When I was 12

April 10, 2008

Large rocks, severed heads, and flaming pots of oil rained down on Baghdad, capital of the vast Islamic Empire, as its weary defenders scrambled to reinforce gates, ditches, and the massive stone walls surrounding the fortress city’s many brick and teak palaces. Giant wooden manjaniq catapults bombarded distant structures while the smaller, more precise arradah catapult guns pelted individuals with grapefruit-sized rocks. Arrows flew thickly and elite horsemen assaulted footmen with swords and spears. “The horses . . . trample the livers of courageous young men,” lamented the poet al-Khuraymi, “and their hooves split their skulls.” Outside the circular city’s main wall—100 feet high, 145 feet thick, and six miles in circumference—soldiers pressed forward with battering rams while other squads choked off supply lines of food and reinforcements. Amid sinking boats and burning rafts, bodies drifted down the Tigris River.

The impenetrable “City of Peace” was crumbling. In the fifty years since its creation in A.D. 762, young Baghdad had rivaled Constantinople and Rome in its prestige and influence. It was a wildly fertile axis of art, science, and religion, and a bustling commercial hub for trade routes reaching deep into Central Asia, Africa, and Europe. But by the late summer of A.D. 813, after nearly two years of civil war (between brothers, no less), the enlightened Islamic capital was a smoldering, starving, bloody heap.

In the face of disorder, any human being desperately needs order—some way to manage, if not the material world, at least one’s understanding of the world. In that light, perhaps it’s no real surprise that, as the stones and arrows and horses’ hooves thundered down on Baghdad, the protected core of the city hosted a different sort of battle. Within the round city’s imperial inner sanctum, secure behind three thick, circular walls and many layers of gate and guard, under the luminescent green dome of the Golden Gate Palace, Muhammad al-Amin, the sixth caliph of the Abbasid Empire, spiritual descendant of (and distant blood relation to) the Prophet Muhammad, sovereign of one of the largest dominions in the history of the world, was playing chess against his favorite eunuch Kauthar.

A trusted messenger burst into the royal apartment with urgently bad news. More inglorious defeats in and around the city were to be reported to the caliph. In fact, his own safety was now in jeopardy.

But al-Amin would not hear of it. He waved off his panicked emissary.

“O Commander of the faithful,” implored the messenger, according to the medieval Islamic historian Jirjis al-Makin. “This is not the time to play. Pray arise and attend to matters of more serious moment.”

It was no use. The caliph was absorbed in the board. A chess game in progress is—as every chess spouse quickly learns—a cosmos unto itself, fully insulated from an infant’s cry, an erotic invitation, or war. The board may have only thirty-two pieces and sixty-four squares, but within that confined space the game has near-infinite depth and possibility. An outsider looking on casually might find the intensity incomprehensible. But anyone who has played the game a few times understands how it can be engrossing in the extreme. Quite often, in the middle of an interesting game, it’s almost as if reality has been flipped inside out: the chess game in motion seems to be the only matter of substance, while any hint of the outside world feels like an annoying irrelevance.

The messier the external world, the more powerful this inverted dynamic can be. Perhaps that is why Caliph al-Amin, who sensed that his hours were numbered, preferred to soak in the details of his chess battlefield rather than reports of the calamitous siege of his city. On the board he could see the whole action. On the board he could neatly make sense of significant past events and carefully plan his future. On the board he still might win.

“Patience my friend,” the caliph calmly replied to his messenger standing only a few feet away and yet a world apart. “I see that in a few moves I shall give Kauthar checkmate.”

Not long after this, al-Amin and his men were captured. The sixth Abbasid caliph, victor in his final chess game, was swiftly beheaded.

Chess lived on. The game had been a prominent court fixture of Caliph al-Amin’s predecessor, and would voraciously consume the attention of his successor—and the caliph after that, and the caliph after that. Several centuries before it infected feudal Christian Europe, chess was already an indelible part of the landscape adjoining the Tigris and Euphrates. This simple game, imbued with a universe of complexity and character, demanded from peasants, soldiers, philosophers, and sovereigns an endless amount of time and energy. In return it offered unique insights into the human endeavor.

And so, against all odds, it lasted. Games, as a general rule, do not last. They come and go. In the eighth century, the Irish loved a board game called fidchell. Long before that, in the third millennium B.C., the Egyptians played a backgammonlike race game called senet. The Romans were drawn to duodecim scripta, played with three knucklebone dice and stacks of discs. The Vikings were obsessed with a game called hnefatafl in the tenth century, in which a protagonist King attempted to escape through a ring of enemies to any edge of the board. The ancient Greeks had petteia and kubeia. These and hundreds of other once popular games are all now long gone. They caught the public imagination of their time and place, and then for whatever reason lost steam. Generations died off, taking their habits with them; or conquering cultures imposed new ideas and pastimes; or people just got bored and wanted something new. Many of the games fell into such total oblivion that they couldn’t even make a coherent mark in the historical record. Try as they might, determined historians still cannot uncover the basic rules of play for a large graveyard of yesterday’s games.

Contrast this with chess, a game that could not be contained by religious edict, nor ocean, nor war, nor language barrier. Not even the merciless accumulation of time, which eventually washes over and dissolves most everything, could so much as tug lightly at chess’s ferocious momentum. “It has, for numberless ages,” wrote Benjamin Franklin in 1786, “been the amusement of all the civilized nations of Asia, the Persians, the Indians, and the Chinese. Europe has had it above 1000 years; the Spaniards have spread it over their part of America, and it begins lately to make its appearance in these States.”

The game would eventually pass into every city in the world and along more than 1,500 years of continuous history—a common thread of Pawn chains, Knight forks, and humiliating checkmates that would run through the lives of Karl Marx, Pope Leo XIII, Arnold Schwarzenegger, King Edward I, George Bernard Shaw, Abraham Lincoln, Ivan the Terrible, Voltaire, King Montezuma, Rabbi Ibn Ezra, William the Conqueror, Jorge Luis Borges, Willie Nelson, Napoleon, Samuel Beckett, Woody Allen, and Norman Schwarzkopf. From Baghdad’s Golden Gate Palace to London’s Windsor Castle to today’s lakeside tables at Chicago’s North Avenue Beach, chess would tie history together in a surprising and compelling way.

How could a game last so long, and appeal so broadly across vast spans of time, geography, language, and culture? Endurance is not, of course, a magnificent accomplishment in itself, but a compelling sign that something profound is going on, a catalytic connection between this “game” and the human brain. Another sign is that chess was not just played but also integrated into the creative and professional lives of artists, linguists, psychologists, economists, mathematicians, politicians, theologians, computer scientists, and generals. It became a popular and pliable metaphor for abstract ideas and complex systems, and an effective tool through which scientists could better understand the human mind.

The remarkable scope of this game began to infect my own brain after a visit from an old family ghost in the fall of 2002. My mother had sent on some faded newspaper clippings about her great-grandfather, my great-great-grandfather, a diminutive Polish Jew named Samuel Rosenthal who immigrated to France in 1864 and became one of its legendary chess masters. Family lore had it that Rosenthal had impressed and/or somehow secured the gratitude of one of the Napoleons, and had been awarded a magnificent, jewel-encrusted pocket watch. No one in the family seemed to have actually seen this watch, but they’d all heard about it. Four generations down the line, this story, retold to a boy from the Ohio suburbs, was just exotic enough, and just hazy enough, to set the mind racing. I had begged Mom for years to tell me more about the great S. Rosenthal and his lost watch.

As I combed through the records on my mother’s mother’s father’s father’s achievements, wondering what spectacular (if still hidden) intelligences had filtered down through the generations, I also became reacquainted with the game itself, which I had not played since high school (and then only a handful of times). Stumbling through a few dozen games with friends at home and with strangers over the Internet, I found that I was just as ambivalent about chess as I’d been twenty years earlier—charmed by its elegance and intrigued by its depth, but also put off by the high gates of entry to even moderately serious play. Graduating from patzer to mere competence would require untold hundreds of hours of not just playing but studying volumes of opening theory, endgame problems, and strategy. Years of obsessive attention to the game might—might—eventually gain me entry into reasonably serious tournaments, where I would no doubt be quickly dispatched by an acid-tongued, self-assured ten-year-old. Chess is an ultimately indomitable peak that gets steeper and steeper with every step.

I was also repelled, frankly, by the forbidding atmosphere of unforgiving rules, insider jargon, and the general aggressiveness and unpleasantness that seemed to accompany even reasonably casual play. I recalled one of Bobby Fischer’s declarations: “Chess is war over the board,” he proclaimed. “The object is to crush the opponent’s mind.” Fischer was not alone in his lusty embrace of chess’s brutality. The game is often as much about demolishing your opponent’s will and self-esteem as it is about implementing a superior strategy. No blood is drawn (ordinarily), but the injury can be real. The historical link between top chess play and mental instability stands as yet another intriguing feature about the game and its power. “Here is nothing less,” writes recovering chess master Alfred Kreymborg, “than a silent duel between two human engines using and abusing all the faculties of the mind. . . . It is warfare in the most mysterious jungles of the human character.”

Still, much to my wife’s dismay, I got hooked. It is an intoxicating game that, though often grueling, never grows tiresome. The exquisite interplay of the simple and the complex is hypnotic: the pieces and moves are elementary enough for any five-year-old to quickly soak up, but the board combinations are so vast that all the possible chess games could never be played—or even known—by a single person. Other parlor games sufficiently amuse, entertain, challenge, distract; chess seizes. It does not merely engage the mind; it takes hold of the mind in a way that suggests a primal, hardwired connection.

Even more powerfully, though, I became transported by chess’s rich history. It seemed to have been present in every place and time, and to have been utilized in every sort of activity. Kings cajoled and threatened with it; philosophers told stories with it; poets analogized with it; moralists preached with it. Its origins are wrapped up in some of the earliest discussions of fate versus free will. It sparked and settled feuds, facilitated and sabotaged romances, and fertilized literature from Dante to Nabokov. A thirteenth-century book using chess as a guide to social morality may have been the second-most popular text in the Middle Ages, after the Bible. In the twentieth century, chess enabled computer scientists to create intelligent machines. Chess has also, in modern times, been used to study memory, language, math, and logic, and has recently emerged as a powerful learning tool in elementary and secondary schools.

The more I learned about chess’s peculiarly strong cultural relevance in century after century, the more it seemed that chess’s endurance was no historical accident. As with the Bible and Shakespeare, there was something particular about the game that made it continually accessible to generation after generation. It served a genuine function—perhaps not vital, but often far more than merely useful. I often found myself wondering how particular events or lives would have unfolded in chess’s absence—a condition, I learned, that many chess haters had ardently sought. Perhaps the most vivid measure of chess’s potency, in fact, is the determination of its orthodox enemies to stamp it out—as long ago as a ruling in 655 by Caliph Ali Ben Abu-Talib (the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law), and as recently as decrees by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1981, the Taliban in 1996, and the Iraqi clergy in post-Saddam Iraq. In between, chess was tamped down:

in 780 by Abbasid Caliph al-Mahdi ibn al-Mansur
in 1005 by Egypt’s al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah
in 1061 by Cardinal Damiani of Ostia
in 1093 by the Eastern Orthodox Church
in 1128 by St. Bernard
in 1195 by Rabbi Maimonides
in 1197 by the Abbot of Persigny
in 1208 by the Bishop of Paris
in 1240 by religious leaders of Worcester, England
in 1254 by King Louis IX of France (St. Louis)
in 1291 by the Archbishop of Canterbury
in 1310 by the Council of Trier (Germany)
in 1322 by Rabbi Kalonymos Ben Kalonymos
in 1375 by France’s Charles V
in 1380 by Oxford University’s founder William of Wickham
in 1549 by the Protohierarch Sylvester of Russia
and in 1649 by Tsar Alexei

But like the Talmud, like the theory of natural selection, like any organized thought paradigm that humans have found irresistibly compelling, chess refused to go away. Why were sixty-four squares and a handful of generic war figurines so hard to erase from the human imagination? What was it about chess that drew simultaneous devotion and disgust, and sparked so many powerful ideas and observations over many centuries?

This is what I set out to understand, through a close survey of chess’s history and a fresh look at the game.

Excerpted from The Immortal Game by David Shenk Copyright © 2006 by David Shenk.

Well it starts earlier than aged 12 for me really.

When I was in Primary School I had a fascination with Chess, I was indeed Chess champion back then.

Then I went off to Secondary School where peer pressure and trying to fit in made me lose my love of the game.  However I found out soon after starting there that my skills had not been totally lost.

I went to Germany with school as part of my German class and stayed with a family there for a week.  During that time the father of the household asked me if I would play with him.  The best of three as it turns out.  I lost the first, but won both of the next, much to the fathers displeasure I might add, proving to myself, as most kids that age think, that I was master of the universe.

I have lost any proper knowledge I had of the game from back then, even to the point of being afraid to really sit and think about playing someone who knows a little of the game. But being settled and content as I am with my life now, I think it is time to renew the love affair with the game.  So here I am writing this blog having placed a book about the history of Chess next to me and I am about to delve back into my childhood and much further into the human mind apparently.


An irc conversation

December 17, 2007

[14:14:31] <bankrun> global warming is happening however its causes are cause of changes in the solarsystem
[14:14:52] <PJC> lol bankrun, you need to read more
[14:14:53] <gordonjcp> global warming *might* be happening
[14:14:55] <bankrun> which is changing due to the different constitution of the space its moving into
[14:15:09] <bankrun> at 500.000 km per houre
[14:15:11] <gordonjcp> but if it is, it’s mostly caused by changes in the solar system
[14:15:15] <gordonjcp> bankrun: yup
[14:15:25] <bankrun> which is changing due to the different constitution of the space its moving into gordonjcp
[14:15:26] <President_HuckaB> bankrun: which is due to the face on mars
[14:15:37] <gordonjcp> bankrun: we’re moving into a patch of space with rather less dust and rock between us and the sun
[14:15:39] <bankrun> President_HuckaB: its a egular hill
[14:15:41] <President_HuckaB> constitution of the space? this isn’t start trek
[14:16:02] <gordonjcp> there’s a hill that looks like a face near my house
[14:16:08] <gordonjcp> doesn’t mean it’s actually a face
[14:16:13] <bankrun> gordonjcp: the whole solarsystem is travelling into a different space
[14:16:15] <PJC> http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6290228.stm
[14:16:37] <bankrun> global warming is part of the galactic cycle this time
[14:16:41] <gordonjcp> bankrun: also, the nutation of the earth’s axis is subtly altering the seasons
[14:16:53] <President_HuckaB> earth’s axis of evil , if you will
[14:16:56] <PJC> and that has been taken into account bankrun, read New Scientist, things like that and you will be on the cutting edge of the science behind climate change
[14:16:59] <f15> I’m having my period
[14:17:08] <President_HuckaB> send me your panties
[14:17:28] <gordonjcp> basically if you haven’t passed O-grade physics or its equivalent, you shouldn’t talk about global warming
[14:17:32] <gordonjcp> or nuclear power
[14:17:36] <gordonjcp> or fossil fuels
[14:17:39] <President_HuckaB> whats your take on it gordon
[14:17:44] <President_HuckaB> gbl warming
[14:17:44] <f15> where do you live
[14:17:47] <gordonjcp> or indeed, anything considering the physical world
[14:17:48] <PJC> no doubt about that gordonjcp
[14:18:00] <bankrun> New Study Explodes Human-Global Warming Story http://www.newsmax.com/insidecover/global_warming/2007/12/10/55974.html
[14:18:10] Quit ben has left this server (Nick collision from services.).
[14:18:12] <gordonjcp> President_HuckaB: it’s probably happening to an extent, but the reasons behind it aren’t terribly clear
[14:18:25] <f15> ron paul commands the nwo
[14:18:26] <President_HuckaB> agreed
[14:18:30] <gordonjcp> President_HuckaB: certainly it wouldn’t hurt to pump less pollution into the atmosphere
[14:18:36] <f15> from his bunker w/alex he’s lover
[14:18:42] <PJC> The mechanism for producing such cyclical climate changes is still under discussion;” quoted
[14:18:50] <President_HuckaB> gordonjcp: at the expense of development i’m not so sure
[14:19:08] <President_HuckaB> easy for us to talk we’re in the richest 10%
[14:19:16] <f15> yes
[14:19:27] <f15> who wants to play a guessing game?
[14:19:40] <gordonjcp> President_HuckaB: yeah, but then both the developing world and the developed world need to look at how to develop in a sustainable way
[14:19:45] <f15> I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 2
[14:19:53] <gordonjcp> it’s probably easier for the developing world, because they’ve got a clean slate to start with
[14:19:55] <President_HuckaB> gordon: i think they’re doing their best now
[14:19:59] <bankrun> cosmic rays are the cause it says
[14:20:03] <f15> what is the number
[14:20:10] <PJC> the concensus of scientists throughout the world, it 90% plus is that the global warming we are seeing the beginnings of now is man made
[14:20:16] <President_HuckaB> gordon: there’s no timeouts in development
[14:20:26] <f15> what is the number
[14:20:36] <bankrun> PJC: you favour the global warming TAX ?
[14:20:39] <PJC> sure you get the crack pots who would rather the blame be anywhere else other than on us….
[14:20:41] <f15> what is the number
[14:20:47] <President_HuckaB> the developing world doesn’t have a clean slate since it most falls in the harsh environments on earth
[14:20:52] <President_HuckaB> most of africa is non-arable
[14:20:59] <President_HuckaB> central asia is a windy desert
[14:21:02] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:16] <President_HuckaB> much of russia is permafrost
[14:21:20] <PJC> bankrun: I favour any tax, corporate or public that makes the world ‘livable’ for future generations
[14:21:24] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:25] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:26] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:27] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:28] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:28] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:31] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:33] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:35] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:36] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:38] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:40] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:42] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:44] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:47] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:49] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:51] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:53] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:55] <f15> what is the number
[14:21:57] <gordonjcp> yeah
[14:21:57] <f15> what is the number
[14:22:00] <f15> what is the number
[14:22:03] <f15> what is the number
[14:22:04] <f15> what is the number
[14:22:06] <f15> what is the number
[14:22:09] <Nockian> PJC: not me.
[14:22:15] <gordonjcp> I personally don’t care if environmental restrictions put companies out of business
[14:22:19] <gordonjcp> fuck ’em
[14:22:22] <gordonjcp> adapt or die
[14:22:30] <President_HuckaB> i don’t think any portion of civilization has the luxury to go backwards
[14:23:22] <President_HuckaB> europe sits on its glass house dictating what should be done socially but what are the real effects of curbing development on the third world
[14:23:29] <President_HuckaB> they’ll die faster
[14:23:41] <gordonjcp> no
[14:23:44] <President_HuckaB> stands to reason anyway
[14:23:47] <Nockian> President_HuckaB: how is the Huckabee campaign dealing with the story about Huckabee’s son killing that stray dog by hanging it and slitting its throat? that can’t be good for the campaign..
[14:23:49] <gordonjcp> they need to develop in a way that won’t fuck them over
[14:23:51] <PJC> the US and other countries have their priorites wrong, channel some of the billions used for ‘war’ in countries that have ‘wmd’ and harbor ‘terrorists’ (hahahaha) into something other than killing, I’d rather we take the chance and change our ways now, with regards to climate change, and be wrong, rather than not, and have the senarios turn out to be right
[14:24:08] <President_HuckaB> Nockian: my son’s not running for president
[14:24:08] <gordonjcp> PJC: well yeah
[14:24:19] <Nockian> President_HuckaB: the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
[14:24:27] <President_HuckaB> speak for yourself
[14:24:35] <Nockian> so that’s his official stance then?
[14:24:39] <gordonjcp> if the US spent a bit more money on sorting out its fuel usage than trying to invent wars then it would be better for everyone
[14:24:41] <President_HuckaB> afaik charles manson’s parents were fine
[14:24:55] <Nockian> President_HuckaB: actually, they were terrible people.. you should look into it
[14:25:05] <President_HuckaB> well hitler’s mother was niec
[14:25:14] <f15> is dvd hardware or software?
[14:25:38] <President_HuckaB> you sound like the type who would blame your parents for your own meager successes or lack there of in life
[14:25:38] <gordonjcp> here’s the US DOT planning on introducing laws that US car manufacturers will need to have an average of 35mpg across their model range
[14:25:47] <PJC> yep gordonjcp, but that wouldn’t create more oil or massive rebuilding contracts for certain people in the administration who happen to be board members etc
[14:25:47] <gordonjcp> wtf, 35mpg?
[14:25:54] <PJC> and thats just scratching the surface
[14:26:02] <gordonjcp> if my car was guzzling 35mpg, I’d suspect something was majorly wrong with it
[14:26:09] <gordonjcp> like maybe an engine fire
[14:26:13] <PJC> lol
[14:26:21] <gordonjcp> or a fist-sized hole in the fuel tank
[14:26:23] <President_HuckaB> i love how the left is up bush’s ass yet putin has carte blanche
[14:26:32] <President_HuckaB> and he’s doing much more damage to the global village
[14:27:17] <President_HuckaB> at least bush and liberals can both agree they are supportive of putin dismantling any freedoms in russia
[14:27:19] <f15> gordonjcp you don’t have a car
[14:27:41] Quit ron_o has left this server (Connection timed out).
[14:28:36] <BlimpMan> great
[14:28:39] <BlimpMan> i just got a bullshit parking ticket
[14:28:41] <BlimpMan> fucking mother fuckers
[14:28:43] <President_HuckaB> spasiba shoi
[14:28:52] <f15> blimpman how can you park a blimp?
[14:28:58] <President_HuckaB> it was me who gave it to you
[14:29:08] <President_HuckaB> you’re in atlanta right
[14:29:09] <bankrun> Study says sun getting hotter http://www.lubbockonline.com/news/092897/study.htm
[14:29:19] <President_HuckaB> especially in the summer
[14:29:45] <bankrun> Things Are Heating Up http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~kaisler/articles/event_horizon/heating.html
[14:30:03] <f15> bankrun: do you know how to swim?
[14:30:07] <President_HuckaB> As much of the U.S. is being blasted by vicious ice storms, a blockbuster report published in a prestigious scientific journal insists that the evidence shows that climate warming is both natural and unstoppable and that carbon dioxide (CO2) is not a pollutant.
[14:30:09] <President_HuckaB> nice.
[14:30:10] Quit nomin has left this server (“Leaving”).
[14:30:12] Quit r420r has left this server (“Leaving”).
[14:30:19] <BlimpMan> i’m so angry
[14:30:28] <skyfolly-home> i am so excited
[14:30:29] <BlimpMan> why does this little parking ticket piss me off so much?
[14:30:34] <bankrun> Strong Evidence Points to Earth’s Proximity to Sun as Ice Age Trigger (8/27/2007) http://www.geologytimes.com/Research/Strong_Evidence_Points_to_Earths_Proximity_to_Sun_as_Ice_Age_Trigger.asp
[14:30:35] <f15> blimpman maybe you shouldn’t fly a blimp
[14:30:38] Join quamster has joined this channel (n=Laura@180.134.121.70.cfl.res.rr.com).
[14:30:45] <f15> aka don’t have a cow man
[14:30:52] <President_HuckaB> man’s entire development revolves around natural catastrophe
[14:31:23] <f15> actually around blimps
[14:31:25] <President_HuckaB> dating to the eruption of mt. toba 74,000 yrs ago
[14:31:28] <PJC> climate change isnt just ‘warming’ it involves changes to regional weather and trends, and an overall world wide temperature rise
[14:31:35] <quamster> did Greenland melt yet?
[14:31:42] <skyfolly-home> melting
[14:31:51] <f15> soon will be gone
[14:31:52] <quamster> ah yes
[14:32:02] <President_HuckaB> manmade global warming is false
[14:32:02] <f15> very soon
[14:32:08] <President_HuckaB> its a boondoggle for the left
[14:32:11] <bankrun> in case there was manmade global warming youd expect the atmosphere to rise in temperature before the surface does
[14:32:22] <skyfolly-home> huge icebergs are floating north from antartica
[14:32:24] <President_HuckaB> manmade global warming is the left’s equivalent of terrorism
[14:32:27] <President_HuckaB> except its fake
[14:32:30] <President_HuckaB> and terrorism is real
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[14:32:44] <President_HuckaB> but neither have a significant mortal impact on a large pop
[14:32:46] <PJC> President_HuckaB: and you are on the outside looking in, delusion is a comfortable and warm blanket to be wrapped up in
[14:32:46] <bankrun> but the earths atmosphere isnt that warming
[14:32:50] <skyfolly-home> yea right, and UFO is real
[14:32:56] <President_HuckaB> pjc: you are too
[14:33:02] <PJC> mhmm
[14:33:02] <bankrun> so thats why now they claim its cosmic rays
[14:33:03] <President_HuckaB> you’re just too ignorant to realize or admit
[14:33:21] <quamster> were all gonna die
[14:33:40] <President_HuckaB> now that we’re haveing a record winter, the global warming spinsters are trying to say its not “warming”
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[14:33:51] <President_HuckaB> gore sounds like a genius in august don’t he
[14:33:52] <bankrun> beside CO2 is not a very effective greenhouse gas , unlike methane that is isolating heath from the earth
[14:34:07] <skyfolly-home> oh well, many people dun cry until they see the coffins
[14:34:21] <President_HuckaB> fearmongering
[14:34:30] <PJC> terrorists, which terrorists, the USA ups and downs its terror alerts to ensure people like you are always worried about something that isn’t there, terrorist attacks in the USA? Last one was 9/11, surely the world wide web or terror is better than that?
[14:34:35] <bankrun> and methane is spewed out in huge quantities as the methane lakes in siberia melt
[14:34:47] <President_HuckaB> pjc: just like global warming is used on people like you
[14:34:51] <deff> global warming is a reptilian conspiracy anyway
[14:34:52] <PJC> as for global warming, yeah its not in your face now, but I like to think of people and a generation other than mine
[14:35:01] <President_HuckaB> fear mongering is fear mongering
[14:35:13] <President_HuckaB> yeah terrorism is sold the same way
[14:35:19] <President_HuckaB> on a long term , results-free basis
[14:35:20] <PJC> not really President_HuckaB, science speaks, the US government doesnt hold any sway with me
[14:35:32] <PJC> wmd in Iraq?
[14:35:33] <President_HuckaB> g.warming is your sides version of fear mongering
[14:35:35] <BlimpMan> i just filed an appeal
[14:35:36] <bankrun> so at least we can be sure that if the earht warms is warms at ever increasing speeds
[14:35:36] <skyfolly-home> why is it so hard to convince people into believing the world is getting warmer and warmer?
[14:35:37] <BlimpMan> i should be str8
[14:35:41] <PJC> terror attacks iminent?
[14:35:41] <President_HuckaB> science doesnt speak
[14:35:53] <President_HuckaB> the U N isn’t science
[14:35:56] <skyfolly-home> is saving that big deal?
[14:36:06] <bankrun> so thats why the scientists cannot predict too far ahead, they forgot for instance the methane lakes in siberia
[14:36:22] <President_HuckaB> bankrun is providing material sources
[14:36:23] <PJC> like i say, you are free to your delusions, I prefer common sense and current science over Bush
[14:36:28] <President_HuckaB> unlike pjc with wild speculation
[14:36:59] <PJC> i see lol
[14:37:00] <bankrun> and thats also why any predictions of future warmings will be underestimated
[14:37:11] <President_HuckaB> global warming is a boondoggle
[14:37:15] <President_HuckaB> and they are trying to save it
[14:37:24] <President_HuckaB> its guaranteed money
[14:37:33] <deff> lol
[14:37:35] <President_HuckaB> from corporations, all the better according to socialists
[14:37:36] <bankrun> and over time the differences between the herren scientists and the reallife situation will get worse
[14:37:37] <deff> money from what
[14:37:48] <deff> how exactly do you monetize on global warming
[14:37:49] <bankrun> so they have to adapt and adapt
[14:38:03] <President_HuckaB> university/research funding
[14:38:17] <President_HuckaB> government appropriations
[14:38:18] <deff> uh that’s a huuge money machine indeed
[14:38:21] <bankrun> but in ten years from now you wont recognize those that advocate the manmade global warming
[14:38:21] <PJC> ok President_HuckaB, you are entitled to your opinions, you go ahead panicing about your terror attacks, and I’ll make a little effort in my household, just incase the made up global warming happens
[14:38:21] <President_HuckaB> wasted on bullshit like that
[14:38:27] <deff> grow a brain, half of it at least
[14:38:31] <President_HuckaB> deff: it is
[14:38:35] <President_HuckaB> huge money actually
[14:38:49] <deff> it isn’t
[14:38:51] <President_HuckaB> there are multi million dollar grants
[14:38:54] <President_HuckaB> for research
[14:38:57] <deff> couple of millions is peanuts
[14:39:00] <President_HuckaB> especially when someone drops the g-bomb
[14:39:09] <President_HuckaB> there are hundreds of grants
[14:39:11] <President_HuckaB> get a clue
[14:39:11] <PJC> huge money = the reason the USA doesnt want to commit it targets
[14:39:20] <PJC> *to
[14:39:36] <PJC> the only country that stood in the way of them btw lol
[14:39:37] <skyfolly-home> it is not about global warming, it is about pollution really.
[14:39:44] <deff> billions made on oil or saved by not investing in new technologies are huge money
[14:39:59] <deff> research grants, gimme a break
[14:40:11] <President_HuckaB> you have no education so what would you know
[14:40:17] <President_HuckaB> you sound like a total idiot scoffing at grants
[14:40:22] <skyfolly-home> and you think oil is unlimit?
[14:40:24] <President_HuckaB> you’re totally out of your scope
[14:40:28] <President_HuckaB> you show it
[14:40:35] <bankrun> skyfolly-home: if the UN uses the carbon tax to reduce co2 emissions its not bad at all
[14:40:40] <PJC> how would you know his education President_HuckaB? you are the one who disputes common, well known accpeted science
[14:40:47] <President_HuckaB> co2 isn’t a cause
[14:40:58] <bankrun> however co2 is a pollutant
[14:41:01] <President_HuckaB> reducing it may be meaningless
[14:41:03] <quamster> alan keys said its hot air from most politicians
[14:41:13] <tuxick> traffic pollutes a lot anyway
[14:41:15] <quamster> he might be on to somthing
[14:41:15] <bankrun> not making a mess is always relevant President_HuckaB
[14:41:18] <tuxick> in several ways
[14:41:23] <deff> President_HuckaB: research is peanuts compared to manufacturing and actually implementing those technologies, you are not going to convince me otherwise
[14:41:36] <President_HuckaB> gov’t appropriations also
[14:41:36] <tuxick> smell, noise, chaos in general, ugly roads
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[14:42:02] <bankrun> sustainability starts by not wasting
[14:42:06] <President_HuckaB> its the research money thats sets the standard
[14:42:09] <tuxick> i remember when i visited Dublin, all i remember was NOISE
[14:42:16] <tuxick> especially the heavy traffic
[14:42:29] <President_HuckaB> you want chaos, stroll through brazzville
[14:42:35] <President_HuckaB> brazzaville
[14:42:38] <PJC> increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, trap more heat, its a smiple experiment to do. But much easier on a large scale, say a planet for example….
[14:42:52] <skyfolly-home> people should stop bitching about global warming, instead they should emphasize on protecting the environment, we are killing the earth
[14:42:57] <PJC> not to mention methane, which is x20 as potent
[14:42:58] <President_HuckaB> there are dozens of shitty cities you would reject in favor of dublin believe me
[14:43:16] <bankrun> methane!
[14:43:20] <PJC> stopping global warming involves protecting the earth skyfolly-home
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[14:43:34] <bankrun> you will fail PJC
[14:43:56] <skyfolly-home> PJC: i know, but these freaks think we are threatening them with sudden death
[14:44:02] <guest1234> niggers
[14:44:10] <skyfolly-home> lol
[14:44:16] <PJC> lol skyfolly-home, typical knee-jerk reaction
[14:44:22] <bankrun> global warming is unstoppable
[14:44:36] <skyfolly-home> PJC: nah, i am taking it easily
[14:44:38] <PJC> bankrun: we might fail, but that doesn’t mean we shouldnt try
[14:44:48] <PJC> i meant them skyfolly-home lol
[14:44:48] <guest1234> PJC, so stop farting so much
[14:44:57] <bankrun> if you think we live in a greenhouse you are wrong , the earth changes
[14:44:57] <skyfolly-home> PJC: oh
[14:45:06] <PJC> guest1234: stop eating meat 😉
[14:45:35] <bankrun> PJC: besides i dont want to life in an artificial environment which has sprouted out of your brain
[14:45:51] <guest1234> PJC, I think the foods which are high in fiber causes one to fart a lot, not the meats
[14:46:02] <skyfolly-home> nah, we just care for our next generation
[14:46:18] <bankrun> PJC: i would rather consider people like you a threat to nature
[14:46:30] <bankrun> PJC: no in fact i do
[14:46:33] <skyfolly-home> if the world isn’t this fucked up, i would consider having one more baby
[14:46:42] <PJC> guest1234: I meant methane produced by the farmin industry, anyways. like I say, you are entitled to your opinion, carry on as you are. but I’m entitled to mine
[14:46:59] <bankrun> PJC: always regulating our world into what the wheater should be or should not be
[14:47:18] <PJC> bankrun: I’m guessing that yopu are one of those people who thinks anyone who doesnt agree with you is a threat to anything and everything you are discusdsing
[14:47:52] <bankrun> PJC: im telling you you want to fuck with our environment into creating some artificial world
[14:47:57] <f15> skyfolly-home, are you a female?
[14:48:04] <PJC> bankrun: we are already doing that
[14:48:07] <skyfolly-home> f15: lol, sounds reasonable
[14:48:13] <bankrun> PJC: you dont know that for sure
[14:48:23] <bankrun> PJC: but already you know the solutions
[14:48:30] <skyfolly-home> i am a male, altough with small dick
[14:48:38] <bankrun> PJC: change the whole damn globe is your solution
[14:48:41] <bankrun> haha
[14:48:56] <f15> ha
[14:49:11] <bankrun> skyfolly-home: there are some trolls in this room
[14:49:11] <f15> I have largest penis in channel 5 inches
[14:49:16] <PJC> i dont know that the human race is using our resources faster than they can be replenished and that we are putting greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere faster than the earth can reabsorb them, causing a chain reaction of consequences? yes, i do know that
[14:49:24] <guest1234> You ought to be using farm animal dropping as a fuel
[14:49:24] <skyfolly-home> it is not about changing, it is about prevention, people
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[14:49:38] <bankrun> PJC: and so you fix the results of the causes ?
[14:49:48] <skyfolly-home> why you wear a condom while fucking around
[14:49:49] <bankrun> PJC: by changing the whole globe to your likings ?
[14:49:50] <guest1234> You know, use a cow shit to heat up your furnace instead of wood
[14:49:52] <PJC> bankrun: yes, change the whole way we use are world
[14:49:58] <PJC> *our
[14:50:05] <skyfolly-home> diseases are fucking natural way to die
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[14:50:23] <f15> skyfolly-home, mental ones
[14:50:25] <guest1234> skyfolly-home, you cheat on your wife a lot?
[14:50:29] <bankrun> PJC: if you think co2 is the problem then fix that
[14:50:38] <skyfolly-home> guest1234: i cheat on yr mom
[14:50:44] <casanova-> The opening ceremony of the Pentagon as the ministry of defence in the USA was on September 11th.
[14:50:51] <guest1234> skyfolly-home, you do cheat on your wife often, right?
[14:50:59] <skyfolly-home> guest1234: nope
[14:51:06] <f15> casanova- lulz
[14:51:09] <guest1234> skyfolly-home, just once in a while?
[14:51:10] <PJC> I can’t on my own, but hopefully the world will come to realise, as it is now, when 140+ countries sign a treaty promising to change how we do things
[14:51:16] <skyfolly-home> guest1234: never
[14:51:18] <casanova-> f15 that’s true just wiki it over
[14:51:22] <bankrun> PJC: but to change the whole world around it is ridiculous and the results wont be desirable
[14:51:41] <PJC> bankrun: you say that with such conviction, have you do it already?
[14:51:47] <PJC> *done
[14:51:53] <casanova-> Also, the founding cornerstone of the WTC in NYC was laid on a September 11th.
[14:51:54] <f15> casanova- is it the word of the lord?
[14:52:00] <skyfolly-home> so i mean preventing global warming is not trying to change the world, just prevent it from dying
[14:52:23] <f15> casanova- OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG
[14:52:32] <PJC> indeed skyfolly-home
[14:52:40] <bankrun> fixing causes is one of mankinds greatest waisted efforts up until this day in history
[14:52:50] <bankrun> eh
[14:52:56] <bankrun> fixing results i mean
[14:53:03] <f15> casanova-, do you write for wikipedia?
[14:53:04] <casanova-> The state of Israel followed an invasion of British naval troops in palestine, beginning on September 11th. 19222
[14:53:15] <PJC> well, you give up before even starting bankrun, thats not in my nature however
[14:53:20] <guest1234> f15, I do, don’t you?
[14:53:31] <skyfolly-home> if you are stuck in the desert with few water, would you drink it in one day or sip bit by bit?
[14:53:39] <f15> I wrote the disambiguation page for f15
[14:53:54] <bankrun> PJC: no i dont waiste energy and time on fixing problems, id rather fix the causes
[14:54:06] <tuxick> skyfolly-home: i’d drink it all and then privatize water supplies!
[14:54:07] <guest1234> I try to lock my edits as much as possible so the morons can’t fuck it up
[14:54:26] <skyfolly-home> tuxick: then you’d die in one day
[14:54:30] <f15> guest1234, what’s your problem with the mormons?
[14:54:31] <casanova-> The country which has the richest copper reserves in the World, a holy land of the Incas, Chile, experienced a fascist revolution with Gen. Augusto Pinochet, which resulted in the birth of the modern computer industry… on September 11th. 1973
[14:54:49] <skyfolly-home> casanova-: lol
[14:55:02] <guest1234> f15, because it’s a cult?
[14:55:10] <PJC> bankrun: I think you missed the point, the idea is to fix the causes
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[14:55:17] <casanova-> Coincidence?
[14:55:21] <f15> casanova-, bogus?
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[14:55:32] <casanova-> no the dates are correct
[14:55:32] <PJC> causes of global warming
[14:55:44] <guest1234> f15, they believe that they’re truly the “saved” ones, and rest of the people are non-factors to them
[14:56:08] <guest1234> f15, they believe the “non-saved” ones do not matter (rest of us)
[14:56:12] <f15> guest1234, so what are they going to do to us?
[14:56:16] <casanova-> Wasn’t there a bill passed on September this month…
[14:56:25] <casanova-> this year
[14:56:26] <casanova-> oop
[14:56:31] <guest1234> f15, Soylent Green?
[14:56:33] <f15> casanova-, the dollar bill
[14:56:46] <casanova-> that was june 1913 wasn’t it?
[14:56:49] <f15> guest1234, what can we do to stop soylent greens?
[14:57:08] <f15> casanova-, no that is yesterday
[14:57:10] <guest1234> f15, sounds like a poorly written bot
[14:57:21] <f15> casanova-, now they got a chip in yer hed
[14:58:03] <f15> guest1234, soylent greens say that golbal warming is going to cause imminent disaster but in fact global warming is natural
[14:58:34] <PJC> i would rather we had tried and be wrong, than to have shrugged our shoulders and be right, there is enough money floating around the global economy to make the changes and cause little or no problems around the world. What would have happened if the billions spent on the war in Iraq had been spent on the issue of global warming, would America and the western world now be under attack, would terrorist attack have increased, would
[14:58:34] <PJC> there be world war 3, would society as we know it be falling apart?
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[14:59:13] <skyfolly-home> meh, they just dun get it
[14:59:29] <f15> how about we use the money to buy more money
[14:59:33] <PJC> lol
[14:59:36] <f15> like in that game
[14:59:44] <PJC> Second Life?
[14:59:58] <skyfolly-home> lol, dollar to yen?
[15:00:03] <f15> a dollar costs less than a yugo to produce
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[15:00:07] <PJC> lol
[15:00:21] <f15> therefore we could fucking print more dollars for dollars
[15:00:36] <f15> and have infinite moneys
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[15:01:15] <f15> LOL


American Gangster (2007)

November 15, 2007

<!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –Director: Ridley Scott

Denzel Washington – Frank Lucas

Russell Crowe – Richie Roberts

In 1970s America, a detective works to bring down the drug empire of Frank Lucas, a heroin kingpin from Manhattan, who is smuggling the drug into the country in the coffins of soldiers returning from the Vietnam War.

Sometimes when something like this film comes along there seems to be all the right ingredients. Everything seems like it should turn out just right, but in the end there is still something missing and it’s a let down.

With Crowe, Washington and Scott coming together for something like this you expect the sparks to fly and to be electrified by the movie. Instead what you get is a true story driven plot that holds not one single surprise and is predictable from beginning to end, one which also gives the actors nothing to get their teeth into.

It plods and never hits any excitement peaks or drama. In the end I was just so disappointed with something that could have been so special.


UN climate summit

October 1, 2007

New York, United States — The good news: The biggest environmental gathering of government leaders in many years showed the world is finally waking up to the urgency of climate change. The bad news: Time is running out.

Yesterday, world leaders gathered in New York City for the largest United Nations meeting on climate change since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.  Top officials from 150 countries (including 80 heads of state) plus big names like Al Gore and Arnold Schwarzenegger were in attendance – and so were we.

“The time for doubt has passed,” as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in his opening address.  Ban sees the world’s response to global warming as something that, “will define us, our era, and ultimately the global legacy we leave for future generations”

Gore told the world leaders, “We have to overcome the paralysis that has prevented us from acting”.  Governor Schwarzenegger called for, “action, action, action”.

One by one, heads of state stood up and essentially echoed their sentiments.  Our own Lo Sze Ping, from Greenpeace China, told the attendees that the world’s worst per capita emitting countries need to stop using developing countries as an excuse not to act.

Lo went on to call for an energy revolution with massive uptake in energy saving and renewable energy technology world wide, and real action by world leaders rather than more talk.

“At the climate negotiations in December, you must therefore agree to nothing short of a Bali Mandate,” he said. “Not a road map to nowhere, not a wish list.”

Bali Mandate

The next meeting on climate change negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol will take place on the island of Bali in December. Greenpeace is pushing for world leaders to strengthen the Kyoto Protocol at these meetings. Industrialized countries must begin the process of negotiating emissions reductions of 30 percent by 2020, and at least 80 percent by 2050 in order to prevent climate chaos.  This is what the best and latest science tells us is needed now to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

The meetings in Bali must advance a negotiating agenda, a Bali Mandate, to combat climate change on all fronts, including adaptation, mitigation, clean technologies, deforestation and resource mobilization. All countries must do what they can to reach agreement by 2009, and to have it in force at the end of the current Kyoto Protocol commitment period at the end of 2012.

US remains isolated

US President George W. Bush was not among the heads of state at the high level UN climate change meeting.  He only showed up late at the end of the day to dine with a select group.

Instead, Bush has scheduled his own meeting for this Thursday and Friday in Washington, DC, limited to the countries with the largest global warming emissions.  Bush’s meeting, imaginatively dubbed the “Major Emitters Meeting”, is widely seen as part of his strategy to avoid legally binding caps on greenhouse gas emissions.  Instead, Bush is pushing for voluntary, “aspirational” targets with no weight behind them. Bush is just pretending to care. The world must not be fooled.

At our meeting with Ban, last Wednesday, Greenpeace USA executive director, John Passacantando, reassured the UN Secretary General that people in the US are ready to tackle climate change, and dismissed the Big Emitters Meeting as a diversion tactic from a president no one is listening to anymore.

I knew it, bloody America as usual.  Spend billions and billions on a war that nobody wants or that solves anything and can’t commit to the future of our planet.  Says something doesn’t it.  I hate to be in that ‘I told you so’ bracket but….

On a different note it’s much harder to find time to study with a small person in the house!  Who knew!?  Not that I would change anything 🙂

I have also started a page up for my gorgeous baby girl  Chelsea-Jennifer.co.uk

I intend for it to be a place where I can record everything that happens in her life until she can dictate to me when she is older, and finally take over the blog herself.  Call it a special present from me to her.


Conservation

September 15, 2007

I have been reading an article in The New Scientist:

Innovate or watch them die

Radical measures are required if we are to prevent thousands of species from becoming extinct

It is one of the most depressing lists ever created. Species by species, the World Conservation Union’s Red List, published this week, details the huge swathe of life being driven towrards oblivion.

According to the list, 16,306 species are now defined as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. According to the best available data, 51 per cent of invertebrate species, 39 per cent of fish, 31 per cent of reptiles and amphibians, 20 per cent of mammals and 12 per cent of birds are threatened. “We’re losing the battle on almost every front,” says Gretchen Daily of Stanford University, California.

However, while the Red List details a biodiversity crisis that is all too familiar, the tactics required to tackle it are not. “Traditional approaches on their own are utterly doomed to failure,” says Daily. So she and other conservationists are introducing a raft of innovative policies in a bid to save as many species as they can.

New Scientist #2621

It’s a nightmare situation really. One of the solutions seems novel and something that could work.

The idea is to put a monetary value on the services that healthy ecosystems provide for human populations – from the role of forest cover in preventing soil erosion and flooding, to the pollination of crops by insects, and revenues from ecotourism. Conservationists would then work with local governments, industry and the finanical markets to set up incentives encouraging measures for the protection of ecosystems and the vital services they provide.

It sounds like a tax, and people hate taxes, but when current methods fail and things reach a point of no return these kind of measures may be the only way forward, and when you think about it the companies and areas that the money is diverted from reap the rewards. I like the idea.

Large Scale Solar Plants are here

 

Is solar a viable alternative energy source on a mass scale? Spain’s opening of a commercial solar power plant and a test facility with another plant due to open this month. Powering 5000 homes from its 11 megawatt production.

With the number of commercial solar plants growing at a rapid rate and the huge investment into research and development to make solar energy more affordable it seems that yes, solar has the potential to become a viable alternative energy source on a mass scale. Solar is a particularly attractive option for countries with vast expanses of uninhabitable desert. With the sun being one of our few freely available, infinite resources, it will be vital to our future survival to harness the power of the sun and alleviate our current reliance on finite resources which are fast running out.

Hog Futures
How the meat industry thrives, even as costs rise

[spoiler]

When corn prices spiked last fall, things looked dire for industrial meat processors.

These enormous companies thrive by confining (or contracting with farmers to confine) livestock into tightly packed quarters and stuffing them with corn. Pricier corn — in this case, pushed up by the government-backed surge in ethanol production — seemed to translate to lower profits for the industrial meat giants. On cue, Big Meat executives like Tyson’s Richard Bond complained bitterly about the end of cheap corn.

I, for one, looked forward to a slowdown in one of the globe’s most environmentally destructive industries. (As the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization pointed out last fall, feedlot meat production spews more greenhouse gases even than automobile use.)

If nothing else useful came out of the ethanol boom, I thought to myself, at least industrial meat would take a hard hit. But a funny thing has happened on the way to my industrial-meat schadenfreude: the meat titans are shaking off higher corn prices and thriving. And now I’m the one complaining bitterly.

Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor and among the largest beef and poultry producers, recently reported that its earnings for the May to July 2007 quarter more than doubled

Its rival Tyson — the world’s largest chicken producer, and a leader in pork and beef — also reported

What happened?

No Bones About It

For one thing, Smithfield and Tyson have managed to raise meat prices, forcing consumers to carry the costs of pricier corn. As the investment site Motley Fool put it, “It’s been relatively easy for Tyson to push price increases through to its customers [i.e., large food retailers like Wal-Mart], who in turn have pushed through food inflation to consumers.”

The second factor propping up the meat giants is that they have entered what seems like the early stages of a long-term export boom: They’re swamping Eastern Europe and parts of Asia with U.S.-raised meat. In the most recent quarter, Tyson increased its export sales by nearly a third. Smithfield, meanwhile, reported a jump in operating profit for its international unit — and promptly announced a sizable sale of U.S.-grown pork to China.

Note the contrast to the plight of large-scale U.S. vegetable farmers, which I laid out in the previous Victual Reality. Like meat processors, vegetable farmers have also seen the price of a key input rise: in their case, labor costs are up because of a crackdown on undocumented workers.

But unlike meat processors, vegetable growers can’t easily pass higher costs onto the big buyers like Wal-Mart and other food retailing giants. Those buyers can simply reject pricier U.S.-grown goods and buy produce from other countries where labor costs are lower, such as Mexico and China.

Meat is a different story. Whereas thousands of U.S. vegetable farmers compete among themselves and foreign rivals for space in Wal-Mart’s produce section, a precious few companies control the meat trade. Just two companies — Smithfield and Tyson — process 43 percent of pork consumed in the U.S. Their three largest competitors, Swift, Cargill, and Hormel, have together sewn up another 27 percent of the pork market. When players this big experience higher costs, not even a giant like Wal-Mart can say no to higher prices.

Moreover, while U.S. vegetable farmers rightly fear cheap imports from foreign competitors, the opposite holds true with meat. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization projects that U.S. producers will “dominate” the growing global pork market over the next decade. By 2016, the FAO predicts, nearly one of every three pounds of pork traded globally will originate in the U.S. The FAO also expects the nation’s beef and poultry production to thrive in the global market.

The lowly state of the U.S. dollar — widely projected to remain weak over the next decade — explains part of the power of the U.S. meat-exporting machine. A weaker dollar makes our exports cheaper, and thus more competitive, overseas.

But an even more important factor, I think, is that our huge and highly consolidated meat giants have managed to establish classic “Third World” labor and environmental conditions right here in the United States.

Have You Seen the Little Piggies?

In Iowa, the nation’s leading pork-producing state, confined-hog operations churn out 50 million tons of excrement each year, the great bulk of which festers in massive lagoons, belching putrid fumes into surrounding communities and leaking into groundwater. In Hardin County, where I visited this summer, 18,000 residents live amid more than a million confined hogs and hundreds of manure lagoons. The county’s once-teeming creeks and waterways have become dead zones, and an eye-stinging stench hangs in the air. It reminds you who benefits from the arrangement — not the remaining residents or the hogs, but rather the confinement owners and the companies they work for under contract: Smithfield and its few meat-packing peers.

In North Carolina, the No. 2 hog-producing state, similar conditions hold sway. And there, just as in the “Third World,” the poor pay dearest for highly profitable environmental banditry. According to a University of North Carolina study, “There are 18.9 times as many hog operations in the highest quintile of poverty as compared to the lowest.” People of color get it worst of all: “The excess of hog operations is greatest in areas with both high poverty and high percentage non-whites.”

Labor conditions, too, resemble those that might hold sway under a miserable dictatorship run by blinkered elites in thrall to foreign investors. In 2005, Human Rights Watch issued a blistering report on labor issues in U.S. slaughterhouses. “Meat-packing is the most dangerous factory job in America,” the report declared. “Dangerous conditions are cheaper for companies — and the government does next to nothing.” The report also documents meat-packers’ heroic efforts to squash unions.

Indeed, in its anti-unionism, the meat industry takes a hint from practices used during the 1980s-era heyday of death squads in Central America. Speaking of a Smithfield plant in North Carolina, one Salvadoran worker told Human Rights Watch that, “The company has armed police walking around the plant to intimidate us … It’s especially frightening for those of us from Central America. Where we come from, the police shoot trade unionists.”

Thus, it turns out, it will take much more than pricy corn to cut down the U.S. industrial-meat behemoth. Global demand for meat is rising, and U.S. producers are well positioned to dominate the market. But why let the U.S. become manure lagoon to the world?

Without access to exploitable labor and comically lax environmental codes, the industrial-meat complex would surely wither away — and the world would be a better place. What can ordinary citizens do? Rejecting industrial meat is a necessary but insufficient step. Efforts to organize meat-packing workers deserve broad public support, as does the movement to force the industry to take responsibility for the extraordinary environmental costs now being borne by people who live near its feedlots.
over the same period a year ago. what analysts hailed as a “stellar” quarter, handily exceeding Wall Street’s performance expectations.

http://www.grist.org/[/spoiler]

I really dislike the meat industry as a whole. It’s exploitive in every aspect of it’s operation. I make a point of trying to just state the facts and use my opinions in this blog without trying to say ‘You must do this, and you should do that.’ But in some cases the I wouldn’t even need to. The brute facts speak for themselves.


Bush in Vietnam…..

November 18, 2006

…… Not a sex joke, but both make me laugh for different reasons.

You crazy Americans, OJ Simpson has a TV interview and book deal on ‘If I Did It’. Apparently he talks about how he would have killed his wife. I smell a rat heh. Is this just a way of getting back into the limelight as we know he wont get a penny due to the civil case brought by his wife’s family after her murder and his acquittal. He owes them something like 300 million. Only in America.

Baby Spice still cries when she thinks about the Spice Girls as a group. I do too, but for different reasons.

Bugger, this has started like a gossip column, I promise improvements, honestly.

Oh yeah, I gave my collectable toys to the girls. It was agony watching them being ripped open lol.

I do have more to write, but I’ll go gently on my new blog virgins. Plus I dont want to put you all off with the above crap 🙂

PJC