Friday, February 09, 2007

Iran's response to American threat

Just in case anyone missed this:

Iran to target U.S. interests if attacked. Read more here.

This is quite the double-edged sword. It is quite within the realm of possibility that in fomenting a confrontation with Iran and getting exactly this response from them, that should anything happen on U.S. soil, it will be precisely the kind of event needed to spring the trap Chris Hedges wrote about in "American Fascists."

Don't forget, the Patriot Act and the lack of habeus corpus is now the law, or lack thereof, in America. At least someone in congress had the cajones to speak of actual impeachment, albeit for a different matter, but impeachment nonetheless.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Chris Hedges and What is God?

The Book TV appearance of Chris Hedges talking his new book "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America" can be seen at ICH. The subject of his book keeps me up at night. Not because of having read his book, which I have not finished, but because I could already feel how the world has been tortuously twisted and turned upside down from a few years ago. The process began longer ago than 2004, but it was then that the basic goodness was expunged and in its place was something dark and deadly.

On a slightly different topic, my biggest gripe with Christians is that there is indeed a power in this universe that is beyond our ability to comprehend, let alone name, but it is not beyond our ability to experience. And I am not going to let anyone narrow it down into a tiny little book of dubious pedigree full of the most inane contradictions and have it be my guide to ethical living.

I have yet to find a Christian who can answer me my question regarding the first commandment of "thou shalt have no other gods before me" in a way that makes practical as well as practicable (capable of being done with means at hand and circumstances as they are) sense.

I don't put much stock in "believing." I put stock in the way people behave and live their lives. For example, I find it very disingenous to have the commandment "thou shalt not kill" only to have Moses murder everyone in the camp after they'd gone to sleep who did not immediately shun the golden calf and cower at his feet. I don't have the Bible handy to look up the order of events so I don't remember if the murder took place before he went up for the second set of tablets or after.

And for a really scary personal experience, I once had a conversation with someone regarding religion. We differed in our traditions. At the end of the conversation I said that in the end it doesn't matter what path we follow, that what matters is how we treat each other. To which he responded, "Oh, but the path DOES matter and only those on the right path will be saved."

This was in direct contradistinction to something I got many, many years before from watching a documentary on the Holocaust wherein the woman said that it should never matter what religion or race or anything else you are except that you are a human being and should be treated like one.

So, if one is to have "no other gods before me" then those who follow that commandment had better get a really good grip on what God is. From what I've seen and read, most Christian's understanding of God is woefully limited and is a blasphamy on the omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence of God. That God is made into the image of man is the height of human ignorance and hubris. God is not of the flesh, but of the spirit and that spirit exists in all that is living. God is the spark of life that enables the assembling of the material in this universe so that it can manifest itself. Only in that way is man made in God's image. But it is not an "image" at all in the sense of "looking like", but rather the forces and processes that are constantly at work that make the universe a living one.

The conclusion I came to in answering my question of "what is God such that no other gods should be put before it" was/is that God is Life itself--it is that spark passing between the "image" of God and Adam in Michelangelo's painting in the Sistine Chapel. This gives me something practical to live by. I shall value life, all of life, and nothing, NOTHING, will have more value than it. Not money, not power, not position, not any possession, nor any teaching shall ever make me take a life except for self-defense or self-preservation.

It took me six months to come to this conclusion. So, even as a Buddhist, I am comfortable with this view of God.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Money and Rain

Someone wrote recently:
If the understanding was that R & H would raise their own funds from the benefactors of their efforts but did not, doesn't that mean that the market, if you will, did not receive or place much value on those efforts? If so, why should the SCC then be asked to subsidize that failure of R & H to raise their own funds?

The thought occurred to me that if people have no money to give, that does not mean the service was not valued and if they had the money they would have given it. But since they do not control the making or distributing of money, they are at the mercy of those who do. So, it is not a failure of the "market" to pay volunteers for their efforts. Rather it is the failure of the economic system.

In other words, farmers and gardeners are at the mercy of nature to provide rain for their crops and plants. But if there is a drought then the plants will die and there will be no crop unless you are able to irrigate from a secondary source such as a river or aquifer. However, using a river or aquifer is no different than using savings that unless it is replenished will eventually be used up.

This is what has happened to the economy. Money is like rain. Unless there is enough money reaching the people on the ground, the movement of money will come to a halt.

This isn't about the "market" because the "market" presupposes that people have enough money to live and enough extra to spread around. But since the market is controlled very tightly by other people, the current condition is severe drought and people aren't getting the basics let alone having anything to spare for the "market."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Time to dust off the Declaration of Independence

From Marty Kaplan saying it like it is and very well at that at the HuffPost:

"The system worked" is what so many of us breathed with relief when Nixon fled Washington in disgrace. No matter that it was Nixon's own paranoia -- in the form of secret White House tape recordings -- that did him in, not just the majesty of a Senate investigation; no matter that it took the luck of Barry Goldwater's it's-time-for-you-to-go statesmanship, and the offended ego of a Deep Throat, not just the splendor of the Fourth Estate, to get him to quit.

What we told ourselves was that the country escaped its worst constitutional crisis ever because the Constitution contained within itself the mechanisms needed to overcome catastrophe.

Looking at what's happening in Washington today, I can't help thinking that it's time to revisit that awe. We treat the Constitution like fundamentalists treat the Bible; we treat the Founders like Deities; we hold an unshakable faith in the inherent perfection of our system, believing it no less exquisitely wrought than the finely balanced network of our veins and arteries, no less miraculous than the workings of our cells and organs. But cells can go screwy, and sometimes no immune system can save us from cancer. Genes can make mistakes, and sometimes no homeostatic mechanism, however ingenious its feedback loops, can restore our equilibrium. The Founders were awe-inspiring craftsmen, but they weren't magicians, they weren't prophets, and they weren't gods. Is it so unreasonable to wonder whether the charter they wrote more than two centuries ago isn't insurance enough against the madmen who now rule us?

Sure, it's encouraging to see Congress rouse itself from its six-year slumber and begin to push back. But will it really change anything?

Bush is certifiably delusional, but impeachment is off the table, because Democrats can't muster the kind of political will and outrage at a tragically misconceived war that Republicans could summon for a blowjob.

Cheney is an outlaw, a Rasputin, a tyrant, a liar, but there is no check to check him, no balance to balance him.

Throughout the executive branch, secrecy reigns, laws are violated, scholarly whackballs formulate doctrines like the "unitary executive," but neither the courts nor the Congress have the cojones or the clout to intervene.

Citizen-statesmen were supposed to govern us. Farmer-legislators were supposed to lead us. Where are our wise men today? Colin Powell, instead of blowing the whistle, sulks in his tent; Rumsfeld rants on the moor; George Tenet takes a bullet for The Man and gets the Presidential Medal of Freedom; Condi Rice appears as oblivious of her humiliation as any of the pathetic victims on American Idol; Paul Wolfowitz, the stain of our neocon nightmare on his hands, plays not Lady Macbeth, but Mother Teresa.

Sweet reason, the faith of our rationalist Founders, has been supplanted by strategic pseudo-science. Contested facts are adjudicated not by evidence, but by polling, and by mud-wrestling. Swift Boating is the new epistemology. Propaganda -- the breathtakingly big "big lie" -- is triumphant, its practitioners on the federal payroll, but Washington's courtier culture precludes calling a Goebbels a Goebbels. Though protected by the First Amendment, the media are less a Fourth Estate than a Fifth Column, a source of narcotizing infotainment. The Murdoch-Moonie axis has become the MSM.

George W. Bush, the oligarchs' tax-cutting choice for the 2000 nomination, loses the election, but no Supreme Court rescues the nation. The largest transfer of wealth from the middle to the top in the history of the industrial world occurs, but the politico-media culture calls it sour grapes to recall the origin of that silent coup, and class warfare to assess its consequences.

The harpies of hate -- the Coulters, the Limbaughs, the O'Reillys -- spew bile, but the free marketplace of ideas beloved of Jefferson and Madison is incapable of marginalizing them, because Satan is vastly more entertaining than Socrates.

The Republican Party is the puppet of right-wing fundamentalists, witch-hunters, Armageddonists, Father Coughlins, Elmer Gantrys, Cotton Mathers, but no constitutional bar to established religion protects us from theocratic fascism.

A robust democracy depends on an educated citizenry, said the Founders, but the majority view that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 proves how effective a bulwark our educational system is, against the onslaught of relentless mendacity by our leaders.

I wonder what we will say, looking back at 2000-2008. "The system worked"? No matter what this Democratic Congress does, how can we call the generations of broken crockery these ideologues have bequeathed us a sign of a healthy system? However this war ends, how can we call its existence anything but a megalomaniacal abuse of power?

Whatever vermin the oversight committees at long last uncover; whatever the prosecutions and trials of apparachiks may finally reveal and punish; however historians diagnose our good-German complicity with demagogues, our Stockholm-syndrome affection for the bullies, our frog-in-a-warming-cauldron capacity for denial -- no matter how we ultimately awaken from this madness, it will not be with the comfort that our Constitution alone was enough to prevent us from spending this long season in hell.