Jason Arias
The Baffler,  November 9

Fresh Hell

The best dispatches from our grim new reality

Jason Arias
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Trolley Problem 2.0

A survey conducted by MIT aims to update the classic ethical quandary-cum-meme the “Trolley Problem” for the age of murderous self-driving cars: in the event a self-driving car has to crash into and maim at least one sentient being, how should the car rank its targets? According to the survey, the car should certainly favor saving female executives over male executives but should aim to strike the homeless before striking an old woman, dogs before cats, and female doctors before male doctors.

 

Golden Girls, Golden Arches

The economy is on fire: the stock market crests ever more dizzying peaks, consumer spending on guns and gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles is up, and job competition in the service industry is fierce—because senior citizens are increasingly edging out the under-qualified youth for the chance to scrub the toilets at the local Arby’s. From Honey Baked Ham Co. to Mickey D’s, the number of ossified fogeys aged sixty-five to seventy-four working the registers and deep fryers is expected to grow 4.5 percent between 2014 and 2024, putting the squeeze on the college savings funds of the pimpled hormone vats who’ve tended to man the Dairy Queen soft-serve machines of the nation. Sure, folks are vacating their retirement because it turns out a meager Social Security Check does not the life of leisure make, but also because free time sucks! “It’s fun for a while, not getting up, not having to punch a clock, not having to get out of bed and grind every day,” says Stevenson Williams, sixty-three, who manages a Church’s Chicken and often works seventy-hour weeks. “But after working all your life, sitting around got old. There’s only so many trips to Walmart you can take.”

 

Dat Digital Ca$h Money

A robust public forum of debate aimed at nurturing a diversity of thoughtful perspectives is essential to democracy, which is why the Guardian—with some fiscal help from their pals at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—ventured to investigate whether Paraguay should turn its abundance of hydroelectric electricity over to helping the quarter of its population living in poverty or use that power to mine cryptocurrency.

 

Last Exit to Puerto Rico

John Paulson—who made gobs and gobs of cash betting against subprime mortgages in the lead up to the economic collapse—has big plans to combat the empty-nest doldrums when his kiddos book it to the Ivy Leagues: he’s going to permanently park his billionaire ass amidst the ravaged infrastructure and privatizing schemes of Puerto Rico. Quoth an ebullient Paulson, “It’s the only place a U.S. citizen can go and literally avoid, legally, all their taxes.”

 

Do It for The Cheesecake

As pundits continue to parse the implications of the tepid blue tide that lapped at the steps of Capitol Hill earlier this week, fine dining-lovers across the nation should mourn the failure of a ballot initiative to lure the likes of a Cheesecake Factory to one Georgia town. Some residents of Stockbridge, Georgia, hoped to secede and form a new town—months after Stockbridge elected a black mayor and an all-black city council—so that residents would no longer have to drive over an hour in traffic to gorge on Factory Nachos and Craig’s Crazy Carrot Cake Cheesecake. The attempted secession was not, of course, about race, according to concerned citizen Vikki Consiglio; it was all about cheesecake. “I serve on the Henry County zoning board and so I kept seeing all of these places like Bojangles, Waffle Houses, dollar stores, and all this going up in our county. And I was like, why can’t we get a Cheesecake Factory, or a P.F. Chang’s or a Houston’s?”

 

People Who Live in Glass Houses

The well-heeled glass-box dwellers of a luxury development in London are fuming after discovering that living in a glass-box is in fact comparable to living in a glass-box, thereby making one visible to onlookers and oglers. Some owners are so mad about having been tricked into moving into a literal glass box that they’ve gone to court, suing the Tate Modern because an eleventh-floor veranda teeming with tourists at the Tate’s Blavatnik Building has forced residents to endure a life of “near constant surveillance,” which they should most assuredly be insulated from when wandering naked through rooms surrounded on all sides by glass.

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 November 14

The new "William Gass Reader" celebrates the great essayist and philosopher—but it's Gass's fictions that will stand the test of time.

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