Thursday, March 31, 2005

Religion and Science....

Joe Carter's site often provides grist for the mill, and today is one of those times when Carter deserves a response not just from a Buddhist perspective, but from a scientific/engineering perspective.

Claiming that there is a “gap” between science and religion, for instance, is generally a sign that a person knows nothing about either science or religion. That appears to be the case with Pinkerton. He correctly notes that Christianity is based on revealed metaphysical truths. What he fails to recognize is that science is also based on revealed metaphysical truths.

Take, for instance, one of the most basic foundational assumptions necessary for scientific inquiry: the universe exists. That statement is revealed (we know it is true because it is revealed to us by our senses), metaphysical (based on an ontological assumption about existence) and true (if it weren’t true then science would be futile). In fact, as anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the history of science knows, religion provided the foundation for scientific knowledge to take root and flourish.

But this is merely picking the straw from his strawman. The clash of worldviews is not between “scientific” and “religious” worldviews but between a selectively applied utilitarianism and other non-utilitarian moral theories. A purely “scientific” worldview would, of course, be neutral on the Schiavo case since science makes no claims about what is and is not moral. Even if it were used to inform ethics, however, the scientific facts are rather clear. Schiavo is a living being who can continue to live with the use of medical technology. There is no “scientific” justification for removing her feeding tube.

Carter's viewpoint is wobbly creaky all around it seems:

  • Sciences' basis in "metaphysical" truths is, from the standpoint of science, largely irrelevant. Science is phenomenological: it deals with phenomena - observed things. There is perhaps the "metaphysics" in assuming "science works," i.e., that a repeated observation/experiment will yield consistent results when there are no unaccounted for variables, causes, etc., but other than making sure everything is controlled, there is no great deal of attention that needs to be paid to this metaphysic other than acknowledging that it exists. As to why this metaphysic is true, from a scientific viewpoint, who cares?

  • Carter's use of the word "revealed" needs to be explored. ("Christianity is based on revealed metaphysical is also based on revealed metaphysical truths.") Carter is making an equivalence between the "revelation" of scripture and the eyes and ears and nose and tongue and body and mind. This should be profoundly disturbing to anyone with a scientific background: Anybody could claim a revelation from anything on a par with "eyes ears nose tongue body and mind. Take your pick: Ramtha, Joseph Smith, Pope John Paul II, Joe Carter. One side note: we Buddhists don't really talk of such "revelations," we are lamps unto ourselves. But more on that below.

  • As far as "truth" of science, again, science is phenomenological, and so statements of "truth" are always contditional, provisional, or tentative. Scientists don't do ontology, and engineers as applied scientists don't even go near words like that.

  • Carter's statement about what "science" would have to say about "Terri" would apply to a piece of skin I might cut off while chopping onions; the deeper question is what science, as we know it today, would leave unsaid or unkown. We are pretty convinced, based on the evidence, that there's a connection between a lack of conciousness and the CT scans we've seen. Carter left that out, and that's the nub of the argument: when does a human being transition to/from a clump of cells that may/may not ever be human? This may be a scientific question, and that's what Pinkerton was pointing at, and that's what probably really disturbs Carter.

That said, what about "science" and "Buddhism?"

My physics professor in school (where all students studying physics were engineering stucents), when asked how specifically charge was a property of the electron (decomposing an electron into quarks only really pushes the question one level further on the stack) replied, "Who cares? I'm a plumber."

And so were we being trained to be plumbers: we were taught that it is good to teach yourself enough to understand a problem in as much depth as expressible, but to provide solutions with maximum efficacy. And so, by and large, are Buddhists: we have a lot to do, and we can't afford to go down tangents that lead to things that will wind up as clutter rather than be used.

There's folks around who'll claim that Buddhism is "most scientific" of the religions, and I will admit to cringing at that. Why? Because even if it's true (and I think based on epistemological reasons alone a good argument can be made for its truth), it's irrelevant. I don't practice Buddhism because I'm an engineer, I practice Buddhism because I have experience with its transformative power in regards to suffering. I stop practicing Buddhism, I think, if I get into the game of "my religion has deeper truths, and is more 'scientific' than yours!"

Besides, my son will be up soon, and very skillful means must be used to rouse him without feeding into an expected temper tantrum from him...

New Blogs Added...

I have much updating of blog links to do. There are quite a few more Buddhist blogs out there than I'd originally found with Blogpulse. But I've added Danny Fisher's blog (always wondered what type of folks they have at Naropa) as well as WoodMoor Village.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Rinzai on line...

Follow the link from WoodMoor Village to read The Zen Teachings of Rinzai on line.


"You have misspoken"

I was going to comment on this piece by Dennis Prager, in a more reflective manner than the somewhat amusing send-up on Sadly No, but the computer decided otherwise.

So instead, I'll write a bit on the following:

A monk once wanted to ask Yunmen a question and started to say, "The light serenely shines over the whole universe." Before he’d even finished the first line, Yunmen suddenly interrupted, "Isn’t that the poem of Zangzhuo Xiucai?"
The monk answered, "Yes, it is."
Yunmen said, "You’ve missed it."
Later Master Sixin took up this koan and said "Now tell me, why has this monk missed it?"

The Commentary

In this koan if you can grasp how lofty and unapproachable Yunmen’s Zen working is and why the monk missed it, then you can be a teacher in heaven and on earth. In case you’re not yet clear about it, you will be unable to save yourself.

The Capping Verse

A line is dropped in a swift stream;
Greedy for the bait, he’s caught.
If you open your mouth only a little,
Your life is lost!

Yunmen was one of the most amazing people in literature almost nobody knows, but that's not the point to be made here. Rather:

What was Yunmen trying to get the monk to see? Was this monk simply seeking Yunmen’s authority or wisdom? Is there anything wrong with that? Where is authority ultimately? We think being the authority means having all the answers, being in control. The fact is that none of us is in control. Ever. Think about it. Try to find a single thing that you can control. You’ll never find it. So what does it mean to be the master? What does it mean to be the authority? How is it to realize that who we are is one great body, the whole universe? There is nothing outside.

Once we realize this Buddha body, then when we chant "Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form," we’re not repeating the words of Avalokiteshvara. "The light serenely shines over the whole universe" is not someone else’s reality. We’re simply speaking of our own experience. It all comes down to this — all the Buddhist teachings and Zen practice — to help us recognize that which we already are. This is our Buddha-nature. This is the vow we take when we receive the precepts: to live the life of a bodhisattva. Not to model ourselves after a bodhisattva, not to aspire to be a bodhisattva, but to be a bodhisattva.

Before the Buddha died, his students wanted to know: Who’s going to be our teacher now? Who’s going to help us? The Buddha said, "Be a lamp unto yourself."

Rather than going abstractly trying to voice what a "culture of life" should be, or whose religious tradition is right (Prager rails against about "opponents of Judeo-Christian values" including "those in the non Judeo-Christian West who lack a moral problem with abortion for whatever reason...and the secular culture's contempt for those who call themselves 'pro-life' or believe that Terri Schiavo had a right to live [who are] examples of the contemporary attempt to undo the life wish of Judeo-Christian values and affirm the natural death wish that resides in the human soul."), it might be useful to authentically live one's own life, in a Buddhist's case, to help others transcend suffering.

Prager, to me, has misspoken: Is this really his experience of life and death?

The Buddha once was met by a woman who had a child die; rather than bring her back to life as Jesus reputedly did, the Buddha asked the woman to get some seeds from homes where members had never known anyone who died. Needless to say, after a while the woman figured it out: death is our lot in life, and until we personally come to terms with that, all the railing against immoral secularists yadayadayada and their "culture of death" will only reek of narcissism.

Here's another great commentary on this number 39 from the Mumonkan...

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Religious Right. Characterized

Digby, Jarvis and Hewitt have a nice confluence of posts...which also "conflows" with a discussion I had yesterday over "spirituality" from a self-described skeptic/atheist/rationalist.

Hewitt, in particular, would like to know:

Who is a theocrat/theocon? Anyone who's politics are informed by their faith? Catholics adhering to their Church's teachings and voting that way?...

Hewitt goes on:

What Jeff [Jarvis] has done in his essay --something Andrew Sullivan does often-- is attempt to delegitimize a series of political positions without arguing the merits of those positions, but rather by asserting that the people who hold them --people he does not identify-- are fanatics and dangerous as well as powerful. It is a useful exercise to run through Jeff's piece and substitute "the Jews" for the "religious right" and all pronounces referring to the "religious right." Jeff is of course not anti-Semitic, but he has fallen into the trap of arguing from rhetoric that brands a shadowy minority as powerful beyond their numbers and thus in need of marginalization. It hasn't worked and cannot work because the center-right coalition agrees on 90% of the agenda,...

Many e-mailers have tried to define "the religious right" thus far this morning, but their definitions are either ad hominem attacks or way too broad

I can cite two criteria for characterizing the "religious right," and I'm afraid that Hewitt will have to accept the fact that it does, indeed, involve moral failings on their part. It may peeve him, but my understanding of Christian Scripture indicates that the religious conservatives of ancient Judea were peeved by Jesus Christ, as well. Anyway, here are the two criteria:

1. Members of the "religious right" tend to ignore the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain, or, if they are Jewish, ignore Hillel. They tend to emphasize Old Testament passages that indicate an angry, vengeful, jealous deity, and tend to exhibit an enjoyment and identification with this angry, vengeful, jealous deity. Again, I would submit this has to do with the fact that, at least on the part of "conservative Christians" (an oxymoron, actually) are actually quite uncomfortable with the notion of Jesus, for reasons outlined above. I'd also note that this identification with anger, revenge, etc. is often directed at those who want to preserve democratic institutions, civil liberties, and religious as well as non-religious pluralism in this country. Focus on the Family is a prime example of this; regarding the recent decision in Colorado overturning a death sentence apparently based on "Old Testament" justice, FOTF said:

"Today's ruling further confirms that the judicial branch of our government is nearly bereft of any moral foundation," said Tom Minnery, the group's vice president for government and public policy.

2. This second part is particularly important, and a useful razor for determining who might be a member of the "religious right" and who might not: members of the religious right share in common this aspect of the "New Age" movement (see here and here): they actually don't get that 99%+ of what they tell themselves is usually bullshit (sorry if that offends your sensibilities, Hugh) and thereby tend to exhibit a greater degree of narcissism and a certain lack of humility than they would otherwise. This last part is pretty key; we can see it in Hewitt's lame assertion above that somehow he's a member of a "center-right" coalition, despite the fact that in all the biased reporting over the Schiavo case (e.g., every day Aaron Brown on CNN leads off with an interview of the Schindler family), 80+% of Americans understand Michael Schiavo's point of view. And at the same time, Hewitt's own post belies any notion that he accepts critics' positions as in any way as legit.

View the 無門関 (Mumonkan) on line...


An original 12th 13th century manuscript.

(I've been meaning to correct that for several hours, but Blogger wouldn't let me.)

Also not helpful...

is posts such as this one at "Counter-cult Apologetics."

Rather than deal with issues I've already mentioned, let's go to this "also recommended" article by one Rev. Ralph Allan Smith in that post, and note additional misstatements and falsities there...

  • The author makes the typical Christian apologist's mistake about zen by looking for a "proof text" and attempting to falsify it. D.T. Suzuki wrote many valuable things, but for Zen Buddhists, Suzuki's writings are not authoritative.

  • The "monism" of zen, while alluded to by Suzuki, is in actuality a poor choice of words. However, even Suzuki notes that "pantheism" is in effect erroneous as a descripton of the zen view of the world, but, rather penentheism. Now I think even that is inapt as a descriptor; to state that would be like having a "philosphy" that rigidly guides how you play tennis. You may have a style of game that suits you, but the part of the brain that conjures up philosphies is not really heavily involved.

  • The following text is particularly strange, misleading, and invites a response:

    It is remarkable that living through a century that is characterized by its political theories and atrocities, Suzuki has so little to say on the subject. What he does say, however, is important:

    Zen has no special doctrine or philosophy, no set of concepts or intellectual formulas, except that it tries to release one from the bondage of birth and death, by means of certain intuitive modes of understanding peculiar to itself. It is, therefore, extremely flexible in adapting itself to almost any philosophy and moral doctrine as long as its intuitive teaching is not interfered with. It may be found wedded to anarchism or fascism, communism or democracy, atheism or idealism, or any political or economic dogmatism. It is, however, generally animated with a certain revolutionary spirit, and when things come to a deadlock -- as they do when overloaded with conventionalism, formalism, and other cognate isms -- Zen asserts itself and proves to be a destructive force. [21]

    Now, perhaps it is profound honesty which says in the face of the foulest historical facts that Zen can be wedded with the likes of Hitler or Stalin. It is possible, of course, that though Suzuki referred to these political philosophies, he would have repudiated their representatives. But by 1959, when the revised edition of his Zen and Japanese Culture was published, should it not have been sufficiently clear that the history of fascism and communism was written with the blood and tears of untold numbers of men, women, and children who suffered the most outrageous oppression not merely from the inhuman leaders who have become the infamous symbols of those ideologies, but from the faceless and nameless bureaucratic monsters which those systems brought forth in abundance? And even if, in spite of the values of enlightenment, Suzuki could have been uninformed in 1959 about communism, is it at all conceivable that he was ignorant of the atrocities of Hitler and the Nazis, or that he would not have realized the complicity of the German nation in the murderous crimes of its leaders?

    My third illustration is related to the second and may be summed up in the question, Why does Suzuki say nothing to say about Japan's political life in the twentieth century? According to Christmas Humphreys, Suzuki, who was born in 1870, attained enlightenment in the 1890's, which means that he lived through the war between Japan and Russia, World War I, Japan's political transformation, her invasion of Korea and China, and World War II. During the first half of the twentieth century, Suzuki taught in various Japanese universities and traveled frequently to the West. He wrote numerous books, gave lectures and met prominent intellectuals from all over the world. In 1934, he visited Korea, Manchuria, and China. He spent World War II in Kamakura writing books.

    Here, then, we have a well-traveled, well-read, well-informed Zen master who lived through the worst days of the twentieth century as a mature and even "enlightened" adult. The history of Japan in the first half of the twentieth century includes political assassinations beyond number in a time when Japan's political parties are described as "legal mafias," [22] a secret police no less monstrous than that of the Nazis or Soviets, and the exploitation and cruel oppression of Japan's oriental neighbors. Concerning all of this brutal history, Suzuki has no comment, no wisdom to teach us, and no apologies for his Asian neighbors.

    The responses I would enumerate to this are as follows:

    • Christianity also can be and has been wedded to democracy, anarchism, fascism and communism in the 20th century.

    • No serious Zen practitioner will argue that Zen was misused by the Japanese in World War II; taking Suzuki's writings here as any kind of proof-text on Zen here is especially misleading. While many Japanese did misuse Zen to support the war (although it was Shinto that emphasized the cult of the emperor) there were also cases of Zen priests who used Zen specifically to subvert the dictatorship in Japan, among them, Dharma-heirs of Suzuki's teacher Shaku Soen. In addition, Zen teachers were specifically involved in helping to terminate Japan's war effort in Japan. The fact that people did not employ Buddhist precepts did not mean the Buddhist precepts were "false," but merely that they were not practiced. Apologies by Zen teachers have been made, but this guy would rather not consider them, or doesn't know about them. "Reverend" Smith would do well to focus instead on the historical record of his own religion.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Bodhidharma had only two disciples

And one of them had only one arm...


In his recent book ''The Transformation of American Religion: How We Actually Live Our Faith,'' Alan Wolfe, a professor of political science at Boston College, writes that ''American faith has met American culture -- and American culture has triumphed.'' Radiant [Assembly of God Church in Surprise Arizona] seems the embodiment of this assertion. And yet not exactly. [Pastor] McFarland's long-term plan for his congregants involves much more than playing video games and eating doughnuts. He says that his hope -- his expectation, really -- is that casual worshipers will gradually immerse themselves in Radiant's many Christ-based programs, from financial planning to parenthood and education, until they have eventually incorporated Christian values into every aspect of their lives.

This is the vision of the new megachurch, and it's far more expansive than those of yesterday's megachurches and today's smaller churches. ''The larger church expects a much higher level of commitment,'' says Dave Travis, who runs Leadership Network, a strategic consulting firm for megachurches. ''The larger church expects you to be a more passionate follower of Christ, not just in the church, but in your community, your workplace and your home.''

As an evangelical strategy, it seems to be working. Weekly attendance at most American churches has either plateaued or is declining. But megachurches continue to expand -- and multiply. (According to John Vaughan, who runs the Megachurch Research Center in Bolivar, Mo., there were 10 non-Catholic megachurches in America in 1970. Today there are 282.) McFarland is clearly doing something right. There are now 27 other churches in Surprise, but none of them are growing at anything approaching the pace of Radiant. One day in Surprise, I met a pastor who moved there four years ago with his wife and children from Kalamazoo, Mich., to plant a church. After drawing fewer than 10 people for about a year, he folded up shop. When I ran into him he was auditioning for a part-time job with Radiant's band...

Expanding the flock through evangelism is a core principle of Christianity, but the modern church-growth movement traces its roots to Donald McGavran, a Christian missionary who worked in India during the first half of the 20th century. What McGavran discovered and articulated in his 1955 book, ''The Bridges of God,'' was that churches can't operate like mission stations, rigidly insisting upon their ways and inviting people to come to them on their terms. Rather, they had to go into villages and make followers of Christ. There was simply no other way to build a dynamic Christian community, which McGavran considered a prerequisite for reaching the unchurched.McGavran's words were written for overseas missionaries who would be encountering people who knew nothing about Jesus, but they resonated powerfully in America. As the 60's progressed, a new generation came of age, one that felt increasingly alienated from the churches in which they'd been raised. At the same time, more and more families were relocating from the cities to outlying areas. It was clear to church leaders that if they wanted to capture these new suburbanites (and a little later, exurbanites), they were going to have to go after them on their turf. The problem was that most pastors had been taught plenty of theology at seminary, but very little about how to actually build a church. So church leaders turned to McGavran for guidance. A nascent industry of church-growth experts adapted his model, encouraging pastors to engage their local communities by treating potential worshipers as consumers.

The modern master of church growth is Rick Warren. In the early 1980's, Warren, a fifth-generation Southern Baptist, applied McGavran's philosophies to his Orange County church, Saddleback. Warren's community was cut from a very different cultural cloth than his own family's; things like altar calls, a Southern Baptist staple in which worshipers are exhorted to come to the front of the church and accept Jesus, would never play in the wealthy suburbs of Southern California. Instead, Warren set about building a profile of ''Saddleback Sam''; once he had a sense of his average worshiper's likes (i.e. contemporary music) and dislikes (preachy, guilt-inducing sermons), he built Saddleback to accommodate him. A result was the so-called seeker-sensitive church.

There has been extensive adaptation of Buddhism for Americans, although many Americans wouldn't know it. Despite that, the main point of Buddhism, especially in its Zen form is still there: the emphasis on focusing inward, as opposed to drinking in and introjecting somebody else's message as your own.

Maybe it's my ex-New York Catholic upbringing, but so much of this "seeker sensitive megachurch" stuff just rings so phony to me; when you market to me you lose any authenticity about you.

We let true Dharma continue by being ourselves. If you want to know about Buddhism, I can tell you my experience with it, but if you don't want to know, it is better for me to focus on my practice rather than trying to fool you with slick advertising and marketing techniques to try to get you to practice something for which you don't see a need, though you suffer.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The wrong way to approach a dialogue...


I mildly remonstrated against Shokai about saying "Jesus is a Boddhisattva," because of the import of that statement to Christians...

However, of course, the real issue, for Buddhists, is that Christians frequently misrepresent Buddhism...

Here's a few pointers for would-be Christian apologists:

  • The founders of Buddhism knew about self-referentiality. So "the permanence of impermanence" applies to impermanence. They thought through this stuff.

  • When we speak of "The Four Noble Truths," these are truths as experienced. Maybe, the Christian apologist does not apprehend life as suffering, but I do, and also apprehend the cause and remedy to transcend suffering. They may or may not be permanent. I don't care, and neither did the Buddha- the arrow's owner's brand of shoes is kind of irrelevant to the poison coursing through my veins...

  • Regarding meditation, the Christian apologist asks, " how does Buddhism account for the belief that the future will resemble the past if its concept of impermanence were true?" Meditation is not a way to "get rid of our problems," but rather to watch from a vantage point to be able to either solve them or at least discover how to live with them. Perhaps, to argue the above, going to that vantage point won't give me "a view," but that's irrelevant. I may, if I'm playing tennis, not hit the ball between the lines and give my opponent the point, but if I don't play, if I just stand there, I lose anyway.

  • Re: "Nirvana is an illusion." Again, you have to remember the guys who thought about this thought this stuff through: Illusion is an illusion. Nirvana is not simply an "impersonal void," - it is not multiple, and not one.

  • Finally, don't rely on Christian apologists to describe what Buddhism is like; Buddhism and Christianity are in many ways "perpendicular" or "orthogonal" to each other, and speak languages that don't really exist in the other. That is why many Christians do have no problem practicing Buddhism, and many Buddhists don't have a problem proclaiming Jesus as boddhisattva.

  • One final snarky comment: Buddhism is not a landlord, and thus does not have "tenants." It is arguable (see Stephen Batchelor's Buddhism without Beliefs) whether it has tenets, but Buddhism the religion clearly doesn't get rental income.

The cicrucs continues

  • "Terri" tried to speak!

    After a federal appeals court panel rebuffed them yet again, Terri Schiavo's parents made another desperate attempt to keep their brain-damaged daughter alive, telling a judge that she tried to say "I want to live" just minutes before her feeding tube was removed a week ago.

    Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer was expected to announce a decision by noon Saturday on the motion by Bob and Mary Schindler claiming their daughter said "AHHHHH" and "WAAAAAAA" when asked to repeat the phrase "I want to live."

    The appeal is seen as a long shot because Greer was the judge who ordered Schiavo's feeding tube removed March 18. Doctors have said Schiavo's previous utterances were involuntary moans consistent with someone in a vegetative state. Attorneys for Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband, argued the Schindlers had abandoned all pretense of the law and were simply making "a pure emotional appeal."

  • "Jeb" Bush (quotes all around folks!) sent thugs to seize "Terri," but were stopped by local police actually upholding the rule of law...

    Hours after a judge ordered that Terri Schiavo wasn't to be removed from a hospice, Florida law enforcement agents went to seize her and have her feeding tube reinserted.

    They stopped short when local police told them they would enforce the judge's order, The Miami Herald is reporting today.

    Agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement told police in Pinellas Park, the town where Schiavo lies at Hospice Woodside, that they were on the way to take her to a hospital to resume her feeding. For a brief period Thursday morning, local police — who have officers around the hospice to keep protesters out — prepared for what some sources called a showdown.

    In the end, the state agents and the Department of Children and Families backed down, apparently concerned about confronting local police outside the hospice.

    “We told them that unless they had the judge with them when they came, they were not going to get in,” a local police source said.

  • Finally, Hunter's diary on Kos is well worth reading. I quote at length:

    If you have been paying attention to cable coverage of the Schiavo case, you will see two major themes repeated over and over. First, the repeated bookings of and citings of "witnesses" and "experts" that have previously been debunked, claiming that among other things Ms. Schiavo is "alert and oriented". A neurologist who touts himself as a nominee for "The Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine", an utterly false claim regarding an award that does not exist, has been given apparent run of the airwaves in order to repeatedly assert that Ms. Schiavo is "not that bad", and would be able to "communicate verbally" and "use her arms and legs" under his treatment plan -- a miraculous treatment plan for which, according to Judge Greer, he has been able to offer "no names, no case studies, no videos and no test results". We have even, as many have pointed out, been treated to "psychic" John Edward asserting he was in contact with Terri Schiavo.
    Against this background of exploitation and misinformation, the usual bevy of archconservative media pundits has in the last several days begun to increasingly endorse a premise that is, to any rational mind, remarkable: the notion that because the courts have ruled in this particular fashion, it is now time for individuals and government figures to disregard the courts, and take matters into their own hands.
    We now have a situation in which two dangerous elements are coming together in a manner that is ratings gold for exploitative "news" outlets. Yellow journalism, finally returned in all glory.
    1. Excite and incite viewers with tales that Ms. Schiavo, awake and alert, is being "murdered" within the walls of her hospice by a conspiracy between an abusive husband, bloodthirsty "expert" doctors, and every single state and federal judge to hear the evidence in the case.
    2. Endorse the notion that it may now be time to take Ms. Schiavo by force.
    Unless you are deeply stupid, you can see where this is leading. There have now been about a dozen individuals arrested for trying to enter the clinic to give Terri food or water, an action that (because she cannot swallow) in and of itself stands an excellent chance of killing her. Both Judge Greer and Michael Schiavo are under police protection; Florida lawmakers are finding their pictures on "Wanted" posters; home addresses of Greer and other judges are being distributed. Now we have this report: Media ::

    SEMINOLE, Fla. -- A man was arrested after trying to steal a weapon from a gun shop so he could "take some action and rescue Terri Schiavo," authorities said.
    Michael W. Mitchell, of Rockford, Ill., entered Randall's Firearms Inc. in Seminole just before 6 p.m. Thursday with a box cutter and tried to steal a gun, said Marianne Pasha, a spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
    Mitchell, 50, told deputies he wanted to "take some action and rescue Terri Schiavo" after he visited the Pinellas Park hospice where she lives, Pasha said. [...]
    Randy McKenzie, the owner of Randall's Firearms, said Mitchell pulled out the box cutter and broke the glass on a couple of display cases.
    "He told me if I wasn't on Terri's side then I wasn't on God's side, either," McKenzie told The Associated Press.

    Now, there are times when the news media is simply sloppy; there are times when journalists simply get stories wrong, and there are times when, as in the trials of Michael Jackson, Kobe, O.J., Martha Stewart, etc., the news channels are simply swept away by their natural tendency towards low-cost voyeurism. But this isn't one of those times. This isn't petty irresponsibility or sloppiness, to be chalked up to the dwindling resources of corporate newsrooms.

I have heard so much falsities on this- Robert Bork fulminating against "activist judges" on this when those "activist" judges, as it turns out, were Republican appointed conservative judges, that I tend to agree with Hunter here.

My only wish is that if violence were to come of this, and it could be linked to Rupert Murdoch directly, we could revoke his citizenship, seize his assetts under RICO, and deport him.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

That Cheshire cat...

So it turns out that the guy who's not the "Nobel prize nominee" who's being touted by Jeb Bush as the guy with "new evidence" is within quite a bit fewer than 6 degrees of separation to Joe Carter...

Dr. Cheshire directs a laboratory at the Mayo Clinic branch in Jacksonville dealing with unconscious reflexes like digestion, and he is director of biotech ethics at the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, a nonprofit group founded by "more than a dozen leading Christian bioethicists," in the words of its Web site.

In an article last year in Physician magazine, published by the evangelical group Focus on the Family, Dr. Cheshire, 44, said doctors are too quick to declare that a patient is in a persistent vegetative state.

"I'm not sure the diagnosis is used consistently," he told Physician. "I am sometimes asked if a patient is in P.V.S., but it's only been a few days. By definition, you have to wait at least a month." ...

Mr. Bush called Dr. Cheshire a "renowned neurologist," but he is not widely known in the neurology or bioethics fields. Asked about him, Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, replied, "Who?"

Dr. Cheshire, who graduated from Princeton and earned a medical degree at West Virginia University, did not return calls to the Mayo Clinic seeking comment. The clinic said in a statement that his work on the Schiavo case was not related to his work at the clinic and that the state had invited his opinion. "He observed the patient at her bedside and conducted an extensive review of her medical history but did not conduct an examination," the statement said.

Dr. Caplan said that was not good enough. "There is just no excuse for going in and making any pronouncement about the state that Terri Schiavo is in unless you're going to go in and do some form of technologically mediated scanning that would overturn what's on the record already," he said.

Dr. Ronald Cranford, a neurologist and medical ethicist at the University of Minnesota Medical School who has examined Ms. Schiavo on behalf of the Florida courts and declared her to be irredeemably brain-damaged, said, "I have no idea who this Cheshire is," and added: "He has to be bogus, a pro-life fanatic. You'll not find any credible neurologist or neurosurgeon to get involved at this point and say she's not vegetative."

He said there was no doubt that Ms. Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state. "Her CAT scan shows massive shrinkage of the brain," he said. "Her EEG is flat - flat. There's no electrical activity coming from her brain."

I wait with baited breath to see how folks over at Evangelical Outpost (almost wrote "outburst") spin this...

Everyday Zen

  • If you want a well behaved child, spend time and attention with him. The most valuable gift you can give someone is your time- you are literally giving your life for that person.

  • You can't make a good omelette without paying attention to the heat of the pan, the temperature of the ingredients, how far along it's cooked, and being careful to get it out of the pan.

Quadruply pretentious....

This gripe about Atrios, to me, falls somewhat flat.

Especially pretentious, to me, is this bit:

Here's my main problem: Atrios has be lifted to where he is by readers like me and others who came to expect something from his blog. Now that he's in a highly visible position, you would think that he would thank his fellow Liberals and Democrats for putting him in that position by at least saying "thanks" first off, and then by listening to what his readers are saying and letting all of our voices be heard.

What, is he some kinda god to you, some rational, down-to-earth people's substitute for the extremist fringe's Hugh Hewitt? (And yes, folks, let's abandon the pretense that those who clamor around Hewit are anything but the extremist fringe. And I mean that with all due respect.)

I don't really think that much about Atrios, or really Hugh Hewitt, or any other bloggers other than those I personally interact with on a daily basis. On the other hand, I do try to be mindful of the fact that I am interacting with other human beings (as far as I can tell) on others' blogs.

As for the guy complaining about Atrios, all I gotta say is: biofuels are a nice idea, but only part of the solution. But I'll check my portfolio just to make sure and see if Archer Daniels Midland has good representation, JIC.

Yeah, I gotta admit, Joe Carter probably puts more thought into his posts than Atrios does. Take the above link, for instance. First he quotes Matthew Yglesias, whom I generally like, but frankly, Joe, he's a kid, and he doesn't even remember stuff before the 1990s (Yglesias has written that he thought Greenspan did a good job until recently.)

Joe Carter tales the following statement from Yglesias:

Legalizing gay marriage will be one more step down the road to dissolving these dual binaries and creating a more androgynous (or perhaps just gender-free) world. Unlike social conservatives, I regard this as a normatively good outcome, but I think their positive analysis is much more correct than the self-serving "nothing to see here" line coming from gay rights advocates who (understandably) are trying to upset as few people as possible. [emphasis added]

And thoughtful Joe Carter claims that would make a world of Ziggy Stardust clones.

But Carter doesn't realize that the Ziggy Stardust clone is merely itself a reaction to the dual binaries to which Yglesias refers; the Ziggy Stardust clone is a slave of the dual binary mindset, dependent on it, in much the same way that some atheists are atheists in a way that presupposes the existence of, is a reaction to, and is dependent on theists. Yglesisas is speaking about something else, but I think his post is simplistic at best. Even if there were such a dissolution as Ygelsias writes, it woudln't happen the same way everywhere, to the same degree to everyone; at least I suspect that, and I also suspect that is a normatively good outcome.

Carter doesn't even offer, I think a good response here, despite the wider verbiage than the average Atrios post, other than, I guess, liberals and conservatives should be nice to each other.

To which I agree, with the proviso and understanding to note when one or the other is full of feces, or their emperor is butt-nekkid.

As for the title of this bit here, all I have to say is: Atrios, In Search of Telford, Joe Carter and myself are all pretentious. But I think we're sincerely pretentious...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

One thing we've learned from the Schiavo case...


Beatrix Kiddo would never have survived a Texas hospital.

Good summary debunking of the nonsense on Schiavo case

This diary on Kos points to a good document (linked via Abstract Appeal) which gives an unbiased look at the case:

After Florida passed “Terri’s Law” in 2003, Jeb Bush had to appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL). I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that a GAL is a neutral party who helps the court cut through the mud slinging and get to the truth. This GAL was to spend 30 days investigating and report back to Gov. Bush. His report,, (pdf) is excellent reading for anyone who is interested in the history of this case. The GAL details everything from the family relations to the court cases to the medical information. It is also very readable which is helpful.
Good reading folks. It destroys much of the slime that's been heaped at Michael Schiavo in recent weeks.

Atrios steals my paradgim...


OK, maybe, maybe not, but frankly this whole Schiavo thing keeps bringing back Monty Python sketches to me...I quoted the Dead Parrot sketch below, but I also think that the Undertaker's Sketch is apt too.

Cut to an undertaker's shop
Undertaker Morning.
Man Good Morning.
Undertaker What can I do for you, squire?
Man Um, well, I wonder if you can help me. You see, my mother has just died.
Undertaker Ah well, we can help you. We deal with stiffs.
Man What?
Undertaker Well, there's three things we can do with your mum. We can bury her, burn her, or dump her.
Man Dump her?
Undertaker Dump her in the Thames.
Man What?
Undertaker Oh, did you like her?
Man Yes!
Undertaker Oh well, we won't dump her, then. Well, what do you think? We can bury her or burn her.
Man Well, which do you recommend?
Undertaker Well, they're both nasty. If we burn her, she gets stuffed in the flames, crackle, crackle, crackle, which is a bit of a shock if she's not quite dead, but quick. (the audience starts booing) and then we give you handful of ashes, which you can pretend are hers.
Man Oh.
Undertaker Or, if we bury her she gets eaten up lots of weevils, and nasty maggots, (the booing increases) which as I said before is a bit of a shock if she's not quite dead.
Man I see. Well, she's definitely dead.
Undertaker Where is she?
Man She's in this sack.
Undertaker Can I have a look? She looks quite young.
Man Yes, yes, she was.
Increasing protests from audience
Undertaker (calling) Fred!
Fred's voice Yeah?
Undertaker I think we've got an eater.
Man What?
Another undertaker pokes his head round the door
Fred Right, I'll get the oven on. (goes off)
Man Er, excuse me, um, are you suggesting eating my mother?
Undertaker Er ... Yeah. Not raw. Cooked.
Man What?
Undertaker Yes, roasted with a few french fries, broccoli, horseradish sauce ...
Man Well, I do feel a bit peckish.
Voice From Audience Disgraceful! Boo! (etc.)
Undertaker Great!
Man Can we have some parsnips?
Undertaker (calling) Fred - get some parsnips.
Man I really don't think I should.
Undertaker Look, tell you what, we'll eat her, if you feel a bit guilty about it after, we can dig a grave and you can throw up in it.
A section of the audience rises up in revolt and invades the set, remonstrating with the performers and banging the counter, etc., breaking up the sketch. Zoom away from them and into caption machine; roll credits. The National Anthem starts. The shouting stops. Mix through credits to show audience and everyone on set standing to attention. As the credits end, fade out.

The Federal Appeals court backs the institution of marriage...


There really do seem to be many otherwise right wing bloggers who are appalled at this...

But still "social conservatives" don't get it. If our society means anything about marriage, it means that a married couple can make decisions like Mr. Schiavo's regarding his wife- even if he has done something that might be "divorceable." Social conservatives like Carter at Evangelical Outpost are looking for everywhere to cast the blame, but as is often the case with the righteous, they haven't even begun to cogitate on why they've been lapping up so much false information from sources like Focus on the Family:

"Questions linger about why simple tests, such as an MRI brain scan, have not been ordered by Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge Greer," who issued the order that Schiavo's feeding tube be removed, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said. "Judge Greer dismissed any motion for basic tests despite more than 33 affidavits from doctors and other medical professionals contending that Terri's condition should be reevaluated, and that Terri could respond favorably to therapy."

Indeed, Dr. William Hammesfahr, a world-renowned neurologist who has examined Schiavo, told reporters a few days ago that he believes she could eat and swallow on her own.

"They are truly withholding food from a person who is awake, alert, and can eat and swallow," Hammesfahr reportedly said.

Anybody who's been to my blog, or has been a regular reader of things like the Daily Howler knows that Focus on the Family doesn't mind a bit of false witness when it can be used to stir up the flock about Tom"Terr-i."

Folks on the religious right read the following very carefully and let it sink in: your chain was jerked.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

As spring comes, so do the rampages


I just can't do these things without irony folks. You'll have to forgive me... but folks, even if the world has peed on you for decades, please lighten up. Please? Let's leave the insanity to war planners, where it belongs...

I do feel bad for the people hurt here, but this stuff has gotten so regular, and the causes are still so ignored, that maybe what I'm writting has good effect if only it gives them a good shock or laugh... yeah, it's not about "Terri" and it's not about "the right" kind of people, but still, read on...

CHICAGO, March 21 - A high school student went on a shooting rampage on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota on Monday, killing his grandparents, five fellow students, a teacher and a security guard, as well as himself, the authorities said...

Chicago is as close as a Times correspondent will go to Minnesota.

A dozen others were injured in the barrage, which erupted at the 300-student Red Lake High School about 3 p.m., officials said. The grandparents were apparently killed at their home earlier in the day, and the authorities were investigating whether guns used in the shooting were taken from the grandfather, a veteran officer on the tribal police force...

Mr. McCabe did say that "we do have evidence that we believe that the shooter is dead," and that "we believe he was acting alone."

He identified the gunman's grandfather as Daryl Lussier, a longtime officer with the Red Lake Police Department and said Mr. Lussier's guns may have been used in the shootings, The Associated Press reported...

Oh my god- Ralph Wiggum is at risk...

The shooting was the worst at a school since 15 people were killed at Columbine High School near Littleton, Colo., in 1999, and came just 18 months after two students were fatally shot at Rocori High School in the central Minnesota town of Cold Spring, 200 miles away...

The Red Lake reservation, about 240 miles north of the Twin Cities and about 120 miles south of Canada, is home to about 5,000 Ojibwa Indians, commonly called Chippewa. The tribe operates three casinos and other tourist attractions on some half-million acres.

Clyde Bellecourt, founder of the Minneapolis-based American Indian Movement, said he could not "remember anything as tragic as this happening" on a reservation.

"Everyone in the Indian community is feeling really bad right now, whether they're a member of the Red Lake or not, we're all an extended family, we're all related," he said. "Usually this happens in places like Columbine, white schools, always somewhere else. We never hear that in our community."

Mr. Bellecourt and his brother Vernon, another longtime American Indian leader, said that the gunman's grandfather had been on the local police force for perhaps 35 years, and belonged to one of the tribe's most prominent and respected families.

"No one would ever think that that type of violence would visit itself in our communities, it's not part of our culture and our traditions, so we're kind of puzzled by it all," Vernon Bellecourt said.

I just love those quotes. I can see a Times guy, on the phone, calling up his list of "Injun" contacts- and gets AIM, and thereby gets Clyde Bellecourt who responds with the obligatory condescension but gives his brother's contact.

Monday, March 21, 2005

精進料理 (しょうじんりょうり): Vegetarian Japanese cuisine

I often find myself in Japan in the company of vegetarians, who often find it difficult to find food that they can enjoy. Normally I take them to 居酒屋 (いざかや) restaurants; but, as I've always expected there is indeed a vegetarian Japanese cuisine based on temple cooking.

Zen is austere and meditative. It is the practice of ascetic self-denial on the path to serenity and satori. It is the cult of monochrome and minimalism. Above all, it is serious -- and so is its food, the vegetarian tradition known as sho[h]jin ryori.

Sure, if that's what you want. We will gladly point you in the direction of temples where your sustenance will be little more than a bowl of thin brown-rice gruel served with crunchy, salty takuan pickles. Our path, though, is one that leads straight to Sosaibo's welcoming door.

A rustic lantern spills light onto a narrow alley in a sleepy, residential area of Meguro. Two small jizo statues stand among vegetation in front of a simple, single-story shack. All too often, shojin restaurants feel uncomfortably earnest, self-righteous, bland. No such problem at Sosaibo -- you can tell by the way you're greeted by owner-chef Katsurou Noguchi and his wife, Mieko.

Noguchi has the wiry frame, gleaming pate and warm smile of a contented bonze. He studied the Zen culinary arts among the temples of Kamakura, then returned home and molded the tradition to his character -- honest, unpretentious, thoughtful and with a homespun aesthetic all his own....

4-1-9 Meguro-Honcho, Meguro-ku, tel: (03) 3710-4336
Open: 6:30 p.m.-midnight Mondy-Friday, also second Saturday of month.
Closed: Saturday (except second) and Sunday.
Nearest stations: Musashi-Koyama (Meguro Line)
How to get there: From the station, walk alongside the Meguro Line tracks (in the direction of Denenchofu) to the first large street, then turn right. At the third set of lights (Meguro-Honcho 5), continue for a further 50 meters, then take the first side street to the left (by a large green sign for a dental clinic). Sosaibo is on the left after 20 meters.
What works: Zen and fine sake -- now that's what we call enlightenment.

While everyone in America's pondering the fate of "Terri"

Japan had a huge earthquake in Kyushu...

FUKUOKA -- A strong earthquake jolted northern Kyushu on Sunday morning, leaving at least one person dead and 400 injured.

The quake, which measured a preliminary magnitude of 7.0, brought railways across most of the region to a halt, crippled essential utilities and disrupted telephone services.

In the city of Fukuoka, Mitsue Itoyama, 75, who was trapped by a collapsing wall later died in a hospital. Two other women, aged 56 and 83, were unconscious and in critical condition, Fukuoka police said.

More than 400 people received treatment at hospitals in Fukuoka Prefecture alone, including at least 15 with fractures and other serious injuries. Some 780 people took refuge at facilities in Fukuoka city.

Buddhism, Christianity, sickness and medicine

Shokai had an interesting post yesterday on Buddhism and Christianity, which, yet again, provokes some thoughts by me when juxtaposed against something from, say, Joe Carter...

First, from Shokai:

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, so let me first point out that I generally have little patience for those who define their religious beliefs by bashing the beliefs of others. This applies not only to televangelists, but also to some so-called Buddhists that I've met, who seem more interested in rebelling against their Judeo-Christian upbringing than in really embracing Buddhism. I've also been dismayed to read Japanese Zen masters who try to talk about Christainity, when it's painfully obvious they have no clue what they're talking about. So I offer my comments on Jesus here not to criticize the belief of others, but to provide an alternative view of Jesus as bodhisattva.

Next from Carter:

Like 20th century Germans, most Americans have never heard of Biding and Hoche. But the arguments presented by these two men who devoted their lives to reason, logic, and science, raise an interesting question: Does accepting the first category of lebensunwerten Lebens also require that we accept the second? If mental functioning is the criteria for determining whether life is worth living then why should we not also be “merciful” and kill those who suffer from incapacitating mental defects such as Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, or Down syndrome? I’d be curious to hear where these bloggers think the line should be drawn between lebenswertes Leben (“life worth living”) and lebensunwertes Leben (“life not worth living”). If we are justified in killing some people who have lost their capacity to be "persons" why should we not also kill others who lack similar mental capacities?

I often find myself, in the blogosphere, as well as in ordinary life, engaged in discussions with self-avowed Christians. There is a natural tendency of one type of Christian (as well as types of Buddhists, as Shokai notes) to define one's self as opposed to another's beliefs.

Often, this is the inevitable result of the worldview/mindset employed: Carter, for example insists, "Where do we draw the line?" as though a line has to be drawn, whereas, in my response, I would have to object to the uniformity of a drawn line, as running counter to human experience and detrimental to human compassion.

The Schiavo case is instructive: it is fast degenerating into a pandering circus for social religious conservatives.

There is a point at which we must say, there is a moral deficit, from a Buddhist perspective, in insisting on an absolute irremediable human life value.

This has to be done, though, from a standpoint of authenticity, and one must be careful to make sure a dialogue doesn't degenerate into something hateful.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Levity in the Terri Schiavo case....

Rather than simply repeat what Digby and Atrios have so nobly focused on, I thought I'd take an entirely different angle and note that, yes, folks, once again, life imitates art:

The sketch:

A customer enters a pet shop.

Mr. Praline: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.

(The owner does not respond.)

Mr. Praline: 'Ello, Miss?

Owner: What do you mean "miss"?

Mr. Praline: I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!

Owner: We're closin' for lunch.

Mr. Praline: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this parrot what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.

Owner: Oh yes, the, uh, the Norwegian Blue...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?

Mr. Praline: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!

Owner: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.

Mr. Praline: Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.

Owner: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage!

Mr. Praline: The plumage don't enter into it. It's stone dead.

Owner: Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!

Mr. Praline: All right then, if he's restin', I'll wake him up! (shouting at the cage) 'Ello, Mister Polly Parrot! I've got a lovely fresh cuttle fish for you if you

(owner hits the cage)

Owner: There, he moved!

Mr. Praline: No, he didn't, that was you hitting the cage!

Owner: I never!!

Mr. Praline: Yes, you did!

Owner: I never, never did anything...

Mr. Praline: (yelling and hitting the cage repeatedly) 'ELLO POLLY!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o'clock alarm call!

(Takes parrot out of the cage and thumps its head on the counter. Throws it up in the air and watches it plummet to the floor.)

Mr. Praline: Now that's what I call a dead parrot.

Owner: No, no.....No, 'e's stunned!

Mr. Praline: STUNNED?!?

Owner: Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin' up! Norwegian Blues stun easily, major.

Mr. Praline: look, mate, I've definitely 'ad enough of this. That parrot is definitely deceased, and when I purchased it not 'alf an hour
ago, you assured me that its total lack of movement was due to it bein' tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk.

Owner: Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for the fjords.

Mr. Praline: PININ' for the FJORDS?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?, look, why did he fall flat on his back the moment I got 'im home?

Owner: The Norwegian Blue prefers keepin' on it's back! Remarkable bird, id'nit, squire? Lovely plumage!

Mr. Praline: Look, I took the liberty of examining that parrot when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had been sitting on its perch in the
first place was that it had been NAILED there.


Owner: Well, o'course it was nailed there! If I hadn't nailed that bird down, it would have nuzzled up to those bars, bent 'em apart with its beak, and
VOOM! Feeweeweewee!

Mr. Praline: "VOOM"?!? Mate, this bird wouldn't "voom" if you put four million volts through it! 'E's bleedin' demised!

Owner: No no! 'E's pining!

Mr. Praline: 'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e
rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the
bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!


Owner: Well, I'd better replace it, then. (he takes a quick peek behind the counter) Sorry squire, I've had a look 'round the back of the shop, and uh,
we're right out of parrots.

Mr. Praline: I see. I see, I get the picture.

Owner: I got a slug.


Mr. Praline: Pray, does it talk?

Owner: Nnnnot really.

Luckily for Terri, and us, Monty Python has been revived for Broadway, and hopefully, eleswere....

Favorite routines first created by that surreal British comedy team for the 1975 movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" were performed with an attention to detail found among obsessive history buffs who re-enact Civil War battles on weekends. Python songs were sung with the giggly glee of naughty Boy Scouts around a campfire. And festive decorations were provided in the form of medieval cartoon costumes and scenery helpfully described in the show as "very expensive."

It seems safe to say that such a good time is being had by so many people (including the cast) at the Shubert Theater that this fitful, eager celebration of inanity will find a large and lucrative audience among those who value the virtues of shrewd idiocy, artful tackiness and wide-eyed impiety. That includes most school-age children as well as grown-ups who feel they are never more themselves than when they are in touch with the nerdy, nose-thumbing 12-year-olds who reside within.

Friday, March 18, 2005

書道: 3月 18日


Further update on "Terri"

Most people support Mr. Schiavo's position... (HT Atrios.)

"Terri's" brain...the light blue stuff is what's left of her cerebrum.

And, in the interests of "balance," weblinks from the University of Miami's ethics program related to this issue.

The Schiavo case.....

Joe Carter writes:

Today the starving of Theresa Marie Schiavo will begin. Upon the order of the Probate Division of the Circuit Court of Pinellas County, Florida, an innocent disabled woman will have all nutrition and hydration removed in order that she may be killed by the excruciating method of starvation.

Although Schiavo has been incapacitated for fifteen years, the circumstances of her death were forshadowed eight years before her collapse. In 1982, an infant, referred to as "Baby Doe", was born with Down Syndrome and esophageal atresia. A simple, relatively safe surgery could easily have rectified this child's esophagus problem, allowing the child to continue living. Both the parents and their physician, however, agreed that because of the potential "suffering" this child would endure, it would be better to forego surgery and allow the boy to die. Although the decision was challenged, it was upheld by the courts. Baby Doe suffered from starvation and thirst for six days before he finally died.

The Constitution forbids such criminals as child murderers from being subjected to such “cruel and unusual punishment.” Yet over the past twenty-five years, other children have been starved to death and today the inhumane action will be taken against a helpless young woman. The question Christians and all other people of conscience must ask themselves is why do we allow this to happen?

Such ethical questions often lead to the examination of hypothetical situations in which we ask what we would do under similar circumstances. For example, what would we do to prevent a handicapped Jewish child or woman from being starved by the Nazis? How far would we go to prevent such an injustice? Would we resist such evil? Would we stand up for those who do?

Carter's hyperbole aside, (Carter is making the assumption that there is a "Terri" there who feels pain), this calls into question what is life or death?

(I should add that as I write this, the US Congress has entered into the circus here:

In an extraordinary legislative maneuver that may pit Congress against the decisions by several courts over the last several years, Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee and the Senate majority leader, issued a statement saying that the woman, Terri Schiavo, and her husband, Michael, were being invited to testify in a Congressional inquiry into the matter later this month.

Shokai has words in a post that are appropriate for this situation...

At a seminar today, I heard a professor from the University of Georgia who specializes in medicine and public health discuss what he called “The Ulysses Effect.” Basically, this effect refers to what happens to a person who is diagnosed, either correctly or not, as having a life-threatening disease. Ulysses, of course, went off one day to fight in the Trojan War and undertook a long voyage and had many great adventures, some painful and difficult, some pleasurable, but all life-altering. When he finally returned home, he found that both his world and he himself had changed.

It’s like that to the diagnosed. Their life is “normal,” at least to them, and then one day this diagnosis happens and suddenly they’re in a world of hospitals, clinics, tests and procedures, and when it’s all over, they’ve changed. After a battle with cancer, say, the patient suddenly spends less time in the office and more time with family and friends, at the golf course, or even at church. The old world is gone, and they are no longer the same.

What’s happened, in my opinion, is that they had this sudden epiphany of the impermanence of life, and they’ve examined their values, and found the old behaviors lacking. But why does one need to wait for a diagnosis for this kind of life-altering reaction?

The other side of this is that those around the seriously ill person also have such an experience, although, of course somewhat muted. This is what is happening now to the Mr. Schiavo and the Schindlers, and have reacted somewhat differently because the old world isn't really entirely gone: the participants bring their experience, their karma to the new world.

It is odd, to me, this greed for having non-living/living bodies around to claim you're "pro-life," to turn one's "daughter" (?) into a corpse with a heartbeat, when there may be no "daughter" there.

It is not enough to say, "err on the side of 'life'" as one commenter made on Carter's post.

Our lives are impermanent. It is hubris- playing god if you will- to assume that what "Terri" has is, in fact, life. She is, as far as we can tell, in a "hymen" in the sense of Derrida: not living, not dead, between life and death. She is likely , as Richard Bennett says, a vegatable.

The first precept is "Do not kill." But as to why we do not kill, that is simply because the killing referred to creates additional suffering. When the element of suffering is considered it is clear what to do. Human beings are not vegatables- quivering flesh without conciousness, without the ability to participate in existence is not human life, but an electro-mechanical process.

Are people so afraid of death that they will deny it and destroy their own lives? To cause others endless suffering in the name of some abstraction of human life? Is this not an unskillful evil that itself could lead to a "pro-life" abomination to rival the inhumanity of the Nazis?

Does this:

not point to the impermanence and ultimate fragility of human life?


Background information on the case:




Thursday, March 17, 2005

But Ms. Maglalang....


Isn't it honoring the dignity of the students to try, as much as possible, to make sure they don't get dead?

BTW, Malkin writes:

The school's principal, Susan Derse, used to work at Garfield High, where she sent letters to every student's family after alleged hate crimes occurred there: "I did send a letter home to all of my families and to all of my students basically saying in light of Dr. King, we need to take particular attention to some few misguided students who act counter to our school ethics." I hope she will now send out letters defending the honor of U.S. soliders and disassociating herself from the behavior of the students involved in the current controversy.
Those "alleged" acts, according to her link involve:

...three acts of hate -- including hanging nooses and putting Swastika's [sic] in her classroom.

When Carol Ross got to her classroom last November, she found: "a ferret with a nail through its head hanging from our storage loft." Just to the left of the ferret, swastikas were drawn on the wall. Two weeks later, she found a black noose hanging from the wall


China's real estate market is red is oil...


HONG KONG, March 16 - China's central bank said late Wednesday that it was raising the interest rate on mortgages, after more signs emerged that the country's economy might be growing at an unsustainable pace as property prices soar.

The minimum interest rate for housing loans of five years or more will rise to 5.51 percent, from 5.31 percent. Banks will also be encouraged to require down payments equal to 30 percent of the purchase price, instead of 20 percent, in cities that have experienced especially rapid appreciation lately, the People's Bank of China said in a statement on its Web site...

The moves come a week after Shanghai began assessing a capital gains tax of 5.6 percent on real estate bought and sold in less than a year, and after delegates to the National People's Congress in Beijing expressed worries in the last week that real estate speculation was becoming out of control and making housing less affordable.

Real estate prices have been climbing even faster in China than in the United States, with urban prices escalating 10.8 percent in the fourth quarter after an increase of 8.6 percent in the third quarter. Prices have been rising still faster in Shanghai, where overseas investors have been buying up apartments hoping to profit not only from rising prices but also a possible increase in the value of China's currency against the dollar.

That combined with an expected 7.9 % rise in China's oil demand means that the US, when all is said and done, pales in comparision to elsewhere as an investment location.

Well, gee, thanks George W. Bush. Americans are getting impoverished, but at least oil and Chinese real estate are going gangbusters.

Obesity, food, quality of life: where are the right to lifers?


Researchers said based on the current obesity levels life spans could fall by between four months and nine months.

If the rise in obesity - 50% a decade in both the 1980s and 1990s - was not stopped, the team said it could fall by two to five years within decades.

One in three Americans are now obese and the largest increases have been seen in children, the team led by the University of Illinois said.

The report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, warned obesity could cut an individual's life expectancy by between five and 20 years as it increased the risk of dying early from heart disease, diabetes, cancer and kidney failure.

It's not just obesity; consider zinc...


The RDA for zinc is quite high for children relative to the body weight of an adult.

Unless a kid is on Atkins, and likes oysters and pumpkin seeds, it's not simple for him to get enough zinc, because at most, under the best circumstances, 60% of all zinc ingested is not absorbed by the body.

This is serious, because this stuff's needed for a kid's brain, among other things.

Junk food consumption increases the need for zinc.

This gets me back to the title of my post: diet is going to be killing lots of kids. Where are the right to lifers?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Bizarre religious correctness...

In a comment on a post on Joe Carter's blog by one "Mr Ed," I noticed the "word" "p*rnographic."

That's kind of odd to me, since "pornography" literally means "writing about prostitutes."

So I wondered, was this some new thing? We're not supposed to say "pornography" now?

Well, off to Google....

Here's one instance of *-ing that offensive "o,"...

And here's another- with more words *-ed

And another...

Finally, I got kind of an answer here...

Some of our readers use Internet content filters to help them avoid explicit materials. In respect for this choice, please substitute a symbol such as the ~ to allow these members to read your post. Examples could be words like "s~xual addiction" or "p~rnography." In addition, please do not be unnecessarily explicit.

Ah, so...from an "LDS 12-Step addiction recovery group" no less...

Oddly enough, googling "sc*tological" gets you nowhere...

The Joys of Fatherhood

I never thought I would use the words "soup" and "kite" in the same sentence spoken in a high class restaurant, as in, "Jason, please keep your kite out of the soup."

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

To those "government" = "big government" = "bad" folks....

Do you really, truly, honestly think the US military couldn't have shipped fuel to Iraq cheaper than Halliburton?


(From Atrios)

Monday, March 14, 2005

Any resemblence with Fox News is purely intentional

The East is Red, A Song-and-Dance Epic

Beacon Rock 経行

How to train mindfulness: hike up Beacon Rock.

I always forget this....


When using neither in a balanced construction that negates two parts of a sentence, nor (not or) must be used in the second clause: She is neither able nor (not or) willing to go. Similarly, when negating the second of two negative independent clauses, nor (not or) must be used: He cannot find anyone now, nor does he expect to find anyone in the future; Jane will never compromise with Bill, nor will Bill compromise with Jane. Note that in these constructions, nor causes an inversion of the auxiliary verb and the subject (does he ... will Bill ...). However, when a verb is negated by not or never, and is followed by a verb phrase that is also to be negated (but not an entire clause), either or or nor can be used: He will not permit the change, or (or nor) even consider it. In noun phrases of the type no this or that, or is actually more common than nor: He has no experience or interest (less frequently nor interest) in chemistry. Or is also more common than nor when such a noun phrase, adjective phrase, or adverb phrase is introduced by not: He is not a philosopher or a statesman. They were not rich or happy. See Usage Notes at neither, or1.

Red Meat....all around...

The NY Times published an op-ed today asserting that yes, indubitably, "races are not a social construct."

Really? I've highlighted some of the er, more "interesting" aspects of this artcile...

London — Shortly after last year's tsunami devastated the lands on the Indian Ocean, The Times of India ran an article with this headline: "Tsunami May Have Rendered Threatened Tribes Extinct." The tribes in question were the Onge, Jarawa, Great Andamanese and Sentinelese - all living on the Andaman Islands - and they numbered some 400 people in all. The article, noting that several of the archipelago's islands were low-lying, in the direct path of the wave, and that casualties were expected to be high, said, "Some beads may have just gone missing from the Emerald Necklace of India."

The metaphor is as colorful as it is well intentioned. But what exactly does it mean? After all, in a catastrophe that cost more than 150,000 lives, why should the survival of a few hundred tribal people have any special claim on our attention? There are several possible answers to this question. The people of the Andamans have a unique way of life. True, their material culture does not extend beyond a few simple tools, and their visual art is confined to a few geometrical motifs, but they are hunter-gatherers and so a rarity in the modern world. Linguists, too, find them interesting since they collectively speak three languages seemingly unrelated to any others. But the Times of India took a slightly different tack. These tribes are special, it said, because they are of "Negrito racial stocks" that are "remnants of the oldest human populations of Asia and Australia." [1]

It's an old-fashioned, even Victorian, sentiment. Who speaks of "racial stocks" anymore? After all, to do so would be to speak of something that many scientists and scholars say does not exist. If modern anthropologists mention the concept of race, it is invariably only to warn against and dismiss it. Likewise many geneticists. "Race is social concept, not a scientific one," according to Dr. Craig Venter - and he should know, since he was first to sequence the human genome. The idea that human races are only social constructs has been the consensus for at least 30 years.

But now, perhaps, that is about to change. Last fall, the prestigious journal Nature Genetics devoted a large supplement to the question of whether human races exist and, if so, what they mean. The journal did this in part because various American health agencies are making race an important part of their policies to best protect the public - often over the protests of scientists. In the supplement, some two dozen geneticists offered their views. Beneath the jargon, cautious phrases and academic courtesies, one thing was clear: the consensus about social constructs was unraveling. Some even argued that, looked at the right way, genetic data show that races clearly do exist...[2]

Certain skin colors tend to go with certain kinds of eyes, noses, skulls and bodies. When we glance at a stranger's face we use those associations to infer what continent, or even what country, he or his ancestors came from - and we usually get it right. To put it more abstractly, human physical variation is correlated; and correlations contain information...[3]

Indeed, the recognition that races are real should have several benefits. To begin with, it would remove the disjunction in which the government and public alike defiantly embrace categories that many, perhaps most, scholars and scientists say do not exist.

Second, the recognition of race may improve medical care. Different races are prone to different diseases. The risk that an African-American man will be afflicted with hypertensive heart disease or prostate cancer is nearly three times greater than that for a European-American man.[4] On the other hand, the former's risk of multiple sclerosis is only half as great. Such differences could be due to socioeconomic factors. Even so, geneticists have started searching for racial differences in the frequencies of genetic variants that cause diseases. They seem to be finding them.[5]

Race can also affect treatment. African-Americans respond poorly to some of the main drugs used to treat heart conditions - notably beta blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. Pharmaceutical corporations are paying attention. Many new drugs now come labeled with warnings that they may not work in some ethnic or racial groups. Here, as so often, the mere prospect of litigation has concentrated minds.

Such differences are, of course, just differences in average. Everyone agrees that race is a crude way of predicting who gets some disease or responds to some treatment. Ideally, we would all have our genomes sequenced before swallowing so much as an aspirin. Yet until that is technically feasible, we can expect racial classifications to play an increasing part in health care....

There is a final reason race matters. It gives us reason - if there were not reason enough already - to value and protect some of the world's most obscure and marginalized people. When the Times of India article referred to the Andaman Islanders as being of ancient Negrito racial stock, the terminology was correct. Negrito is the name given by anthropologists to a people who once lived throughout Southeast Asia. They are very small, very dark, and have peppercorn hair. They look like African pygmies who have wandered away from Congo's jungles to take up life on a tropical isle. But they are not....


!. And therefore race must exist, because the Times of India said so.

2. This wording seems suspicously like an ID argument...

3. I can't think of a reason why a reasonable scientist would deny that there is a distribution of variations of DNA that varies according to geography, but this isn't really the point. The point is whether there is a cultural difference therefore, or whether this DNA implies in any way a way of "objectively" "ranking" people. The fact that social and cultural constructs are intertwined with our observations of our fellow humans makes this observation almost useless...

4. Diet is so obviously correlated with an African-American's risk of heart disease that the "seem to be finding them" teaser later seems disingenuous at best.

I can see this as being used by people to encourage discrimination - even the discrimination that says we have to let the natives live in their "habitat." On the other hand DNA distributions do exist, but the minute we try to infer anything about it, we have to verify that there are no cultural encrustations in our inferences, and that's hard.

Because some people don't want to do that at all. They wear sheets.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Interesting Juxtapositions at the Times Today...

First, over at the Book Review...

'Every Man a Speculator': Follow the Money

Which phrase best describes Wall Street: (a) a den of thieves; (b) the engine room of innovation; (c) a conspiracy of oligarchs; (d) Babylon on the Hudson (e) the yellow brick road to a property-owning democracy?

In his rollicking history over two centuries, Steve Fraser nominates all of the above. He is notably assiduous. He plots the roller coasters of boom and bust from the panics of 1792, 1837, 1873 and 1893, through the Jazz Age and the Great Depression to the ''socially negligent and narcissistic'' second Gilded Age of the Reagan 80's and on to today's ''shareholder nation.'' He examines the biographies of the icons and the rap sheets of the scoundrels, but he also eyes the Street in succeeding eras through the critical prisms of literature and the movies. Yes, Gordon (''greed is good'') Gekko rubs shoulders with J. P. Morgan.

This is not so much a financial as a cultural history.

And, from the same Book Review...this neocon essay....

This year is the 100th anniversary of the most famous sociological tract ever written, ''The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,'' by Max Weber. It was a book that stood Karl Marx on his head. Religion, according to Weber, was not an ideology produced by economic interests (the ''opiate of the masses,'' as Marx had put it); rather, it was what had made the modern capitalist world possible. In the present decade, when cultures seem to be clashing and religion is frequently blamed for the failures of modernization and democracy in the Muslim world, Weber's book and ideas deserve a fresh look.

Weber's argument centered on ascetic Protestantism. He said that the Calvinist doctrine of predestination led believers to seek to demonstrate their elect status, which they did by engaging in commerce and worldly accumulation. In this way, Protestantism created a work ethic -- that is, the valuing of work for its own sake rather than for its results -- and demolished the older Aristotelian-Roman Catholic doctrine that one should acquire only as much wealth as one needed to live well. In addition, Protestantism admonished its believers to behave morally outside the boundaries of the family, which was crucial in creating a system of social trust.

The Weber thesis was controversial from the moment it was published. Various scholars stated that it was empirically wrong about the superior economic performance of Protestants over Catholics; that Catholic societies had started to develop modern capitalism long before the Reformation; and that it was the Counter-Reformation rather than Catholicism itself that had led to economic backwardness. The German economist Werner Sombart claimed to have found the functional equivalent of the Protestant ethic in Judaism; Robert Bellah discovered it in Japan's Tokugawa Buddhism.

What held traditional China and Japan back, we now understand, was not culture, but stifling institutions, bad politics and misguided policies. Once these were fixed, both societies took off. Culture is only one of many factors that determine the success of a society. This is something to bear in mind when one hears assertions that the religion of Islam explains terrorism, the lack of democracy or other phenomena in the Middle East.

At the same time, no one can deny the importance of religion and culture in determining why institutions work better in some countries than in others. The Catholic parts of Europe were slower to modernize economically than the Protestant ones, and they took longer to reconcile themselves to democracy...

But it goes without saying that religion and religious passion are not dead, and not only because of Islamic militancy but also because of the global Protestant-evangelical upsurge that, in terms of sheer numbers, rivals fundamentalist Islam as a source of authentic religiosity. The revival of Hinduism among middle-class Indians, or the emergence of the Falun Gong movement in China, or the resurgence of Eastern Orthodoxy in Russia and other former Communist lands, or the continuing vibrancy of religion in America, suggests that secularization and rationalism are hardly the inevitable handmaidens of modernization...

Europe today is a continent that is peaceful, prosperous, rationally administered by the European Union and thoroughly secular. Europeans may continue to use terms like ''human rights'' and ''human dignity,'' which are rooted in the Christian values of their civilization, but few of them could give a coherent account of why they continue to believe in such things.

This from the guy who said history ended because the Soviets had been "beaten." Somewhere in that equivocation is a knee-jerk American triumphalism. Take it from me: most of the Europeans I know wouldn't get tongue-tied discussnig human rights and human dignity, whereas many Americans I know want to shift the subject away from those topics; especially in conjunction with wealth and its distribution in American society.

And I almost forgot this one in the magazine....

Our Currency, Your Problem

The dollar pessimists argue that the Asian central banks are already dangerously overexposed both to the dollar and the U.S. bond market. Sooner or later, they have to get out -- at which point the dollar could plunge relative to Asian currencies by as much as a third or two-fifths, and U.S. interest rates could leap upward. (When the South Korean central bank recently appeared to indicate that it was shifting out of dollars, there was indeed a brief run on the U.S. currency -- until the Koreans hastily issued a denial.)

Are the pessimists right? The U.S. current account deficit is now within sight of 6 percent of G.D.P., and net external debt stands at around 30 percent. The precipitous economic history of Latin America shows that an external-debt burden in excess of 20 percent of G.D.P. is potentially dangerous....

How long can the Chinese go on financing America's twin deficits? The answer may be a lot longer than the dollar pessimists expect. After all, this form of tribute is much less humiliating than those exacted by the last Anglophone empire, which occupied China's best ports and took over the country's customs system (partly in order to flood the country with Indian opium). There was no obvious upside to that arrangement for the Chinese; the growth rate of per capita G.D.P. was probably negative in that era, compared with 8 or 9 percent a year since 1990.

Meanwhile, the United States may be discovering what the British found in their imperial heyday. If you are a truly powerful empire, you can borrow a lot of money at surprisingly reasonable rates. Today's deficits are in fact dwarfed in relative terms by the amounts the British borrowed to finance their Global War on (French) Terror between 1793 and 1815. Yet British long-term rates in that era averaged just 4.77 percent, and the pound's exchange rate was restored to its prewar level within a few years of peace.

It is only when your power wanes -- as the British learned after 1945 -- that owing a fortune in your own currency becomes a real problem. As opposed, that is, to someone else's problem.

Or, it may just be wishful thinking on a necon's part, no? I tend to be in the latter camp; the US has already devalued previously; evan after devaluation of the pound in the early 50's it was still more than twice what it is now relative to the dollar.

The smart money is always, always on empires not lasting.


Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.

This winter, Washington has been roiled by revelations that a handful of columnists wrote in support of administration policies without disclosing they had accepted payments from the government. But the administration's efforts to generate positive news coverage have been considerably more pervasive than previously known. At the same time, records and interviews suggest widespread complicity or negligence by television stations, given industry ethics standards that discourage the broadcast of prepackaged news segments from any outside group without revealing the source...

Why would you need to spin news this way if your message could be gotten out by having it tell iteslf? All of which add up to one thing: despite the denials from some quarters, the power of conservatives is ephemeral, as is the notion of empire.