Saturday, April 30, 2005

Jesus' iPod

WIth all the stuff about Bush and his purported iPod you knew it was only a matter of time before Mark Morford ripped it. Sorry if you have seen it but I am just catching up.

The iPod and Jesus -- it just makes sense.

After all, Jesus was a rebel. Jesus was the Original Liberal. Jesus was a devoted pacifist and a badass egalitarian and his best friends were all whores and dissidents and freethinkers and miscreants, artists of every shape and size and haircut and of course, were he walking around today, Jesus would be pretty much loathed and ostracized if not outright hacked to bits by the Christian Right. "Goddamn hippie liberal tree hugger," they'd sneer, waving scythes and Bibles. "What the hell?" Jesus would say.

Teach it All or Not at All

Jane over at Firedoglake has a great post up on a movement to start use the Bible in teaching literature. Jane obviously has better credentials than I for discussing this but I have been raised in the south and know a little about religion and the effects the Bible has when it is introduced into polite society. Besides, I have been virtually silent for almost two weeks and this is one of my favorite subjects.
First and foremost, when talking about the Bible, especially when it is associated with Southern Baptist, Church of God, Assembly of God and all of the other offshoots of fundamentalist southern Christianity do not ever presume to allude to the fact that the Bible is not the absolute, unadulterated WORD OF GOD. Begin a discussion at any other point without a firm acceptance of this “absolute truth” and you are lost.
If you try an explain that while in many ways an excellent collection of ancient parables and stories it really didn’t just spring into existence from the mouth of God in 1611 A.D. when it was first published but actually was an often wildly inaccurate translation of Hebrew and Greek writing from 900 B.C to around 120 A.D. There is no manuscript of the Old Testament older that the 9th century B.C. We do know, however, that all of these writings were collected and declared Holy Scriptures by the Rabbinical Conclave in Palestine shortly before 100A.D. We also know that the Christian Bible was compiled by a Catholic Council in Carthage in about 300 A.D. That was when some of the controversial books like the Shepherd of Hermas and the glorious Gospel of Saint Thomas were left out. It’s a hoot to know that the Christian Bible is composed of Jewish writings that reject Jesus and Catholics who are reviled as the Scarlet Woman of Revelation.
So anyway, to get back to the point about the Bible used as literature and whether it is a good idea, I agree with Jane that if you teach it in its historical perspective and the puerile with the rest then maybe some good might come of it. I actually have no expectation that this will happen as this is just another method, like intelligent design, to get the Christian bias into the schools. No way will they ever teach the Bible straight up just like they won’t believe it is not the direct word of God.
It’s like this…the Bible is a collected work of ancient writing full of parables, allegory, myth, mysticism and just plain fiction that requires a working knowledge of mythology, linguistics, theology, history, philosophy and archaic language to interpret at all credibly. Probably someone like Jane’s father could be trusted to teach a course but I would doubt anyone with lesser background. Additionally, there should be prerequisite courses in comparative religion, philosophy eastern and western not to mention history. If you just turn over this dangerous book to a bunch of relatively ignorant and uneducated peasants to use their superstition, petty jealousies and greed to interpret and use as they see fit…guess what you’ve got American Fundamentalism. This is exactly what happened when you started mass printing Bibles. A lot of ignorant and uneducated people now had what everyone says is the “ultimate” authority with which to justify their basest desires and worst prejudices and that is exactly what is happening. If you haven’t noticed a lot of these people are horribly afraid that there are people out there who are having a better time than they are and that there are people who are not afraid of things that are new and different and who embrace life warts and all. They want everybody to be disgusted at their sexuality and afraid of life like they are and cower from they joy of life lived. If you had given the Bible to Taoists or Buddhists which are basically pacifist and tolerant you wouldn’t have nearly the problems we have today. The Bible is militaristic and chauvinistic when literally understood and is being used by these fanatics to justify a campaign, that doesn’t recognize compromise, to make it the only belief permitted in the world. The Bible is not an evil book but in the wrong hands it is horribly dangerous. You only have to look closely at Christianity today to understand the problem.
Read the following carefully and repeat it often when you get confused about Christianity. It is a key to understanding.

Christianity is a religion about Jesus not the religion of Jesus.

update: I meant peasants not pheasants. fixed it

Stupid is as Stupid Does

The people in the Bush administration are now obviously convinced we are utter morons and that they can tell us absolutely anything and not be challenged. Not only that, they think we can’t remember what we had for breakfast this morning and couldn’t possibly remember what stupid lie was parroted by Bush just a week ago.
Bush the Stupid tells us one week that Treasury Bonds are just so many paper IOUs and worthless and the next week is telling us they are the safest of investments. The longer we let this crap go on the worse it will get. At some point it will get so outrageous that we will be too embarrassed to point it out fearing that everyone will think we are pedantic for doing so. I have no doubt that this latest bullshit will be ignored my the main stream as well. Our lack of outrage and silence of the taxpayer funded “Let’s Destroy Social Security Tour”has pushed their belief over the edge. Brad DeLong explains the fuzzy math very well so I don’t have to.

The "build a nest egg" part... The "invest in Treasury bonds" part... Let's mosey on over to the Federal Reserve and look at the safest long-term investment the U.S. Treasury offers: the twenty-year inflation-protected TIP:
FRB: H.15--Selected Interest Rates, Web-Only Daily Update--April 28, 2005: Inflation-indexed: 20-year 1.83 1.86 1.87.
What the Federal Reserve is telling us is that the 20-year TIP is currently providing a real yield of 1.87% per year. What Bush is not telling you is that, under the Bush plan, if you divert $1000 from your Social Security to private accounts, that amount is clawed back--charged to an account associated with your normal Social Security benefit, that amount is then compounded at 3% per year plus the rate of inflation, and then after you retired deducted over time from your normal Social Security benefit.
If you are 45 and if Bush's plan were available today...
Follow George W. Bush's advice, divert $1,000 into your private account, invest it in TIPS, and at the 1.85% per year interest rate you will indeed by able to collect an extra amount worth $10.11 a month in today's dollars when you retire at 65...
But the clawback would reduce your normal Social Security benefit by $14.16 a month. You're $4.05 a month behind.
"Building a nest egg." Feh!


Someone must have a name for it. I’ve been out of the country for a couple of weeks and what with work and WiFi problems have been pretty much isolated from the internet and the blog world. Sitting here on a Saturday morning and trying to recover the ebb and flow of the net over the last two weeks is very strange. Quite a bit has happened and a lot of insightful comments but it is all passed now and anything I might add would be old hat. Gives one a strange sense of helplessness and/or out of control feeling. I can pitch right in, which I will do soon, but it will not remove the feeling of loss or lost opportunity. I did manage one post with the Blackberry but it wasn’t very rewarding somehow. Anyhow, I was wondering if anyone might have a good name for the withdrawal of the internet and the blogs for an extended period. Webenvy, netloss, blogified, blogidosis? Maybe something circumspect like winkleidis?

Saturday, April 23, 2005

WAP Only

Well the WiFi in the hotel has gone away so I am reduced to finally getting around to trying to blog from the Blackberry. The plans for the weekend have thus gone south. Off and on rain have even put wandering aimlessly out. I've taken pictures of everything at least twice anyway.I did go out and have the obligatory baguette avec jambon et grueyere.
If you ever get the chance to visit Lyon and you like food you will enjoy yourself immensely. Try to stay in the old city section Vieux Lyon and you will have literaly hundreds of good places within a 10 minute walk. Lyon is considered by many to have the best food in France which I can't argue with.
You do have to be a little careful with literal translations though. One of notes on the menu the other night noted that the salad Lyonaisse was available with "donkey snouts" in season. I haven't figured out what that really is yet but I am sure it is quite tasty.
I did go out and walk the open air food market that appears along the Sohne on Saturday. For a food lover like me it like a dream. Ultra fresh fruit, vegetables, poultry, meat, local cheeses and, of course bread. Did I mention the fresh flowers, fish. People shopping up a storm. Very french. Ok now let's are if I can post this little test.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Dazed and Confused

No I haven't bailed on the blog. I am 100% against the wall on this gig. 12 - 14 hour days, still jet lagged and otherwise fragged. My only input has been the only Enlish TV availble CNN international and I am pretty sure the next segment will be on what he ate for breakfast when he was a Nazi. Basically, 24x7 Pope.
I leave the country for a few weeks and Anthrax winds up on the cover of Time and you haven't publicly hanged DeLay yet. Bolton's not in prison, Bush is not impeached and you haven't castrated Wolf Blitzer. Come on folks get with the program.
To tell you the truth I think I am becoming numb. You know it's plan don't you. They will keep raising the bar of outrageous and each new level hardens us a little more. Pretty soon nothing will shock us, Nothing they can do will stir us to action. We will have been shocked into apathy. Their most potent tool against humanity is apathy and they will do everything they can to encourage and strengthen it.
I am going to have to do something to restore my sense of rightness it is gettin way to easy for me to gloss over the bad news with a "What a shame."
Any suggestions? Wait I've got it -- shock treatment--to restore my sense of outrage.
Imagine a full length Playboy centerfold of Ann Coulter! If that doesn't kick the outrage up a notch or two, I'm dead and no one has told me.
Bon Nuit!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Safe and Sound

Safe and sound in Lyon. Paris was sunny but it is chilly and raining here. New hotel this trip. In the old part of the city right on the river Sohne in the historic section. Passable with all the normal ammenities including wireles internet. Not as ritzy as the Radisson but has some charm being in in a rennovated 16th century building. I think I will be able to survive for a couple weeks no problem. Arriving on Sunday means pretty much everything is closed including the restaurant in the hotel. If I want to eat dinner it will be a walk in the rain and not until 730pm when any restaurant opening will open. Might be a pack of crackers and a beer from the mini bar for big bucks.
On a side note.. there were a lot of folks in desert camo in the Atlanta airport and quite a few civilian contractors on their way to Iraq. Depressing...most are so young and surpisingly quite a few young women. Evidently from CNN it has not been a good weekend either. Damn the SOBs.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

That'll Show Us Complainers

Dan Froomkin says concering the Screw up Your Retirement and Default on the Debt roadshow in Kirtland, Ohio

And, after mounting criticism that the White House has been shattering presidential precedents, wrapping Bush in a bubble and possibly even violating free-speech rights by keeping dissenters out of Bush's so-called public events, the Bush team is trying something new today.

For today's event, the White House has eliminated any pretense that the events are open to the public, instead making it clear that the events are invitation-only.

Do you think we taxpayers are still paying for the event? Do you you think they have the balls to charge us for something we have no access to?

Cell Phone Hell

This is a PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT -- Cell Phone numbers are about to be released to telemarketers and if you don't relish the idea of having your cell ring constantly for nothing you can go here and register your cell number in the Do Not Call Registry.
It is simple - just enter your number (or up to three) and your email and then ack the email they send to confirm and you should be protected.
Thanks to Susan at Surburban Guerrilla for the tip.

Book Meme

Jane over at Firedoglake passed the "book meme" (not really a meme) on to me. Since having her mad at me is most assuredly a bad thing I am herewith answering the call. After I have some time to stew I may change my mind but I have to catch a plane.

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

The Book – On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan Watts was the most important book I have ever read and it started me on a path of discovery that is still underway. It is truly a dangerous book.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Being a fictional character myself I have had not only crushes but torrid love affairs with dozens of other fictional characters. Most memorable probably being Maureen Johnson Long from Heinlen’s Time Enough for Love and To Sail Beyond the Sunset. Then again, Menolly the Harper from Anne McCafferty’s Pern series was special as was The Rowan from the Anne’s Talents series.

What are you currently reading?

Dropping Ashes on the Buddha by Stephen Mitchell – about the teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn

The last book you bought is:
Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver bought it on a whim in the Atlanta Airport and loved it. Didn’t know who Barbara was then but look forward to reading more.

The last book you read:
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

The Dragon Trilogy by Anne McCafferty for fun
Time Enough for Love by Heinlen because I never tire of reading it.
In My Own Way by Alan Watts for inspiration
Precision Nirvana by Deane Shapiro for mental maintenance
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones since it is the best collection of Zen writings I know

Friday, April 15, 2005

Something to Dwell On

I always try and find something to "Dwell On" when I am faced with long flights. This is usually something I stumble upon whilst aimlessly wandering web. It also has to be something that Jano or Alan Watts would define as a "synchronicity" something that intersects my path in a meaningful way. Today, I found it at The Heretik which I try and visit regularly for inspiration and almost always a laugh. It's about creativity and is concerning the work of Mihalyi Csikszentmihayli.
Flow: The Psychology Of Optimal Experience and Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention According to the Heretik both are must reads for people interested in creativity. Both are supposedly written for non-academic readers.

Csikszentmihayli is the architect of the notion of Flow in creativity. People enter a flow state when they are fully absorbed in activity during which they lose their sense of time and have feelings of great satisfaction. Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."

Mihalyi's elements of Flow are:
1. There are clear goals every step of the way.
2. There is immediate feedback to one’s actions.
3. There is a balance between challenges and skills.
4. Action and awareness are merged.
5. Distractions are excluded from consciousness.
6. There is no worry of failure.
7. Self-consciousness disappears.
8. The sense of time becomes distorted.
9. The activity becomes autotelic (something which is a end in itself).

I will write these on a card and put them in my pocket. I will eventually memorize them and can ponder them for the 8+ hours to Paris tomorrow. I will probably even run them over and over while I listen to whatever shows up on the iPod and see if synergy results. These nine elements are very Zen and I can feel that, right now, they are important to me. This is what Alan and Jano meant when they talked about synchronicity. You have to have to be open to them and recognize them when they pass but that you can't have any purposeful search for them. You just have to let them appear and accept them. We'll see.

Lest We Forget

"According to the UN, roughly three billion people do not have access to safe sewers,
1.5 billion lack clean water, 1.25 billion don't have minimally adequate housing, one billion
have no health care, and a half-billion don't get the minimum daily caloric requirement.
An unknown but very large number are illiterate. Among the world's poorest fifth,
between 30,000 and 40,000 children under five die each day from malnutrition and infection;
another 180 million barely hang on. The UN estimates that all these needs could be met,
at a basic level, for a yearly expenditure equal to 10 percent of the U.S. military budget
-- or slightly less than Americans and Europeans spend annually on pet food and ice cream."
-- George Scialabba, "Fiddling with Nature", The American Prospect, June 3, 2002, p. 37.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

What to do With All The Poor Kids?

Look likes Bush and company have slipped us another one! Somehow I missed this. Last month Congress authorized a new "pre-enlistment program" for the Pentagon to insure there was sufficient cannon fodder for whatever devilment George wants to stir up next.
A young man who is at least 14 years old and has a parent's permission can enlist in the U.S. military, but will not report to duty until he reaches the legal age. The future soldier agrees to remain "physically and mentally fit" and to undergo annual physical examinations at the Military Entrance and Processing Station (MEPS). In exchange, the government provides him a $10,000 sign-on bonus that is paid in yearly installments of $2,500 until the age of 18, at which time any remaining balance is given to the recruit.

While waiting to report to duty at 18, the new recruits are paid a modest stipend and allowed access to funds granted veterans for education. Because combat duty is a requirement of enlistment, the program is currently open only to young men, and it has been authorized for only three years, so Congress will have to renew the program again in 2008.

This is so wrong and on so many levels that I am not sure where to start or just throw up my hands in disgust. Poor kids, minorities, kids with stupid parents are the target of a governement that just doesn't give a shit. I am absolutely sure that they see this as a win win in that they not only get more young blood to murder and rid the streets of all that trash.
The Pentagon response is evidently one of "Other countries have been recuiting kids for years--we are just leveling the field."

Thanks for Corrente for the lead.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Not So Good

Paul Krugman is starting a new series of articles on health care and the first is worth reading. I get so tired of trying to explain to other Americans that, in spite of what they think, the American health care system is not so hot and getting worse.
Krugman notes:
Finally, the U.S. health care system is wildly inefficient. Americans tend to believe that we have the best health care system in the world. (I've encountered members of the journalistic elite who flatly refuse to believe that France ranks much better on most measures of health care quality than the United States.) But it isn't true. We spend far more per person on health care than any other country - 75 percent more than Canada or France - yet rank near the bottom among industrial countries in indicators from life expectancy to infant mortality.

People don't believe me when I tell them that the United States ranks 41st in the world in infant mortality and that U.S. women are 70% more likely to die in childbirth than those in Europe.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


No activity here. All the time is either at Augusta National and the Masters or commuting there. Fabulous day today without rain. Going to be a major finish with Woods challenging DiMarco and Bjorn lurking...Sleep required now.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Don't Need 'Em

Jane over at firedoglake highlights something I too have been wondering. Why do so many liberal/progressive bloggers read the right wing whacko bloggers and then proceed to get into pissing contests with them? This question arises as a result of a bit of insightful discussion over at Jenniebee on the continuing jousts between left and rightwing bloggers. I, for one, haven’t got time to waste on any of these sites and I actually get cranky when one of the blogs I do frequent links to LGF or Freeper or similar without warning me. I resent them getting a hit from me unknowingly.
It is really an environmental thing. I am already so far from the true path in my thoughts and behavior that I cannot afford the additional psychic poison inherent in reading anything posted on these sites. If I really want to focus on fear and ignorance I can predict what they are going to say on any particular subject anyway. So why bother? I can absolutely guarantee that it will not agree with my thinking. It will not change my mind or philosophy which, by the way, I have spent 55 years refining. Contact with these minds is what I call Dharma Poison. In Star Wars it is known as the Dark Side. These sites are full of fear driven hate. Contact with this environment is inimical to a positive mental force and must be avoided wherever possible. Don’t misunderstand what I mean by these statements. These folks have all the right to believe what they will and write as much and as often as they wish. I don’t have any desire to restrict their ability to communicate anymore that I want them to restrict mine (which they would do in a heartbeat).
Somewhere, someone illustrated the difference between belief and faith to me and I think it applies, at least to some degree, in this discussion. Picture two individuals, one a fundamentalist Christian and the other a student of Zen, caught on a rock in a storm swollen stream as the water comes higher and higher. It is obvious that it is just a matter of moments before they will drown as there is no sign of rescue. Suddenly, the Zen student smiles and jumps into the stream and is immediately swept downstream. The Christian grips the rock ever tighter and drowns as the water quickly rises.
Belief is holding on to the rock no matter what and faith is letting go and letting the stream take you where it may.
How do I get new ideas? I get them from reading the thoughts of others who look for solutions and understanding in the same ways I do. I read and communicate with people who have demonstrated an ability to think with reason and compassion. I read people who demonstrate faith in progressive ideas and how they can be applied to the problems of the world. I communicate with the jumpers.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Saturday Random iPod 10

I was feeling left out.. so here is my contribution to wasted bits.

1.The Emperor's New Clothes...Sinéad O'Connor
2.Octopus's Garden...The Beatles
3.Sleeping Bag...ZZ Top
4.Hay Unos Ojos...Linda Ronstadt
6.Chain Of Fools...Aretha Franklin
7.Che gelida manina (La Bohéme)...Pavarotti
8.Dentro Un Altro Si...Il Divo
9.Sign O' The Times...Prince
10.Sugar Sugar...Wilson Pickett

In Wonkette's Defense

Jane at firedoglake presents a well deserved defense of Ana Marie Cox at Wonkette. Steve Gilliard is way out of line in his comments and should apologize. Ana may get a little blue and joke about ass-fucking and boozing but that does not mean that she should be discounted as a responsible, intelligent and able blogger.
Besides that she is a redhead and to paraphrase Mark Twain....Redheads are descended from cats and like cats need no excuses. Then again maybe that was Heinlen. Whatever!

Update: fixed typos

Every Death Remembered

While everyone focuses on the death of Pope John Paul let's keep in mind that not everyone dying is a celebrity and that their deaths are just as significant, if not more so, than the Pope's. The Pope will be prayed over and discussed at length and truly and faithfully missed. It is very important that these deaths, another result of Bush's dance with the devil, be remembered for the tragedy they are.

Acute malnutrition among Iraqi children aged under five nearly doubled last year because of chaos caused by the US-led occupation, a United Nations expert said yesterday.

Jean Ziegler, the UN Human Rights Commission's special expert on the right to food, said more than a quarter of Iraqi children do not have enough to eat and 7.7% are acutely malnourished - a jump from 4% recorded in the immediate aftermath of the US-led invasion

Oh! and let's not forget our 1535 brothers and sisters who haave made the ultimate sacrifice for Bush's ego. If you too are dying a little with each one then hope that the world turns right side up soon.

If I know the Goddess like I think I do then I can't even imagine the punishment in store for Bush, Rumsfeld, Rove, Wolfowitz and company...

Friday, April 01, 2005

Mirror, Mirror

There has been a lot of discussion since the election about what the Democratic Party had to do about losing the election. I've posted several things myself including some ill thought out ranting and four letter words. A few days ago I came across an article by Daniel Goldberg in the New York Times talking about how all the leading candidates for the Democratic Presidential nominee were signed on as "National Security Democrats", are insisting that we have to get more in tune with war mongering and pre-emptive war. Wrong!

What must change are the perceptions of those that voted Republican in the last two elections. They are the ones who are misguided and have fallen for the lies either because they don't want to believe the truth or they are just uninformed. The left shouldn’t back down on its fundamental beliefs in equal opportunity, human rights, fairness, protecting our environment, compassion and peace. These are necessary if the world is to survive. So, what has to happen? How do we change the perceptions of the misguided? Not through confrontation and not through force or lies. We, instead let them change themselves.

An important concept in Zen training is meikyo which may be translated as "clear boundary" or "spotless mirror". Through Zen we seek to become perfect mirrors, clear reflections of nature and its processes. What we on the left need to do is hold the mirror up to the right and show them the results of their choices. Hold up the mirror to DeLay and demonstrate that he and his actions are what they voted to continue. Hold up the mirror to the Bush hypocrisy and lies and the lies of his minions. Hold up the mirror to the lawlessness and the disregard for the rule of law. Hold up the mirror to torture. Hold up the mirror to the war deaths and even more so the casualties and lifetimes of misery and disability. Hold up the mirror and show the uninsured children, American children going hungry, America's working poor and the quiet desperation of millions of unemployed Americans. Hold up the mirror to death and misery in Africa. Hold up the mirror to the destruction of our environment and quality of our lives. Hold up the mirror to it all. Not all will look and some that do won’t see but what they want to see. There are, I believe, enough decent people that are just not seeing through the smoke and dazzle and who just need some help seeing the truth.

Shen-hsui a Zen monk says,

The mind is like a bright mirror standing;
Take heed to always keep it clean,
And allow no dust to ever cling.

Control Not Life

Professor Jaun Cole over at Informed Comment has another of his insightful comments up. It is really not one you can break apart and should be read as a whole. In spite of the previous sentence I am going to extract two paragraphs because they almost capture the article in whole.

And that is why the Iraq war is the perfect symbol for the anti-abortionists. Colonial conquest is always a kind of rape, but now the conquered country must bear the fetus of Bush-imposed "liberty" to term. The hierarchy is thus established. Washington is superior to Baghdad, and Iraq is feminized and deprived of certain kinds of choices.

And that is also how the Schiavo case makes sense in the end, because the religious Right feminized Michael Schiavo, made him into the pregnant woman seeking an "abortion," and wished to therefore deprive him of choice in the matter. If hierarchy is gendered, then the persons over which control is sought are always in some sense imagined as powerless women. Powerful non-fundamentalist men and uppity Third World countries that won't do as they are told are ultimately no different from feminist women seeking an abortion. All must be subdued, in the view of the Christian Right.

It is about hierarchy, power and control. It is not about life.

No Surpise Here

firedoglake points to a study from the University of Georgia that confirms something that I have thought for quite some time. The operative phrase is below:

Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.