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It’s A Gas, Baby (An Article From 2051)

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Among trust fund babies and other overindulged scions of the upper classes, a trend minor in actual practice has sparked a major wave of online vids, memes, and partisan taunting. The taunting, as is par for the course, is not all in fun and there have been arrests for the usual foolish actions in these situations: harassment, assault, sundry hacking offenses, death threats, and a couple of incidents of actual swatting.

A few arrests have been for the unusual. These have been arrests of the ones who actually practice the act of “gassing.” And like trust funders and suburban princes and their equivalents throughout history, there are few consequences for them. A few hours of community service time, a fee that isn’t a gnat bite to the wealthy, a span of minutes spent in a holding cell waiting for the family lawyer – and not a holding cell full of the little people, but a private one so the department bears no risk of being on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Brutality, after all, is for the poor.

But, why the class division at all? Why are the threateners and memers coming from the poor and the pedestrian middle class? Why are the wealthy the only ones doing the gassing?

Why have the efforts of gassers to make gassing a widespread phenomenon failed despite verified purchases of trending content status and featured vid placement? Why have purchased social media content crews failed to produce excitement and action like they have with previous successful trends?

One reason is the petty and vapid nature of their motivations. We’ll get to that.

The other reason: gassing is expensive. And in the tradition of the wealthy young, most gassers have displayed a vast and frankly off-putting ignorance of what “cheap” or even “possible” means for people whose mommies and daddies haven’t given them transuranic-branded debit chips linked to enormous family accounts, much less for people who have no choice but to comprehend realities like rent payments and budgets and having to know what things cost.

Gassing is often presented in gasser memes as “only fifty bucks for gas.” But it’s not anywhere near that cheap. Search traffic reveals that there was a peak of interest in gassing, much of it in the form of “how to be a gasser” queries. It quickly faded, probably because half of the top ten results for that search tell you that the first thing you need is your own working petroleum-fueled internal combustion automobile. It’s possible to rent time in one at a few historical theme parks and thrill-ride tracks, but they’ll hardly permit you to modify the cars. So you have to buy your own.

To buy one, you’ll need to find one of the few licensed restorer-dealers, or one of the slightly more common hobbyists willing to sell. You’ll have to search very hard to find one in working order for less than $100,000. That should fit right into the average family budget.

But wait! There’s more. You’ll also have to obtain a license to own and operate a petroleum engine. To do that you’ll need $5000 in most states, and $2000 where it’s cheapest (Alaska, Louisiana, and Nevada). You’ll need to renew it every 2-5 years if you want to keep it, too.

Your fuel pump’s flow is required by federal law to be monitored in realtime, and it’s a felony to disable it. That’s so you can pay a pollution tax of $17.32 per liter of fuel burned. It’ll be more next year – the tax is indexed to the official inflation rate of the year before previous.

Buying the fuel will set you back $23 per liter on average. You’ll also have to invest your own time and travel to obtain it, and that’s not simple either. The state of Texas boasts the most fueling stations at seven statewide. Twelve states have zero.

After buying it, more complications. It’s illegal to transport gasoline by mail, drone, or unoccupied autodrive vehicle. You’ll have to travel to collect it in person and escort it home.

Surely, that’s the end of the costs, as colossal as they are and as obviously impractical even for a single person with no attachments or debts earning a median income or less – or even earning in the bottom 95%.

But there are still more expenses in this seemingly endless list. Gasoline cannot be transported or stored in anything but an approved anti-combustion container. The cheapest one available is $750 for a 10-liter capacity. They’re impressive things, double walled with nonflammable expanding foam inbetween, and the filling and decanting apparatuses virtually bristling with an array of solvent-resistant gaskets and safety devices. Finally, you have to put your containers in a reinforced external cargo cage or on a trailer for transport – another $1000 at least.

Petroleum-burning hobbies like gassing are the province of the rich, like horse racing. That the gassers were mostly oblivious to the plain fact betrays an enormous ignorance, arrogance, or both.

I said I’d return to what makes gassy petty and vapid, qualities that even the few who can afford it want to shell out north of a hundred grand for.

The goal of gassing is to expel the darkest, densest possible exhaust smog, laden with greenhouse gases, unburned petroleum, and plain old soot. Why? As one gasser meme puts it, to “piss off the granolaheads.” The granolaheads, of course, being the 90% of us who want our air and water kept clean and climate change to maybe begin to reverse by the time their grandchildren retire.

Plenty of people enjoy trolling and like to annoy people with differing views. But who is going to go deep into debt to do those things?

Nobody, that’s who.

END

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13 Word Story: In The Kingdom Of The Sterile, The Genehacker Is King

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(PLEASE SHARE THIS STORY IMAGE ANYWHERE YOU WANT BECAUSE IT WILL HELP ME REACH MORE READERS — AND THAT WOULD BE AWESOME!)

I’m going to guess most of you have heard of good ol’ Monsanto. To many people and according to many opinion pieces, “good ol'” translates to “sonsofbitches” or worse. Among their many unpopular moves is the infamous crop seed that grows just fine, but the seed that crop yields is infertile, good for making food (how good or not-so-good is the subject of much debate) but not for growing more crops.

That way, the ages-old practice of saving seed can no longer “steal” Monsanto’s profits. Every time a farmer wants to grow a crop, they must buy new seeds. No more freeloading on the bounty of nature the way the last ten or twenty thousand years’ worth of humans have for you, 21st century farmers! And there are other entanglements Monsanto and their bretheren in agribusiness offer, but this is the one I’m concerned with here.

The imagination doesn’t have to stretch terribly far to imagine this principle of planned obsolescence (or rather, planned sterility) applied to things other than corn and wheat. If it could be pulled off with chickens and pigs and cows, the potential profits soar.

It seems villainous, but if it could be pulled off with humans, involuntarily, carried and spread perhaps by a common hearty virus or bacterium or similarly unicellular and ubiquitous — something common, like a cold or herpes or e coli or yeast — people would flock to whoever held the “baby-key,” cash in hand.

Unless they didn’t have enough cash.

There are enough people around now who despise the “leeches,” the “forty-seven percent who won’t take responsibility for their own lives,” the “useless eaters,” the “[massively racist or other -ist assumption about demographic X all being poor and shiftless],” or the class I belong to, “people who viciously choose to be born to parents who don’t have a hell of a lot of money.”

Can you think of someone who, given the chance, would happily release this hypothetical reproduction-ransoming virus and take joy in the idea of restricting reproduction to couples who can scrape together $100,000 cash, for example?

Some execrable Martin Shkreli of a human being, perhaps?

The only hope the poor would have would be the services of some gallant Robin Hoodesque genehacker, stealing the intellectual baby-unlocking property of the rich and giving pregnancy to the poor. There’s something very cyberpunky about the whole idea, isn’t there?

Let’s hope this scenario stays in my imagination.

(This story appeared on my Patreon page on the 19th – become a patron, because you see posts early, get FREE ebooks 30 days ahead of release, and also because I am straining mightily to make writing and dreaming into a family-supporting business. I need your help to do it, whether it’s by pledging or by reading and sharing my posts and stories!)

As a public service, I have to pass this fine dig at the Mussolinoid menace of Donald Trump along.

 

I don’t pass along videos often, especially not hour-long satirical jabs at our most unfortunate current Presidential candidate, the USA’s answer to the UK’s nativist/racist UKIP party, Donald Trump.

 

But I do have a bit of political conscience, I genuinely believe that Trump presents a danger to the future of the US above and far beyond what any of the other candidates may pose, and I also believe that satire, like all storytelling, has a great potential to lift up the positive and dispel the negative.

 

And so in the spirit of dispelling a grave negative, I invite you to sit down and spend a little time watching Trump being lampooned in the spirit of The Great Dictator (although it cannot match the eloquence of that classic).

 

 

Six Word Story: Poverty In 3D

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Poverty In 3D

The poor?

Let them print cake!