Thursday, 30 June 2011

Article: On Water and Plastic

Much has been said about the exponential manner in which technology has been advancing in recent years. I was born in 1970 and I have always been a huge music lover. During my life, I’ve moved from the 8-track and vinyl records to cassette tapes, cds and now iTunes. Cell phones have become an integral part of our lives, but anybody older than 30, remembers a time when telephones where stationary and featured a rotary dialing system. Yes, things have really changed in the last decades, and 2009 marks the centennial of an invention that, in many ways, made all these changes possible. Today, we can’t turn around without encountering something made of plastic. This relentless ubiquity makes it hard to believe that plastic has not always been a part of our world.
The Age of Plastics began in 1909 when Leo Baekeland created Bakelite, a synthetic polymer composed of phenol and formaldehyde. Since then, the world has never looked the same. Toothbrushes, chairs, shopping bags, Nylon shirts, Teflon frying pans, car bumpers, Tupperware containers, sunglasses, GPS navigation devices, Gore-Tex jackets, bobble-head dolls and the very keyboard that I use to type these words, are all entirely or partially made of plastic.
It is ironic and paradoxical that the material responsible for drastically changing the world is also the same one that

Article: In Praise of Uncertainty

Original Article written for Toporek







“So, tell me Sergito, what are you going to be when you grow up?”

As a child, it always bothered me when an adult asked me that question. I didn’t know exactly why it bothered me so much…

The only absolute certainty is uncertainty itself.
According to the legend, it was this assertion that prompted the Delphic Oracle to recognize Socrates as the wisest man in Greece. Socrates replied that he possessed no wisdom whatsoever, but paradoxically the Oracle interpreted his unapologetic acceptance of ignorance as evidence of great wisdom. The pride of many prominent Athenians was wounded by the idea of being ranked below this self-proclaimed ignorant, so he was accused of corrupting the young, and was sentenced to death by poisoning.
2,000 years after Socrates’ execution, at a point in time between the birth of Descartes and the death of Kant, the West became helplessly enamored with certainty. Calculus became the fundamental discipline that helped us understand and define reality with great accuracy, even when it was ineffective at amicably resolving the battle between Leibniz and Newton regarding its discovery.

According to
Lao Tzu, what is true can’t be described, but after Newton’s discoveries of gravity and the laws of motion, it was hard not to be convinced that reality could be outlined and explained through scientific exploration. Newton was followed by Bernoulli, Coulomb, Avogadro, Fourier, Faraday, Kelvin, Joule and Maxwell, and with every new discovery the certainty that the universe could be completely understood through the reductionism of equations grew stronger. The prevalent scientific posture after Maxwell’s unification of electricity and magnetism was that at the end of the 19th century “all the great physical constants would have been approximately estimated, and the only occupation left to men of science would be to carry these measurements to another place of decimals”. Of course history had different plans, and

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Article: Guy Fawkes, One man, One figure

Always timely but certainly unknown to most of the world. He came in public because of the movie V for Vendetta.
Who was Guy Fawkes? A conspiracy Catholic who wanted to eliminate the Protestant nobility and the King of England himself. An attempt that became legendary. A story which was empathized with the anarchists. Rightly or wrongly? It isn’t certain that these two words would be sufficient to identify an event or a person.
A Catholic soldier who is preparing to exterminate an entire noble House as part of a conspiracy, along with other 12 conspirators (Robert Catesby, Robert Keyes, Ambrose Rookwood, Thomas Wintour, Sir Everard Digby, Thomas Percy, Francis Tresham, Thomas Bates, Christopher Wright, Robert Wintour, John Grant, John Wright) is not one of those cases that could be associated with anarchy.
However, after it happened in a certain way, it would be useful to identify certain features of this situation and to consider the event in relation to its social implications.
It is true that every event combines the personal characteristics of the people and their issues and may take further extensions from the wishes of those who begun the process.
In this case, the prospect of revolution was considered certain, as long as the conspirators had achieved their purpose. The whole extent of this attempt to blow the House overtook the narrow limits of the intentions of the conspirators. The issue gains wider social dimensions. It becomes a song on the lips of millions of people until today. This is of particular importance in what has to do with anarchy. That it was hugged and established in the hearts of people as an act against the tyranny and the powerful aristocrats.
The distances and the compositions are necessary in order to avoid relations and to indicate those characteristics that through many mantles (religious, political etc.) bring to the surface the passion of the oppressed for freedom, and the immense hostility towards any controller.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Article: Mary Jane isn't dangerous

Original Article written for the Activist Pos
They say marijuana is dangerous. Pot is not harmful to the human body or mind. Marijuana does not pose a threat to the general public. Marijuana is very much a danger to the oil companies, alcohol, tobacco industries and a large number of chemical corporations. Big businesses, with plenty of dollars and influence, have suppressed the truth from the people. The truth is, if marijuana was utilized for its vast array of commercial products, it would create an industrial atomic bomb! The super rich have conspired to spread misinformation about the plant that, if used properly, would ruin their companies.

Where did the word ‘marijuana’ come from? In the mid 1930s, the M-word was created to tarnish the good image and phenomenal history of the hemp plant – as you will read. The facts cited here, with references, are generally verifiable in the Encyclopedia Britannica which was printed on hemp paper for 150 years :

1) All schoolbooks were made from hemp or flax paper until the 1880s. (Jack Frazier. Hemp Paper Reconsidered. 1974.)

2) It was legal to pay taxes with hemp in America from 1631 until the early 1800s. (LA Times. Aug. 12, 1981.)

3) Refusing to grow hemp in America during the 17th and 18th centuries was against the law! You could be jailed in Virginia for refusing to grow hemp from 1763 to 1769 (G. M. Herdon. Hemp in Colonial Virginia).

4) George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers grew hemp. (Washington and Jefferson Diaries. Jefferson smuggled hemp seeds from China to France then to America.)

Article: Democracy vs Mythology

 Original Article written for Sturdyblog

I have never been more desperate to explain and more hopeful for your understanding of any single fact than this: The protests in Greece concern all of you directly.
What is going on in Athens at the moment is resistance against an invasion; an invasion as brutal as that against Poland in 1939. The invading army wears suits instead of uniforms and holds laptops instead of guns, but make no mistake – the attack on our sovereignty is as violent and thorough. Private wealth interests are dictating policy to a sovereign nation, which is expressly and directly against its national interest. Ignore it at your peril. Say to yourselves, if you wish, that perhaps it will stop there. That perhaps the bailiffs will not go after the Portugal and Ireland next. And then Spain and the UK. But it is already beginning to happen. This is why you cannot afford to ignore these events.
The powers that be have suggested that there is plenty to sell. Josef Schlarmann, a senior member of Angela Merkel’s party, recently made the helpful suggestion that we should sell some of our islands to private buyers in order to pay the interest on these loans, which have been forced on us to stabilize financial institutions and a failed currency experiment. (Of course, it is not a coincidence that recent studies have shown immense reserves of natural gas under the Aegean sea).
China has waded in, because it holds vast currency reserves and more than a third are in Euros. Sites of historical interest like the Acropolis could be made private. If we do not as we are told, the explicit threat is that foreign and more responsible politicians will do it by force. Let’s make the Parthenon and the ancient Agora a Disney park, where badly paid locals dress like Plato or Socrates and play out the fantasies of the rich.

It is vital to understand that I do not wish to excuse my compatriots of all blame. We did plenty wrong. I left Greece in 1991 and did not return until 2006. For the first few months I looked around and saw an entirely different country to the one I had left behind. Every billboard, every bus shelter, every magazine page advertised low interest loans. It was a free money give-away. Do you have a loan that you cannot manage? Come and get an even bigger loan from us and we will give you a free lap-dance as a bonus. And the names underwriting those advertisements were not unfamiliar: HSBC, Citibank, Credit Agricole, Eurobank, etc.
Regretfully, it must be admitted that we took this bait “hook, line and sinker”. The Greek psyche has always

Article: Germany Was Biggest Debt Transgressor of 20th Century

Think Greece's current economic malaise is the worst ever experienced in Europe? Think again. Germany, economic historian Albrecht Ritschl argues in a SPIEGEL ONLINE interview, has been the worst debtor nation of the past century. He warns the country should take a more chaste approach in the euro crisis or it could face renewed demands for World War II reparations.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Ritschl, Germany is coming across like a know-it-all in the debate over aid for Greece. Berlin is intransigent and is demanding obedience from Athens. Is this attitude justified?

Ritschl: No, there is no basis for it.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Most Germans would likely disagree.

Ritschl: That may be, but during the 20th century, Germany was responsible for what were the biggest national bankruptcies in recent history. It is only thanks to the United States, which sacrificed vast amounts of money after both World War I and World War II, that Germany is financially stable today and holds the status of Europe's headmaster. That fact, unfortunately, often seems to be forgotten.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What happened back then exactly?

Ritschl: From 1924 to 1929, the Weimar Republic lived on credit and even borrowed the money it needed for its World War I reparations payments from America. This credit pyramid collapsed

Monday, 6 June 2011

Article: Johann Hari - It's not just Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The IMF itself should be on trial

Imagine a prominent figure was charged, not with raping a hotel maid, but with starving her, and her family, to death

Sometimes, the most revealing aspect of the shrieking babble of the 24/7 news agenda is the silence. Often the most important facts are hiding beneath the noise, unmentioned and undiscussed.

So the fact that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is facing trial for allegedly raping a maid in a New York hotel room is – rightly – big news. But imagine a prominent figure was charged not with raping a maid, but starving her to death, along with her children, her parents, and thousands of other people. That is what the IMF has done to innocent people in the recent past. That is what it will do again, unless we transform it beyond all recognition. But that is left in the silence.

To understand this story, you have to reel back to the birth of the IMF. In 1944, the countries that were poised to win the Second World War gathered in a hotel in rural New Hampshire to divvy up the spoils. With a few honourable exceptions, like the great British economist John Maynard Keynes, the negotiators were determined to do one thing. They wanted to build a global financial system that ensured they received the lion's share of the planet's money and resources. They set up a series of institutions designed for that

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Article: Global war on drugs 'has failed' say former leaders

Original Article written for the BBC News - Thursday 2, June 2011

Opiate use rose by 35% worldwide from 1998-2008, in spite of anti-drug efforts

The global war on drugs has "failed" according to a new report by a group of politicians and former world leaders.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy report calls for the legalisation of some drugs and an end to the criminalisation of drug users.

The panel includes former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the former leaders of Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, and the entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.

The US and Mexican governments have rejected the findings as misguided.

The Global Commission's 24-page report argues that anti-drug policy has failed by fuelling organised crime, costing taxpayers millions of dollars and causing thousands of deaths.

It cites UN estimates that opiate use increased 35% worldwide from 1998 to 2008, cocaine by 27%, and cannabis by 8.5%.

The 19-member commission includes Mexico's former President Ernesto Zedillo, Brazil's ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, as well as the former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker and the current Prime Minister of Greece George Papandreou.