Monday, June 9, 2008
A great model/argument for considering our response to global climate change
I would only argue that the columns and rows are not discrete and binary, but are a continuum. The truth about the amount of climate devastation potentially coming upon us is not an on/off thing, not is our pre-emptive response to it. Presently, my guess is that we're doing about 5-10% of what could actually be done, perhaps less, so it feels like we're still in his column B, unfortunately.
You can probably guess my prayer for the day -- that we hustle our buns over to column A right quick.
agape to all,
Friday, June 6, 2008
Just interesting, is all.
agape to all,
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Officially called the "Active Denial System"
1. They present what they call a "realistic" scenario, in which marines dressed up as anti-war protesters, are attacking American soldiers by shouting at them and throwing rocks. From the video:
"The targets here are people. Military volunteers creating a scenario soldiers might encounter in Iraq. [Shouts from military actors of 'go home!' and 'no more war' and 'get out of my country' along with throwing rocks.] Angry protesters advancing on American troops, who have to choose between backing down and opening fire. Off in the distance, a half a mile away, the operator of the raygun has the crowd in his sights. [He says over the bullhorn, 'Individuals, this is your final warning -- leave this area now.' To which the protester actor military volunteers reply, 'We will not leave! You leave!]'
Its interesting that the raygun operator refers to the group as "individuals." I wonder how well that psychology actually works in the field. Its highly interesting that in this example, they are using it on war protesters, albeit those of the supposedly Iraqi variety. The danger is that there are people who would use it for domestic control. This device is only a tool. It could be used for awesome purposes. Imagine if the U.S. military (or better yet, the U.N.) marched into Myanmar (or Somalia in 1995, or other places where its difficult to supply humanitarian aid) with 20 of these, and telling the dictatorial warlords, "We ARE bringing food, shelter, and clothing to these disaster victims, we will not be killing anybody to do it, and you will be unable to stop us." That would be a potential Good use of this technology. But if its used to suppress freedom of speech or the freedom to peaceably congregate, or the freedom of protest, or to disperse protesters and quiet their voices, that's a Bad Thing.
2. Sue Payton, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, uses the statement, "We have war-fighters that are in harm's way..." War-fighters? Does she mean soldiers? Or does she mean people who fight against war, a.k.a. "peace protesters."
And here's the scary part that keeps my worries well-founded: In 2006, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne was quoted as saying that the device should be used first on Americans, because "if we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation.
WHAT???? Our military uses giant bombs and guns in wartime situations, and while I'd prefer they didn't, I'd like to further think that they would not be willing to use those first against our fellow citizens. AND using a non-lethal weapon like this in a combat zone could be a first step in drawing down the violence, instead of having to use live munitions.
At another point, as a reason for using it as a crowd-control device, the statement gets made "You never ever want something like this to be thought of as a torture weapon." A conspiracy-oriented person might think that the military/government would want to set a context up using certain frames and words that make it seem good, and then get (or give themselves) a bit more free license to do something less just with it.
Note here that the Air Force representative said "You can be sure that if they continue to come at you, they're not a tourist. They're probably a terrorist or an adversary who wants to do you harm." In this, she tacitly implies the right of the military to be chasing people off and scattering them from whatever it is they're doing that is dangerous, or deemed unlawful, inappropriate, unnecessary, or dissent-oriented.
This is really a freedom versus freedom issue, and is what the creation of the U.S. constitution and the bill of rights were designed to clarify. It really does go all the way back to the founding of our country. I believe it was Foucault who said the state is the one who has the authorized use of violence. But that authority wears pretty thin in some places, especially when its impinging on the freedoms of its own citizens. The bill of rights is designed to protect freedom of speech.
So what happens when the government declares certain areas off-limits to free speech, or designates certain areas as "free-speech zones" implying that other areas are not, at least temporarily? And more importantly, if a device like this is used as a weapon to control people (which it likely would be), who are its users going to be controlling, and in what ways? Will they be suppressing free speech? Or will they be clearing away truly dangerous people who would endanger a merit-worthy mission? That's a big difference. In either case, it's potentially better not to have to use lethal power against people, but again, using lethal or non-lethal power to coerce people's actions is a serious infringement on their freedom, so the reasons need to be clear and up-front.
Overall, this device may have some good uses, but its definitely got some bad uses as well.
OK time for bed, and sweet dreams, hopefully not about the A.D.S., or any of those scary "waiting tables all night long and not getting paid" dreams. Yeech.
agape to all,
Monday, June 2, 2008
U.S. Drug War and Incarceration System are Themselves Criminal
In the United States in 1900, less than 0.1% of the population was in prison. Now, its close to a full 1%, nearing 3 million people in prison or jail. An astonishing number of them are for non-violent drug-related offenses. Note the percentages in this graph -- more than five times as many people are incarcerated for non-violent drug-related offenses than for violence.
Read some of these heart-wrenching stories of normal women who've had their lives taken away by a system created by and for people who value mandatory minimum incarcerative sentencing and punitive justice more than they value recovery, rehabilitation and the power of restorative justice. The context in which these women are guilty of crimes worthy of incarceration still fails to convince me of its correctness in any way. It is a context of oppression, against the lower class, against African Americans and Latinos, and against those who choose personal freedom, plain and simple. Our system of legislation, law enforcement, and incarceration, is one of the key elements that is making the United States LESS FREE for common people, only retaining freedom for those who have certain privileges among the upper class. Note that certain celebrities and politicians get away with these same crimes, but the women above do not.
I see just and reasonable alternatives to this system, which require a change of assumptions. Making a change of assumptions is something that conservative folks do not easily do, but I guess that's what I'm asking. When somebody gets caught in a non-violent drug offense, they should go through rehabilitation and counseling, not just get thrown into the cogs of an inhuman penal system. We could and should have significantly less resources in the U.S. going toward prisons and law enforcement, if we focus on true crimes where people are killed, robbed, or raped. This has been said thousands of times before, and the people who make the laws don't listen and don't make changes. God damn it! God damn you people! What does it take???
We live in a society that glamorizes violence in the movies, and makes the violence of war look like video games. We live in a society where there is constant violence against every individual because social structures and networking are discouraged, or difficult to build when living hand to mouth. Every individual must run on their treadmill to be exploited for investor's gains, or get caught in the cogs, or tossed out of their homes onto the street.
And people who want to escape from all that violence get mandatory minimum sentencing laws. And people who could be productive members of society, caring for their parents and children, having children while still in their reproductive years, are instead wasting away in prison cells for 10-20 years.
Its about making angels illegal, damning them in a way. In the U.S. you have freedom. But you're not free to do the things that are declared illegal. You're free to question why things are illegal, but not free to avoid examination for asking questions, and not free to get a reasonable answer. A long time ago when I was in college, I saw Lou Reed on an interview saying (I paraphrase) "You're free to smoke cigarettes and alcohol, but not marijuana or cocaine." "Why?" "Because we say so." Oh." To me, it really seems like that. Here's another statement that's been said thousands of times. Alcohol and cigarettes cause more deaths than all other drugs combined, by far. Why are they somehow legal, and marijuana is not? Its just another form of prohibition, and many people are wondering, "Who benefits?" Certainly not the peaceable non-drug-using people of America, because there's still plenty of violence and other crimes going on, not to mention the general rat-race. In fact, its easy to argue that the drug laws themselves CAUSE violence.
The U.S. war on drugs, and the incarceration system, and those who continue to advocate for them are standing against love and justice, and are themselves criminal.
The truth in right and wrong
The boundaries of the law
I think you missed the point
Arresting for a joint?
From Fucking Hostile, by Pantera
mood: so tired of this. soul tired.
chant/prayer/mantra: going to go out and breathe some fresh air.
agape to all,
Amazing Robotic Prosthetic Arm
My questions: When these prosthetics become available commercially, I wonder how much they'll really cost. My guess is somewhere in the $20-30k range for several years. The initial impetus behind the drive to produce these arms is because so many vets are coming back from Iraq with lost limbs. Now that there have been improvements in body armor and medical technology, they survive, but lose limbs.
However, as somebody who supports the troops, I have to ask.... If the U.S. government is denying basic aid to veterans when they return, or making it really difficult for them to file claims and prove their disabilities, how much are they really going to spend on these limbs for the vets? My cynical (and likely accurate) guess is that these arms will be available to those who can buy them outright, and to those who are fortunate enough to get through all the red tape, becoming the poster child to put a pleasant face on our recovery from war.
Further, I would suggest that these arms might make adequate replacements for the lost limbs, but most of those receiving them would probably rather still have their natural arms. In the future, however, these kind of replacements will become more prevalent, and better integrated in with human tissue. Then it will get strange, especially if they are available to those with the monetary wherewithal. It may be a while, but when 70-year olds are sprinting around the track on bionic legs, that will be weird.
agape to all,
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Migrant Labor Benefits residents of China, UAE, and the United States
From the article:
While migrants can live for decades in big cities like Shenzhen and Guangzhou, their residency remains fixed to the rural community where they were born, a fact encoded on their national ID cards. As one young migrant in Guangzhou put it to me, "The local people want to make money from migrant workers, but they don't want to give them rights. But why are the local people so rich? Because of the migrant workers!"
But its not just limited to China. Waste of resources that could be used toward equalizing economic injustice, and the creation/exploitation of migrant labor seems to be a trend.
I think I previously blogged on the world's tallest building in Dubai, the Burj Dubai, and commented on how amazing it was that they were able to build it for only $2 billion dollars (U.S.). Since then, I've learned that they have a very divided class system there in Dubai, UAE, with about 60% of the population in the city as non-citizens and migrant labors. These migrant labors can be paid and exploited so that the investors can end up with awesome buildings, purchased at a cut-rate. The fact that hundreds of poorly documented day-laborers die constructing these buildings doesn't matter much in this context, since they're expendable and disconnected from their home communities.
In the United States, the whole ambivalence about undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America is similar to this. Having an exploitable unempowered labor force allows for less production costs (and potentially cheaper goods) in any industry able to employ undocumented workers without having to pay the going rate, or give them benefits.
In short, we are culpable, even if we don't want to be.
The solution? Change public policy regarding immigration, commerce, and re-create the social welfare network that has been undermined during the last 25 years.
When we see people wandering around, looking for work, begging for work, it becomes an employer's market, encouraging the system to keep people hungry and homeless, and denying them citizenship and its benefits if possible.
To sum up: In a society built on a social contract, whenever an individual is left to fend for him/herself, it shows a breach of the contract, and a failure of the communities that the individual is within. If a subgroup of people are left to fend to themselves, it shows a breach of contract and a failure of the greater community groups the subgroup is a part of. In this case, displaced migrant labors (in addition to being real suffering people) stand as representatives to a system that pits people against each other, and encourages abandonment.
The numbers of those abandoned by our societies is growing! From the article: "Every rural village that is successfully razed to make way for a new project creates more displaced people who join the ranks of the roughly 130 million migrants roaming the country looking for work. By 2025, it is projected that this "floating" population will swell to more than 350 million.' That's greater than the entire population of the United States. The idea that there could be a billion homeless people on this planet by 2025 mortifies me so deeply.
How deep must we dig to find the love to bind our communities together, to pool our resources, and take care of EVERYONE in a cooperative fashion? Surveillance cameras are not an answer to that question. They are an answer to the question: "How can the people who are benefiting from inequity and injustice and oppression continue to do so?" That's the kind of us vs. them thinking that exists in the kindergarten sandbox when the child won't share his toys. We need to move beyond that. Its much more complex than that, but at each level of complexity is a simplicity based on sharing and cooperation. That unravels the complexity, and we still see those who benefit from creating and sustaining competition. Many of us are unwilling/unknowing/cooperating participants. But there are many who are not participants who are only shut outside of the system, to be used, exploited, and used up. That's not the love I'm talking about. But I'm afraid if I keep rambling on, you will stop reading, so I'll stop here. Find the love and embrace it. Okay.
agape to all,
Not that I advocate this point of view exactly, but...
In a way, this rings a little true. The world is burning, and I sure do have a lot of books left to read.
Triage time, huh?
Gosh, asofterworld.com is such an honest and inspiring website.
Learn to love me
And assemble the ways
Now, today, tomorrow, and always
My only weakness is a listed crime
But last night the plans of a future war
Was all I saw on channel four.
From Shoplifters of the World, by The Smiths
colors: orange and white, from my favorite Smiths' album cover.
mood: with cheer, ennui, and desire
chant/prayer/mantra: Hullo, there, blue people! Won't you join us? Hook up, and otherwise co-mingle? Whaddaya say?
(Honest, I'm not really on a British jag or anything, just circumstantial.)
agape to all,