Tuesday, November 30, 2004

ASEAN: another sign of the world voting against Bush

link 1

link 2

From the first link:

VIENTIANE, Nov. 30 (Xinhuanet) -- The 10-member ASEAN countries and Japan have pledged to promote comprehensive relations during the related meetings of the ASEAN summit which will close later Tuesday.

ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and Japan agreedthat ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Parternship (CEP) Agreement negotiation should start in April 2005, according to the10th ASEAN Summit Chairman's statement released Tuesday.

The 8th ASEAN plus Japan summit was held here Tuesday as a related meeting of the two-day ASEAN summit to end Tuesday evening.

The statement said that the two sides are expected to conclude the negotiations within two years from that day.

An ASEAN Summit spokesman said at a daily briefing Tuesday thatthe drafted timetable for building an ASEAN-Japan free trade area is about 10 years and tariffs between the two sides will be reduced to zero from 5 percent during that period.

Taking into account the current high oil price, ASEAN supports energy cooperation with Japan, in particular in alternative energy,such as bio-fuels, and hydroelectirc power and energy security.

ASEAN leaders encouraged Japan to increase direct investment inCambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, such as through the construction of hydroelectric power plants and relocating environmentally friendly industries in these three countries in sectors where they enjoyed comparative advantage.

Japan's accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in Southeast Asia in July 2004 is regarded as an important milestone in the ASEAN-Japan relations.

ASEAN and Japan also decided to promote human resources exchanges as well as social and cultural cooperation.

Japan welcomed the decision reached by ASEAN leaders to convenethe first East Asia Summit (EAS) in Malaysia in 2005.

The ASEAN leaders also supported Japan's proposal to host an ASEAN plus three (Japan, China, the Republic of Korea) foreign ministers meeting in Kyoto in May, 2005 to discuss the concept andmdodalities of an EAS.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

It looks like the "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere" is coming into being, albeit without bloodshed.

This is yet another thing that doesn't bode well for the USA. From the 2nd link:

The moves are likely to boost China's political and economic interests in an area where its relations have been strained by territorial disputes and lingering war animosities.

That could reduce U.S. clout among Southeast Asian nations that are key military allies and large markets for U.S. farm goods, machinery and Hollywood films.

"This is a wake-up call," said Myron Brilliant, senior vice president of Asia policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "China is becoming more aggressive in its outreach to its neighbors, and we don't want to be left behind."

The free trade pact would lead to the elimination of tariffs by China and ASEAN on thousands of products by 2015.

China's "charm offensive" — which includes the development of bilateral trade pacts, increased investment in energy and raw materials producers, and expanded tourism and educational exchanges — has strengthened its standing as a regional leader at a time when U.S. policymakers have been distracted by the war in Iraq and terrorism, analysts said.

"By any aggregate measure, the United States is still the great power of Asia," said Kurt Campbell, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington. "But if you go behind the scene in boardrooms, military councils and diplomatic settings, you find that China's might and influence has grown almost exponentially in the last several years."

What the US could do about though, is hard to imagine.

Good thing, uh, we "reelected" George W. Bush, right?

Meanwhile, the ">dollar's headed even lower:

The dollar hit its new low against the euro, breaking the previous record of $1.3329 set Friday, shortly after European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet renewed his assertion that the euro's rapid rise against the U.S. currency is "unwelcome." The dollar also slipped against the Japanese yen Tuesday, falling to 102.54 yen from 102.88 yen on Monday.

This is of course due to our twin deficits- the budget deficit and the trade deficit. But it doesn't really matter at all, says Thomas Sowell (who doesn't understand economics, it seems)!

The number of falsehoods and halftruths from Sowell is amazing. Did it ever occur to him why the rest of the world isn't buying this BS?

Monday, November 29, 2004

Can't be said often enough...


...not a single traditional Christian can be found among the leading names of the American Revolution. Neither George Washington, nor John Adams, nor Thomas Jefferson, nor Benjamin Franklin, nor Alexander Hamilton professed traditional Christian belief, although most of them expressed an idiosyncratic personal faith of some sort. The same applies to Abraham Lincoln, who attended no church, although his later speeches are hewn out of the same rock as the Scriptures...

...one can trace no obvious connection between the religion of America's founders and today's American evangelicals.

D. James Kennedy: where are the Christians speaking out against him?


By one measure, conservative Christians comprised 12 percent of the electorate this year — the same as four years ago. But they see themselves as a crucial piece of the president's political base.

They believe that if their agenda is not implemented quickly — if their concerns are not addressed in a timely fashion — God will be angry.

One leading evangelist recently warned, "God's patience runs out."

Dr. James Kennedy delivers sermons at Coral Ridge which are broadcast to 3 million homes. He said he knows of no timetable for God's wrath, but wants results fast.

He dismissed the concerns of people who worried about the impact of Christian conservatives on the U.S. government.

"Repent," he said with a laugh. "Repent. That's what I'd say
People who are concerned about the influence of Christianity "have never really surrendered their life to God and submitted themselves to his commandments — and if they did that they wouldn't have so much concern about some court saying again that it's wrong," he said.

Asked about the millions of Americans who are not Christian, or have a different interpretation of Christianity, Kennedy said with another laugh: "I couldn't care less. It's true."

"I think that the idea that the worst sin that somebody can commit is to offend somebody is ridiculous," he said.

Evangelicals say Kennedy may seem intolerant, but there's no greater love than upholding the will of God.

However, as Atrios quotes Frank Rich:

It took a British publication, The Economist, to point out that the percentage of American voters citing moral and ethical values as their prime concern is actually down from 2000 (35 percent) and 1996 (40 percent).

D. James Kennedy is a liar and a demagogue (and used the 10 Commandments in Alabama as a fund-raising scam, as the court involved found: "Aside from its being the only media outlet to record the night-time placement of the monument in the Alabama State Judicial Building, Coral Ridge has used the Chief Justice's name and his installation of the Ten Commandments monument to raise funds for not only his defense but also its own evangelical purposes. For example, Coral Ridge uses a picture of the monument to raise money for the Chief Justice's legal defense and, at the same time, toraise money for its own work. A fund-raising letter from Coral Ridge President Dr. James Kennedy included a donor-response form which read, in part, 'I want to help provide for Justice Moore's and the Ten Commandments' legal defense. Also, use my gift to continue sharing the life-transforming Gospel, through new editions of The Coral Ridge Hour and all the ongoing work of Coral Ridge Ministries.'")

When will Christians speak out against him?

Now about that flu-shot scandal...


HONG KONG A global pandemic of avian influenza is "very, very likely" and could kill tens of millions of people around the world, a top World Health Organization official said Monday.

Governments should be prepared to close schools, office buildings and factories in case of a pandemic, and should work out emergency staffing to prevent a breakdown in basic public services like electricity and transport, said Dr. Shigeru Omi, the organization's regional director for Asia and the Pacific.

Such arrangements may be needed if the disease infects 25 to 30 percent of the world's population, Omi said. That is the WHO's estimate for what could happen if the disease - currently found mainly in chickens, ducks and other birds - develops the ability to spread easily from person to person.

Deaths associated with the rapid spread of a new form of influenza would be high, he said.

"We are talking at least 2 to 7 million, maybe more - 20 million or 50 million, or in the worst case, 100" million, he said.

While many influenza experts have discussed similar figures privately, Omi's remarks represented the first time a top public health official had given such an estimate in public. But his remarks on the likelihood that the disease would start spreading easily went beyond the assessment of many scientists, who say that too little is known about the virus to gauge the odds that it will become readily transmissible.

Dr. Malik Peiris, a top influenza researcher at Hong Kong University, said that Omi's range of potential fatalities was realistic and consistent with current research into the A(H5N1) avian influenza virus. The biggest questions, he said, were whether the disease would develop the ability to spread easily from person to person and, if it did, whether it would retain its current deadliness.

"H5N1 in its present form has a pretty lethal effect on humans," he said.

A few analysts have suggested that the death toll could be considerably higher. Dr. Henry Niman, a medical researcher in Pittsburgh critical of WHO as too conservative, said that with more than 70 percent of the human victims of the disease dying so far, the death toll could, in theory, exceed one billion if the disease were to spread rapidly among people, with little if any reduction in the current mortality rates.

But Omi and Peiris each pointed out that the high death rate recorded so far might be overstated, because people with less severe cases of the disease might not be diagnosed as having it.

I seem to be getting rather apocalyptic here, but there's going to be poop hitting the fan in many ways. And the US government is hardly prepared.

Friday, November 26, 2004

More on the falling Dollar

Stephen Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley is figured prominently in today's NY Times Op Ed section:

In this blame game, it's always the other guy. Yet global imbalances are a shared responsibility. America is guilty of excess consumption, whereas the rest of the world suffers from insufficient consumption. Consumer demand in the United States grew at an average of 3.9 percent (in real terms) from 1995 to 2003, nearly double the 2.2 percent average elsewhere in the industrial world.

Meanwhile, Americans fail to save enough - whereas the rest of the world saves too much. American consumers have borrowed against the future by squandering their savings. The personal savings rate was just 0.2 percent of disposable personal income in September - down from 7.7 percent as recently as 1992. Moreover, large federal budget deficits mean the government's savings rate is negative.

Now frankly, I think much of the world should be consuming more- but that's the needy portion of the world that comes to mind...

Asia Times (dollar bears to the extreme) have articles here and here on this:

Dr Jiang Ruiping, director of international economics at the China Foreign Affairs University, pointed out the following as a warning to the US in an article titled "Crisis looms due to weaker dollar" in the China Daily newspaper:
Since China holds huge amounts of dollar-denominated foreign-exchange reserves, the authorities should consider taking prompt measures to ward off possible risks.
Given the deteriorating relations between the US and the Arab world, quite a few Middle Eastern oil-exporting countries have begun to increase the proportion of euro in international settlements. Russia is reportedly going to follow suit.
About two-thirds of the reserve [Chinese] is dominated by the dollar. As the dollar goes down, China will suffer great financial losses.
The low earning rate of US treasury bonds, only 2% - much lower than investment in domestic projects - could cost China's capital dearly ... If the bubble bursts, China will suffer serious losses.
To ward off foreign-exchange risks, China needs to readjust the current foreign-exchange holding structure, increasing the proportion of euro in its forex reserves.
Considering the improving Sino-Japanese trade relations, more yen may also become an option.
China could also encourage its enterprises to "go global" to weaken its dependence on US treasury bonds.
Using US assets to increase the strategic resource reserves, such as oil reserves, could be another alternative.

And gold hit a 16 year high today:

"Many gold companies are unlikely to receive the full benefit for the higher U.S. dollar-gold price due to the appreciation of their currencies, such as the Canadian dollar, Australian dollar and South African rand," the Barclays Capital note said.

The rise in the rand, moreover, reflected the broader debate about the extent of the dollar's decline, which many banks have attributed to the size of the deficit in the United States current account, the broadest measure of American trade. ...

In South Africa, Trevor Manuel, the finance minister, seemed to rule out action to slow the rise of the rand, saying: "The problem is not the rand. The problem is the dollar."

The remark echoed a similar argument among some analysts in London. "It's an overall dollar problem, and I think the worrying problem for the dollar is that most people are coming around to this point of view," said Tony Norfield, the head of foreign exchange strategy at ABN Amro.

"The chance of intervention from the European Central Bank is pretty close to zero and we don't see any grounds for Japanese intervention," Mr. Norfield said. "The onus is really on the American side."

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Buddhist Blogs...

I recently was directed to Blog Pulse, which purports to yield "Blog Trends," and which as a very nice blog search engine built into it. (The next google?)

They also have a multi-blog toolkit from which you can track conversations, and memes.

But it's the search engine that I used today, to check out the kinds of Buddhist blogs out there, or at least blog posts related to Buddhism. And what did I find?

Karen Armstrong's sister is a member of Soka Gakkai. Hmmmm... I only knew one or 2 Soka Gakkai people, and one was Japanese, and quite normal, except for the American ex-marine gun nut to whom she was married.

John Soper's talking some time off...(he probably needs it.)

And Shokai's in autumnal Samsara...

In short, I'm underwhelmed by what's out there. For my taste, too much repetition of other folks' "wise words." A bit of self-aborption here and there (and please don't assume I'm singling anyone in particular out there) masquerading as Great Truths. (Good try is here, though. Here too. )

To communicate what's not communicable with words ain't easy, and practice isn't about what profundities we can write on blogs. But this is still kind of a bright shiny new toy, these blog things, and I guess it takes time.


I'm often asked how I celebrate the holidays, being Buddhist and all that.

This being Thanksgiving, we've been invited to a dinner with friends who want to practice an "American tradition."

As an American there, Thanksgiving is an interesting tradition- I need not go into its historical origins and controversies here.

But when we do Thanksgiving, uh, we're thankful.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Economic Indicators= We're goin' down the toilet

Atrios has a few good ones here, here, and here.

His first link, to a talk given by Stephen Roach chief economist at Morgan Stanley bears repeating:

In a nutshell, Roach's argument is that America's record trade deficit means the dollar will keep falling. To keep foreigners buying T-bills and prevent a resulting rise in inflation, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will be forced to raise interest rates further and faster than he wants.

The result: U.S. consumers, who are in debt up to their eyeballs, will get pounded.

Less a case of ``Armageddon,'' maybe, than of a ``Perfect Storm.''

Roach marshalled alarming facts to support his argument.

To finance its current account deficit with the rest of the world, he said, America has to import $2.6 billion in cash. Every working day.

That is an amazing 80 percent of the entire world's net savings.

Sustainable? Hardly.

Meanwhile, he notes that household debt is at record levels.

Twenty years ago the total debt of U.S. households was equal to half the size of the economy.

Today the figure is 85 percent.

Nearly half of new mortgage borrowing is at flexible interest rates, leaving borrowers much more vulnerable to rate hikes.

And to that I'd add this gem from EE Times:

Government-funded research and development programs are likely to get the budget ax in the next federal budget cycle, observers predict.

Government agencies funding R&D programs were busy sorting through a massive spending bill approved by Congress over the past weekend trying to determine spending levels for individual programs. Sources said agencies like the National Science Foundation are likely to see funding remain flat for the remainder of fiscal 2005, with any increase absorbed later in budget maneuvers designed to fund the war in Iraq.

And, China flips the USA the bird:

In a mark of China's growing economic confidence, the country's central bank has offered blunt advice to Washington about its ballooning trade deficit and unemployment.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Li Ruogu, the deputy governor of the People's Bank of China, warned the US not to blame other countries for its economic difficulties.

“China's custom is that we never blame others for our own problem,” said the senior central bank official. “For the past 26 years, we never put pressure or problems on to the world. The US has the reverse attitude, whenever they have a problem, they blame others.” ...

“Under heavy speculation we cannot move [towards greater flexibility] and under heavy external pressure we cannot,” said Mr Li. “So the best environment for us to gradually move towards a more flexible exchange rate is when people don't talk about it.”

His comments will disappoint US, Japanese and European politicians. Pressure has mounted on the Chinese administration to revalue the renminbi or to increase the flexibility of the Chinese exchange rate over the past two years.

Mr Li said China could only permit greater renminbi flexibility after creating a domestic financial infrastructure, including reformed banks and developed markets, able to cope with a more liberalised currency mechanism; considering the conditions and the wishes of neighbouring Asian economies on any move towards a more flexible system; and educating people on how to deal with a new exchange rate system, teaching them how to hedge.

Mr Li, who spoke before a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) forum last weekend, said China did not want to run trade surpluses or accumulate foreign currency reserves. Its reserves stand at $515bn.

“If there is a small deficit, we are not concerned. But certainly we don't want to run into the US situation of having a trade deficit of 6 per cent of GDP,” he said.

“That is not sustainable,” he added. “The appreciation of the RMB will not solve the problems of unemployment in the US because the cost of labour in China is only three per cent that of US labour. They should give up textiles, shoe-making and even agriculture probably.

“They should concentrate on sectors like aerospace and then sell those things to us and we would spend billions on this. We could easily balance the trade

Oh, and oil futures are at a two week high. Right after the elections for some reason.

Gold is heading north too- to $450 an ounce.

Well, looks like the rest of the world doesn't agree with the announced election results. Who could blame 'em?

And who on the right cares? Dan Rather's leaving so they're happy, happy, happy.

Good for them. I'm crying all the way to the bank.

Maybe they're starting to get it...about "airport security."


It's less about "security" and more abbout "appearances," but the audience is the object of derision.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

They're not really racists?


Subject to an automatic recount Nov. 29 because of the closeness, Alabamians voted not to repeal sections of a state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1956 to mandate racially segregated schools...

Amendment 2 failed by about 2,500 votes. The typical Alabama voter marked a ballot for Bush and segregation.

You’re asking how this could happen. The Legislature referred the amendment unanimously. The governor endorsed it.

The answer is that professed Christians, those of supposedly superior moral values, beat Amendment 2.

The opposition was led by the state’s Christian Coalition, which assured everyone that it opposed segregation and a poll tax, of course. It said those provisions had long been moot anyway. It said it would work with the Legislature to repeal them.

But it was Amendment 2’s third repealing action — of the clause saying no child had a right to an education in Alabama — that these professed Christians rejected.

Roy Moore, the ousted Alabama Supreme Court chief justice who built a Ten Commandments monument in the courthouse, said that repealing the ban on a right to education would effectively establish such a right. That, he asserted, would be bad. He said trial lawyers would use the deletion to file suit to get taxes raised for public schools and maybe interfere with home schools and Christian schools.

Conservatives, especially conservative Christians, often like to compare themselves to civil rights crusaders; and take umbrage if one criticizes the likes of Clarence Thomas or Condi Rice implying somehow "it's because they're conservative African Americans." (See the comments here, for a good example.)

No "conservative Christians," it's because, uh, your fellow travelers are racist.

Canada might be able to arrest Bush


In my opinion, if there's enough evidence, he should be brought to justice.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Let's not forget that Bush's nomineee for Sec. State

arguably lied under oath.

And arguably obstructed justice.

Why we're impoverishing ourselves


As T. E. Lawrence famously described it, fighting rebels is "like eating soup with a knife." Guerrillas do not depend on vulnerable lines of supply and communication, so counterinsurgents must target them directly, and even a few thousand armed guerrillas can create chaos in a country of tens of millions. Guerrillas camouflage themselves among the population; frequently the only way to distinguish an insurgent from a civilian is when he (or she) opens fire.

This is why the history of counterinsurgency warfare is a tale of failure. Since World War II, powerful armies have fought seven major counterinsurgency wars: France in Indochina from 1945 to 1954, the British in Malaya from 1948 to 1960, the French in Algeria in the 1950's, the United States in Vietnam, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, Israel in the occupied territories and Russia in Chechnya. Of these seven, four were outright failures, two grind on with little hope of success, and only one - the British effort in Malaya - was a clear success.

Many counterinsurgency theorists have tried to model operations on the British effort in Malaya, particularly the emphasis on winning hearts and minds of the local population through public improvements. They have not succeeded. Victory in Malaysia, it appears in retrospect, had less to do with British tactical innovations than with the weaknesses and isolation of the insurgents. The guerrillas were not ethnic Malays; they were recruited almost exclusively from an isolated group of Chinese refugees. The guerrillas never gained the support of a sizable share of the Malaysians. Nevertheless, it took the British 12 years to defeat them, and London ended up granting independence to the colony in the midst of the rebellion.

Paradoxically, it is only some weaker countries that have succeeded in suppressing rebellions, albeit by unleashing tremendous brutality against the civilian population. This is the approach that Guatemala adopted in the late 1970's and early 1980's to crush a growing communist insurgency in the countryside. Villages were wiped out in a campaign that killed about 200,000 people and made an equal number refugees. Hafez al-Assad of Syria succeeded with a similarly murderous approach when he crushed the Muslim Brotherhood rebellion in 1982, as did Saddam Hussein when he defeated the Shiite uprising in southern Iraq after the Persian Gulf war in 1991...The fact that we must consider them underscores the caution that should be employed before deciding to go to war. Still, given where we stand today, if the United States can find a way to withdraw most of its troops over the next several years and leave behind an Iraq that is not in a civil war, that is not a haven for Al Qaeda and is not an immediate threat to its neighbors, history may well record it as an odds-defying success.

I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

We're becoming a banana republic

Daily Kos pointed to this great book review in Salon that should give anyone who think's "We're number 1" some doubts:

As Jeremy Rifkin argues in his dense and contentious new research-driven tome "The European Dream," the United States remains ahead in per-capita GDP, but the difference is not as significant as it looks.

Much of American "productivity," Rifkin suggests, is accounted for by economic activity that might be better described as wasteful: military spending; the endlessly expanding police and prison bureaucracies; the spiraling cost of healthcare; suburban sprawl; the fast-food industry and its inevitable corollary, the weight-loss craze. Meaningful comparisons of living standards, he says, consistently favor the Europeans. In France, for instance, the work week is 35 hours and most employees take 10 to 12 weeks off every year, factors that clearly depress GDP. Yet it takes a John Locke heart of stone to say that France is worse off as a nation for all that time people spend in the countryside downing du vin rouge et du Camembert with friends and family ...

Whatever your intellectual and emotional responses may be to this burgeoning transatlantic conflict, it's difficult for any American to read Rifkin's book and not feel ashamed. The U.S. has fallen significantly behind the EU's Western European nations in infant mortality and life expectancy, despite spending more on healthcare per capita than any of them. (While 40 million Americans are uninsured, no one in Europe -- I repeat, not a single person -- lacks some form of healthcare coverage.)

European children are consistently better educated; the United States would rank ninth in the EU in reading, ninth in scientific literacy, and 13th in math. Twenty-two percent of American children grow up in poverty, which means that our country ranks 22nd out of the 23 industrialized nations, ahead of only Mexico and behind all 15 of the pre-2004 EU countries. What's more horrifying: the statistic itself or the fact that no American politician to the right of Dennis Kucinich would ever address it?

Perhaps more surprisingly, European business has not been strangled by the EU welfare state; in fact, quite the opposite is true. Europe has surpassed the United States in several high-tech and financial sectors, including wireless technology, grid computing and the insurance industry. The EU has a higher proportion of small businesses than the U.S., and their success rate is higher. American capitalists have begun to pay attention to all this. In Reid's book, Ford Motor Co. chairman Bill Ford explains that the company's Volvo subsidiary is more profitable than its U.S. manufacturing operation, even though wages and benefits are significantly higher in Sweden. Government-subsidized healthcare, child care, pensions and other social supports, Ford says, more than make up for the difference.

As anyone's who's travelled abroad knows, the US is quickly becoming a banana republic, becoming increasingly like Guatemala with an armed forces on steriods.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

How come all those "glitches" favor Republicans???


MONTESANO, Wash. -- Grays Harbor County will have to re-count all of its ballots because of a problem with a computer reporting system, The Daily World of Aberdeen reported Tuesday.

County Auditor Vern Spatz said the re-count will likely add to Democrat Christine Gregoire's total votes for governor.

Statewide, at last count, Gregoire was 158 votes ahead of Republican Dino Rossi, out of 2.8 million ballots cast. The deadline for counties to finish tallying ballots is Wednesday.

"We do not have to rescan them, we could just rerun the report, but we don't want to have anybody have any doubts about this election," Spatz said. "We're going to take the time and effort to rescan every ballot in our office and generate new totals. It takes away any question."

We went blue for Kerry, for Patty Murray, ...why would we not go blue for governor, especially when the Republican was an extreme conservative?

So if Tom DeLay goes to prison

does he still get to be House Majority leader?

Ah, what double standards these Republicans have.

Gwynne Dyer Gives the Awful Truth:


If there had been 300,000 U.S. troops in Iraq when the war ended, the orgy of looting, the collapse of public order and public services, and all the consequent crime and privation that alienated the Iraqi public might have been averted. The U.S. armed forces could have come up with that many soldiers for a year -- and if order had been maintained in Iraq and elections had been held there a year ago, it would all have been over by now. But on Rumsfeld's insistence, there were only 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Why did he insist on that? Because proving that he could successfully invade foreign countries on short notice with relatively small forces, and without demanding major sacrifices from the U.S. public, was key to making President Bush's new strategic doctrine of "preemptive war" credible. It was also essential to the neoconservatives' dream of a lasting "Pax Americana" (which could easily involve an Iraq-sized war every couple of years). So the generals were told to shut up and follow orders.

It's too late to fix Iraq by pumping more U.S. troop numbers in now. The resistance has grown so widespread that it would take half a million American soldiers to win at this game of Whack-a-Mole and install an Iraqi government that would last long enough for the United States to walk away from the country without humiliation. Such numbers simply aren't available without bringing back the draft, and even the present troop level in Iraq cannot be maintained for more than another year without drastic new measures.

That backdoor draft is getting kind of obvious, too:

The Army has encountered resistance from more than 2,000 former soldiers it has ordered back to military work, complicating its efforts to fill gaps in the regular troops.

Many of these former soldiers - some of whom say they have not trained, held a gun, worn a uniform or even gone for a jog in years - object to being sent to Iraq and Afghanistan now, after they thought they were through with life on active duty.

They are seeking exemptions, filing court cases or simply failing to report for duty, moves that will be watched closely by approximately 110,000 other members of the Individual Ready Reserve, a corps of soldiers who are no longer on active duty but still are eligible for call-up.

In the last few months, the Army has sent notices to more than 4,000 former soldiers informing them that they must return to active duty, but more than 1,800 of them have already requested exemptions or delays, many of which are still being considered.

And, of about 2,500 who were due to arrive on military bases for refresher training by Nov. 7, 733 had not shown up.

The Individual Ready Reserve is the "bottom of the barrel," and the stories about people being called up when they shouldn't be seems to me like the ultimate slap in the face.

It should be interesting to see at what point Bush starts to reinstate the draft.

Barbara Ehrenreich gives conservative Christians heartburn...

By nailing it:

Of course, Bush's faith-based social welfare strategy only accelerates the downward spiral toward theocracy. Not only do the right-leaning evangelical churches offer their own, shamelessly proselytizing social services; not only do they attack candidates who favor expanded public services--but they stand to gain public money by doing so. It is this dangerous positive feedback loop, and not any new spiritual or moral dimension of American life, that the Democrats have failed to comprehend: The evangelical church-based welfare system is being fed by the deliberate destruction of the secular welfare state.

In the aftermath of election '04, centrist Democrats should not be flirting with faith but re-examining their affinity for candidates too mumble-mouthed and compromised to articulate poverty and war as the urgent moral issues they are. Jesus is on our side here, and secular liberals should not be afraid to invoke him. Policies of pre-emptive war and the upward redistribution of wealth are inversions of the Judeo-Christian ethic, which is for the most part silent, or mysteriously cryptic, on gays and abortion. At the very least, we need a firm commitment to public forms of childcare, healthcare, housing and education--for people of all faiths and no faith at all. Secondly, progressives should perhaps rethink their own disdain for service-based outreach programs. Once it was the left that provided "alternative services" in the form of free clinics, women's health centers, food co-ops and inner-city multi-service storefronts. Enterprises like these are not substitutes for an adequate public welfare state, but they can become the springboards from which to demand one.

One last lesson from the Christians--the ancient, original ones, that is. Theirs is the story of how a steadfast and heroic moral minority undermined the world's greatest empire and eventually came to power. Faced with relentless and spectacular forms of repression, they kept on meeting over their potluck dinners (the origins of later communion rituals), proselytizing and bearing witness wherever they could. For the next four years and well beyond, liberals and progressives will need to emulate these original Christians, who stood against imperial Rome with their bodies, their hearts and their souls.

Joe Carter takes umbrage:

The only question that matters is what is the best way to centralize power in the hands of the government...Again we see how she exhibits a disregard for the human in favor of the state. She doesn’t call for progressives to provide more service-based outreach programs in order that even more people can be helped. She advocates the approach simply because it can be used to strengthen the welfare state.

No Mr. Carter- it's because your approach was tried before, and it didn't work. See, you guys are supposed to sell everything you have & give 'em to the poor. But you don't- in fact some of you revel in thinking that the poor will starve if they're "lazy."

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Prominent American Buddhists: Richard Baker

Today's post is probably not going to be what some readers would expect. Anyway, Richard Baker, the successor to Shunryu Suzuki, was involved in financial and sexual scandals at the San Francisco Zen Center in the 70's until after his departure in 1983.

Richard Baker is prominent because his tale is cautionary to all practioners of any religious or political or social path: be sure to kick the tires before you buy that shiny new path.

By the way, the link above is also interesting because it references Brian Victoria's Zen at War, which notes the fact that Haku'un Yasutani Roshi was quite an anti-semite back in WWII. It should be noted that the sect has formally apologized, and that Bernard Glassman is a Dharma heir, among others, of Yasutani. The apology is a good step, but again people need to be careful and do reality checks about any path in life they take.

Still not telling the truth on Iraq

Oddly enough, there's a story in the San Antonio Express-News "Military Now Faces Civilian Crisis" that doesn't appear on their website.

Or maybe not so odd.

Here is sort of the story picked up... sort of... it lacks the quote I wanted to note...but that quote, luckily enough, is here:

Asked whether Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other rebel leaders had left the city,[Marine Col Michael] Schupp said: "I don’t know if they left but they’re cowards."

The San Antonio Express-News attributes a similar quote to Col. Patrick Malay. Malay's version adds, "They probably disguised themselves in womens' clothes and slipped out."

Whoever said it, it's either lousy propaganda, or they can't say the truth because of problems from the Bush regime, or they're incompetent.

The situation with the insurgents was expected: this is right out of the Guerilla Warfare Playbook. Or, as Mao Zedong said,

When the enemy advances, we retreat.
When the enemy camps, we harass.
When the enemy retreats, we advance.
When the enemy flees we pursue.

Everybody who's read anything about Vietnam or China knows this. So why engage in all this "coward" stuff? They're not cowards- they're smart.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Attack on Christendom

was the published title of the last of Soren Kierkegaard's pamphlets attacking the established church in Denmark, and ridiculing the notion of a "Christian Nation" as being inherently oxymoronic.

With the "religious right" (I'll keep calling 'em that, as well as "conservative Chrstians despite what some "evangelicals" would like to say is P.C.) taking credit for the recent election (which has been shown false by the left and right, as I've noted earlier) Daily Kos has some very good posts from Christians on this phenomenon that should keep thinking people from falling into the cult-like aspects of these, uh, cults...and maybe, just maybe, using the blogosphere, can help people out of these, uh, cults...

soonergrunt's diary makes mincemeat of the basic theological aspects of these folks:

I have proudly called myself a Christian my entire life. I believe wholeheartedly in the saving grace of Christ's love and sacrifice. Where I part with so many of my neighbors is my belief that Christ commands us to clothe the poor, feed the hungry, welcome strangers, and visit the sick and incarcerated.
They are well aware of the fact that He suffered horribly for them. They cry at scenes from The Passion of the Christ, and they universally hold themselves responsible for every lash and wound He suffered, but they miss the greater point of his life and ministry. It's as if He appeared on the earth in the court with the Jews, and nothing that came before like the Sermon on the Mount, or Gethsemane is important. For them, the point is that He suffered for them personally, as if He was the ultimate concierge: "Do you need forgiveness? Don't worry, I'll handle it with your dry-cleaning."
Their pride at this constant state of siege and discrimination in which they see themselves allows them to hold themselves above others, particularly those whom they perceive to be less favored of God. If God loved those people, he would've made them rich. They are poor--proof of their lesser status in God's eye, and they would take our God-given wealth and property for evil. Those on the outs of society deserve to be so for they are evil or misled by Satan. What charity they do practice is almost exclusively sent outside the country. Clothing and blanket drives for refugees in Bosnia and Iraq, mainly Christians, to great fanfare are de rigueur, but it's the mainline Christian churches that maintain the food lockers here in God's Country while they keep adding wings, plasma displays, and LCD projectors to their temples. They conveniently forget that God commands us to give, and give, and give all that we can to the poor and less fortunate, and to do it quietly. He wished us to mind the planks in our own eyes before plucking the mote in our neighbors' eyes.

And if that's not enough for you, then LeftHandedMan's infiltration of the Tuesday Night Prayer Group should enlighten, enrage, and stimulate you...

So, here is the lay of the land in the part of the system I stuck my head into... (and I know that it looks terrifying on the surface, but look closer as I have and you will see that this system, like any institution, has exploitable and potentially devastating flaws beneath its surface that we can attack) ...accredited and unaccredited bible colleges certify hundreds of new pastors annually, and new independent evangelical churches are started up like fast food restaurants in store fronts and trailers all over the country. They are independent, expandable, pay no taxes, and can be broken down and started again and again until they are viable because their creators willingness to fleece the flock and liberally use bankruptcy laws they condemn politically as conservatives. They mandate that you have to give them a portion of your money. Unless you are destitute, or have skin thicker than rhino-hide, if you don't pay you don't stay. They answer to no one unless they choose to, as the leadership of these individual churches are the `owners' of these churches, but they benefit, and are willing to pay for, affiliations with larger umbrella organizations that give them legitimacy and aid in their ability to grow and raise money. They are their own marketplaces for the buying and selling of products specifically targeted to increase their ability to buy and sell their products and influence legislation. They most successful of them use peer pressure and shaming to control the flock and are ever expanding.

It is clear that the religious right will over-reach, and that they don't have a clue about what kind of organizations are already flourishing on the progressive side.

Every Day is a Good Day

The violence continues in Falluja.

Arafat's death leaves things a bit unstable in the middle east.

Looks like everybody's got pension problems.

Every day is a good day.

We can change the world a little bit today.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Reclaiming Morality from the Conservatives...

It is heartening to hear that progressive religious people are starting to speak louder about how "morality" has been hijacked by a few folks whose morality, frankly, leaves much to be desired.

Today's Guardian (don't have a link yet, can't really reach the site at the moment) in their "Comment" section has 2 good articles on the subject.

They note that in the UK, they, too, used to think their empire was "God given," and they have lived through the results, which explains why so few people hold that view today.

Today's Daily Kos raises the issue, too, in the context of the racist, anti-semitic, anti-non-Christian Bob Jones.

I believe the most important thing that people of faith need to challenge the religious right on is their fundamental dishonesty.

It is dishonest to accuse someone of being "intolerant" because they speak out against intolerance, bigotry, and hate. "Intolerance" is the word we use because the results of the actions advocated by the religious right are harmful, and therefore immoral. And it is a lie to say that one is "intolerant" for pointing that out.

It is dishonest to say that our country was founded by evangelical Christians. It wasn't. It was founded by Deists who benefitted from the slave trade, land theft, and murder. Those fundamentalist Christians who did come here to escape religious persecution wound up engaging in the worst kinds of witch hunts, and exercised deep prejudice against Catholics and Jews.

We need to challenge those on the religious right to refrain from slandering other people on the basis of religious or political beliefs, and to refrain from attempting to get special rights for themselves.

We need a level playing field in America, where people don't care what religious beliefs one has, as long as the mettle of their character is strong.

Above all, we need to continue to bear witness to the ongoing abuses by the religious right, and call on them to rather than sinking into sanctimony, to actually practice what they preach, and to be aware of all that their religious tradition entails. IOW, it's about truly loving and caring for the other, not hating them.

More on Practice...

In a world where ideology blinds people to the real acts of malfeasance around us, it is ideology itself that must be countered.

The results of that ideology are clear; as Nakagawa Soen is reputed to have said, news headlines can be read as sacred texts if viewed from the proper perspective.

Today, reading the news, I find today's news stories have much to do with what can only be described as kleptomania by the few against the many:

If you're a veteran, you're screwed economically.

For a long time, it was believed that veterans of popular wars benefited from their service when they rejoined the civilian labor market, while veterans of unpopular wars lost out. A growing body of research, however, shows that most veterans - whether inductees during a draft or enlistees in the voluntary forces - suffer an earnings penalty in the civilian economy. Military experience appears to be worth little to most private-sector employers.

The exceptions are if you're a minority veteran, but the reasons for that should be, uh obvious.

And then there's Bush's Social Security Scam.

These present the obvious problems to work on: How do we respond?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

More trouble for the "values voters did it" crowd

While I normally disagree with much of what Mossback has to say, he may be on to something here, and if true, represents a message issue for the Democrats, and a potential big, big disappointment for the religious right. (Update: Donkey rising reports a similar non-trend among "moral values" voters. It appears that this is another one of those "Cassie Bernall said 'yes'" moments we've come to expect from religious conservatives. )

Another aspect of this is reported in today's Washington Post- it seems that the Religious Left is finally beginning to wake up a bit more (other than of course the pretty much discredited Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton crowd):

Battling the notion that "values voters" swept President Bush to victory because of opposition to gay marriage and abortion, three liberal groups released a post-election poll in which 33 percent of voters said the nation's most urgent moral problem was "greed and materialism" and 31 percent said it was "poverty and economic justice." Sixteen percent cited abortion, and 12 percent named same-sex marriage...

"The values that were promoted most within the conservative religious community were almost always tied to a fear factor, and that was not necessarily the case in the Democratic strategy, and I would say should not be the case," said the Rev. Welton Gaddy, head of the Interfaith Alliance.

The nationwide telephone poll of 10,689 voters was conducted by Zogby International for the Catholic peace group Pax Christi, the New York-based civic advocacy group Res Publica and the Washington-based Center for American Progress, a think tank allied with Democrats. It had a margin of error of plus or minus one percentage point.

The poll found that 42 percent of voters cited the war in Iraq as the "moral issue" that most influenced their choice of candidates, while 13 percent cited abortion and 9 percent same-sex marriage. Asked to name the greatest threat to marriage, 31 percent said "infidelity," 25 percent cited "rising financial burdens" and 22 percent named same-sex marriage.

I am not a Christian, but I do think it's well past the time for the religious moderates and progressives to reclaim the title away from the conservatives. In particular, all Christians should dissociate themselves from the likes of James Dobson, who is laboring under the delusion that anyone who doesn't agree with his political views is a "God's people hater."

It is statements like this that make the religious right appear to be wallowing in a moral sewer.


In discussions I have with people on the subject of worldviews, it often comes down to "what's yours?" or "what are your beliefs?" to which the answer to the latter question is generally "very few."

The reason this is true is because more of an emphasis is put on practice than "having the correct beliefs" which I'll call the "believe X" approach for short. We do not want to act as though something were true if it might be true or might not be true- we want to act well based on what we truly have awareness. Moreover there's another possibility associated with the "believe X" approach: the potential to carry out diabolical acts based on not being aware of the consequences.

Take for example, abortion. To claim that a zygote has the same status as a born human is to basically deny the reality of zygotes (2/3 of which never make it to implantation on a uterine wall no matter what) nor born humans (who have tangible needs for food, clothing, shelter, companionship, learning, etc.) They are not, by any stretch of the imagination, the same. To make this equivalence one must have an idea of a human being that closes off the reality of what born humans are, and so allows for very real violence to be done to people. Thus the absolutist "pro life" position is really quite unethical, and it is no wonder that the most ardent advocates for "pro life" are very often the very people who have no qualms about gutting social programs and replacing them with "charities" that have failed so miserably historically.

Practice is very important then to be able not only to discern the very real differences that exist in life, as well as the sameness, but also how the difference and sameness interact with each other, and to basically help based on this perception. Taking the above example of absurdly radical pro-lifers, sooner or later someone is going to figure out how to encapsulate this into an easily understood message that resonates with the heartland, because as Kos notes nobody wants your pharmacist to be your moral arbiter.

No rhetorical gimmickry's involved ("you can't tolerate my intolernce?") just hard work.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Atrios and the "stolen election"


I can't disagree with him. We need to answer the legitimate questions. My personal preference, now is to be open minded, but not surprised if it is shown that yes, indeed this recent election was so tarred by Republican fraud and suppression that Bush is illegitimate (after all, we're dealing with an administration that has been repeatedly dishonest, and whose first "term" in office is the very model of "questionable legitimacy," and, to my way of thinking, "moral turpitude.")

Brooks still pushing the "2 countries" narrative..


Look David: I know who James Dobson, and Rick Warren are. I've thumbed through their books and heard them.

What I don't think you've become aware of is how atomized exurbia has gotten. This atomization (a term applied, more or less aptly enough for my purposes, to the nature of the Soviet Society during the Great Terror) and virtual anonymity, and lack of a cultural center help explain why a) these people turn to authoritarian modes of religious expression, and b) they went for Bush. Rove and Bush understand this "culture," because it segues well with authoritarianism.

But neither the atomization of exurbia nor its conservative drift is natural, inevitable, nor permanent by any stretch of the imagination.

There's a big threat to the existence of exurbia: it's called petroleum depletion, and no administration that drills in the Arctic is going to do a thing about it.

However, what's not on Brooks radar is the creative ways in which the other side, the blue living in the red, is already providing a center in the atomized exurbs.

Watch this space for examples...

Monday, November 08, 2004

Say buh-bye to the Monroe Doctrine...


Argentine Foreign Affairs Secretary Rafael Bielsa confirmed this Sunday significant Chinese investments in energy, railways and infrastructure, as well as South Korean financial support, the first credit since Argentina defaulted at the end of 2001.

In an interview with a Buenos Aires radio Mr. Bielsa said that since President Kirchner’s visit last June to China with a delegation of 200 businessmen, Beijing and Buenos Aires have been working “in several bilateral agreements related to energy, railways and basic integration infrastructure”.

Yes, folks, America just doesn't have the prestige we used to have before George W. Bush.

I can't disagree that worldviews have consequences...


"This is a big green light to sell the dollar," said David Bloom, currency analyst at HSBC, as the greenback fell to a nine-year low in trade-weighted terms...

However, the market has been rife with rumours that the latest wave of selling has been led by foreign governments seeking to cut their exposure to US assets.

India and Russia have reportedly been selling US assets, as well as petrodollar-rich Middle Eastern investors.

China, which has $515bn of reserves, was also said to be selling dollars and buying Asian currencies in readiness to switch the renminbi's dollar peg to a basket arrangement, something Chinese officials have increasingly hinted at. Any re-allocation could push the dollar sharply lower and Treasury yields markedly higher.

Ah, to be on the winning side of a hedge. Unfortunately, many Americans are going to see their wealth deteriorate further, and while I would have lost money had Bush not kept the presidency, I will at least take comfort in knowing my IRA's and 401(k) plans are going like gangbusters.

Looks like this "election" was not legit either...

Evidence continues to mount that the vote was hacked in favor of Republicans. This should surprise no one, since the Republican Party is the party of Plamegate, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and so forth, and when it comes to actions that tear at the heart of legitimate government to the point of sedition, the Dems can't hold a candle to the Republican Party.

I don't think that there is anything that is out-and-out there yet, but given past behavior, and given the statistical anomalies, nobody but the most rabid Bush supporters at this point can deny there is enough "probable cause" for an investigation. (Or, "It's Occam's Razor, Stupid.")

With Keith Olberman getting on the story, this may be Bush's Watergate. Assuming the leopard doesn't change his spots, this could basically be the start of the end of the Republican Party, since at some point, ordinary people just won't take this crap anymore.

Between the stuff Olberman's reporting and the problems Thom Hartman's mentioned, it does appear that Florida and Ohio's results need to be revisited.

One other point to some die-hard folks on DU: Walk and chew gum at the same time. Yeah, the evidence points to a hacked vote. But yeah, also expand the base. Until the Republican party repudiates its anti-American, anti-liberty, anti-middle class, anti-non-Christian agenda, thoughtful, responsible people should be dedicated to the using all available legal means to marginalize the Republican party, if not eliminate it as a meaningful political force in American life. Part of that is uniting the American people.


Bluelemur has some interesting articles on this here, and here.

I agree that it is "imprudent to draw conclusions," and that

...there are four possible causes of the “Bush gains.” (1) Significantly greater lying or refusal to speak to pollsters in Bush voters versus Kerry voters; (2) Consistent/systematic errors in weighting demographic groups; (3) A surge of Bush voters after 4 p.m., in all states; (4) Systematic tampering/hacking of reported vote totals, in Bush’s favor.

We simply don't know which alternative is true, and without an open process we won't know which alternative is true.

Oh, and we have a "no trolls" policy on this blog. Keep your remarks polite, respectful and relevant, and you can opine away. Trolls' remarks will be deleted.

Further Update

Keith Olberman's on the story on MSNBC.

This could get interesting.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Prominent American Buddhists, Part II

Most Americans have never heard of Bernie Glassman, but in some ways he is perhaps the biggest threat to the ideology of the religious right to come along...

While working as an aeronautical engineer in the mid 1960s, Bernie became very interested in the practice of Zen. In 1967, he began his Zen studies with Taizan Maezumi Roshi, founder of the Zen Center of Los Angeles, as well as with some other well-known Japanese Zen masters.

An avid student with an intense passion for his calling, Bernie was ordained as a Soto Zen priest in 1970 and soon became the chief administrator at the Zen Center of Los Angeles where he had not long before been a student. At the request of his teacher Taizen Maezumi Roshi, he began to teach. In 1976, he became Sensei Glassman--Maezumi Roshi's first Dharma successor.

He returned to the Bronx in 1980 to work on establishing a Zen community there: the Zen Community of New York in Riverdale.

Yet he found controversy there because of his interest in Zen as business and Zen as social action. Bernie believed in teaching about work, action and business as being Zen practice rather than on just sitting meditation or “zazen.” He felt that “you get attached to the form [zazen Zen practice] and that becomes a substitute for life.” In other words, Bernie believed it was important to bring Zen into everyday life, and to practice a moving, acting meditation, rather than one simply focusing on sitting meditation.

To support his hatchling community, he started the Greyston Bakery, which over time became a multi-million dollar industry. He was not so much concerned with the potential profit, but with issues of social action along with the integration of Zen practice within daily life. By founding the Greyston Mandala, a network of successful socio-economic community development organizations enlightened by Buddhist values, Bernie was able to both bring vast employment to the area. He was also able to bring social causes into a typically money-driven economic world.

Glassman has been very successful at blurring the distinctions of "left" and "right" and "government sector" versus "private sector," and showed that socially responsible endeavors can be highly profitable. What he's been doing is working, in all senses of the word, and his work is a very useful paradigm for what we have to do in the United States.

As with all people there's points of difference, but if you haven't heard of Bernie Glassman (who, as I last recall, hadn't gotten a red cent from the much touted Bush "faith based" initiatives), you haven't begun to see the potential of what Americans can do.

He's also an alumnus of may alma mater, by the way.

The Conservative Christian is not the enemy

This post on Daily Kos should be required reading for all moderates and progressives.

Is Taiwan going to be a casualty of the"War on Terror?"

I posted this on Daily Kos, but it bears recording here as well.

Almost completely under the radar last week was Colin Powell's trip to China. Here is one local (Portland OR) opinion column on the subject.
Although it was reported in the press with the standard pablum "And nothing will get done before the election..." this trip is potentially a seismic shift in US policy and a huge ticking time bomb for Republican hopes in 2008.

What is interesting about Powell's trip, as the linked article points out, is that Powell said, "There is only one China. Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation, and that remains our policy, our firm policy."

This ostensibly is a quid pro quo for getting China's help restraining North Korea's weapons program, and should be "Exhibit 1" as evidence that Bush's policies have made the US a weaker power. Previous statements on Taiwan were ambiguous as to the status of "which" China was the "one" China, and were ambiguous about whether Taiwanese "sovereignty" was also ambiguously defined as an issue to be worked out between the Taiwanese and the mainland.

Now, in China, I'm told the big, big worry is that Taiwan might declare independence in 2008, corresponding to the time that the Olympics are to be held in China. If this happens, (and Taiwan, like Israel has been shown to be a very independent "ally" of ours) China will have a dilemma: whether to retake the island by force when the spotlight is on it, or whether to let Taiwan go independent.

If Taiwan were to do this, and if China acted as it has always promised it would - to try to retake the island, then this would be a major blow to the US, and to the Republican party, as the US would be essentially helpless to do anything.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Prominent American Buddhists...part 1....

Robert Thurman...he is currently holds the first endowed chair in Tibetan Buddhism in the United States; he is the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University, and father to Uma.

Did I quiet someone down?

I had, prior to this eleciton, been thinking that it's time to re-engage conservatives (with whom one could have a polite cyberconversation- i.e., no trolls) to attempt to get over some of the divisions we have in this country...

Anyhow, in my cyber-travels, I came across this:

Rachel, one of the members of the group, turned to me and asked me the right question "So how are we supposed to live out a Christian worldview?" Great question. What does that look like on Monday morning?

This question is why I want to teach about worldviews. There are many excellent worldview courses out there. The topic is hot these days. All of the courses I have seen are strong on philosophy, strong on apologetics, but somewhat weak on application. The great need in worldview teaching is helping folks connect the dots on how to think and live with an integrated worldview.

Now as any Buddhist or existentialist will tell you, there's a good reason for that, because the world of ideas and the world of practice are not the same.

Anyway, I kind of intimated that in a few places (politely, I believe), and haven't really gotten a response. It wasn't really my intention to quiet folks down, and maybe the guy who wrote that is busy.

But I am waiting to see what the answer would be.

No Nick, you got it wrong...

It's hard to believe that in today's Times op-ed seciton (an excellent example of why we who are moderate and left of center pin a "right of center" label on the Times) I find more to agree with in David Brooks' column than Kristof's.

Let's go to Brooks first:

Every election year, we in the commentariat come up with a story line to explain the result, and the story line has to have two features. First, it has to be completely wrong. Second, it has to reassure liberals that they are morally superior to the people who just defeated them.

Now with the exception of the last phrase which is quite offensive (can you imagine the howls if we painted religious conservatives that way?), Brooks is actually right here: the media has these set narratives for any contingency (as Kristof's mediocre piece below shows). If the Dems had won, there's be a parallel story line for Repubs.

It's true that Bush did get a few more evangelicals to vote Republican, but Kohut, whose final poll nailed the election result dead-on, reminds us that public opinion on gay issues over all has been moving leftward over the years. Majorities oppose gay marriage, but in the exit polls Tuesday, 25 percent of the voters supported gay marriage and 35 percent of voters supported civil unions. There is a big middle on gay rights issues, as there is on most social issues.

Much of the misinterpretation of this election derives from a poorly worded question in the exit polls. When asked about the issue that most influenced their vote, voters were given the option of saying "moral values." But that phrase can mean anything - or nothing. Who doesn't vote on moral values? If you ask an inept question, you get a misleading result.

True again. Now the only thing I really have to quibble about Brooks' article is that in my opinion, the jury is actually out on whether the election was stolen or not. If, as is has been reported, that the deviation of exit polls from "reported" results is substantially greater (i.e., consistently outside the confidence interval) in at least some states where electronic voting was used, this does indeed seem to be the very textbook definition of "probable cause" to investigate whether the election was stolen. Now I would have to go through the numbers myself, but if this happened even in one state, this would be probable cause, IMO. But, much, much more information is needed, IMO.

Now on to Kristof: I am awestruck by the mediocrity of this article.

Let me just say this: No dummy. The Repubs and Communists actually wrote the playbook here: It is possible to get the heartland to support people who don't suport them by getting the heartland to believe otherwise.

There is, for example, not a shred of evidence (Tom Daschle is the perfect example!) that "compromising" with Republicans gets any kinds of votes at all.

As I've been saying, you've got to change the narrative on the ground in the heartland. That's where the opportunity is.

Friday, November 05, 2004

"Moral Absolutes," "Worldviews," and Why the "Values" Folks Have it Wrong

From a guy who's been there, done that:

"Malunkyaputta, it's not the case that when there is the view, 'The cosmos is eternal,' there is the living of the holy life. And it's not the case that when there is the view, 'The cosmos is not eternal,' there is the living of the holy life. When there is the view, 'The cosmos is eternal,' and when there is the view, 'The cosmos is not eternal,' there is still the birth, there is the aging, there is the death, there is the sorrow, lamentation, pain, despair, & distress whose destruction I make known right in the here & now.

"It's not the case that when there is the view, 'The cosmos is finite,' there is the living of the holy life. And it's not the case that when there is the view, 'The cosmos is infinite,' there is the living of the holy life. When there is the view, 'The cosmos is finite,' and when there is the view, 'The cosmos is infinite,' there is still the birth, there is the aging, there is the death, there is the sorrow, lamentation, pain, despair, & distress whose destruction I make known right in the here & now.

"It's not the case that when there is the view, 'The soul & the body are the same,' there is the living of the holy life. And it's not the case that when there is the view, 'The soul is one thing and the body another,' there is the living of the holy life. When there is the view, 'The soul & the body are the same,' and when there is the view, 'The soul is one thing and the body another,' there is still the birth, there is the aging, there is the death, there is the sorrow, lamentation, pain, despair, & distress whose destruction I make known right in the here & now. ...

So, Malunkyaputta, remember what is undeclared by me as undeclared, and what is declared by me as declared. And what is undeclared by me? 'The cosmos is eternal,' is undeclared by me. 'The cosmos is not eternal,' is undeclared by me. 'The cosmos is finite'... 'The cosmos is infinite'... 'The soul & the body are the same'... 'The soul is one thing and the body another'... 'After death a Tathagata exists'... 'After death a Tathagata does not exist'... 'After death a Tathagata both exists & does not exist'... 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist,' is undeclared by me.

"And why are they undeclared by me? Because they are not connected with the goal, are not fundamental to the holy life. They do not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, Unbinding. That's why they are undeclared by me.

"And what is declared by me? 'This is stress,' is declared by me. 'This is the origination of stress,' is declared by me. 'This is the cessation of stress,' is declared by me. 'This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress,' is declared by me. And why are they declared by me? Because they are connected with the goal, are fundamental to the holy life. They lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, Unbinding. That's why they are declared by me.

Well, it's starting to hit the fan...

As Atrios notes, here goes the value of the dollar...

I am reminded of a statement in Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosphy, where Russell expressed amazement that at the time the Roman Empire was collapsing, the most powerful people were engaged in religious intolerance and bigotry, and petty theological disputes.

Well, I bought more shares of foreign bond mutual funds. Somebody's got to be there to pick up the pieces...

Speaking of empires collapsing, I'm also reminded of this quote from Salon/The Guardian:

The paradox may be beyond Bush, but the best way he could make progress in his war on terror would be by winning peace in the Middle East. When Osama bin Laden launched his attack on the Twin Towers he intended it as a demonstration of his malign belief that the only relationship acceptable between the West and Islam was one of violent confrontation. As George Soros has argued, the Bush administration walked into a trap by responding in a way that accepted the terms of the relationship set down by its enemy.

(Emphasis mine.)

Soros is right, and neither should folks on the left accept the terms of the relationship set down by the right.

I won't.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Meanwhile, on "Explosives Gate"


In the weeks after the fall of Baghdad, Iraqi looters loaded powerful explosives into pickup trucks and drove the material away from the Al Qaqaa ammunition site, according to a group of U.S. Army reservists and National Guardsmen who said they witnessed the looting.

The soldiers said about a dozen U.S. troops guarding the sprawling facility could not prevent the theft because they were outnumbered by looters. Soldiers with one unit — the 317th Support Center based in Wiesbaden, Germany — said they sent a message to commanders in Baghdad requesting help to secure the site but received no reply.

The witnesses' accounts of the looting, the first provided by U.S. soldiers, support claims that the American military failed to safeguard the munitions. Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency — the U.N. nuclear watchdog — and the interim Iraqi government reported that about 380 tons of high-grade explosives had been taken from the Al Qaqaa facility after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003. The explosives are powerful enough to detonate a nuclear weapon.

During the last week, when revelations of the missing explosives became an issue in the presidential campaign, the Bush administration suggested that the munitions could have been carted off by Saddam Hussein's forces before the war began. Pentagon officials later said that U.S. troops systematically destroyed hundreds of tons of explosives at Al Qaqaa after Baghdad fell...

The soldiers, who belong to two different units, described how Iraqis plundered explosives from unsecured bunkers before driving off in Toyota trucks.

The U.S. troops said there was little they could do to prevent looting of the ammunition site, 30 miles south of Baghdad.

"We were running from one side of the compound to the other side, trying to kick people out," said one senior noncommissioned officer who was at the site in late April 2003.

"On our last day there, there were at least 100 vehicles waiting at the site for us to leave" so looters could come in and take munitions.

"It was complete chaos. It was looting like L.A. during the Rodney King riots," another officer said...

The soldiers interviewed by The Times could not confirm that powerful explosives known as HMX and RDX were among the munitions looted.

One soldier said U.S. forces watched the looters' trucks loaded with bags marked "hexamine" — a key ingredient for HMX — being driven away from the facility. Unsure what hexamine was, the troops later did an Internet search and learned of its explosive power.

"We found out this was stuff you don't smoke around," the soldier said.

Let me be the first to request George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld to resign. And, yeah, let De Lay take Bush's place- he'll only get impeached.

An "Engaged Buddhist" Approach to the Ascendancy of the Right

I have been continuing to think about the election, and its aftermath, and what needs to be done to address the real threats posed by the ascendancy of the right in this country.

These threats are real - they are threats to religious freedom and freedom of conscience in general, as well as threats to the saftey, well-being, and prosperity of the people and the commonweal. Here is a good example of what we're facing.

The approach?

We cannot just say, "This is what we're facing!" "Those bad people!" "Those uncaring 'Christians'!" We need to make sure a) people like that woman get something of value from us, that b) she can stand on her own two feet as a result of tangible policies that are due to us, and that c) people in crisis situations, like hers, are taken care of much better than is being done through her "faith based" charity handouots. (That has always been the problem with "faith based" charity handouts, and is why we had the government assume a role in it in the first place!) So, my question to those on Kos is, "Why not do something for her?"

But I digress slightly.

Why is that an engaged Buddhist approach?

Because - if done right- it's done with no strings attached, save for those that would be expected in brushing up that woman's "life skills." It would be done without thought of religion or ideology - it would just be done.

A Buddhist approach would be "non-partisan," in the sense that no "loyalty oaths" would be required, nor Buddhist (nor progressive) indoctrination. It would however, use techniques borrowed elsewhere to be self-propagating.

Now, some folks who may have wandered in from other blogs might ask, "What's this got to do with the Buddhist worldview?"

Good question. To alleviate suffering, it's useful to cultivate wisdom, compassion, and generoisty in a concrete way. By reaching out and helping people who need it- especially if they are conservatives- we indeed help cultivate such wisdom, compassion and generosity. We will, if these steps are taken, address the ascendancy of the right, and its attendant problems of war, intolerance, hatred, greed, and so forth. But these steps will take time.

Any questions?

No thank you, Al From...


It's time these DLC guys were put out to pasture. We do not need to ape Republican ideas, rather, we need to surpass them on an organizational basis.

We can do this quite easily, because our positions are in fact, morally superior to Republicans, and is really, at this point, a question of "moving in" strong people into the churches, schools, and society to re-take the culture back from conservatives.

The Al From's of the world want to do it the easy way, but that will screw Americans.

Look to how "Evangelism Explosion" works. Look to how Mao seized power in China, gaining the support of the peasants. These are the paradigms that are needed to take back America.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Well, what's next?

Can we afford four more years of Bush?

Most Americans can't even though it looks like most of those who voted did support him. Many of the worst things the Democrats have pointed out will come to pass. Bank on it.

But I'm not going to engage in the sort of histrionics that righties and lefties are engaging in for a variety of reasons:

1. I am personally well positioned for another 4 years of what's gone on before. If my worst predictions for America in the years ahead come true, I, personally, and my family will do extremely well. That is because I try to position my life to take advantage of circumstances.

2. There is clearly a disease affecting the American body politic, and it will take some time for it to run its course. Somebody's got to be ready to pick up the pieces when this disease gets to its critical point. It may be that when the social issues run their course, as they inevitably do (think Prohibition) that people will finally see the connection between their lives and who they choose to tweak the levers of power.

3. People who set up things like Air America, Media Matters, etc. are not going to go away. New paradigms for progress will be created as Bush continues on his way. We can be fairly certain that Bush and his allies will not learn from their mistakes- victory is a lousy teacher.

4. As I write this, it still seems that some states with enough EV's are still too close to call. You never know.

5. Ultimately there are things that are more important than George W. Bush and the Congress. People have thrived under equally if not more brutal regimes, and not simply materially. I think that it is important to go beyond what Nicholas Kristof says in today's Times:

To appeal to middle America, Democratic leaders don't need to carry guns to church services and shoot grizzlies on the way. But a starting point would be to shed their inhibitions about talking about faith, and to work more with religious groups.

Better yet, it's essential for Democrats and progressives to be really better at providing what is needed to those who need- even now. I am reminded of something Thomas Merton wrote about Communists: If Christians had the attitude toward the poor that Communists have, Communism wouldn't be an issue. So it is with fundamentalist Christians: If progressives want to regain the heartland, they actually have to help that heartland in their immediate needs. It will take far more than the newly emerging media campaign (though that's needed, and there are fits and starts in the direction of tangible help from groups like ACORN) but it will take time, and work.

6. At any rate, it's important to understand the nature of pain, and why there's no percentage about whining about it that much. Bonnie Myotai Treace has a good viewpoint on this:

...I was in the midst of a book by a Harvard medical researcher, which summarizes much of what’s current in brain-body work. He’s studying how the mental state affects the physical, and vice versa, and I was using his findings to help visualize how dopamine is released from the brain’s frontal cortex — and how the goal- and reward-seeking circuits and neurotransmitters function.

But what really drove the book, and touched me, was the researcher’s personal experience. He had injured his back very severely about 20 years earlier and been told that, basically, this was it. It wasn’t going to get better, although it might get worse. Finally he consulted with a physician who spoke bluntly — and oddly. As they looked at pictures showing where the scar tissue was pressing directly on his patient’s nerves, the doctor said, “You’re feeding the volcano god of pain.”

The researcher said, “What?” The doctor explained, “Every time the volcano god of pain appears, you appease it by saying, ‘I won’t walk a mile if I can just have relief from the pain.’ And so you offer it your ability to walk for a mile. But the volcano god of pain is insatiable. You make that offering and it needs more, and so you say to it, ‘I won’t lift my young child in my arms if you’ll just not make me have the pain.’ And for a moment, it’s a happy world, but then the god needs more. You’ll go on continuing to offer more and more of your life to this volcano god.”

So, what’s the plan? Within a skillful, careful, therapeutic setting, what the researcher was asked to do was recognize that the messages of pain that he was receiving were largely — not wholly, but largely — habituated. There was a distance he could go to recondition his muscles, to gain back function, but it would be very, very difficult and very, very subtle — and very, very demanding. To begin with, he’d have to change his fundamental relationship to this “volcano god of pain.” And as he did that, he also began to find his real work: studying the nature of pain itself, and the ways in which patients and physicians might deepen the experience of exploring it together...

My sense is that most people are silently convinced that there is no relationship available with these gods of pain and fear and anger except appeasement. The gods are insatiable, and we’re somehow content with an underlying despair. Aggressive people feed their gods with compulsive activity — fixing themselves, fixing things — the “make-over” shows are endless and heart-breaking. More passive people feed the gods small compromises of character, becoming progressively less generous in any real way. But in our culture, to my eye, there seem to be very few who are genuinely realizing a freedom that’s not dependent on feeling good. We really need to take this up together, and deeply...

The presence of hope has the disadvantage of potentially displacing focus from the present onto an imagined future. If we live in hope, we could be living a dream: we can’t hang onto that. But hanging onto hopelessness isn’t clarity, either. Science has tracked how the absence of hope that pain will be relieved diminishes the brain’s capacity to release endorphins, which in turn worsens the experience of the pain. As you get more messages of pain, the sense of hope decreases, and the pain increases in response. So it just becomes an endless loop.

How to break that loop, then, becomes the really interesting koan — the place of leaning in, of really seeing. When the state of mind and body called for is neither hope nor hopelessness, what is it? I wonder, in a sense, if this isn’t where all practice leans in. Aren’t we just describing Bodhi mind, the mind of awakening — of breaking free of the loop when, essentially, the loop is exactly what we are?

So things are going to be OK. Painful no doubt, but OK.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Saw Springsteen on C-SPAN

It was amazing and touching- Bruce Springsteen was better articulating the hopes and dreams of millions of Americans far, far better than any Republican has been able to do.

Bush and his cronies and their apologists stole the last election as 45% of us understand. Bush has never, actually acted like a legitimate leader- always trying to basically grab and grab and grab. Well, now it's time to slap his hand, and take back what he's taken from us: our prosperity, our sense of security, our hope, and our dreams for our children.

It's time to throw that son of a bitch out on his ass, put some real people in charge, and figure out what crimes they've committed amd mete out justice to them.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Score one for the good guys...


United States District Judge Susan J. Dlott in Cincinnati, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, found that the application of Ohio's statute allowing challengers at polling places was unconstitutional and that allowing any challengers other than election judges and other electors into the polling place would place "an undue burden upon voters" and impede their right to vote.

In a similar case, United States District Judge John R. Adams of Akron, who was appointed by the current President Bush, said poll workers should be the ones who determine if voters are eligible.

The rulings apply to all Ohio's 88 counties, a spokesman for Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, Carlo LoParo, told The Associated Press. Republicans promptly filed an appealed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which includes all of Ohio.

With the rulings, the two district-level judges made clear that they did not want partisan ballot challengers inside polling places, and that they believed that the disruption that such challenges would create outweighed any potential voting fraud, which Republicans have cited as the reason for the challengers...

Before the two contenders left on the last stages of their campaign, Judge Adams said in his finding: "In light of these extraordinary circumstances, the contentious nature of the imminent election, the court cannot and must not turn a blind eye to the substantial likelihood that significant harm will result not only to voters, but also to the voting process itself, if appointed challengers are permitted at the polls.''

Note how freeperbloggers report this. Funny how they neglect to mention that a Bush appointee made a similar ruling. Well, as their god Reagan said, "Facts are stupid things."

Final Election Poll Results before the real election...

From electoral-vote.com:

Kerry 298 Bush 231

(based on polls)

Votemaster's final projection is currently unavailable, but has suggested a larger Kerry win.

From DC Political Report:

Kerry 261
Bush 205
Too close to call, leaning Kerry 41
Too close to call, leaning Bush 26
Too close to call, tied 5

Kerry's got the mojo. Some freepers are going to be mighty upset on Wednesday.

Death Poems for the Bush Administration

With apologies to the samurai... ( From here and here.)

Like a rotten log
half buried in the ground -
Bush's administration, which
has not flowered, comes
to this sad end. ...

Bitter winds of winter --

but later, river willow,

open up your buds

Empty-handed Bush entered the White House

Barefoot he leaves it.

His coming, his going --

Two simple happenings

That got entangled.

Like dew drops

on a lotus leaf

Bush vanishes.

Less than 36 hours until freedom and democracy again return to the United States via regime change.