Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Going Beyond - A Dharma Talk


Monday, December 8, 2014


A Dharma talk


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes - "Watch Out for That Puddle, Soon It Could Be Federally Regulated"

In my opinion, government should protect and nurture individuals and society, support and insure "the certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," as the Declaration of Independence states. Unfortunately, the power of government officials, especially un-elected "administrative" officials, to abuse their position and powers has a long history, as the Roman phrase  "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes - Who guards the guardians?" indicates.

Below are excerpts from an article which highlights what is potentially another example of the abuses of governmental power.

"Earlier this year the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers proposed a rule redefining the “waters of the United States” that are subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act. The two agencies recently finished collecting public comments on their draft rule and are deciding how to proceed. Their best course is to abandon the rule or anything like it."

The articles conclusions are:

The GAO (The Government Accountability Office) concluded “the definitions used to make jurisdictional determinations” were “vague.” This situation fosters uncertainty and undermines economic activity and development.
The proposed rule magnifies the problem. It starts by including all tributaries in the nation (e.g., your backyard creek), and then authorizes federal officials to decide on a case-by-case basis if any “other waters” or land should be regulated. The proposed rule also asserts that federal jurisdiction is not limited to water contained in “aquatic systems” but covers the “associated chemical, physical, and biological features” of any aquatic system “as a whole.”
What isn’t a chemical, physical or biological feature of an aquatic system as a whole? Does that cover an entire ecoregion? Probably, since agency bureaucrats generally have discretion to interpret and apply their own definitions. Rather than clarify federal jurisdiction, as promised, the proposed rule introduces vastly greater uncertainty.
By any fair reading, the proposed rule would federalize virtually all water in the nation, and much of the land, in direct contravention of Supreme Court precedent and express congressional policy in the Clean Water Act “to recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of States to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution, to plan the development and use . . . of land and water resources.” It is patently unreasonable and should be amended or withdrawn."

The full article with many comments added is here:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Parting the Red Sea

Here is an interesting article which elaborates on and adds to a movie's "natural" explanation of the story of the parting of the Red Sea with a detailed scientific analysis which also leaves room for the miraculous  and, at the end of the article, connects to a similar ancient (80-40 BCE) explanation.

It is interesting to see the wide range of responses and reactions to the article and the "story" in the comments at the link below.


How Did Moses Part the Red Sea?

The science of tides may have saved the Israelites from the Egyptians

Moses had lived nearby and knew where caravans crossed the Red Sea at low tide. Pictured, a scene from ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ Moses had lived nearby and knew where caravans crossed the Red Sea at low tide. Pictured, a scene from ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ 20th Century Fox

Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” which opens in movie theaters across the country Dec. 12, will include, of course, the most famous of all biblical miracles: the parting of the Red Sea. But its depiction will look quite different from the one in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 classic “The Ten Commandments.” In the earlier movie, Charlton Heston as Moses parted the sea into two huge walls of water, between which the children of Israel crossed on a temporarily dry seabed to the opposite shore. Pharaoh’s army of chariots chased after them only to be drowned when Moses signaled for the waters to return.

Mr. Scott has said that his new version of the story will have a more realistic and natural explanation of what happened and won’t rely on Moses to bring forth God’s miraculous intervention. He has decided to have the waters “part” as the result of a tsunami caused by an earthquake. Before a tsunami strikes, coastal waters often recede, leaving the seabed dry before the giant wave arrives. 

But there are problems with this version of the story, too. The period during which coastal waters draw back before a tsunami usually lasts only 10 or 20 minutes, too little time to get all the children of Israel across the temporarily dry seabed. Also, there would have been no way for Moses to know that the earthquake and tsunami were going to happen, unless God told him. That’s fine, but then the story would retain some element of the miraculous.

There is a much better natural explanation for how a temporary path across the Red Sea could have been revealed. It involves the tide, a natural phenomenon that would have fit nicely into a well-thought-out plan by Moses, because Moses would have been able to predict when it would happen. 

In certain places in the world, the tide can leave the sea bottom dry for hours and then come roaring back. In fact, in 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte and a small group of soldiers on horseback were crossing the Gulf of Suez, the northern end of the Red Sea, roughly where Moses and the Israelites are said to have crossed. On a mile-long expanse of dry sea bottom exposed at low water, the tide suddenly rushed in, almost drowning them.

In the biblical account, the children of Israel were camped on the western shore of the Gulf of Suez when the dust clouds raised by Pharaoh’s chariots were seen in the distance. The Israelites were now trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea. The dust clouds, however, were probably an important sign for Moses; they would have let him calculate how soon Pharaoh’s army would arrive at the coast.

Moses had lived in the nearby wilderness in his early years, and he knew where caravans crossed the Red Sea at low tide. He knew the night sky and the ancient methods of predicting the tide, based on where the moon was overhead and how full it was. Pharaoh and his advisers, by contrast, lived along the Nile River, which is connected to the almost tideless Mediterranean Sea. They probably had little knowledge of the tides of the Red Sea and how dangerous they could be.

Knowing when low tide would occur, how long the sea bottom would remain dry and when the waters would rush back in, Moses could plan the Israelites’ escape. Choosing a full moon for their flight would have given them a larger tidal range—that is, the low tide would have been much lower and the sea bottom would have stayed dry longer, giving the Israelites more time to cross. The high tide also would have been higher and thus better for submerging Pharaoh’s pursuing army.

In ‘The Ten Commandments,’ Charlton Heston as Moses parted the sea into two huge walls of water, between which the children of Israel crossed on a temporarily dry seabed to the opposite shore.
In ‘The Ten Commandments,’ Charlton Heston as Moses parted the sea into two huge walls of water, between which the children of Israel crossed on a temporarily dry seabed to the opposite shore. Everett Collection.                Timing would have been crucial. The last of the Israelites had to cross the dry sea bottom just before the tide returned, enticing Pharaoh’s army of chariots onto the exposed sea bottom, where they would drown as the returning tidal waters overwhelmed them. If the chariots were expected to arrive before the tide came back in, Moses might have planned some type of delaying tactic. If the chariots were expected to arrive after the tide came back in, he could have gotten the Israelites across and then, at the next low tide, sent a few of his best people back onto the temporarily dry sea bed to entice Pharaoh’s chariots to chase them.                                                                                                                             The Bible mentions a strong east wind that blew all night and pushed back the waters. Ocean physics tells us that wind blowing over a shallow waterway pushes back more water than a wind blowing over a deep waterway. If a wind did by chance fortuitously blow before the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, it would have had more effect at low tide than at any other time, uncovering even more sea bottom.                               Such a wind would surely have been assigned to divine intervention, and over the centuries, as the story of the Exodus was retold, that aspect would have overshadowed Moses’ careful planning to take advantage of the low tide. But Moses couldn’t have predicted the suddenly beneficial wind, so he couldn’t have based his plan on it. His timing had to be based on a tide prediction.                                                                           When Napoleon and his forces almost drowned in 1798 at the northern end of the Gulf of Suez, the water typically rose 5 or 6 feet at high tide (and up to 9 or 10 feet with the wind blowing in the right direction). But there is evidence that the sea level was higher in Moses’ time. As a result, the Gulf of Suez would have extended farther north and had a larger tidal range. If that was indeed the case, the real story of the Israelites’ crossing wouldn’t have needed much exaggeration to include walls of water crashing down on the pursuing Egyptians.                                                                                                                                  One more piece of evidence is worth citing. As it turns out, my suggestion that Moses could have planned to cross the Red Sea at low tide isn’t entirely new. The ancient author Eusebius of Caesarea (263–339 A.D.) cites two versions of the story of the crossing of the Red Sea as related by the Hellenistic historian Artapanus (80–40 B.C.). One version, told by the people of Heliopolis, is similar to the account in the Bible. But in the second version, told by the people of Memphis, “Moses, being acquainted with the country, waited for the ebb and took the people across the sea when dry.”                                                                                     If the tide was indeed involved in Moses’ “parting” of the Red Sea, it has to qualify as the most dramatic and consequential tide prediction in history.                                                                                                  —Dr. Parker is the former chief scientist of NOAA’s National Ocean Service and is currently a visiting professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology. He is the author of “The Power of the Sea: Tsunamis, Storm Surges, Rogue Waves, and Our Quest to Predict Disasters.”   


Friday, December 5, 2014

Experiencing - A Dharma Talk


Encouraging the Bodhisattva Manifesting of Vaccinating (II)

I have previously written that in my opinion, if you vaccinate your children or your self, that is Bodhisattvic activity, serving the needs of this life of many beings and relieving them from potential harm and suffering.

And if you do not vaccinate, unless it is due to medical reasons or lack of opportunity, you are putting others and your self at risk, potentially causing harm and suffering, and maybe nurturing self-centeredness and delusion. What self do you protect? How? What is protecting? How far or narrow is self? What is being the Bodhisattva you are?

The book and article cited below further clarify the consequences of not-vaccinating - for the individual, their family and the larger community,

The first paragraph is an excerpt from a NY Times review of this interesting book, ON IMMUNITY: An Inoculation by Eula Biss

 "Biss unpacks what the fear of vaccines tells us about larger anxieties involving purity, contamination and interdependency. Deeply researched and anchored in Biss’s own experiences as a new mother, this ferociously intelligent book is itself an inoculation against bad science and superstition, and a reminder that we owe one another our lives."

And these are the introduction and conclusion from an article by Dr. Haider Javed Warraich:

"I was working on the hospital infectious-disease service when our team was asked to see a young girl with a mysterious illness that no one had been able to diagnose. She had come to the emergency room with a fever and runny nose and had a rash spreading across her body. She had developed a cough so harsh that “whooping cough” had been added to the long list of possible infirmities. But when the senior doctor on our team, Frank Berkowitz, an expert in pediatric infections—arrived at her room, he knew the diagnosis immediately: She had measles.

Many developing countries continue to suffer from measles, an extremely contagious respiratory disease, but the U.S. in 2000 was declared “measles free” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The news of a confirmed case set our hospital abuzz, and uniformed CDC officers soon swooped in.

How did the young girl get the disease? Her parents had refused to vaccinate her.

Hers is far from the only case. Measles is making a terrifying comeback in the U.S., with some 600 cases reported this year, more than in any year in the past two decades. There are two reasons: the ease of international travel, and an increasing number of people refusing vaccinations, usually on behalf of their children...."

"The re-emergence of measles may be the harbinger of other infections such as polio returning from the history books. While autonomy needs to be a central value driving medical decision-making, legislators need to protect American children. The young girl at my hospital with measles survived, but others might not be so lucky.  "

The full article is here:


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Everyday Zen

The current ongoing class is a study     and discussion     of Joko Beck's book, "Everyday Zen". 

Check back in the future for later class postings.

Skillful Activity - A Dharma discussion


Skillful Activity  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What is skillful for a nation in face of hostility? What results in reduced harm and delusion in both short-term and long-term?

"Iranians pretend not to cheat; we (USA) pretend not to notice. All that’s left to do is stand back and wait for something to happen."

Here are two interesting pieces which may give us pause about how to further  US - Iranian diplomacy.

The first opens with a paragraph which sets forth the problem clearly:

"Does it matter what sort of deal—or further extension, or non-deal—ultimately emerges from the endless parleys over Iran’s nuclear program? Probably not. Iran came to the table cheating on its nuclear commitments. It continued to cheat on them throughout the interim agreement it agreed to last year. And it will cheat on any undertakings it signs."

The second article in some ways is more ominous because it explores threats and conflicts that are less severe than a nuclear threat. The subtitle says much:" The West underestimates the growing threat from radical Islam in the Americas."

"Iran has opened embassies and established commercial agreements that allow operatives to create businesses, which can be used as fronts for covert operations. In Venezuela and Bolivia, Iran has moved to the next level, developing a military presence through joint ventures in defense industries."

The conclusions of the first article is appropriate for both articles and daunting to all:

"Eventually, something will happen. Perhaps Iran will simply walk away from the talks, daring this feckless administration to act. Perhaps we will discover another undeclared Iranian nuclear facility, possibly not in Iran itself. Perhaps the Israelis really will act. Perhaps the Saudis will."

The articles are linked below.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dharma Talks from sesshin

No Bodhisatvas   11/14/14
Being at Ease   11/15/14
Closing Remarks   11/16/14


All Pervasive Dharma

by Elihu Genmyo Smith

Zen Master Linji says, “Followers of the way, mind Dharma is without form and pervades the ten
directions  . In the eye, it is called seeing; in the ear, called hearing; in the nose, it smells odors. In the mouth, it holds conversation. In the hands, it grasps and seizes. In the feet, it runs and carries. Fundamentally, it is one pure radiance that unfolds as the six spheres of being world. Since this mind Dharma is not of the order of existence, there is not a single place that is not liberated. All dharmas   (phenomena) are Buddha Dharma. What is my purpose in speaking this way? I do so only because you followers of the way cannot stop your mind from running around everywhere seeking, and because you go clambering after the worthless contrivances of the men of old.”

What is this all-pervading mind Dharma? Notice that Linji does not say, in the eye it is called seeing what we want, what we like or not seeing what we do not like....

(c) 2014 Elihu Genmyo Smith

For the rest of this article see:


Monday, November 10, 2014

Isn't Free Speech Wonderful? Or can we truly speak of free speech without facing attempts to limit speech?

This is an interesting and in some ways frightening article exploring attempts to limit speech, and the many justifications for these limitations on college campus.

Without freedom of speech, Buddha Dharma probably would have had more difficulties in spreading to the US.  Likewise, threats to freedom of speech are potentially threats to Dharma teaching and practice, to the Bodhisattvic liberation of beings in all the realms of our daily encounter.

As Master Kukai (Kobo Daishi) wrote, "the Dharma is beyond speech but without speech it cannot be revealed."

Here are the opening and closing paragraphs with a link to the whole article following:

"On campuses across the country, hostility toward unpopular ideas has become so irrational that many students, and some faculty members, now openly oppose freedom of speech. The hypersensitive consider the mere discussion of the topic of censorship to be potentially traumatic. Those who try to protect academic freedom and the ability of the academy to discuss the world as it is are swimming against the current. In such an atmosphere, liberal-arts education can’t survive."

"On campuses across the country, hostility toward unpopular ideas has become so irrational that many students, and some faculty members, now openly oppose freedom of speech. The hypersensitive consider the mere discussion of the topic of censorship to be potentially traumatic. Those who try to protect academic freedom and the ability of the academy to discuss the world as it is are swimming against the current. In such an atmosphere, liberal-arts education can’t survive."


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

More Proposals for Regulating Internet Speech

Another itteration of Quis custodiet ipsos custodes - Who guards the guardians?

The following article continues an exploration of  proposed limits to free speech   -     and my sense that when free speech is limited for some all are at risk; all speech on the internet is at risk if objected to.

Here are excerpts from an article forwarded to me:

""The FEC (Federal Election Commissioon) already regulates paid Internet advertising, but free Internet posts are exempt from campaign-finance regulations. On Oct. 24 Ms. Ravel (vice-chair of FEC) stated that in doing so “the Commission turned a blind eye to the Internet’s growing force in the political arena.” She said that a “re-examination of the Commission’s approach to the Internet and other emerging technologies is long overdue,” and vowed to hold hearings next year on the matter—a clear hint that the goal is to remove the regulatory exemption for free online political speech...."

Lest we think this is just an inquiry without any history or hidden agenda, we need to remember that "in April 2012, when Ms. Ravel was chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (a state agency comparable to the FEC) and I (the article author Mr. Rotunda) was a commissioner, she announced that the commission would issue regulations governing political speech on the Internet. The rules, she said, would even govern bloggers outside the state. Californians raised a fuss and her efforts got nowhere"

The articles conclusions are:

"The intellectual godfather of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine, published his famous pamphlet, “Common Sense,” anonymously. Political speech regulation of the kind proposed by Ms. Ravel would have required Paine to disclose his identity and who helped finance the publication. The authors of the Federalist Papers also wrote anonymously. They would be surprised to learn that the government they helped create would make their efforts on its behalf illegal.

The theory behind limiting political campaign contributions is the fear that a contributor might secure special access to an officeholder or secure his, or his successor’s, secret promise to vote for or against a piece of legislation. This fear does not apply when someone is arguing publicly for or against a law, regardless of who may or may not have paid him to do so.

The Federal Election Commission exists solely to protect the public against potential corruption of public officials. It has no authority to regulate pure political speech, which is what the Web does: It disseminates pure political speech."

The full article is here:


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Beginningless killing, beginningless non-killing - a biological karma from primate ancestors

Below is a fascinating exploration of reviews of biological data about "killing of their own kind" by our primate cousins - chimps and bonobos.

Our life practice is being human, with all that entails - all the inheritances of karma that we call biology, psychology, environment and so forth - and yet not being trapped by that. In the midst of the arising circumstances, the karmic tendencies - whether we call them the traditional poisons of greed, anger and delusion or something else - we manifest this True Nature, Buddha Nature, that we are. Inheritances are this moment life opportunity, this moment practice opportunity - it is up to us to manifest this as Three Poisons or as Three Treasures.

Here are some highlights:

"A recent paper in Nature addressed this debate. The authors, an all-star team of primatologists, had a collective 492 years of experience observing chimps. Pooling their data, they examined whether rates of “lethal aggression” across populations were best predicted by intrinsic features of the social lives of the chimps or by extrinsic factors reflecting human impact (for example, proximity to humans, or whether the chimps lived in a protected game park)..

Remarkably, the 152 killings worked out to about 3.5 murders for every decade of observation. Males made up 92% of the killers and 73% of the victims. Killing occurred in 83% of these populations across the African continent. In most killings, groups of males ambushed someone from a neighboring troop, with an average of eight males ganging up on the victim. And about 90% of males participated in a killing at some point in their lives...

Critiques and rebuttals are flying online and in the media, because this is a big deal. If this sort of violence is fundamental to chimps, if it’s “in their genes,” then it’s overwhelmingly likely to be in ours as well.

But that wouldn’t be the right conclusion to reach. Because the chimp research was only half the paper. The authors also examined bonobos, the “other” species of chimp, famed for their social affiliation and female dominance. What is the bonobo rap sheet after 92 years of behavioral observation? One suspected killing, a mere 3% of the rate in chimps.

Critically, we share as much as 99% of our DNA with bonobos as well (and chimps and bonobos share about the same percentage of genes with each other).

We’re not chimps. Sadly, we’re not bonobos either. We’re their cousins, the species that invented both Quaker pacifism and the atrocities of Islamic State. What a cross-species analysis like this teaches us, in short, is the evolutionary roots of our potential, not the inevitabilities of our behavior."

For the full article and comments see:


Another itteration of Quis custodiet ipsos custodes - Who guards the guardians? A continuation of the exploration of free speech - and my sense that when free speech is limited for some all are at risk.

Last month I posted an article on free speech issues. And here is another interesting exploration of the topic. As I see it, free speech is closely related to the freedom of religion; without them Buddha Dharma may not have spread to the US and the West, and the many forms of Dharmic practice would probably not flourish here.

"Today, content is increasingly the explicit justification for restricting speech. The argument used, especially in colleges, is that “words hurt.” Thus, universities, parliaments, courts and various international bodies intervene promiscuously to restrict hurtful or offensive speech—with the results described above. In the new climate, hurtful speech is much more likely to be political speech than obscene speech.

The definition of political speech has changed too. The U.S. Supreme Court has expanded it to include nonspeech actions, such as nude dancing."

Here are the article's conclusions:

"Today, both sorts of protection for speech—legal and social—are weaker than before in both countries. This year, official regulation of the press was passed into U.K. law for the first time since 18th-century juries nullified press prosecutions. These new restraints enjoyed the backing not just of all the parties but apparently of the public as well.

In the U.S., the case of Mann v. Steyn, let alone a hypothetical case involving Quran-burning, has yet to be decided. But Democrats in the Senate are seeking to restrict political speech by restricting the money spent to promote it. And in the private sector, American corporations have blacklisted employees for expressing or financing certain unfashionable opinions. In short, a public culture that used to be liberal is now “progressive”—which is something like liberalism minus its commitment to freedom.

The U.S. and Britain have long thought of themselves as, above all, free countries. If that identity continues to atrophy, free speech will be the first victim. But it will not be the last."

For the full article see:


Friday, October 31, 2014

Everyday Zen

An ongoing class and discussion of Charlotte Joko Beck's book, "Everyday Zen". 

Check back regularly for updates:


(c) 2014 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

After the November 4th Election

Here is an interesting set of predictions of the post-election political actions and conflicts, no matter what the outcome of the elections:

"With the midterm elections looming, the White House has delayed controversial decisions and appointments. That makes sense politically. The administration doesn’t want to force Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Michelle Nunn, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, or other embattled Democrats to defend presidential actions right now, or worse, to oppose them publicly. But as soon as the voting is done (perhaps after runoffs in Louisiana and Georgia), several big shoes will drop. Here are the most likely ones.

1) Immigration. How many millions will the president let in? On what terms? One hint: The Department of Homeland Security recently ordered more than four million green cards and visas for next year and says it might order another 29 million for future years. The cards would give immigrants who are here illegally the right to continue living and working in the U.S. legally—and perhaps receive a variety of federal and state benefits. Should the president unilaterally issue these cards, there will be a brutal debate over the wisdom of this policy, whether it extends to welfare benefits, and whether the president has the constitutional authority to issue so many cards without specific congressional approval.

2) The next U.S. attorney general. The president wants a crusader on progressive causes and a reliable firewall to protect him, just as Eric Holder    has done. Rumor has it that he wants Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who has been the point man on racial preferences.

Mr. Perez’s most controversial, and constitutionally questionable, position is his support for “disparate impact” as a measure of discrimination. According to this theory, if fewer blacks or Hispanics are hired than their percentage of the “relevant” population, then the employer must have discriminated, even if all hiring procedures were fair and racially neutral. If the president nominates Mr. Perez, expect a nasty confirmation fight. Even if the president nominates someone less controversial, tough hearings are almost certain."

For the rest of this article see:


In 3 months we can see if these predictions are accurate or not - and what the consequences, in terms of national harmony and well being, are of the actions taken or not taken.

Bodhisattva Action or Greed, Anger and Dualistic Delusion

Public Safety or Self-Centeredness: What are the boundaries and what is the balance?

The following news story seems to speak for itself and hopefully encourages our reflection and clarification  about it and our own life actions. Since this story is ongoing, I may post updates and other links:

Nurse in Ebola Quarantine Flap Says She Won’t Obey Maine’s Isolation Rules

Kaci Hickox Says She Will Go to Court if Restrictions Aren’t Removed by Thursday

"The Maine nurse who traveled to West Africa to care for Ebola patients said Wednesday that she won’t self-quarantine for 21 days, setting up a possible legal battle with Maine, which asserted Tuesday that it has the right to impose quarantines on residents potentially exposed to the virus    .

Speaking on “Good Morning America” from Maine, 33-year-old Kaci Hickox said, “If these restrictions are not removed for me by tomorrow morning, Thursday morning, I will go to court.”

"Maine’s health director said Tuesday that the state didn’t want to impose quarantines on someone potentially exposed to the Ebola virus but was poised to do so if necessary. Mary Mayhew, the commissioner of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services, didn’t specifically refer to Ms. Hickox in a news conference."

“We are confident that the selfless health workers, who were brave enough to care for Ebola patients in a foreign country, will be willing to take reasonable steps to protect the residents of their own country,” Ms. Mayhew said. ”However, we are willing to pursue legal authority if necessary.”


And what do medical experts and specialists think and do? Here is a new story:

"Ebola fears have infected a medical conference on the subject. Louisiana state health officials told thousands of doctors planning to attend a tropical diseases meeting this weekend in New Orleans to stay away if they have been to certain African countries or have had contact with an Ebola patient in the last 21 days.

The order came in a letter Wednesday to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, which made clear it did not agree with the decision. Several doctors, including some from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, now may not be able to attend or present studies at the meeting, which runs Sunday through Wednesday."



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More unintended consequences of good intentions - and a possible win-win solution for problematic consequences

Knowing my fondness for unintended consequences of good intentions gone awry, the following was sent to me. I especially like the hopefulness of the win-win solutions proposed at the end.

Here are the introductory and concluding paragraphs:

"When the Endangered Species Act passed in 1973, the concern was that iconic species such as the bald eagle would become extinct. The main threats were from shooting, poisoning and trapping.

To address these concerns, Section 9 of the ESA, known as the “take clause,” included language that made it unlawful for any person “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.” This provision seemed sensible, but it has led to unexpected and adverse consequences for the species it was designed to protect.

The government has extended the “take clause” to include the “taking” of habitat that harbors—or could harbor—endangered species. The result is what many private landowners call the “3 S’s”—shoot, shovel and shut up—lest your land could be regulated by the federal government."

Here is a concluding case and solution:

"In 2004, for example, Ranchers in Montana’s Big Hole Valley signed a voluntary “Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances” with the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the habitat of the arctic grayling.

With financial help from the state and federal governments, the ranchers completed 250 habitat improvement projects including installation of fish ladders, fencing to keep livestock out of riparian areas, and improvements in irrigation efficiency to increase stream flows. Still, conservation groups, such as the Center for Biodiversity, threaten more lawsuits claiming the “Voluntary conservation efforts have failed to address the primary threats to the grayling.”

Aggressive use of the Endangered Species Act by environmental groups has not been beneficial to endangered species or to private landowners. Rather than punish private landowners who conserve wildlife, we should reward them for serving the public’s interest."

For the whole article see:


Friday, October 17, 2014

Conscious dying - approaching death

In recent discussions with Zen practitioners on dying and death, which is a vital part of practice, I quoted my teacher Soen Nakagawa, "I rarely see someone whose face (and actions) says 'I will die'."  If we do not live this, practice this, our life and practice are all the poorer.

The pieces on this topic by the surgeon  Atul Gawande in New Yorker magazine have been interesting, and his new book “Being Mortal,”which is reviewed in the article link below, looks worthwhile. If you are interested in this, I encourage you to read the review, and if you find it interesting, read the book, as I intend to when I get it.

Here are excerpts from the review:

"One of Dr. Gawande’s most touching examples centers on the final weeks of his daughter’s piano teacher, who was suffering from terminal, untreatable leukemia. Dr. Gawande persuaded her to leave his hospital and try, with his support, hospice home care rather than passively await the future or seek “death with dignity.” With a combination of pain management and thoughtful physical assistance she regained energy and found the zeal, in the six weeks that followed, to give private lessons again. She also enjoyed a recital organized by her pupils, past and present, wherein they could all express their gratitude to her. Three days later she slipped into coma and passed away peacefully. With Dr. Gawande’s help this patient demonstrated what Cicely Saunders, the physician-nurse founder of hospice care in the 1950s, repeatedly asserted: “Last days need not be lost days.”

"...By making a forceful case for palliative care and hospice services—with their capacity to sustain life’s quality out to the end—“Being Mortal” provides a response to the presumptions of despair that fuel the euthanasia movement."


Here is another review:


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hatred - the many sides of anger in Syria, Iraq and Europe.

The unrelenting hatred being manifested by the group Islamic State (and even being excused by some of their supporters and media pundits, as well as the tacit or active support of their brutality by states such as Turkey) is an example of unwillingness to face this aspect of human poison - whether we call it evil or something else.

I bring  this up not to point to others but because in clarifying this matter we clarify a fundamental human tendency which we are all subject to and may act out in some forms - unless we practice with this. We are subject to this tendency and reactive habit when beginningless anger "born of body, speech and thought" arises in our life. And it does arise, though hopefully we do not act it out, hopefully in ongoing practice and noticing we do see it for what it is and respond appropriately and as skillfully as we can.

The ongoing killings in Syria by ISIS have overshadowed the long war and brutality of the Syrian government and its allies such as Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that has killed over 200,000 in  recent years. This is the subject of a new exhibit at the United States Holocaust Museum. Below are links to an article and to photos, but be aware of the horrific nature of this matter. Neither "side" in this brutal violence is free of the anger, hatred and resulting brutality.



For me, these events bring up memories of the controversy around the Adolf Eichmann trial. From new research on this in Eichmann Before Jerusalem by Bettina Stangneth we have the following quote from Eichmann,

“I have to tell you quite honestly that if of the 10.3 million Jews . . . identified, as we now know, we had killed 10.3 million, I would be satisfied, and would say, good, we have destroyed an enemy.”

An interesting review of this book's findings and an exploration of some of the issues involved in evil and complicity with evil, see: