Saturday, December 31, 2016

A joyous and wonderful New Year to all - please be cheerful and at peace, free from anxiety, fear, anger or hatred.

"The Fable of Edward Snowden - As he seeks a pardon, the NSA thief has told multiple lies about what he stole and his dealings with Russian intelligence."

The following was sent to me.

I post it in its entirety because of the pertinent nature of the content as continued hostility between the USA and Russia is in the news and because of its clarification and challenge to various tropes in the media.

I do not know what is true in this matter - whether the allegations in this article are true, as opposed to allegations in the movie and other portrayals. If what is implied in this excerpt are true then it seems to portent a more conflicted future. The following is an extended excerpt from a new book “How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft,” by Edward Jay Epstein.

"Of all the lies that Edward Snowden has told since his massive theft of secrets from the National Security Agency and his journey to Russia via Hong Kong in 2013, none is more provocative than the claim that he never intended to engage in espionage, and was only a “whistleblower” seeking to expose the overreach of NSA’s information gathering. With the clock ticking on Mr. Snowden’s chance of a pardon, now is a good time to review what we have learned about his real mission.

Mr. Snowden’s theft of America’s most closely guarded communication secrets occurred in May 2013, according to the criminal complaint filed against him by federal prosecutors the following month. At the time Mr. Snowden was a 29-year-old technologist working as an analyst-in-training for the consulting firm of Booz Allen Hamilton at the regional base of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Oahu, Hawaii. On May 20, only some six weeks after his job there began, he failed to show up for work, emailing his supervisor that he was at the hospital being tested for epilepsy.

This excuse was untrue. Mr. Snowden was not even in Hawaii. He was in Hong Kong. He had flown there with a cache of secret data that he had stolen from the NSA.

This was not the only lie Mr. Snowden told. As became clear during my investigation over the past three years, nearly every element of the narrative Mr. Snowden has provided, which reached its final iteration in Oliver Stone’s 2016 movie, “Snowden,” is demonstrably false.

This narrative began soon after Mr. Snowden arrived in Hong Kong, where he arranged to meet with Laura Poitras, a Berlin-based documentary filmmaker, and Glenn Greenwald, a Brazil-based blogger for the Guardian. Both journalists were longtime critics of NSA surveillance with whom Mr. Snowden (under the alias Citizen Four) had been in contact for four months.

To provide them with scoops discrediting NSA operations, Mr. Snowden culled several thousand documents out of his huge cache of stolen material, including two explosive documents he asked them to use in their initial stories. One was the now-famous secret order from America’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court requiring Verizon to turn over to the NSA its billing records for its phone users in the U.S. The other was an NSA slide presentation detailing its ability to intercept communications of non-American users of the internet via a joint program with the FBI code-named Prism.

These documents were published in 2013 on June 5 and 6, followed by a video in which he identified himself as the leaker and a whistleblower.

At the heart of Mr. Snowden’s narrative was his claim that while he may have incidentally “touched” other data in his search of NSA files, he took only documents that exposed the malfeasance of the NSA and gave all of them to journalists.

Yet even as Mr. Snowden’s narrative was taking hold in the public realm, a secret damage assessment done by the NSA and Pentagon told a very different story. According to a unanimous report declassified on Dec. 22 by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the investigation showed that Mr. Snowden had “removed” (not merely touched) 1.5 million documents. That huge number was based on, among other evidence, electronic logs that recorded the selection, copying and moving of documents.

The number of purloined documents is more than what NSA officials were willing to say in 2013 about the removal of data, possibly because the House committee had the benefit of the Pentagon’s more-extensive investigation. But even just taking into account the material that Mr. Snowden handed over to journalists, the December House report concluded that he compromised “secrets that protect American troops overseas and secrets that provide vital defenses against terrorists and nation-states.” These were, the report said, “merely the tip of the iceberg.”

The Pentagon’s investigation during 2013 and 2014 employed hundreds of military-intelligence officers, working around the clock, to review all 1.5 million documents. Most had nothing to do with domestic surveillance or whistle blowing. They were mainly military secrets, as Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee on March 6, 2014.

It was not the quantity of Mr. Snowden’s theft but the quality that was most telling. Mr. Snowden’s theft put documents at risk that could reveal the NSA’s Level 3 tool kit—a reference to documents containing the NSA’s most-important sources and methods. Since the agency was created in 1952, Russia and other adversary nations had been trying to penetrate its Level-3 secrets without great success.

Yet it was precisely these secrets that Mr. Snowden changed jobs to steal. In an interview in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post on June 15, 2013, he said he sought to work on a Booz Allen contract at the CIA, even at a cut in pay, because it gave him access to secret lists of computers that the NSA was tapping into around the world.

He evidently succeeded. In a 2014 interview with Vanity Fair, Richard Ledgett, the NSA executive who headed the damage-assessment team, described one lengthy document taken by Mr. Snowden that, if it fell into the wrong hands, would provide a “road map” to what targets abroad the NSA was, and was not, covering. It contained the requests made by the 17 U.S. services in the so-called Intelligence Community for NSA interceptions abroad.

On June 23, less than two weeks after Mr. Snowden released the video that helped present his narrative, he left Hong Kong and flew to Moscow, where he received protection by the Russian government. In much of the media coverage that followed, the ultimate destination of these stolen secrets was fogged over—if not totally obscured from the public—by the unverified claims that Mr. Snowden was spoon feeding to handpicked journalists.

In his narrative, Mr. Snowden always claims that he was a conscientious “whistleblower” who turned over all the stolen NSA material to journalists in Hong Kong. He has insisted he had no intention of defecting to Russia but was on his way to Latin America when he was trapped in Russia by the U.S. government in an attempt to demonize him.

For example, in October 2014, he told the editor of the Nation, “I’m in exile. My government revoked my passport intentionally to leave me exiled” and “chose to keep me in Russia.” According to Mr. Snowden, the U.S. government accomplished this entrapment by suspending his passport while he was in midair after he departed Hong Kong on June 23, thus forcing him into the hands of President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

None of this is true. The State Department invalidated Mr. Snowden’s passport while he was still in Hong Kong, not after he left for Moscow on June 23. The “Consul General-Hong Kong confirmed that Hong Kong authorities were notified that Mr. Snowden’s passport was revoked June 22,” according to the State Department’s senior watch officer, as reported by ABC news on June 23, 2013.

Mr. Snowden could not have been unaware of the government’s pursuit of him, since the criminal complaint against him, which was filed June 14, had been headline news in Hong Kong. That the U.S. acted against him while he was still in Hong Kong is of great importance to the timeline because it points to the direct involvement of Aeroflot, an airline which the Russian government effectively controls. Aeroflot bypassed its normal procedures to allow Mr. Snowden to board the Moscow flight—even though he had neither a valid passport nor a Russian visa, as his newly assigned lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said at a press conference in Russia on July 12, 2013.

By falsely claiming his passport was invalidated after the plane departed Hong Kong—instead of before he left—Mr. Snowden hoped to conceal this extraordinary waiver. The Russian government further revealed its helping hand, judging by a report in Russia’s Izvestia newspaper when, on arrival, Mr. Snowden was taken off the plane by a security team in a “special operation.”

Nor was it any kind of accident. Vladimir Putin personally authorized this assistance after Mr. Snowden met with Russian officials in Hong Kong, as Mr. Putin admitted in a televised press conference on Sept. 2, 2013.

To provide a smokescreen for Mr. Snowden’s escape from Hong Kong, WikiLeaks (an organization that the Obama administration asserted to be a tool of Russian intelligence after the hacking of Democratic Party leaders’ email in 2016) booked a dozen or more diversionary flight reservations to other destinations for Mr. Snowden.

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange also dispatched Sarah Harrison, his deputy at WikiLeaks, to fly to Hong Kong to pay Mr. Snowden’s expenses and escort him to Moscow. In short, Mr. Snowden’s arrival in Moscow was neither accidental nor the work of the U.S. government.

Mr. Snowden’s own narrative asserts that he came to Russia not only empty-handed but without access to any of the stolen material. He wrote in Vanity Fair in 2014 that he had destroyed all of it before arriving in Moscow—the very data that he went to such lengths to steal a few weeks earlier in Hawaii.

As it turns out, this claim is also untrue. It is belied by two Kremlin insiders who were in a position to know what Mr. Snowden actually brought with him to Moscow. One of them, Frants Klintsevich, was the first deputy chairman of the defense and security committee of the Duma (Russia’s parliament) at the time of Mr. Snowden’s defection. “Let’s be frank,” Mr. Klintsevich said in a taped interview with NPR in June 2016, “Mr. Snowden did share intelligence. This is what security services do.”

The other insider was Anatoly Kucherena, a well-connected Moscow lawyer and Mr. Putin’s friend. Mr. Kucherena served as the intermediary between Mr. Snowden and Russian authorities. On Sept. 23, 2013, Mr. Kucherena gave a long interview to Sophie Shevardnadze, a journalist for Russia Today television.

When Ms. Shevardnadze directly asked him if Mr. Snowden had given all the documents he had taken from the NSA to journalists in Hong Kong, Mr. Kucherena said Mr. Snowden had only given “some” of the NSA’s documents in his possession to journalists in Hong Kong. “So he [Mr. Snowden] does have some materials that haven’t been made public yet?” Ms. Shevardnadze asked. “Certainly,” Mr. Kucherena answered.

This disclosure filled in a crucial piece of the puzzle. It explained why NSA documents that Mr. Snowden had copied, but had not given to the journalists in Hong Kong—such as the embarrassing revelation about the NSA targeting the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel—continued to surface after Mr. Snowden arrived in Moscow, along with NSA documents released via WikiLeaks.

As this was a critical discrepancy in Mr. Snowden’s narrative, I went to Moscow in October 2015 to see Mr. Kucherena. During our conversation, Mr. Kucherena confirmed that his interview with Ms. Shevardnadze was accurate, and that Mr. Snowden had brought secret material with him to Moscow.

Mr. Snowden’s narrative also includes the assertion that he was neither debriefed by nor even met with any Russian government official after he arrived in Moscow. This part of the narrative runs counter to findings of U.S. intelligence. According to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence report, Mr. Snowden, since he arrived in Moscow, “has had, and continues to have, contact with Russian intelligence services.” This finding is consistent with Russian debriefing practices, as described by the ex-KGB officers with whom I spoke in Moscow.

Mr. Snowden also publicly claimed in Moscow in December 2013 to have secrets in his head, including “access to every target, every active operation. Full lists of them.” Could Mr. Snowden’s Russian hosts ignore such an opportunity after Mr. Putin had authorized his exfiltration to Moscow? Mr. Snowden, with no exit options, was in the palm of their hands. Under such circumstances, as Mr. Klintsevich pointed out in his June NPR interview: “If there’s a possibility to get information, they [the Russian intelligence services] will get it.”

The transfer of state secrets from Mr. Snowden to Russia did not occur in a vacuum. The intelligence war did not end with the termination of the Cold War; it shifted to cyberspace. Even if Russia could not match the NSA’s state-of-the-art sensors, computers and productive partnerships with the cipher services of Britain, Israel, Germany and other allies, it could nullify the U.S. agency’s edge by obtaining its sources and methods from even a single contractor with access to Level 3 documents.

Russian intelligence uses a single umbrella term to cover anyone who delivers it secret intelligence. Whether a person acted out of idealistic motives, sold information for money or remained clueless of the role he or she played in the transfer of secrets—the provider of secret data is considered an “espionage source.” By any measure, it is a job description that fits Mr. Snowden."

Thursday, December 8, 2016

"Trump as Lady Gaga - Trump is a political performance artist, challenging what we think is normal. "

The above is the title of one of the most interesting, surprising and maybe insightful analysis of President-elect Trump that was passed on to me.

It offers a useful practice reminder regarding our judgements and reactions.

Can we hold judgements lightly and temporarily withhold reactions?  What are the options in how we respond?

Below are some excerpts and the link.

"Lady Gaga once talked about the doubters in an interview: “They would say, ‘This is too racy, too dance-oriented, too underground. It’s not marketable.’ And I would say, ‘My name is Lady Gaga, I’ve been on the music scene for years, and I’m telling you, this is what’s next.’ And look . . . I was right.”

Who does that sound like?

In “The Art of the Deal,” Donald Trump described what he was up to: “I play to people’s fantasies.”

Anti-Trumpers will say: Precisely. We can’t have a performance artist as president of the United States.

That’s irrelevant now.

In four years it may be possible to say that making a performance artist president was a mistake. But that will only be true if he fails. If the Trump method succeeds, even reasonably so, it will be important to understand his art from the start.

So far, the media and the comedians are stuck in pre-Trump consciousness. You’d think the comedians would get it, but getting laughs from left-wing audiences has taken a toll.

Consider two Trump tweet performances:

Jill Stein commences her preposterous recounts and the press analyzes the threat to the Trump electoral-college victory.

Suddenly, the president-elect tweets that “millions” voted illegally for Hillary. The press pivots from Jill Stein to prove, across several days, that the Trump claim is “bogus.”

Like any smart performance artist, he’s made the strait-laced audience part of his act.

One day later, @realDonald Trump tweets: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

Now he’s the Queen of Hearts. Off with their heads! And like terriers chasing another tossed ball, the media ran down every case on the subject to prove, “court rulings forbid it.”

That is true. The courts forbid it. But if it is important to comprehend a president’s mind and intentions, it will be pointless if the media does nothing more the next four years than consider its job done if it microscopically fact-checks and flyspecks everything Donald Trump tweets.

Donald Trump treats the truth as only one of several props he’s willing to use to achieve an effect. Truth sits on his workbench alongside hyperbole, sentimentality, bluster and just kidding. Use as needed.

Another important distinction: Performers merely entertain. Performance artists challenge, subvert and alter. They may be slightly crazy, but they’re crazy serious, though usually a little unclear about where they’re going... (my emphasis)

(as the closing surprising paragraph states)

...Some of America’s most charismatic presidents were also public performance artists who challenged and overturned status quos: Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan. All of them knew that a successful American presidency would be measured by a totality greater than their public performances. "

The full article by Daniel Henninger is here:

If you can access the link, some of the comments by readers offer further insight and examples.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Attachment Part 1 12/4/16

Interesting and important research findings about compassion and empathy - and the differences between them.

The following quote is the conclusion of an essay which attempts to tease out the neurological and philosophical differences between empathy and compassion. Exploring this is a support in our ongoing zazen life of Wisdom Compassion.

"Empathy training led to increased activation in the insula and cingulate cortex, the same parts of the brain that would be active if you were empathizing with the pain of someone you care about. Compassion training led to activation in other parts of the brain, such as the ventral striatum, which is involved in, among other things, reward and motivation.

These studies also revealed practical differences between empathy and compassion. Empathy was difficult and unpleasant—it wore people out. This is consistent with other findings suggesting that vicarious suffering not only leads to bad decision-making but also causes burnout and withdrawal. Compassion training, by contrast, led to better feelings on the part of the meditator and kinder behavior toward others. It has all the benefits of empathy and few of the costs.

These results connect nicely with the recent conclusions of Paul Condon and his colleagues, published in the journal Psychological Science in 2013, who found that being trained in meditation makes people kinder to others and more willing to help (compared with a control condition in which people were trained in other cognitive skills). They argue that meditation “reduces activation of the brain networks associated with simulating the feelings of people in distress, in favor of networks associated with feelings of social affiliation.” Limiting the impact of empathy actually made it easier to be kind.

I don’t deny the lure of empathy. It is often irresistible to try to feel the world as others feel it, to vicariously experience their suffering, to listen to our hearts. It really does seem like a gift, one that enhances the life of the giver. The alternative—careful reasoning mixed with a more distant compassion—seems cold and unfeeling. The main thing to be said in its favor is that it makes the world a better place."

Paul Bloom is the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology at Yale University. This essay is adapted from his new book, “Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion,” which will be published next week by Ecco.

The full article isat the link below: 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

What to do about actions at a distance ? The following story sent to me brings this question up again.

A Buddhist nun with a prayer wheel in Larung Gar, a monastic camp where thousands of nuns and monks live and study, in Sichuan Province, China. Credit Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times
LARUNG GAR, China — Atop a hill, a growling chain saw drowned out loudspeakers broadcasting a lama’s chants from a nearby temple.

The chain saw, wielded by workers demolishing a row of homes, signaled the imminent end of thousands of hand-built monastic dwellings here at Larung Gar, the world’s largest Buddhist institute.
Since its founding in 1980, Larung Gar has grown into an extraordinary and surreal sprawl — countless red-painted dwellings surrounding temples, stupas and large prayer wheels. The homes are spread over the walls of this remote Tibetan valley like strawberry jam slathered on a scone.

Larung Gar has become one of the most influential institutions in the Tibetan world, the teachings of its senior monks praised, debated and proselytized from here to the Himalayas. In recent years, disciples have popularized a “10 new virtues” movement based on Buddhist beliefs, spreading its message across the region.
Now Chinese officials are tightening control over the settlement, in what many Tibetans and their advocates call a severe blow to Tibetan religious practice.

For the rest of the story, pictures and a video see:

Mushrooms and Alaya Vijnana 11/27/16

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Won, Lost by Elihu Genmyo Smith

"During war in pacific, a haiku by Soen Nakagawa Roshi:

Spring 1943 Senka tada tera no shundei fumu bakari

News of victorious battle,
I just shuffle along in the mud,
At this spring temple.

Spring 1944 Senka tada tera no shundei fumu bakari

News of disastrous battle,
I just shuffle along in the mud,
At this spring temple.”

(from Endless Vow, pp.79-80)

One word, a kanji which is a “homonym”, ( i.e. that sounds the same) is changed between the two haiku, between the two years, between the two sets of events. With this one so-called changed “fact” between the two haiku, victorious to disastrous, the two haiku helps us clarify actualizing practice, actualizing life.

Life events, this ongoing change Buddha nature that we live, can be the occasion for all sorts of reactions and attachments – and therefore may result in arising of satisfactions, dissatisfactions and suffering, and arising of all sorts of entanglements of anger, greed and confusion. Our practice enables and supports experiencing this arising passing, noticing entanglement, noticing self-centeredness in various forms, and supports our Bodhisattva effort with these entanglements self-centeredness.

In the recent elections, your candidates or issues may have “won”, may have “lost.”

How have you lived winning?
How have you lived losing?

In the midst of winning, in the midst of being defeated, so-called gaining or losing, victory or disaster, what has been the truth of life - the truth of your Bodhisattva vows, your Bodhisattva response? How do you nurture this?

We encounter and have relations with many people, some close or far, some friends and family, some strangers. We hear of changing circumstances, of events and actions in national politics or the world, even hear of sports results -all sorts of circumstances where we believe that I, we, they, won or were defeated. We are certain that we gained or lost, they gained or lost. Please reflect on where this might have been so for you. And what are the consequences of your winning, of your losing?

When you gain, what is gained?
When you lose, what is lost?

In daily life, people say or do things, and we believe that this - this speaking, this intention, this in-attention - means that I, we, won or were defeated, gained or lost.

Believing this seems natural to us, seems the natural responses of this human biological social psychological being we are.

In the coming weeks or in the past weeks, some of your “teams” “won” or “lost”, some of your “causes” won or lost; what do you discover with this? How do respond?

Family, friends, causes and circumstances, what we want from others, want of our self – all may result in judgments and evaluations of gaining and losing, winning and being defeated. Believing and entangling in these, not seeing clearly what this is, manifests in unsatisfactoriness, suffering and harming.

Do you notice when and what reactive habits are occurring? Do you notice what you believe and do as a result of these beliefs and attachments? What assists your noticing, experiencing, responding?

When do you believe you do not have? What is this? When do you believe you have? What is this?

Loss or defeat can seem emotionally physically painful, and winning or gaining have other physical emotional aspects. Being this, experiencing this, right here is this practice life.

When you are feeling strong, energetic, is this gaining?
When you are feeling tired, worn out or even ill, is this losing? 

The Buddha states, “Gain arises for an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person. He does not reflect, ‘Gain has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, and subject to change.’ He does not discern it as it has come to be.

Loss arises for an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person. He does not reflect, ‘Loss has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, and subject to change.’ He does not discern it as it has come to be….

His mind remains consumed with the gain. His mind remains consumed with the loss…He welcomes the arisen gain and rebels against the arisen loss…As he is thus engaged in welcoming and rebelling…He is not released, I tell you, from suffering and stress.

…Now, gain arises for a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones. He reflects, ‘Gain has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, and subject to change.’ He discerns it as it actually is. 

Loss arises for a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones. He reflects, ‘Loss has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, and subject to change.’ He discerns it as it actually is….

His mind does not remain consumed with the gain. His mind does not remain consumed with the loss. He does not welcome the arisen gain, or rebel against the arisen loss...As he thus abandons welcoming and rebelling…He is released, I tell you, from suffering and stress.” (Angutarra Nikaya, 8-6)

Please reflect – in winning, in being defeated, in so-called gaining or losing, - how have your recent responses been the truth of life? What is your Bodhisattva vow efforts?

Clarifying “forgetting self”, clarifying “emptiness”, what is this moment gain? Right here, what is emptiness of five conditions? What is this moment loss?

It is important to notice our ways of thinking, speaking, attaching or believing. Being present, being practice efforts - what do you notice - what is experiencing, responding?

Each of you have your own life practice, particularly when noticing habits, attachments, entanglement. It may be experiencing, being just here. It may be breathing; may be bowing; may be something else – but it is your effort, your being, your doing - and this ongoing practice enables and supports clarification, supports skillful and appropriate effort. This ongoing practice is yours to cultivate.

We have many names for potentially entangling reactive habits; “I have”, “I do not have”, “I won” “we lost”, “we gained”, “I lost”.

One way we can practice with this is:

When you “win”, look - “who” won?

When you “lost”, look - “who” lost?

When you “have”, look - “who” has?

When you “do not have”, look – “who” does not have?

Before gain or loss, who?

We are living arising passing. Please clarify this moment moment ongoing practice of your win, your defeat, your gain, your loss, your having, your not having. Are we consumed by gain, consumed by loss?

To encourage our practice, here is Case 26 of Mumonkan (Chinese –Wumen-kuan).


Hogen of Seiryo (Ch - Fayan of Qingliang) came to the hall before the midday meal. A monk asked for instruction. Hogen pointed to the bamboo blinds. At this moment two monks rose and rolled the blinds up. Hogen observed, "One gain, one loss." (alternate translation, “One has it, one missed.”)

Mumon’s Comment

Now tell me, which one gained and which one lost? If any of you has one eye, he will see through the failure of Hogen of Seiryo. However, do not inquire in connection to gain or loss.


When the blinds are rolled up, the great sky is bright and clear.
The great sky is not yet in accord with our teaching.
It is better to throw sky and everything away.
Then it is so lucid and perfect that not even a wind blows through.”

Here I add, “Nevertheless, flowers fall amid our longing, and weeds spring up amid our loathing – and that is all.”(Dogen, GenjoKoan)

© 2016 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The following came to me in response to my often asked question of Quis custodiet ipsos custodes - Who guards the people from the power abuses of the "guardian" governmental officials? I find the article so clear and to the point that I will quote the most salient portion and link to the full article,"Forget the FBI cache; the Podesta emails show how America is run"; from the Guardian, a left-leaning British newspaper. After reading the article, it seems to me that we are left with the question, who serves and protects the people?

"The emails currently roiling the US presidential campaign are part of some unknown digital collection amassed by the troublesome Anthony Weiner, but if your purpose is to understand the clique of people who dominate Washington today, the emails that really matter are the ones being slowly released by WikiLeaks from the hacked account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta. They are last week’s scandal in a year running over with scandals, but in truth their significance goes far beyond mere scandal: they are a window into the soul of the Democratic party and into the dreams and thoughts of the class to whom the party answers....

...Then there is the apparent nepotism, the dozens if not hundreds of mundane emails in which petitioners for this or that plum Washington job or high-profile academic appointment politely appeal to Podesta – the ward-heeler of the meritocratic elite – for a solicitous word whispered in the ear of a powerful crony.

This genre of Podesta email, in which people try to arrange jobs for themselves or their kids, points us toward the most fundamental thing we know about the people at the top of this class: their loyalty to one another and the way it overrides everything else. Of course Hillary Clinton staffed her state department with investment bankers and then did speaking engagements for investment banks as soon as she was done at the state department. Of course she appears to think that any kind of bank reform should “come from the industry itself”. And of course no elite bankers were ever prosecuted by the Obama administration. Read these emails and you understand, with a start, that the people at the top tier of American life all know each other. They are all engaged in promoting one another’s careers, constantly.

Everything blurs into everything else in this world. The state department, the banks, Silicon Valley, the nonprofits, the “Global CEO Advisory Firm” that appears to have solicited donations for the Clinton Foundation. Executives here go from foundation to government to thinktank to startup. There are honors. Venture capital. Foundation grants. Endowed chairs. Advanced degrees. For them the door revolves. The friends all succeed. They break every boundary.

But the One Big Boundary remains. Yes, it’s all supposed to be a meritocracy. But if you aren’t part of this happy, prosperous in-group – if you don’t have John Podesta’s email address – you’re out."

Friday, October 28, 2016

This Very Life 10/23/16

Once again a Federal Judge protecting the people from an Federal Executive Administrative abuse of power -An answer to the question of Quis custodiet ipsos custodes - Who guards the people from the power abuses of the "guardian" governmental officials? Innocence until proven guilty and how the names of governmental rules often disguise and misdirect as much as describe and actually reflect what is so.

Below are news report of a recent ruling:

Preventing "tarring and feathering" :

"On Oct. 24, large companies that hold federal government contracts were saved from one of the last blasts of the Obama administration’s regulatory agenda when a Texas judge issued a preliminary injunction against the implementation of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order. The executive order was scheduled to take effect Oct. 25.

The executive order, issued July 31, 2014, and made final with regulations announced in August, says that if a company or one of its subcontractors has allegations of violations of federal labor and employment laws, it may lose its federal contracts or the opportunity to bid on others.

The company can be tarred before allegations are proved, with no chance to defend itself. It will be pressured to settle accusations in order to retain the right to have contracts with the federal government."

Another description:

"A large construction trade group won an injunction blocking a federal rule requiring companies seeking federal contracts to disclose past labor-law violations, a blow to the Obama administration in its effort to strengthen workers’ rights to fair pay and job safety.

The Associated Builders and Contractors filed the lawsuit in early October, alleging the Obama administration had exceeded its authority in setting the rule, which was set to start taking effect Tuesday and be phased in over time.

The suit against key administration officials, filed in federal court in Beaumont, Texas, said the rule would shoulder employers with added costs and other burdens and discourage them from seeking contracts, delaying the contracting process and damping competition that keeps costs lower for taxpayers. The trade group in its suit contended the rule will require contractors to report alleged violations that are still being contested, violating their due-process rights.

The regulation, which the Labor Department helped develop, is officially called the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule, but employers refer to it as the “blacklisting” rule because they say it will unfairly ban businesses from bidding for contracts.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction late Monday night (October 24, 2016). In the written decision, U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone said it is in the public interest for contractors to deliver economical and efficient services to federal government agencies and this “would likely be impaired by the arbitrary and unnecessary burdens imposed” by President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive order that led to the rule and related guidance."

For further elucidation of some of the issues involved, here is a recent editorial regarding this case:

"On Monday   federal Judge Marcia Crone of the Eastern District of Texas granted a preliminary injunction against this blacklist order because it requires that contractors report “mere allegations of labor law violations” that can then be used to disqualify them for federal contracts. This violates contractors’ Fifth Amendment rights by depriving “their liberty interests in reputation” and constitutes “irreparable harm.”

Judge Crone also found that the order’s reporting requirements amount to compelled speech and thus violate the First Amendment. The forced disclosure of alleged violations of labor laws may harm their reputation and create “increased costs, loss of customers, and loss of goodwill,” the judge said.

The contracting order, which was supposed to take effect Tuesday, has been a top priority of organized labor. The point is to provide unions with leverage to extract concessions from contractors that either aren’t unionized or that are negotiating with unions over a contract. When a company is pitching for new government business, a union could use the threat to make labor-law complaints to force the company to bend to union terms. By the time fact is sorted from fiction, the company will have lost out to competitors."

Monday, October 17, 2016

In the ongoing escalation of tension between the United States and Russia, here is a counterintuitive proposal that may lead to reduction of violence in Syria and possible real negotiations on a number of fronts between the US and Russia.

At times, it takes forceful actions to make peace possible, rather than the seemingly endless negotiations, pleas and empty threats that have continued in the midst of the slaughter in Syria and the multiple "minor wars" in Eastern Europe.

The following is from an international relations specialist with a "realist" perspective, Robert D. Kaplan:

"There is also a larger foreign-policy question that must be the first order of business for the new president: How does the U.S. build leverage on the ground, from the Baltic Sea to the Syrian desert, that puts America in a position where negotiations with Russia can make a strategic difference?

For without the proper geopolitical context, the secretary of state is a missionary, not a diplomat. Secretary of State John Kerry is a man who has a checklist of negotiations he wants to conduct rather than a checklist of American interests he wants to defend. He doesn’t seem to realize that interests come before values in foreign policy; only if the former are understood do the latter have weight.

For example, just as Western military intervention in Syria risks a Russian response in Europe, a robust movement of American forces permanently back to Europe may cause Mr. Putin to be more reasonable in Syria. This may offer a way out of the sterile Syria debate, in which all the options—from establishing safe zones to toppling Bashar Assad’s regime—are problematic and offer no end to the war.

By seriously pressuring Russia in Eastern and Central Europe, the U.S. can create conditions for a meaningful negotiation whereby Moscow might have an incentive to shape the behavior of its Syrian client in a better direction."

The rest of this article is at:

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bodhisattva Driving - and what is difficult for us to do despite the resulting good for many. It is up to us to reflect, can we also apply these principles in daily life? Can our action prevent this moment stress and suffering? How is this applicable in our daily life, whether in driving or during daily activity?

Here are excerpts from a wonderful article of practice encouragement - without using the word practice.

 "One Driver Can Prevent a Traffic Jam" by Sue Shellenbarger
"When you’re caught in a traffic jam, you feel powerless. What you may not know is that you can actually have a big effect on the traffic around you.

There is a growing body of research finding that an individual driver, by preventing bottlenecks and maintaining a steady speed, can sometimes single-handedly ease or break up a traffic jam.

The techniques are simple, though some of them—such as leaving a large gap between your car and the one in front and freely letting other drivers cut in—feel counterintuitive to most drivers.

Seattle engineer William Beaty, a leading proponent of jam-busting techniques for individual drivers, illustrated some of them on a ride through rush-hour traffic.


...As Mr. Beaty merges onto a crowded stretch of Seattle’s I-5, he drives at a steady speed, keeping a space of several car lengths in front of him. “As merging cars come in, I don’t have to slow down, which means that nobody behind me has to slow down,” he says. As he nears an exit, two drivers on his left merge smoothly into the lane in front of him and exit without hitting the brakes.

Meanwhile, the car behind him is just a few feet away. “That’s the tailgating philosophy,” he says. “You push ahead, and you think if everybody would just push ahead, then everyone would go faster,” he says. In fact, “it just turns the road into a parking lot.”

Disarm Aggressors

Keep a gap open in front of you so that when a road rager races to fill it, you won’t even need to tap your brakes. This prevents aggressive lane-changers from triggering jams.  
Keep a gap open in front of you so that when a road rager races to fill it, you won’t even need to tap your brakes. This prevents aggressive lane-changers from triggering jams.

As Mr. Beaty approaches a left-hand exit into downtown Seattle, the center lane is backed up as a few cars struggle to cross over to the exit. “This jam is created by just a few drivers’ getting trapped,” he says. “This is one of the places where an individual driver can wipe out a gigantic jam” by allowing cars to accelerate freely into your lane, he says.... 

Encourage other drivers to merge into exit lanes in front of you, so they won’t have to slow down and block adjacent lanes waiting to merge.

....Mr. Beaty stresses that his observations about traffic aren’t new. “These are things that traffic experts and long-haul truckers have known forever,” he says. Formerly afflicted with road rage himself, he began experimenting with jam-busting techniques years ago, during his 40-minute commute to his job as an engineer on the support staff at the University of Washington’s chemistry department. (His traffic research is unrelated to his day job.) He noticed that traffic congestion forms in waves, like sand or water, and the smallest obstruction, such as one driver swerving or slowing briefly, could trigger a chain reaction of drivers hitting the brakes.

By trying various maneuvers, he found he could sometimes have the opposite effect, allowing backups to drain away. “I saw the jams evaporate,” he says.

.....His techniques won’t work if you’re already locked in bumper-to-bumper traffic and can’t find anywhere to open a gap, Mr. Beaty says. Also, some congestion is irreducible, when the volume of traffic exceeds the capacity of the road.

....Experts agree, however, that lane-weavers—who force others to slam on the brakes—rubberneckers who pause to gawk at roadside distractions and tailgaters can single-handedly back up traffic for miles. “These are some of the really stupid reasons for traffic being bad,” says Steven Shladover, a manager at the Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology program at the University of California, Berkeley.

Driver-education schools try to train students to stop tailgating, leave wide gaps between cars and take turns when merging, but “people have to unlearn what they’ve been taught” about standing in line, says Dave Muma, president of the Driving School Association of the Americas, a trade group.

 “Kids are trained at a very young age that they have to get in line and not let people cut in front of you”—rules that work well on the playground but cause gridlock on the highway, says Mr. Muma, owner of a Holland, Mich., driver-education company.

Mr. Beaty says seeing oneself as a jam-buster has its own rewards. “You’re above it all,” he says. “If you maintain big empty spaces, all these options open up, and you’re actually the superior driver,” free to “be the person who holds the door open for others.”

And here is a video presentation with Beaty:

And another link:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Zazening Is Simple 9/25/16

Responding As Is - 9/18/16

Can we speak about what is difficult to speak about among those who hold strongly to positions? No, not the Presidential elections. The Question is, What To Do To Save Birds - or How Humans Can Easily (?) Stop Bird Extinctions - and the Moral Dilemnas Posed By This Issue.

It is not often that we can easily see the cause-effect consequences of our actions, or failure to act, in the world at large. Here are recent explorations and suggestions about "The Moral Cost of Cats." 

I will quote extensively from this article by Rachel E. Gross in about Peter Marra in order to lay out some of his major points. The article itself also discusses at length his "opponent's" positions and criticisms.

The full article is at:

"(Peter) Marra might like cats. But he also sees a bigger picture. In his day job, he and his team at the migratory bird center track the global movements of birds and tease apart threats to their existence. He knows that birds don’t just twit around pointlessly. They pollinate plants, spread seeds, control insects and protect environments from the effects of climate change; they are the glue that binds healthy ecosystems together. “Birds are critical,” he says. And outdoor cats, he and other ecologists have determined, are the leading human-influenced cause of dead birds...

The majority of them (cats) —about two-thirds to three-fourths, surveys say—are your sweet, harmless, cuddly housecats, which seldom set foot outside...The other one-quarter to one-third, though, aren’t so harmless. These are outdoor pet cats, and they are murderers...sometimes their deadly instincts spell trouble for animals and ecosystems we value—and often, Marra argues, desperately need...The solution for these cats is simple, says Marra: Bring them indoors. The Humane Society of the United States agrees.

So far, so good. Now comes the real problem: unowned cats, which include strays and ferals. Born in the wild or abandoned, feral cats spend almost no time with humans; they’re basically wild animals. Stray cats, by contrast, often have a working relationship with humans. They might live in managed communities, where a human caretaker regular feeds and watches over them—“subsidizing” them, in Marra’s words—meaning their numbers can soar to rates they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Whether stray or feral, these cats kill on average three times as many animals as owned cats, according to Marra...

Feral cat advocates say these dense numbers threaten the welfare of cats themselves, which lead miserable lives colored by fights and starvation. Ecologists, meanwhile, worry about those cats’ victims—as well whether the cats might be spreading disease to humans and other animals. Management of these overabundant felines is where the two disagree. For many animal welfare advocates, the solution is TNR, or Trap-Neuter-Return...

TNR is just what it sounds like: a policy that involves trapping stray and feral cats, sterilizing them and returning them to the urban wilds in the hopes that populations will decrease. In the past decade, TNR has gone mainstream in many cities, helped along by generous funding from pet food companies including Petco and PetSmart. The premise is simple: Cats live out their lives, but don’t reproduce.

Becky Robinson, president of the advocacy group Alley Cat Allies and a major proponent of TNR, calls the method “effective, humane control.” “This is a benefit directly to the cats,” she told me over the phone. (Two communications staffers from Robinson’s organization were listening in our conversation, to give you an idea of the delicateness of the topic.)....

The problem is that, for TNR to succeed in large populations, at least 75 percent of cats in a colony must be sterilized. That rarely happens. The trouble is that negligent pet owners continue to abandon pet cats, which then join existing colonies; additionally, non-neutered stray cats can wander in....

For Marra, TNR is a feel-good solution that is no solution at all—a Band-Aid that has done little to stem the flow of cats. By refusing to look at the reality, he says, we are letting our “misplaced compassion” for cats get the better of our reason. That is why he and some other ecologists call for a more draconian approach: widespread removal of feral and stray cats, including euthanasia....

At the heart of this debate is a question not of data, but of aesthetics, principles and philosophies. That is:

In a world fundamentally shaped by humans, who is to say whether birds and native wildlife have any more right to the landscape than domestic cats do? Should the goal be to rewind the urban landscape back to before the arrival of Europeans—and is that even possible?

...Cats kill; that much is clear. “The science is all pretty bloody obvious,” as Michael Clinchy, a Canadian biologist focusing on predator-prey relationships at the University of Victoria, puts it. But cats also spread disease. Outdoor cats can transmit plague, rabies, feline leukemia and a mysterious parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii. The extinction of the Hawaiian crow, or ʻalalā, in 2002 is thought to have been caused in part by the spread of Toxoplasma via feral cats. “The diseases from cats is what’s going to change this whole equation,” Marra says....

Conservation biologists have always called these kinds of shots themselves. “We’ve made a judgment that biodiversity is good,” says Temple. For Marra, cats represent yet another destructive footprint man has made on the landscape. To rid the country of their presence is therefore to restore some pre-human balance of nature, some lost sense of grace. It is to protect those creatures that cannot save themselves. “It is essential,” he says, “that we save these species.”

In his closing chapter, Marra warns that Americans may soon awaken to dead birds and “muted birdsong, if any at all.” It’s another nod to Rachel Carson, whose defense of nature helped spark the modern environmental movement. Today we’ve come to recognize Carson as an environmental Cassandra; history has vindicated many of her inconvenient truths. But when Silent Spring first came out, her ideas were met with hostility from other scientists, who deemed her hysterical, alarmist and “probably a Communist.”

For Marra, it is clear that outdoor cats represent the Silent Spring of our time. Not only are cats the single worst threat to birds caused directly by humans, but they are also the easiest problem to fix, as compared to many-leveled threats like climate change."

After reading this argument, are you convinced?

If you are interested, please read article and links within it to see the counter arguments of those who challenge Marra's positions, such as Peter Wolf.

Do their positions convince you?

What should you do?

What can you do?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

An Insightful, Hillarious, Tragic and Frightening Exploration of Foreign Relations, Nuclear Weapons and the Presidential Candidates

The following article by Mark Helprin is all of the above and more - and since many of you will not be able to access the full article at the website link below (though if you can and are interested please do)  I will quote extensively from the introduction, the body and the conclusions.

"Even should nuclear brinkmanship not result in Armageddon, it can lead to abject defeat and a complete reordering of the international system. The extraordinarily complicated and consequential management of American nuclear policy rests upon the shoulders of those we elevate to the highest offices. Unfortunately, President Obama’s transparent hostility to America’s foundational principles and defensive powers is coupled with a dim and faddish understanding of nuclear realities. His successor will be no less ill-equipped.

Hillary Clinton’s robotic compulsion to power renders her immune to either respect for truth or clearheaded consideration of urgent problems. Theodore Roosevelt’s secretary of state once said that he was “pure act” (meaning action). Hillary Clinton is “pure lie” (meaning lie), with whatever intellectual power she possesses hopelessly enslaved to reflexive deviousness.

Donald Trump, surprised that nuclear weapons are inappropriate to counterinsurgency, has a long history of irrepressible urges and tropisms. Rather like the crazy boy-emperors after the fall of the Roman Republic, he may have problems with impulse control—and an uncontrolled, ill-formed, perpetually fragmented mind.

None of these perhaps three worst people in the Western Hemisphere, and few of their deplorable underlings, are alive to the gravest danger. Which is neither Islamic State, terrorism, the imprisoned economy, nor even the erosion of our national character, though all are of crucial importance.

The gravest danger we face is fast-approaching nuclear instability. Many believe it is possible safely to arrive at nuclear zero. It is not. Enough warheads to bring any country to its knees can fit in a space volumetrically equivalent to a Manhattan studio apartment. Try to find that in the vastness of Russia, China, or Iran. Even ICBMs and their transporter-erector-launchers can easily be concealed in warehouses, tunnels and caves. Nuclear weapons age out, but, thanks to supercomputing, reliable replacements can be manufactured with only minor physical testing. Unaccounted fissile material sloshing around the world can, with admitted difficulty, be fashioned into weapons. And when rogue states such as North Korea and Iran build their bombs, our response has been either impotence or a ticket to ride.

Nor do nuclear reductions lead to increased safety. Quite apart from encouraging proliferation by enabling every medium power in the world to aim for nuclear parity with the critically reduced U.S. arsenal, reductions create instability. The fewer targets, the more possible a (counter-force) first strike to eliminate an enemy’s retaliatory capacity. Nuclear stability depends, inter alia, upon deep reserves that make a successful first strike impossible to assure. The fewer warheads and the higher the ratio of warheads to delivery vehicles, the more dangerous and unstable...."

"...In a nuclear world, unsentimental and often counterintuitive analysis is necessary. As the genie will not be forced back into the lamp, the heart of the matter is balance and deterrence. But this successful dynamic of 70 years is about to be destroyed. Those whom the French call our “responsibles” have addressed the nuclear calculus—in terms of sufficiency, control regimes, and foreign policy—only toward Russia, as if China, a nuclear power for decades, did not exist. While it is true that to begin with its nuclear arsenal was de minimis, in the past 15 years China has increased its land-based ICBMs by more than 300%, its sea-based by more than 400%. Depending upon the configuration of its missiles, China can rain up to several hundred warheads upon the U.S.

As we shrink our nuclear forces and fail to introduce new types, China is doing the opposite, increasing them numerically and forging ahead of us in various technologies (quantum communications, super computers, maneuverable hypersonic re-entry vehicles), some of which we have forsworn, such as road-mobile missiles, which in survivability and range put to shame our Minuteman IIIs...."

"...Russia has 49 attack submarines, China 65, with which to track and kill American nuclear missile subs under way. Were either to build or cheat to 5,000 warheads (the U.S. once had more than 30,000) and two-thirds reached their targets, four warheads could strike each aim point, with 2,000 left to hold hostage American cities and industry. China and Russia are far less dense and developed than the U.S., and it would take more strikes for us to hold them at risk than vice versa, a further indictment of reliance upon sufficiency calculations and symmetrical reductions.

Russia dreams publicly of its former hold on Eastern Europe and cannot but see opportunity in a disintegrating European Union and faltering NATO. China annexes the South China Sea and looks to South Korea, Japan and Australasia as future subordinates. Given the degradation of U.S. and allied conventional forces previously able to hold such ambitions in check, critical confrontations are bound to occur.

When they do occur, and if without American reaction, China or Russia have continued to augment their strategic forces to the point of vast superiority where one or both consider a first strike feasible, we may see nuclear brinkmanship (or worse) in which the United States—startled from sleep and suddenly disabused of the myth of sufficiency—might have to capitulate, allowing totalitarian dictatorships to dominate the world.
Current trajectories point in exactly this direction, but in regard to such things Donald Trump hasn’t the foggiest, and, frankly, Hillary Clinton, like the president, doesn’t give a damn.

The way to avoid such a tragedy is to bring China into a nuclear control regime or answer its refusal with our own proportional increases and modernization. And to make sure that both our nuclear and conventional forces are strong, up-to-date, and survivable enough to deter the militant ambitions of the two great powers rising with daring vengeance from what they regard as the shame of their oppression."

"Mark Helprin, at the Claremont Institute, is the author of “Winter’s Tale,” “A Soldier of the Great War” and the forthcoming novel “Paris in the Present Tense.”

From the article, The Gathering Nuclear Storm : Lulled to believe nuclear catastrophe died with the Cold War, America is blind to rising dragons.

If you can access the link, I encourage examining some of the comments by readers for additional insight.

Also see:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Is the United Nations antisemitic?

What is antisemitism? Here is one of a number of criteria:

"If a person criticizes Israel and only Israel on certain issues, but chooses to ignore similar situations conducted by other countries he is performing a double standard policy against Israel.[7] The implementation of a different moral standard for Jews and Israel compared to the rest of the world, just like the Delegitimization claim, discriminates against a specific group and is labeled as antisemitism."

By this criteria, the United Nations as a body seems to act antisemitic, as shown in following research findings!

"Our research shows that the U.N. uses an entirely different rhetoric and set of legal concepts when dealing with Israel compared with situations of occupation or settlements world-wide. For example, Israel is referred to as the “Occupying Power” 530 times in General Assembly resolutions. Yet in seven major instances of past or present prolonged military occupation—Indonesia in East Timor, Turkey in northern Cyprus, Russia in areas of Georgia, Morocco in Western Sahara, Vietnam in Cambodia, Armenia in areas of Azerbaijan, and Russia in Ukraine’s Crimea—the number is zero. The U.N. has not called any of these countries an “Occupying Power.” Not even once.

It gets worse. Since 1967, General Assembly resolutions have referred to Israeli-held territories as “occupied” 2,342 times, while the territories mentioned above are referred to as “occupied” a mere 16 times combined. The term appears in 90% of resolutions dealing with Israel, and only in 14% of the much smaller number of resolutions dealing with the all the other situations, a difference that vastly surpasses the threshold of statistical significance. Similarly, Security Council resolutions refer to the disputed territories in the Israeli-Arab conflict as “occupied” 31 times, but only a total of five times in reference to all seven other conflicts combined."

These findings are based on the following comparative study of conflict and subsequent population movements:

"First, the migration of people into occupied territory is a near-ubiquitous feature of extended belligerent occupations. Second, no occupying power has ever taken any measures to discourage or prevent such settlement activity, nor has any occupying power ever expressed opinio juris suggesting that it is bound to do so. Third, and perhaps most strikingly, in none of these situations have the international community or international organizations described the migration of persons into the occupied territory as a violation of Art. 49(6). Even in the rare cases in which such policies have met with international criticism, it has not been in legal terms. This suggests that the level of direct state involvement in “transfer” required to constitute an Art. 49(6) violation may be significantly greater than previously thought. Finally, neither international political bodies nor the new governments of previously occupied territories have ever embraced the removal of illegally transferred civilian settlers as an appropriate remedy.

The deeper understanding – based on a systematic survey of all available state practice – of the prohibition on settlements should inform legal discussions of the Arab-Israeli- conflict, including potential investigations into such activity by the International Criminal Court. More broadly, the new understanding of Art. 49(6) developed here can also shed significant light on the proper treatment of several ongoing occupations, from Western Sahara and Northern Cyprus, to the Russian occupations of Ukraine and Georgia, whose settlement policies this Article is the first to document."

(From the abstract of the study) 

For the full research study (67 pages) see:

And for a synopsis of the findings, conclusions and broader implications, see: 


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

In Any Event - 9/11/16 Dharma Talk

Threats to religious freedom from politics and political agendas in the real weighing of the balance of conflicting rights and freedoms..

I have written about how significant I believe the religious rights, liberties and freedoms enshrined in the US Bill of Rights, the Constitution and other documents are to the practice of Buddha Dharma in the USA.

It seems that there are political appointees who wish to limit these religious freedoms in the service of their political agendas. This is also an instance of un-elected/appointed regulators and bureaucrats asserting their power and beliefs rather than protecting the people, the theme of posts regarding "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes - Who guards the people from the "guardian" governmental officials?"

Martin Castro, the Chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights appointed by President Obama, speaking for the Democrat majority of this Commission, has written and seems to believe that

"First Amendment Free Exercise Clause rights (are) only for individuals and religious institutions and only to the extent that they do not unduly burden civil liberties and civil rights protections against status-based discrimination"... ( and only) "protect religious beliefs rather than conduct."

His explanation or excuse for limiting religious freedom based on his political beliefs are that “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.” (I wonder if he wants to simply say those who he finds are part of the population who are "the basket of deplorables"?)

Of course, this proscription is based on his political beliefs and agenda, deciding which religious liberty and religious freedom is acceptable to him. The Bill of Rights is intended to protect against exactly this sort of political governmental intrusion, the political agendas of those in power.

Even regarding antisemitism and anti-Buddhism, which I have personally experienced in many ways in the US, (and which I notice are not included in Mr. Castro's list, maybe because they are not part of the "politically correct") I would not want to limit the religious liberty and freedoms of others, even if they included espousing these views, as long as they do not also espouse violence and worse. (In fact, a number of religious traditions in the US, and political movements/agendas of some Democrats and Republicans, as well as third party groups, do espouse aspects of what seems to me to be antisemitism and anti-Buddhism even now.)

Castro's anti-religious liberty statement and political agenda has aroused articles and editorials. Below are links to a few critical articles:

As "Roger Severino, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the conservative Heritage Foundation, a particularly troubling aspect of the report is what he called “the attempt to discredit sincere religious believers as being motivated by hate instead of faith and the implied recommendation that religious groups should change their beliefs on sexual morality to conform with liberal norms for the good of the country.  I would expect to see such a slanted and anti-religious report come out of China or France perhaps, but am disappointed to see it come from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”

Another commentator sums up the Commission's report and Castro's statement as,

“Civil rights protections ensuring nondiscrimination, as embodied in the Constitution, laws, and policies, are of pre-eminent importance in American jurisprudence.” Translation: Nuisances including the First Amendment’s “free exercise” of religion guarantee take a back seat to the rapidly multiplying non-discrimination causes.

He then states, in discussing a dissent to the report by a Commission member,

"In her own submission to the report, the commission’s Gail Heriot pinpoints the flaw in the finding. A University of San Diego law professor, Ms. Heriot says she could easily imagine a case for Mr. Castro’s position. But instead of an argument, she says, the commission offers a decree.

“By starting with an assertion that antidiscrimination laws are ‘pre-eminent,’ she writes, “the Commission’s analysis essentially begins with its conclusion. Why should anyone accept it? The Commission said so.”

The reasonableness of Ms. Heriot’s contribution almost makes this awful report worth its price. Here is a civil rights commissioner who takes the clash between nondiscrimination and religion seriously, who appreciates that these clashes are the result of government going places it never went before—and who recognizes that the questions raised are more complicated than Mr. Castro’s good guys versus bad guys caricature.

Ms. Heriot also recognizes the public-service aspect of publishing the chairman’s prejudice: Though she first thought of asking Chairman Castro to remove his statement, she writes, on further reflection she concluded that it “might be better for Christians, people of faith generally and advocates of limited government to know and understand where they stand with him.”

Indeed we are better off. The solitary virtue of Mr. Castro’s presentation is that he makes not the least effort to hide the ugly bits. These lead to a nation where the mediating institutions that stand between the citizen and government (churches, schools, private associations) are stripped of influence, and the political system no longer decides divisive issues through its elected representatives.

In Mr. Castro’s world, those who dissent from the prevailing pieties are deemed unfit for the public square."

Another article sums up Mr. Casto's report,

“Religious liberty was never intended to give one religion dominion over other religions, or a veto power over the civil rights and civil liberties of others,” he said in the 307-page document.

At the heart of the “Peaceful Coexistence” report is a USCCR assertion that granting religious exemptions to nondiscrimination laws “significantly infringe” on the civil rights of those claiming civil rights protections on the basis of “race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”

Among the document’s recommendations is the assertion that the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, “protects only religious practitioners’ First Amendment free exercise rights, and it does not limit others’ freedom from government-imposed religious limitations under the Establishment Clause.”

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Zazen in the Mist 8/28/16

Remedies for Unintended Consequences - and the cycles of cause-effect

Here is the opening of an interesting essay, upon which which we can reflect and possibly find ramifications for major problems in both our so-called external world and our so-called internal life efforts:

"Invasive species are the greatest extinction threat to animal populations world-wide—and scientists are using new tools to combat them.

In July, the New Zealand government announced its intention to eradicate all rats, stoats and possums from the entire country by 2050 to save native birds such as the kiwi. It’s an ambitious plan, perhaps impossible to pull off with the methods available today, but it’s a stark reminder that invasive alien species today constitute perhaps the greatest extinction threat to animal populations world-wide.

Birdlife International, a charity that works to save endangered birds, reckons that of the 140 bird species confirmed to have gone extinct since 1500, invasive alien species were a factor in the demise of at least 71—an impact greater than hunting, logging, agriculture, fire or climate change."

Here are some of the essay's suggestive "solutions":

"The best way to fight invasive aliens is often with other aliens: Go back to their native country, find an insect or fungus that eats them, and bring it in to help. Early horror stories when alien predators introduced to control alien prey turned on native wildlife instead—cane toads in Australia, stoats in New Zealand—have given way to much more cautious and careful scientific introductions of highly specific control organisms. Done right, such biological control is indispensable.

The Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International is an international agency that scours the native homes of invasive alien pests for predators that can control them. It found a rust fungus that has reduced the infestation of rubbervine weed from Madagascar in Queensland, Australia—by up to 90% in some areas. The Centre used two parasitic wasps to control the mango mealybug from Asia, which did huge damage to mango trees in Benin in Africa.

Vaccines that cause sterility are another promising weapon. Spreading food coated with such a vaccine could render a species sterile, causing its numbers to fall. This approach is working well in the lab with pigs—invasive species in various places—and may soon help to fight gray squirrels in Britain.

Genomics is the latest weapon. The Aedes mosquito that spreads dengue and zika in the Americas is an invasive alien, from Africa. A biotech firm called Oxitec has devised a way of suppressing its population using mass releases of genetically modified males (males don’t bite), which father offspring that cannot mature. In trials in Brazil, this method has achieved more than 90% suppression of numbers."

For the rest of this article see:


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Bodhisattva Practice - 9/4/16

Intimacy Practice - 9/3/16

Jizo's (Dizhang's) Intimacy and Jizo's Intimacy Part 2

Antisemitism on UCLA campus, seemingly supported by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block

Here is the story:

"Milan Chatterjee is an Indian-American law student and a Hindu. Last year he was elected president of UCLA’s Graduate Students’ Association. Last week he announced his resignation from the post and his transfer to New York University Law School to complete his degree.

In a letter to UCLA chancellor Gene Block, Chatterjee explained that his decision was the result of relentless attacks, harassment and bullying he has suffered at the hands of BDS activists and their enablers in Block’s administration.

Chatterjee wrote Block: “Your administration has not only allowed BDS organizations and student activists to freely engage in intimidation of students who do not support the BDS agenda, but has decided to affirmatively engage in discriminatory practices of its own against those same students.

“Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, the fact is that the UCLA campus has become a hostile and unsafe environment for students, Jewish students and non-Jewish, who choose not to support the BDS movement, let alone support the State of Israel.”

Chatterjee got on the wrong side of UCLA’s anti-Semitism enforcers in November 2015 when he adopted a student government policy of strict neutrality on BDS.

Under his leadership, the graduate council would neither support nor oppose BDS. To this end, he allocated funds for a “Diversity Caucus,” with the stipulation that the caucus remain neutral on BDS.

It was for his refusal to actively endorse BDS – rather than any action to oppose BDS – that Chatterjee became a target for the BDS mob. They submitted a bid to impeach him based on frivolous claims.

To its shame, rather than stand by Chatterjee, the administration joined the mob. Chatterjee was censured by the university and subjected to disciplinary proceedings. UCLA’s administration claimed that he had “violated university policy” for refusing to fund BDS groups.

Following Chatterjee’s decision to transfer to NYU, Kenneth Marcus, president of the Louis Brandeis Center, which supported Chatterjee throughout his year of anti-Semitic persecution, issued a statement. Marcus noted, “It is disgraceful that anti-Israel extremists have managed to drive out this courageous and conscientious student leader for failing to capitulate to the demands of the anti-Semitic BDS movement. The Milan Chatterjee affair reflects the insidiousness of the anti-Israel movement’s new strategy, which is to suppress pro-Israel advocacy and intimidate not only Jewish pro-Israel students but anyone who remains neutral.”