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You are currently viewing archive for December 2006
Posted By Bakari

Buddhism doesn't believe in a supreme creator God, and different sects believe different things, but there are (in some versions and texts) other worldly or other dimensional beings, be they Gods, angels, spirits, or whatever.
They also believe in literal Karma, of being re-born indefinitely.
It still involves meta-physics, and it still involves faith.

The Mormons make a significant and deliberate point of saying that every individual should turn to God themselves and ask whether their teachings are true, they don't ask that you just believe what they tell you.

Buddhism specifically instructs its followers to refrain from "Sexual Misconduct" (although it does not specify what that means) and Buddhist monks and nuns are expected to remain celibate, just as Christian ones are.  Gender roles are determined and rigid.

Which is not to say it isn't a better religion in terms of its practical effects on society, but I don't see how it is any more or less "plausible".

Many westerners seem to have a view of Buddhism which would apply better to Taoism.
It is really more of a philosophy than a religion.

BTW I did figure out what you meant - I thought it was obvious, but maybe that's just me.

Personally, I find "spirituality" to be just as silly as religion.  It requires a denial of both the physical senses and common sense. I believe that thought is basically complex emotion, emotion is complex instinct, instinct is complex stimulus-response, stimulus-response is complex biology, biology is complex chemistry, chemistry is complex physics, and that's all there is.
But if some people can experience a personal higher power, or interconnectedness, or whatever, maybe people feel a sign that the Book of Mormon is really true once they read it and pray.  I think individuals of all religions are expected to not just believe, but to feel it is true from personal experience.  Just look at the practitioners "speaking in tongues".  And they say that everyone, given a life of goodness and faith, can achieve salvation, not just the Prophets.
Oh, and JCI doesn't just condone war against other religions, it insists on it.  And not just other religions, but anyone from the "countries around you".  And you can find people who are intelligent, who think critically, within every religion, no matter how stupid.  That's the thing about faith

Posted By Bakari

The pain ray, and the video I saw, and the comments on it, and looking up the PNAC, and from there about the "conspiracy theories" surrounding 9/11/01, got me thinking about all that again.

Obviously there are some theories out there which are born of hear-say, conjecture, misinformation, and ignorance.
Others have not really been addressed in any serious way - and probably could not be.
The people who object to them, (Popular Mechanics, John McCain, 9/ tend to point out the reasons why such and such could have physically happened the way the official version says it did, or why such and such theory is impossible.
They then also say something along the lines of it being both unscientific and and detrimental to America to suggest such things.
But how it happened is not the point, and never was.

Never mind that they were supposedly unable to find any of 4 blackboxes at the WTC center site (which are specifically designed to withstand a crash -  that is the entire point of their existence - and give of a signal to aid in their recovery) but they were able to find a passport made of paper within hours - which happened to belong to one of the "terrorists"; it could happen.
Never mind that the damage to the pentagon was substantially smaller than the size of the plane which was supposed to have hit it, and that there was no sign of pieces of wing, engine or other plane parts visible anywhere on the site (or that video of the event was confiscated, or that it just happened to hit the one wing of the building which had just been reinforced and was largely empty due to the renovation), perhaps the engines vaporized but the fuselage punched through, could happen.
Never mind that WTC 7 (which housed the FBI, CIA, and SEC - including the files on prosecuting Enron and dozens of other corrupt corporations) collapsed entirely due to fire and being hit with falling debris - unlike WTC 3, 4, 5, 6 and every other building in the area - which is unprecedented in all the rest of history.  That too could be a coincidence.


If every thing physically happened exactly the way the official version says, that does not in anyway make it less likely Americans - and specifically the government - was directly involved.
If they were, we would likely never know.
They certainly had a lot to gain from it, much more than the Islamists did.


It would not have taken much.
Say 1/10 the members of the PNAC ( , ), 5 high level, trusted CIA agents, and 2 or 3 trusted Saudi Arabians, Bin Ladens perhaps.  The PNAC is the primary think tank of the neocon movement, and includes people who have held high government positions for the past half century and other rich and powerful people, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush, Zalmay Khalilzad, Richard Perle, Richard Armitage, Dan Quayle, and Steve Forbes.


They plan what the targets should be, maximum effect, minimum actual damage, and believable.  Something symbolic, but not catastrophic.  A military target to justify a military response, and plenty of civilian deaths to get the American people agitated.  They provide limited cash, but that's it, for fear of ever being caught. Mostly what they would have provided was the idea, what to do, how to do it. 


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Posted By Bakari



The first was The Nation, which is strongly liberal, entirely political.
The article was pro-immigration.  Presumably the readership would be largely if not entirely liberal, yet the responces to the article, more than half of what was published, were negative.
That came as quite a surprize.
The second was Playboy, which is also consistantly liberal, but which - for obvious reasons - has a more direvse readership.
It is too soon for anyone to have written in yet, but I know they will.

So, I wrote in to both.  I have had several short letters to the editors published in the past couple of months (PopSci about energy efficiancy, PopMec about the efficiancy of living in an RV, and possibly Sierra Club on BioDiesel - they said they would, but I never found it).
Kind of like this blog, except much shorter - and read by thousands of people!

So, anyway, here is, more or less, what I wrote:

I would like to write in support of "The Immigration Mess" in advance, because I know plenty of your readers will write in with the usual objections.
I'd be willing to wager that all of the people who object so strongly to illegal immigration personally use more than their share of world resources and energy.
The majority own things made in non union factories, or out of the country.
They don't realize that they personally benefit everyday from our exploitation of Mexico, as well as many other countries, not only here, but also from the low prices they get when our factories move to Mexico.
They did not object so strongly to NAFTA.  They are OK with money passing over the border.  Just not the people who that money might otherwise belong to.
More importantly, none of us earned being an American, and therefor they can't claim to deserve any of the privileges of living here.
They got lucky being born here.
They also draw distinction between legal and illegal.  Whether something is legal is independent of whether it is moral.
Slavery was once legal, and alcohol was illegal.  At one time forcing sex on ones wife was legal, but sodomy between consenting adults was illegal.
If those people who wrote in happened to have been born in poverty in another country, chances are they might feel a little different.
Lastly, we should all keep in mind that we took most of the South West from Mexico (4 1/2 states in exchange for only $15 million) after winning a war which we started.

Posted By Bakari

Looking up an article for the "pain ray" (Military 'Active Denial System') which basically uses a radio frequency similar to microwaves to heat up the skin of nearby rioters or protesters (she wanted to know if it was real - it is) I came across a link to a BBC documentary on the simultaneous rise of the NeoCon and Islamic Fundamentalist movements.
They both were largely inspired by what they saw as the corruption of modern life in America, caused by the incorporation of liberal values throughout society.  For an muslim visiting America, this was represented by young people at a dance.
People were becoming "too selfish" which prevented them from focusing on what is really important - God, and the words which were written hundreds of years ago by a guy who claimed to be able to talk directly with God.
Interestingly, while they do mention the religious component of the neocons ideas, they never mention the economic components.
The Muslims at least are consistent, and in that have a sort of personal integrity, even if it is based on something utterly stupid.
For the conservative movement, christianity is only half the story.
They also want unlimited wealth for the wealthy.
This is what caused them to hate the USSR so much.  When they speak of "The American Way of Life" they want the listener to believe they talking about "family values" or "freedom" or something of the like, but what they really mean is capitalism.
By very definition, capitalism's goal is maxing it easy for someone who already has money to make more money with out working.
It is about earning interest on your capital, investing.
We make it seem like it should be taken for granted that people can earn interest through investments, but this concept is not universal.
Beyond the obvious case of communists, muslims are forbidden to earn interest on their money.  However, this is not just written in the Koran.  It is written in the Bible, (remember Islam and Christian and probably 95% exactly the same - they seem more different than that because christians choose to ignore the parts of the bible which aren't convenient)
The bible also says you must pay your workers daily, you must forgive all debts every 7 years, neither work nor allow employees to work on Sunday, in addition to not charging interest on borrowed money. (Slavery is ok, though)
So much for the country being based on "christian' values.  It is based on business, and pretty much always has been.

I am getting side-tracked

Aside from the money issue, american conservatives and islamic fundamentalists are largely the same thing.
They are both against personal freedoms.
They would both prefer to outlaw abortion, sex outside of marriage, any non-medical drug use.  Both would like law based on religious books (although, as above, the conservatives would like to pick and choose which Bible verses became law).  They both believe that morality itself is based on a book.  They both are more than willing to kill those who disagree with them (though, for political reasons, the conservatives try to mostly kill people in other countries)
They should be good friends.
And in fact they used to be.


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Posted By Bakari

The article in my last entry was written in 1932

74 years ago, and as accurate a portrayal of modern life today as it was then. 
Only the USSR he speaks of has fallen, adopting our system of "free market"
In the US production increases every year - an increase in per capita GDP of over 7 times, or almost 10% per year; yet work hours have been constant ever since - slightly increasing for most, decreasing for some, balancing out to an average of... exactly the same: slightly more than the 40 hour week which was made standard not long before the essay was written.
Since productivity has increased 7 fold, while hours have remained constant, presumably median real income (after accounting for inflation) would have also increased 7 fold.
In actuality, median pay has increased around 2.1 times from 1948 to 2004 (earliest data I can find).

The one thing this otherwise excellent essay misses is that, while the land holding privileged class of royalty has been eliminated, they have been replaced indirectly by the societal acceptance of virtually unrestricted investment returns and inheritance.
Through them the primary owners and controllers of major corporations have taken the place of a class which does not have to do any real work but can instead charge ordinary people for the privilege of living and working on their land or in their companies.
It is much more their choice than the workers themselves that, for example, when the pin making machine is invented and production per person doubles, the work force is halved instead of individual hours.
It is to the advantage of the company - or, more specifically the owners and investors, who do no actual work but keep a percentage of the earnings, to have fewer people with more hours, as there is always a per person cost in taxes and benefits above the cost of wages.
With the introduction of the labor saving device, the employing company could choose to have all employees work half as often with the same total pay.  The employees are only given the choice of cut hours at reduced pay or 50% lay offs.  Given that, they prefer to retain the 8 hour day.  Were the company to continue to pay the same weekly rate for less hours (or double the hourly rate and halve the hours) it would not lose any money.  It would be exactly where it had been all along.  If it had been sustainably profitable before, i t would continue to be.
However, the assumption in our society is that the company gets to reap the full benefit of the new invention.
Thus the increase in GDP over the years is primarily concentrated in the hands of those who need it least.
It is not actually true in most years that "the poor get poorer while the rich get richer"
A more accurate statement would be "the poor get slightly richer while the rich get much much richer", which is really just as bad.

There are over 400 Americans with more than 1 billion dollars.
Few enough to fit in a large banquet hall or conference room.
Between the 400 richest individuals is personal ownership of 1.25 trillion dollars.
(worldwide there are 793 billionaires, with a total of 2.6 trillion - more than half are Americans)
The total GDP for the US is around 12.5 Trillion.

In other words, 400 people control 10% of all the wealth in the country.

Divided equally among the population, 12.5 trillion would mean $41,600 per person (including children and other non-workers)


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Posted By Bakari

 By Bertrand Russell

"Like most of my generation, I was brought up on the saying: 'Satan finds some mischief for idle hands to do.' Being a highly virtuous child, I believed all that I was told, and acquired a conscience which has kept me working hard down to the present moment. But although my conscience has controlled my actions, my opinions have undergone a revolution. I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached. Everyone knows the story of the traveler in Naples who saw twelve beggars lying in the sun (it was before the days of Mussolini), and offered a lira to the laziest of them. Eleven of them jumped up to claim it, so he gave it to the twelfth. this traveler was on the right lines. But in countries which do not enjoy Mediterranean sunshine idleness is more difficult, and a great public propaganda will be required to inaugurate it. I hope that, after reading the following pages, the leaders of the YMCA will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain...."

"First of all: what is work? Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid. The second kind is capable of indefinite extension: there are not only those who give orders, but those who give advice as to what orders should be given. Usually two opposite kinds of advice are given simultaneously by two organized bodies of men; this is called politics. The skill required for this kind of work is not knowledge of the subjects as to which advice is given, but knowledge of the art of persuasive speaking and writing, i.e. of advertising..."

"From the beginning of civilization until the Industrial Revolution, a man could, as a rule, produce by hard work little more than was required for the subsistence of himself and his family, although his wife worked at least as hard as he did, and his children added their labor as soon as they were old enough to do so. The small surplus above bare necessaries was not left to those who produced it, but was appropriated by warriors and priests. In times of famine there was no surplus; the warriors and priests, however, still secured as much as at other times, with the result that many of the workers died of hunger. This system persisted in Russia until 1917 [1], and still persists in the East; in England, in spite of the Industrial Revolution, it remained in full force throughout the Napoleonic wars, and until a hundred years ago, when the new class of manufacturers acquired power. In America, the system came to an end with the Revolution, except in the South, where it persisted until the Civil War. A system which lasted so long and ended so recently has naturally left a profound impress upon men's thoughts and opinions. Much that we take for granted about the desirability of work is derived from this system, and, being pre-industrial, is not adapted to the modern world. Modern technique has made it possible for leisure, within limits, to be not the prerogative of small privileged classes, but a right evenly distributed throughout the community. The morality of work is the morality of slaves, and the modern world has no need of slavery."


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