Saturday, April 30, 2005

Richard Dawkins interview in Salon

Have your browser go through the commerical, but read the article.

It's hard to argue with bits such as:

What I think may be abuse is labeling children with religious labels like Catholic child and Muslim child. I find it very odd that in our civilization we're quite happy to speak of a Catholic child that is 4 years old or a Muslim of child that is 4, when these children are much too young to know what they think about the cosmos, life and morality. We wouldn't dream of speaking of a Keynesian child or a Marxist child. And yet, for some reason we make a privileged exception of religion. And, by the way, I think it would also be abuse to talk about an atheist child...

When a Protestant murders a Catholic or a Catholic murders a Protestant, they're not playing out doctrinal disagreements about transubstantiation.

What is going on is more like a vendetta. It was one of their lot's grandfathers who killed one of our lot's grandfathers, and so we're getting our revenge. The "their lot" and "our lot" is only defined by religion. In other parts of the world it might be defined by color, or by language, but in so many parts of the world it isn't, it's defined by religion. That's true of the conflicts among Croats and the Serbs and Bosnians -- that's all about religion as labels.

The grotesque massacres in India at the time of partition were between Hindus and Muslims. There was nothing else to distinguish them, they were racially the same. They only identified themselves as "us" and the others as "them" by the fact that some of them were Hindus and some of them were Muslims. That's what the Kashmir dispute is all about. So, yes, I would defend the view that religion is an extremely potent label for hostility. That has always been true and it continues to be true to this day.

危機: (きき(kiki)) : Crisis Practice:


means "dangerous, fear, uneasy," and

means: "mechanism, opportunity, occasion, machine airplane"

Also, contrast with 機会 (きかい (kikai)) (n) meaning chance, opportunity.

Without going into details, I have been afforded an excellent opportunity for 危機修行 (ききしゅうぎょう (kikishuugyou))- crisis practice.

This is of course, simply another way of looking at 無 (MU). When there is "no eye no ear no nose no body no mind," there is, as the Heart Sutra points out, no fear.

This is not some theoretical saying, or, for the advanced student, a prayer or hope. It is a reality. Even in the tensest of situations, with practice, we are able to see things as they are; even if stressed, we can act from the 丹田 (たんでん; tanden), the place where we focus energy during practice. Shunryu Suzuki talked about "mind weeds" in his book "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind," and for the first couple of years when I had been involved in Zen practice, I was always confused by what he wrote about using distractions to nourish and deepen practice. But I know what he meant a few years later, and though the first thoughts and sensations of such situations are always unpleasant (that First Noble Truth again), I have found that the 気 (き(ki)) of the stressful situations can, from a centered place, be re-directed to make things better. This is an incalculable benefit from Zen practice; I don't know how other folks do this except in real life-or-death situations involving the 9 year old girl that lifts a car up to get her mother out from under it kind of thing.

That energy is there, and even in "everyday" crisis situations, the energy is present and available to be used.

I am confident, despite being amidst my own poisons, and the dance of karma that things will turn out right. I've done 危機修行 before.

There may or may not be significant blogging here for the next few days, but, within the degree that I can write about my situation, I will, after the dust clears.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The 5 aggregates and an interesting issue not even ON the radar of "pro-life" folks yet


ProtoLife will develop evolutionary chemistry with the long-range goal of creating artificial cells from nonliving raw material, and programming them with desired chemical functionality.

From the New Scientist:

YOU might think Norman Packard is playing God. Or you might see him as
the ultimate entrepreneur. As founder and CEO of Venice-based company
ProtoLife, Packard is one of the leaders of an ambitious project that has in its
sights the lofty goal of life itself. His team is attempting what no one else has
done before: to create a new form of living being from non-living chemicals in
the lab.
Breathing the spark of life into inanimate matter was once regarded as a
divine prerogative. But now several serious and well-funded research groups
are working hard on doing it themselves. If one of them succeeds, the world
will have met alien life just as surely as if we had encountered it on Mars or
Europa. That first alien meeting will help scientists get a better handle on what
life really is, how it began, what it means to be alive and even whether there
are degrees of "aliveness". "We want to demonstrate what the heck life is by
constructing it," says Packard's business partner and colleague Steen
Rasmussen, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. "If
we do that, we're going to have a very big party. The first team that does it is
going to get the Nobel prize."
Although the experiments are still in the earliest stages, some people,
especially those with strong religious beliefs, feel uneasy at the thought of
scientists taking on the role of creators. Others worry about safety - what if a
synthetic life form escaped from the lab? How do we control the use of such
Finding a way to address these worries will have benefits beyond helping
scientists answer the basic questions of life. The practical pay-offs of
creations like Rasmussen's could be enormous. Synthetic life could be used
to build living technologies: bespoke creatures that produce clean fuels or
help heal injured bodies. The potential of synthetic organisms far outstrips
what genetic engineering can accomplish today with conventional organisms
such as bacteria. "The potential returns are very, very large - comparable to
just about anything since the advent of technology," says Packard. And there
is no doubt that there is big money to be made too.

Is this a Frankenstein (or Frankensteen) thing?

Evidently universities are involved too.

What will we tell the creationists? How can "pro-life" people be against this?

This is going to be interesting if this gets realized, and I suspect it will pretty soon.

Shokai's answers to my questions

Here, here, here, here, and here.

It's well worth reading for a good insight into Soto Zen American practice.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A modest proposal

Orcinus (HT Atrios) writes:

Now, as I've argued previously, the "strict construction" of which fundamentalists are so enamored is nothing but a new name for old-style "formalism," the approach to jurisprudence that wrought such exemplars of the law as Dred Scott and Plessy v Ferguson. As such, its ramifications for American law could be profound, since widespread adoption would mean overturning an entire slate of progressive innovations of the 20th century and return us to the bad old days of the late 19th century, when robber barons ruled the land.

At the Family Research Council's own site, one can get a sense that just such a radically reactionary course is what they have in mind:
Q -- How have activist judges abused their power?

A -- Judges are abusing their power if they read into the Constitution principles that are not declared by the plain language of the Constitution. For example, the First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." But nowhere does it say that there should be a strict "separation of church and state" at all levels of government, barring any acknowledgment of God. The decision legalizing abortion was based on the "right to privacy" -- but no such right is declared in the Constitution.

That response should make clear the two issues, above all, that are directly in the sights of the religious right:
1. The separation of church and state.

2. The right to privacy.

Of course, most Americans tend to take a right to privacy for granted, but little realize that it exists almost solely, according to Supreme Court rulings, as a Ninth-Amendment "natural right" not enumerated by the Constitution, or as a "penumbra" of other rights that have been written out.

Likewise, they understand that "separation of church and state" -- like "religious freedom" -- exists as a principle of the Constitution, even though the phrase doesn't appear written there. (The educated among us are even aware of the use of the phrase by founders Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in later explanatory letters.)

But what they little understand, for now, is that those rights are in the gunsights of the religious right -- and they are zeroing in even now.
So here's my proposal: we create in the constitution a new amemdment that specifically spells out a strict separation of church and state and a right to privacy. Let's make it plain as day that the theocrats are wrong, and that freedom from as well as of religion is guaranteed. Some might say it's not needed - and it wouldn't if there were not enemies of freedom in America today, many in the Republican party- but one other objective would be to craft this as a wedge issue. Our way of life in America is under attack from religious extremists inside and outside our country. It's time that we responded in a way that enhances the freedom of Americans.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

More "Justice" Sunday fallout - the Dobson-Klan connection


Well it looks like the "people of faith" like people have problems with "people of color."

Bill Frist appeared through a telecast as a speaker at "Justice Sunday," at the invitation of the event's main sponsor, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. "Justice Sunday" was promoted as a rally to portray Democrats as being "against people of faith." Many of the speakers compared the plight of conservative Christians to the civil rights movement. But in sharing the stage with Perkins, who introduced him to the rally, Frist was associating himself with someone who has longstanding ties to racist organizations.

Four years ago, Perkins addressed the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), America's premier white supremacist organization, the successor to the White Citizens Councils, which battled integration in the South. In 1996 Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list. At the time, Perkins was the campaign manager for a right-wing Republican candidate for the US Senate in Louisiana. The Federal Election Commission fined the campaign Perkins ran $3,000 for attempting to hide the money paid to Duke...

Justice Sunday also featured a token Catholic, William Donohue, who heads the nation's largest "Catholic civil rights organization," the Catholic League. In the battle to confirm far-right judicial nominees like William Pryor, who happens to be Catholic, Donohue has become a key asset for the Christian right's evangelical faction. He has argued that Democratic senators opposing Pryor and others are motivated by anti-Catholicism. "There isn't de jure discrimination against Catholics in the Senate," Donohue claimed on Sunday. "There is de facto discrimination. They've set the bar so high with the abortion issue, we can't get any real Catholics over it."

But for all his concern with anti-Catholicism, Donohue had no qualms about sharing the stage with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Dr. Albert Mohler. "As an evangelical, I believe that the Roman Catholic Church is a false church," Mohler remarked during a 2000 TV interview. "It teaches a false gospel. And the Pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office." Donohue, who has protested against Democrats who have made no such comments about Catholics, was silent about Mohler. In fact, the site of Justice Sunday, Highview Baptist Church, in Louisville, Kentucky, is Mohler's home church...

F or Tony Perkins, Justice Sunday was the fulfillment of a strategy devised more than two decades ago by his political mentor, Woody Jenkins. In May 1981, in the wake of Ronald Reagan's presidential victory, Jenkins and some fifty other conservative activists met at the Northern Virginia home of direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie to plot the growth of their movement. The Council for National Policy (CNP), an ultra-secretive, right-wing organization, was the outcome of that meeting. The CNP hooked up theocrats like R.J. Rushdoony, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell with wealthy movement funders like Amway founder Richard DeVos and beer baron Joseph Coors. As DeVos famously said, the CNP "brings together the doers with the donors."

Jenkins, then a Louisiana state lawmaker, became CNP's first executive director, and promptly made a bold prediction to a Newsweek reporter: "One day before the end of this century, the Council will be so influential that no president, regardless of party or philosophy, will be able to ignore us or our concerns or shut us out of the highest levels of government."

..[I]n 2002, Perkins embarked on a campaign to avenge his mentor's defeat by running for the US Senate himself. But Perkins was dogged with questions about his involvement with David Duke. Perkins issued a flat denial that he had ever had anything to do with Duke, and he denounced him for good measure. Unfortunately, Perkins's signature was on the document authorizing the purchase of Duke's list. Perkins's dalliance with the racist Council of Conservative Citizens in the run-up to his campaign also illuminates the seamy underside of his political associations. Despite endorsements from James Dobson and a host of prominent CNP members, Perkins was not even the leading Republican in the senatorial race.

In the wake of his defeat, with Dobson's blessing, Perkins moved to Washington to head the Family Research Council.

Let's not say it any other way: James Dobson supports people who get their support from racists and Klan supporters.

They - combined with terrorist supporters such as Randall Terry- are truly the gravest threat America faces today.

Now if Hugh Hewitt had a scintilla- an iota- a quark's worth- of integrity, he'd admit this, and explain it. But he won't.

Why don't we just hire a bunch of Japanese baggage screeners?


A uniformed pilot waits impatiently at a checkpoint for 10 minutes while two screeners from the Transportation Security Administration scrutinize every item in his carry-on bag.

After he was allowed to go on his way, he explained why it took so long.

"They told me they had to make sure I wasn't carrying anything that would allow me to take over an airplane," [he said]...

In Congress, partly as a consequence of audits that showed heavy spending by the agency on frills like parties and fancy offices, there are calls to scale back the agency's scope and perhaps replace its screeners with employees from private companies.

Bureaucratic rigidity aside, frequent fliers have plenty of other complaints about the agency. For example, they protest that rules keep changing, with haphazard, inconsistent and sometimes rude enforcement at checkpoints. Personal searches such as poking infants in swaddling clothes or forcing octogenarians to wobble from their wheelchairs often appear to be unnecessary, they say, and are sometimes downright intrusive. Remember the outcry last year from female travelers subjected to invasive body pat-downs after reports that two female Chechen terrorists might have blown up a pair of Russian airliners?

Travelers also worry about theft from checked bags - more than two dozen of the agency's screeners have been arrested on theft charges in the last two years - and they react with a mixture of bewilderment and resentment to the agency's Catch-22 policy on taking off your shoes. You do not have to remove them, the policy says, but if you do not, you will be ordered off to the secondary inspection area, where you do have to take them off.

Japan does this right: their screeners are professional, exceedingly polite, and not in any way high-handed.

Of course, privatizing the TSA would only make matters worse: there has been a slight increase in professionalism since the rent-a-cop security services were canned in airports.

Seriously, they should send a bunch of TSA folks over to Japan, to learn what they do, and they should have the TSA screeners in the US do exactly what the Japanese do.

"Free will," discipline, nirvana, and why Calvin was wrong

Joe Carter writes on free will today, and in doing so unknowingly points towards the weakness of what can only be called "Protestant psychology."

Carter writes:

To “will at will” or to “desire as one desires” is completely different. In order to have that ability the will must not only be “free” but autonomous and self-determining. To “will at will” would mean that the will has the ability to choose for itself, divorced from motive (or, as you say, “desire”). If the will chooses the will, though, then the act of choosing is itself an act of choosing. But that would require and act of choosing to precede that act of choosing and so on, into an infinite regress of the will choosing the will.

But because the human being began in a finite point in time, the will also has to have a starting point. How then could the human will have begun to "will at will" if the act of choosing is predicated on an act of choosing?

This statement should be read with what Nietzsche wrote:

"Life consists of self-overcoming. I estimate the power of a will according to how much resistance, pain and torture it endures and knows how to transform into its own advantage."

Nieztzsche wrote this as a means of pointing towards a post-Christian future, but one that takes much from Buddhism. A Buddhist would phrase it differently, though; something to the effect of, "I would measure the efficacy of practice according to how much suffering, pleasure, attachment, and discouragement can be transcended and transformed for all beings."

Read more

Human beings and animals have the ability to act in this way (even animals exhibit altruistic behavior). But they don't often do so; and in particular, humans can exhibit remarkable degrees of self-defeating neurosis, OCD, etc. You can "will at will" all you want, but without follow-through into action, this whole discussion becomes a jeu d'esprit, or as my father would put it, "mental masturbation."

Carter also writes

Whether she realized it or not, your friend was providing an example of true free will. Free will is making choices based on what we desire, not in being able to divorce ourselves from our own character and motives in order to desire that which we do not want to desire. If she were able to choose to sincerely desire that which she would never want to desire then she would not truly be a free human being.

I have previously said that in the argument of free will vs. behavioral determinism, for all intents and purposes, a) there is no decisve answer one way or another, but b) it appears as though we have an innate freedom to act- when discipline and practice is cultivated sufficiently.

Carter's text above here is quite tangled: "Desire" and "want" are really synonymous, and so if one could choose what one would not want, -to transcend want- one might argue that is freedom. As a result of practice, one can transcend what one desires- even the desire to transcend desire (and in so doing rid ourselves of the stench of enightenment). When we have this degree of transcendance, it becomes irrelevant as to "our" "character" and "motives." "When you find yourself where you are, there is a practice that realizes the fundamental point" wrote Dogen Kigen Zenji. This fundamental point is nirvana, where there is no birth no death no old age and death and no end to old age and death no suffering no craving no path no wisdom no attainment. It is a place where there is no hindrance in the mind.

This points to a rather big fly in the ointment: Carter's atomistic view of human psychology does not account for the fact that there is hindrance in the mind (save, perhaps by referring to it as "sin" or "utter depravity" to put it in Calvinistic terms). And because there is no account for this there is no prescription of a remedy of disciplined practice, but rather a belief that "faith alone" will "save" (and a very specific faith in a very specific deity). But this faith can never be really strong or effective without practice, which is excluded by the theology of faith alone.

And so there is widespread delusion, suffering, and torment.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Here comes the Bush tax increase

It's axiomatic: Watch your wallet when a Republican comes up to you and offers to cut your taxes.


WASHINGTON - As taxpayers recover from finishing their annual filing chores, a presidential commission studying the tax laws has reached the conclusion that there are just too many deductions and credits.

Two credits, a deduction and special savings plans help taxpayers cut college costs; special urban and rural tax zones encourage investment and job creation; dozens of other tax benefits help families raise children and save for retirement, encourage adoption, nudge drivers toward hybrid cars and push businesses to invest in new equipment.

"We have lost sight of the fact that the fundamental purpose of our tax system is to raise revenues to fund government," according to President Bush's advisory panel on federal tax reform.

The panel's chairman, former Florida Sen. Connie Mack, said its nine members have been surprised at the number of tax deductions and credits.

The White House budget office ranks the cost of a deduction for businesses that provide health insurance to employees as the top tax break, worth $126 billion next year. Also high on the list are mortgage interest deductions, a capital gains break for home sales, a break for charitable giving and the child tax credit.

Yeah: Connie Mack is a Republican.

Who else is on the committee? Read it here.

It's the "unconstitutional" option

With all the lies emanating from the religious right, perhaps the most egregious current lie is that ending the filibuster is a "Constitutional Option."

Focus on the Family Action has launched an ad campaign in 15 states, urging calls to U.S. senators in support of an up-or-down vote on President Bush's judicial nominees. As we've witnessed for the last three years, Senate Democrats are again planning to filibuster the president's well-qualified nominees. Republican senators, however, are expected to soon take action to end judicial filibusters. (This action is called the "Constitutional Option" because it would restore the constitutional responsibility of senators to vote, and by a majority, confirm the president’s judicial nominees.)

As Modern Esquire points out, though,

It's already established Supreme Court precedent that the Senate may delegate its constitutional authority to a Senate committee or subcommittee. See, Nixon v. United States, 506 U.S. 224, 113 S.Ct. 732 (1993). So, this is yet again, another GOP misrepresentation on the issue. The U.S. Constitution does not mandate that each and every nominee receive a vote from the full Senate. If that was so, does that mean that the subsequent appointments made as a result of GOP's success in denying Clinton nominees are invalid and that the Clinton appointees denied a floor vote or, as in some cases, even a hearing, should be considered duly appointed?

Given that the Constitution states that the houses of Congress are free to determine the rules of its proceedings (Section 5, clause 2) and in fact does not state that a majority of representatives or Senators be needed tp pass anything, (but only states majorities are needed to establish a quorum, and there's the 2/3 rules for treaties, amendments, expulsion and veto-overriding) it is clear that Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, etc. is simply lying.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

James Dobson believes we shouldn't investigate Tom DeLay

"We should get off his back" he said at "justice" "sunday." This despite the fact that he's been shaking down lobbyists, taking junkets on behalf of gambling interests, and in general, being more corrupt than his Democratic predecessors (Gingrich, OTOH...)

Dobson's corrupt if he can't recommend that Republicans have moral values.


Dobson is so radical he wants to overturn Marbury v. Madison. I can't believe it. This clown wants to overturn over 200 years of American history.

Further Update

You can read Dobson's remarks here.

Dobson is a radical extremist- anybody who wants to overturn Marbury v. Madison can be called by no less a term.

The Future of General Motors

You probably heard about "health benefits" were a problem, didn't you?


It is a sunny Tuesday afternoon in California and I’m driving It is a sunny Tuesday afternoon in California and I’m driving down a traffic-clogged freeway at the wheel of a white Pontiac Grand Prix.

General Motors has just posted a $1.1 billion first-quarter loss. Healthcare costs for current and retired employees are to blame, says Rick Wagoner, chief executive. On the car radio, analysts debate what can be done to get GM’s finances back in shape.

By the end of the three minute discussion I am apoplectic. Have none of these people driven a GM Pontiac, Saturn, Buick or Chevrolet recently? GM’s problems stem not from its spiralling healthcare costs but from its inability to build cars worth buying.

The Grand Prix is a case in point: cheap plastics, uncomfortable seats, bone-jarring suspension, the exterior dimensions of a large car combined with the interior space of a small car.

The American car-buying public agrees. The Grand Prix is Pontiac’s top-selling model, a “sports sedan” relaunched with much ballyhoo in 2004. But GM sold only 25,000 in the first quarter, a 44 per cent decline compared with last year.

Strip out cars sold to rental fleets - the one I’m driving belongs to Enterprise Rent-a-Car - and the figures would be even worse. To be sure, GM’s predicament is tragic. Despite 30 years of declining market share, the group remains a national asset, accounting for about 1 per cent of US gross domestic product...

Take the new Chevrolet Malibu, designed to go head-to-head with Toyota’s Camry and Honda’s Accord. Granted, it is less offensive than the Grand Prix. But it is nowhere near good enough to tempt buyers away from the two best-selling cars in North America. Malibu sales in the first quarter were 36,000, against 98,000 Camrys and 77,000 Accords.

Is lack of resources to blame for this procession of disappointing products? It does not help. Healthcare costs add $1,500 to the cost of each new GM vehicle, putting pressure on design engineers to use lower-grade materials and off-the-shelf components. Yet resource allocation remains by far a bigger problem.

For example, while Toyota and Honda were investing in gasoline-electric “hybrid” engines, GM pumped research and development dollars into hydrogen-powered vehicles that remain years away from mass production. The result is that the world’s biggest carmaker has nothing to compete against the new breed of hybrid vehicles led by Toyota’s Prius.

Similarly, while the Japanese companies were investing in their core products, GM squandered capital on the acquisition of Saab, the niche Swedish car company, and a questionable investment in Fiat...

Even when GM does place the right strategic bet, execution invariably lets it down. The Malibu, meant to be a money-spinner selling 200,000-300,000 a year, is a car so “utterly lacking” in charisma (the verdict of Car & Driver magazine) that Chevrolet stands no chance of reaching its target unless it offers deep, deep discounts. Shareholders’ return on the $1 billion or so invested will be low.

Incidentally, Cadillac has the following options available to equip your funeral coach:

QA8 — Chrome Wheels
  • Heavy-duty chrome wheels including spare

UG1 — Universal Garage Door Opener
  • 3-channel programmable HomeLink

U1R — Radio and CD/Cassette
  • 8-speaker ETR AM/FM stereo with cassette and CD player
  • Seek-and-scan, digital clock, TheftLock

U1Z — 6-Disc CD Changer
  • Located in glove box

But of course, those cars are generally rented too. Seriously, GM makes no car I would consider buying. Their cars are shoddy (with the possible exception of Cadillac, but I'll always suspect it's really a fancy Chevy), even decades after the 80s.

Don't blame the employees' health plans- blame the strategy (investing in Fiat?) and product mix.

The inevitable "The Radicals Made Him Do It" post

I saw a similar article in Beliefnet, but this one in the Times is just too much to pass up. Conservatives may claim the big problem is "liberal bias" in the media (I've got a good post on that coming up), but the real real problem from corpratist media is not simply their corpratist bias, but their bad writing...

The students got radical so we had to clamp down... If Joseph Ratzinger were named Li Peng or Hu Jintao American conservatives would not be cheering. But just change the terms of reference; it's the same thought-patterns.

Other notes:

  • "Gingerbready?"
  • "This was the family of a poor policeman in a Bavarian village, with extremely gifted children," said Professor Obermair. The church was their ticket to social, intellectual, and even cultural advancement." The term resentment comes to mind here. The implication- make of it what you will, but the implication is definitely there that the Ratzinger children socially castrated themselves for social advancement. Their price for "social, intellectual, and even cultural advancment" was not being able to have romantic relationships, to experience sexual union, to have a life partner. Nobody should have to make that trade, and no god should demand it. It is clear from unconciously self-referential writings on sex that Ratzinger's natural discomfort over his life choice plays out as resentment directed against his fellow human beings:

    In a book-length interview published in 1985 titled "The Ratzinger Report," he used a rigorously argued line of reasoning to support a doctrinal position that reverberates outside the church. He condemned abortion, contraception, homosexual relations, sex without marriage, "radical feminism" and transsexuality. The wrongness of those ideas all arise from the separation of sexuality from motherhood and marriage, he said. That leads to procreation without sexuality and "biological manipulation" of births that "uncouples man from nature," he said. People then become just another product in the world.

    "It logically follows from the consequences of a sexuality which is no longer linked to motherhood and to procreation," he said, "that every form of sexuality is equivalent and therefore of equal worth." It is only logical, then, that self-gratification becomes the point of sex. And it follows that all forms of sex - including homosexual - become equal and considered "rights."

    Ratzinger has in his own life separated fatherhood from sexuality and procreation, albeit from the other end. He has uncoupled himself from nature, and this stance is one way to resolve his own cognitive dissonance. No matter how old, unless he's on hormones or what-not, he's still going to be a sexual being.

It might, judging from the snippets here, be fun to have a dinner time conversation with Ratzinger, in particular to inform him that his take on "relativsm" is all wet, except for the fact that this guy's power has real effects in the world, not all of them good.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Pot calling kettle...

From the NY Times (emphasis added)

This wasn't the only textbook tempest, and it may not be the last. Not only are Chinese authorities bracing for further protests, but just before this week's marches, Japan objected that China's patriotic education breeds anti-Japanese sentiments, and South Korea castigated the Japanese textbooks for allegedly trying to justify a colonialist past.

Although it may yet be decades before the three countries agree on history, they have long shared a common trait that helps explain how revisions can stir such deep emotions. Their students learn history through government-approved textbooks that are, especially with nationalism rising in all three countries, useful tools in shaping national identities. Since the textbooks require the central government's imprimatur, they are taken as a reflection of the views of the current leaders.

"In all three countries, there is a tendency to propagandize history," said Jee Soo Gol, a professor of history education at Kongju National University in South Korea...

Given the scrutiny and Japan's comparatively long record of democracy, the textbooks here are perhaps more balanced than others in the region. China's textbooks, for instance, teach that Chinese resistance, not the United States, defeated Japan in the war; they say nothing of the postwar Great Leap Forward, in which some 30 million Chinese died because of Mao Zedong's misguided agrarian policies.

Now, from the Washington State Civics curruciulum...

Inquiry, Information, & Group Process
❐ I selected a public issue.
❐ I made sure that the issue…
relates to our democratic ideals.*
relates to constitutional rights, protections, and responsibilities.*
involves people with a variety of perspectives on this issue.
* I reviewed the following list and connected the appropriate beliefs and principles to the issue I am studying.

Our democratic ideals are:

• Justice
• Equality
• Life
• Pursuit of Happiness
• Liberty
• Common Good
• Diversity
• Truth
• Popular Sovereignty
• Patriotism

Constitutional Principles are:

• Rule of Law
• Separation of Powers
• Representative Government
• Checks and Balances
• Civil Rights
• Human Rights
• Federalism

I'd prefer to quote from textbooks, but suffice it to say the practical effect of the above in Washington State is to paint a rosy view of American history.

"Patriotism" in particular is hardly a "democratic" ideal, and in fact, the democratic tendencies of the constitution are deliberatley thwarted, to prevent mob rule.

But no matter: democracy goood. US goood.

Japan's nationalist propaganda baaad. China's nationalist propaganda baaad.

Friday, April 22, 2005

書道: More Old Stuff

Certificate of Buddhist Achievement, Northern Sung Dynasty, from here.

James Dobson and zen parenting

In my 5 questions to Razorskiss, answered here, I asked about question:

One of the big divides between moderates and progressives and those who send money to Focus on the Family involves spanking children. What’s your thoughts on spanking, and if you never had to spank your kids, would you still do so (assuming the answer is that you follow biblical advice on spanking)?

Here is his response:

I think that children, when they willfully disobey (ie: defiantly flout what I tell them to do) deserve, and should receive, a spanking. Spanking should never be done in anger, should match the level of the offense, and should be done in a manner which corrects, and turns toward right behavior - not just as a punishment.

If a child never merited a spanking - they would most likely be the second child in the history of the world to ever accomplish such a feat.

I have two children, and I am the oldest of 6. I have been around, and in the midst of children my entire life. I have never, not even once, seen a child who did not merit a spanking at least once in my interaction with them, for willfully disobeying what someone told them to do, and was in their own best interest.

What Focus on the Family has to do with it, I don’t know. I do know Dr. Dobson has been teaching about parenting since before I was born. I was raised with a lot of help from him, so my parents say. I don’t think I turned out too bad.

You just like picking on ‘ol James, don’t you?

I noted in my comment on his blog that

I have never had to spank my kid. Never. And he’s strong willed as they come. But I do have to get him to a calm place now and again, and once there, his strong will can be directed toward something better.
And I have a problem with Dobson because I think that teaching kids to value physical force over wisdom (the subtext of a spanking) increases ignorance."

I also mentioned that this deserved a post in itself. It does and hopefully this will help... Read more!

To expand a bit further, (and why I have a problem with Dobson) this bit from the Berkeley Zen center's a good starting point:

n Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Suzuki Roshi says you should give your cow a wide open field to roam in. If you want to control your cow or horse, you should give him or her a wide field, and not try to control, but just watch. If you ignore your horse or your cow, that's not right. You should watch and observe when the right time is to help or to do something. But if you try to control, or always try to manipulate, then that won't work. So give your cow a wide field. That's true. But if you stick to that, it's not true. The other side is that sometimes you have to put your cow in the corral. Sometimes you have to put your cow in the barn. If you want to get milk from the cow you have to put it in the barn. If you want to train the horse, you have to put him in the corral. So there are different ways. Sometimes you have to put your student in the barn or the corral, sometimes you give a wide field and just watch. Both are necessary. So our practice is sometimes very tight, in a corral-sometimes very loose, out in the field, just wandering looking for grass to chew. Under restriction our activity is very concentrated and we have the opportunity to see our self completely in the mirror of no place else to go. Due to our restricted activity we can find our true freedom. Then we can express it in the field. Knowing how to commune with the pillar-that's our practice either way. Whether we're in a tight situation or in a big field, how the old Buddha communes with the pillar is our practice.

I am convinced that any parent who does not realize that his child teaches him , and not just the other way around is not a very mindful parent. Your child teaches you many things, among them, that you're being a jerk sometimes.

James Dobson says:

Healthy parenting can be boiled down to those two essential ingredients: love and control. They must operate in a system of checks and balances. Any concentration on love to the exclusion of control usually breeds disrespect and contempt. Conversely, an authoritarian and oppressive home atmosphere is deeply resented by the child who feels unloved or even hated. The objective for the toddler years is to strike a balance between mercy and justice, affection and authority, love and control.

Now theres several problems with this that immediately jump out:

  • It's a false dichotomy; love is itself a disciplined practice. James Dobson, in describing "healthy parenting" this way is actually not teaching what love and child rearing actually is. Think about it: this "love" of Dobson's is conditional love. Want screwed up kids? Teach 'em they're not inherently lovable. Thanks Dobson.

  • The toddler doesn't know squat about abstract things like mercy, justice, authority and control. And why should he? The "objective" in the toddler years is rather to make sure the kid learns, is healthy, is loved, and that some behaviors are harmful and unskillful, and some behaviors are skillful. And the best way we teach that is by being healthy and skillful ourselves.

The Montessori folks do it, and I've done it before I knew they did it: the way to deal with a strong-willed, forceful child is to channel that force away from harm and to accelerate it towards the healthy and skillful. It's the same principle as ju jistsu or aikido.

And you know what? It friggin' works!

There are times when I'm not as skillful as at other times; and sometimes I have to give my son a time-out to calm down. But he's never merrited a spanking- and I don't think even James Dobson did as a kid.

And look how he turned out...

Buy low, sell high


JAKARTA, Indonesia, April 22 - Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan reiterated an apology today for his country's aggression in World War II ahead of an expected meeting with President Hu Jintao of China in an attempt to defuse a diplomatic row over how Japan interprets its wartime history.

Echoing remarks of previous Japanese prime ministers, Mr. Koizumi expressed "deep remorse" over the pain inflicted on Japan's neighbors in Asia during a speech to a gathering of Asian and African leaders here.

The repetition of the longstanding apology over Japan's war record was significant for its timing: Mr. Koizumi and Mr. Hu are expected to meet Saturday in an effort to calm a dispute that has set off bitter anti-Japanese protests in China.

JEQ is quoted today at the moment:
$5.86 $-0.02 -0.34%

FXI is quoted at the moment at:
FXI (NYSE) $54.50 $+0.01 +0.02%

I gotta buy some more of this stuff today.

The end-the-filibuster religious bigotry gets even more interesting


Frist's own church slaps him over his pandering to religious bigots.

And if you've any doubt that religious bigotry's involved, read through that article...

Christian conservatives have also accused Senator ... Salazar of Colorado, a Roman Catholic, of tolerating anti-Catholicism from his fellow Democrats who oppose nominees who follow the church's teachings on abortions.

On Thursday, Mr. Salazar responded by issuing a statement taking to task one of the telecast's speakers, Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, for deprecating the Catholic faith. It quoted Mr. Mohler as saying "the Roman church is a false church and it teaches a false gospel" and "the pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office."

Dr. Mohler called Mr. Salazar's statement "absolutely ridiculous," saying it was hardly news that evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics "differ on many key theological issues." He said he supported a Catholic nominee the Democrats had opposed.

In the past two weeks, religious leaders on both sides of the judicial battle have plunged into the debate. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is distributing millions of postcards around the country for parishioners to send their senators asking them not to insist that nominees uphold abortion rights. Evangelical Protestant groups like Focus on the Family have been portraying the confirmation debates as a fight over public expression of religion and respect for traditionalist values.

Now the liberal group People for the American Way is buying advertisements and distributing church program inserts that attack Senator Frist for invoking religious faith in what it says is a partisan context. The National Council of Churches is asking members to organize news conferences denouncing Dr. Frist

So, the heretical Baptists are agitating with the exclusivist Catholics to change something that's been in the Senate practices for about 200 years.

Salazar's right to point out that the Bishops' bedfellows are intrinsically disordered in a religiously incorrect manner; it just shows how ludicrous this whole pandering is. How can these folks be purporting to make their decisions on the bases of, ahem, "objective morality" when all the participants view each others' sects as "false?" Just asking.

Timely article from Krugman


The United States spends far more on health care than other advanced countries. Yet we don't appear to receive more medical services. And we have lower life-expectancy and higher infant-mortality rates than countries that spend less than half as much per person. How do we do it?

An important part of the answer is that much of our health care spending is devoted to passing the buck: trying to get someone else to pay the bills.

According to the World Health Organization, in the United States administrative expenses eat up about 15 percent of the money paid in premiums to private health insurance companies, but only 4 percent of the budgets of public insurance programs, which consist mainly of Medicare and Medicaid. The numbers for both public and private insurance are similar in other countries - but because we rely much more heavily than anyone else on private insurance, our total administrative costs are much higher.

According to the health organization, the higher costs of private insurers are "mainly due to the extensive bureaucracy required to assess risk, rate premiums, design benefit packages and review, pay or refuse claims." Public insurance plans have far less bureaucracy because they don't try to screen out high-risk clients or charge them higher fees.

And the costs directly incurred by insurers are only half the story. Doctors "must hire office personnel just to deal with the insurance companies," Dr. Atul Gawande, a practicing physician, wrote in The New Yorker. "A well-run office can get the insurer's rejection rate down from 30 percent to, say, 15 percent. That's how a doctor makes money. ... It's a war with insurance, every step of the way

Yesterday I had to get my wife to see a medical person (a chiropracter, preferably) because her back went out.

Here's one of the big untold stories of those new suburban developments about which David Brooks is always praising: there's a chronic shortage of medical people in places like Vancouver, WA. There's a shortage of funeral directors and butchers, too, but I don't think they're all related. At least I hope not.

Anyway, she was finally directed to an "urgent care" place that reminded me of a massage parlor, complete with what seemed to be exotic dancers moonlighting as receptionists (Richard Bennett, I can tell you the location of the place if you ever need it.) I've no problem with exotic dancers moonlighting as receptionists, but it wasn't the kind of professionalism I have in mind when I or a loved one is seeking out health care. My wife got codeine (she has a bad cough, too, which threw her back out in the first place) cough medicine and a hot pad, but that was it.

When I was a kid, if you got sick you saw the doctor, who made house calls. Yeah, he really did. Health care in the US is increasingly sucky, especially for "urgent care.

Nobody here has a right to complain about Canada or "socialist" health care; heck I've got killer health care coverage, and I or my wife can't see a competent doctor when we get sick.

"David Horowitz" came to mind,

and that never happens in a nice way. It seems that the former "liberal" turned "rabid conservative" pope is, out of the chute, not changing his colors. Via Atrios, the BBC tells us:

Pope Benedict XVI has responded firmly to the first challenge of his papacy by condemning a Spanish government bill allowing marriage between homosexuals.
The bill, passed by parliament's Socialist-dominated lower house, also allows gay couples to adopt...

Interviewed in the Italian newspaper, Corriere de la Serra, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo said the Church was making an urgent call for freedom of conscience for Roman Catholics and appealing to them to resist the law.

He said every profession linked with implementing homosexual marriages should oppose it, even if it meant losing their jobs.

At least George "Eggs" Benedict is not spewing this feces himself.

And make no mistake about it: feces it is.

We certainly know enough about these things to know that at best the argument between gay rights folks and gay-repression folks (funny how the "pro-life" movement never figured out a clever moniker to oppose gay rights) to know that it comes down to, at best, religious issues (on the part of the repressors) and psychological issues (on the part of the repressors). Yeah, yeah, yeah "they spread diseases," but so do crazed Baptists in the military on shore leave. In fact, often, they're one in the same, but I digress...

Given that the differences are over religion and psychology, really, with psychological and religious deficiences on the part of the Christians over negatively sanctioning gays in society (must not write "Benedict is objectively disordered!" must not write...) and given that if Benny of the 7 Hills says this about gays, he could be saying it about Buddhists or Jews, it is the duty of every good thinking person to oppose him.

I heard Thom Hartman say that the earliest institutions of marriage, in the US, were legal, not religious. I have to check that angle out...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Looks like a train wreck for the religious right.

Ya got that, Hugh Hewitt? A train wreck..

We have John Kerry and Mark Pryor and Ken Salazar all at once today.

And their cover-girl, Tom DeLay, is in deep, deep doo-doo.

You want to go nuclear? Really? Even Man-on-Dog Santorum is backing away from that.

Remember, Dems:

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

Keep it up!

If it doesn't have Uma Thurman and Samuel L. Jackson, and a cool surf-rock soundtrack, I bet it sucks...

"Pope Fiction"

In this series Patrick Madrid answers and refutes many misconceptions about the Papacy and the Office of the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church. He refutes the myths of a so-called woman pope named Joan, the accusations leveled at the Papacy due to the Spanish Inquisition, the alleged failure of Pope Pius the XII to do more to denounce and stop the Nazi’s. He also explains and refutes many misconceptions about the Office of the Pope like the difference between infallibility and and impeccability, the Scriptural references that indicate the Apostle Peter’s designation by Christ as the Leader or Pope of the Apostles and His Church, the scriptural references where the Apostles handed down their authority as Bishops.
I mean, it's one thing to give a show a snazzy name, but do they really think they'll get Tarantino fans to tune in?

On the other hand, maybe I'll tune in to hear why we might think of the pope as impeccably dressed, but he lacks sartorial infallibility.

Yes, Evangelicals and Fundamentalists are a small minority of the US population...


Despite the media frenzy surrounding the influence of evangelical Christians during the 2004 presidential election, the new study indicates that evangelicals remain just 7% of the adult population. That number has not changed since the Barna Group began measuring the size of the evangelical public in 1994.

Barna surveys do not ask people to define themselves as “evangelical” but instead categorize people as such based on their beliefs. In this approach, evangelicals a subset of born again Christians. In addition to meeting the born again criteria (described below) evangelicals also meet seven other conditions. Those include saying their faith is very important in their life today; contending that they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; stating that Satan exists; maintaining that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not by being good or doing good deeds; asserting that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; saying that the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. In this framework, being classified as “evangelical” is not dependent upon any kind of church or denominational affiliation or involvement.

Several segments of the population are more likely than average to be found within evangelical circles. The vast majority of evangelicals are Protestant; less than 1% of Catholics fit the description. Similarly, adults who describe themselves as conservative on social and political matters are much more likely to fit the definition than are those who say they are liberal in their thinking on such matters (17% versus 1%, respectively). The largest concentration of evangelicals lives within the South; the most limited number resides in the Northeast. Even though all evangelicals are born again Christians, less than one out of five born again adults (18%) meet the evangelical criteria.

The report also illustrates the comparatively enormous size of the born again constituency. As with the term “evangelical”, the phrase “born again Christian” is not assigned to those people who call themselves by that name. Barna’s surveys categorize people as born again if they say they “have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in my life today” and also contend that after they die they will “go to Heaven because I have confessed my sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as my savior.” Four out of ten adults fit this definition.

When all of the atheists, agnostics and adults associated with non-Christian faith groups are combined, they are only half as numerous as the born again segment (21% compared to 40% respectively). The remaining body of people – 39% of the nation’s adult population – is what Barna categorizes as “notional Christians” – people who consider themselves to be Christian but are not born again. For more than a decade, the sizes of the born again and notional segments have been roughly equivalent.

This matches roughly this Kos diary, which references sources that show that actually, non-Christians are the fastest growing segment of society. In fact, the numbers of Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists have increased the most, percentage-wise, since 1990, according to references therein.

We have to remember that some groups are simply louder than others.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Close your mouth, no barking like a dog!

Matthew Yglesias points me to this essay on "relativism" by the new pope.

I quote from Ratzinger:

The relativism of Hick, Knitter and related theories are ultimately based on a rationalism which declares that reason-in the Kantian meaning-is incapable of metaphysical cognition.[10] The new foundation of religion comes about by following a pragmatic path with more ethical or political overtones. However, there is also a consciously anti-rationalist response to the experience of the slogan "Everything is relative," which comes together under the pluriform denomination of [11]

For the supporters of the New Age, the solution to the problem of relativity must not be sought in a new encounter of the self with another or others, but by overcoming the subject in an ecstatic return to the cosmic dance. Like the old gnosis, this way pretends to be totally attuned to all the results of science and to be based on all kinds of scientific knowledge (biology, psychology, sociology, physics). But on the basis of this presupposition it offers at the same time a considerably antirationalist model of religion, a modern "mystic": The Absolute is not to be believed, but to be experienced. God is not a person to be distinguished from the world, but a spiritual energy present in the universe.

This is pretty much the deepest venture near Eastern philosophy that Ratzinger makes in his document; it is not surprising that he steers clear of Nagarjuna, or Dogen, or Shitou Xiqian (石頭希遷, whose famous rejoinder to questions is the title of this post). Admittedly, the latter two authors' works are shot through with metaphors, giddy fingers wagging excitedly at the moon, but the last link provides a clue into why I think Ratzinger is so far out of his depth (or in denial) that he's not even aware how weak his strawman is:


Harmony of Difference and Sameness

竺土大仙心 The mind of the great sage of India

東西密相付 is intimately transmitted from west to east.

人根有利鈍 While human faculties are sharp or dull,

道無南北祖 the Way has no northern or southern ancestors.

靈源明皎潔 The spiritual source shines clear in the light;

枝派暗流注 the branching streams flow on in the dark.

執事元是迷 Grasping at things is surely delusion;

契理亦非悟 according with sameness is still not enlightenment.

門門一切境 All the objects of the senses

迴互不迴互 interact and yet do not.

迴而更相 Interacting brings involvement.

不爾依位住 Otherwise, each keeps its place.

色本殊質像 Sights vary in quality and form,

聲元異樂苦 sounds differ as pleasing or harsh.

闇合上中言 Refined and common speech come together in the dark,

明明清濁句 clear and murky phrases are distinguished in the light.

四大性自復 The four elements return to their natures

如子得其母 just as a child turns to its mother;

火熱風動搖 Fire heats, wind moves,

水濕地堅固 water wets, earth is solid.

眼色耳音聲 Eye and sights, ear and sounds,

鼻香舌鹹醋 nose and smells, tongue and tastes;

然於一一法 Thus with each and every thing,

依根葉分布 depending on these roots, the leaves spread forth.

本未須歸宗 Trunk and branches share the essence;

尊卑用其語 revered and common, each has its speech.

當明中有暗 In the light there is darkness,

勿以暗相遇 but don't take it as darkness;

當暗中有明 In the dark there is light,

勿以明相睹 but don't see it as light.

明暗各相對 Light and dark oppose one another

比如前後歩 like the front and back foot in walking.

萬物自有功 Each of the myriad things has its merit,

當言用及處 expressed according to function and place.

事存函蓋合 Phenomena exist; box and lid fit;

理應箭鋒 principle responds; arrow points meet.

承言須會宗 Hearing the words, understand the meaning;

勿自立規矩 don't set up standards of your own.

觸目不會道 If you don't understand the Way right before you,

運足焉知路 how will you know the path as you walk?

進歩非近遠 Progress is not a matter of far or near,

迷隔山河故 but if you are confused, mountains and rivers block your way.

謹白參玄人 I respectfully urge you who study the mystery,

光陰莫虚度 do not pass your days and nights in vain.

Genpo-roshi's translation is a bit clearer on this point- a dead giveaway I'd say:

Sounds distinguish comfort and discomfort.
The dark makes all words one;
brightness distinguishes good and bad phrases.
The four elements return to their natures as a child to its mother.
Fire is hot, wind moves, water is wet, earth hard.
Eyes see, ears hear, nose smells, tongue tastes the salt and sour.
Each is independent of the other.
Cause and effect must return to the great reality.
The words high and low are used relatively.
Within light there is darkness,
but do not try to understand that darkness.
Within darkness there is light,
but do not look for that light.
Light and darkness are a pair,
like the foot before and the foot behind in walking.(O)
Each thing has its own intrinsic value
and is related to everything else in function and position.
Ordinary life fits the absolute as a box and its lid.
The absolute works together with the relative,
like two arrows meeting in mid air.

The absolute and the relative, in the Mahayana tradition are interdependent; it's not "there are no absolutes" nor "everything is relative."

To deny the relative is to live in a world that is not our own. To deny the absolute is to deny conciousness and thinking about the world. Each has its function and position, as it says above.

It's unfortunate that Ratzinger's piece is what passes for intellectual gravitas nowadays, at least in his immediate circle.

Wishful Thinking...

William Dembski hopes the new pope will come down against evolution.

But in so doing, he reveals his somewhat disingenuous take on evolution.

Dembski quotes from Ratzinger saying:

It is the affair of the natural sciences to explain how the tree of life in particular continues to grow and how new branches shoot out from it. This is not a matter for faith. But we must have the audacity to say that the great projects of the living creation are not the products of chance and error…

Now Dembski claims a Ph.D. in mathematics, and touts a knowledge of Information Theory. As such he should know that Probability and Measure Theory do not state the cause of an underlying set function; they are merely presumed as axiomatic. The "cause" of the underlying set function that governs probabilities of random occurrences is irrelevant to the study of probability.

So the term "chance" when used in a technical, mathematical sense is simply a phenomenological statement; no underlying "cause" is either implied or dismissed. Thus there is no tension between what Ratzinger says here and what John Paull II said on evolution; they are both in agreement as to the metaphysics (and a non-Christian's mileage will still vary).

It is interesting that this "Intelligent" "Design" proponent relies not only on a religious authority, but also George W. Bush (antagonist of the "reality based commun ity") to attack science.

"Be lamps unto yourselves"

That was my response to this heartfelt diary on Kos.

I quote:

Why did so many jump all over the Hitler Youth piece of the new pope's biography, when there are plenty of opinions and actions in the last 20 years or so by Cardinal Ratzinger to be upset over from a liberal perspective? There are folks that aren't familiar with the ins and outs of Catholic theology, but are extremely suspicious of, and sensitive to, anything that smacks of fascism. And this was an easy piece to latch onto, one that appeared to confirm the worst fears of feminists, gays, etc.

No, it wasn't smart. Those who commented that this will certainly be fodder for the folks at LGF to caricature us are correct. But those who reacted this way were reacting from the heart, not the brain. If they were reacting from the brain, they certainly would have said, as others did, that this is no way to bring the Catholic vote back into the Democratic party.

It also was said by some that this was prejudice against the Roman Catholic Church. I do not agree. The posts did not say that Catholics as a whole are idiots, supporters of child molestation, minions of Satan, etc. This was outrage at today's specific act of the college of cardinals in the selection of this particular individual to be pope.

So why the storm and fury over this one individual? Well, let me put it to you this way. In the case of my wife and myself, no other single individual had more to do with why I am no longer a Catholic. I suspect that this is true for the vast majority of ex-Catholics that posted, even if they aren't fully aware of the ongoing detailed role of Cardinal Ratzinger in his official capacities that made them feel unwelcome in the only religious home many of them had ever known...

Of deep pain. Of anguish. Of the kind of pain we all felt on the day after the election. The kind of pain you might feel if you left an abusive, cheating husband, and he was then elected to public office, even though his abusiveness and cheating were well documented in the local press.

It ripped open all the old wounds. It felt as if the Church were saying "good riddance to you!"

The fact that this reader was lucky enough to have lived through the effects of John XXIII and Paul VI, like myself, perhaps set his expections a bit higher for the Roman Catholic Church than is deserved.

Regardless, (and whether or not Ratzinger lives up to his past as pope remains to be seen) the issue -at least for this Buddhist ex-Catholic- isn't really anything to do with Benedict XVI, but myself. Look, folks, if aliens came to visit earth, and they were introduced to Ratzinger et al., with their ways , their celibacy, and their pedophilia scandals, and if those aliens were told that these guys represented the supremum bonum of morality on this earth, if aliens laughed, they would1. Why be so attached to Joseph Ratzinger's pretensions to authority? It's your life, after all. Live it by doing your best.

1. In one of the first teishos I heard from Bonnie Myotai Treace, she said something to the effect of, "Why would anyone in New York come to hear a bald-headed American woman dressed up in the costume of a 13th century Japanese monk?"

5 Questions for Shokai

Appropos of the "5 Questions" meme, I hope I can get Shokai to answer these questions; his blog is one of my regular stops:

1. You are in sesshin, and it is the fourth day. It is lunch time; so oryoki is being practiced. After serving yourself or being served, after your offering, as you mindfully eat, you notice there is a piece of a plastic fork in your food. What do you do?

2. Designated hitter or pitcher hits his own?

3. This one came from Sogen Roshi, who was kind enough to write this shodou ( 書道 ) for me: East, South, North, West; what does not change?

4. How would you describe enlightenment to someone like Razorskiss?

5. After anyone proceeds in practice long enough, even koans that a student is not formally studying begin to take on meaning that wasn't apparent previously. What koans do you find particularly inscrutable?


This could get interesting


ROME, April 20 - In his first Mass as pope, Benedict XVI reached out to the church today, setting out some of the themes of his papacy in conciliatory language.

He specified some of the top priorities of his papacy: the promotion of the unity of Christians and a commitment to ecumenism, the continued dialogue with other religions and the fulfillment of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council...

He told the gold-robed cardinals in attendance that he would assume as his primary task the "full and visible unity of all the followers of Christ."

More than a task, he said, it was a duty where "concrete gestures" were required and not vague motions of good sentiment.

For more than two decades at the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger was Catholicism's faithful doctrinal watchdog, and in a homily on Monday he said that Christians were being tossed about by the waves of Marxism, collectivism, libertinism and atheism.

And he was highly critical of the creation of new "sects," a term often used by church leaders to refer to Christian evangelical movements, drawing Christians into what he said was "error."

But in his first homily as pontiff he took a much softer stance, saying he was disposed "to do what was in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism."

And in a gesture perhaps intended to allay the fears of those critics who saw his election as shutting the door on the inter-religious dialogue started by his predecessor, Pope Benedict appealed to "those who follow other religions," reassuring them that the church wanted to continue to construct "an open and sincere dialogue" with them.

Well, if anything, this guy has no more a special place at his table for Evangelicals than he does Buddhists or Zoroastrians.


5 Questions for Thomas Chen

Thomas Chen is one of the brightest people I know. His blog is an interesting window into the really bright high school student stuck amidst the stupidity and mediocrity of today, without the salvific balm of Frank Zappa's or John Lennon's early solo music. I just hope he remembers that Phil Ochs killed himself for our sins many, many years ago...

Here's my 5 questions to him, which I hope he answers on his blog:

1. When you get to Princeton, and you settle in, before classes, what do you expect to do in your free time?

2. What's the most pleasant memory you'll take away from your years at Skyview High School?

3. Who do you think is the most important mathematician of the 20th century, and why?

4. In what one field of knowledge are you currently lacking that you'd like to know more and plan to study at Princeton?

5. What should Americans know first and foremost about China and the Chinese of today?

Thanks in advance!

5 Questions for Razorskiss

Razaorskiss has to be admired; his blog is snazzier than mine and gets much more traffic than mine. As one can also see from his "about" page, he's very fond of words. And apologietics. So when the 5 questions meme went to me, I said to myself, "Self you gotta get this guy."

Anyway, here I go (and I apologize in advance for the long run-ups to some of the questions):

1. Although your recent post referring to another post on Every Thought Captive started to go in the direction of this question, it's still the most obvious one. Blaise Pascal had basically said that apologetics and counter-apologetic arguments did nothing to convince the unbeliever, but the believer became more convinced. The obvious answer then is that apologetics are done to strengthen one's faith. There are other ways to strengthen one's faith as well, among them worship or ritual or contemplative practices. Why favor one over the other?

2. How do you know when it's the Holy Spirit leading and guiding and inspiring you and when it's just you?

3. One of the big divides between moderates and progressives and those who send money to Focus on the Family involves spanking children. What's your thoughts on spanking, and if you never had to spank your kids, would you still do so (assuming the answer is that you follow biblical advice on spanking)?

4. Why can't Christian music come up with something really genuine today, something that doesn't seem to be an echo of the commercial world? (As in, when are we going to see a Christian Frank Zappa?)

5. If someone had the same physiological and psychological responses as you, the same subjective experience as you (peace, understanding that surpassed knowledge, etc.), the same change of behavior, or repentence as you, but believed in a different religion, why - appart from what the bible said (my imaginary construct also has a book, you see) - would you say that guy might be damned and you might not be?

Thanks in advance.

Update funny linking fixed....I think...

Updated Update: Check out Razorkiss's responses on his blog.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Oh, well, throw out the NY Times...


The last pope who chose the name Benedict was an Italian noble who canonized Joan of Arc and spent much of his papacy trying unsuccessfully to end World War I, which had pitted Europe's Catholics against one another.

Born Giacomo della Chiesa in Genoa, Italy, Pope Benedict XV served as pontiff from 1914 to 1922, the second shortest length of time for a pope in the 20th Century.

(Emphasis added.)
No, dummies; John XXIII's and John Paul I's were shorter. That would make him at best number 3.

Don't these guys have fact checkers?

Kinda like when that guy in Ghost Busters thinks of Stay-Puft, the Marshmallow Man...

I will admit, the first thing that came into my head on hearing of John Ratzinger's elevation to pope, and the name he took, was this guy:


Seafield Center was my dream when I was first in recovery. I dreamed of a gracious and peaceful setting with a loving and nurturing environment where individualized treatment programs would restore dignity to the addicted and communicate to the entire family that, through treatment, there is help and there is hope. Sobriety is just the beginning. We focus on restoring self-esteem and rebuilding strength within the family. Using advanced state of the art techniques, we help one person at a time, one day at a time.

George Benedict used to have these commercials on in NY late at night on WPIX (Channel 11), and whatever Channel 9 used to be called, that is, the low-budget channels, in which he'd rail against the viewer for being up too late at night, in a grumpy, angry, hardly serene voice, purportedly to encourage the viewers to get themselves into rehab pronto.

He sounded, actually, as if he'd been on an anger binge; it used to give my friends and I great entertainment as we quaffed a few in his honor way back when, before engagement, before career explosion, before child.

My only regret is that Ratzinger didn't take 2 given names for himself, following the example of the last 2 popes; he could well have been Pope George Benedict, and then the metaphor would be even better.

5 questions...the meme to be passed

As tgirsch, the caregiver of Lean Left notes, in response to my answers to his questions, it's now my turn to pass the 5 questions meme around.

The questioner poses 5 questions to 5 people in the blogosphere, who in turn, propagate the meme to 5 others.

If anyone wishes to volunteer, please do.

However, I'm thinking up questions to ask people whose blogs I regularly visit.

Let me know if you wish to be questioned, but I might ask questions of others anyway.


I'm not all that surprised that marriage counseling doesn't work

The NY Times today has an article on marriage counseling and - shock- it doesn't work all that often...

[D]oes marital therapy work? Not nearly as well as it should, researchers say. Two years after ending counseling, studies find, 25 percent of couples are worse off than they were when they started, and after four years, up to 38 percent are divorced.

Many of the counseling strategies used today, like teaching people to listen and communicate better and to behave in more positive ways, can help couples for up to a year, say social scientists who have analyzed the effectiveness of different treatments. But they are insufficient to get couples through the squalls of conflict that inevitably recur in the long term.

At the same time, experts say, many therapists lack the skills to work with couples who are in serious trouble.

Unable to help angry couples get to the root of their conflict and forge a resolution, these therapists do one of two things: they either let the partners take turns talking week after week, with no end to the therapy in sight, or they give up on the couple and, in effect, steer them to divorce...

With an experimental approach called integrative behavioral couples therapy, for example, 67 percent of couples significantly improved their relationships for two years, according to a study reported in November to the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy.

Instead of teaching couples how to avoid or solve arguments, as traditional counseling techniques do, the integrative therapy aims to make arguments less hurtful by helping partners accept their differences. It is based on a recent finding that it is not whether a couple fights but how they fight that can destroy a relationship.

Especially encouraging, all of the couples in the study were at high risk of divorce. "Many had been couples therapy failures," said Dr. Andrew Christensen, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles and the lead author of the study.

But some experts who were trained as couples therapists have now become so disillusioned that they question the value of couples therapy in any form. They say that couples are better off taking marriage education courses - practical workshops that teach couples how to get along and that do not ask them to bare their souls or air their problems to a third party.

There's several reasons why the traditional models don't work:

1. Are marriage counselors trained to train couples to negotiate well? Generally not I'd say. While the aspects of listening and communicating are important, there's other aspects to having needs met and agreed upon, that if these counselors had training in that, they'd be working in business for far more money.

2. Marriage counselors often have a vested interest in continuing the counseling- they get paid per session.

3. This is pointed out later in the article- but in any marriage, it is a human being you marry, complete with foibles, weird personality traits, annoying habits, and is somebody quirky enough to have loved you in the first place. If you don't take the whole package, as they are, it's an act of greed, not love. OTOH, if you don't focus on your own behavior, and cultivate your own discipline (spiritual and/or what you might think of as "otherwise,") your spouse may have married a dead person, for all intents and purposes. Unfortunately, for all the vaunted American religiosity, most Americans do not highly value religious self-discipline.

4. Finally, stressors in marriage tend to be a lack of money and time, especially when kids are involved. It's not for nothing that America has such high divorce rates- it's indicative of the decline in our quality of life.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Hopefully, there's a libel and slander suit - or several- coming


ORLANDO -- In the four years after Michael Schiavo won the right to remove his wife's feeding tube, the state's social welfare agency investigated 89 complaints of abuse but never found that he or anybody else harmed Terri Schiavo, records released late Friday show.

The state Department of Children and Families repeatedly concluded that Michael Schiavo ensured his wife's physical and medical needs were met, provided proper therapy for her and had no control over her money. They also found no evidence that he beat or strangled her, as his detractors have repeatedly charged...

Schiavo had been kept alive by the feeding tube for 15 years, but courts ruled that she was in a persistent vegetative state and had not wanted to be kept alive artificially. Her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, countered that she responded to them and wanted to live, setting off an international debate over right-to-die issues.

The records show that DCF took seriously its duty to investigate abuse allegations, which became familiar fodder on the Internet: Terri Schiavo was dirty and unkempt. She did not receive proper dental care or rehabilitative therapy. She was kept in isolation. Her husband beat her and broke her bones. He wanted her dead for her money or to remarry. He pumped her full of insulin, hoping to kill her. He often asked, "When will (she) die?" Her lips were cracked and dry.

The names of the complainants were blacked out under Pinellas County Circuit Judge George W. Greer's orders.

But DCF investigators looked into the charges and closed them as unfounded with such comments as "the spouse has always been courteous and very compassionate toward his wife" and "all her needs being met."

In at least one case, the caller found the evidence of Terri Schiavo's alleged abuse on the Internet.

I really, really, hope Schiavo sues Fox News, CNN, Focus on the Family, and all the follks who dragged his name through the mud;.