if it has color anyway. For the ones that don’t contain color, what about things like composition? If you’ve been watching Ink Master (especially from the first episode) you learn about placement and composition. Technology will allow you to apply really well-drawn tattoos in bad areas using shitty colors except you will be able to do it in the privacy of your own home.

You can argue that digital technology has had the same impact for musicians. MIDI keyboards gave way to programs like Frooty Loops and Garageband so now people with absolutely no talent can make a song in hours.

The above is a prime example of that end of the spectrum. This young man fearlessly steps out and embraces 21st Century tech to let the world know he is unashamed of his total lack of talent at any aspect of music or music video production. He has a camera, a Macbook, and an Internet connection so by God he is going to use them!

This is the part where I start to sound like an elitist, but I don’t really care. I just happen to believe that the permanence of the tattoo process was part of the appeal. The pain was part of the experience. These things were important.

Life lessons can be learned in the idea of getting a bad tattoo. You made a mistake and how you choose to live with it tells a lot about you as a person. If you continue to wear it proudly then you are saying you don’t care about your mistakes, the opposite if you keep it covered. And if you choose to go get a new tattoo to cover it, then you are saying that you are willing to go back into the flames to recover yourself.

And if you chose to have that tattoo removed?  Holy shit you had some fucked up options to choose from:  acid, salt rubs, skin removal, or if you were feeling particularly festive, you could go for skin injections. Yeah, see as soon as they figured out how to add ink to your skin they realized they could use things like wine, vinegar, or pigeon shit. Yeah, all of those were used to remove tattoos, with results varying I’m sure.

That is important.

Now, instead of surgery to remove a tattoo we have efficient laser therapy to rid you of that unsightly tramp stamp you got because you were 22 and stupid. Instead of having to go see a newer, hopefully better, artist and once again enduring the pain of the needle to cover your mistake, you just shrug and say “Meh, I’ll just get it lasered” and move on, no lessons learned. No intellectual or emotional growth needed.

I don’t agree with that. Call me crazy, I just think that it is far better for people to take time to consider the long-term consequences of things before they do them. Not always, but occasionally, especially with regards to important, life-affecting decisions.

Tattoos have been around for thousands of years, as soon as people learned to make ink they figured out how to get it into their skin. And that shit fucking hurt, man. Here’s a video of an old-school Pacific-rim method of tattooing.

Apparently it hurts less than the modern method, but it’s still not painless. The natural instinct for most people is to avoid pain, so the more tattoos you had, the higher your pain tolerance. As the techniques were perfected the art got more elaborate and you could tell different stories without having to say a word.

Skulls, Grim Reapers, demons, unicorns, roses…these are all important symbols and each carries a significance that is readily understood by a large population. And prisons have their own language told in tattoos, so it’s a good idea for anyone in the criminal lifestyle to brush up on them. As to anyone who doubts the importance of symbolism, they have no business being in a tattoo studio if you ask me.