What are GoatCactus and Screen Ghosts? Before you ask we haven’t been hitting the magic mushrooms again. Facetop is a project at the University of North Carolina to ‘screen ghost’ video conference participants on to a computer screen, check here. No more annoying iChat screens. GoatCactus is a piece of software that uses computer math to generate music. The results are quite surreal, check this example out. More related topics here.
Thanks and maximum kudos to Ted Dolotta who posted this New York Times Op Ed to the Interesting People email list. The New York Times online piece can be found here (registration required, but well worth it).
Their George and OursJuly 4, 2004
By BARBARA EHRENREICH
When they first heard the Declaration of Independence in July of 1776, New Yorkers were so electrified that they toppled a statue of King George III and had it melted down to make 42,000 bullets for the war. Two hundred and twenty-eight years later, you can still get a rush from those opening paragraphs. “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” The audacity!
Read a little further to those parts of the declaration we seldom venture into after ninth-grade civics class, and you may feel something other than admiration: an icy chill of recognition. The bulk of the declaration is devoted to a list of charges against George III, several of which bear an eerie relevance to our own time.
George II is accused, for example, of “depriving us in many cases of the benefits of Trial by Jury.” Our own George II has imprisoned two U.S. citizens – Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi – since 2002, without benefit of trials, legal counsel or any opportunity to challenge the evidence against them. Even die-hard Tories Scalia and Rehnquist recently judged such executive hauteur intolerable.
It would be silly, of course, to overstate the parallels between 1776 and 2004. The signers of the declaration were colonial subjects of a man they had come to see as a foreign king. One of their major grievances had to do with the tax burden imposed on them to support the king’s wars.In contrast, our taxes have been reduced – especially for those who need the money least – and the huge costs of war sloughed off to our children and grandchildren. Nor would it be tactful to press the analogy between our George II and their George III, of whom the British historian John
Richard Green wrote: “He had a smaller mind than any English king before him save James II.”
But the parallels are there, and undeniable. “He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power,” the declaration said of George III, and today the military is indulgently allowed to investigate its own crimes in Iraq. George III “obstructed the Administration of Justice.” Our George II has sought to evade judicial review by hiding detainees away in Guantanamo, and has steadfastly resisted the use of the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows non-U.S. citizens to bring charges of human rights violations to U.S. courts.
The signers further indicted their erstwhile monarch for “taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments.” The administration has been trying its best to establish a modern equivalent to the divine right of kings, with legal memorandums asserting that George II’s “inherent” powers allow him to ignore federal laws prohibiting torture and war crimes.
Then there is the declaration’s boldest and most sweeping indictment of all, condemning George III for “transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of acivilized nation.” Translate “mercenaries” into contract workers and proxy armies (remember the bloodthirsty, misogynist Northern Alliance?), and translate that last long phrase into Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.
But it is the final sentence of the declaration that deserves the closest study: “And for the support of this Declaration . . . we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” Today, those who believe that the war on terror requires the sacrifice of our liberties like to argue that “the Constitution is not a suicide pact.” In a sense, however, the Declaration of Independence was precisely that.
By signing Jefferson’s text, the signers of the declaration were putting their lives on the line. England was then the world’s greatest military power, against which a bunch of provincial farmers had little chance of prevailing. Benjamin Franklin wasn’t kidding around with his quip about hanging together or hanging separately. If the rebel American militias were beaten on the battlefield, their ringleaders could expect to be hanged as traitors.
They signed anyway, thereby stating to the world that there is something worth more than life, and that is liberty. Thanks to their courage, we do not have to risk death to preserve the liberties they bequeathed us. All we have to do is vote.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company