Archive for January, 2008

Peskin being Pesky

January 31, 2008

I backpacked the Lost Coast with Aaron Peskin in 1988 when I was eight years old. Aaron Peskin is now president of the board of supervisors in San Francisco.  He and my older brother have been friends since they went to high school together at Berkeley High.  Aaron got some quite negative press coverage today on the front page of the Chronicle. Apparently he has been making inappropriate threats and remarks to people working for the port of San Francisco.  But, according to the article, these remarks were made back in August, which begs the question; why is this coming out now?  There is a viewpoint in the article that mayor Newsome has brought this story out now, due to his current dispute with Aaron.  No matter why it is coming out now, Aaron seems to have gotten himself into some hot water.  I just remember him as one of my brother’s friends who was a fun guy to be around.

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Beatles Guru Retires Into Silence

January 31, 2008

 The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi will no longer take charge of the day to day operations of his large spiritual community.  I didn’t know this Yogi was still alive, let alone, still giving talks and overseeing his cult following.  I don’t know much about the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement, but I do know it has attracted some quite famous figures, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and David Lynch.  I have talked to people involved with this group and they are usually very enthusiastic about it.  I think the Yogi gives you a secret mantra.  I am wondering what will happen when the Maharishi retires to the power-structure of the TM community.  I know the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON or Hari Krishna’s) largely fell apart when their guru, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, died.  This article gives an overview. 

Snowy Day in Ukiah

January 29, 2008
I woke up to a snow storm this morning.  More snow than I ever expected to see in Ukiah.  My brother-in-law and niece made a snowman!
 
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Kidney Robbery in the Holy Land

January 28, 2008

Just read this article reporting on the bust of a Kidney transplant racket in India.  It is quite unbelievable that doctors are willing to actually remove body parts from poor dis-empowered citizens and sell them on the open market.  The article states that;

At least five foreigners — two U.S. and three Greek citizens — were found in a luxury guesthouse operated by the doctor running the racket, Lal was quoted as saying by local media.  

The article goes on to report the more gruesome side of the operation:

Suspicious neighbours said they had noticed blood running out of the house’s gutters, as well as blood-soaked bandages and even bits of flesh thrown into an open plot near the house.  

This is called transplant tourism and has been happening for some time. It is a sad state of affairs when poor people are being forced to give up their own body parts to feed their families.
This blog has more.

Correspondence with a Wolf

January 27, 2008

This is a response I just sent to one of my friends in our e-mail dialogue discussing Hillary Clinton, Barrack Obama, political tactics, and a female president.

Dear Wolfgang Wolf,

I disagree that Clinton is getting away with a lot more dirty politics, just because she is a woman. Rants and criticism of your opponents is the nature of the game. Obama and Edwards are doing their share of it too. You use quite strong language, “callous and deceptive” in your portrayal of her. I wonder what has influenced your comments? (i.e. specific examples).

In response to your comments regarding “romanticizing matriarchal power” I can only say this; numerous studies have been done that show that women in less developed countries act in a much more responsible manner when given micro loans. Women tend to think of the welfare of their family and loved ones much more than men do, when given the power to make decisions effecting their lives. This does not mean that a woman would be a more responsible president, but it does pose the question of why we don’t have more women politicians.

I do not think that Clinton should be voted in just for being a woman, and you are not the first person to ask me if I would support Condi Rice if she ran. However, Clinton is very far from Rice and I think it will be a long time before another woman with the kind of experience and progressive thinking of Clinton makes it this far, maybe not even in our life time. I believe Clinton will make significant social change by creating domestic policies that will improve the lives of millions of Americans.

However, as pro-Clinton as I might sound I do have doubts. In a recent New Yorker article, “The Choice”, George Packer writes this about Clinton:

“If there’s a flaw in Hillary Clinton’s character which could keep her from becoming a successful President, or President at all, it is what Carl Bernstein, her best biographer, described to me as a tendency toward “subterfuge and eliding.” In the deep and sympathetic portrait “A Woman in Charge,” Bernstein’s recent biography of Clinton, a constant theme is her fear of humiliation; as the daughter of a harsh, often cruel father, she learned early to conceal any weakness and, ultimately, to protect her very humanity from exposure.”

This concerns me.

I really like the things that Obama is saying, but it’s a matter of whether he is full of hot air or not. Can he really achieve such dramatic change? He strikes me as maybe being naïve. I will be very happy with either of them in the White House, but as far at the kind of work I do, social work, I believe Clinton will have a more positive impact.

Bottom line is that it’s all bullshit. As long as we live in a society based on greed, ownership, and profits, the people’s suffering will only increase. The revolution will not be televised! Long Live the Wolf-Pack.

Shankar
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Terrorism Today

January 25, 2008

Will the Republicans allow another terrorist attack in order to secure another term in the white house? It would greatly benefit the Republican party if another major terrorist attack were to occur. With a fresh dose of high-grade fear injected into our society the Republican dealers could hook a lot of new fear-junkies and win a lot of votes. What are your wagers on another terrorist attack occurring on US soil before the November presidential election? I guess we must wait and see.

Another Chapter

January 24, 2008

Here is another Interrogation of Tradition that my father wrote. I like these a lot and find them a good length for a blog post.

Attachment to this world

Brings the soldiers back,

Wandering over the battlefield.

Seami Motokiyo (1373-1455)

Motokiyo was a master of No theatre, the classical theatre of Japan.

The wisdom traditions, acknowledging as they must that we find ourselves here on earth and earth, a mixed bag ending in death, is not heaven, address the sad news this way:

This world is not where we fulfill the purpose of human birth, which is always some form of spiritual realization independent of our earthly circumstances. But, on the other hand, this world is a divine manifestation, and through appreciating its beauty we are glimpsing the divinity behind and within it. As Robinson Jeffers wrote, “His signature is the beauty of things.”

The first view, however, is always the one emphasized, sometimes ferociously, because the erroneous conclusion drawn from the second view – that this world is all there is and let’s make the most of it – is a fatal seduction.

The Truth of Suffering is the first of the Four Noble Truths in the Buddhist Tradition. And this Suffering is not accidentally distributed but inherent in human existence. All revelations are addressed to a fallen humanity: to a situation in need of redress.

“And thus I escaped from the cycle, the painful, the misery-laden,” reads the inscription on a gold funereal tablet found in Egypt. Rumi (1207-1273), Persia’s great Sufi poet, compares our earthly lives, as we roam from place to place, scene to scene, to “the dice in backgammon.”

It’s often pointed out that the crux of our dilemma here is the inescapable experience of “the pairs of opposites.” Joy and sorrow, good and evil, alive and dead, north and south, past and future, day and night, kind and cruel, and so on forever: the antonyms in the dictionary. We are always negotiating between these pairs. They are the structure of the world. Their existence, their logical necessity – how could we talk about one without the shadow of the other behind it? – defines our lives and is the dynamic of our experience.

Whereas spiritual realization, where we “rise above” the pairs of opposites, is the realization of our identity with Oneness: the infinite ocean of peace, love and bliss which is nothing less than the divine reality of the universe.

But the soldiers, meaning all of us, bewitched by this world where we struggle to find an always elusive happiness, return to wander over the battlefield.

Interrogations of Tradition

January 23, 2008

My father is working on a new book that will be a series of short discussions of insightful thoughts of sages and spiritual leaders of the ages. Here is one of the chapters:

“Conceal your good deeds as you conceal your evil deeds.”

–Rabia of Basra (717?-801)

Rabia al-Adawiyya al-Qaysayyi was one of the great women saints of Islam.

How should we interpret her remark which has about it the tone of a warning? It disagrees with common practice and contradicts what seems to be plain logical common sense.

Our analysis, our explanation of our behavior – we’d hardly feel the need to call it a defense — would go something like this:

We don’t conceal our “good deeds,” because there seems no reason to deprive the community of benefitting from our good example, and we do conceal our “evil deeds,” not only because we have a right to defend our reputation, but also for the very good reason that public knowledge of our errors or failings or misdeeds serves no purpose.

How might Rabia respond?

As a renowned Muslim, she might fiercely retort, “Didn’t Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet, Peace be upon Him, say ‘Hide the good you do, and make known the good done to you’”?

And if she could have dipped into the future and heard the words of Meister Eckhart (1260?-1327?), she might retort, “And didn’t your Eckhart say ‘We are to practice virtue, not possess it’”?

We might discern two thrusts in the arguments of Rabia, Ali and Eckhart.

The first, originating in religious teachings, is simply the danger of egoism: the ‘inflammation’ of the personal ego which, according to all the spiritual traditions, comes between us and spiritual realization, whether that realization is defined as Salvation, as in the western traditions, or Enlightenment, as it is defined in the eastern traditions. In the former the danger is the sin of Pride, in the latter the error is called Ignorance. In both cases, the virtue being denied is Humility.

The second thrust originates right here in our daily lives, and it is very subtle indeed. It argues that any public knowledge of our lives, any public definition of our earthly performances, is a form of contamination. Why? Because God alone knows who we really are. It’s a question of where is the authentic tribunal.

“Whatever gets praise from the world goes unnoticed in heaven. Whatever goes unnoticed by the world is kept in heaven.” A saying of the Sikhs.

Slick Willie in Eureka

January 16, 2008

Just heard the end of Bill Clinton’s speech in Eureka, California. What I heard was moving and it’s easy to see why he was president of the US. I think I am pulling for Clinton, but I just realized that because I did not register with any party I am unable to vote in the primary. Oh well, I’m pretty much feeling that any of the democratic nominees will be a whole lot better than the current nightmare in the whitehouse. I think it’s pretty cool that Bill spoke in Eureka.

Big Win In The The War on Plastic Bags

January 11, 2008

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I find this to be a very interesting issue. China is going to tax use of plastic bags starting June 1 2008. China is estimated to use 3 billion plastic bags per day. The Guardian has a very good article on this issue. Meanwhile Mendocino County is working on a ban of plastic bags. Thus far the three major cities in the county, Ukiah, Willits, and Fort Bragg, have banned plastic bags and we are now waiting on the county to make a move. San Francisco has banned use of plastic bags in supermarkets and Oakland is soon to follow suit. Bangladesh has put a ban on this invasive species along with a number of other countries. In India, plastic bags and the little plastic packages that the very popular chewing tobacco comes in, are the most prevalant litter everywhere. After floods the trees along the river are covered in brightly colored plastic bags. Plastic bags are a serious environmental threat to the planet and are a major problem in the long term. In the very short term, like the from the store to your house, they are convenient. However, the long term effects on the planet far out weigh this small convenience. Australia is looking at a ban. I love how this is a issue at the global level and the local level. People all over the world are begining to realize plastic bags are a serious problem and the easy solution is to just stop using them, tax them or put an outright ban on their use. It seems so obvious that plastic bags should be banned, but capitalism works on a very short term look at the world and fails to consider long term effects. Did you know that all the plastic that has ever been produced still exists?!!