Archive for July, 2010

Today,   July 24th 2010, marks the first annual Animal Freedom Day to be celebrated this day every year by giving something you can to aid in the freedom of the billions of enslaved creatures throughout the world. Sometimes it is difficult to figure out what to do with oneself on the “first annual day” of anything, which is totally understandable, but consider that only a few decades ago the first annual Earth Day took place and at one time there was a first 4th of July and even a first Christmas. It has to start sometime for it to one day become obvious what one should do to commemorate it. If you missed it today do so tomorrow, last I checked animals are not keeping any calendars.

Animals indeed are the last remaining oppressed creatures in our society as their struggle is unique to all the others. This is not to say the struggles for Civil Rights, Classism, Gender Equality, or Sexual Equality are by any means complete. However, it can be said that the struggle for the animal is unique to the struggle for any other cause related to freedom, equality, moral rights and justice. Human beings struggle to be included equally into society whereas the struggle for animals is that they be left out of it.

An animal that is included in our society for any reason (even as a pet)  is in a position of subservience and is viewed as a lesser living being than their human “masters”. You may argue that an animal that is your pet is in fact treated as “a member of the family” or accorded the same value as “if they are people,” but that is simply not the case and we all know it. Humans are still the ‘master’. In fact that very word once used in a relationship between people separating them whether it was through class in serfdom, through race in slavery, or through gender in domestic sexual inequality; now is comfortably and without any question still accorded in the relationship between humans and animals, which would be considered unconscionable nowadays with any of the former three relationships.

Humans are still the ‘master’ or even worse the ‘owner’ of this last segment of living, feeling and yes, thinking, entities. The animal is not considered as equally worthy of existing than the ‘master’ species and that species when accorded the added role of ‘owning’ an animal is allowed to do with it as he or she pleases and feel perfectly morally justified in doing so. Any laws designed to prevent cruelty to animals is merely lip service and beholden to the sensibilities of the ‘master’ species and not the ‘subservient’ one.

Consider that a pet species the only few ‘lucky’ animals that are given the luxury of respect and decency and even love from an overwhelming majority of humans are still at the mercy of  their ‘owner’ to be allowed to live or to die. The moment that animal is found owner-less or abandoned or even if an owner is ‘kind’ enough to take them to a facility themselves, when they can no longer ‘master’ them, that animal is then ‘humanely’ murdered by lethal injection or some other worse form of execution. They are still afforded no rights and no rules of conduct are given to them that states their persecution is not morally excusable.

These are the lucky ones who’s birthright allowed them to be viewed as attractive to the ‘master’ species due to their cuteness or convenience or genetically endowed broken spirit. These animals are ‘worth’ allowing to live around us in our homes only when we say its allowed and under strict rules of obedience and domination.

The next class of species is the ones who are perhaps the most horribly treated living thing to ever have had the misfortune of being born. The edible and experiment-able species. In this master/slave relationship there is not even the shred of decency accorded the pet species and cruelty laws have been litigated away so that chickens, cows, pig, and other ‘domesticated’ species have no rights at all when it comes to their treatment. I wont go too far into this exploitation here as literally this could take thousands of words to describe and chances are pretty high for many it is unimaginable or simply too difficult to accept. There is a great movie link called “Earthlings” at the bottom of this screen that will show you everything you need to see about this class of animal and I recommend it highly.

Finally there are the so-called ‘wild’ species who are the only remaining animals left that are given the decency to be somewhat left in peace by humans, provided they are not aquatic in nature and they stay out of the way of progress. Although a certain noble dignity is afforded these animals especially if they are accepted as a symbol or popularized in metaphor or film, that is only a surface luxury that is more romantic than reality. The wild species are still no more viewed with any respect or esteem than the ‘master’ species with respect to that latter species’ desire to get whatever it wants from the habitats of these species.

Even the bald eagle or the wild mustang, which are the national symbols of the most powerful nation on earth, are viewed as ‘in the way’ when that nation wants its contracts for mountain top coal removal for the former and oil drilling contracts for the latter. Wild mustangs are currently being rounded up and exterminated in the thousands because their ranges happened to be in the way of BP oil drilling contracts.

So clearly even those animals such as dolphins, whales, wild horses, eagles, and the other species, which are viewed as most enjoyable when they are left to live in relative peace and freedom, are not immune to the role as a slave species with respect to the ‘master’ of the earth.

Consider this today and consider if you still eat any flesh whatsoever that you are torturing and murdering a living and suffering creature when you do so. There is no such thing as humane slaughter. In fact those words are mutually exclusive. Ask yourself if someone asked you if they could put down your best friend to provide food for lions if it would matter to you if your friend had a good life or if the murder happened quickly.

In conclusion lets take this day if no other day is available to you to be an equal with animals.  Treat them not as a burden to us or as a thing we own that ‘gets’ to receive our attention,  but as a fellow passenger in life and as a fellow sentient life-form with consciousness behind their eyes, which can be shared with, provided you look into them with the right mindset.

Ask an animal if they would like anything from you, chances are pretty good it won’t be much. Chances are good they simply want you to acknowledge them as an equal and when you do you will be surprised what will happen.  A slave only gives you the minimum of what they have because you demanded it, a free entity will give you what you didn’t even know you needed. Peace.

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Lately I have found myself angry and unsettled almost every evening and I spend most nights sleepless reading the news reports from one bias to another attempting to gather the whole picture. I am finding myself ill and unable to figure out why until last night; I reached a boiling point. I went surfing the internet doing my best to avoid thinking about dirty politics and dirty planets when I stumbled across another of these pictures.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field

What you are looking at this time, although this small image does nothing to show its grandeur and I recommend finding a larger one if you have a second, is the Hubble Ultra Deep Field or HUDF. It is called the single most important and greatest image that humankind has ever looked upon, ever. The image required 400 Hubble orbits around the Earth taken over 11.3 days between Sept. 24, 2003 and Jan. 16, 2004.

This photo is of 78 billion light years about the width of looking through a straw at the darkest little spot in the night sky and represents the furthest that we have looked into our universe. The dots and smudges that you see are not stars but actually entire galaxies with millions if not billions of stars apiece. This number is what exists in the space of a pencil eraser just as far as we can look out and it would take hundreds of thousands more to fill the entire sky that wraps around us.

Think of that amount. One could feasibly consider the number of pencils it would take, the number of galaxies for each pencil width, and the number of stars at each galaxy. That unimaginable number is now right before your eyes. The Universe is … big…  Truly there could be no question somewhere on one of the smudges made up of billions of pinpoints of light surrounded by trillions of planets there is someone looking back wondering. This is truly an unsurpassed achievement and a testament of our ability to simply witness this universe.

At the same time as this picture was taken California elected the Governator, the Cubs lost the World Series, and Saddam Hussein was captured by Coalition forces. For many, these three events were the most important things to occur and their entire lives were tipped upside down by them. However, were they really as important as the reporters of them made us believe?

In this relatively unremarkable galaxy on an outer rim sits a small star and on that star’s third planet exists a civilization which thinks of itself as the most important occurrence in all of these tens of thousands of millions of stars.

These delusions of grandeur are brought to our thoughts by news media, religious groups, and various other special interests who are paid to instill in us the idea that our lives are based upon what happens in the polling booth, or on the sports field, or in a hole in the dirt or indeed in the earth. They convince us over and over that our lives will change dramatically for better or worse based upon the box you mark. They instill in us that the pressure to decide correctly is more important than any other. Well… is it?

If your like me and you find yourself becoming bogged down by all this rhetoric just think to yourself about how little it all matters to the blips of light in this picture.  Close your eyes. Hold this image in your mind and consider its significance. Meditate for a moment and breathe deeply in and out . . . in and out . . . in and out.

Now look around you, this is it. This might very well be all that we get. Let’s make our only home,  amidst this lonely and silent sea of cosmic smudges billions of years and miles apart, outlast our longest passage upon it.   Perhaps that hole in the earth thing can be acknowledged as a truly bad idea, when you consider that we are shooting holes into the only thing we can ride on. Let’s not spring any more leaks shall we.  It’s a long swim.

Have you ever wondered what is going to happen within the next twenty to fifty years given the current exponential progress that science is following? Well, according to his relatively new book Radical Evolution, Joel Garreau believes that just about anything and everything science fiction has dreamed of in its most gooey fantasies, will not only occur, but will literally turn certain humans into a new species of animal. In this case, truth will be stranger than we can possibly imagine.

The book is divided into three main scenarios ranging from a veritable Utopian wonderland to a nightmare that would make even H. R. Giger run screaming home to his mommy; and, of course, there is a postulate of something in between.

Now before you start to say that perhaps the man has spent too much time reading the works of Philip K. Dick and is projecting his imagination into reality, I can only say that some of the stuff is already underway. Secret government research labs like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA are currently at work making super-human exoskeletons that accomplish everything Marvel Comic’s X-Men or better yet Iron Man could possibly devise. They hold annual contests for scientists to come up with the most wacky inventions and award prizes to those that actually work. This is just the stuff that is made public, imagine what they will not tell us about.

Drawing from interviews of such imminent inventors as Ray Kurzweil, and Bill Joy founder of Sun Microsystems, Garreau has written an intense book. The many pages of notes and sources in the bibliography are a testament to the fact that the man has done his homework. It  is quite enjoyably readable and just about any literate person can pick it up and dive right in. The tone even at some parts takes on an adventure-esque quality as he battles bizarre circumstances to gather the interviews from the reclusive geniuses such as the above-mentioned Bill Joy.

Speaking of Mr. Joy (no I did not make this up, the man actually goes by Bill Joy), it is from him that the darker scenarios of the future derive. I don’t want to give too much away but in the section, which focuses on him called “The Hell Scenario” there is a particularly amusing possibility put forth. Amusing that is if you found the last zombie movie to be a little too easy on the humans.

We have all heard of nanobots and the benefits that they could bring everything from medicine to window cleaner. Well there is an incredibly terrible possibility that once we turn the first one on it will make another of itself and continue to do so until it takes every last molecule on the planet and turns it into another nanobot. In other words we could easily lose control of something the size of an individual molecule that cannot be seen by the naked eye and in this case, the end of the world and all life as we know it will simply be reassembled into a giant cloud of microscopic robots. . . click . . . poof.

This actually has a name called the “Gray Goo Scenario” and is a topic of discussion in certain circles.  I don’t know about you but I can’t help but smile inwardly at that possibility. Perhaps that is why Garreau has called the four horsemen of this apocalypse the GRIN theories. This acronym stands for Genetics, Robotics, Information and Nanotechnology. It is these fields, which if they continue to advance as they are, and in fact increasingly advance as the bell curve of progress shows, will approach a moment called the “singularity”. This singularity is the moment when all bets are off and we had better hold on tight.

Now this book is not just written in order to alarm you as there is a section called “The Heaven Scenario” as well where hunger, disease, and quite possibly even death itself is eliminated from the human condition. This all is going to happen no matter what we think about it now if things continue the way they are going according to Garreau. It is going to happen within many of our lifetimes some things even within the next two decades. Ask yourself what someone would have said if you told them fifty years ago that everyone on the planet will be able to instantly communicate with every one else with a device no larger than a credit card. Can you say, ‘Beam me up Scottie’? I knew you could.

First Published — October 18, 2006

Interpret This…

Posted: July 23, 2010 in Past Articles

Habeas Corpus 1670 – 2006 Rest In Pieces. Well, it’s now official, we are screwed. I’m not sure if you noticed with all the hype over senator sex and Korean brand nukes last week, but in the fine print of most news reports just below the articles about Harry Potter’s demise, and the details over the new Playstation 3, there was a small blurb about a little piece of legislation that was passed into law on the morning of October 17th. The Military Commissions Act of 2006, even George Bush agrees, is perhaps the most important law he has enacted in his six years as president. It effectively brings us teetering on the brink of martial law.

Before I continue, I will list some of the provisions this act allows in no particular order:

1) The ‘Writ of Habeas Corpus’ has been permanently annulled for all non-citizens and it retroactively applies to the detainees of Gitmo and any other secret prisons.

2) It prohibits detainees from demanding the protection of the Geneva Convention and effectively usurps the convention’s international laws. It gives the chief executive the sole power to interpret this convention’s laws as he sees fit.

3) The president shall be allowed to interpret the definition of torture and make its use legal for any US organization. It retroactively makes those who have authorized its use immune to prosecution. It allows evidence attained through torture, hearsay evidence and coerced testimony to be used against the accused in a trial and denies the accused access to this evidence in order to prepare a defense. In addition, it limits the rights of a detainee to attain council of his or her choosing.

4) The president may convene military commissions in order to prosecute ‘unlawful enemy combatants’ and allows broad definitions of said ‘combatants’ for the chief executive for whomever and for whatever reason he chooses. Citizens so-designated will not have the right to a civilian court of law in place of these commissions. These commissions will have the power to impose death sentences and can be conducted in secrecy.

5) It allows the indefinite detention of said ‘combatants’ without the right to a speedy trial. These detentions may also be conducted in secret.

Now I don’t know about you but I for one cannot imagine what this will allow our “fearful” leader to be capable of for the next two years. God willing that is only as long as he’s in power. If someone who is secretly declared an “enemy combatant” was innocent, we will never know of it because they will be whisked away, held indefinitely, and perhaps even murdered without anyone the wiser. Furthermore, those innocent prisoners of Gitmo (which there are lots of according to many) will never have any hope of proving themselves so. This sounds extremely familiar to me and in an effort to avoid Godwin’s Law let us just say extremely, militaristic.

What really blows me away is that the rhetoric spewed forth by Chaney and Bush continually states that the War on Terror is for the protection and spread of freedom while at the same time they push Congress to enact laws which take those freedoms away. Perhaps we have forgotten the entire purpose of this ‘grand experiment’ called democracy was to avoid this exact type of tyranny. Many of the original settlers and indeed current immigrants to this nation came here to avoid secret prisons, false arrests, and government sanctioned murder, all because they were deemed ‘enemies of the state’ by their respective tyrannies.

Now perhaps it might be a good idea to flee the U.S. for fear that someone might be knocking down your door if you piss the wrong person off. Canada is looking better all the time. I’ll take the cold of winter over cold hard cell bars any day. However, if I renounce my citizenship I am even worse off than I was before. Pardon the expression but WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON IN THIS COUNTRY!!!

Normally I couldn’t care less about what the military and Washington want to do with their time, I transplanted to California to get as far away from them as possible, but seriously are we all in danger of being kidnapped and murdered?!? The author of the Declaration of Independence, a person I truly admire who may in fact be declared an ‘unlawful enemy combatant’ under these new laws, I quote now with extreme caution,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness [. . . ] when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is [the people’s] right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Jefferson then lists a long line of abuses that the king of England has enacted upon the colonies I am not going to list them all here but I suggest you Google the Declaration of Independence and read them yourself. How many of them ring familiar to you? I certainly am not abating revolt (you hear that out there I love America) but i am asking for the possible impeachment of a poor leader and a tyrant which is perfectly legal under our current laws, at least last time I checked. If our only hope of avoiding secret prisons is making sure that we don’t be declared the ‘enemy’ and if the definition of that term is made subject to executive discretion than how do we voice any dissent without fear of government reprisal. If no one knows of that reprisal what will stop them from whisking away anyone they want.

Finally, above all, I hope that we are not attacked again. Not just for the obvious reasons of loss of life and terrible tragedy, but now for fear of what my own government will do in order to ‘protect’ me. If this is how I am protected I would like a second opinion. The leader of Pakistan stated that the Iraq War has made us less safe than we were prior to 9/11 and generally speaking save for the few Bush fanatics out there (and I say that because in order to continue supporting this guy you got to be nuts) nobody thinks we are winning this war on terror. Moreover, I am truly more terrified of what my own government is going to do next than I am with a bunch of pissed off Muslims living in caves.

Hold on there is someone knocking on my door . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

First Printed –October 20, 2006

Passed Along Past All Wrong

Posted: July 23, 2010 in Poetry

Passed Along Past All Wrong

To take away the pain I’m burning my brain cells

They’re lost forever, thrown out, and discarded.

Retarded thoughts are slowing those battles fought for a better life.

And my strife is now covered in smoke

I choke on happiness and love that bliss

Can you blame the nameless individual for the gradual loss of his or her mind?

They’re blinded by all this corruption and it’s a disruption

Relief from the brooding… losing…wanting… better….…not!

It’s a pot of soup for your ideas and ideals will lose their own flavor

What was once your savior has now been blended into the rest

They say “Burned brain soup tastes the best”

The consistency is of a solid yet gelatinous mass

And vicious fights break out over whose soup is of highest class

Which cook is most crooked?

Who done away with the most individual ingredients

To form the biggest, blandest,

Conformist stew?

They all use different methods

But all agree each brain must be thoroughly washed

To get all that troublesome originality off

The favorite first techniques involve elbow grease

But if that don’t work they become more cunning

They attempt something the brain won’t notice them doing

They exploit your pleasure.

And when your leisure has dropped your guard

They spring in to win the trusts necessary to carry out all their desires

Someday the pain and all this shame will be gone

But until then pass it along

I don’t know how long I can keep holding on.

© 2010 Charles Harmison