Friday, October 26, 2007

Don't forget to bring the good experiences of meditation into your daily activities. Instead of acting and reacting impulsively and following your thoughts and feelings here and there, watch your mind carefully, be aware, and try to deal skillfully with problems as they arise. If you can do this each day, your meditation will have been successful.

-Kathleen McDonald

No matter what our faith, isn't this the goal?  Shouldn't we take our religious practice into our daily lives?
Desires achieved increase thirst like salt water.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lack of progress

Anyone who thought that perhaps we'd move in a positive direction in terms of a return to American values on torture with the departure of Gonzales... well... you'll be disappointed, apparently.

Our government authorized torture in 2005, and apparently has found a new Attorney General whose new way of authorizing the tactic is to evade the topic.

It is critical to serve others, to contribute actively to others' well-being. I often tell practitioners that they should adopt the following principle: regarding one's own personal needs, there should be as little involvement or obligation as possible. But regarding service to others, there should be as many possible involvements and obligations as possible. This should be the ideal of a spiritual person.
HH Dalai Lama

A Third Party??

Interesting article about the threat to form a 3rd party by evangelicals if they nominate pro-life, pro-gay marriage Guliani.  It's an interview with Richard Land, a leading evangelical who serves as president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
A serious threat?  I don't know.  I doubt it.  I think when push comes to shove the evangelical leaders would rather win than be right, so they will vote against Clinton by voting for Guliani.
If a third party materialized, however,  it would torpedo Republican chances in '08- more than Nader hurt the Dems in 2000.  It would be more like what Theordore Roosevelt did to the Republicans back in 1912.   Bull Moose Party II
But I still marvel at the inconsistency on one issue when it comes to the Religious Right:  Where's the outrage over an unjust war to equate with the outrage over abortion?
From the interview, Land says he cannot vote for Clinton.  He compares that vote to voting for a Klansman.  He says:  "I cannot vote for someone who believes that it's all right to stop a beating heart."
Wanna bet he voted for G.W. Bush in 2004?
3,834 American hearts stopped through his unjustified invasion of Iraq (not to mention as many as 80,000 Iraqi civilian hearts).
Do those hearts count in the Religious Right's moral equation?  Or is it really just winning the elections that truly matters?


2 Stories, Irony Apparently Missed in DC

U.S. can't account for DynCorp performance in training police, report says... auditors said the environment was "ripe for waste and fraud."  DynCorp's invoices had numerous problems, such as duplicate payments. [W]ith invoices paid without being checked, and with no one tracking what they were for, auditors say it's impossible to determine what money was spent on.
So of course...
President Bush asked Congress on Monday for another $46 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and finance other national security needs.

$500 Billion is not enough to get the job right, apparently.
You know, a billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Digit Data

Well, I've not been a very active 'blogger' for some time now. You may recall, my most loyal visitors, that this has been due to an injury I incurred during the summer- an injury that required surgery on my left hand.

The update is a good one. The surgery has been successful. My left hand now works properly again. It is not yet as strong as it was, and there is still some pain from time to time, but I am happy with the improvement. I've had many doctor visits, physical therapy appointments, and a lot of down time for my hand. Now I've been given the 'green light' by my doctor to do what I wish and feel my hand is strong enough for. I have only one more- presuming all continues to go well- doctor appointment, and while I continue to do physical therapy on my own, I have no more appointments with the physical therapist to attend. My time is becoming more my own.

I still find that if I attempt to type too much- too long, that is- that I experience discomfort. However, I am improving and am finding that I can type much more rapidly and accurately, and the length of time I can type is gradually increasing. I suspect my hand will never quite be 'normal' again, but it is returning to at least 'very good' if not perfect, and is much, much better than before the surgery.

Thus, I hope to return to a more active mode here in the weeks ahead. I hope to get back to my thinking, analyzing, and writing about important topics of our collective lives.

One of the important issues that I live with daily is that of education. I find that now, my teaching, may also keep me somewhat limited as a blogger. Why? The standardized test fixation of politicians today is changing the nature of my work as a teacher in ways that are not good- taking up enormous amounts of time as I try to work at a breakneck pace and virtually sucking the life out of me as I become a mere implementer of what the very wise (italics indicates sarcasm in this case) people in Lansing and Washington, DC believe I should teach.

If those people are such experts on the teaching of history, why do they prove to be such poor students of it? Why do they think that they are more qualified than I to decide how to teach the history that they clearly do not know?

Oh, sure, they know some facts. But there is a major difference, and substantial gulf, between mere knowledge and understanding. This the politicians clearly do not grasp. They clearly think that if our students are capable 'Trivial Pursuit' (remember that game) or 'Jeopardy' contestants, then they are ready to be citizens.

An education should not merely be about the ability to recite facts. Educated people should understand the context of those facts, be able to discern the meaning of those facts, and be able to apply those facts in new, flexible, and powerful ways. The current drive towards testing our students by having them fill in bubble sheets takes us no where in terms of these goals. Even the writing that is required by many states- including Michigan- as a part of their testing does nothing for true education because it is so locked-down in terms of format and constricted in terms of content.

Oh, and did I mention that these very wise politicians expect us to do all of this in an environment where our resources are being cut back? Do more and deal with greater problems among our students with less money- is this educated thinking?

So, as a teacher I am left tremendously busy, physically tired, mentally drained, and endlessly frustrated by the environment in which I work. Thus I may not have the time and energy to post as often as I like.

That said, I do hope, however, to become a more frequent contributor to this blog in the future than I have in recent months.

Thank you to all who have continued to visit, only to find limited posts and a lot of 'cut-and-paste' quotations. I hope the future will be more satisfying to us all.

Grey Pilgrim

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The "War" on Terror Continues to Hurt Us

Hatred of U.S. drives al-Qaida recruiting

As Americans become desensitized, violence radicalizes ordinary Arabs

"The U.S. says this war is part of the global war on terrorism," Saedi Farhan, an Iraqi engineer who took part in an attack on U.S . forces, said in a weekend interview with NBC News. "But people here say that the war has increased fanaticism and brought terrorism to Iraq."

"An aggressor occupied my country, destroyed it and made millions [of] refugees. It is an honor to fight this," said Hamid Ali, the owner of a construction company who also admitted attacking U.S. troops.
The daily stream of images from wartorn Iraq — of screaming men, women and particularly children; burned-out cars; twisted metal — has dramatically increased the organization's pool of recruits, said al-Qaida sympathizers in cell after cell.

Can we change policies before it is too late?
Is it already too late?

Thin skinned China

Even Americans seem to be more willing to handle criticism than China, and Americans are, in my view, very thinned skin when it comes to criticism of their culture and policies.
In this case, given what China has done to Tibet, the criticism, even if only implied, is well deserved.
Congressional award and presidential visit angers China

China warns that a planned White House meeting Tuesday between Bush and the Dalai Lama and a public ceremony Wednesday to award the spiritual leader the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal are bad for U.S.-Chinese ties.

"We are certainly very much displeasured and regret the fact that the U.S. side would totally ignore the repeated positions of the Chinese side and go ahead with its erroneous decision," Wang said in an interview. "Such moves on the U.S. side are not a good thing for the bilateral relationship."

In Beijing, a government official on Tuesday also criticized the U.S. plans.

"The move will seriously damage China-U.S. relations," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said. Liu did not specify how relations would be damaged if the award does take place.

He told a regular news conference that China hoped the U.S. would "correct its mistakes and cancel relevant arrangements and stop interfering in the internal affairs of China."

Honoring the Dalai Lama is no mistake, and the internal affairs of China are abysmal.  If China would end its repression, the critisim will end.  Perhaps they should stop worrying about US internal affairs and correct their own mistakes.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The mouth is not a door through which any evil enters. The ears are such doors as are the eyes. The mouth is a door only for exit.
- James O. Hannay
The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers
Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
- Psalm 34:14

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Forming a new world religion is difficult and not particularly desirable. However, in that love is essential to all religions, one could speak of the universal religion of love.
-His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Humility is attentive patience.
- Simone Weil

As a mother watches over her child, willing to risk her own life to protect her only child, so with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings, suffusing the whole world with unobstructed loving kindness.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Deceit is in the mind of those who plan evil, but those who counsel peace have joy.

- Proverbs 12:20-20

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

When the war on terrorism BECOMES terrorism

Mohammed al-Amin has just been released from Guantánamo, and his story, though brutal, is typical of the suffering that men have been forced to endure for five and a half years.
It is one thing to tout the 778 men who have been held in Guantánamo as "the worst of the worst," as the administration did when the prison was set up in January 2002, but it is quite another to realize that 431 of these men have now been released, and that a large number of them, like Mohammed al-Amin, were completely innocent of any wrong-doing.
Mohammed al-Amin's accidental odyssey to torture, and to his long years of illegal imprisonment without charge or trial, began when, at the age of 17, he left his parents and his five sisters, and traveled to Saudi Arabia to study the Koran, with the intention of becoming a teacher. He then traveled to Pakistan to continue his studies, but was arrested in Peshawar in April 2002, and held for two months in a Pakistani jail, where he was "subjected to beatings, held for prolonged periods in solitary confinement and denied adequate food," in an attempt to force him to confess that he was a Saudi Arabian national, because, presumably, Saudis were valued more highly than Mauritanians.

He was then transferred to Bagram, where, like many other prisoners, he was suspended by his wrists for long periods of time. He explained to his lawyers in Guantánamo that he was tied by his hands to the ceiling "for days on end," and that "whenever he lost consciousness a guard would forcefully pull him up to wake him." He also said that he was sexually abused and subjected to sleep deprivation, and was threatened with being sent to Egypt to face further torture.

Transferred to Guantánamo in August 2002, he said that his first year in Guantánamo was "terrible" and "worse than Bagram," and explained that, in addition to the sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation that he had experienced in Afghanistan, he was also exposed to loud music, as part of a program to "break" the detainees, which was masterminded by the Pentagon and introduced by Guantánamo's commander, Major General Geoffrey Miller. As in Bagram, he was eventually forced to make false confessions, telling his interrogators whatever they wanted to hear.

In protest at his indefinite detention without charge or trial, al-Amin joined a widespread hunger strike in August 2005, when his weight, which had been a meager 121 pounds on arrival (8 stone 9 pounds), plunged, at one point, to just 103 pounds (7 stone 5 pounds). By January 2006, when he was one of 84 detainees who were still maintaining their hunger strike, the authorities responded by drafting in a new team of doctors, armed with restraint chairs and feeding tubes. Al-Amin said that he was removed from the camp hospital and placed in solitary confinement in a windowless black cell, which he called the "freezer," because the air conditioning was turned up to the maximum. He also explained that the guards would "throw water on him to exacerbate the freezing conditions, and would wake him up if he fell asleep."

Describing his force-feeding, he – like others who have spoken about the experience – said he was fastened so tightly in the restraint chair that he was unable to move at all, and that a large feeding tube was then forced into his stomach, which was, of course, extremely painful. He added that, whether by accident or design, the doctors regularly "stated that they could not find the correct position and forcefully pulled the feeding tube from him," repeating the process two or three times, which caused his nose to bleed. He also stated that he was "deliberately overfed until he vomited, and when he vomited the force feeding would start again," that he was "strapped in the restraint chair for periods of two to three hours at a time, which, coupled with being overfed, led him to urinate and defecate on himself," and that he was then "dumped, covered in his own vomit, blood and faeces, back in his isolation cell." Although he attempted to maintain his hunger strike, he admitted that he gave up after 21 days. With some accuracy, he told his lawyers that the authorities "used physicians to commit crimes," and explained that doctors supervised the force-feeding, watching him while he was forced to vomit, and that on one occasion a doctor asked him, "Are you going to quit the hunger strike or stay in this situation?"

Despite all this violence, he was cleared for release sometime in 2006, after an Administrative Review Board concluded that he was no longer a threat to the United States and no longer had any intelligence value...

Bush and Cheney shoving a pram

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Bush Redux

"We can't forget the fact that although at a particular point in time we never found any WMD down there, he clearly had had WMD. He clearly had had the beginnings of a nuclear program," Thompson told an audience of about 60 at a Newton cafe.
What's worse... deceiving people by obscuring the facts, or deceiving people once the facts have become known?
Follow Thompson's illogic:  'the absence of evidence is [somehow] evidence.' 
Is it that impossible to admit a mistake?


The Senate passed a resolution to support the President's request for $150B in war funding .
Wait.  Aren't there 100 members of the Senate?  Who didn't vote?
The five absentions were Biden (D-DE), Clinton (D-NY), Dodd (D-CT), McCain (R-AZ), Obama (D-IL).
Now that's leadership.

Monday, October 01, 2007

I hate all Iranians, US aide tells MPs

Britsh MPs visiting the Pentagon to discuss America's stance on Iran and Iraq were shocked to be told by one of President Bush's senior women officials: "I hate all Iranians."

And she also accused Britain of "dismantling" the Anglo-US-led coalition in Iraq by pulling troops out of Basra too soon.

The all-party group of MPs say Debra Cagan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Coalition Affairs to Defence Secretary Robert Gates, made the comments this month.

Given the occassional irrational comments that come from the Administration regarding Iran and it's president (he's a bad man, but he's no Hitler, as some have implied), does war w/ Iran seem so removed from reality as it should be?  Will American's take a new war so willingly as they accepted the war with Iraq?