Monday, December 31, 2007

HH Dalai Lama::New Year's Thoughts

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.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The World’s Most Polluted River

Thanks to: Conspiracy Memes

Citarum, near the Indonesian capital of Jakarta is according to many the world's most polluted river.

A poignant display of human disregard for the environment.




Thursday, December 20, 2007

Friday Flashback: Wizzard - "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" & The Kinks - "Father Christmas"

The Nativity Story

GB Nativity SceneWhatever 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

Eye of Nye

"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."


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Know Your History: The Homestead Strike of 1892

The Homestead Strike 1892

by Cheri Goldner
Homestead 1
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."

Homestead 2

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

Friday Flashback: Brian Wilson - "Surf's Up"

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christ Weary of Mike Huckabee: How Crazy Christian Do You Want Your Candidate, Republicans?

View Original
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.

The Secret History of "In God We Trust"

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.

Before 1957:

godless money

After 1957:


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Howard Zinn’s ‘History’ Comes to TV

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.

A People's HistoryHoward 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

Monday, December 10, 2007

BP Set To Commit ‘The Biggest Environmental Crime in History’

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@ or go to

Friday, December 07, 2007

Find Happiness Through Philosophy


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)

Friday Flashback: Otis Redding - "My Girl"

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Which do you value more?

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.