Within less than fifty years, I, Tenzin Gyatso the Buddhist monk, will be no more than a memory. Indeed, it is doubtful whether a single person reading these words will be alive a century from now. Time passes unhindered. When we make mistakes, we cannot turn the clock back and try again. All we can do is use the present well. Therefore, if when our final day comes we are able to look back and see that we have lived full, productive, and meaningful lives, that will at least be of some comfort. If we cannot, we may be very sad. But which of these we experience is up to us.
The best way to ensue that when we approach death we do so without remorse is to ensure that in the present moment we conduct ourselves responsibly and with compassion for others. Actually, this is in our own interest, and not just because it will benefit us in the future. As we have seen, compassion is one of the principal things that make our lives meaningful. It is the source of all lasting happiness and joy. And is the foundation of a good heart, the heart of one who acts out of a desire to help others. Through kindness, through affection, through honesty, through truth and justice toward all others we ensure our own benefit. This is not a matter for complicated theorizing. It is a matter of common sense. There is no denying that our happiness is inextricably bound up with the happiness of others. There is no denying that if society suffers, we ourselves suffer. Nor is there any denying that the more our hearts and minds afflicted with ill-will, the more miserable we become. Thus we can reject everything else: religion, ideology, all received wisdom. But we cannot escape the necessity of love and compassion.
This, then, is my true religion, my simple faith. In this sense, there is no need for temple or church, for mosque or synagogue, no need for complicated philosophy, doctrine, or dogma. Our own heart, our own mind, is the temple. The doctrine is compassion. Love for others and respect for their rights and dignity, no matter who or what they are: ultimately these are all we need. So long as we practice these in our daily lives, then no matter if we are learned or unlearned, whether we believe in Buddha or God, or follow some other religion or none at all, as long as we have compassion for others and conduct ourselves with restraint out of a sense of responsibility, there is no doubt we will be happy.
Why, then, if it is so simple to be happy, do we find it so hard? Unfortunately, though most of us think of ourselves as compassionate, we tend to ignore these common-sense truths. We neglect to confront our negative thoughts and emotions. Unlike the farmer who follows the seasons and does not hesitate to cultivate the land when the moment comes, we waste so much of our time in meaningless activity. We feel deep regret over trivial matters like losing money while keeping from doing what is genuinely important without the slightest feeling of remorse. Instead of rejoicing in the opportunity we have to contribute to others' well-being, we merely take our pleasures where we can. We shrink from considering others on the grounds that we are too busy. We run right and left, making calculations and telephone calls and thinking that this would be better than that. We do one thing but worry that if something else comes along we had better do another. But in this we engage only in the coarsest and most elementary levels of the human spirit. Moreover, by being inattentive to the needs of others, inevitably we end up harming them. We think ourselves very clever, but how do we use our abilities? All too often we use them to deceive our neighbours, to take advantage of them and better ourselves at their expense. And when things do not work out, full of self-righteosness, we blame them for our difficulties.
Yet lasting satisfaction cannot be derived from the acquisition of objects. No matter how many friends we acquire, they cannot make us happy. And indulgence in sensual pleasure is nothing but a gateway to suffering. It is like honey smeared along the cutting edge of a sword. Of course, that is not to say that we should despise our bodies. On the contrary, we cannot be of help to others without a body. But we need to avoid the extremes which can lead to harm.
In focusing on the mundane, what is essential remains hidden from us. Of course, if we could be truly happy doing so, then it would be entirely reasonable to live like this. Yet we cannot. At best, we get through life without too much trouble. But then when problems assail us, as they must, we are unprepared. We find that we cannot cope. We are left despairing and unhappy.
Therefore, with my two hands joined, I appeal to you the reader to ensure that you make the rest of your life as meaningful as possible. Do this by engaging in spiritual practice if you can. As I hope I have made clear, there is nothing mysterious about this. It consists in nothing more than acting out of concern for others. And provided you undertake this practice sincerely and with persistence, little by little, step by step you will gradually be able to reorder your habits and attitudes so that you think less about your own narrow concerns and more of others'. In doing so, you will find that you enjoy peace and happiness yourself.
Relinquish your envy, let go your desire to triumph over others. Instead, try to benefit them. With kindness, with courage, and confident that in doing so you are sure to meet with success, welcome others with a smile. Be straightforward. And try to be impartial. Treat everyone as if they were a close friend. I say this neither as Dalai Lama nor as someone who has special powers of ability. Of these I have none, I speak as a human being: one who, like yourself, wishes to be happy and not to suffer.
If you cannot, for whatever reason, be of help to others, at least don't harm them. Consider yourself a tourist. Think of the world as it is seen from space, so small and insignificant yet so beautiful. Could there really be anything to be gained from harming others during our stay here? Is it not preferable, and more reasonable, to relax and enjoy ourselves quietly, just as if we were visiting a different neighbourhood? Therefore, if in the midst of your enjoyment of the world you have a moment, try to help in however small a way those who are downtrodden and those who, for whatever reason, cannot or do not help themselves. Try not to turn away from those whose appearance is disturbing, from the ragged and unwell. Try never to think of them as inferior to yourself. If you can, try not even to think of yourself as better than the humblest beggar. You will look the same in your grave.
To close with, I would like to share a short prayer which gives me great inspiration in my quest to benefit others:
May I become at all times,
both now and forever
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those who have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need.
- an excerpt from 'Ethics for the New Millennium' by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Monday, December 31, 2007
Within less than fifty years, I, Tenzin Gyatso the Buddhist monk, will be no more than a memory. Indeed, it is doubtful whether a single person reading these words will be alive a century from now. Time passes unhindered. When we make mistakes, we cannot turn the clock back and try again. All we can do is use the present well. Therefore, if when our final day comes we are able to look back and see that we have lived full, productive, and meaningful lives, that will at least be of some comfort. If we cannot, we may be very sad. But which of these we experience is up to us.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Friday Flashback: Wizzard - "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" & The Kinks - "Father Christmas"
Whatever you happen to call this time of year -- Christmas, Winter Solstice, Yule, etc. -- it is supposed to be a season of reflection and reconnection with family and friends. But if you live in Northeast Wisconsin you're aware of a debate dividing people and fanning tempers.
That debate is over a nativity scene placed atop of Green Bay's City Hall. Alderman Chad Fradette, as a sign of solidarity with a town in Northern Wisconsin that has taken some heat for their nativity display, chose to put the Christian symbol up to the exclusion of every other faith in the area. When confronted by the opposition, specifically a Madison chapter of the group "Freedom From Religion", Fradette exclaimed he didn't want their "Madison values" in Green Bay. Hmmm, I think those Madison values are also those of the Founding Fathers. Bare in mind this is from a guy who bemoaned the idea of some people wanting him to check his religion at the door when legislating.
Moving on. As a compromise the city's Mayor, Jim Schmitt, opened the door to all displays. First to join the manger was a Wiccan Wreath, which was soon vandalized. A peace sign was scheduled to be set over City Hall too but never made it. That's because concerned citizen and community activist, Wendy Corriel, arrived at City Hall with a cross wrapped in the American flag, representing the merging of Church and State. Mayor Schmitt accosted Corriel proclaiming that he "ran the city" -- clearly Schmitt's "decider" moment -- to which Corriel promptly corrected him saying "No the people run this city sir, the people run this city."
The Green Bay Aldermen held a meeting to enact a few guidelines. They split with a 6-6 vote with the Mayor breaking the tie in favor of keeping the nativity scene, and only the nativity scene, up through December 26th. According to Corriel the proceedings were nothing short of an embarrassment to the democratic process. One member said he wasn't an expert on the Constitution; another, Guy Zima, debased Wicca and said "they [every religion other than Christianity] are just trying to push their views on everyone."
I'll pause for a moment and let you absorb the irony.
These charlatans are running Green Bay. It's astonishing they can even feed themselves. I mean at least learn the principle document the country's laws are based on before running for public service. Ms. Corriel is about to rightly file a lawsuit against the city as it is in violation of the Establishment Clause. It's just her way of wishing Fradette, Schmitt, Zima and the rest a very merry Christmas.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
"Bill Nye talks about how the notion of race in our species, Homo sapiens sapiens, is completely wrong and outdated. He and his colleagues in the scientific community show us how we are all of the same race, and that the notion of different races/sub-species in humans today is 100% scientifically incorrect."
Saturday, December 15, 2007
The Homestead Strike 1892
by Cheri Goldner
For almost five months in 1892, the Homestead lodges of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers and the Carnegie Steel Company, Limited clashed over contract negotiations in what has become known as The Homestead Strike.
The steel industry was crucial to Homestead, a borough situated on the left bank of the Monongahela River, just seven miles east of Pittsburgh (see map). In 1889, workers had won a strike and negotiated a three-year contract for a sliding scale wage which was determined by the fluctuating market prices of 4 x 4 standard Bessemer steel billets. The contract was to expire on June 30, 1892.
As this expiration date neared, steel baron Andrew Carnegie, who had often publicly communicated union sympathies, departed for Scotland leaving the notorious Henry Clay Frick with managing authority. Frick was known for his ruthless anti-union policy and as negotiations were still taking place he ordered the construction of a solid board fence topped with barbed wire around mill property. The workers dubbed the newly fortified mill "Fort Frick."
Meetings continued through late June but the two sides could not reach an agreement. Workers expressed their discontent by hanging Frick and superintendent J.A. Potter in effigy on mill property and turning the hose on the men sent by Potter to cut the effigies down. With this event as an excuse, the company began to shut down the works on June 28. By the morning of June 30, the day the contract with the Amalgamated expired, the entire work force was locked out.
Union and non-union workers joined forces under the leadership of Hugh O'Donnell and kept guard around the steel works to prevent any blacksheep, or scabs, from entering. Frick meanwhile, had already made arrangements with Pinkerton's National Detective Agency of New York for the arrival of 300 strike-breaking detectives, commonly known as "Pinkertons."
When this army was spotted on the Monongahela in the early morning of July 6, workers sounded alarms and townspeople of all ages gathered to meet the approaching barges. Once it was clear that the detectives planned on docking at and entering mill property, workers tore through a company fence to stop them.
While who fired the first shot remains a mystery, the detectives opened fire on the crowd and wounded several workers. The workers hid behind ramparts of steel, pig iron and scrap iron and returned fire while the women and children retreated out of range. The battle lasted from 4 a.m. on July 6 until 5 p.m., with workers finally agreeing to the surrender of the Pinkertons. Three Pinkertons and seven workers died and many more were wounded in the fight.
Six days later the National Guard of Pennsylvania arrived in Homestead under the orders of Governor Robert E. Pattison. The company then used several tactics to weaken union forces. They evicted workers from company homes, arrested individuals repeatedly just to charge them bail, and involved the workers in a series of costly court cases.
On November 17, the first break in the ranks occurred when day laborers and mechanics voted to return to work. Three days later the lodges of the Amalgamated voted to lift the prohibition on returning to work for the company. The company hired back some of them as non-union workers and blacklisted others. Carnegie, Frick and company had won, helping to prevent the organization of the mills for the next forty years.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
You look into former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's eyes and those fuckers are spinning. Fast. Exactly how insane Huckabee may be has been the subject of discussion before, most notably in Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone article on the Republican candidate and through his isolate-the-AIDS-plague-victims remarks and his "I ain't a primate" talk, but there's levels of bugfuckery in Huckabee that are so damn scary that Jesus must be wanting to make a special appearance just to say, "Whoa, whoa, don't let this nutsy fucker represent for me."
Here's a few insane tidbits:
In 1999, as governor, Huckabee declared a "marital emergency" in Arkansas and said he would cut the divorce rate in half by 2010. He signed a bill into law creating covenant marriage options in Arkansas, which forces a two-year waiting period on couples who have entered into that contract, according to the book Who We Are Now by Sam Roberts.
And then, in 2005, Huckabee and his wife changed their marriage to a covenant. Which means if Janet Huckabee wants to run away from this crazy bastard, she's gotta suck it up for 24 months and then she'll probably wanna fuck like ten different guys of different races in order to make the process move along more quickly. Here's the fun part: they did it in front of 5000 people at a Little Rock auditorium, revising their wedding vows during some clusterfuck ceremony for marriages.
In the fucked up case where Governor Mike denied Medicaid funds for an abortion for a retarded 15 year-old girl knocked up when she was raped by her stepfather, he didn't even have the balls to say it was because of his rabid pro-life position. Nope, Huckabee said that the girl was just a tiddly-wink in a lawsuit trying to get the state out of following federal law on Medicaid. It wasn't a moral stand. He had to protect the rights of all Arkansans by making that little whore pay for her own abortion (which was eventually taken care of by private donors).
The ordained Baptist minister was governor for an execution trifecta, three convicted murderers put to death on the same night in January 1997. While there's no reports of Huckabee mocking the pleas of any of the condemned, it sure seems like Jesus would at least want the executions staggered over a couple of days, maybe even a week. But, hell, we can all make up shit that Jesus might want, eh?
In one of those splendidly idiotic semantical tiffs that twisted fundamentalists love to engage in, Huckabee refused to sign a bill that would help storm victims from getting dicked over by insurance companies. This was in March 1997, after massive storms and tornadoes had wrecked a couple of towns and killed 15 people. Why would Gov. Mike object? Because the bill described floods and tornadoes as "acts of God," like virtually every homeowners' policy in the country. Apparently, it made the baby Jesus cry to hear described "a destructive and deadly force as being 'an act of God.'" And, while the Rude Pundit's no theologian, it does seem like God is fond of the flooding. Huckabee actually wrote to legislators, "I feel that I have indeed witnessed many 'acts of God,' but I see His actions in the miraculous sparing of life, the sacrifice and selfless spirit in which so many responded to the pain of others." Jesus was drinking a Fresca at that moment, and he spit it out laughing when he was told.
But here's some bottom line shit: Mike Huckabee was a low rent televangelist in Arkansas during the Reagan/Bush I era. You think in Texarkana in 1989 that the Southern Baptists would embrace anything less than a completely nutzoid preacherman? Motherfucker used to do tent revivals, was the President of the Arkansas Baptist Convention, and no less than one of the chiefest deranged Christians, Rick Scarborough, says, "I suggest that God may be sending us a lifeline. Who better to lead a nation nearing moral collapse and perhaps World War III than a president who is also a pastor with 10 years of senior executive experience as a governor?" And that should give us all the night sweats and explosive shits. When we finally see or read Huckabee's sermons from those early years, it's gonna be some hellfire and damnation.
Hell, though, Republicans, go ahead and nominate an apocalyptic sounding prick, one who believes we are in World War III, who is supported by Mr. Left Behind himself, who says of our current conflicts, "This is not like most wars and battles, which are fought over property or prosperity or personalities or even politics. At the heart of this is religion. But a perversion of religion. Islamic fascism is real, and the jihadists that have declared a war against us must be understood in the theological context in which this war is being waged." Religious war, man. Enjoy it all the way through the American Rapture.
By the way, if anyone out there watched Huckabee during his pastor days, write in and tell the Rude Pundit what you saw.
Everybody knows there's two topics you can't mention in polite conversation: religion and politics. I must be a bad seed because these are the only two subjects I discuss. Being a liberal in America, where even the Democrats are conservative, I have the ability to get under a lot of people's skin. For instance, I was ranting about the erosion of the separation between Church and State at work in earshot of a Fundamentalist Methodist. When I railed against the pledge of allegiance and the insertion of "under God" the Methodist spun around and barked "If you don't like it don't spend any money because it says 'God' on all our cash. It's been like that since day one."
A pronouncement of such staggering ignorance knocked the breath right out of me. That's when I realized the majority of folks out there in middle America think God himself minted our currency with his holy moniker lovingly writ on each bill. Such is the power of revisionist history.
In reality, "In God We Trust" has its roots in the post-Civil War era, when the country was bursting with religious passion. The man who started it all was a Reverend by the name of M. R. Watkinson, a harbinger of Pat Robertson no doubt. Rev. Watkinson wrote the following letter to then Secretary of Treasury Salmon P. Chase:
"Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.
One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.
You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.
This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.
To you first I address a subject that must be agitated."
Chase's response? To start drafting a working slogan immediately. OUR GOD AND OUR COUNTRY and GOD, OUR TRUST were some early versions of the would-be national motto. But in April of 1864 Congress approved the more familiar phrase "In God We Trust" to be placed on our coins. It is important to note that at this point "In God We Trust" wasn't obligatory and it was only placed on coinage not paper currency.
Fast forward to 1957 with another religious revival in America. This decade saw the emergence of Rev. Billy Graham who used scare tactics to fuel his religious movement. Rev. George Docherty petitioned for an amended pledge of allegiance to include "under God" and received his wish on Flag Day of 1954. We had atheist enemies namely the Soviet Union who had nukes pointed right at us, so we obliged with a couple Earth-decimating warheads of our own. We weren't "heathens" like those reds, but we needed a way to demonstrate this fact. The 84th Congress came up with a solution. They declared us a Christian Nation by making "In God We Trust" our national motto. It wouldn't be long before our paper currency appeared with the shiny new maxim. Now it was mandatory. Every denomination would bear it, and by the mid-'60s the transformation would be complete. America had always been and always will be Judeo-Christian.
What would the Founders think? That's easy enough to determine, just look at what they said about religious/governmental overlap. The most obvious opponent of such a take-over is Thomas Jefferson.
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man
and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his
worship,that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not
opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American
people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus
building a wall of separation between Church and State."
A powerful condemnation of the concept of "In God We Trust" if I ever heard one. It doesn't end there. According to the Constitution itself:
"Article VI: Clause 3: The Senators and Representatives before mentioned,
and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and
judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be
bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious
Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust
under the United States."
There are several more examples but in the interest of brevity I'll include one more. This time from James Madison who said "The settled opinion here is, that religion is essentially distinct from civil Government, and exempt from its cognizance; that a connection between them is injurious to both."
But, oh yeah, they used "Creator" once in the Declaration of Independence that's a lot to hang your hat on if you ask me.
Most every religion believes under its instruction society would benefit most. That's exactly why we need a sturdy wall of separation. I'd like to offer Thomas Paine as a decisive rebuttle.
"An unjust composition never fails to contain error and falsehood. Therefore an
unjust connection of ideas is not derived from nature, but from the imperfect
composition of man. Misconnection of ideas is the same as misjudging, and has no
positive existence, being merely a creature of the imagination; but nature and
truth are real and uniform; and the rational mind by reasoning, discerns the
uniformity, and is thereby enabled to make a just composition of ideas, which
will stand the test of truth. But the fantastical illuminations of the credulous
and superstitious part of mankind, proceed from weakness, and as far as they
take place in the world subvert the religion of REASON, NATURE and TRUTH."
Instead of "In God We Trust" our money should claim "In REASON, NATURE and TRUTH we Trust." We should not bow to the tyranny of dogma but seek to invalidate it.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I hope they do a good job with this, maybe they'll put it together in the styles of Ken Burns, Errol Morris or Scorcese. In any case, Network television is finally showing something both edifying and entertaining, and that's a reason to sit up and take notice.
Howard Zinn’s ‘History’ Comes to TV
Documentary Miniseries to feature Damon, Vedder
by Michael Schneider
Production is finally set to begin on a long-delayed TV version of Howard Zinn’s landmark 1980 tome “A People’s History of the United States." The four-hour documentary miniseries — titled “The People Speak” — will include performances by Matt Damon, Marisa Tomei, Viggo Mortensen, Danny Glover, Josh Brolin, David Strathairn, Kerry Washington, Eddie Vedder and John Legend.
Zinn will host the longform project, which begins shooting next month in Boston. Project, to be exec produced by Zinn, Anthony Arnove and First Tuesday Media’s Chris Moore, has not yet been sold to a network.
Damon and Moore have been looking to adapt “A People’s History of the United States” on television for nearly a decade.
Damon, who lived next door to Zinn as a child, and Ben Affleck included a reference to Zinn and “A People’s History” in their Academy Award-winning “Good Will Hunting.” Soon thereafter, the scribes and Moore (also a “Good Will Hunting” producer) sold a 10- to 12-hour miniseries to Fox based on the book.
“A People’s History” was slated to run on Fox in 1999, but that didn’t happen; later, HBO developed a three-part version but eventually passed as well.
The new adaptation will draw from both “A People’s History,” and sequel tome “Voices of A People’s History of the United States,” which Zinn wrote with Arnove. Miniseries will center on the actors and musicians as they read from the books or perform music related to their themes: the struggles of women, war, class and race.
The longform will mix the performances with photos, interviews and archival footage.
“This project is about Howard Zinn, his books and using that body of work to remind and inspire us all that this is a country built on dissidence,” Moore said. “Howard’s work deserves to be on film, and it is time that we paid tribute and captured the struggles of the people.”
Zinn, whose books chronicle the struggles of Native Americans, women, workers and other Americans, said he’d like to continue to inspire activists.
“Our hope is that these words from the past will speak passionately and clearly to the needs of the present,” he said.
Cinetic Media is handling domestic sales for “The People Speak,” which is also being readied for a DVD release after its initial TV run. Artfire Films’ Art Spigel, Ara Katz and Dan Fireman are on board as producers; David Baerwald will provide the music score.
© 2007 Variety.com
Monday, December 10, 2007
BP Set To Commit ‘The Biggest Environmental Crime in History’
by Cahal Milmo
BP, the British oil giant that pledged to move “Beyond Petroleum” by finding cleaner ways to produce fossil fuels, is being accused of abandoning its “green sheen” by investing nearly £1.5bn to extract oil from the Canadian wilderness using methods which environmentalists say are part of the “biggest global warming crime” in history.
The multinational oil and gas producer, which last year made a profit of £11bn, is facing a head-on confrontation with the green lobby in the pristine forests of North America after Greenpeace pledged a direct action campaign against BP following its decision to reverse a long-standing policy and invest heavily in extracting so-called “oil sands” that lie beneath the Canadian province of Alberta and form the world’s second-largest proven oil reserves after Saudi Arabia.
Producing crude oil from the tar sands - a heavy mixture of bitumen, water, sand and clay - found beneath more than 54,000 square miles of prime forest in northern Alberta - an area the size of England and Wales combined - generates up to four times more carbon dioxide, the principal global warming gas, than conventional drilling. The booming oil sands industry will produce 100 million tonnes of CO2 (equivalent to a fifth of the UK’s entire annual emissions) a year by 2012, ensuring that Canada will miss its emission targets under the Kyoto treaty, according to environmentalist activists.
The oil rush is also scarring a wilderness landscape: millions of tonnes of plant life and top soil is scooped away in vast open-pit mines and millions of litres of water are diverted from rivers - up to five barrels of water are needed to produce a single barrel of crude and the process requires huge amounts of natural gas. The industry, which now includes all the major oil multinationals, including the Anglo-Dutch Shell and American combine Exxon-Mobil, boasts that it takes two tonnes of the raw sands to produce a single barrel of oil. BP insists it will use a less damaging extraction method, but it accepts that its investment will increase its carbon footprint.
Mike Hudema, the climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace in Canada, told The Independent: “BP has done a very good job in recent years of promoting its green objectives. By jumping into tar sands extraction it is taking part in the biggest global warming crime ever seen and BP’s green sheen is gone.
“It takes about 29kg of CO2 to produce a barrel of oil conventionally. That figure can be as much 125kg for tar sands oil. It also has the potential to kill off or damage the vast forest wilderness, greater than the size of England and Wales, which forms part of the world’s biggest carbon sinks. For BP to be involved in this trade not only flies in the face of their rhetoric but in the era of climate change it should not be being developed at all. You cannot call yourself ‘Beyond Petroleum’ and involve yourself in tar sands extraction.” Mr Hudema said Greenpeace was planning a direct action campaign against BP, which could disrupt its activities as its starts construction work in Alberta next year.
The company had shied away from involvement oil sands, until recently regarded as economically unviable and environmentally unpleasant. Lord Browne of Madingley, who was BP’s chief executive until May, sold its remaining Canadian tar sands interests in 1999 and declared as recently as 2004 that there were “tons of opportunities” beyond the sector. But as oil prices hover around the $100-per-barrel mark, Lord Browne’s successor, Tony Hayward, announced that BP has entered a joint venture with Husky Energy, owned by the Hong Kong based billionaire Li Ka-Shing, to develop a tar sands facility which will be capable of producing 200,000 barrels of crude a day by 2020. In return for a half share of Husky’s Sunrise field in the Athabasca region of Alberta, the epicentre of the tar sands industry, BP has sold its partner a 50 per cent stake in its Toledo oil refinery in Ohio. The companies will invest $5.5bn (£2.7) in the project, making BP one of the biggest players in tar sands extraction.
Mr Hayward made it clear that BP considered its investment was the start of a long-term presence in Alberta. He said: “BP’s move into oil sands is an opportunity to build a strategic, material position and the huge potential of Sunrise is the ideal entry point for BP into Canadian oil sands.”
Canada claims that it has 175 billion barrels of recoverable oil in Alberta, making the province second only to Saudi Arabia in proved oil riches and sparking a £50bn “oil rush” as American, Chinese and European investors rush to profit from high oil prices. Despite production costs per barrel of up to £15, compared to £1 per barrel in Saudi Arabia, the Canadian province expects to be pumping five million barrels of crude a day by 2030.
BP said it will be using a technology that pumps steam heated by natural gas into vertical wells to liquefy the solidified oil sands and pump it to the surface in a way that is less damaging than open cast mining. But campaigners said this method requires 1,000 cubic feet of gas to produce one barrel of unrefined bitumen - the same required to heat an average British home for 5.5 days.
A spokesman for BP added: “These are resources that would have been developed anyway.”
Licenses have been issued by the Albertan government to extract 350 million cubic metres of water from the Athabasca River every year. But the water used in the extraction process, say campaigners, is so contaminated that it cannot be returned to the eco-system and must instead be stored in vast “tailings ponds” that cover up to 20 square miles and there is evidence of increased rates of cancer and multiple sclerosis in down-river communities.
Experts say a pledge to restore all open cast tar sand mines to their previous pristine condition has proved sadly lacking. David Schindler, professor of ecology at the University of Alberta, said: “Right now the big pressure is to get that money out of the ground, not to reclaim the landscape. I wouldn’t be surprised if you could see these pits from a satellite 1,000 years from now.”
Have your say
How can BP be stopped from perpetrating this environmental ‘crime’? Tell us what you think. Email haveyoursay@ independent.co.uk or go to www.independent.co.uk/haveyoursay
Friday, December 07, 2007
Socrates on Self-Confidence
Epicurus on Happiness (Episode 2)
Seneca on Anger (Episode 3)
Montaigne on Self-Esteem (Episode 4)
Schopenhauer on Love (Episode 5)
Nietzche on Hardship (Episode 6)
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Liberty or equality?
Historically, these two values play a fierce game of tug of war where one recovers the ground the other loses. This has been a stumbling block for political thinkers and institutions as it appears a society can't be completely equal and completely liberated at the same time. Here's how the problem breaks down.
If you answered equality then be sure to take a look at Marx who proposed the state should act like a gigantic Robin Hood by dismantling huge strongholds of wealth and redistributing it equitably throughout the society. Where did these ideas lead? Pol Pot slaughtered Cambodia's middle class, Mao starved his people and Stalin razed dissidents. Although everybody became economically equal their liberty dissipated, and if you want to split hairs they weren't even all that equal when compared to those in power.
But what if you answered liberty? Just as a commitment to equality breeds state socialism a devotion to liberty breeds free market capitalism. Unfortunately, because free markets are stacked like pyramids those on top can buy more liberty than those lifting at the bottom. Reagan believed so much in liberty that he spread it by force to Central America resulting in the mass murder of hundreds of thousands, and George W. Bush went into Iraq with the idea of an entirely privatized corporate Avalon. In the same way as state socialism failed to deliver either liberty or equality so does free market capitalism.
So, what is the answer? It is my belief neither business nor government provide any satisfying answers. The Anarchists of the late 19th century emerged with a solution to this problem. They felt liberty flowed directly from equality, but equality must be enacted voluntarily through mutual alliances between peers. All illegitimate authority could be eradicated. Businesses could be reorganized to fit the needs of the workers, not the bosses. After Argentina's overnight economic collapse it was the workers who returned to their assembly lines and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. This only happened because the principles of pragmatic Anarchism was out in the open and familiar to the common laborer. There was a long tradition of Spanish and Italian Anarchy which enabled the workers to spontaneously mobilize.
The only thing Americans can agree on is they want change. Through the proper amount of education and persuasion even Americans could organize and directly grant themselves both liberty and equality without having to appeal to any higher powers. Don't know where to begin? Start by reminding (or maybe even teaching) people that a better world is possible.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Broken Peace Process
by Stephen Zunes
There’s little reason to hope for a breakthrough at the Middle East peace summit in Annapolis, unless there is a fundamental shift in U.S. policy in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And there’s little evidence to suggest such a change is forthcoming.
Indeed, Yossi Beilin, the Israeli Knesset member and former cabinet official who served as one of the major architects of the Oslo Accords, called for the conference to be canceled, fearing that it will only be “an empty summit that will only attract Arab ambassadors and not decision-makers alongside an Israeli leadership that prefers [appeasing Israeli hardliners] over a breakthrough to peace.” As a result, he argues that the meeting is doomed to fail and, as a result, would “weaken the Palestinian camp, strengthen Hamas and cause violence.”
The reason for such pessimism is that ever since direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks began in the early 1990s, U.S. policy has been based on the assumption that both sides need to work out a solution among themselves and both sides need to accept territorial compromise. As reasonable as that may seem on the surface, it ignores the fact that, even if one assumes that both Israelis and Palestinians have equal rights to peace, freedom and security, there is a grossly unequal balance of power between the occupied Palestinians and the occupying Israelis. It also avoids acknowledging the fact that the Palestinians, through the Oslo agreement, have recognized the state of Israel on a full 78% of Palestine and what Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is asking for is simply the remaining 22% of Palestine that was seized by Israel in the 1967 war and is recognized by the international community as being under belligerent occupation.
However one may respect Israel for its democratic institutions (at least for its Jewish citizens), its progressive social institutions (like the kibbutzim), and its important role as a homeland for a historically oppressed people, the fact remains that the Palestinians have international law on their side in demanding, in return for security guarantees, an Israeli withdrawal from all of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The U.S. position, however, is that 22% is too much and that the Palestinians must settle for less.
According to Israeli journalist Uri Avnery, the only way the conference could pave the way to peace would be if President George W. Bush decided “to exert intense pressure on Israel, to compel it to take the necessary steps: agree to the establishment of a real Palestinian state, give up East Jerusalem, restore the Green Line border (with some small swaps of territory), find an agreed-upon compromise formula for the refugee issue.” The United States, which provides Israel with over $4 billion in military and economic aid annually and has repeatedly used its veto power at the UN Security Council to protect the Israeli government from being compelled to live up to its international legal obligations, has the power to do so.
According to Shlomo Brom of Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies, “Judging from previous experience, US pressure can be very effective.” There’s no evidence that the United States plans to use that kind of clout, however, to move the peace process forward.
The Palestinians, Saudis and other Arab participants have been pushing for a comprehensive package of Israeli actions that would include a freeze on the growth of illegal settlements in the occupied territories, the release of Palestinian political prisoners, the relaxation of travel restrictions and checkpoints in the occupied territories and an end of construction of parts of the separation barrier inside the West Bank as called for by the International Court of Justice. Failure for Israel to agree to such conditions and the failure of the United States to push Israel to agree to such conditions has led to concerns that it would be simply a propaganda coup by the Bush administration and Israeli government to give the appearance of an ongoing peace process when, in fact, they are unwilling to make the necessary comprises for a sustainable peace.
Israel has recently announced the release of approximate 400 Palestinian prisoners, though thousands - most of whom have never engaged in terrorism - remain incarcerated. Some of the roadblocks that have crippled travel and commerce in the occupied West Bank have been lifted, but scores of others still impede Palestinians from traveling from one town to another.
There are some indications that Israel will announce at the conference a freeze on the construction of additional settlements in the West Bank. However, they have agreed to such a freeze on several previous occasions, including in an annex to the 1978 Camp David agreement, the 1992 loan guarantee agreement, the 1993 Oslo Accords, their response to the 2001 Mitchell Report, and other times, only to continue construction anyway without the United States insisting they live up to their promises. And Israel has ruled out withdrawing from these illegal settlements, every one of which violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, which deem it illegal for any country to transfer any part of its civilian population onto territories seized by military force.
Indeed, UN Security Council resolutions 446, 452, 465, and 471 explicitly call on Israel to remove its colonists from the occupied territories. However, both the Bush administration and an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress have gone on record that Israel should not be required to withdraw from the majority of these settlements.
It’s these settlements, along with the separation barrier snaking its way deep into the West Bank to separate them and surrounding areas from Palestinian population centers, which has made a peace settlement impossible, since the apparent goal of formally annexing them into Israel would divide up a future Palestinian mini-state into a series of non-contiguous cantons consisting of as little as half of the West Bank. These Jewish-only settlements connected by Jewish-only highways effectively have created an apartheid-like situation on the West Bank. Any Palestinian state remaining would effectively be comparable to the notorious Bantustans of South Africa prior to majority rule. Despite this, this partial Israeli disengagement from most Palestinian-populated areas while controlling much of the land surrounding them - known as the Convergence Plan - has received the support of the Bush administration and an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Congress.
Unless the Israel and the United States are willing to address the core issues - boundaries that would insure a viable contiguous Palestinian state, withdrawal of troops and settlers from the West Bank (except perhaps for some along the border in exchange for an equal amount of Israeli land), and a just resolution of the refugee problem - the conference will amount to little more than a photo op.
Indeed, the current unilateral Israeli initiative is not much worse than the so-called “generous offer” put forward by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak at the Camp David summit in 2000. Arafat’s understandable refusal to accept such a limited proposal was then used by the United States and Israel as supposed proof of the Palestinians’ lack of desire for peace.
The Annapolis meeting is ostensibly designed to re-start the process along the so-called “Roadmap” for Israeli-Palestinian peace, originally announced in 2002, which was to be based on the principle of Israeli support for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel following democratic reforms by the Palestinian Authority and the end of terrorist attacks. Provisions called for in Phase I, which was originally hoped to have been completed by 2003, included an end to Palestinian violence, Palestinian political reform (including free elections), Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian Authority areas re-conquered since 2001, and a freeze on the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
However, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and a sizable majority of House members sent a letter to Bush insisting that the peace process be based “above all” on an end of Palestinian violence and the establishment of a new Palestinian leadership. There was no mention of any reciprocal actions by the Israeli government, reiterating the longstanding U.S. position that it is not the occupation, but resistance to the occupation, that is the root of the conflict. President Bush agreed and, not surprisingly, the Roadmap stalled.
Recognizing Israel as a Jewish State
The prospects of progress growing out of the Annapolis meeting is made all the less likely due to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s insistence, backed by the U.S. Congress, that the Palestinians, despite having formally recognized Israel, also recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” before substantive issues can be negotiated. Given the sizable Palestinian minority in Israel and concerns that it would legitimate past and future Israeli efforts at ethnic cleansing, this demand is something that the Palestinian government could never agree to and appears to be designed to prevent the peace process from moving forward.
Indeed, the Soviets never demanded as a precondition of any agreements with the United States that the USSR be formally recognized as a “Communist state,” nor has Pakistan ever demanded that India recognize it as an “Islamic state.”
Though the United States has indicated its desire to emphasize an end to Palestinian violence - particularly acts of terrorism - and addressing Israel’s security concerns, there is no indication that the United States also plans to address issues concerning human rights or international law outside of providing increased humanitarian relief for the Palestinians.
If progress seems so unlikely, why is the United States pushing for this summit to go forward? One motivation may simply be for the United States to improve its standing among pro-Western Arab regimes by appearing to be interested in the plight of the Palestinians in order to gain support for the ongoing war in Iraq and increasing threats against Iran. Whatever the reason, unless and until the United States recognizes that Israeli security and Palestinian rights are not mutually exclusive, but mutually dependent upon the other, there is little hope for peace.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
That caller was a sucker. Here's my proof for Creationism. Click on the graph below.
So, if most Americans don't believe in Evolution, and America is a democracy, then Creationism is a fact because the majority has spoken. Any questions?
Friday, November 23, 2007
From the latest issue of the Socialist Standard:
The Socialist Party speaker's contribution to a recent debate at University College Dublin on the motion "That Capitalism is Superior to Socialism in the Modern World".
I should state at the outset, to avoid confusion, that my party has no connection to the party associated with Joe Higgins the former deputy for Dublin West. The Socialist Party of which I am a member has been existence for over 100 years offering a critique of capitalism.
I think most people can broadly agree on what capitalism or the market system is. As against that, there are many definitions or opinions on what Socialism is. So while other speakers in tonight's debate will line up on my side of the motion, I think that the socialism I will talk about has no relationship to what other people will put forward. I can illustrate the confusion by noting throughout the years various people from Oscar Wilde, James Connolly, Joseph Stalin, George Bernard Shaw, Muammer Gadaffi, Gerry Adams to more recently even Bertie Aherne have described themselves in one form or another as socialists!
So what is socialism? Socialism is a worldwide system of society based on common ownership and democratic control over the means of producing and distributing wealth. The means of producing and distributing wealth include all the manufacturing and service industries, agriculture, transport infrastructure, communications, the internet etc.
Common ownership does not mean state ownership or what is sometimes referred to as 'public' ownership. State ownership as was tried in Russia and now in places like Cuba is just another method of running capitalism. Common ownership means we all own the productive assets which is the same as ownership by no one in particular.
Democratic control will ensure that these means of production and distribution are operated in the interests of everyone. So what that means is that we decide on how the economy is run rather than, as is the case now, the prevailing economic circumstances, being outside our control.
By system of society we mean that human society as a whole must be changed on a world wide basis and we are not interested in establishing and do not support co-operative living schemes as were associated with Quaker colonies or the early days of the kibbutz movement.
A whole spread of consequences follows from these basic changes. When everybody owns and controls the production of goods and services, there will be no point in charging themselves for taking or using them. There will be no buying or selling and hence no money system. So if we consider shopping in a supermarket, you will as now move your trolley through the aisles, go to the checkout to get your goods scanned but you won't pay for them. The scanning is just for stock control.
Some people may object that this is unrealistic but we should remember that it is possible to produce enough for everybody but capitalism can only operate by creating artificial scarcity. A good example of this is housing. Although house prices are falling now, the cost of a home is still prohibitive for many people because demand exceeds supply. But the limit in supply is artificial; builders only build the houses when they expect a certain rate of return. In Ireland, there's plenty of land, building materials and labour to actually construct enough houses for everybody.
Furthermore socialism will be a co-operative world wide system. Nations and frontiers and governments and armed forces will disappear. Groups of people may well preserve their languages and customs but this will have nothing to do with claiming territorial rights or military dominances over pieces of the world surface. So there will still be an Ireland though we won't have 'our' Government and any other person, from anywhere, will be quite free to come and work here.
Socialism can only come about when the majority, and a significant majority, of the world's population understand what it means, are ready to accept and take part in it. That's the reason I'm here.
In socialism, there will be no government or leaders. Decisions that concern society and the allocation of resources will be taken on a local, regional, super-regional ('national') or global basis as appropriate. Socialism will be a democratic and participatory society; in fact it will be democracy in its truest form.
People when they first hear about the socialist type of society usually comment that it sounds like a good idea in principle but that it's just not realistic or practical. They list objections along the lines of the operation of human nature and the scarcity of resources etc. However, humans are inherently adaptable and co-operative; that is our hallmark compared to other species.
When we consider fundamental political change, people can be conservative and afraid to throw away what they have for what may appear to be uncertain benefits. They don't realise how much we can change. Consider that up to 300 years ago, the vast majority of humanity were governed by unelected rulers. If someone in 1700 said that in 300 years time we would be electing our leaders, rather than being given them, and that each person would have one vote, no matter what their position in life is, you can imagine that the listeners would have been extremely sceptical. But that's what we have now thanks to the combined efforts of all those people who struggled for basic democratic changes.
A long time ago parties that now call themselves Labour Party or Social Democratic Party used to subscribe to different versions of what I describe as Socialism but they have abandoned this over the last 100 years. They have accepted capitalism and now concern themselves with putting forward various ideas for modifying the system, to promote fairness - most of them completely impracticable.
Nationalisation is not socialism; in many countries parties of the right have nationalised certain industries and services. These are not owned by 'the people' but by the nation's whole capitalist class together.
At the moment we should realise that society is divided into two classes; those who own or control the means of production (capital) and those who have to work for a living.
Well over 90 percent of people are in the working class, whether they're relatively high-paid workers or on the dole. So the vast majority of middle class people are essentially working people; they must work to obtain a living. If you have to work for a living, irrespective of your occupation or salary level, you are a worker.
Currently under capitalism although we can vote for parties in elections, huge chunks of our lives are beyond our influence. The politicians have no control over the economy and so neither have we. We can't decide on our standard of living or our level of prosperity. Democratic control means all the resources of the world will be used to meet the needs of everyone rather than being controlled by the few.
More specifically, what are the drawbacks of capitalism? If I had been asked to speak here, 20 years ago the manifest problems in Ireland would have been an unemployment rate of near 20 percent, heavy forced emigration of our young people and widespread poverty, at least by developed world standards. Nowadays people's concerns are the long days of commuting and working, stresses associated with work and the need to maintain a family life, the unavailability of affordable housing and good services, the widespread fear of crime, etc. On a world scale there are still huge amounts of malnutrition in many parts of the globe, terrible poverty, wars and ethnic struggles, forced migrations, dangerous levels of environmental damage, etc.
Consider the waste of capitalism. There is an enormous amount of people involved in doing jobs that are essential to capitalism but that don't add anything useful to humanity as a whole. All the armed forces of the world (maybe 100 million people). Then add to that all the workers in the defence and associated industries. That is pure waste as no wealth is being created by this. And add to this the massive financial sector; banking, insurance, tax affairs, accountants. You can throw in marketing and advertising. Also the vast majority of the legal system; guards, security people, prison officers, criminals, solicitors etc. These are all existing occupations, necessary because we have a system of exchange, i.e. money, but fundamentally not adding anything to society.
A simple illustration of what's wrong with capitalism: if someone is hungry and needs food but has no money and if someone else has a field, will the owner of the field grow crops to feed the hungry person? No, they won't or can't, because it would not be profitable for them to do so. It's not that they are a good or bad person; it's just that the system doesn't work that way.
I should finish by saying that our appeal to people to become socialist is not based on ethical considerations or compassionate feelings for people who are less well off than them. You should become a socialist for your own self interest, for a better life for yourself.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
“Black Friday” is the name retailers have given to the day after Thanksgiving in their attempt to make Christmas synonymous with shopping. On Black Friday, Americans are expected to flock to the malls and shopping centers, eager for discounts, armed with plastic. Business analysts fill the airwaves with predictions on how the fickle consumer will perform, how fuel prices and the subprime mortgage crisis will impact holiday shopping. Black Friday is followed by “Cyber Monday,” a name coined by the retail industry to hype online shopping. Listening to the business news, one would conclude that the future not only of the U.S. economy but of humanity itself depends on mass, frenzied shopping for the holidays.
Rev. Billy is the street preacher played by Bill Talen, a New York City-based anti-consumerism activist who is the subject of a new feature-length documentary hitting theaters this week, “What Would Jesus Buy?” The film is produced by Morgan Spurlock, who gained fame with his documentary “Super Size Me,” in which he showed his physical and emotional decline while eating only McDonald’s food for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a month.
In the movie, Talen and his amazing Stop Shopping Gospel Choir cross the country in two biodiesel buses, holding public faux-Gospel revivals denouncing the “Shopocalypse,” our crass, corporate, credit-driven consumerist culture and its reliance on sweatshops abroad and low-wage retail jobs at home, while celebrating small-town, Main Street economies, the strength and value of fair-trade shopping, and making do with less.
“We are here today, 28 days before Christmas,” Rev. Billy intones at the outset of his tour, to his home congregation in Greenwich Village, “behind so many layers of billboards, with supermodels looking down on us in their Christmas lingerie, billboards covered with fake Dickensian gingerbread lattes-we’re going to go out across this shopping-addicted country.” He added later, “We will sit down and defeat the bulbous yellow feet of the most famous corporate logo in the world, and the one that has chosen to steal our children’s imaginations for 80 years, the devil, Mickey Mouse.”
En route to Disneyland from New York City, the reverend and his flock stop by the Mall of America in Minnesota, Wal-Mart’s world headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., and numerous Starbucks shops and big-box stores like Target and Staples-educating and engaging, confronting and confounding, with creative street theater and direct action. In Traer, Iowa, we meet Michael Reuman, whose clothing store has been open for more than 100 years: “Wal-Mart is killing small-town America. We’ve got two sons, and I have not encouraged either one of them to come back to the store. There’s no future here.”
This week, Charles Kernaghan of the National Labor Committee, standing in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, released a stunning report on the sweatshop conditions in which crucifixes are manufactured in China. St. Patrick’s, Trinity Church in New York and the Association for Christian Retail all sell crucifixes traced to the Junxingye factory in Dongguan, China. There, women as young as 15 work seven days a week, 14 hours a day, and earn only 9 cents per hour, after room and board are deducted from their pay. What would Jesus buy, indeed.
Black Friday is also “Buy Nothing Day“-a global boycott of shopping and consumerism. Started by Kalle Lasn and his colleagues at Vancouver-based Adbusters magazine, Buy Nothing Day seeks to place the ad-fueled and news-media-supported shopping frenzy in a global context. He says, “Driving hybrid cars and limiting industrial emissions is great, but they are Band-Aid solutions if we don’t address the core problem: We have to consume less.”
The fair-trade movement is growing-focusing on safe, organic products made locally, by people earning not just the legal minimum wage but a living wage. Networks of sustainable businesses and nonprofit organizations are forming, linking producers with consumers, cutting out the corporations and the middlemen, allowing the people who make the items to get a larger share of the sale price. From clothing to chocolate to food to flowers to fuel, it is becoming increasingly easy to shop ethically. Heifer International features a selection of farm animals that you can sponsor, which the organization will deliver to a poor family in need elsewhere in the world.
This holiday season, spend time with family and friends-it’s worth more than money. Shop locally, or find a fair-trade store or Web site. Before walking into that big-box store, ask yourself, “What would Jesus buy?”
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 500 stations in North America.
© 2007 Amy Goodman
Who doesn't love Emma Goldman? She was the personification of an iconoclast, heralding the virtues of atheism and free love in front of Christian audiences, condoning the use of birth control during the first years of the 20th Century (when it was still illegal) and routinely accepting jail time over paying fines just out of principle. But these aren't the reasons why I love Emma Goldman.
Early in life she decided she didn't want to have children. Instead, Emma became a midwife, an adorable profession to be sure, but Emma didn't lose her subversive streak. She claimed with each baby she pulled into this world she would bring its soft head up to her lips and whispered the first word it would have ever heard into its tender ear: "Rebel!"
That is why I love Emma Goldman.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
PBS did a fine job at analyzing the absurdity of the Dover trial, the lengths we as a species still need to traverse (Galileo 2.0?) and that reason eventually wins the day. But it doesn't happen without a fight. People are scared because their tightly-held beliefs are being chipped away piece by piece. I am with Neil deGrasse Tyson when he says that "Intelligent Design" or "Creationism" or "anti-Darwinism" doesn't belong in a science classroom, if anything it belongs in a philosophy classroom as none of its assertions can be scientifically validated.
The highlight of the two-hour broadcast for me was the refutation of "irreducible complexity" as coined by Creationist Michael Behe. He argues that there are some aspects of nature which, if you remove even a single component, wouldn't be able to function making it impossible for it to evolve overtime. A common comparison would be a mousetrap. If you take away one piece the mousetrap wouldn't work. As this is true, if you take away three of the five parts of a mousetrap, as was demonstrated during the trial, the mousetrap can be transformed into a crude tie clip. The lesson here is these mechanisms which at first appear to be fully-formed actually evolved from less sophisticated forerunners with an entirely different purpose.
I encourage everyone to check out PBS's website and see this documentary immediately!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Thought the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) do God's work around the world? Sorry, think again. In reality, those institutions hand "aid" over to psychopathic dictators who in turn pass the debt on to the peasants and working poor. One such tyrant was Suharto of Indonesia. His activities inside his country, and subsequently in neighboring East Timor, has been described as a "Holocaust," however, throughout the carnage the World Bank lauded Indonesia as a "model pupil". Even after the acknowledgement of Suharto's devastation the Bank refuses to lift the oppressive debt currently carried by the Indonesians. John Pilger anatomizes these instruments of multinational corporations and affectingly portrays the suffering of a population enslaved by Western avarice.
I just bought the Communist Manifesto.
There was a time when this provocative paperback was more popular than the Bible, but now it's akin to purchasing kiddie porn.
I could feel people staring holes through me as though I were a Satanist. "Look, it's a Pinko," I heard them think. I even bumped into a friend at the book store who cautioned: "Read it; but don't let anyone see you."
To summarize the content of the Manifesto is like describing Citizen Cane -- they're so ubiquitous that everybody already knows their stories. All I ask is that we give Marx one more chance. Sure, a few asshats may have leafed through a few pages and used it to justify their inherent blood lust, but is that really Karl's fault? Besides, Marx was right. The super-rich are straddling the backs of workers, and capitalism is creating a massive chasm between the two. It's dehumanizing, alienating and, if you ask me, embarrassing.
No, I'm not a Marxist but neither was Marx. I just feel he is still ahead of his time. Capitalism replaced Feudalism as a better system, and now that Capitalism has worn out its welcome something needs to emerge and throw it on the trash heap of history. And when that day arrives maybe Marx's works won't have to come in a brown paper bag.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Friday, November 09, 2007
Burma: Keeping the Flame Alive Over Radio, Internet
by Lynette Lee Corporal
BANGKOK - International media interest in Burma seems to have cooled down after images of the violent dispersal of pro-democracy demonstrators were splashed on TV screens and newspapers late September. But exiled Burmese journalists are determined to keep the flame going over radio and the Internet.
“While there has not been a united policy (among exiled Burmese all over the world) the struggle is going to continue, and we’re going to keep on reporting until we see a change in the government,” declared Aung Zaw, editor and director of the Chiang Mai-based ‘The Irrawaddy’ magazine, which focuses on Burma.
Along with Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) bureau chief Toe Zaw Latt and National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma spokesman U Zin Linn, Aung Zaw faced a barrage of questions from journalists at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand here on Wednesday.
A former student activist, Aung Zaw, pointed out that the military junta’s “clever ways” are key reasons why this quest for freedom and change in his country have been futile for decades.
“The government has been able to exploit different opinions within and outside Burma,” he said. Add to that, he continued, the junta leaders “are still united and are ready to counter domestic and international pressure”.
Gen. Than Shwe’s iron rule has instilled fear among the people, including even the Buddhist clergy. In a short video clip shown at the press club, a young monk living in a temple near the Burma-Thailand border refused to comment about the government and the recent events on-cam, fear and worry evident in his face.
In another clip taken at the height of the protests on Sep. 27, a purported plainclothes police officer was shown taking photos of the faces of reporters and cameramen, as well as other rallyists who were at the demonstrations.
According to Toe Zaw Latt, witnesses said that journalists working for state-owned media were also taking photos of people toting cameras, MP3 players, and cell phones. “They would report this back to the military,” said Toe Zaw Latt.
Needless to say, Aung Zaw feels that there is anger and depression among the people in Burma, as well as disappointment over the failure of United Nations envoy Ibrahim Gambari to settle key issues with the government.
Still, the exiled journalists remain gung-ho about the future. Especially with the huge role the Internet played in the recent events, they believe that the government is facing tough days ahead when it comes to gagging the Internet and the ‘army’ of citizen journalists, even if it has tightened control over the web.
“The Internet is the biggest enemy of the government now. The way that citizen reporters partnered with our correspondents and found ways to get the news out is a very encouraging and healthy sign,” said Aung Zaw.
In ‘The Irrawaddy’s’ case alone, the site (www.irrawaddy.org)registered 40 million hits, with over 100,000 unique visitors a month. Then, Aung Zaw related, on the same day when the government shut down the Internet in Burma, a virus also attacked the magazine site. It was a classic case of cyber-attack, he noted.
The popularity of the Internet and the people’s desperation to get the news out were such that, ‘The Irrawaddy’ got over 1,000 images from Burma, in one week in September.
Radio, too, has taken a prominent place in this quest for freedom in recent years. According to U Zin Linn, prior to the 1988 student uprising that saw more than 3,000 people killed, radio was mainly only used for entertainment purposes. “Only elderly people listened to serious news on the radio, while the younger ones listened to music,” he said.
But everything changed after the 1988 uprising broke out against the military in Burma, when students and intellectuals began using radio, shortwave radio in particular, as a way of getting independent information. Thus, the BBC Burmese service and Voice of America became popular choices.
Ironically, U Zin Linn implied how China, a close ally of the junta, inadvertently helped pro-democracy activists. “We have to thank China for selling cheap transistor radios in Burma. Now, even poor people can buy radios,” he quipped.
U Zin Linn also urged the people to support radio stations, which could, in turn, develop new ways to reach out to the masses.
“We all know that Burma is not a media-friendly country and all media outlets are state-run, so people relied on outside media, and radio is one of the easiest way to do so,” he added.
Toe Zaw Latt admits that people within and, to a certain extent, outside Burma have expectations about what the exiled media could do to help get democracy back in Burma.
“It’s normal for people to have expectations after all that happened, especially since now, more Burmese know what’s going on. But our role is the same as ever, and that is to give accurate, timely and relevant information about events in our country. I don’t think our role has changed that much,” he told IPS.
Aung Zaw also cautions against high expectations about the exiled Burmese media, intimating that they can only do so much, given the resources available to them.
“Yes, we did feel such expectations, both from the people in Burma and the international community. It’s okay to have expectations, but these have to be realistic ones. In the final analysis, it’s going to be the Burmese people who will decide (on the future),” he said. But definitely, he continued, the exiled media will be there to report on this.
© 2007 Inter Press Service
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Paul supporters are euphoric over their libertarian leader's record-setting fund raising success. It only took the Texas Congressman a day to take in $4.2 million. To tell the truth, when I first heard him talk about the Iraq War I was swept up with the sparkling allure of Ron Paul-mania. And the novelty of an anti-war Republican grabbed me by the lapel.
But if people knew what Paul meant by small government most would bounce him out on his ear quicker than you can say Ronald Reagan. Imagine if the devil started serving snow cones and Ron Paul won the Presidential election. What would America look like after the first 100 days? What would happen if he, just like the current Republican President, got everything he wanted?
First, Mr. Paul would pull the troops out of Iraq, dissolve the Federal Reserve and close down the IRS. So far, so good. This is what people want -- less war and less taxes. President Paul becomes the most popular Commander-in-Chief in a generation and the people rejoice.
What happens next? Well, if Ron stays true to his principles, which history has shown he does, the department of education will vanish. Let the free market decide. Now, those too poor to send their kids to school won't have a publicly-funded means of educating their children. That way the richer you are the more education you'll receive. Sounds fair, right? Next, those very same working class laborers can expect to whip out their Visas in the emergency room because that island of socialism needs to go. He'll probably achieve something President Bush never could, the privatization of social security. Public health care of any type will be abolished. Those who can't work like the elderly and the crippled won't be able to build up their "nest eggs" and consequently will be denied proper care.
When government shrinks something needs to take its place. Instead of empowering people, Ron Paul extols the marvels of the free market. Once corporations fill that power vacuum unions will be busted, and because there will be no public space workers can't organize and demonstrate on the sidewalks in front of their workplaces as the companies will own those sidewalks. Businesses will be allowed to reinstate Dickensian working conditions. The 8 hour day and overtime will be a fuzzy memory. In a truly free market economy the threat of unemployment can and will be used to coerce workers into humiliating contracts. Dollars will be a person's way of "voting" therefore those with more cash have more freedom. Welcome to Ron Paul's America.
Be careful because I believe Ron Paul's message is dangerous. There are other anti-war candidates (Kucinich, Gravel) who have a better domestic plan for the country. Let's reject Mr. Paul's libertarian revolution and start moving America further from a Corporatacracy, not closer to one.
by Vivian Ho
Former Boston University professor and political activist Howard Zinn last night said Americans need to “withdraw our obedience from our government” in response to what he called government deception surrounding modern wars.
“The war on terrorism is a sham,” Zinn said at Morse Auditorium. “Terrorism is an idea that exists all over. You can’t make war on it. If terrorism is the killing of innocent people for some presumed important purpose, then making a war on people is terrorism. War is terrorism. The terrorism of our war in Iraq has killed far, far more people than were killed in the twin towers.”
Zinn said a revolution is the only option Americans have to bring about change and charged his audience of more than 200 to form a “people’s” movement toward a “different world.”
The longtime professor also said government hype must be combated with a discussion of history.
“If you know some history that is outside the establishing view of history, you will not be fooled by the things you hear from the White House, or from members of Congress, or from leaders of political parties,” he said in his lecture, organized by BU Students for a Democratic Society, Boston Youth and Student Anti-War Movement.
The study of the history of government deception in wartime needs a closer look, Zinn said.
“What’s being told is that we are fighting in Iraq for democracy. We are occupying in order to bring democracy and freedom to the Iraqi people,” he said. “If you look at the history of American occupations, look at the history of U.S. interventions in other parts of the world - where have we brought democracy? There’s no evidence of America bringing democracy to the countries that we occupy.”
Zinn said the turnout was encouraging. Attendees said they reserved spots beforehand, and many filled in balcony seating.
“It was a lot of things people need to hear,” said College of Arts and Sciences junior Haley Ott. “There’s a stigma against activism, [so] for someone like him [to speak], it’s useful to have people inside like that.”
Zinn stressed the necessity of citizen involvement, a sentiment BU Anti-War Coalition member Alek Drobnjak said he strongly supports.
“He made a point on people getting involved, which was very important,” the College of Engineering sophomore said. “We need more people to join our clubs and participate in our government.”
Zinn will be speaking again this weekend with BU professor Elie Wiesel in a nonpartisan regional conference called “Race to 2008,” a discussion meant to revive political involvement among campuses in the Northeast.
“If you want something done, it happens when people come together,” said SDS President Farah Mohammadzadeh, a CAS junior. “It’s a revolution. It’s possible.”
© 2007 The Daily Free Press