At a 1996 energy conference in New Orleans, Dick Cheney, then CEO of Halliburton said “the problem is that the good Lord didn?t see fit to put oil and gas reserves where there are democratic governments.” Laying the blame on the divine is a stretch, but it seems that the vice president is right: democracy and oil do not mix. Just look at the United States? top 10 oil suppliers. Algeria, Angola, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia are repressive regimes with deplorable human rights records. Mexico and Venezuela, while democracies, are marked by instability, inequality and civil strife. Iraq remains at war and under occupation. Only Norway, Canada and the United Kingdom are fully functioning democracies.
If people in the UK think that the recent snowy weather was inconvenient, they should spare a thought for their children. According to new research, Britain is likely to be plunged into an ice age within our lifetime. The study, which is being taken seriously by top government scientists, has uncovered a change “of remarkable amplitude” in the circulation of the waters of the North Atlantic, that could turn off the Gulf Stream. If it happens, Britain and northern Europe are expected to switch abruptly to the climate of Labrador - which is on the same latitude - bringing a nightmare scenario where farmland turns to tundra and winter temperatures drop below -20C. The much-maligned cold snap would seem balmy by comparison.
Let me define my terms. By “good things” I do not mean ideals valued among the noblest of human principles. Included among such majestic goals would be the dispensation of justice based on equity, the rightful distribution of goods, the pursuit of philosophy, the arts, and the profoundly spiritual. By “good things,” in this column, I imply what our materialistic society values most highly: conspicuous consumption, tax evasion by the super rich, awarding non-competitive government contracts, golden parachutes, obscene stock options, off-shore companies, accounting finesses, and sundry other such exploitive gambits. In short, by “good things” I mean the advantage the favorite few exercise over the masses.
Like his father before him, George W. Bush has discovered Mars. In Greek and Roman mythology the red planet symbolized storms and turmoil in human relationships and hence became the Roman god of war. On the heels of his secret Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad and the capture of Saddam, W has decided to announce a mission to Mars. How appropriate.
Systems of belief, once the chilly hand of establishment wisdom descends upon them, lose the power of dissidence. Having once been heresies, they acquire offices, secretaries and expense accounts. The history of religions, like the history of politics, is best seen from the bottom up. And what one sees down there is the power and the obviousness of what orthodoxy calls heresy, because it’s the heretics who point out that the course of subsequent history is not actually what the founders and the original principles intended it to be.
As someone who regularly writes about racism, I have long been intrigued by the “whiteness as rightness” symbolism that pervades ous culture. Yet, the full force of this process never really hit me until last week. It was then that I found myself at the mall, passing a line of parents and their children, waiting to have a few seconds alone with Santa. You know Santa, right? The big white guy who only works one day a year and yet no one calls him lazy; the big white guy who exploits elfin labor in a sweatshop for no pay while his wife does all the housework, and yet no one calls him a slave master; the big white guy who invades millions of homes on Christmas Eve and yet, no one arrests him for breaking and entering. Yeah, that one.
The oil industry is buzzing. On Thursday, the government approved the development of the biggest deposit discovered in British territory for at least 10 years. Everywhere we are told that this is a “huge” find, which dispels the idea that North Sea oil is in terminal decline. You begin to recognise how serious the human predicament has become when you discover that this “huge” new field will supply the world with oil for five and a quarter days.
Why do we allow hundreds of millions of people to go hungry in a world that produces more than enough food to feed everyone on the planet? To put it bluntly, the problem is a lack of political will. Most hungry people live in rural areas of the developing world, far from the centres of power. They are forgotten by the media in developed countries.
The future was being modelled on both sides of the massive steel fence erected around the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Miami last Thursday. Inside, delegates from every nation in the western hemisphere but Cuba watered down some portions of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement and postponed deciding on others in an attempt to prevent a failure as stark as that of the World Trade Organization ministerial in Cancun two months before. Outside, an army of 2,500 police in full armour used a broad arsenal of weapons against thousands of demonstrators and their constitutional rights.
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