Monthly Archives: September 2004

Well armed hippies

So the media is coming strongly on the side of the anti-gun nuts in this assault weapons ban expiry issue. Even Jon Stewart, who I usually agree with was strangely shortsighted — and forgetful — in his mocking of assault weapons and their owners. Kerry is of course against the guns, and remember that it was Bush Sr. that created the ban in the first place. Ronald Reagan signed the Mulford Act, and both Giuliani and Pataki have run the most anti-gun administrations in history.

The second amendment, the right to form a militia and of the people to keep and bear Arms, was enacted by the Founding Fathers for a very clear reason;

"A free people ought to be armed."

- George Washington

"An unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man... Let your gun be your constant companion of your walks."
"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms."

- Thomas Jefferson

"To disarm the people is the most effectual way to enslave them."

- George Madison

"Americans have the right and advantage of being armed, unlike the people of other countries, whose leaders are afraid to trust them with arms."

- James Madison

Thomas Jefferson also said that “all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right” — and, most importantly their duty to be at all times armed.” Jefferson didn't think people needed guns for hunting or self defense. They were all very clear and singular — an armed populace is the final check-and-balance protecting the liberty of the people of the United States against a government running amok. They'd seen it happen in Europe, and they wanted to make sure it could never happen in America.

To defend America against foreign and domestic threats, an assault weapon is an ideal and highly effective tool for the individual doing so — as Stephen Colbert pointed out on the Daily Show, it's been very successful for the Iraqi insurgents! Now, maybe you're saying it could never happen in modern times, or to a culture as sophisticated as America. Don't bet on it. The German government, democratically elected by a well educated and culturally sophisticated populace killed ten million people in death camps, and the people never resisted it once. It's also happened across several Eastern European nations in recent time as well. It is not uncommon. It will happen again, and it could easily happen in America.

You probably won't get in a car accident either, but hey, why buy car insurance?

Maybe you're saying the odds of all this is slim, and in any case, most people support the ban, so democracy says the ban should stay. Wrong. Most people don't think piercing should be legal either. In the past, most people thought blacks shouldn't vote. Most people think BME should be banned. The point of the Constitution and Bills of Rights all over the world is to protect the minority from the majority — to make sure the nation can protect against a worst case scenario. When we start violating these radical freedoms because “most people don't mind”, we set the stage not just for losing our rights, but losing our freedom completely or even our lives.

Do you want to die in a death camp, or do you want to die free?

Yeah, I'm sure you're thinking you're real clever, getting ready to type “well i don't want to die at all” into the Whatever forum. Well, put your head back into the sand. It's not always your decision what day you're going to die on. It is however always your decision whether you die with your liberty intact.

Welcome to America

I was just talking to a friend of mine that's currently in prison. One of the people he's in with had been convicted in the past of having consentual sex with a seventeen year old — he was in his forties at the time. He did his prison time and vowed not to make the same mistake — although he certainly didn't lose his taste for young women (and judging by cable TV porn lineups, neither has anyone).

Now in his fifties and presumably the quintessial dirty old man, he's still more than willing to accept lolita hummers — after checking their ID. As a result he's recently been arrested again, this time for having (willing) sex with a nineteen year old. However, because she is still in highschool, it's being treated as statuatory rape even though she's of age — because most people would “assume” she's underage. Additionally, because he's been convicted before on this, he's facing two non-concurrent life sentences for it — he doesn't have the cash to pay for an expensive defense, so he's going to die in prison.

UPDATE: For those that are wondering, I believe he was charged under the “two strikes and you're out” sex crimes law which went through the house as HR2146 (and of course Chapter 110 of USC Title 18). However, a large part of me believes that the girl was only sixteen told him that she was nineteen.

Note: I have no way of objectively confirming his story or even getting more details. For all I know he's lying, although I do know others who've been prosecuted in similar ways, so it's certainly in the realm of “possible”.

Hey, the moon is made of blood!

Not many people seemed too cracked up about the straightedge Bob Marley tattoo, so I'll try again with another photo of interest. I wanted to share this kooky piercing from Matt Bruce over at Spitfire Tattoos in Victoria, BC (where I was born). It's a surface piercing through the end of an amputated finger stump — although I should mention that he only did the piercing, not the amputation, so don't go calling him asking for chisel services!

I've talked a lot here about very calamities facing humans around the world, but I thought I'd take this opportunity to put my assessments of some of them into context. I'm going to split them into ones that scare me and ones that don't.

Apocalypses that don't scare me

The events in this section playing out would be terrible and could hurt or kill a lot of people. However, they're not ones I'm scared about either on a humanity-level (ie. I don't think they'll do significant damage to humans) or a personal level (ie. if they occur I believe I can minimize the damage I face myself).

Peak Oil

Big fucking deal. Yes, it will suck like crazy if it happens too quickly, and will bring with it wars and economic collapse, but it's not even going to come close to killing off humans or the planet. The end of oil is simply the world's biggest inconvenience. This planet is bathed in energy. We've got more than enough, especially if we start using it more reasonably.

War and Terrorism

The fact is that war, terrorism, and violence just don't kill that many people, and kill almost no one in wealthy countries. I'm a well off person in a well off country. If I fall victim to death from war, it's almost a freak accident. While there are WMD attacks that can do incredible damage, and in the future could do huge damage to even a first-world nation, we're still talking about comparably small numbers… and we've got so many humans on this planet that killing a few is just a tiny impact.

Plague and Pestilence

Even if we imagine a megaplague that kills 30% of the world population, it's very survivable, and again, wealthy people in wealthy nations, especially those who aren't urbanites, shouldn't have to worry too much. If a plague (“natural” or weaponized — more) were to break out, the end result — after getting through it — would be a healthier society.

Economic Collapse

The above three, or other factors, could lead us to economic collapse. Economic collapse can lead to massively increased violence, lawlessness, and assuming they haven't already happened, the calamities above. But again, while they can make life suck for twenty years, they're inherently survivable assuming we have the facilities to grow food.

In minor cases, the apocalypses above could create disturbing and oppressive political changes, but those could happen even without disaster. Even in a worst case scenario I don't believe that any of the above have the potential to knock us back any further than 1800s-level technology. Which sucks, but really isn't a big deal in the grand scheme…

Apocalypses that scare me

These scenarios are ones that I believe could destroy the human race, or enough of it to knock us back to the stone age. I also believe all of these are inherently possible.

Human-Robot Apocalypse

I've written on this in the past, and the idea has been recently popularized in the movie I, Robot. In simple terms it happens when machines gain both sentience and control over enough of their “ecosystem” (ie. manufacturing, design, energy production, etc.) that they can stand as an independent species. The problem is that they're a species with fundamentally different and incompatible needs. I do not believe that we can safely co-exist — or at least I'll say I'm not sure enough — that we can co-exist to bet humanity on it.

Slow adoption of Veganism

Long term, we do not have enough meat (chicken, beef, pork, fish, etc.) to support the number of humans we have, even just in the West, at the current rate of consumption. Right now we are destroying our water systems, cutting down our forests, depleting our oil supplies, and overfishing the oceans to indulge our taste for animal flesh. If it was just a matter of stopping eating meat when it runs out that would be fine, but it's not that simple.

Destroying the planet's forests — the Earth's lungs which clean and stabilize our atmosphere — is suicidal. What's even worse though is overfishing (look what we've done to cod — more). Just like the forests breathe for us, so do the oceans. By destabilizing the marine ecosystems, we are massively raising the CO2 levels in our atmosphere (more), which can snowball out of control very quickly, leaving us with a planet with air that is no longer breathable by most land-dwelling creatures.

Severe Water System Damage, Pollution

While running out of oil just inconveniences us, running out of fresh water supplies kills us, and much of the ecosystem along with us (as does pollution in general, but water damage is the truly fatal one). When I was a kid I could safely swim in Lake Ontario (our farm was on the shore) — now only 2% of the entire Great Lakes shoreline is considered safe for swimming. We're building desalination plants all along the North American shoreline because our inland water supplies are becoming undrinkable and cleaning the water is just not economical (and North America is far better off than heavily industrializing and unregulated pollution bogs like China — more).

I believe that if “everything else is OK” we can solve this problem with new technology and a lot (emphasis on a lot) of money. However, if we throw in too much war or economic instability at the same time, we will not have the resources to do this cleanup on a large enough scale. This type of environmental collapse could easily wipe out 90% of the life on the planet, and many scientists believe it's already happening.

Microbial Collapse

This one is the planet killer.

In very simple terms, if you make extinct the top of the food chain, everything else below it is largely unaffected (although the lack of predators does lead to destabilization downward to some extent). However, if you make extinct the bottom of the food chain, everything above it goes extinct as well. Microbial life is the very bottom of the Earth's food chain, and not only do we know almost nothing about it, but we're killing it off insanely quickly.

I've mentioned in past entries (more) about how food rots much more quickly now than it did in the past, and how farmed food has less nutritional value than wild food because of the microbial life it does or doesn't consume. To use the ocean as an example again (because as much as we land dwellers forget it, the ocean is the dominant biosystem on the planet), in the last twenty years alone (more), phytoplankton levels have dropped 30%. Planktons and other similar marine biota literally fuel (almost) all ocean life. If we kill the ocean (and our freshwater systems in parallel), we literally kill the planet.

Oh, the irony

Photo c/o ODPiercing, Havana, Cuba.

Experience update posted

I've just posted an experience update with about 140 new stories. Thanks to all the authors, the review team, and to Michelangelo Cornini for the cover shot of a large Borneo scorpion design he did at Primordial Pain in Italy. Other than that, I have a few more comments about my trip:

Gay Slaves (and not the fun kind). As I mentioned, we noticed a fair chunk of homophobia while in Vegas — from people walking out of Zumanity to general rudeness to gay service workers. What surprised me though was that at the same time, there were more overtly gay employees at casinos and around town than I'm used to seeing — so it's one of those phenomena of “I'm glad to have you as an employee, but don't ever think I'll tolerate you as an equal.” Very odd, but I suppose there were plenty of men in the past who had wives that they loved, but didn't want them voting

American Bookstores. Given how much we hear how the American public is “sheltered” from the tough realities, US bookstores seem to dispel that idea. If the Borders bookstore at the airport is any indication, there's a great selection of “anti-establishment” literature. While waiting for our flight I read Is that a politician in your pocket? (“Washington on $2 million a day”) — a highly recommended and sobering book about the role the (largely non-partisan) bribery works in American politics. Again I say:

  • Vote for the politician who makes the least money, and takes the least corporate contributions.
  • Support clean campaign financing.
  • Be prepared for a total economic meltdown in America if these things are not resolved. Get healthy — don't expect to any healthcare to be available to you. Oh, and learn to garden.

I also had time to read much of The End of Oil, a terrifying but very levelheaded and balanced overview of peak oil and energy issues. If I'm to believe the “best seller” advertisements, there are a lot of people reading these books. I hope it's reaching people, not just entertaining them on some morbid level. Oh, and I read Paris Hilton's book which is silly but a better than I thought it would be — the message is basically “be yourself, have fun, and stand up for yourself as an individual.”

Airport Security. It's fucking insulting to my intelligence. The screening and searching they do is ludicrous and would only catch the most moronic of terrorists — terrorists may be a lot of things, but they're not stupid. To give the most obvious example, I brought on a fair amount of large electronics. None of it was searched, turned on, or even swabbed for chemicals. If I wanted to put a slab of explosive inside my laptop big enough to blow the side out of the plane I could have done so in my sleep (not that I'd ever do so, Carnivore/Echelon folks!) — simple truth: if someone is willing to die in the process, taking out a US, Canadian, or European airliner departing from a Western airport is easy.

Not that I'm nervous about flying, but if I was, I'd stick with El Al.