Archive for June, 2008

Modern Kontiki

June 30, 2008

A friend of mine just turned me on to this blog. These guys are sailing to Hawaii on a raft made of plastic bottles to bring awareness to the gross plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean. The site states that they are:

SAILING TO HAWAII ON 15,000 PLASTIC BOTTLES AND A CESSNA 310, TO RAISE AWARENESS ABOUT PLASTIC FOULING OUR OCEANS.

Those guys are out there right now. Looks as though they are having a hard time getting out into the Pacific due to the currents and winds. Seems they are getting pulled down towards Panama. Give their blog a look over and a shout out.

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Unity in Unity

June 27, 2008

Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama made their first public appearance together in a town called “Unity” New Hampshire. Pretty cheesy move, but I am sure a well thought out political move. Here is YouTube of the speeches. I just donated to Obama’s campaign. It will be so amazing if he wins. Talk about a breath of fresh air.

George Carlin is Dead

June 23, 2008

Great Victory for The Oaks!

June 18, 2008

The mega-corporation that goes under the name University of California at Berkeley was defeated today in their mission to clear-cut a beautiful stand of trees on the east side of their campus. Two years ago the University laid out plans to build a sports complex using privately donated money in the place where the trees currently stand. An organized resistance to this action immediately took effect. Activists have been tree sitting for the past 18 months in protest of the University’s plan. After much court room activity, the final decision was made today by Judge Barbara Miller of the Alameda Superior Court. The honorable Judge Miller ruled in favor of the people and the trees and stated that the University would not be allowed to build their play structure. I would like to send out my appreciation to all those who participated in keeping this project from moving forward. This \SF Chronicle article has more. However, Indymedia, reports that the decision may not be the final final verdict because the temporary injunction has been upheld, but the University has not been told that they will definitely not be able to eventually go ahead with their plans. So a win for now.

World Happiness

June 16, 2008

What is the reason for human existence? That’s a big question. Some will say there is no reason, others will say this is a very complex question and takes entire books to answer. But maybe one concept can sum it up: Happiness. Bliss. Joy. Contentment. Pleasure. Satisfaction. Delight. Ecstasy. Euphoria. Elation. These words encapsulate the reason for existence. But now the trickiest question of all; how do we bring these words into a constant reality?

The school of psychology at the University of Leicester in the UK has been trying to solve this problem. Through a system of thinking called Positive Psychology they are finding way to measure GWB (General Well Being) or SWB (Subjective Well-Being). The map below shows some of their findings. Here is the study and also a ranking of all the countries in the world according to happiness. Denmark ranks number one, while the US ranks 23 and the UK ranks 41. But it is my belief that this study is largely bullshit.

I did this earlier post about the king of Bhutan who was concerned with GDH (Gross Domestic Happiness)

The Leicester study found that access to health care and education were major indicator of overall happiness. However the study has serious flaws because most of the research was done in the economically developed countries that already ranked highest in subjective well-being. My main question, and what is never addressed in the study, is how does spirituality play into this research? I take the above map with a big grain of salt because I question the research methodology. However I love the direction the research is going in and believe it is one of the most important aspects of human life there is.

How Do We Feel About the Afghan Jail Break?

June 15, 2008

Yesterday one of the biggest jail breaks in history occured in Afghanistan. The Telegraph writes:

Yesterday, Sarposa’s entire population of 1,100 inmates – including murderers, bandits and about 450 hardened Islamic militants – was enjoying freedom after an audacious Taliban attack engineered one of the biggest mass jail breaks in history.

It seems Western forces are just unable to put the Taliban to rest. Afghanistan has been an unstable state since 1979. One of the reasons the Taliban lasted is because they were the only group that was able to bring stability to the region.

Were they really “hardened Islamic Militants” in the jail or were they “freedom fighters.” Who knows. What is really going on Afghanistan anyway?

Ukiah in the NY Times

June 9, 2008

Well, there is only one reason Ukiah and Mendocino County would be mentioned in the NY Times; Ganja. The Times ran a piece today discussing medical marijuana and the recent Measure B on the ballet that decreases the limits one can grow for medical use. We are still waiting for the results. I see two ways of looking at the medical use of marijuana. One is to treat it like we treat any other pharmaceutical and have your doctor prescribe it for a legitimate medical problem and then go to your local pharmacy and give them your prescription and get your recommended dosage, hopefully your medical insurance will cover the costs. The other way to treat the legalization of medical use is to just abuse the hell out it and use it as a step towards the end of this ridiculous prohibition. I see this manner of thinking occurring in Nor Cal. And that is mainly due to the quasi legal nature of growing and the huge amount of money to be made due to the black market element.

Personally I am sort of sick of the whole thing. It is boring to me because I have been around it so long and it demands an exaggerated amount of conversation. The sensationalism of it annoys me too. This is why I have neglected to mention Measure B this long, and I am discussing it now only because it hit the NY Times.

Bob Nishiyama, the major crimes task force commander in Mendocino County, said there were places with 500 plants and 20 Proposition 215 letters tacked to a fence. “And technically, that’s legal because people can have 25 plants,” he said.

Clinton Bows Out with some Style

June 7, 2008

I have just been reading a little on the Clinton’s goodbye speech at a rally today in Washington. Sounds like she made a nice speech. Here is a link to the Slate Blog on the speech. It ends with:

Clinton left her supporters with the message that her candidacy and Obama’s are both historic—but that this moment is his. “I will work my heart out to make sure that Senator Obama is our next President and I hope and pray that all of you will join me in that effort,” she said. The cheers drowned out the boos.

I am happy to see Obama with the candidacy and Clinton now supporting him, but I have some concerns. I am worried about the underlying racism that still exists in this country. I want to believe that it is possible for a black man with an Islamic name to beat a white protestant “war hero”, but I have concerns.

Caste System Still Alive and Kicking

June 2, 2008

I just came across this interesting blog post on the Harvard International Review. The writer, Jason Lakin, discusses some recent caste uprisings in New Delhi. It appears that a caste called the Gujjars has been squatting on the New Delhi-Mumbai railway, disrupting train services, to bring attention to their cause. A serious irony comes into play when we look into what the Gujjars want. Lakin writes:

The Gujjars are classified as “backwards,” or what are poetically known as OBCs (“other backward castes”). This doesn’t give them as many job opportunities as being classified as “scheduled tribes” (ST) would, so they have been demanding a reclassification. Curiously, the Gujjars are actually demanding that they move down the traditional caste hierarchy in order to be able to access better opportunities. Other low caste groups don’t want their categories to get too crowded, so they have resisted. The state government doesn’t like the idea of having to provide benefits to a group that never had them, so they have resisted. The result has been bloody conflict in the streets.

The caste system is an incredibly complex vast social network of kinships and identities based on employment. I lived with a very low caste called the Jagas in a village in Rajasthan for a month. I am not sure if they were classified OBC or ST. The villagers would ask me what caste I am. I would usually say that we do not have caste in America, but we have something called class, which is not that much different. As I traveled around with one of the Jaga members, we would meet other Jagas and they would open their home to us. I realized that the caste acts as a support system for their members all over that local area. Towards the end of my time there I would tell Jagas that I was also a Jaga and they loved it.

Lakin ends his post by stating that:

India is a fast-changing economy and society, but the salience of caste has not necessarily decreased in recent years. In some ways and in some places, it seems to have actually increased. This is in part because of the overaweing presence of the state in India today, even after liberalization. It is in part because economic growth does not necessarily lead to the elimination of traditional identities, as modernization theory predicted, or as the conventional wisdom suggests. While Delhi itself may not be the most caste-centric place in India, peripheral caste-based conflict can easily permeate city limits, as it did last week, reminding the country’s elite that “modern” India is not suddenly unmoored from the past.

The United States has recently begun to eye India as a key strategic partner and a counter-weight to China. If India and the United States are going to work together, both countries need to understand something about the domestic political pressures facing elites when they sit down to bargain internationally. Most Americans don’t have a clue how the caste system works in India. It’s not too late to start reading up.

Lakin has good insights. His statement that economic growth does not eliminate traditional identities is interesting. However, I have a feeling that these castes have experienced very little of the economic growth in India. I still see enormous inequalities in India and a huge percentage of the population is still incredibly poor. Something that just occurred to me is the comparison of the caste to the labor union. There might be something to this.

Jeffrey Lewis on NPR

June 1, 2008

I lived with musician/comic book artist, Jeff Lewis, in a Co-Op in Austin, Texas, for about 5 months back in 2001. Today on my way home from Oakland, an interview with Jeff came on the radio on NPR. It seems he is gaining fame and I am not surprised. Jeff’s talent, motivation, and creativity were very evident while living with him. Jeff is a New Yorker and he wanted to take Austin by storm. He lasted about 5 months and for his last hurrah he had the whole Co-Op go to the local coffee house open mic and get up on the stage with him and sing along. Afterwards I drove everyone back to the house in the back of my truck. It was a fun night. Seems Jeff is touring Europe right now. I recommend listening to this NPR interview when you get some time. Here is his myspace page. He has some great youtube videos also. I put one below.

Here is his website.