Category Archives: The United States

“Higher Education… and the death of critical thought, creativity, and innovation”

They work their asses off to get straight A’s…

But many of these brilliant artists, musicians, performers, and inventive types are destined to metaphorically flip burgers and sell shoes, perhaps to never again experience that feeling, when a hot rush of creative thought, action, and pride wells-up in their loins, perhaps to never realize the full potential of their craft, nor contribute meaningfully to their society. These creative spirits are bludgeoned then wither, as our unapologetically capitalist society compels them to give-in and be just another consumer zombie bitch.

Meanwhile, on entering the ‘real’ world, those former students of English, History, Literature, Philosophy, and Education often feel obliged to shut down their thought and questioning process in order to pay their debt… to become part of a bureaucracy; obedient and expected to do, say, and regurgitate what they have been told.

Then, of course, there are those unfortunate few who never pursued a degree, yet who are brilliant in their way… who though meritorious, are unfairly discriminated from ever getting higher paying and meaningful employment, simply because they have not yet paid into the system.

They only wanted to pursue their interests, be more productive, learn how they could apply themselves in a meaningful way, and perhaps make a difference. They felt the need to recognize their muse, follow their respective passions, and make a tangible contribution; perhaps to shed a shred of light onto the murky darkness our species has draft over the planet and our collective consciousness, or perhaps to advance our society to the next evolutionary square on the game board, or maybe to try to better of our world through understanding how they can make a difference in their own sphere. But all this, my friends, is just what it is… and what this has become, is in the service of paying one’s debt to some nameless bureaucrat or money-lender, because many of us feel we must borrow in order to better ourselves.

Who’s to blame? The kids who had too little money, who might otherwise have been only qualified for military service or a cashier’s position at Walmart? Or the colleges and universities that operate more like a business trading on the Stock Exchange, rather than fulfilling their purpose as an institution of higher learning; accepting no less than a dollar amount that might purchase a dean a fully-loaded Lexus each year.

Meanwhile, the wealthier peer, without an obligation or a worry, studies whatever s/he please, does only as well as befits his/her mood, then, when it is all said and done, whether with glowing recommendations, or nodding heads, s/he walks away scott free and laughing.

Later, because his/her family has the fiscal resources and social connections, s/he opens a gallery and sells paintings of colorful squiggles on canvas to the elite! His/her family’s rogues gallery of superficial and surgically-altered friends and business associates laud him/her for his/her work; paying top dollar. But s/he also accrued millions in debt from publicly subsidized, business improvement loans, and the reckless use of a triple platinum card. No worries! Whether his/her gallery business succeeds or fails, s/he knows that his/her family can afford the very best accountants, the most crooked bankruptcy attorneys, the finest business consultants, and perhaps even a politician to put in their pocket; to identify the loopholes, to soften the blows, to hide away any unpleasantries, and to get him/her started on his/her next half-hearted endeavor (with everything but the former business’s name in-tact). Besides, guess who is next in-line to inherit the family fortune?

Many years later – having paid five-hundred thousand dollars on their $100K loan, having been mired in half-a-lifetime of federally sanctioned and unforgivable indentured debt-servitude – our former thinkers, creators, innovators, and educators have become mere shells of their former, vibrant selves. Into their latter years, ever deeper in debt, they remain trapped and feel resentful, regretful, and empty because when they were naive and hopeful teens, no one told them what pact they were signing, nor did they understand the lifelong consequences. There was no escape clause.

So, dashed onto the rocks of society’s shoreline; great ideas are casually and forever washed away…

My Lame Gulf Oil Spill Project…

Thoughts Toward Realizing A Green Economy…

Even though I enthusiastically voted for Barack Obama on his platform for change – which included his promise to usher in a 21st-Century ‘Green Economy’ – frankly, I am wholly disappointed with the Democratic Party’s reluctance to wrestle, take down, and once-and-for-all, pin the Right Wing to the mat.

January 20, 2009 - Washington D.C. Early in the morning, while heading into D.C. on the Metro, I came across the grand daughters of Alex Haley, the beloved author of "Roots". Photo by Craig Morse.

Over the past year, hundreds of billions of tax payer’s dollars have been applied toward the “American Reinvestment and Recovery Act”, otherwise known as the “Stimulus Bill”, which directed tens of billions of these dollars toward road improvement and ‘supposed’ renewable energy projects. The most recent of the ‘renewable energy’ plans to be approved is a nuclear plant to be built near Atlanta, GA, being the first to be constructed in the US in over 30 years. I suspect these projects have moved/are moving forward only because Obama – who is desperate to find middle ground with a minority of self-serving Republican senators and representatives – feels the need to produce results in order to quell the unrealistic expectations of a recession weary American public. Though these projects may produce tens of thousands of jobs over the next couple years, make no mistake, these projects are short-sighted and frankly, dangerous (exchanging the damage being done to our global climate from CO and CO2 for the risks and dangers inherent in Uranium and Plutonium) as our representative, through slight-of-hand, attempt to cover-up the root issues, thereby keeping it from entering the mainstream public dialog.

Rather than look toward a hopeful future and seek to make amends that would benefit the greater whole, these ‘solutions’ maintain an unhealthy status-quo, catering to embedded special interests and lobbies under the auspice of laying the foundations for a 21st-century green economy.

It is my belief that one simple idea – a plan to implement a thoughtful and systemically comprehensive long-term Sustainable Strategy – has been completely overlooked during the many debates and dialogues from over the past few years.

Besides plotting a map to where we want to go, and what we want to accomplish, over the next 5, 10, 20, and 50 years, we should seek to get beyond the symptoms, to understand the root problems: their respective origins and histories; how each is internally wired; how each relates to (or perpetrates) other problems; and how each problem relates to and affects the economy, culture, public health, environment, employment, climate change, and our species’ legacy … instead of perpetrating the usual covering-up of symptoms with distraction, misdirection, and fiscal Band-Aids.

Let’s take a few steps back to consider the big picture, and seek to understand each problem systemically, then seek to understand how each problem connects to or affects other elements in this picture. We are teetering on the edge of a threshold and have a choice to make. Do we take that bold step into the uncertain, to probably lead and inspire the rest of the world through initiating an age of renewable energy and materials through a Green Revolution? Or do we simply continue to fall back on tired formulas, to keep making the same mistakes until it all comes crashing down?

Following are a few thoughts about how a Green Revolution might usher in a paradigm shift toward a Silver Age. Through applying sustainable technologies, practices, processes, and cradle to grave educational and informational resources (that would encourage each of us to think about and measure the cost/consequences versus the benefits of specific behaviors, products, resources, and energies) we could effectively participate in creating a more conscientious society while being the stewards of our planet, insuring a clean, healthy, and enjoyable quality-of-life for our children.

In my opinion, transitioning into a Sustainable Economy would mean to:

• Reestablish the United States as a first-class manufacturing economy… followed by a substantially increased GDP, reduction in our national deficit and debt, collective purchasing power, and an increase in gross sales- and income-tax which, if properly directed, would significantly improve public infrastructure, public utilities, public education, and access to health services.

• Spur on the development of technologies and products that are cutting edge, energy and resource efficient, useful, in-demand, and recyclable, reusable, and/or refurbishable.

• Similar to how we led the world in the desktop computing and the internet revolution – developed by the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc. – the United States could again be at the forefront of the research, development, and application of green technologies, which would translate into tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of jobs, and billions (if not trillions) of dollars each year. If we approached a Green Technology with a similar enthusiasm consider the technological advances that could be realized, and the invaluable knowledge that would be revealed, if we engaged in the full-on, dedicated research, development, and improvement of solar, wind, geothermal, rare earth magnetic, water and bio fuel, superconductor technologies and applications.

• Re-ignite the mid-western and rustbelt manufacturing economy, as well as enliven Silicon Valley research and development, through creating an immediate demand for a highly skilled and educated workforce, while retrofitting vacant and ‘dirty’ material and energy industrial complexes for ‘clean’ material and product manufacturing.

• Lessen our demand for and impact on public services, utilities, and infrastructure through (to the chagrin of energy monopolies) democratizing access to energy by enabling each home/business owner to supplement their energy needs through on-site systems (solar, wind, geothermal, insulation, etc).

• Balance the Trade Deficit by creating high-quality ‘Made in America’ products and services for export to other nations.

• Minimize the need for newly extracted natural resources through implementing reusable, repurposed, refurbished, and recyclable material and energy resources.

• Reduce our dependence on the private automobile, and thus promote the reclamation of our public streets and thoroughfares toward better uses. Consider the gross acreage of landscape that has been capped by asphalt, concrete, and rooftops. Such repurposing of these linear rights-of-way would greatly contribute to the permeability and greening of our landscape, thereby enabling the eventual recharge of our fresh water aquifers, along with a significant reduction of storm water runoff and flooding. Additionally, these existing rights-of-way would be very useful for bicycles, light rail, high-speed rail, linear parks, urban and suburban architectural infill (which would translate to higher density, mixed-use communities that in-turn would result in accessibility to services, walkable neighborhoods, as well as fewer and shorter trips).

• Encourage a transition toward sustainable applications for urban planning & design, building architecture, landscape architecture, business practices, public services, the long range city plan, and zoning and subdivisioning regulations. Additionally, municipal Planning Councils and Boards, and Chambers of Commerce, should be informed about the advantages to (and how to implement) sustainable practices and technologies so as to save municipal monies and lessen the impact upon the public infrastructure.

• Legalize Hemp, being one of the most useful and versatile plants on the planet. Some of the benefits to consider are as follow: 1. Hemp is a hardy perennial with a remarkable turnover time between planting and harvesting, as opposed to trees, which take many years to grow. 2. Its cellulose level is almost three times that of wood, and its processing utilizes less energy and fewer chemicals, so it yields more and better quality paper. 3. It is a nutritious source of food and well suited for hair and skin care. 4. The oil extracted from its seed provides a highly efficient source of fuel, and may be used as a raw material in paints and plastics. 5. It provides one of natures longest and strongest fibers, so is very useful for textiles. 6. It is very useful as a component for building materials, such as concrete, fiber board, and composite materials. And finally, 7. Hemp is ideal for crop rotation and it’s water requirements are negligible.

•Slowly enable a climate change course correction by significantly reducing carbon emissions.

• Enable the planet’s filtration and ‘immune’ systems (forests, rivers, oceans, biodiversity) to again get a foothold, to then cycle and cleanse the air, water, and land.

• Force us to rethink the way by which we educate our children; to incorporate knowledge and training that is applicable to building upon and maintaining a Green Economy. This would encourage future generations to consider our personal and collective impacts, natural cycles and feedback systems, as well as the relationships between of cause vs effect, impact vs consequence, initial cost vs the ultimate price paid.

• Improve the quality of our food, water, and air… and thus our overall health. Additionally, if devastated ecosystems were able to repair, while existent ecosystems were less likely to be impacted by development, pollution, and human interference, many very useful natural pharmaceutical substances may yet be discovered.

• Reduce the likelihood for warfare, colonialization, and the exploitation of other cultures. One reason that war happens is related directly to our desire to have access to and control of others’ natural resources for our own purpose. Meanwhile, though quantities and intensities may differ, every person on this planet has access to sun, wind, and water.

Think about it… We’ve done it before, we can do it again. Whether it be nuclear science, the human genome, super-computing, or flying to the moon, we’ve made what was once considered science fiction become real science. And when we consider contemporary great public works projects, such as the myriad of FDR’s WPA projects (including the The Hoover Dam and The Lincoln Tunnel), The Golden Gate Bridge, The Panama Canal, or The Interstate Highway system, it is indisputable that we’ve completed some seemingly unreal and truly momentous projects that have, unquestionably, changed the course of human history. So, if we have a dream, and we put our hearts and minds toward making into a reality, we are capable of accomplishing almost anything.

And though it will cost a lot of money up-front to initiate this change, make no mistake, such a transition will make a lot of people a lot of money, while giving even the least fortunate segment of our population access to a cleaner and more affordable water, food, transportation, and energy.

Lets talk about this further, then compel our leaders to recruit then employ the greatest visionaries, hearts, and minds on the planet from the sciences, the arts, and industry… especially those who are able to think beyond their own self-interests.

With this said, though these ideas make perfect sense to me, I am, by no means, an expert in any of these fields. So, to improve my own understanding, and that of other readers, I invite you to contribute your own comments and suggestions.

Finally, feel free to pass this link along if you have any friends who may be interested in reading and/or chiming in…

Thank you!

:) Craig Morse aka The Voice Of Eye

PS – Following are a few other advances in renewable energy and sustainable technologies that you may be interested in reviewing and passing along:

– HHO Fuel… http://b2bf.com/ and http://b2bf.com/hydrogen_generators.htm
– Zero Point Energy… http://www.prlog.org/10306202-how-to-build-zero-point-energy-generator.html and http://ezinearticles.com/?Zero-Point-Energy-Magnetic-Power-Generator—Fully-Power-Your-Home-For-Free&id=2486194
– Magnetic Refrigeration… http://www.scientificblogging.com/welcome_my_moon_base/new_magnetocaloric_material_will_allow_magnetic_refrigerationSee More
– Waterless Washing Machine… http://www.physorg.com/news136555635.html
– Gray Water Systems… http://www.greywater.com/
– Rainwater Harvesting… http://www.rain-barrel.net/
– Rooftop Gardening… http://www.cityfarmer.org/rooftop59.html
– Black Water Treatment… http://wapedia.mobi/en/Blackwater_%28waste%29
– Evapotranspiration Cooling… http://www.eoearth.org/article/Evapotranspiration
– The Water Fueled Car… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water-fuelled_car
– Insulations… http://insulation.sustainablesources.com/
– Rammed Earth Walls… http://arch.usc.edu/Programs/Research/RammedEarthConstruction
– Adobe Bricks… http://www.elmerfudd.us/dp/adobe/brick.htm
– Straw Bale Construction… http://www.dancingrabbit.org/building/straw_bale.php
– Passive Solar Design… http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/home/construction/solardesign/orientation.html
– Geothermal Heat Pumps… http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/space_heating_cooling/index.cfm/mytopic=12640

An Open Letter to Kevin Wright of Bend, Oregon’s City Church

Dear Kevin…

I am a social documentary and fine art photographer who, after living in San Francisco for ten years, moved to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. For 2-1/2 years I chronicled the myriad of challenges and recovery efforts as well as documented the variety of communities that make New Orleans such a beautiful and wonderfully unique city; being a place endowed with culture, heritage, spirituality, and a troubled history.

Well, the other night I heard you being interviewed on Dick Gordon’s “The Story” on WAMU. Afterward, both pleasantly surprised and very curious, I found myself visiting the City Church website.

Before I say anything else, I would like to say “Thank You!” Though I am neither a religious person nor do I desire to be, I found your message to be a breath of fresh air. It was thoughtful, conscious, compassionate, inspiring, and frankly, courageous. This threw me for a loop, because I often find myself frustrated with the fearful, ignorant, servile, self-centered, righteous, pushy, intolerant, and willfully apocalyptic greater Evangelical movement. In my mind, your words and actions are infinitely closer to what Jesus would have wished from those who follow His Word.

Secondly, I would like to ask you if, someday, you and your congregation might be interested in me coming to visit your church to document your services, your community, your contributions, and your example. All that I ask is that I am not targeted as a potential soul to be saved. I would rather be treated as an ally and with kindness: recognized for my contributions and respected for my curious and questioning nature. So, though I have no desire to become a Christian, nor do I wish to be an advocate for Christianity or any other belief system, I recognize how important and meaningful it is for some people to have a moral and ethical framework so as to give a person a sense of guidance, belonging, identity, purpose, and greater understanding. And from what I’ve both read and heard, the mission of your church is one that I greatly admire and respect, inspiring a message that seeks to enhance a participant’s awareness and understanding, participation and contribution, while offering one’s service to heal and ease another’s suffering.

With that said, I invite you to visit my online gallery to see the work that I’ve done in New Orleans and beyond. But with regard to “the beyond”, if you have difficulty looking at images that may be contrary to your beliefs, I urge you to proceed with caution. Because besides being a photojournalist, I am an artist, an agnostic, and a liberal activist. So, though I make a point to provoke thought, challenge our society’s assumptions, and shed light on the oft unknown, I always attempt to chronicle my subjects honestly while highlighting their humanity and preserving their dignity.

The link to the best of my New Orleans’ imagery may be found here

Anyhow, thanks again for having the courage to be positively affective, blaze your own trail, and share your story with the greater American public. I am certain that your thoughtful message will be very well received by many Evangelicals and other Christians alike, as well as by those who follow other faiths, or no faith at all.

Stay true to your path. I look forward to hearing your thoughts or suggestions.

My very best,

:) Craig Morse

An Open Letter to AT&T: “Adapt or whither”

Dear AT&T Wireless management…

I have had to pay my mobile phone bill late on a few occasions over the years, but I have always paid as soon as I was able, in full, and without question. This time, however, I am pushed to the very edge of my fiscal ability, when I am forced to realign my priorities and consider what services and resources will be absolutely necessary to help me get me through this very difficult period in our history. So, I would like to share the following thoughts with you…

Your rates, your late fees, and the cost of your products have not only become excessive, but are out-of-touch with and indifferent to these difficult times. It would seem prudent for AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and Nextel to adapt — when global economies are collapsing, and millions of people are losing their jobs and homes every month — so as to retain their respective client base and keep their employees employed. I suspect that if the telecommunications industry does not make the necessary adjustments, both it and its employees may be next on the chopping block. But to add a personal dimension to the challenges presented, though I have a societally valuable and contributive role, I am an independent photojournalist and an artist, and thus monetarily undervalued, at least in the United States. So, though I should have equal access to quality services and products, it would seems that I do not make an income that will afford me a functional phone with its associated services.

As for the reality of my current situation, though I would like to use my mobile phone more often, I don’t. This is because my calls are regularly dropped, I have to piece together sentences that are broken, and/or the signal is so poor that I have to put effort into going outdoors with the hope that it will connect properly. As a result, 90% of my communications occur on a land line or through my email and Facebook profile. Though these options might not provide me with the perceived instant gratification, geographic mobility, and convenience of a mobile phone, they are a small fraction of the cost. And honestly, as expensive as it is for me to have a mobile phone, it has benefitted me very little while in its current incarnation, mostly adding another source of stress and frustration.

If you would like to retain your clientele, I suggest you make the necessary adjustments very soon. However, if you would like to retain me as a client, I would like to know asap if you will waive my late fee, consider reducing my monthly bill, and provide me with a better phone, without attempting to bind me with unrealistic commitments? If not, I will be researching other options for mobile phone service, or simply drop it altogether until it can functionally serve my needs.

Finally, because I am an independent journalist and I speak for many others, I feel compelled to share this letter in its entirety with my extensive network of friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and my online communities for consideration.

Thank you for taking the time to understand my concerns. I look forward to hearing from you and discussing a fair and reasonable compromise.

Sincerely,
Craig Morse

A Petition to President Obama: Appoint The First Ever ‘U.S. Secretary of The Arts’

In their myriad forms, the arts are essential to the collective psychological health, welfare, progress, and maturity of any civilized society. As well, the arts instill a sense of purpose and alignment into the hearts of creative people who contribute their wealth of enlightening, challenging, provocative, and beautiful ideas. Art compels us to think, to question, to emote, to confront, to challenge conventions, to heal, and to remember. Art has the ability to instill cultural pride while raising the collective morale. Art defines space, and place, and cultural identity at a particular time and place. The selection of a highly respected creative colleague to the position of The Secretary of The Arts, empowered by federal funding, is ESSENTIAL to the healthful resuscitation, functioning, and maintenance of our national heart and soul.

While other countries have appointed Ministers of the Arts and Culture for decades, if not centuries, the United States has never had such a position. We need this NOW more than ever. Please visit Secretary Of The Arts and sign this important petition, then pass it along to your friends and colleagues. Thank you! :) Craig

February 2007 - New Orleans, LA.  The Guardians of the Flame are several children of Mardi Gras Indians and the Congo Nation.  They seek to keep alive the custom of paying homage to the Native Americans who gave refuge to their enslaved ancestors and treated them as equals.

February 2007 - New Orleans, LA. The Guardians of the Flame are several children of Mardi Gras Indians and the Congo Nation. They seek to keep alive the custom of paying homage to the Native Americans who gave refuge to their enslaved ancestors and treated them as equals.

“Just A Thought”: DNA or N/A?

During a January 2, 2009, radio interview with Kobi Nnamdi of WAMU, Maryland Attorney General, Douglas F. Gansler, discussed his support for a recently ratified law that states that people charged with a violent crime in Maryland, or who attempt to commit one, must submit a DNA sample to the state’s DNA database.

My primary concern with regard to this law is that even a person who is charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. In my opinion, DNA should only be allowed to be databased after a person has been convicted of a violent crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Additionally, Attorney Gensler stated that the collection of DNA is no different from the decades old practice of taking a baby’s footprint or a person’s fingerprint. I strongly disagree.

Though DNA evidence collected from an earlier crime scene may help to vindicate an innocent person who has been wrongly convicted of a crime. And though DNA evidence gathered from a convicted criminal may help to solve other crimes committed by this person. The process of DNA collection proposed by the new law in Maryland, especially by an underqualified officer of the law, is by default, subject to any number of human errors. And knowing the weight that DNA carries in a court of law, a savvy criminal could easily plant a person’s DNA – be it hair, nail, skin, blood, or semen – onto a victim or at the scene of a violent crime. By contrast, it would take great lengths to do so with a fingerprint.

What do you think?

The New Fountainhead

With our economy going to hell-in-a-handbasket, there has been a worrisome stir in the extended community that includes architects, planners, and developers. Being that houses across the country are being foreclosed, home loan approval is nearly impossible, housing developments sit idle, half-built, and office buildings are emptying into the streets of every major city, what may yet become of their livelihoods? Allow me to put those minds at ease…

Assuming that President Elect Obama will keep his promise to light a flame underneath an economic plan that will ignite a “Green Deal”, it’s only the very beginning of a new era in architecture as well as physical layout and design, when there will be opportunities too numerous to count. This is because in this proposed future, a lot of heads and hands will be necessary to implement out-of-the-box solutions for square-one designs, and energy-efficient retrofits of old architecture and municipal layout/infrastructure to become manifest.

Assuming the perceived urgency of the current Green Movement continues to gain momentum, I expect maverick architects, planners, engineers, and developers will have a field day (or rather, a field decade) with consideration to all of the unhinged possibilities for creative engineering and re-imagining. The heretofore bridaled visionaries will perhaps have more creative latitude, funding, and public support than ever, at least in the modern age, to propose super innovative and foundation-shaking solutions. And where municipal zoning and subdivision laws have literally made everything resemble everything else in our physical environment, while attempting to make every function fit neatly into the same size and brand of box – be it a mall, a Walmart, a McDonalds, a parking space, or a cubicle – local, state, and federal agencies will soon hurry to pass legislation that encourages intelligent physical design and thoughtful accounting of resources. Through the coming years, this will further be facilitated by federal funding requirements and the shift toward supporting industries, a labor force, and a marketplace that manufacture Green materials, technologies, and systems.

Give it a decade…  If the forthcoming administration can lead the charge toward dedicated research, development, and application of conservation-minded technology, energy, material, and space solutions, an entirely new family of products and services may yet become available…  to eventually become ever more efficient and affordable.

Consider how the personal computer, the internet, the digital camera, and the cell phone have indelibly changed our lives over the past decade.  If the aforementioned ideas can get a foothold for even one-half a generation, Green thinking and conscious behavior will no longer be on the fringe. It will simply be the way things are…

The Flight Of The Phoenix

An online Flickr acquaintance, James, contacted me with the following note, which is paraphrased…

“Greetings Craig… I am at an Internet cafe and received your article… worded and sent out into the world with true heart and passion. Since I lost all of my stock holdings, I am currently homeless. I’m living in the Florida Keys: selling my art work, doing cleaning jobs, dish washing, and other things to survive while preparing for Saskia’s arrival on January 4th. When the stock market crashed, life went from having everything to absolutely nothing. I suppose it’s a chance to start at ground zero with a good attitude and faith in the good energies that will allow folks, such as us, to continue the struggle and create. It gives the world a chance to even out. Anyhow, I wish you strength, peace, joy, and love in life… James”

I responded…

Dear James… “I’m so sorry for your loss, but I really admire your attitude!

Though I cannot say that my life has ever been overly complicated by money, property, or responsibility to another person, after going through some considerable trials in the nineties, I had an epiphany on Valentine’s Day of 1998. I relinquished many of the so-called responsibilities and comforts that American culture deems important, if not altogether essential, such as functioning as a soulless cog in the machine in order to sustain a materialistic lifestyle and pay the bills. That day, while sitting alone, I willfully decided to go against the grain. I chose to be impractical… to follow my dream to become a documentary photographer and one day work for the likes of National Geographic and Smithsonian. During this process of becoming, I not only discovered there was an artist, writer, cultural anthropologist, visual historian, and activist hiding deep within, but I also realized that I had the tools, the talents, and the resources available to me to get people to ask a lot of questions (instead of blindly accepting the party line), consider different possibilities, and even change their thought patterns and behaviors. Though I have struggled along the way, as a direct result of these choices I have experienced some unbelievable moments in our history, met some truly unique and talented people, and come to know and love (and be loved by) those who I consider to be my dearest friends, without whom, I suspect, I would be little more than a pale interpretation of who I currently am, if not dead.

It may sound cliché, but I firmly believe that EVERYTHING happens for a reason. This, to me, means that every event that occurs in our lives – whether it is large or small, or perceived as good or bad – presents us with an array of choices. If these choices are recognized, thoughtfully considered, then acted upon, they enable the individual the opportunity to endow themselves with purpose. Essentially, these moments present us with metaphorical benchmarks, which, if attended to consciously and with optimism, result in a more meaningful existence. Additionally, through reminding ourselves to live-in-the-present and do our very best – while minimizing material attachments, emotional dependencies, and selfish expectations – we come ever closer to being truly free.

I was once in-love with a wonderful, beautiful woman who I met in Rio de Janeiro. After sharing a storybook romance, we decided to get married. However, after the hard knocks of reality weighed heavy upon our dreams, this marriage eventually came to an end. It resulted in one of the most painful and confusing experiences I had had in my life up to that point. Yet, I do not regret it having happened, nor would I choose to go back in time to change events, if I could. This is because so much good has come into my life as a direct consequence of this unpleasant event. If I we had remained together, I would neither have had the liberty nor the courage to pursue my passion as a photographer. It is likely that I would not have met any of the wonderful people who today inhabit my life. And if not for the therapeutic, creative, and purpose-driven qualities of my photography, I, as a person prone to depression, might not be alive.

Today my ex-wife is one of these dearest of friends. And though we have been apart for many years and don’t see each other as much as I wish we were able, both she and I are exactly where we need to be in our respective life situations. So, though my life was very painful and without direction at that time, it is as it should be.

Another illustration of the “Everything happens…” tenet relates to those people along the Gulf Coast who were victimized by Hurricane Katrina and the inept response of our federal government. These people had their existential foundations ripped from beneath them. Many were torn from their homes, their communities, and from everyone and everything they, and their families had known and loved for many generations. Whether upon their return to New Orleans or in another place, a many people were driven to despair, while many others tried their best to restore normalcy and routine. But apart from these people, there were a few exceptional souls who understood that their world was changing irrevocably. They allowed their repetitive routines, their material attachments, and their behavioral addictions to wither – effectively shedding their skin – as they adapted to their circumstances, became sensitive to their present, and expressed their thanks for all of the genuinely valuable and important things in their life. So, though they did quietly suffer as they slowly healed, they chose to look deep within while setting their sights on the horizon as they reinvented themselves, having had their eyes opened wide.

Anyhow James, I urge you to read between the lines of your personal experience while continuing to do your very best while in the Keys or wherever you may go from there. If you have faith in yourself and the universe, and choose to remain open, who knows? Perhaps you and Saskia will meet someone who owns a boat and who needs two people to crew their journey through the Caribbean? Or perhaps you will learn to juggle while riding a unicycle and befriend a fascinating and wacky group of performers? Or perhaps you’ll save enough money through selling your art to fly from Miami to the tropics, where a small piece of land with banana trees and cockatoos patiently await your neighborly presence. Your future success is contingent upon you broadening your perspective while opening yourself to new experiences and ways of being…

Trust yourself. Take a few risks. And live each day honestly, authentically, and completely. A great adventure awaits you…

In fact, it has already begun.

:) Craig”

Pardon Me!?!

Just yesterday I received an e-mail from the ACLU mentioning that George W. Bush may very well give Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, and others who are or have been in his administration something known as a Preemptive Pardon. When I read this, I said to myself, “Preemptive? WTF!?!”

What rational explanation can justify the granting of immunity by a sitting President to a person who has not yet been convicted nor even formally charged with a crime? It sounds ridiculous, yet it seems to have been acted upon once already… when Gerald Ford granted Richard Nixon a presidential pardon before he had been convicted or even formally charged with the Watergate crimes.

Doesn’t this go against core American values of justice and due process? And isn’t it implicit that by allowing high-ranking officials to evade accountability for undermining the Constitution and violating the law will give a “Get Out Of Jail” pass to future public officials who commit high crimes against the people of the world, or against the interests of the American People? Maybe I’m naive, but doesn’t this define a certain powerful segment of the upper tier of our society as above the law? And how can a sitting president project his will into a succeeding president’s term, effectively nullifying the possibility of an investigation into past activities or bringing up charges against a former official?

Let me remind the reader that several officers in this administration, including the President himself, could easily be accused and tried for crimes such as subterfuge, libel, misrepresentation, torture, illegal wiretapping, and even treason under our own Federal laws. And though it would require a great act of political courage by our President Elect, Barack Obama, followed by the tying up our courts for a good whi a series of independent investigations are under way, would most certainly send a precedent to all future public officials and elected representative that they ARE accountable to their actions.

There are so many questions that need answers, such as “Was there tampering and/or fraud committed during the 2000 and 2004 elections?” Or, “Were any of the Bush Administration or American Neo-Conservatives involved with the planning, goings-on, or suppression of information that led to 9/11? And what about war crimes and crimes against humanity, as it is understood under the Geneva Convention and the International Criminal Court?

The Geneva Convention, which was ratified by the U.S., and is therefore as applicable as our own laws, is explicit in that it prohibits torture, the use of “violence,” “cruel treatment” or “humiliating and degrading treatment” against a detainee “at any time and in any place whatsoever.” The War Crimes Act of 1996 made any grave breach of those restrictions a U.S. felony.

This preemptive perversion of the Presidential Pardon would enable Bush to prevent any future criminal investigation into his administration’s activities. Though interestingly, through accepting a pardon, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and so on would be, by default, admitting their guilt.

In an editorial by The New York Times, it stated:

“The Bush administration distorted statutes and case law to legally justify interrogation techniques that had long been considered torture under domestic and international law. It relied on sloppy or aggressive legal analysis as a basis for evading judicial review of a warrantless wiretapping program. It has at every turn chosen the most expansive interpretation of the law to rationalize indefinite detentions and deny federal court review to those in custody. It has, in short, determined its preferred course of action first and then stitched together absurd readings of the law to defend those choices.”

With regard to torture, to outline the laws broken by our public officials, I offer the following information…

To show how inhumane the practice is, a U.S. volunteer is waterboarded.

To show how inhumane the practice is, a U.S. volunteer is waterboarded.

Dick Cheney, the sitting Vice President, orchestrated the use of torture, secret prisons, and detention without charge. The vice president’s office played a central role in eliminating limits on coercion in U.S. custody, and created a distinction between forbidden “torture” and the use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” methods of questioning which they advanced as permissible.

A hooded and wired Iraqi prisoner, believed to be Satar Jabar, who reportedly was told that he would be electrocuted if he fell off the box.

A hooded and wired Iraqi prisoner, believed to be Satar Jabar, who reportedly was told that he would be electrocuted if he fell off the box.

Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense, authorized the use of abusive interrogation methods at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base and Abu Ghraib. These methods included abuse, humiliation, torture, sodomy, and homicide.

Lynndie England and Charles Graner posing with prisoners ordered to form a human pyramid.

Lynndie England and Charles Graner posing with prisoners ordered to form a human pyramid.

John Ashcroft, the former US Attorney General, reportedly participated in National Security Council meetings authorizing specific forms of abuse on specific prisoners, and approved Office of Legal Counsel torture memoranda.

England pointing to a naked prisoner being forced to masturbate in front of his captors.

England pointing to a naked prisoner being forced to masturbate in front of his captors.

George Tenet, forner Director of the CIA, oversaw the Extraordinary Rendition Program (the extrajudicial transfer of a person from one state to another, particularly with regard to the alleged transfer of suspected terrorists to countries known to torture prisoners or to employ harsh interrogation techniques that may rise to the level of torture), as well as the abusive interrogation methods, including waterboarding, by CIA officials.

Sgt. Ivan Frederick sitting on an Iraqi detainee between two stretchers.

Sgt. Ivan Frederick sitting on an Iraqi detainee between two stretchers.

John Yoo, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, authored memos that tried to provide a legal basis for the torture and abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody.

United States soldier Spc. Graner prepares to punch restrained prisoners.

United States soldier Spc. Graner prepares to punch restrained prisoners.

Alberto Gonzales, the former White House Counsel, chaired discussions about the authorization of specific forms of torture and abuse, and urged the president not to apply the Geneva Conventions to many of the detainees.

Spc. Charles Graner poses over Manadel al-Jamadis corpse.

Spc. Charles Graner poses over Manadel al-Jamadi's corpse.

Condoleeza Rice, the current Secretary of State, chaired the National Security Council meetings reportedly authorizing specific forms of abuse on specific prisoners.

One of the previously unreleased images released in February 2006 by SBS in Australia, showing a man covered in excrement forced to pose for the camera.

One of the previously unreleased images released in February 2006 by SBS in Australia, showing a man covered in excrement forced to pose for the camera.

In my opinion, this should be fought against, tooth and nail, by the American People. Then, there should be clear and rigorous conditions placed on the whens, hows, and limitations of a Presidential Pardon.

The pardon should be made available to correct judicial error, not used for the sake of political expediency or to absolve an administration’s criminal activities.

And now the big question… if these and the many other accusations against the Bush Administration (especially those of fraudulent election activity and/or involvement with 911) are found to be true in a court of law, would it not be prudent to retroactively nullify the many laws and appointments that this administration has made?

What do you think?

•••

Sources include the ACLU’s letter and citations from Wikipedia

And From The Ashes… An Apple?

It’s all coming to a head…

As a result of decades of unbridaled, Laissez Faire, Trickle Down Reaganomics, and a detached culture that has become spoiled by overabundance and privilege, my nation is going down in flames. Today, every crisis imaginable descends upon our collective shoulders as the Bush Administration makes ready to depart from the White House. And in the aftermath, he and his cronies more than likely walk quietly into the short memory of most Americans, left unaccountable to the high crimes his administration has committed over the past eight years.

How do I despise W? Let me count the ways… Two wars, bad foreign relations across-the-board, a cascade of sub-prime mortgage failures, an ever growing energy crisis, the collapse of Wall Street along with global banking and insurance institutions, the likely demise of the Big Three US automobile manufacturers, a sharp rise in unemployment and violent crime, social discontent, and the pending bankruptcy of the American tax-payers’ collective coffer. Whew! Thank goodness W didn’t succeed with convincing us to invest our Social Security dollars into Wall Street, huh? Nonetheless, most of us view these troubling times as unparalleled in the history of Western Civilization. I agree. But as the mythological Phoenix eventually rises from the ashes, I consider this period necessary. In order for our civilization to evolve, to rethink our relationship to one another and the planet that sustains us, our society must experience a metaphorical mid-life crisis that will give us the opportunity to view our own species’ existence and mortality straight in the face and rethink all that we have taken for granted.

Bailing out failing financial institutions is not an answer...
Bailing out our failing financial institutions is not the answer… It’s time for a paradigm change.

As with any great paradigm shift though, there will, of course, be casualties. But that’s a natural quality of growth. It’s almost always accompanied by pain and loss. However, as difficult as the challenges ahead will most certainly be, this may very well be the greatest opportunity ever presented for the continued existence of our species. As hopeless as it may all seem, we are seeing glimpses of cultural enlightenment. For the very first time in the history of the United States, we have elected our very first African-American President. Thankfully, this is indicative of a major shift in our way of thinking and doing and being. But aside from the unprecedented skin color of Mr. Obama, he also gives me the impression that he is quite possibly the most genuine, intelligent, conscious, selfless, and forward-thinking of politicians since FDR. With regard to these qualities, however, I guess only time will reveal the truth…

Meanwhile, as Mr. Obama awaits his democratically elected seat of power, the politicos chatter about stimulating the economy with unoriginal ideas such as tax-payer bail-outs and road-building. I disagree with these strategies wholly. We should NOT be propping up or rewarding failed institutions and amoral corporate miscreants to deliver more of the same. Nor should we be investing our valuable time and resources toward expanding an archaic, wasteful, and filthy infrastructure. The era of the automobile as we know it is nearing it’s end. With the limited national resources that remain in what now amounts to a giant basic checking account, we should not only become more intentional and strategic in our planning process, we should endeavor to create a future for our children that is worthy of praise. The representative powers that WE elect and who are accountable to US should impose clear and stringent standards alongside serious consequences so that we will discourage the furtherance of our greedy, selfish, and misguided behaviors.

At this time, when the planet is, without a doubt, rebelling against our myopic and exploitive occupancy, and its resources are either tainted and dwindling, we are perfectly positioned to put our hearts and minds, our fiscal assets and labor resources toward becoming the global leaders in a Green Revolution.

At this very moment, we have an enormous, unemployed, skilled labor force that is sitting idle. Let’s train and employ them to retrofit the rust belt to manufacture “green” vehicles, products, and technologies. Meanwhile, let’s draw the finest technological/scientific minds away from creating video games and new weapons of mass destruction to instead work on developing more efficient solar, wind, and transportation technologies.

Environmentalism, Socialism, and Capitalism are NOT necessarily mutually exclusive concepts. Similar to Roosevelt’s New Deal, there are millions of jobs yet to be created and trillions of dollars to be made through creating clean and renewable fuels, building (and retrofitting) energy efficient architecture, improving energy collection and waste disposal/reuse technologies, restoring the quality of our water, land, and air, consolidating our physical infrastructure (in the interest of preserving the natural environment and promoting community), and developing quick, inexpensive, and efficient modes of private and mass transportation. With consideration to the American work ethic, will, determination, and vision that made this nation what it became in the 20th Century, what if we put dedicated ourselves to institutionalizing a functional paradigm? Suits and hippies alike, we may very well be able to create a global movement toward a conscious and sustainable future.

In addition to these programs, we SHOULD be investing the balance of those hundreds of billions of dollars into creating cutting edge educational, health care, public transportation, and physical infrastructure systems. Let’s endow our children and young adults with a sense of identity, purpose, and meaning. Let us no longer deny the realities of sex. Let’s teach them the basics of parenting along with the sacrifices, the consequences, and the resources available to them. Let’s carefully select our teachers and pay them well. Let’s encourage preventative medicine and healthy patterns of behavior. Let’s strengthen our society’s weakest links by putting our criminals to work in our communities or compel them to serve in the military. Let’s tighten-up our development patterns and promote mixed-use development to encourage the formation of diverse communities while enabling accessibility for everyone.

Think about it for a moment… If, as part of a 20- to 30-year plan, we were to recognize our potential as a species – with aspirations to become an intelligent, healthy, conscious, and functional society – ignorance, fear, and crime would diminish considerably while our quality-of-life and worldwide reputation would improve measurably. If such standards were put into practice, the United States could very well lead the world’s nations on a path toward economic, environmental, and social excellence.