Thursday, May 28, 2009

Smiles outlawed in Virginia

The Commonwealth of Virginia's Department of Motor Vehicles has declared smiling verboten when sitting for your driver's license photo. I am not making this up.
As part of the DMV's effort to develop super-secure driver's licenses and foolproof identification cards, the agency has issued a smile ban, directing customers to adopt a "neutral expression" in their portraits, thereby extinguishing whatever happiness comes with finally hearing one's number called.

And Virginia is not alone, nor first, in forbidding smiles at the DMV. Indiana disallowed smiles - as well as hats, scarves, spectacles, and certain hair styles - last year when it joined about 20 other states that use facial recognition software "to detect fraud in drivers' licenses." It seems Big Brother's machines have trouble distinguishing your smiling face from someone else's, but do a better job if you're deadpan.

Ah, the land of liberty!

The founding fathers held that among the inalienable rights bestowed on us all is the "pursuit of happiness" - but in today's paranoid society, there's no recognition of an inalienable right to show happiness.

Friday, May 8, 2009

30 Reasons to be a vegetarian

How many reasons do you need to stop eating animals?

I also recommend this video, if you can stomach it: Meet Your Meat focuses on the unspeakable animal cruelty that is integral to the factory farming industry. I made the decision to go vegan for purely selfish reasons, but I'm pretty sure if I'm ever tempted to go back to eating meat, all I'll have to do is watch this 12-minute documentary again and I'll lose all appetite for animal flesh.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Blackmail in the Senate

How can this be construed as anything but blackmail?

Basically, the message from these Republican senators to the Attorney General is this: So you want to investigate torture in the Bush administration? Step lightly. We know a thing or two about your past.

These senators deserve to be brought up on ethics charges. If it isn't out-and-out blackmail, it is certainly an unmistakable threat.

That said, if there was "extraordinary rendition" by the CIA under the Clinton administration, and Eric Holder approved it, let's by all means get to the bottom of it. And whether it started yesterday or goes back to Warren Gamaliel Harding, the American people - and the nations of world - deserve to know the truth. If America is to be the beacon of justice and democracy we like to pretend it is, there is really no other choice.

It's time to appoint a special prosecutor, and let the chips fall where they may. The people should be demanding as much.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

It's Nature's Way

It's nature's way of telling you something's wrong
It's nature's way of telling you in a song
It's nature's way of receiving you
It's nature's way of retrieving you
It's nature's way of telling you something's wrong

["Nature's Way", from Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus by Spirit]

Kathy Freston writes that the swine flu and the economy might constitute a wake-up call for humanity, a message that we need to change our ways. "What can we do, as individuals," she asks, "to create a sea change, to halt the mutation of deadly viruses, to say no to out-of-control business practices, to stop creating environmental havoc, and to bring our health up to a better level?" Her solution:
A diet high in animal protein bloats us physically by clogging our bodies with saturated fat, growth hormones, and antibiotics; it has been proven conclusively to cause cancer, heart disease, and obesity.

And the meat industry poisons and depletes our clean air, potable water, and fertile topsoil almost more than any other sector of business. As just one example, the meat industry is responsible for about 18 percent of all global warming--that's almost half again as much as all cars, planes, and trucks combined.

And now it's become all too clear that factory farms are breeding grounds for viruses to mutate and become deadly.

Basically, our current food choices (the average American eats about 200 pounds of meat annually) are killing us on a host of different levels. Perhaps now more than ever, it's time to clear out old, tired, uninformed ways of eating and opt instead for food that nourishes us, is easy on the planet, and gives the animals some breathing room.

She also quotes Thomas Friedman: "What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it's telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically...?"

This echoes a theme from a post of mine back in November: global economic collapse might be the thing that saves humanity from itself by forcing us to live small. We can heed the message and live in voluntary simplicity, or we can wait for Mother Nature to smack us down.