See more articles, reviews, fiction and poetry, including more of my writings, at group blog PLUTO'S REALM.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Now We Know Who the Grinch Is

If convincing gullible Americans to send their sons and daughters to their deaths in a piss-ant foreign country for no reason other than the political equivalent of viagra isn't enough, the nut jobs who gave you George W. Bush have a new treat for you -- the "War on Christmas."

If you're dumb enough to think that the Faux News Network has anything to do with news, you may have heard the rantings of Bill O'Reilly and crew this year on the purported War. Of course I've never heard anyone come out against Christmas. What we have here is an attack against the First Amendment rights of large corporations and governmental entities who have chosen to include everyone, not just right-wing Christians, in their celebration of the holidays which have been with us much longer than Christianity. The First Amendment prohibits a state endorsement of religion. To quote Stan Lee, "'Nuff said."

From Media Matters for America: From Monday, November 28, to Friday, December 2, Faux News carried 58 different reports, interviews, and debates on the alleged "war" on Christmas. Coverage ranged from reports of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's (R-IL) recommendation to rename the Capitol Holiday Tree the "Capitol Christmas Tree," to segments titled "Christmas Under Attack" on Faux News Live. In fact, Faux News Live alone devoted 14 reports to various Christmas "war" debates.

Though CNN and MSNBC have lagged behind Faux, they have joined in giving the Faux-fueled controversy attention. MSNBC had 11 mentions of the debate -- though three were mocking references to the controversy on Countdown with Keith Olbermann (whose host singled out Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson's roles in the Christmas crusade for ridicule).

Of the many guests that appeared on Faux News programs to discuss the debate, 18 (many appearing multiple times) endorsed the concept that there is a "war" on Christmas that should be exposed and defeated, whereas only seven either defended more inclusive "holiday" terminology or argued that the "war" on Christmas was overstated.

If credibility is the issue, remember, this: Jerry Falwell appeared five different times on two of the three major cable news channels. Falwell is allied with the conservative legal organization Liberty Counsel, which has been involved in many of the various local Christmas disputes and operates a "Friend of Foe Christmas Campaign" which includes "free legal assistance by Liberty Counsel to individuals facing persecution for celebrating Christmas" and "a pledge to be the 'Friend' to those entities which do not discriminate against Christmas and a 'Foe' to those that do."

While Faux has taken the lead in highlighting this bulshit, media figures on MSNBC and CNN have willingly joined in. For example, on the November 30 edition of MSNBC's The Situation with Tucker Carlson, host Tucker Carlson stated: "[I]f the P.C. Police get their way -- we pray they won't -- you might be singing a different tune to the classic carol, "Oh, Christmas Tree." During a segment on the November 29 broadcast of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN anchor Jack Cafferty asserted: "Put a tree in your house, or put it on your lawn, or put it wherever, and call it whatever you want. But stay the hell out of my Christmas."

Thanks, Jack. But whoah, I like Christmas. There is a warm fuzzy feeling to it that gives us psychological refuge before we are dumped out into the bleak wasteland of January. But for those of you who don't know any better, let me tell you where your holiday came from.

From The biggest holiday of the Ancient Roman World, called Saturnalia, and the birth of the Persian Sun God Mithras, was named the birth festival of Jesus by Pope Leo the Great in 885 A.D. See, the Church was tired of seeing the pagans have all the good parties. December 25th was also the Feast of Sol Invictus, the Invincible Sun, a cult popular to Romans like Constantine, the Roman Emperor who inflicted the mental illness which is Christianity upon us for all time. Modern estimates based on the census records of Augustus calculate Jesus' actual birth in July although Christians had started to use the Saturnalia as the birthday feast as early as the 300's A.D.

Your Christmas tree? Besides the Celtic tree worship, the 24th of December was the feast day of Saints Adam and Eve when Medieval Churches act out the Genesis story and set up a tree representing the "tree of life" with glass balls representing the fruit. This custom was later associated with Christmas and was taken from Germany to England by PrinceAlbert and to America by Hessian soldiers and later German immigrants. In an 1883 editorial about the newfangled custom the New York Times called the Christmas Tree -- "A rootless, lifeless corpse -- unworthy of the Day..."

Santa Claus? This hybrid of Dutch customs appeared in its modern form in New York in the late 1850s. TheEnglish form was St. Nicholas, a big jolly Bishop in a red suit and theDutch had Kris Kringle, the elf who dropped down your chimney and was alsoknown as "Klaus-in-the-Cinders" or "Cinder-Klaus.'" The first image of himwas drawn in 1859 in the New York Sun by cartoonist Thomas Nast for the Clement Moore poem (Nast also created the Democratic Donkey and Republican Elephant). The modern image was created for a 1930s ad campaign for Coca-Cola by illustrator Haddon Sundblom.) According to NPR, Saint Nicholas was a Turkish ruler in the fourth century A.D. who legendarily tossed a bag of gold through a window to save a man from selling his three daughters into prostitution. Just what he got for the gold is not part of the Christmas story.

The bottom line is, all this stuff is manufactured. That's the way myth is. What we really have here is a cultural and individual psychological need for a break at this time of year. This is the celebration of the winter solstice, which we feel in our bones. Its true soundtrack is Jethro Tull's Songs from the Wood.

So why have the nut jobs decided now is the time to find a "War on Christmas?" Perhaps it is a last-minute sop to the Bush administration, in whom they have lost trust. Maybe they are realizing they were used. George Bush is willing to be Christian if he gets their political capital, but his agenda (or the agenda of Rove or Cheney, depending in which direction you look for his puppetmaster) is about war and money, not religiion, and they have been disappointed.

But I am personally very hurt and insulted that the nut jobs have taken it upon themselves to tell me I am not celebrating my holiday properly. I am perfectly capable of enjoying the winter solstice without pledging loyalty to a death cult.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Why I Do Zazen

Our local Nashville Zen Center has a Yahoo group. It was started before I joined the Center, and my perception is that it was started by them as a way for them to receive notices of events, but it's been left open to all comers in terms of membership, so there are people in there whom I have never seen at a zazen session (and some whom I don't think exist outside of cyberspace). Both these entities and some of the real members are inevitably drawn to do what Yahoo group members do best -- post, on whatever. Sometimes it has to do with Zen. Recently there was a lively debate on vegetarianism, which as interesting as it is, has very little to do with Buddhism (since the historical Buddha died of bad pork, I'm told).

Irrelevance is no stranger to me, and it doesn't bother me. Actually I kind of like these discussions, and they do beat the rantings of the jingoistic homophobe at my office (see prior posts). Lately we are getting postings from group members and group leaders on their own favorite aspects of Buddhism. A recently posted note on spirituality drew my attention because I have aversions to terms like "spiritual," especially when the term is designed as other-worldly. My snotty response drew a reference to Ken Wilber. If you don't know who Ken Wilber is, see if this sets off your bullshit detector: "Ken Wilber is the developer of an integral "theory of everything" that embraces the truths of all the world's great psychological,scientific, philosophical, and spiritual traditions. He founded the Integral Institute, a think-tank for studying issues of science and society, in 2000. Wilber is the author of twenty books." Wow. The theory of everything. And I thought everything lay in reality. Theory is reductionist. But I can see why a theory of everything would take twenty books. At least.

I won't say anything more about Mr. Wilber, but I do love open discussion. And because I was a philosophy major and a lawyer, and sort of a 48-year-old adolescent, I find it hard to stay within the rules of academia when I argue. So saying someone is obviously full of shit won't get me on the debate team. But I get to feel like Johnny Rotten for five minutes.

So, my point was? After having studied every philosophy I could find for the last thirty years and having tried several varieties of Buddhist practice, what has it come down to? I just sit there. Shikantaza.

I discovered Buddhism when I was a very lost college student at the University of Tennessee in the late 1970's. I had long known that I didn't fit into normal society and didn't share its belief systems. So like every other "rebel" of my generation, I spun off the wheel into drinking, recreational chemicals, and rock and roll. Being a philosophy major, I had some other options to pursue. So having known by no later than nine years old that Christianity was a fairy tale right up there with the Easter Bunny (a perceptive ability that kicked in years later when I heard about the Weapons of Mass Destruction), I found Buddhism and Zen in particular appealing. But if there were Zen Buddhists or Buddhists of any kind in Knoxville, TN, in 1979, I couldn't find them, and if I could've found them, wouldn't have been sober enough or focused enough, read mature enough, to practice. But I was inspired.

So when I went to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1980 to study law, I was drawn to the San Francisco Zen Center. My girlfriend and fiancee at the time, a New Jersey jock with no previous interest, was so drawn to them that she lived there and worked in their bakery at Tassajara for several years. I tried sitting with the priests and lay practitioners there, but I was too much into the San Francisco night life and the prospect of being a rich lawyer to really take advantage of my real opportunities. I gave up my first and best chance to practice.

It was six years later in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that I came back to Buddhist practice, through a strange side door. Three years of trying to work for law firms had taught me that I didn't belong there; lawyers are a race of shallow dilettantes, and the American court system is such a farce that a few years in its bowels will teach a perceptive person that the system is warped and rotten beyond redemption. In February, 1986, I was out of a job, sitting around drinking in an adobe apartment wondering what I was going to do with my life. By sheer luck I did all the right things, and my life -- well, didn't change forever just yet, but opened me up to the possibilities that later began to shape who I hope to be now. At that point I quit drinking for the first time in at least eleven years, began to work out for the first time ever, and fell in with the (then) Nichiren Shoshu Buddhists of the NSA.

I fell in with these people because I was suddenly, with my head clear and my body discovering itself, drawn back to the Buddhism I had left behind. Why NSA? Because I looked in the phone book and they were the only ones listed who spoke English. Honestly.

Nichiren Shoshu (which means Nichiren Orthodox, basically) is a school of Japanese Buddhism founded on the ranting of Nichiren, a Zen priest from the twelfth century who was banished for heresy and being a general egoistic shithead. To most Japanese Buddhists, he is a clown. To the NSA, Zen was the devil. I say was because there is no more NSA. Just after I quit them, the head priest of Nichiren Shoshu excommunicated the lay leader of the Soka Gakkai, the Japanese parent organization of the NSA. It appears this was based on the fact that the Soka Gakkai was using Nichiren Buddhism as a tool for social and political power in Japan. They were widely known as a Zen cult. They would approach you on a street corner or in your home like Jehovah's witnesses, because one main way you could achieve merit ultimately resulting in salvation was shakubuku, or proselytizing. At this point in my life, I was a self-employed lawyer, so there was nothing quite so helpful for my professional image as passing out pamphlets on a street corner.

But in the middle of all this cultish bullshit, I discovered a real truth: the power of Buddhist practice. The Nichiren practice consisted of chanting "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo," framed by selections from the Lotus Sutra, in front of a scroll called the Gohonzon, which means "great object of worship." One did gongyo twice a day. I had become a minor leader of sorts in the practice, all of which I abandoned by the fall of 1988, after being an NSA member for 2 1/2 years. And eventually my new purity of mind and body, focused through the power of the practice, led me to stop fighting my perception that the teachings were half true, half bullshit, and leave the group.

I made a mistake when I left. I quit practicing, which means I quit chanting and abandoned all forms of meditation. I became all-powerful in my own mind, which meant that two years later everything had gone to hell again; I finally left Albuquerque in 1993 to return to Tennessee. It was 2004 before I resumed Buddhist practice, and eventually after a false start with the Tibetans returned to Zen after reading Brad Warner's Hardcore Zen, which finally blew away the shit for me and encourage me to resume practice.

The thing about the real truths you discover for yourself is that they always recur as memories, as things you knew before but had forgotten - obvious things that were there the whole time, so how could you have missed them? Having seen through the bullshit of traditional religion at a young age, and having suffered the lies of Nichiren Buddhism and the dreamy obfuscations of the Tibetans, it suddenly became clear to me that all it takes is shikantaza, just sitting, to connect with reality. Just keep your spine straight; you will perceive that all reality radiates outward from a line drawn between your hara and the top of your head. The closer to that line a thing or event is, the more meaningful and important it is to you. This is all you need. You don't need to chant. You don't need to visualize Oprah. You don't need to count your breath. That's all OK but it just adds more crap to the cesspool that's already swirling in your mind. Just let what's already there settle. It won't go away.

The truth is, your mind will never stop swirling. You just have to learn to accept its swirling. Your mind won't stop thinking until your heart stops beating, and you can no more put one that the other on "pause." Neither can you change your personality. I will not stop being the angry, sarcastic individual I am. I just have to look at this character and realize its not me. "Me" is everything and these are all just parts I play. As I mentioned is "No small furry animals," I have to step outside the movie.

So this is where it's all lead me after all these years. All theory is bullshit. All discussion of Zen, or really of philosophy in general, is reductionist, so that whereas the finger may indeed point at the moon, the theory itself is always wrong.

When you pursue a theory of everything, you have already made the first error. If you believe in your theory, you will have completely mistaken the map for the territory, and you will be completely living in your head. The true answer is always "Mu." So for me, I will just sit shikantaza. But if you want to chant to a gonhonzon, go for it; the remnants of the NSA are still out there as the Soka Gakkai of America, I believe, and they're a lot less militant since they were neutered. Just don't get caught up in their shit. Incidentally, the only thing I've discovered that won't work is the guided mediation of the Tibetans and similar groups. My experience is that all that crap will take you down the same delusional path as the Christians.

And if you do that, then God Bless You, Every One.

Friday, December 16, 2005

No small furry animals

At last, a post that's not about furry animals, real or imagined.

This morning I had a dream that led to an experience I can only call a direct perception of reality. These happen periodically. The dream itself was an obvious allegory; I was, in two different situations, an architect who was distressed at the way his buildings had been used. In the first, I was trying to think of how to collapse the roof to destroy the building, and I realized that first I'd better get the people out, and that the people who now owned the building wouldn't be too happy about it anyway. In the second I was in a mall, and I confided to my friend, "I didn't design all this so the neighborhood bank could be in the corner, and that video arcade over there (meanwhile thinking the arcade was OK, but the banks had to go)." My friend was very sympathetic, but I knew she knew I hadn't designed the space, but she loved me anyway and wasn't going to say anything.

Periodically throughout my life, I've had dreams in which I meet up with friends of mine outside of reality, to regroup before we plunge back into Life. It's usually the same people, some I knew in first grade, some who are dead, some whom I haven't seen in years. But the perception is the same: Our present reality is a game, but there is a reality outside of the game where we are real, and we can go back there if just for a moment to be reminded that we need to just hang in there and go on.

I remember that one of the most meaningful experiences I ever had, that has stuck with me over the years, came to me in an altered state when I was about 19 or 20, when I had kicked open the Doors of Perception in a way I would never do again. I suddenly realized that I and every one in the room were characters in a movie, and we could step outside of the movie for a moment, and take a break. Years later, when I saw The Matrix, it seemed to me the perception was coming from the same place (and I'm talking about the original movie, not the lame sequels).

So how does this square with my Zen practice? It doesn't really. In fact, the experiences I have and continue to have in this vein contradict the teachings of Zen,as opposed to the experience. Now I know that a lot of Zen teachers would say that these experiences of which I speak are just thoughts, just dreams, just phantasms of the mind. But the good teachers also tell you to believe in your own experience, not what they say, not what you read. If you meet the Buddha in the road, kill him.

I came back to Zen after years away because I knew I had to participate in a disciplined practice to have the experiences of clarity I can have sometimes. I have practice other forms of Buddhism over the years, and I was able to have the same perceptions of truth -- always the same perceptions of the same truth which is fundamentally true, at least for me, but which I find very difficult to put into words -- after pursuing almost any form of regular meditation. I came back to Zen because it has the least tenets that I have to reject or thwart in order to pursue the path down which I am consistently drawn. When I have clear realizations now, I realize that I am perceiving the same truths I perceived years ago but have since forgotten. So yes for me that is truth, though I can't tell you what it is. There are no words. You just have to look for yourself.

I belong to a very eclectic Zen group with no teacher, so there are all kinds of beliefs, and lacks of belief, in there. We can all sit in harmony. Then someone does a reading, and nine times out of ten I disagree with the reading; it can be by the most esteemed Buddhist scholars, or a supposed quote from the Buddha himself. But for that moment, I am right by definition, and the reading is wrong.

So for the moment the only message I have is, my clear perception at this moment is that there is some point to all of this, but everything you have been told about it is a lie. All truths are there to mislead you. But there is something there, I know there is.

Excuse me, as the old bumpersticker said, I think my karma just ran over my dogma.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


I realized after my last post just how insensitive I may have been to people genuinely suffering from the medically recognized disease of zemmiphobia. The disease may explain why people from Indonesia are inexpicably terrified by Stephanie's small dog.

WARNING: Sumatrans, Jakartans, etc. This image may be traumatic to you. However, Gizmo is not the great mole rat, but in fact a dog. She is terrified by your flailing and shouting when she appears.

For those of you afflicted with this tragic disorder, it appears the following people really can help:

For your benefit, I am providing a photo of Gizmo. She might eat everything in your frig, but other than that, she is not the enemy.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Cure Zemmiphobia in our Lifetime!

Before I say anything else, in case anyone wonders why I put Adsense on this blog, it isn't that I think I can get rich by putting a Google ad on a blog with this kind of circulation. I was motivated by the promise Google and blogger (who are one and same, if you don't know) to match the ad to the content of your blog. I'm sure this is some sort of a word-counting program, but I do think it's hilarious that the ad Adsense selected for my blog against the YMCA's non-profit status was "Start Your Own Non-Profit Online!" If it stays this hilarious, I'll keep it.

Which is why I think it's time we talked about mole rats. Anyone who sees my profile sees that I have successfully (so far) stolen the image of Rufus the (Hairless) Naked Mole Rat from Disney's Kim Possible. So yes, I am a big Rufus fan. To date I count ten (or thirteen, but I didn't pay for three) Rufus plush toys I have purchased on e-bay.

The truth about the Rufi is, they are evolving from the original Rufus Prime (the one on Kim Possible) through and intermediate stage of chubby, shiftless and mostly alcoholic Rufi, to (as fans of A Sitch in Time know) the eventual emergence of the Rufus 3000, muscular, intelligent Rufi who sound curiously like Worf from Star Trek. These days, they are mostly to be found drinking tequila in stolen UPS trucks. But I digress.

So I was really shocked the other day to discover (unless I am being duped by some widely promulgated internet extremely non-urban legend) that an accepted entry in the list of phobias is Zemmiphobia, defined as Fear of the Great Mole Rat. I'm a little vague on what exactly this is, but as far as I can tell it exists in Sumatra. Just what the Great Mole Rat is, I don't know. The little creature in the first picture, above, is a hairless naked mole rat. They live in Africa and are known to the natives as sand puppies. They are about three inches long, live most of their lives in the dark underground, and live in hives. They are eusexial and are organized like bees, with a queen, workers, drones, etc.

HR1 and Deuce, second pic, don' t know, because they are modern Rufi and in the adult case of HR1 are more interested in the Gin 'n Tonic Blue Beast. As far as they are concerned, Boss Rufus (below) is the Great Mole Rat. But he's just a Mole Rat royalty.

If you go online and research mole rats, you will find they are a variety of animals lumped together by name who are not necessarily related. Naked mole rats are neither moles nor rats, but are closer to the possum and the gerbil. So far I haven't figure out if there is a really big one that lives in Sumatra. If there is, and it's as ugly as the little ones (sorry Boss), I understand why people are afraid of it, when they don't have the cultural advantage of our civilized phobias. Is this an imaginary beast? Are these people living in the 21st century version of the old maps that said "Here Be Dragons?"

I work with a general manager is who the best example I have seen of homophobia. Being heterosexual and having lived in San Francisco, I have never understood why a certain group of males feels compelled to go around ranting about gays. Why some people are so hurt (yes and afraid) by who other people sleep with is not something I have understood. I admit to being that way myself when I was less than sixteen and my sexuality was forming, but what is the excuse in middle age?

Personally, I admire gay people. They seem to be richer and smarter than the rest of us as a whole, and more creative. Not to mention neater, a trait I can only envy. And the ones who are Out are brave. If I were gay, I would be proud to be, and whether the fact that I am not is a matter of heredity or environment is not important.

See, this guy fears non-Christians as much as he fears gays. I am still inclined to think his extreme homophobia is an indication of some sort of deep denial about impulses he has. Sleep-deprived and drug-addicted, he goes through life in a haze that produces bizarre stories which I believe he believes are true. But I am usually these days inclined to think that the motivation of these misfit all-Americans is to validate their own existence with cultures that don't accept them but can't afford to reject them. The Christians. The Patriots (notice how all the warmongers these days never fought in a war?). The heterosexual (whose masculinity, unlike that which is natural and unthinking for those who are truly and comfortably heterosexual, is a matter of forced attainment). These people would all be beaten shitless in the naked jungle, just like the neo-Nazis would be the first thrown into the concentration camps by a real Nazi regime (look at what happened to the anti-Nazi Polish underground after the Soviet takeover).

I am barely touching on a deep subject here, and I intend to come back to it. But just think; make all the homophobes and the GWB wimpass warmongers into zemmiphobes. Think how harmlessly all that negative energy could be discharged.

And in the meantime, in the words of Blue Oyster Cult, Don't Fear the Rufi.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Why I Hate the Y: Tax the Churches!

Sounds kinda mean-spirited, huh?

But that's the point. What is the Y, anyway? Is it a health club? Is it a religious organization? Is it a charity? Or is it a business, or all of the above? The answer is yes, yes, yes, and yes, it's the kind of American hydra that eats us up in our daily lives.

Case in point: Most of the places I have lived in this country, or maybe it was the time period that's changed, the Y was where homeless people went to get a shower. I was a member of Gold's Gym in Albuquerque for years. Then when I came back to Tennessee in 1993, I discovered that the dominant health club was... the YMCA?

There was a lawsuit a few years ago whereby someone (the state? the other health clubs?) challenged the Y's non-profit status. The suit should have prevailed, but was either settled out or dismissed, so that the Y, as an allegedly religious or charitable organization, continues to operate tax-free. Meanwhile, it's chief executive continues to draw a salary in the $750,000.00 range. Your tax dollars at work.

What's happened is, in Nashville, by operating tax-free, the Y has driven out what competition it had and prevented any other club from getting a foothold. Now I've never seen the Y's charter, but a non-profit can incorporate as either a charitable or religious organization to avoid paying taxes. I don't know which path the Y chose. I do know that promulgating the word of Jesus is part of its mission statement.

The Supreme Court has held repeatedly that separation of church and state is mandated by the First Amendment, among other things. What I've never understood is how this leads to tax-exempt status for religious organizations. If my private business is taxed and your "religious" business is not, you have just benefited from the state for being religious. In other words, preferring religious organizations over secular ones is an establishment of religion. A state which was truly distinct from the disease of religion would not only not prefer one religion over another (see the book tax laws in Georgia), it would not prefer religious organizations over secular ones.

It is impossible for a rational man to explain why Gold's Gym should be taxed and the Y should not. When a private organization does not pay taxes, it is supported by the taxes paid by the other organizations and by the private citizens. So you support the Y, whether you are a member or not, and whether or not you intentionally donate. In effect, by being tax-exempt, the Y becomes a publicly supported, or effectively governmental entity.

Understanding that the Y is really a government entity explains a lot. It operates like one; it is run by bureaucrats who don't care about you. For example, before I joined the Y I used to go an aerobics studio called Exercise Plus. Exercise Plus had the best instructors in town, but ultimately business pressures forced its closure. Most health clubs eventually succumb to financial disease. So all those great instructors went - where? the Y, of course.

Exercise Plus had to compete for your dollar. So if one of those excellent instructors couldn't show up for class, they had to supply another excellent instructor. If they couldn't, they didn't get paid. At the Y, everyone gets paid, anyway. After all, what is quality of instruction when the word of God is the issue? Exercise Plus, which stood for quality, went out of business because the Y was not only stealing its clientele, but it and its client were being taxed to effectively support the Y.

And if you go to the Y, you will eventually feel that you are involved with just another government bureaucracy. They have a website which finally, after years of complaints, lists the group fitness schedules for the various Y' s in the system. Previously, the site was devoted to trying to bilk you of even more dollars, in the form of donations. But even now, the site has no provision for informing you of the bane of any group fitness class, bad substitute instructors. If you call the front desk and ask, they have no idea. The downtown Y now has a substitution board, which is usually not up to date, and you have to sign in to the Y to see it. If you call, sometimes they refuse to go check. It's all a lot like the Department of Safety.

I quit the Y last month, but I went back because there was nowhere else to go that can compete, either in variety of services and locations, or in price. If the Y were taxed, there would be competition, and I would go there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Jack Kerouac, an American Crucifixion

I just watched a documentary made in 1986 called What Happened to Kerouac? and I realized, with no regard whatsoever to what his work inspired or motivated or reflected in the changing society of his time, how much influence he had on my life. The film consists mostly of interviews with people, mostly famous people, who knew Jack, interspersed with lengthy readings by Kerouac of his own work, either in the films of a live appearance somewhere or accompanied by montages of the world in which he lived. You can see and hear Jack in an appearance in which he reads from On the Road , beautifully and perfectly, while Steve Allen plays piano, intercut with an appearance with William F. Buckley in which Jack, in the last year of his life, is drunk, often confused and inappropriate. I can't even tell you if it's a good documentary, but what it did to me is remind me of things that made me who I am, some of which I'm ashamed to have abandoned or misplaced.

I think I may have read On the Road first as a teenager, but if so I wasn't ready to work that hard to understand a work of art. I was introduced, or re-introduced to Kerouac by a friend who was artistically inclined and intelligent but self-destructive in a way Jack, ironically, would never have approved. I remember Jimmy touting the Ann Charters book on Kerouac, I believe his first biography. I read the book and was drawn in, not by Jack's work with which I was mostly unfamilar, but by his life. Jack was born of French Canadian parents in Lowell, Massachussetts in 1922, the same year my father was born, hundreds of miles south. He played football in school, went to Horace Mann and Columbia, where he dropped out after meeting up with Allen Ginsberg, among others, and dedicated his life to his art. His first book, a Thomas Wolfe-style novel, was published in 1950, after which he spent years writing numerous novels and works, until On the Road was published in 1959. Please forgive me if my dates are slightly off; in Jack's honor I am trying to get closer to the spirit of spontaneous blogging. If you want to read all about Kerouac, go here:

On the Road received some rave reviews, but after the intial applause, the critical response to Kerouac consisted of attacks on the man he was perceived to be. Who he was, as I observe him now, was the most honest human being I have ever seen. Honest in the existential(?) sense of admitting that he did not know more than he knew. He was by all accounts awkward except through his art. He adopted Neal Casady as his brother and alter ego, in more than just his art. In truth, Jack was honestly fascinated by the music and lifestyles he extolled in the books he wrote in between On the Road and its publication. He was a true artist; he honestly did not write for money or fame, but because he was born a writer and he had to write to live. Fame and misunderstanding destroyed him. The alcohol and drugs he took to get "high" in the sense of "exalted" turned into the alcoholic defensive shield that ultimately ate his body and mind. He was mistaken for Dean Moriarty, the persona of Casady who was the protagonist of On the Road." He was the unwilling father of the beatnik movement, which morphed into the hippie movement. He was one of the first Buddhists in modern America, yet he was also a livelong Catholic who claimed to vote Republican and hate Communists and Jews, and who was famous for sending a generation on the road while he himself, in between the trips he wrote about, lived with his mother until he died. He was acutely self-aware and was paralyzed by it, but he never pretended to be anything other than what he was, even when that perpetual assertion of his own truth through living seemed to others to result in contradictions. He was a loving man who was afraid of people and fascinated by them. He was Christlike in a way that no standard Christian because he followed the truth of his own heart, unfailingly throughout his life until he was crucified for it by the mortification of his flesh and the crown of thorns imposed by false publicity. I wish I had one tenth of his integrity.

I came upon this clearer perception of Kerouac at a time when I have need of his unfailing devotion to who he was and to those he loved. In the film, Gary Snyder, the West Coast poet who went on to a lifetime of Buddhism, talks about how Kerouac was able to incorporate all the comprehension of the true teaching of the Buddha at a time when there were almost no Buddhist teachers or even translated texts in America. He talks about how Kerouac's Buddhism was big enough to embrace and include his Catholicism. Mexico City Blues, his most famous long poem, is as Buddhist as it is Catholic. I come across this at a time when I am again troubled by the constrictions of the Buddhist practice I have adopted, for which I am truely grateful.

My mission in this blog is not to lecture you on Kerouac, although yeah I would love it if you came to know him. First, if you consider yourself an informed person about modern America, and you don't know Kerouac, you don't know Jack. But more importantly I want to tell you that I, who don't believe in saints, have again seen a saint in Kerouac. No, we all don't have to die of alcoholism of our mother's homes, hemorraging to death on the toilet. I personally would prefer not. I just turned 48; I've just outlived Jack Kerouac, who died at 47 in 1969. But we all have to live own lives, and in fact have no choice. But paradoxically it's the attempt to do so that makes us perfect. This is the truth about Buddhism, at least in my life, and it is the truth about Jack Kerouac.

So unless I change my mind, my New Years resolution to this year is to be who I am and to do best not to care what other people think. Which doesn't mean I won't try not to hurt the people I love. There is a difference in withholding behaviors and speech to avoid hurting people, and lying to make people like you. Try to figure this out for yourself.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Gilbert Ryle and the Soul, or Riffing the Dalai Lama, part 2

Kinda nasty looking, huh? Just like the kind of evil uncle who would tell you there is not such thing as the soul, or the mind, for that matter. Gilbert Ryle was the father of the school of philosophy of mind called Logical Behaviorism, which was all the rage for a while, which pointed out the rather obvious error made by Descartes that the act of perception necessitated the concept of a perceiver. Actually, that was Wittgenstein, I'm told. What Ryle pointed out was that the concept of the mind was a catergory error, which means (if I can distill the philosophical jargon) that language, which is a tool and perhaps the existence of the rational mind, uses concrete things and actions (nouns and verbs) to create poetic images, then treats the images as real things to explain concrete events. Role's theories seem to me basically to be a polemic against abuse of language.

Now as a Zen student I believe that there is no soul and no mind. This is after all the teaching of the Heart Sutra. Just kidding, although it's true. Of course there is a soul, and there is a mind. It's all a matter of perspective. If you want to see the best expression of relativity in spiritual matters, look at the Nishijima/Cross translation of Dogen's Shobogenzo (stick to Vol. 1). Dogen says what there is and is not, then blatantly contradicts it. A little clarity reveals that Dogen is not contradicting himself, but rather pointing out the limits of the rational mind as expressed by language. In fact, my perception is that the mind is rational thought, which is language, which is that nasty internal monologue that keeps you up all night.

But the problem is that it seems to us that there is a mind, that there is a soul, when we think about it in language. Because what has thoughts? What is born and dies? Nevertheless when we contemplate and search for the mind, there is nothing there. We cannot get thru the smokescreen of the internal monologue to see the self. Why?

Isaac Asimov posited as one of his laws of robotics that no system can understand itself. It is obvious that this is true of human beings, or the human mind. Although it might be useful for us in limited contexts to posit the existence of a mind, we cannot understand ourselves with the mind any more than Asimov's robots could program themselves (I know, I know, today's computers can program themselves but only to a limited extent, and there still is no true AI. Would one defeat this argument? I'll pass on that until it happens).

I always thought that the idea that man could understand God was the ultimate insult to God. If there were such a necessary first mover, could the limited mind of man, which evolved to build pyramids and arks, understand Him? The concept of God is an insult to Him. And if man cannot conceive God, why talk about Him or pretend we know what His rules are? The purpose of the conception of God was the creation of a Priesthood, and his continued existence is due to our reluctance to take responsibility for our own existence.

Someone asked the historical Buddha if there was life after death, and he said, to of course paraphrase, that's a red herring, search right now for your own enlightenment. Someone asked Dogen the same question, and he said, " I don't know." They said, "What do you mean you don't know, aren't' you a Zen priest?" He said, "Yes, but I'm not a dead Zen priest."

So, I'm sorry, Dalai Lama, reincarnation justifies your position and therefore you have to believe in it. But I don't believe it's a necessary or even a valid part of Buddhism. And you are a courageous man as we know fro your life history, but you need to take the one further courageous step that Krishnamurti took, and realize that the laws of the universe are unknowable. The best you can do is to know yourself, and that is the work of a lifetime. Or of the present moment.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Riffing the Dalai Lama

On NPR the other morning I heard a story about the Dalai Lama giving the opening address at a conference of neuroscientists. The story is interesting in and of itself, and instead of regurgitating it I'll give you the link:
so you can read it for yourself.

Of course I'm amused that there was some opposition to a religious leader addressing a body of scientists. God forbid, we know that these days the teaching and conduct of science is endangered by the constant and oppressive encroachment of Tibetan Buddhists. But that's not my whole point.

Also of course I am extremely encouraged by most of what the Dalai Lama appears to be saying. He has a new book, The Universe in a Single Atom : The Convergence of Science and Spirituality, which apparently points out the similarities in the teachings of Buddhism and the findings of modern science. Let me admit right away that I have not read the book (and I am not going to review a book I haven’t read, even though I suspect that is done quite a lot), but if it is being represented correctly, the book seems to be in accordance with classics like The Dancing Wu Li Masters and Capra's The Tao of Physics, in that it points out the similarities in post-Newtonian physics, especially relativity theory and quantum mechanics, and the teachings of Buddhism in particular (and Eastern thought in particular). I understand that the DL has been quite a student of physics, and I loved the fact that according to NPR he lost the interpreter in the Q & A. My favorite part of his contention is that he urges his readers who are Buddhist, that if science proves the precepts of Buddhism to be false, follow science.

Now if you're not a Buddhist, that admonition is probably more shocking to you than it was to me. As a lifelong Buddhist, I would suspect any teacher who would tell me otherwise, although many do. In fact there was a psychotherapist in the '70's, Sheldon Kopp, who wrote a book called If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!. I haven't done the research to tell you what this quote is from, but to simplify, it means that Buddhism teaches you a set of tools to search "within", and if you use the tools properly, you should go where the practice leads you; and if you are lead in a direction so as to discover truths that are contrary to what you were told to encourage you to conduct the search initially, then you should believe what you see, and not what you were told. Basically, once you abandon pretense and stop lying to yourself, you will know what is true, without being told by gods or leaders.

If this shocks you, realize that Buddhism is the one "religion" (and I shudder to use the word, as the practice applies to me) that doesn't care if its basis texts are in fact attributable to their alleged author, Gautama Siddhartha. Zen, as the quotes goes, is a finger pointing at the moon. I am a practitioner of Zen Buddhism. I sit in zazen practice almost every Saturday morning and find myself in basis disagreement with the reading from a standard text rendered by another practitioner. But I don't care and I don't quit sitting, because the real truth comes to me as I sit, and usually I doubt I can express it any better than the Zen masters have, although their expressions are by definition inadequate. I was so thrilled, listening to this article read on NPR. But then I heard the but... although Buddhism is thoroughly compatible with modern science, that compatibility stops where it comes to the definition by modern science of conscience as a function of electrical activity in the brain. According to the DL, that cannot of course be true because Tibetan Buddhists believe in reincarnation, and if consciousnessness ends when the electrical activity of the brain stops, which it demonstrably does, then there would be nothing to reincarnate, would there?

Of course this is a no-brainer for me as a Zen Buddhist, as it would be for Theravada Buddhists. The truth is that original Buddhism and Zen take no position on reincarnation. When asked about reincarnation, Buddha said, and I paraphrase, "That's not the immediate problem. Concentrate on your existence now." But the DL's position depends on reincarnation. After all, each Dalai Lama is supposed to be the reincarnation of the previous one. According to their school, there has only ever been one Dalai Lama. Now personally I don't believe in reincarnation. Or in Sudden Enlightenment (kensho) for that matter. I don’t imagine what there would be to reincarnate, since I don't believe in the soul. So... Of course, you can believe what you want, as long as you don' t force it on me. But... There was a philosopher named Gilbert Ryle, who died in 1976 I believe at about the same time I felt compelled to subject myself to his very dry readings in what was termed philosophy of mind. Prof. Ryle originated the term "category mistake" in philosophy. Again to paraphrase, since I have no intention of re-reading that stuff, he accused Descartes of error in Rene's origination of what is called the mind/body problem. Ryle's take on the matter was that the notion of consciousness originated in misleading language. But I would take Ryle one step further.

Which I'll do in the next post. See ya!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Please Comment!

I really would welcome comments on this blog. People have emailed me, and those who have, have been coherent for the most part, except for one anonymous person ranting about the Lord. Early on I had the settings screwed up to prohibit comments, but this has been fixed. I know because the spammers are getting thru again. So if you want to take the few minutes to register on this blog, and comment, I'd appreciate it. Nothing but spam will be deleted. I could actually open it up so unregistered users could comment, but I'm afraid the spam would, in the words of the heart sutra, rise endlessly. Thanks!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Brooding on Batman

I just got the dvd of Batman Begins through Netflix. I'd been looking forward to it for a while; I'd missed this movie in the theatre when it came out earlier this year. You understand, I'm a big fan of sci fi and comics and anime, and I've been reading Batman since I was a kid. I think Sin City is the best comic book movie I've ever seen and one of the best movies I've seen in a while. Friends whose opinions I respect, who are not comics fans, have told me that the new Batman was great, so I was expecting a lot. But I am disappointed, and I'm trying to figure out why.

After all, I like dark movies, and this one sure looks dark. It's not nearly as surreal as Tim Burton's Batman, but the moviemakers haven't flinched from the subject matter; there's some blood and guts, we see the execution of Bruce Wayne's parents, and even a whole new scenario where Bruce goes to prison for a while before being enrolled in a killer cult (surely it's too late for spoilers).

First, let me tell what I don't like about most of today's fiction. I think the main attractions of anime to me are that no one expects it to be realistic, and that most of it comes from Japan, a country whose culture is just about as different from ours as you can get, among highly evolved cultures. So you might guess that the last thing I want to watch is what passes for "realistic" drama -- doctor and lawyer and cops shows. Because I think the people who watch the shows, even though they know the shows aren't literally true, think that's how their society works. Just watch any doctor if ER was credible, or ask me if any of those law or crime shows are remotely real. Did any of you ever sit through a real trial?

So what's wrong with that? Well first, if you believe that's how the world works, that the noble heroes on those shows are going to save you from the problems you have day-to -day, you're going to be bitterly disappointed. These shows will give you new heroes, but at the bottom they're the society propagandizing itself. They are telling you that the culture is right, that your existence is right and justified as long as you adhere to the cultural norm. Whereas no one expects Inu-yasha to be realistic, and as long as you're not expecting it to tell you how to live, maybe that moment of relief will help you to decide for yourself. What we need fantasy for is to help us step back for a moment from ourselves and the world we construct for ourselves in our minds moment by moment, to maybe see clear of the propaganda and make our own decisions. You might say, isn't Japanese society authoritarian and much more culturally homogeneous that American society? Maybe so, but it's not the same mindset we're bombarded with and locked into everyday, so that anime, or anything that gets you out of your lockstep thought process for a minute will help clear your mind. You hope.

Some anime will blow your mind entirely, by the way. Can anyone tell me what Gantz is about, really? But I wouldn't miss an episode.

The problem with Batman begins is that it's just a standard bang! bang! Hollywood movie trying to look like a dark new reinterpretation of a modern myth, whereas really it' s just Superman XXXVII or worse. For a while as we watch this thing we think Batman is going to go the way of The Punisher or any of those vigilante movies, which even though they're warped in a way Donald Rumsfeld would probably like if he could see his way out of his own fantasies to watch the ones on the big screen, but by the end he's just another good cop. And if there's anything that turns me off it's a movie that devolved into a big chase scene at the end, and that's this thing in spades. By the way, has anyone noticed that's also the trend in modern novels? Does anyone think maybe it's either because these hacks can't write endings, or because if there's enough flash and action that no one will realize that the turd they just passed has no interesting characters, conflicts, or (gasp!) meaning?

So Franks Miller's nihilism is a lot more interesting, because if you're going to annihilate evil, you have to start by annihilating the fake good that's been pounded into your head and keeps you from deciding for yourself what you think is right. And then maybe you'll realize that there is no evil except ignorance, and in the case of popular culture, a boring and mindless movie. And Frank Miller, by the way, is the author of the Sin City graphic novels as well as of the movie, with Robert Rodriguez, and also the author of the Dark Knight Batman graphic novel, so there is a very valid basis for comparison here. Needless to say he had nothing to do with Batman Begins.

Addendum: Did it not bother anyone but me that the movie is obviously set in modern times, but that Bruce Wayne's parents were killed in the Great Depression, which ended in the late '30's? This means Bruce/Batman would have to be at least 65. Well-preserved, I'd say! This bugged the crap out of me all through the movie. It seemed like an insult to the intelligence of the audience, but if no one noticed it I guess it's not an insult after all.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Daring Opinion: Hitler Was Bad

This is definitely the most thought-provoking item I've run into on the internet in the last few days. Apparently very recently ABC Primetime broadcast a story on Prussian Blue, a couple of thirteen-year old girls from California. I didn't see the broadcast though I was able to download it and watch it on the internet, so I'm not sure when it aired, and frankly I don't care, because this comment is not that timely. Thank goodness.

I've been a little disappointed with my last two blog entries, because frankly they seemed too timely when written and too soon obsolete. Plus, taking pot shots at the Bush administration at this point seems too much like shooting fish in a barrel, as they say. So what could be less timely than the American Neo-Nazi movement?

But it's not the Neo-Nazi movement that fascinates me, it's these two girls and my frank impression that all the reactions to them, and impressions I've seen of them seem, well, wrong. I'm not promoting the band (they're not really very good) or the Neo-Nazi's (who are pretty much idiots as far as I can tell). But it seems to me that the hatred directed against them is just as negative and misguided as anything they espouse, on behalf of themselves or their sponsors.

OK, I gotta give you some background, as gleamed from the media. The girls are Lynx and Lamb, twins, home-schooled by the mother. The mother's family apparently has a strong White Supremacist background, and the girls are certainly being indoctrinated. The songs are not just pro-White, they are actively pro-Nazi; in the TV interview, the girls opine that Hitler was a great man and they are victims of the curious cultural revisionism that claims the Holocaust was a myth. They romanticize Rudolph Hess as a man of peace. Of course since Lamb, the guitar player and songwriter is thirteen, most of the songs are written not by them but by some other Nazi. The girls are not likely to be pop stars, and in fact unless you attend Nazi events, they are probably about to go back off the map entirely. At last report their gig at the Kern County Fair was cancelled due to protest, and their mother is moving them from California to some unknown spot in the Pacific Northwest, as apparently Bakersfield is not White enough.

But what has fascinated me is the storm of vitriol directed against them. Everyone on the newscast just assumed that because they were advocating racial separatism, decrying what used to be called miscegenation, that they were urging every Caucasian in the United States to start slaughtering Blacks and Jews, and that's not what they say at all. In fact, in the interview these little girls made what I have always thought was the most valid claim of the White separatists and supremacists, that they had as much right to be proud to be White as Martin Luther King had to encourage Blacks to be proud to be Black. I'm sorry but I have to agree that if it is OK for Blacks to have pride in their heritage, as well as Latinos and every other racial or ethnic group in American, it's also OK for European Whites. I think that in previous decades, it became politically correct for minorities to assert their pride but not Whites, just because the fact is that the Whites were more powerful and could afford to withhold these assertions; it's almost a form of noblesse oblige. There is no doubt that every minority group in America has made great strides forward in the last fifty years in terms of equality, and the more equal and socially powerful these groups become, the more they need to understand that Whites, too, can be made to be feel inferior, to feel oppressed, to feel outnumbered. And any poor man has the right to sing the blues.

I don't want to argue here about exactly how equal things are or are not. That's not the point. It's just that these people, mostly poor Whites with poor educations or repressive or negligent family backgrounds, have feelings too, and a right to vent them. Now it's a long way from saying that if Black people can be proud of being Black, that White people can be proud of being White, to supporting Hitler and the Nazis. The latter is, to an educated man, idiocy, but these people are not educated. I repeat my contention that neither Lynx and Lamb nor the people who taught them their beliefs are evil, just ignorant. One older Aryan rocker in the piece, oddly sensitive to the fact of the girls' age and the fact they have obviously been indoctrinated, states that when they are older they will have to decide for themselves what to believe. What an ironic and thoughtful stateful for a fascist! What an odd culture we have, where totalitarianism becomes a form of rebellion? Oops, that sounds like Germany in the 30's, and I know that comparing Hitler to Bush has been overblown. But our society is much like the one that produced Hitler, and we are lucky that George W. is not Adolph. Because when that spot becomes open someone will rise to fill it.

The mother also makes a valid point in the interview, one that goes to the debate about home-schooling and public education. She says, and I paraphrase, "Of course I taught them my beliefs. Don't Christians who home-school their children teach them their beliefs?" If that doesn't give you a chill, you're not listening. She goes on to point out that in one of those families, her children might have been Christian pop artists, instead of what they are.

Nazis are not Christians, and Christians are not Nazis. If Hitler had a religion, he was a pagan, a fan of the Norse gods. In fact, he was a megalomaniac; the beliefs he allegedly held were just ways of expressing his own hatred and insecurity. If he had in fact been a man of ideals and integrity, however misplaced, he would not have turned on the German people in the final days of the WWII when he attempted to reduce the nation to scorched earth.

But this is not an editorial against Hitler; I don't think we need that. It is another blog about my revulsion against people who cannot see reality or other people, but only stereotypes. I thought Political Correctness had vanished with the end of the Clinton era, but it's back, at least in the limited context of race relations. I don't think the Nazis are any scarier than the thought police. The absolute tone of the piece in question was that the girls are sadly but probably hopelessly lost, and that the mom and all of the people who participate in the culture of which this family is a part are evil. The only two reactions I've seen are (1) stupid and incoherent support from the Nazis, or (2) PC condemnation. I really don't know which is worse; the educated should know better. We live in an era when it's no longer permissible to judge a man by his race, but it is permissible to judge him by his belief system. People aren't categories, the map is not the territory. The pointing finger is not the moon. Reductionist thinking is the heart of your problem. I can say this with confidence because is the heart of all of our problems. It is the persistent and fatal limitation of the rational mind.

So the next time you see a Black man in a rap video, it's not H. Rap Brown with a knife at your throat. The next time you see two little girls dressed as frauleins singing folk songs about Valhalla or even Rudolph Hess, they're not Hitler. They're just two little girls. Really.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

For your sins

A handicapped man named Scooter is taking a hit for your sins. Well, I don't know that Scooter is handicapped, but he appeared on all the internet news services on crutches yesterday. And there may be a back door open for him after the Bush administration lets him take the hit for Vice President Cheney, Karl Rove, George W. Bush and his flunkies, the White House Iraq Group. But yeah, this guy has been selected to take the bullet for all of them. Oh yeah, and you.

In his January 2003 State Of The Union, President Bush included the following statement in his package of lies: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Too bad it's not a crime to lie on CNN. Bush had known for nearly a year that this was bullshit. In February 2002, the CIA sent former Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate the unsubstantiated claim that Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium from Niger for use in nuclear weapons. Wilson had discovered that the claims were bogus and documents used to support the claims had been forgeries. He reported this to the CIA, and the CIA told the White House.

Now why did Bush want to lie about Saddam Hussein looking for uranium in Africa? Because he wanted to invade Iraq. Why did he want to invade Iraq? Well if you'd been awake the last few years, you 'd have learned about George H.W. Bush's ties to the Saudi royal family that led him into the first Gulf War. Yeah, that's the one where Uncle Zeke came back with an ailment the VA won't admit he has. You'd also remember that Papa Bush stopped short of invading Babylon and toppling Saddam. We'll never know why. Maybe he thought Vietnam was too recent a memory for America (he forgot that modern Americans don't have memores). Maybe he thought. "Invading a foreign country for no good reason would be a huge PR blunder which might taint my Presidency." He didn't realize that today most young Americans don't remember that he was ever President. Maybe he thought, "My son is a loser, a coker and a drunk. Let him do it, the little dumbass." We'll never know.

Now, even in 2002 after months of spin from Georgie and pals trying to blame 9/11 (perpetuated mostly by Saudi nuts, if you don't remember), the American sheep, er, people weren't willing to buy another strike at Saddam. The WHG kept cranking at disinformation. Too bad Goebbels was dead.

Six months after the President's 2003 State of the Union Address, as Bush's WMD and nuclear claims began to unravel, former Ambassador Wilson went public and exposed the Bush Administration's false nuclear claims in a New York Times op-ed called "What I didn't find in Africa."

The White House saw Wilson as a major threat. According to the Los Angeles Times, "Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff was so angry about the public statements of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a Bush administration critic married to an undercover CIA officer [pssst! that would be Ms. Plame] that he monitored all of Wilson's television appearances and urged the White House to mount an aggressive public campaign against him, former aides say."

The week after Wilson's op-ed in the New York Times, "two senior administration officials" were cited by conservative columnist Robert Novak in his column outing CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson. The White House Iraq Group (WHIG), originally formed to sell the war to the public, morphed into a virtual hit squad that took aim at critics who questioned its claims. WHIG was run out of Vice President Cheney's office, and included Cheney's Chief of Staff "Scooter" Libby, top Bush strategist Karl Rove, and other top Bush administration officials. Not only did this leak end Valerie Plame Wilson's 20-year career as a CIA covert agent, but it also exposed a longstanding CIA front company, Brewster Jennings & Associates, where Plame worked and put at risk many of the undercover agents who had worked with Wilson in the past.

Yesterdays' indictment says Libby illegally obstructed the investigation into the White House outing of an undercover CIA agent, Valerie Plame Wilson. He also was charged with perjury and making false statements to FBI agents. The ongoing investigation of Karl Rove , among others, revolves around the same issues.

In 1999, Papa Bush said , "I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors." Former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie said, "I think if the allegation is true, to reveal the identity of an undercover CIA operative—it's abhorrent, and it should be a crime, and it is a crime."

Well, whatever. Now, I think that if you volunteer to play Spy vs. Spy, this is one of the liabilities you sign up for, just like I think that if you volunteer to participate in the invasion of a foreign soverign nation that has not attacked you, you should not be surprised when you are shot in the ass by the locals. But these spies, you know, after a lifetime career of skulduggery, don't they deserve a little safety and peace? My cousin outed her husband as having worked for the CIA after he retired, on a Christmas card. Oops. Luckily he and Ms. Plame are still alive.

But the big sin is, after Bush lied and knew he lied, after Karl trained him to lie and lied himself, after Dick dicked us, Scooter is the trash who is gonna go down for their sins. But I bet Scooter will come out OK. You just watch.

Who should be punished? George, Dick and Karl lied to us. John Kerry bought their shit and voted for the war. And you, you dumbass. You don't study history. If you didn't spend all your time watching CSI Miami, you'd have taken the time to wake up and look at your world. And you wouldn't have voted for Bush, Jr. And you would've seen the lies for what they are.

And the moon would be made of green cheese. Sad, so sad.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Who is this bitch anyway?

The latest wire reports show that Harriet Miers, as president of the Texas Bar Association, championed "self-determination," at least in terms of women's issues, at least in one speech. This would appear to be self-determination in terms of abortion, the separation of Church and State, and women's issues. Of course we also know she is now a "reborn Christian" and the running dog of George W. Bush. Please realize that in the pic to the left, Ms. Miers was the White House Staff Secretary!

Honestly, I love it that President Bush nominated Ms. Miers. I love it that thru his unrelenting devotion to cronyism and his premature lame-duck laziness, he has lobbed the ultimate softball to the Judiciary committee and the nation, prompting Arlen Specter to note that the Supreme Court nominee needs a crash course in Constitutional law. Unless Ms. Miers' nomination is withdrawn, her confirmation hearings will probably be the swan song of the Bush administration.

Ironically, I think Ms. Miers would probably do just fine as a Supreme Court Justice. After all, in a room with intellectual heavyweights like Clarence Thomas, how could anyone appear inadequate? Of course, she could be a Trojan horse, just like John Roberts could still prove to be a pig in a polk. But if you look at the history of the Supreme Court, you may realize that by the nature of its lifetime appointments, the Supreme Court is the last bastion of integrity in the U.S. government. It is easily observed that the Justices appointed, at least in my generation, have often failed to support the agendas of the regimes that nominated them, which is as it should be. Sandra Day O'Connor may have been the best legacy of the Reagan administration. I have grudging respect for Justices with whom I disagreed, but who had at least had integrity in their agendas. Look at the career of the late Chief Justice Rehnquist, nominee of Richard Nixon in 1972 just before Watergate, appointed as Chief Justice by Ronald Reagan in 1986.

I was in law school from 1980 thru 1983. Stanford was a liberal environment, and Rehnquist was often seen as the new devil on the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, who was a guest instructor in my second year but the eminent Tony Scalia.

Now I won't hold it against Justice Rehnquist that if you look at the Supreme Court Reporter for the late 70's you'll see in the group photo that he is passed out from his painkiller addiction. In fact, once he became Chief Justice history reveals that he did his job as administrator of the Court, and gave up his job as conservative hatchet man. But now, Tony. Tony looked like Richard, the swarthy scowl, the skulk. I was terrified that Bush would nominate Tony the Knife as Chief Justice. But he didn't .

Now it appears to me that what has happened with these Supreme Court nominations is that Bush, at the end of his political career, doesn't give a shit. Roberts was just easy. Miers is the equivalent of JFK nominating Byron Young, more or less because he was underfoot at the time.

So it doesn't matter if Miers is confirmed or not. She probably will not be. If she were to be, I would not be too concerned, worse things have happened. What is significant here is that the Bush administration has given up any attempt at legitimacy or credibility, and let it shine. So next time, think more. Vote your mind, not your ass.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Hey, about Christianity

In my first post, I noted that Christians might be offended by this blog. That still might be the case, and honestly I have to admit that offending Christians is not something that bothers me, because Christians offend me every day. Now, if you want to believe that human beings erupted into existence out of dust three thousand years ago because a big guy in a white beard got bored or lonely, that's your right. And if you want to believe that what is right or wrong for you to do in your own life is determined by something written thousands of years ago in a book intended for a particular sect of desert dwellers, independently of your present circumstance or awareness, fine, as long as you don't try to inflict that decision on me. You can live your life however you want.

But we live in a world poised on the outbreak of the next Plague, and you want to stop teaching science in the schools, and tell the next generation of potential doctors and scientists that evolution is a theory. Do you know that know that no one can begin to understand how a disease evolves without the basic theory of evolution? Do you want the people upon whom the lives of your children -- who are many because you won't stop having them or take the basic steps to safeguard the world from your lust -- depend, to be working on solving the problem of disease and plague, or to be huddled in the corner mumbling and praying to a "higher authority" to save themselves from the results of their own irresponsibility? When I was younger and more naive, this would have been a no-brainer, but now this country is run by no-brainers.

A good friend of mine who happens to be Christian, apparently, reminded me of the Zen-Catholic link through Thomas Merton. I have no problem with that; anyone whose spiritual search has led them to that level of awareness is on a path from which I would never dissuade them. Having devoted most of my life to the basic problem of, what the hell is this? -- I understand those of you who promote the Unity of all religions. I understand and respect your conclusion that there is one God who is beyond all name and definition, whose works are not contradicted by science or the logical observations of modern man. These Christians are not the ones satirized by by web link to Landover Baptist. A lifetime of contemplation is not bad.

However, to these sincere people whom I respect, I ask, if you are one with God, why do you externalize the God you worship? Is he not yourself? And having come to this realization, can you not accept that the concept of God is superfluous? If you and God are not the same, you are practicing a lower, superstitious version of your religion. If you are the same, what do you need God for? Is He not an impediment, a false wall between yourself and the present moment?

I am going to try to stop ranting against Christians, mostly because if you are still There, you are not willing to accept responsibility for your own actions, etc. -- mostly, you are going to miss the point of what I say here. Again, you can live your life in delusion, that is your right. Christianity is better for you than crack, so whatever gets you through the night. But just realize that's your drug of choice.

Personally, I have come to the conclusion that living is something I have to do right here, right now. My whole job right now is to live my life, one measureless moment at a time.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Intro to this blog - THIS MAY NOT BE FOR YOU.

I finally decided to quit just reading other people's blogs and post my own. I do occasionally post and appear in multiple places on the internet; when I post in the Zen rooms, I try to be somewhat politely Zen. When I am hosting something I try to be polite, neutral, etc., although I can rarely help being something of a smartass.

This is different. If you are a Christian, a right-winger, an illiterate, a redneck or a child, THIS MAY NOT BE FOR YOU.

All day long most days I am surrounded by idiots and have no one to talk to but idiots. I spend as much time as possible in the company of people who have actually undertaken to learn and understand something about their world, but that time is the minority. So I am not going to pander here to anyone's lack of understanding; simple ignorance is excusable and forgivable, as well as curable, but if you are an adult and you have never even begun to try to think things out for yourself, or to investigate or step out of the box, there is something seriously wrong with you. You are deficient. If you believe in Santa Claus for adults and that is the way you reconcile the wretched nature of your own existence, perhaps you should realize that you have been spoon-fed comfortable lies by everyone beginning with your parents, perhaps because they didn't know any better. It is in the interest of the entities who control your world today to keep you as the sheep you are.

WAKE UP! Your life today, right here and at this moment is all you have. Take off the blinders; throw away your dope, your pills and powders, your idiot religions and totalitarian indoctrination We live in a society which becomes less literate, less educated and intelligent every day. We are racing towards a new Dark Age. Your President is not the cause, he is a symptom. The society that would inculcate, manifest and empower such an obviously shallow parody of a leader was diseased long before he appeared. He is as much of a victim as the rest of us.

Victim of what? Ignorance! Self-perpetuating, self-aggrandizing ignorance. Evil is not the problem; it doesn't even exist, it's just a label for things different from you. Greed is a natural animal characteristic. Ignorance is the whole problem, the only problem there is. Most of the people I encounter are not only stupid, but aggressively stupid -- they want you to be stupid too, and they are hurt and pissed-off and aggressive if you are not.

So this blog is for me to vent steam. It may piss you off. You may choose not to read it. As Jethro Tull said, "I may make you feel, but I can't make you think."

So if you want to think, you need to find out how to do that on your own. If you want my help I'll give it to you, but you have to be willing to listen.

But isn't it about time?