This Week in Teens: Michael Brown Is Dead and Now We Know Who Killed Him
Have you read Nietzsche? Teens love the guy. I’m not super well versed in the German philosopher’s books, but I have read a few graphic tees with his picture on them, and from what I’ve picked up, the gist is that everything is inherently meaningless. So it goes with This Week in Teens, in which our only respite from the constant suffering around us is the comforting knowledge that life doesn’t have a purpose.
–America invented teenagers and apparently reserves the right to kill them, too. The biggest news this week—teen or otherwise—has been the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri. Police were quick to defend the act, while witnesses say that Brown didn’t do anything to provoke police, and was shot multiple times “until he just dropped down to the ground and his face just smacks the concrete.” Protests over the killing were countered by a militarized police force, complete with SWAT gear and armored vehicles. The incident has been covered from every angle: how Ferguson is America’s latest racial hotspot; how this represents a sort of Chekhov’s (military-grade machine) gun and the inevitable conclusion of post-9/11 defense spending; how eight unarmed teens are still at large; and how white people in suburban St. Louis don’t give a shit.
It took a bunch of protests for Ferguson police to name Darren Wilson as the officer who killed Michael Brown, which they finally did Friday morning. Police also released a report saying that Brown was a suspect in a “strong-arm robbery” of a box of Swisher Sweets cigars, and that Wilson was responding to the crime when Brown was killed. Whether Brown actually shoplifted is unknown at this point, not that it would in any way justify his death. All that’s clear is that we’re in a pretty terrible place right now, and there is no obvious path for things to get much better.
Continue

This Week in Teens: Michael Brown Is Dead and Now We Know Who Killed Him

Have you read Nietzsche? Teens love the guy. I’m not super well versed in the German philosopher’s books, but I have read a few graphic tees with his picture on them, and from what I’ve picked up, the gist is that everything is inherently meaningless. So it goes with This Week in Teens, in which our only respite from the constant suffering around us is the comforting knowledge that life doesn’t have a purpose.

–America invented teenagers and apparently reserves the right to kill them, too. The biggest news this week—teen or otherwise—has been the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri. Police were quick to defend the act, while witnesses say that Brown didn’t do anything to provoke police, and was shot multiple times “until he just dropped down to the ground and his face just smacks the concrete.” Protests over the killing were countered by a militarized police force, complete with SWAT gear and armored vehicles. The incident has been covered from every angle: how Ferguson is America’s latest racial hotspot; how this represents a sort of Chekhov’s (military-grade machine) gun and the inevitable conclusion of post-9/11 defense spending; how eight unarmed teens are still at large; and how white people in suburban St. Louis don’t give a shit.

It took a bunch of protests for Ferguson police to name Darren Wilson as the officer who killed Michael Brown, which they finally did Friday morning. Police also released a report saying that Brown was a suspect in a “strong-arm robbery” of a box of Swisher Sweets cigars, and that Wilson was responding to the crime when Brown was killed. Whether Brown actually shoplifted is unknown at this point, not that it would in any way justify his death. All that’s clear is that we’re in a pretty terrible place right now, and there is no obvious path for things to get much better.

Continue

This Week in Teens: Are America’s Teenagers Setting Themselves on Fire? 
Teens are America’s greatest natural resource. They’re full of new ideas, smarter than ever, and not yet racked with cynicism and guilt. Some of the best things we’ve got—rock ‘n’ roll, energy drinks, hickeys—wouldn’t exist today were it not for teen demand. Not to mention that teens are sustainable; left unchecked, they’ll create more teens just over a dozen years. And yet, to reference a perennial college freshman favorite, the teens they are a-changin’.
The global recession hit those on the low end of the socioeconomic spectrum the hardest. Part time employment and summer jobs are now harder to come by. Consequently, teen purchasing power is on the decline. Plus, teens are good at streaming things for free, and Macklemore made them think used clothes are funny, so they have less incentive to buy new things. At this point, it’s baby boomers who have the real discretionary income. As marketers catch up to this shift, the prized demographic will become those over 55. Our nation’s youth will be forced to adapt to their ever-evolving circumstances. Will teenage ingenuity emphasize their continued relevance? Or will our younger siblings collapse into a messy room of hormones, broken curfews, and not-yet-illegal drugs? It is with this background in mind that we launch a new column: This Week in Teens.

Talking heads are going nuts over the Fire Challenge. Photo via YouTube
-If there’s one thing teens love, it’s trends. And if there’s one thing local news stations love, it’s scaring people who think they might come into contact with teenagers (this is easy to do as teens are inherently terrifying). Combining these two passions is this week’s top news story: Teens are taking off their shirts, standing in the shower, pouring flammable liquids on their chests, and lighting themselves on fire. Sometimes the teens start flapping around—because of the fire, remember—before they can turn on the shower, and then the flames spread to their shorts or the shower curtain and they end up in the hospital with severe burns. It’s called the Fire Challenge mom, and it’s all done in the name of internet fame.
Continue

This Week in Teens: Are America’s Teenagers Setting Themselves on Fire? 

Teens are America’s greatest natural resource. They’re full of new ideas, smarter than ever, and not yet racked with cynicism and guilt. Some of the best things we’ve got—rock ‘n’ roll, energy drinks, hickeys—wouldn’t exist today were it not for teen demand. Not to mention that teens are sustainable; left unchecked, they’ll create more teens just over a dozen years. And yet, to reference a perennial college freshman favorite, the teens they are a-changin’.

The global recession hit those on the low end of the socioeconomic spectrum the hardest. Part time employment and summer jobs are now harder to come by. Consequently, teen purchasing power is on the decline. Plus, teens are good at streaming things for free, and Macklemore made them think used clothes are funny, so they have less incentive to buy new things. At this point, it’s baby boomers who have the real discretionary income. As marketers catch up to this shift, the prized demographic will become those over 55. Our nation’s youth will be forced to adapt to their ever-evolving circumstances. Will teenage ingenuity emphasize their continued relevance? Or will our younger siblings collapse into a messy room of hormones, broken curfews, and not-yet-illegal drugs? It is with this background in mind that we launch a new column: This Week in Teens.

Talking heads are going nuts over the Fire Challenge. Photo via YouTube

-If there’s one thing teens love, it’s trends. And if there’s one thing local news stations love, it’s scaring people who think they might come into contact with teenagers (this is easy to do as teens are inherently terrifying). Combining these two passions is this week’s top news story: Teens are taking off their shirts, standing in the shower, pouring flammable liquids on their chests, and lighting themselves on fire. Sometimes the teens start flapping around—because of the fire, remember—before they can turn on the shower, and then the flames spread to their shorts or the shower curtain and they end up in the hospital with severe burns. It’s called the Fire Challenge mom, and it’s all done in the name of internet fame.

Continue

The Story of Colorado’s DIY Skater Tattoo Parlor
No Class is a DIY tattoo parlor run by skater Jesse Brocato from his living room in Fairplay, Colorado. Every tattoo from No Class is free, provided you’re at least halfway tanked when you start laying the ink on yourself. Which I think explains why the place is starting to pick up some steam among the skating community.On a recent skate trip to Colorado, I visited No Class and had a chat with Brocato.
VICE: How did you guys get started?Jesse Brocato: It all started one night when we found out that our friend Shane had a tattoo gun. We told him to bring it over, and he thought he was going to tattoo us, but we were like, “Fuck, give us that,” and we started tattooing ourselves.
That night I fell in love. I was like, “I’m never paying for a tattoo again.” Everyone pays thousands of bucks to get these fancy tattoos. The idea behind No Class is, why would you want a fancy tattoo when you could have a shitty ghetto tattoo?
And it took off from there?Well, I used to make moonshine, so we’d get drunk on moonshine and then just start tattooing ourselves. Then we started buying more equipment online. Now we have three set-ups. People see our work, and they want a shitty tattoo too. I tell them they have to do it themselves. That’s what No Class is all about.Is it hard to get the hang of it?It took us a little while. In the beginning, we’d have the needle set way too far out, like a quarter inch, and I was going so deep it stopped the machine like a lawnmower in thick grass. It just destroyed the bone and took forever to heal. You start digging and it ends up looking like hamburger meat. You lay in all that ink, and then it heals up scarred and white.
Anything else you had to learn?Pick the cat hair off the needle.Does that “sterilize” it?I mean, maybe I would have to read a little on bacteria and all that, but whatever, what we do is just hook it up and do it. We don’t share needles or anything like that. I mean, it’s happened, but you really shouldn’t do that. You think you’re clean, but you never know what you have. Somebody that actually tattoos would probably freak out if they came up here, but that’s part of it, part of the “fuck it” attitude of No Class. None of us has swelled up yet.

Continue

The Story of Colorado’s DIY Skater Tattoo Parlor

No Class is a DIY tattoo parlor run by skater Jesse Brocato from his living room in Fairplay, Colorado. Every tattoo from No Class is free, provided you’re at least halfway tanked when you start laying the ink on yourself. Which I think explains why the place is starting to pick up some steam among the skating community.

On a recent skate trip to Colorado, I visited No Class and had a chat with Brocato.

VICE: How did you guys get started?
Jesse Brocato
: It all started one night when we found out that our friend Shane had a tattoo gun. We told him to bring it over, and he thought he was going to tattoo us, but we were like, “Fuck, give us that,” and we started tattooing ourselves.

That night I fell in love. I was like, “I’m never paying for a tattoo again.” Everyone pays thousands of bucks to get these fancy tattoos. The idea behind No Class is, why would you want a fancy tattoo when you could have a shitty ghetto tattoo?



And it took off from there?
Well, I used to make moonshine, so we’d get drunk on moonshine and then just start tattooing ourselves. Then we started buying more equipment online. Now we have three set-ups. People see our work, and they want a shitty tattoo too. I tell them they have to do it themselves. That’s what No Class is all about.

Is it hard to get the hang of it?
It took us a little while. In the beginning, we’d have the needle set way too far out, like a quarter inch, and I was going so deep it stopped the machine like a lawnmower in thick grass. It just destroyed the bone and took forever to heal. You start digging and it ends up looking like hamburger meat. You lay in all that ink, and then it heals up scarred and white.



Anything else you had to learn?
Pick the cat hair off the needle.

Does that “sterilize” it?
I mean, maybe I would have to read a little on bacteria and all that, but whatever, what we do is just hook it up and do it. We don’t share needles or anything like that. I mean, it’s happened, but you really shouldn’t do that. You think you’re clean, but you never know what you have. Somebody that actually tattoos would probably freak out if they came up here, but that’s part of it, part of the “fuck it” attitude of No Class. None of us has swelled up yet.

Continue

The Sad Demise of Nancy Lee, One of Britain’s Young Ketamine Casualties
Ketamine is that crazy wobbly-leg drug. The wacky-student drug, the post-club chill-out aid, the new-gen LSD that gives users the power to become—according to 1970s K-hole explorer and dolphin whisperer John C. Lilly—“peeping toms at the keyhole of eternity.” But its reputation as a popular recreational drug, since filtering into the mainstream via the gay-clubbing and free-party scenes in the 2000s, does not tell the whole story of what’s going on in modern British K-land.
Apart from a brief paragraph in the Brighton Argus’s obituary column, Nancy Lee’s drug death went unreported. There was no shock factor: She hadn’t collapsed in public from a toxic reaction to a pill or a line of powder in a club. Instead, at the age of 23, Nancy had died slowly over seven years, her body trashed by a steady diet of ketamine.
Nancy started using ketamine at age 16 when she made new friends. Most teenagers getting high in the local Brighton park were necking cider and smoking skunk, but Nancy and her group of indie-kid outsiders used the open spaces to take ketamine. It was cheap, at 12 grams for about $150, and, important for Nancy, it transported her away from real life.
“She was sensitive and very caring, but Nancy was a misfit,” her father Jim, a college lecturer, told me. “She was bullied at school because of a bad squint and for being a tomboy. She had a victim mentality, a feeling that the world was against her.” It’s just that Nancy ended up finding solace in ketamine. “If someone were to design the perfect drug for a teenager who is depressed and doesn’t have much money, this would be it,” Jim said.
Continue

The Sad Demise of Nancy Lee, One of Britain’s Young Ketamine Casualties

Ketamine is that crazy wobbly-leg drug. The wacky-student drug, the post-club chill-out aid, the new-gen LSD that gives users the power to become—according to 1970s K-hole explorer and dolphin whisperer John C. Lilly—“peeping toms at the keyhole of eternity.” But its reputation as a popular recreational drug, since filtering into the mainstream via the gay-clubbing and free-party scenes in the 2000s, does not tell the whole story of what’s going on in modern British K-land.

Apart from a brief paragraph in the Brighton Argus’s obituary column, Nancy Lee’s drug death went unreported. There was no shock factor: She hadn’t collapsed in public from a toxic reaction to a pill or a line of powder in a club. Instead, at the age of 23, Nancy had died slowly over seven years, her body trashed by a steady diet of ketamine.

Nancy started using ketamine at age 16 when she made new friends. Most teenagers getting high in the local Brighton park were necking cider and smoking skunk, but Nancy and her group of indie-kid outsiders used the open spaces to take ketamine. It was cheap, at 12 grams for about $150, and, important for Nancy, it transported her away from real life.

“She was sensitive and very caring, but Nancy was a misfit,” her father Jim, a college lecturer, told me. “She was bullied at school because of a bad squint and for being a tomboy. She had a victim mentality, a feeling that the world was against her.” It’s just that Nancy ended up finding solace in ketamine. “If someone were to design the perfect drug for a teenager who is depressed and doesn’t have much money, this would be it,” Jim said.

Continue

In Defense of Taking Selfies at Auschwitz and Other Depressing Places
A teenager from Alabama took a photo in front of a concentration camp where an estimated 1,000,000 people were killed. She did so while smiling. As you might have guessed, that did not sit well with the internet. In a New York Post article on the now-infamous Breanna Mitchell Auschwitz selfie, the writer quotes a particularly vitriolic response that simply said, “Did you manage to take any of you laughing inside a gas chamber or maybe one with your head stuck in a cremator?” A fair question which I don’t believe she took the time to answer.
In an instant, Breanna became as close to the Devil as you can get without being Donald Sterling. Business Insider collected some of the more amusing insults and reactionsfrom Twitter, which amounted to “fuck you” and little else. Despite this concerted effort to make her feel bad about herself, Breanna has continued to publicly defend her actions. It’s almost like she has so much self-esteem and so little self-awareness that she’d have to be the only kind of person who would be dumb enough to take a selfie at a concentration camp.

By being completely ignorant of how some would interpret her vague digital communication (the only thing that’s obvious from her photo is that she’s happy and she’s at Auschwitz. The rest is not clear), she’s influenced a global conversation on the limits of self-involvement. Some have come to her defense, reminding us all that she’s just a kid with a dead dad who shared her love of history. Others are plenty happy to keep fucking with her, which has pushed Breanna to make her Twitter page private. The internet is paying attention, and forming strong opinions about a picture she took over a month ago. Isn’t that something to be proud of? She’s already proud of herself for going to Auschwitz. Why not be proud of this too?
Continue

In Defense of Taking Selfies at Auschwitz and Other Depressing Places

A teenager from Alabama took a photo in front of a concentration camp where an estimated 1,000,000 people were killed. She did so while smiling. As you might have guessed, that did not sit well with the internet. In a New York Post article on the now-infamous Breanna Mitchell Auschwitz selfie, the writer quotes a particularly vitriolic response that simply said, “Did you manage to take any of you laughing inside a gas chamber or maybe one with your head stuck in a cremator?” A fair question which I don’t believe she took the time to answer.

In an instant, Breanna became as close to the Devil as you can get without being Donald Sterling. Business Insider collected some of the more amusing insults and reactionsfrom Twitter, which amounted to “fuck you” and little else. Despite this concerted effort to make her feel bad about herself, Breanna has continued to publicly defend her actions. It’s almost like she has so much self-esteem and so little self-awareness that she’d have to be the only kind of person who would be dumb enough to take a selfie at a concentration camp.

By being completely ignorant of how some would interpret her vague digital communication (the only thing that’s obvious from her photo is that she’s happy and she’s at Auschwitz. The rest is not clear), she’s influenced a global conversation on the limits of self-involvement. Some have come to her defense, reminding us all that she’s just a kid with a dead dad who shared her love of history. Others are plenty happy to keep fucking with her, which has pushed Breanna to make her Twitter page private. The internet is paying attention, and forming strong opinions about a picture she took over a month ago. Isn’t that something to be proud of? She’s already proud of herself for going to Auschwitz. Why not be proud of this too?

Continue

You Know That DashCon, the Tumblr Convention That Went to Shit? It Wasn’t That Bad
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You Know That DashCon, the Tumblr Convention That Went to Shit? It Wasn’t That Bad

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Why Do So Many Soft Drinks Taste Like Teletubby Blood?
I don’t drink soda very often. It’s not that I don’t like it; it’s just that after age 12 I never felt like having more than a shot of it every now and then. Soft drinks are designed for children with tiny, discerning pallets, unimpressed with the flavors provided by actual food. That said, some of the tastes in these beverages exist only inside of their cans and cannot be found anywhere else in the whole world. It’s like a Willy Wonka land of weird water, and who would be such a fool as to not sometimes dunk their tongue in the chemical concoctions and see what’s good?
I decided to veer away from the recognizable labels and see what life is like on the wild side of the soda pop biz.
Kill Cliff
15 calories per 12 fl oz/12 g sugar
Kill Cliff calls itself a “Recovery Drink,” or, rather, “THE Recovery Drink,” being conceptually healthy in that it is “naturally sweetened” and only 15 calories a can. I found it over with the Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, like maybe it’s strategically placed next to the high-end shit to make you think it’s good, a can of cola all on its own. The text on the side of the can claims that the drink was “developed by a former US Navy Seal” to “improve endurance and speed recovery.” It’s unclear who the Seal was, and why he thought “Kill Cliff” would be a good name for a revitalization beverage. They also employ the tagline “Test Positive for Awesome,” which is maybe closer to an AIDS joke than should be on a can of soda.
The first sip reminds me of if Sweet Tarts were a liquid and strained through a pair of men’s briefs after a short doubles’ tennis match in a domed arena. It’s all puckery and buzzing around the edges, and when it hits the back of the throat it immediately provides the feeling of having recently barfed. This post-barf expression kind of kneads its way back and forth across the tongue and palate like electricity. I take a second sip to cover up the first, and the buzzing strain appears again, redoubled. I kind of already have a headache.
As I get deeper into the can, my brain becomes warm. It feels like my head is flooding with acid, and I can only tolerate the sensation by drinking so fast I can’t taste anything. When I stop my head is spinning, and I feel full of gasoline.
I might recommend Kill Cliff to remove paint or to dissolve the bars on a prison cell, but as far as liquid designed to go inside my body is concerned, no. 

Marley’s Mellow Mood (Berry Flavor)
165 calories per 12 fl oz/29 g sugar
Sniffing the edge of the can’s mouth before I take a swig, I get the full bouquet of chemical fruit fun, suggesting what I’m about to drink is again going to come from the “Sick Fake Candy” food group. So I’m shocked when the liquid hits my lips and the first thing I think is actually, Hey, this IS smooth! Maybe it’s the dead rock icon on the can with the marijuana colors that brainwashed me into this feeling, though more likely it’s how, compared to Kill Cliff, this shit is like white sturgeon caviar. More watered-down Hawaiian Punch than actual soda, there is also a delicate flavor similar to the air in a bong shop lurking just behind the first curve of berry. The mixture is confusing, hairy, seemingly as unsure of itself as I am of it, but at least I don’t want to do an immediate spit-take.
Continue

Why Do So Many Soft Drinks Taste Like Teletubby Blood?

I don’t drink soda very often. It’s not that I don’t like it; it’s just that after age 12 I never felt like having more than a shot of it every now and then. Soft drinks are designed for children with tiny, discerning pallets, unimpressed with the flavors provided by actual food. That said, some of the tastes in these beverages exist only inside of their cans and cannot be found anywhere else in the whole world. It’s like a Willy Wonka land of weird water, and who would be such a fool as to not sometimes dunk their tongue in the chemical concoctions and see what’s good?

I decided to veer away from the recognizable labels and see what life is like on the wild side of the soda pop biz.

Kill Cliff

15 calories per 12 fl oz/12 g sugar

Kill Cliff calls itself a “Recovery Drink,” or, rather, “THE Recovery Drink,” being conceptually healthy in that it is “naturally sweetened” and only 15 calories a can. I found it over with the Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, like maybe it’s strategically placed next to the high-end shit to make you think it’s good, a can of cola all on its own. The text on the side of the can claims that the drink was “developed by a former US Navy Seal” to “improve endurance and speed recovery.” It’s unclear who the Seal was, and why he thought “Kill Cliff” would be a good name for a revitalization beverage. They also employ the tagline “Test Positive for Awesome,” which is maybe closer to an AIDS joke than should be on a can of soda.

The first sip reminds me of if Sweet Tarts were a liquid and strained through a pair of men’s briefs after a short doubles’ tennis match in a domed arena. It’s all puckery and buzzing around the edges, and when it hits the back of the throat it immediately provides the feeling of having recently barfed. This post-barf expression kind of kneads its way back and forth across the tongue and palate like electricity. I take a second sip to cover up the first, and the buzzing strain appears again, redoubled. I kind of already have a headache.

As I get deeper into the can, my brain becomes warm. It feels like my head is flooding with acid, and I can only tolerate the sensation by drinking so fast I can’t taste anything. When I stop my head is spinning, and I feel full of gasoline.

I might recommend Kill Cliff to remove paint or to dissolve the bars on a prison cell, but as far as liquid designed to go inside my body is concerned, no. 

Marley’s Mellow Mood (Berry Flavor)

165 calories per 12 fl oz/29 g sugar

Sniffing the edge of the can’s mouth before I take a swig, I get the full bouquet of chemical fruit fun, suggesting what I’m about to drink is again going to come from the “Sick Fake Candy” food group. So I’m shocked when the liquid hits my lips and the first thing I think is actually, Hey, this IS smooth! Maybe it’s the dead rock icon on the can with the marijuana colors that brainwashed me into this feeling, though more likely it’s how, compared to Kill Cliff, this shit is like white sturgeon caviar. More watered-down Hawaiian Punch than actual soda, there is also a delicate flavor similar to the air in a bong shop lurking just behind the first curve of berry. The mixture is confusing, hairy, seemingly as unsure of itself as I am of it, but at least I don’t want to do an immediate spit-take.

Continue

Children’s Games

This 16-Year-Old Made an App That Exposes Sellout Politicians
With US politics swimming in so much corporate money that it’s pretty much an oligarchy, it can be hard to keep track of which particular set of lobbyists is trying to milk more cash out of healthcare, fossil fuels and other very important issues from one week to the next.
But thanks to 16-year-old Nick Rubin, keeping track of just how much politicians have sold out has become a lot easier. He created Greenhouse, a new browser plugin which operates under the motto, “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.” The plugin aims “to shine light on a social and industrial disease of today: the undue influence of money in our Congress.” It sounds like a bit of a lofty aim for an app, but it’s actually pretty simple and effective—it provides a break down of a politician’s campaign contributions when that politician’s name comes up in an article. It is currently available for Chrome, Firefox and Safari and is completely free. As you can imagine, reading about how your Member of Congress voted in a recent health bill becomes all the more enlightening if you know how much money the health industry showered him in at the last election.
I spoke to Nick Rubin about the plugin, politics and what he calls the “money stories” behind what you read in the news.

VICE: Hi Nick. So how did you come up with the idea for Greenhouse?Nick Rubin: Back in seventh grade, I gave a presentation on corporate personhood and ever since then I’ve been really interested in that issue. I think the one problem is that the sources of income for members of congress haven’t been simple and easily accessible when people have needed it. More recently, I’ve been teaching myself how to code and I thought that something like Greenhouse that puts the data at people’s fingertips would be a perfect solution. It really is the intersection of these two passions of mine—coding and politics. I made it after school and on weekends on my computer.
Why the name?Well, green is the color of money in the US, and house refers to the two houses of Congress [the Senate and House of Representatives]. The name also implies transparency; greenhouses are see through and they are built to help things thrive.
Where did you get the information on the politician’s donations?It uses the data from the last full election cycle which was 2012. This is simply because it’s just the most complete set of data that we have. But, the browser does provide access to the most up to date 2014 information by just clicking the name of the politician on the top of the window or theOpenSecrets.org link in the popup. So the 2014 data is just one click away.
I’m intending to update the data as a whole later in the election cycle as the 2014 contributions are more complete. These are updates I’m currently working on, as well as thinking of other ways I can expand the tool.
Continue

This 16-Year-Old Made an App That Exposes Sellout Politicians

With US politics swimming in so much corporate money that it’s pretty much an oligarchy, it can be hard to keep track of which particular set of lobbyists is trying to milk more cash out of healthcare, fossil fuels and other very important issues from one week to the next.

But thanks to 16-year-old Nick Rubin, keeping track of just how much politicians have sold out has become a lot easier. He created Greenhouse, a new browser plugin which operates under the motto, “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.” The plugin aims “to shine light on a social and industrial disease of today: the undue influence of money in our Congress.” It sounds like a bit of a lofty aim for an app, but it’s actually pretty simple and effective—it provides a break down of a politician’s campaign contributions when that politician’s name comes up in an article. It is currently available for Chrome, Firefox and Safari and is completely free. As you can imagine, reading about how your Member of Congress voted in a recent health bill becomes all the more enlightening if you know how much money the health industry showered him in at the last election.

I spoke to Nick Rubin about the plugin, politics and what he calls the “money stories” behind what you read in the news.

VICE: Hi Nick. So how did you come up with the idea for Greenhouse?
Nick Rubin: Back in seventh grade, I gave a presentation on corporate personhood and ever since then I’ve been really interested in that issue. I think the one problem is that the sources of income for members of congress haven’t been simple and easily accessible when people have needed it. More recently, I’ve been teaching myself how to code and I thought that something like Greenhouse that puts the data at people’s fingertips would be a perfect solution. It really is the intersection of these two passions of mine—coding and politics. I made it after school and on weekends on my computer.

Why the name?
Well, green is the color of money in the US, and house refers to the two houses of Congress [the Senate and House of Representatives]. The name also implies transparency; greenhouses are see through and they are built to help things thrive.

Where did you get the information on the politician’s donations?
It uses the data from the last full election cycle which was 2012. This is simply because it’s just the most complete set of data that we have. But, the browser does provide access to the most up to date 2014 information by just clicking the name of the politician on the top of the window or theOpenSecrets.org link in the popup. So the 2014 data is just one click away.

I’m intending to update the data as a whole later in the election cycle as the 2014 contributions are more complete. These are updates I’m currently working on, as well as thinking of other ways I can expand the tool.

Continue

Middle school sucks,” Bethany, a 16-year-old from Waukesha said, munching Oreos. “It’s a terrible time, and it would drive anybody crazy.

— We Went to Wisconsin to Find Out What Teenage Girls Think About the Slender Man Stabbing

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