Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Much Ado About Nothing, Part A 4/24/16 - A Dharma Talk


Monday, April 18, 2016

In preventing violence and war between nations, what is skillful? Below is an excerpt from interesting article which, if the conclusions are accurate, portends potentially more wars and dangers of war due to inactions by the US and by Europe. The author argues that US and Europe could have prevented the danger had they acted, and can still take steps to mitigate and counter the war potential and the threats such as those we have recently seen in Georgia, Ukaraine, Syria and elsewhere. Is there any response which we as individuals can take now?

"Though politics, culture and law are the arch of the nation, the keystone without which they cannot hold is defense. For war transforms whole peoples and threatens their sovereignty and national existence more decisively than any other force.

You would hardly know this from the current presidential campaign. Most candidates seem unaware that the prospects of catastrophic war in the not-so-distant future are burgeoning because of a fundamental change in the international system, driven by accelerating adjustments in relative military power.

Russia, China and Iran have been racing ahead, stimulated by a disintegrating Europe that neither spends sufficiently on its defense nor defends its borders; and by an America, strategically blind in the Middle East, that failed to replenish and keep current its military under President George W. Bush, and now surrenders, apologizes, bluffs, “leads from behind,” and denigrates its military capacities and morale as President Obama either embraces enemies or opposes them only with exquisite delicacy.

As the U.S. allows its nuclear forces to stagnate and decay into de facto unilateral disarmament, Russia has been modernizing its own. The Kremlin has added systems, such as road-mobile, intercontinental ballistic missiles with independently targetable re-entry warheads, that we neither have nor envision. In the absence of “soft-power” parity with the U.S., Russia dangerously relies on a permissive nuclear doctrine and promiscuously rattles its atomic sabers. Its nuclear adventurism, naval and land force modernization, unopposed reintroduction into the Middle East, invasion and annexation in Ukraine, and the ability to recapture the Baltic states in an afternoon, are yet another impeachment of “the end of history.”

With little resistance, China incrementally annexes the South China Sea while embarked on a naval buildup inversely proportional to the smallest U.S. fleet since 1916, and further aggravated by China’s ability, once its naval technology matures, to surge production in its 106 major shipyards as opposed to America’s six. More importantly, China is expanding its nuclear forces to what extent we do not know, because the Chinese program’s infrastructure is hidden within 3,000 miles of tunnels largely opaque to U.S. intelligence. As if China were not a major rival, the Obama administration, ever infatuated with accords, has made no effort to include Beijing in a nuclear arms-control regime. Why not?"

From "The Candidates Ignore Rising Military Dangers" by Mark Helprin. For the rest of this article see:



Monday, April 4, 2016

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes - Who guards the people from the "guardian" governmental officials?

So begins a review by Joseph C. Sternberg of a new book, "Conspiracies of the Ruling Class: How to Break Their Grip Forever" by Lawrence B. Lindsey, which explores the themes of the relationship between the public interest, the powers of governmental officials and the nature of the United States political structure. I have not read the book yet, but various reviews and excerpts are interesting in light of the ongoing issues raised by previous blogs posts on the topic of  Quis custodiet ipsos custodes - Who guards the people from the "guardian" governmental officials? This question is especially important in that it seems to be a major issue in the current political contests in both parties, and on various levels of government. It also seems to be relevant not just to the US but throughout various nations, including in Europe, in the Middle East, in South America and elsewhere. And what is Dharma practice, our own practice, in the midst of these ongoing changes?
The review continues, 

"In “Conspiracies of the Ruling Class,” Lawrence B. Lindsey suggests that we’re angry because of how badly we’re governed. America has fallen captive to a “Ruling Class” (his capitalization throughout the book) concerned more with its own power than with the welfare of the country. This will be a familiar story to anyone who has studied the history of progressivism and how over the past 120 years or so it has subverted the Founders’ promise of individual liberty with promises of free stuff."

Lindsey argues that  “that government is taking more and more—more resources, more freedom, and more power—and has strayed from how it can best serve them. Public services are misplaced and ineffective. The country is in retreat in the world arena. Those in power seem to see government as a vehicle for themselves: an opportunity to make a personal mark in history.”


Diversity, Harmony and acedemia

The Three Treasures of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are sometimes articulated as Unity, Diversity/Differences and Harmony (of Diversity). We could describe Dharma practice as Seeing/Being Unity, discovering our various ways of habitual reactiveness to the Diversity of forms and conditions, Differences, and then clarifying and manifesting the Harmony of Unity Differences. These themes are significant in ongoing practice and cast a light on tendencies of attachment and delusion which result in suffering and harming. And it is always our daily life where and how this arises, where our habits and reactions perpetuate and maintain dhukkha, right here is our practice, our manifesting the Three Treasures.

This theme is evident in our reactions to beliefs about political candidates who we like and dislike. As I alluded to in a previous blog Dharma talk, Not Speaking of the Faults of Others  3/27/16 , if you can not sit zazen when you find, among those sitting in the Zendo with you, Hillary Clinton on one side of you, Ted Cruz on the other side, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and John Kasich across from you, right here is your practice and the precepts.

Having connections with a number of academics, I hear all sorts of things about the environment and relations among faculty and administrators in universities in various parts of the world. My own experience is limited to years of teaching at various universities which ended many years ago. There are many aspects of the university environment and relations which are for many an important practice realm.

Two recent articles have been brought to my attention in relation to this matter of differences, diversity and the harmony or non-harmony manifested.

The following is an excerpt from a review of Passing on the Right By Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn Sr.

"Conservatives have good reason to view American universities as hostile territory. The 2006 Politics of the American Professoriate survey, conducted by the sociologists Neil Gross and Solon Simmons, found that 17.6% of faculty in the social sciences consider themselves Marxists. Only 3.6% consider themselves conservatives. The same survey suggested that if the election of 2004 had been held exclusively in faculty lounges, John Kerry would have won in a historic landslide, 77.6% to 20.4%.

Progressive academics, otherwise so skilled at finding the prejudice behind every disparity, typically shrug this off. According to Mr. Gross, the explanation professors most often give for the scarcity of conservatives among their colleagues is that conservatives are close-minded. The second most popular explanation is that they are too money hungry to settle for a professor’s salary. In other words, if conservative academics are rare, they have their own defects to blame.

In “Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University,” Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn Sr. are not complaining—conservatives both, they are tenured political scientists at Claremont McKenna College and the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. They aim to understand those conservatives who, despite being “widely stigmatized in academia,” have nonetheless made a home in higher education: What are they like, and how do they think they are doing? "


 And here is another article in a similar but slightly different vein:

"The One Kind of Diversity Colleges Avoid

I’ve seen faculty searches up close. Somehow teachers with conservative views just don’t make the cut."

 "Many universities are redoubling their efforts to diversify their faculties in response to last fall’s wave of protests from student groups representing women and minorities. Yale, for example, has announced a $50 million, five-year initiative to enhance faculty diversity. Brown has committed $100 million to hire 60 additional faculty members from historically underrepresented groups over the next five to seven years. America’s institutions of higher education seem committed to faculty diversity. But are they really?                                       
                                                                                                                       In the more than 20 years that I have been a professor at Georgetown University, I have been involved in many faculty searches. Every one begins with a strong exhortation from the administration to recruit more women and minority professors. We are explicitly reminded that every search is a diversity search.
 Administrators require submission of a plan to vigorously recruit applications from women and minority candidates.Before we even begin our selection process, we must receive approval from the provost that our outreach efforts have been vigorous enough. The deans and deputy deans of each school reinforce the message that no expense should be spared to increase the genetic diversity of our faculty.Yet, in my experience, no search committee has ever been instructed to increase political or ideological diversity. 
On the contrary, I have been involved in searches in which the chairman of the selection committee stated that no libertarian candidates would be considered. Or the description of the position was changed when the best résumés appeared to be coming from applicants with right-of-center viewpoints. Or in which candidates were dismissed because of their association with conservative or libertarian institutions...."

"...The relentless call to actively recruit women and minority candidates arises from the fear that if left to their own devices, predominantly white male faculties will identify merit with those who look and think like them, undervalue the contributions of those from different backgrounds, and perpetuate a white male stranglehold on the academy. Yet without an exhortation to pursue viewpoint diversity, this is exactly what happens.

Predominantly liberal faculties identify merit with positions that are consistent with theirs, see little value in conservative and libertarian scholarship, and perpetuate the left-wing stranglehold on the academy.

Having a diverse faculty is a genuine value for a university and its students. Indeed, it may be valuable enough to justify spending $50 million or $100 million to increase the percentage of women and minority professors. But if diversity is really such an important academic value, then why are universities making no effort to increase the political and ideological diversity of their faculties?"