Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Andrew Sullivan on Obama-Clinton

Wherein he argues (correctly I think) that Clinton has political post-traumatic stress disorder. Understandably so, but real nonetheless. And not a prescription of hope for the future.

The choice between Clinton and Obama is the choice between a defensive crouch and a confident engagement. It is the choice between someone who lost their beliefs in a welter of fear; and someone who has faith that his worldview can persuade a majority.
Post-Boomer politics, please God. Even if its too liberal for my tastes (which with Obama it is), I think I'll have to take it over the alternative.

Iraq's Humanitarian Crisis

BAGHDAD, July 30 -- Living conditions in Iraq have deteriorated significantly since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, leaving nearly one-third of the population in need of emergency aid, a consortium of relief organizations said in a report released Monday.

The numbers in the report offer a contrast to the picture of steadily improving conditions painted by the Iraqi government and the U.S. military over the past several months. Seventy percent of Iraqi residents lack adequate water supplies, compared with 50 percent in 2003, while more than 4 million people have been displaced during that time. Yet funding for humanitarian assistance in Iraq has declined precipitously, from $453 million in 2005 to $95 million in 2006.

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I Heart Ana Marie Cox

My favorite political blogger. (An ace at the art of blogging).

Exhibit A: Her post today. (Read the whole thing: covers Obama-Hillary foreign policy spat + Bill's intervention, the gay-debate, the Daily Show, Ted Stevens, Cheney and Chief Justice Roberts all in one.)

Oh and the war: Pretty excerpt (HH=Hugh Hewitt):

You know things are bad when the pro-war blogosphere is trumpeting this bit of "good news":

HH: Do you believe that, John Burns, that the war is lost?

JB: No, I don’t, actually. I think the war is close to lost, but I don’t think that all hope is extinguished.

All hope isn't extinguished! Wooo-hooo! Where's that on the "hope-o-meter"? Somewhat more hopeful than "in the midst of a sustained, bloody, humanitarian crisis" but less hopeful than "We'll be greeted as liberators"? Let me know.

Sec of State

Not so good....hedgehogs everywhere.
clipped from news.yahoo.com
Asia's largest security meeting has a notable absentee: Condoleezza Rice.
The U.S. secretary of state is forgoing this week's annual ASEAN Regional Forum to visit Saudi Arabia and Egypt in yet another American effort to stabilize the situation in Iraq ahead of September's key administration report to Congress on military and political conditions there.
Rice's decision to skip the Asian security meeting for a second year was perceived by some in the region as a slight. Her absence comes at a difficult time for American diplomats in Southeast Asia, already assaulted by complaints that Washington is turning its back on a part of the world that once stood near the top of its foreign policy agenda.
It also comes as China, the new megapower on the Southeast Asian block, is deepening its economic, cultural and military footprint in its traditional backyard.
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I've been feeling in a rut-like state for awhile now. I'm not sure how or why (serendipity as C4 would probably say) but I've found myself facing back into work on my bodymind. Namely life skills--an ability to trust my own intuition and to, how do I put this, just do stuff correctly in life.

Translation is not a really helpful term, but it's in that arena.

Human potential has too much of a 60s California ring to it---no saunas or hot tub conversating with anyone.

So I've got no word (yet?) for it, but it goes on, needing not a conscious word to encapsulate.

I experienced a very powerful visualization yesterday.

[Timeout: I hate the word visualization (am I the only one?) but again what the hell other word covers it. I guess technically I hate what New Age has done to the word....my apologizes Sister Visualization. Visualization minus the hooky-ass flim-flam connotations].

Timein: The visualization gave me a sense of my voice that I had not experienced before. Or at least not trusted in the same way before.

I was struggling for awhile with this idea that I had no connection to my subtle faculties. That I was all conscious mind/rational.

I mean I don't have the visionary qualities of Joe, the artistic genius of the Polysemy crew, or the emotional and pastoral subtlety of Shannon (Erosophy).

Compared to all that, I'm just a nice guy book nerd. Or so I thought.

But there is one other: voice.

I don't really cover it here at "IU" but the voice (a voice?) emerges (submerges?) in preaching and teaching.

Continue Reading

For the record, I don't posts my sermons because:
A)I never write them down (I don't use notes, ever).
B)They are experiential and can not be conveyed through the written word (as a series of "Talks" say). That might work for others, but not for me.

And the other realm is where I use the writing medium to push my mind/attention to its edges, even just beyond them. For me, that is my meditations on post-metaphysics.

On that topic a note of thanks to readers. My thoughts on post-metaphysics consistently get more hits than anything else on this site. Plus some very kind reader response to those pieces has encouraged me in that regard.

In short, I've been given a series of great graces: a visual/path to reconnect whenever necessary (in image form) to the source of my passion and mission. [in broad outline only].

The rest of the effort and the real hard work to come will be making all that concrete. That is where so much of my struggle originates from. Because a voice, teaching, speaking, writing is so abstract, it can easily float away.

I'm from a very non-personal (not anti-personal just un-personal) spiritual tradition. A path that puts the major emphasis on detachment, awareness, humor, sacrifice, and abandonment. So language/practices of achievement, hell even focus, is quite difficult for me.

I went tip-toeing down this same road a few years back, in some ways very unprepared, and got burned as a result. That time taught me a great deal about the need for psychological smarts on the spiritual path, particularly in the mode of accepting (relatively).

That gives me more trust heading back into these waters. i.e. That whatever arises again--in the way of fear, failure--can be accepted.

But the acceptance that I have these underlying issues is not enough. Necessary but not sufficient. I still want to work on them. It'll never be perfectly healed or fixed or cleared or whatever term is best.

But some of it clearly has to be or else the pattern from my life up to now will simply repeat and these elements will bring down, sabotage the voice elements.

When I spent years as a spiritual seeker I faced some crazy stuff--don't know how else to put it. Stuff that I think for others would be pretty terrifying. By grace, they weren't as much for me. I think in large measure because I had been raised in and had models of people (both alive and dead) who made me less afraid.

This other element, the psychological/worldly (gross bodymind ego), I really don't have models for. This side of life, which for others comes fairly naturally, is for me profoundly terrifying. Because I feel going into it that I am truly alone.

Facing the question of the ultimate nature of all existence, one is truly alone. In my case, I think my difficulties with low self-esteem actually were a great gift. Because you have to face the real possibility that your life will be annihilated and there is no guarantee that you will be embraced by the Void of Godhead. You may be crushed. It happens. There is no knowing why this is the case for some and not others.

For adoptees the self is usually not felt as wrong but as not "there". Empty--not Shunyata Empty/Emptiness but just something is missing. There's no there there. So I think when facing the Void I was not as concerned about the possibility of a loss of myself because I wasn't even sure I had a self. [I mean a relative self]. And if I did, I apparently wasn't really that concerned about its possible destruction---upshot of the low esteem.

Detachment is not about seeking out certain forms of realization, needing them, identifying with them, making oneself into a spiritual hero/athlete. But it is also not to actively prevent them from occurring either. That is the other side of the seeking coin (negative seeking). You are equally free for them to arise as to be absent.

I (consciously and unconsciously) negatively seek on my bodymind level. Shadow hugging it is sometimes called. In this case I'll be alone but the curse that was my gift the last time around (low esteem) will be the gift that is my curse. Not an aid, but the very crux of the issue itself.

Knowing all this heading in doesn't in any way solve anything. The best it can do is give me perspective to respond with some more humor and grace to whatever arises.

I want to give--my true desire. But the road to hell is paved with good even holy desires. I don't want to give all of this shadow--like smallpox on a blanket.

vol 2

I've had a couple mental breakthroughs on my larger project at the moment: an application of post-metaphysics to Biblical theology.

It will do a couple of things (a la Integral Politics)
  • 1)Index through dominant perspectives the major schools of Biblical interpretation already in existence.
  • 2)Having seen that, offer a more inclusive vision. (Theory)
  • 3)Point towards a deeper, more liberating, biblical praxis.
The reason I think to do this, this general view, is simply to breathe some more air/consciousness into the otherwise currently cramped environs. I also hope it could go some way to bridging gaps between academic theology and local churches/believers. Particularly to do something about the horrific state of preaching in most churches.

And further to point to the Biblical texts as the main spring of all theological thinking. I'm not particularly impressed by so much non-Biblical theology. [This btw is why showing the deep Biblical nature of the mystical path is so important--to counter charges that it is a non-Biblical, even pagan, import].

I take very seriously Wilber's notion of freedom through limitation. That the real "enemy" (as it were) is not what already arises but the "isms" that grow around them.

Conservative not conservatism.
Liberal not liberalism.
Science not scientism.
Fundamentals not fundamentalism.
evangelical not Evangelicalism
catholic not Catholicism

This is a huge issue in the field of biblical studies, not just across the liberal/conservative divide (at each level plus levels up/down) but more I find between the different paradigms: form critics versus historical source critics versus sociological critics versus literary.....

Not that everyone has to become master of all sub-specializations (which is impossible anyway) but so that we have a way to be and do together, mentally as well as emotionally. Consciousness as incorporating both the cognitive and affective dimensions. It brings a freedom and lightness I find (when done properly) versus heavy handed categorizations and anti-intellectualism that is the possible shadow of this way.

Otherwise the (non)choice is further balkanization, mini-fiefdoms, ego battles in academia, particularly over reduced funding, less theological students, etc. This way you actually give a reason for theological education. As opposed to assuming an entire worldview/system and philosophy of education from the secular world and then replicating it theologically and then wondering why the numbers keep dwindling.

Anyway, that soap box aside, a couple of interesting points have already emerged---Habermas and validity claims with regards to textual criticism and textual transmission of the Biblical canon; a cutting of the Gordian Knot that is the Jesus of History vs. Christ of Faith (non)debate; the introduction of mystical criticism. But I don't want to give away too many of the details just yet.

The concept of "natural transcendence"--immanental transcendentalism is the real key. With immanence having levels of expression.

My Old Employers

clipped from www.nytimes.com

United Parcel Service said yesterday that it would offer health benefits to its employees’ partners in civil unions in New Jersey, 10 days after Gov. Jon S. Corzine wrote a letter urging it to comply with the state’s five-month-old civil union law.

The policy decision was a reversal for the company, which had said it could not offer such benefits because the couples were not legally married, and will affect an unspecified number of United Parcel’s 8,700 employees who belong to the Teamsters union.

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socio-cultural (lower left and right) inherent throughout the Kosmos.
clipped from www.nytimes.com
In recent papers, Dr. Nowak has argued that cooperation is one of the three basic principles of evolution. The other two are mutation and selection. On their own, mutation and selection can transform a species, giving rise to new traits like limbs and eyes. But cooperation is essential for life to evolve to a new level of organization. Single-celled protozoa had to cooperate to give rise to the first multicellular animals. Humans had to cooperate for complex societies to emerge.
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More on Biden being right for Iraq

Helene Cooper in the NYTimes (arguing he may be running for Sec. of State).

She writes:

The proposal acknowledges forthrightly what a growing number of Middle East experts say is plain as day: Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis are not moving toward reconciliation; they still haven’t managed to get an oil law passed, and de facto ethnic cleansing is under way as Sunnis flee largely Shiite neighborhoods and towns, and vice versa.

The plan was dumped on when it came out last year. “Partitioning Iraq: No Starter” was the headline on a column by George Hishmeh in Gulf News, a daily newspaper that specializes in the Middle East. Mr. Hishmeh, a former writer for the United States Information Agency, pointed out a common complaint about the partition idea, that the very word “partition” has a bad ring to Arab ears given that a United Nations partition plan paved the way for the creation of the State of Israel.

Foreign policy analysts also pointed out that breaking up Iraq could cause bloodletting (as if that isn’t happening now) in Iraq’s urban areas. While Sunnis predominate in the western part of the country, Kurds in the north, and Shiites in the south, Iraq’s cities are not as homogeneous. Baghdad, Kirkuk and Mosul don’t have clear geographical lines separating the main groups.

Or at least they didn’t. The reality is, Iraq’s cities have become far more homogeneous recently as terrified residents have fled areas where their ethnic group doesn’t predominate. The neighborhoods around the edges of Baghdad have already experienced a lot of ethnic cleansing.

Officially, Bush administration officials maintain that they share President Bush’s hopes that increased American troop strength in Baghdad will tamp down the violence and create political space for Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds to reach a political solution. But testimony and interviews this month about conditions in Iraq indicated that the administration is already making de facto moves towards partition.

tags technorati :
tags technorati :

The Truths of "Ir-rationality"

Really enlightening (and sad) op-ed from Harriet Washington in the NYTimes. She works off the recent release of the Bulgarian nurses from Libya charged with consciously infecting children with HIV. Washington explores the more widespread fear of medicine in certain parts of Africa, and where the truth underlying the psyche of the charges--though not the truth of the charges in that actual case.

Washington writes:
Africa has harbored a number of high-profile Western medical miscreants who have intentionally administered deadly agents under the guise of providing health care or conducting research. In March 2000, Werner Bezwoda, a cancer researcher at South Africa’s Witwatersrand University, was fired after conducting medical experiments involving very high doses of chemotherapy on black breast-cancer patients, possibly without their knowledge or consent. In Zimbabwe, in 1995, Richard McGown, a Scottish anesthesiologist, was accused of five murders and convicted in the deaths of two infant patients whom he injected with lethal doses of morphine. And Dr. Michael Swango, ultimately convicted of murder after pleading guilty to killing three American patients with lethal injections of potassium, is suspected of causing the deaths of 60 other people, many of them in Zimbabwe and Zambia during the 1980s and ’90s. (Dr. Swango was never tried on the African charges.)
In other words, though again in this case these people were not guilty, the fear itself is not completely irrational.

Washington again:

Such tragedies highlight the challenges facing even the most idealistic medical workers, who can find themselves working under unhygienic conditions that threaten patients’ welfare. Well-meaning Western caregivers must sometimes use incompletely cleaned or unsterilized needles, simply because nothing else is available. These needles can and do spread infectious agents like H.I.V. — proving that Western medical practices need not be intentional to be deadly. Although the World Health Organization maintains that the reuse of syringes without sterilization accounts for only 2.5 percent of new H.I.V. infections in Africa, a 2003 study in The International Journal of S.T.D. and AIDS found that as many as 40 percent of H.I.V. infections in Africa are caused by contaminated needles during medical treatment. Even the conservative W.H.O. estimate translates to tens of thousands of cases.

In fact regarding the Bulgarian case, this unintended infection (perhaps even prior to the arrival of the Bulgarian nurses) was in fact the cause of the children's infections. If true, this would make the charges of the Libyan government not as crazy as they seemed prima facie.

The conclusion:
Certainly, the vast majority of beneficent Western medical workers in Africa are to be thanked, not censured. But the canon of “silence equals death” applies here: We are ignoring a responsibility to defend the mass of innocent Western doctors against the belief that they are not treating disease, but intentionally spreading it. We should approach Africans’ suspicions with respect, realizing that they are born of the acts of a few monsters and of the deadly constraints on medical care in difficult conditions. By continuing to dismiss their reasonable fears, we raise the risk of even more needless illness and death.

Fun Fact for the Day

clipped from www.nytimes.com
And if her mother, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, manages to become the first female president of the United States, Chelsea Clinton could be in a historic, head-spinning position of her own: the first first child twice over.
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Monday, July 30, 2007

More on Thompson in Possible Trouble

From Politico on his money raising troubles:
Fred Thompson plans to announce Tuesday that his committee to test the waters
for a Republican presidential campaign raised slightly more than $3 million in
June, substantially less than some backers had hoped, according to Republican
sources. But many Republicans have turned queasy as Thompson has ousted part of
his original brain trust and repeatedly delayed his official announcement, which
is now planned for shortly after Labor Day, in the first two weeks of September.
Some are already saying a prospective Thompson run is a flop. “I just don’t see
it anymore,” said a key Republican who had been extremely enthusiastic about a
Thompson candidacy. "That number is really underwhelming. There were
indications it could be double that. They've been saying that people were
waiting for Fred, and the money was going to pour in. He looks like he's already
losing momentum."

Official word from the campaign is that this is a solid achievement for a "testing the waters" only mode---i.e. he's not fully decided yet, which seems unlikely to me.

Meanwhile, news on the Giuliani front is that his campaign machinery is starting to finally click. With Romney putting so much into Iowa and New Hampshire, I think Fred may be smart to go for a VP Run with Giuliani. I just don't think Thompson has the follow-through to run the campaign the way it will need to be done. But we'll see.

Giuliani-Thompson looks like the strongest GOP Ticket in my mind.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Demetri Martin: Classic

Maliki and Petraeus: Not the Best of Friends

(Hat tip: Juan Cole).

In this article from the AP, we learn Maliki and Petraeus have an extremely cool, if not decidedly hostile relationship. Not to mention the Maliki-Crocker combo.

Consider the following:
A key aide says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s relations with U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus are so poor the Iraqi leader may ask Washington the withdraw the well-regarded U.S. military leader from duty here.
If that happens, the rest of the Republicans bolt on Bush and blame the Iraqis.

On Petraeus' side the Iraqi army and police are infiltrated with Shia sectarian death squads and Maliki, who owes his position to them, is never (and I mean never) going to take them head on. Because he knows the Americans will be out and the "death squads" are the only force for protecting Shia communities.

On Maliki's side he still wants and does not have actual control of his country's own army. Maliki is also furious at the US arming of Sunni insurgents. Because again he knows those weapons are going to be used on his people and perhaps him personally. The American leadership is so clueless as to think they can integrate these Sunni groups into the regular Iraqi Army. Arming people for a coming fight. That is all.

On the Crocker end, Maliki is unable to get anything done on oil law (the oil minister has called oil unions in Iraq "illegitimate"--these groups oppose the drafted oil law as a giveaway to foreign companies), reversing de-Baathification (probably because he doesn't want them back in, Sadr doesn't, Sistani and SIIC oppose, and the Council is headed by our old friend Ahmad Chalabi who is as we know pro-Iranian, hence anti-Baathist), and all the other so-called political benchmarks.

The surge is going to work how?

And these intriguing possibility:

A lawmaker from the al-Sadr bloc, who refused use of his name fearing the party would expel him over his continued close ties to al-Maliki, said the prime minister has complained to U.S. President George W. Bush about the policy of arming Sunnis. “He told Bush that if Petraeus continues doing that he would arm Shiite Militias. Bush told al-Maliki to calm down,” according to the lawmaker who said he was told of the exchange by al-Maliki.

Of course that could be psych-ops on the part of the Sadrists or even Maliki.

What the Americans do not understand is these guys lived in exile from Hussein who had agents all over and was very adept at assassination in foreign countries. Or dirty deals to get opposition figures outside the country. In other words, men like Maliki are inherently conspiratorial, even paranoid, and honestly rightfully so.

Arming Sunnis to him means the return of Saddam. Period. He will see it no other way. The only response in that situation is to arm your own guys. If the Americans think they can isolate the Mahdi Army/Sadrist movement from Maliki by arming Sunnis, they are only driving them back together.

Thompson Already in Trouble?

clipped from www.nytimes.com
Former Senator Fred D. Thompson has yet to make a formal declaration that he is running for president, but already his noncampaign campaign has gone through its first shake-up.
It also ignited speculation in Republican circles about who is really in charge, and in particular about the extent of the role being played by Mr. Thompson’s wife, Jeri Kehn Thompson, a former political operative.
“They are dancing on the edge, and it’s a pretty sharp edge,” said Robert Haus, a Republican political consultant in Des Moines. “In all fairness, you have to assume that the Thompson campaign is trying to quickly put bricks and mortar under some very high expectations.”

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The main question has always been his drive/follow-through. Still a major question in my mind.

Best Posssible Near Term Outcome in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- President Gen. Pervez Musharraf held secret talks with opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a government minister said Saturday. Media widely reported that the once-bitter rivals discussed a power-sharing deal.

Such an alliance could strengthen the increasingly embattled Musharraf by bringing the secular, liberal opposition into his government amid growing concern about a rise in Islamic militancy. Analysts said Pakistan's Western allies would welcome that.

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Cold War 2.0

This is it....this is where Bush's stupidity is heading, a new Cold War and the US instigating a "Green Curtain" in the Arab world (i.e. are the Soviets this time?).

A must read (and long ponder) article from Robin Wright in the Washington Post. This the real legacy of Bush, not Iraq.


After three decades of festering tensions, the United States and Iran are now facing off in a full-fledged cold war. When the first Cold War began, in 1946, Winston Churchill famously spoke of an Iron Curtain that had divided Europe. As Cold War II begins half a century later, the Bush administration is trying to drape a kind of Green Curtain dividing the Middle East between Iran's friends and foes. The new showdown may well prove to be the most enduring legacy of the Iraq conflict. The outcome will certainly shape the future of the Middle East -- not least because the administration's strategy seems so unlikely to work.

Gates and Rice, former Cold Warriors (very 20th century in their [non]thinking) are doing the only thing they know how to do--re-run the game plan from the 70s/80s. Except that they don't realize the obviousness of what the analogy is.

They are going to sell massive arms to Sunni Gulf States. As part of their "moderates versus extremists" '08 Tour. Stops include: West Bank--Fatah over Hamas; Beirut--Fouad Sinora over Hezbollah; funding anti-Iranian terrorist organizations like MEK; backing the Saudis at any price.

Problems with this Cold War Reunion Tour (any and all of the following):

1)The Saudis, push come to shove, will deal with Iran (pan-Muslim identity) as was evident in the Saudi-Iranian backed deal to form the Palestinian Unity government.
2)The Saudis will still never accept the Iraqi Shia Government. The Iraqi Shia government has already had talks with Syria and Iran. It can't help but be a strong ally of Iran.
3)Hezbollah can not be "de-fanged"
4)Syria controls strong levers in any Palestinian-Israeli deal. No peace with the Golan Heights. And they will not deal unless they get back into the game.
5)The American support for Sunni extremist groups against Hezbollah has already back fired (surprise, surprise) in the recent attacks on the Lebanese government and the rise of al-Qaeda like cells in Lebanon amongst Palestinian refugees.

The roots of Cold War II lie in the Bush administration's decision to remove regimes it considered enemies after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The first two targets were the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq -- coincidentally, both foes of Iran that had served as important checks on Tehran's power. The United States has now taken on the role traditionally played by Iraq as the regional counterweight to Iran.

i.e. We set this train in motion and there is no going back on it now. This was the point of acute observers prior to the Iraqi invasion: if you want this to work you are going to have to normalize relations with Iran.

The basic U.S. premise -- isolating regional foes behind the Green Curtain -- is in trouble even among Washington's closest allies. "The United States is trying to define the main line of confrontation as the extremist camp versus the camp of moderation, a division which does not exist," Pillar said. "It may be reflective of our rhetoric and the way Americans see the world, but it is not reflective of the realities in the Middle East." The geography of Cold War II is also not as neat as that of Cold War I. Some of Iran's proxies (such as Hezbollah) operate in pockets within countries (such as Lebanon) whose governments are aligned with the United States. "The problem with the administration's portrait," Riedel said, "is that it would take multiple Green Curtains."
The only good, seems to me, that can come off this is a Truman-like establishment of NATO, defense of Turkey & Greece and then later administrations start the market connections into Iran (i.e. take the ceiling off the embargoes) and then Iran gets the bomb and then falls within a longer time frame.

But I just don't see it working with Iran's very shrewd diplomacy and connections across the region.

The End as the Beginning?

clipped from www.guardian.co.uk
There is an overwhelming case for the Pentagon and the White House to set out the full and true contingency options. It would be reassuring if Gordon Brown were to take such a message to Bush at Camp David this weekend. And even more surprising if Bush was to listen. Bush started this war on the basis of inadequate planning. It looks as if he will end it in the same way too.
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One more Barnett

Why both parties blow:
I sit back at times like this and realize there is no room for me and mine in either party: I don't demonize the military or interventions so I can't be a Dem, and I don't demonize China or want to invade Iran so I can't be a Republican. And, frankly, I think that's good. I don't see how you can really be a grand strategist in this day and age and belong to either party. I think I'm going to formally make myself an independent and stop rationalizing the attraction either way.
[Also in that post is a nice critique of Matthew Yglesias, not exactly my favorite blogger/political thinker to put it nicely].

For the record, I've always been registered as an independent. Normally I think the way to deal with that in a 2 party system is have one party control the legislature and one the executive. The Dems are going to control the Congress (with a wider margin then they currently hold), so normally I would pushing for a centrist Republican for Prez. That would normally be Rudy, except that Rudy has got a Podhoretz (Norman) on his foreign policy and is talking about staying on "offense"--not resiliency. Not to mention that you expect the Republicans to be (excuse this it's too good not to use) "Law and Order" types, but they look more desperate every day.

Like Barnett I'm feeling not pleased about this current crop. Obama is caught with having to appeal to a mass of "nutroots" green-meme wack jobs on the far left. Just as the Republicans, in primary sense, have to appeal to their own far-right wack jobs.

Perhaps the song should have been: wack jobs to the left of me, wack jobs to the right of me. Here I am stuck in the middle (with the actually intelligent people).

I agree with Don Beck that if either party broke with its orthodoxy and went a Radical Middle-way it would own the electorate for a generation. The competition is an open door to be pushed on.

Barnett bitchslaps Krauthammer

Intellectually that is.

Great post by Barnett criticizing Charles Krauthammer (as a perpetual "grad student"....ouch).

The post counters CK's attacks on Obama for Obama's answers about willingness to meet with dictators and the first step in a hypothetical attack on American soil is protecting the victims and making sure you know who actually committed the attack.

I mean who else can write the following (italics in original):
So let me get this straight in this, the great asymmetrical struggle of our age: our strength is not found in our ability to withstand and mitigate attacks but in symmetrical--and often knee-jerk--retaliation against state-less enemies? Talk about a grad student answer right out of the 20th century! Somebody is definitely beyond his analytical expiration date. Our resilience is our deterrence in the 21st century. If you don't get that, you shouldn't be anywhere near the levers of power in a moment of danger. If your answer is just to pull triggers to get your rocks off as quickly as possible, you might as well hand over power to the bin Ladens right now, because our future foreign policy will consist merely of those guys plucking our strings. I say, go to the back of the class and write Robb's book out in chalk a couple of times til something different sinks in. Krauthammer ends this embarrassing display of sophomoric analysis with the specter of America sharing the stage--unwittingly--with a "malevolent clown like Hugo Chavez." Good God Almighty! That's what we've come to after 8 years of Bush? Living in fear of Chavez? Nixon sits down with Mao, a guy who killed about 80 million, but we're supposed to fear treading anywhere near the fantastically evil Chavez? What kind of midget superpower does Krauthammer fear we've become that he's so entranced by such imagery? Just chalk it up to another Boomer (and former Mondale speechwriter) infatuated with visuals over reality, armed with his graduate-level understanding of both history and the complexity of the world we now live in.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Now Does Obama Look So Dumb?

Knocked down the Soviet Empire through connection. 40 years of isolation in Cuba and 30 in Iran have given us....the regimes still in power. Coincidence?
clipped from news.yahoo.com

CAMAGUEY, Cuba - Raul Castro said Thursday that Cuba has avoided the collapse the U.S. predicted when his brother Fidel fell ill a year ago, and signaled he was willing to talk with a new American administration after President Bush leaves power.
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Peter Bergen on Pakistan

Bush pushes for votes in the places that will bring to power Islamism (Palestine) and not in the places (Pakistan) where it will help minimize them.
clipped from www.peterbergen.com
Contra the widespread myth that democracy would merely empower Pakistan's Islamists, it would likely damage the MMA, the coalition of religious parties that has never succeeded in winning more than 12 percent of the vote. (And that was in the 2002 election, which Musharraf fixed to disadvantage the two main secular parties.) In fact, polling indicates that the MMA will garner around 5 percent of ballots in the upcoming election. The Islamist militants of the Red Mosque, in other words, may be feisty enough to weaken Musharraf politically through their protests and violence, but they are not nearly numerous enough to run the country.
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More on post-metaphysics redux

An addendum to yesterday's post.

I want to go back to a quotation from Ishaq's piece.

[Sidenote: I hope it is clear to readers that I am criticizing elements of the view of this, not Ishaq personally whom I don't know, the possibility of deep spiritual experience within this stream, which I know to be completely real for many....].

In this quotation Ishaq is first quoting Wilber in dialogue with Andrew Cohen and then giving his own commentary:
“When it [the myth of the given] comes to spiritual experience, we can see this very clearly. If you look, for example, at the spiritual experiences of the Western enlightened saints and sages, you find many accounts of angelic beings, or beings of light or luminosity, but you'll never find any saint or sage in the West describing an entity that has ten thousand arms. And yet that experience seems to be very common in Tibet. Tibetans might see the goddess Avalokitesvara with ten thousand arms appearing in their dreams all the time and think that is the actual form of God. It is the form of God in Tibet, but not in Germany.
Cohen: Unless the German is a dedicated student of Tibetan Buddhism!
Wilber: Indeed! The point is that these are authentic spiritual experiences, but they are culturally molded. And if somebody's taking their spiritual experience and saying, “This is universally true,” they're lying. It's culturally created and molded, yet it doesn't look like that to the person having the experience. So they're caught in one version of the myth of the given. A scientist is caught in the same thing. If a scientific materialist says, “Anything I can see in the sensori-motor world is real because that's what's really given,” he or she is also caught. It isn't given; it's constructed. Anytime we take a state or a stage or a structure or a level of our own consciousness and assume that what's given to it is real, we're caught in the myth of the given. “

Wilber says in Integral Spirituality, something similar: pg 177:

“But the subject does not reflect reality, it co-creates it.

[Ishaq]: Wilber's words “This is universally true” is the key here, in designating his strange ideas about traditional metaphysics. This also ties in with Wilber's lack of knowledge of symbiology, as well as mythology. Certainly the western priest sees Angels with wings, and the Tibetan sees a goddess with ten thousand arms, but the important thing is the meaning of the experience, not its cultural difference, or its external manifestation. An angelic being of light in the west may very well be equivalent to a ten thousand armed goddesses in the east. So therefore the Tibetan monk or priest can certainly say his experience is universal.

So the issue at hand is this notion of the German (presumably Christian or Christian-influenced) mystic and the Tibetan Buddhist mystic who both have mystical experiences.

Wilber's point is that those individuals will assume (particularly in a medieval context) that the content of their vision is the truth ("universally true") not rather a deep truth that is in part constructed and the content/background horizon of the experience shaped by one's own culture/religion.

Ishaq's rejoinder is:
Certainly the western priest sees Angels with wings, and the Tibetan sees a goddess with ten thousand arms, but the important thing is the meaning of the experience, not its cultural difference, or its external manifestation. An angelic being of light in the west may very well be equivalent to a ten thousand armed goddesses in the east. So therefore the Tibetan monk or priest can certainly say his experience is universal.
It is not entirely clear (at least to me) from this quotation and the continuing paragraphs why exactly the important thing is the meaning and not the cultural difference or the external manifestation. Nor what the meaning is nor who determines the meaning--and is there only one?

That aside for the moment, I'll just say for the sake of argument he's right, the meaning is the important thing. And that moreover an angelic light is the Western equivalent of the Eastern 10,000 armed goddess and vice versa.

The problem is the next line: therefore the monk or priest can say his experience is universal.

Not exactly. The state (in this case subtle) is universal. The elements of light, God with form, sense of holiness and awe, these are universal. But the state as Nagarjuna rightly pointed out never exists separate from the knower/self structure.

And the self structure is embedded in endless contexts (families, intra-psychological processes, nations, communities, traditions, religious identities, friendships, associations, salvational, cosmic, ecological, on and on...). These contexts already set certain conditions and possibilities (both we could say positively and negatively) that prime the pump, as it were.

The state is never separate from the self on the relative plane. The Absolute is not other than nor equal to the relative plane. But on the relative plane, no state with state-er if you will. In other words, there is no such state of consciousness minus the content and cultural difference. There is no such thing as simply "the subtle state" experienced by anyone.

In fact, the subtle state as we see is an interpretive context, itself a construction (i.e. Perennial Philosophy) which allows the thinker to take a wider perspective then either of the two mystics and universalize their experience, which in many cases we would know the experiencers themselves would not agree to.

It's "universally true" but only from a certain point of view. It's like having to walk up a mountain to follow a forest line. It's universally true that anyone who walks up there on a nice day with functioning eyesight will see this line, if it is pointed out to them. But if they don't walk up the mountain (or can't for some reason), then they might take your word for it, which is fine, but then it's a metaphysics. For better or for worse. It has to be taken on faith. But then the concept of universally true does not quite fit.

But see then even that point of view (that sees the forest line) may be unable to see another revelation of the land. Say a series of mountains from above (because you are only standing on one), which might require, e.g., a ride in a helicopter.

Just as in this analogy I'm saying the Perennial View is a very good view but it has its own limitations. There are views beyond the post-metaphysical that show it's inherent limitations/conditions for possibility. The limitation in this sense is also a freedom. A freedom to be as it is ("freed by being limited").

That's why I would prefer universally true from a certain point of view. My only difference with perennial thought is that, for me, it doesn't recognize the from a certain point of view half of the equation.

Wilber uses quasi-universal to describe this same phenomenon. The state of the angel is not universally true. The actual whole construct of state plus knower plus content plus cultural difference is not universal. The state is cross-cultural and many of the deep structures are though not all. But certainly the surface features are not. An incarnationally, or in nonduality, we do not want to privilege say the formless universal entirely over the concrete. Formless is Form. Formless does not exist accept in/as/through form.

I pointed out yesterday something similar with what Joe Perez is doing with Kronos Mandala and symbolism in a post-metaphysical construct. Freed up to be more expressive, more playful, without all the burdens.

But deeper than all that for me is the question of relationship. The reason I am so drawn to post-metaphysics is not about trumping the previous mystics of history or not wanting to deal with all aspects of the spiritual life or something. It is because it is at its core about relationship.

It is a system of thought, which by nature tends towards abstraction, always points back to (when done properly) actual relations, in bodies, in time. It is the realization as Bonhoeffer said that the future of transcendence is radical immanence. Radical incarnation. My only point to add to that great theologian would be that the immanence is itself evolving. Or at least elements of it are evolving.

Post-metaphysics promotes being with beings. And yes that will sometimes, maybe even often, mean that we come to be with them and be with the feeling/realization that we can only be with them in certain parts of ourselves (in certain measures only, to certain degrees only, and in certain aspects only---attitudes, actions, thoughts of people not people themselves).

That cognition can too easily become arrogance and self-satisfaction. But more existentially, it actually evokes a tsunami of inner sadness. It is actually sad beyond belief. And that realization far from bringing a greater built up ego sense actually cuts at the ego's core. The pain only increases exponentially.

To know, and I mean this literally here, that you are being-with someone and they see/feel you and either verbally or more frequently I find give you the clues nonverbally, as being with them as they are (however we mean that) and you know that are entire aspects of your being you can not share in the way in which you want, that is painful and humbling in the most searing of ways.

All of it always arises in the space of everything being well. There is humor and lightness in the moment as well. There is localized redemption, our participation (as co-redemptrices) in the divinization of the cosmos.

There are not subjects viewing objects. There are not processes without a mind, or collective interpretative schemes. Of course all of that arises and is real just not primary. They do not exist outside of perspectival relationality.

There are first persons taking third person perspectives. There is relationship. There is choice and the need for conscious of the perspectives we take (often without realizing it) and the perspectives others take, so we can be with them first and foremost. Before criticism, before agreeing with. Being-with.

There are elements of post-metaphysical spirituality that are open to critique no doubt. What system isn't. But what I can honestly say I have not come across in the criticisms to date of it is a recognition of this deeper existential flavor. And because it is deeper it is therefore relative not final or Absolute. It's not on the Freedom side of the street this is uttered, only the Fullness & Flavor Side. [The Flavor being our own unique manifestations/strengths of expressing the Fullness of Freedom].

No recognition I think of suffering together. Prior to the arguments we arise in this blissful state of freed pain or already redeemed suffering. But the redemption is not felt nor embraced nor recognized. Post-metaphysics, as a practice in life, of perspective-training (added to attention-training), first recognizes this deep binding healed wounding that is the mystery.

Getting real-er, with each other, with ourselves.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


The new Victory Caucus 2.0 is out. Nice graphics, good user face.

This page, on metrics, very good. In the sense of a geeky way. On the flip side it can make it all seem like a game (mini-general feeling), forgetting (watch some YouTube if you forget) these are bodies mutilated, beings screaming in broad daylight as their family friends are left as half of arms in their laps. Guys with electric drill holes in their skulls face down in the street.

The facts/interpretations scheme I love so well is so prominent. i.e. As much as the site is created and evidence is brought forth to pursue their own pov ("victory"), much of the "facts" on the page support an opposite conclusion (but I have to give credit for publishing info. that undercuts their own logic/strategy).

Notice the red and orange provinces (most attacks/day). Anbar, Salah-al Din, and Diyala, all majority Sunni in the orange. Baghdad where the cleansing is going on (and the car bombs in retaliation) in the red.

Also a lesser but still high level of violence in Baquba to the South--preview of the coming intra-Shia civil war. And Nineveh province where Kirkuk is, site of the growing Sunni-Kurdish violence. In other words, what exactly has fundamentally changed since the rise of the insurgency?

Electricity levels are down from last year, which are themselves still down from prior to the collapse of the Hussein regime.

What is so interesting is how victory is never defined. Rather lines like the following:
We support leaders who support victory.
We support victory in the war against radical Islamists. We supported the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and we believe victory is necessary in both countries for America's self-defense.
What I call 'victory as a strategy'. What do they mean by victory--concretely--as opposed to just a slogan?

The American Army isn't losing any battles in Iraq. It has been asked to do a job it simply can not do. Like blaming an electrician for not being able to fix your plumbing. There is no military solution as even Gen. Petraeus will admit.

What then is victory? What is victory in these post 9/11, post Cold War conflicts? How do we define it (number of baddies killed?) and how do we tell whether we are headed in that direction (other than pushing dates further and further back for when success will be measured).

More on post-metaphysics

There's a new essay up at Integralworld by Zakariyya Ishaq called "The Myth of the Given and the Forgotten".

Ishaq is an avowed metaphysician, perennialist, or spiritual cosmologist, whatever term one prefers. It is the great alternative in many ways to the post-metaphysical outlook I promote in this blog. For that reason, obviously, I disagree with major elements of it, but it's worth the read and the consideration nonetheless. Although I like the writing styles of say Alan Kazlev and Frank Visser better not to mention the genuine articles of that stream: Schuon, Huxley, Smith, Hixon, Guenon, etc.

My main criticism is this view tries to create an Archimedean point in the universe which is uncriticizable, around which everything else must flow. The point is the science of metaphysics, which is objectively true for all time & space and in no way partially a product of social-linguistic-political-philosophical-religious construction (the myth of the given need not apply).

Continue Reading

It is still "heliocentric" in that regard for me. The Sun (i.e. The Truth) radiates to all and is the center of the universe. Certainly better than the geocentricism of mythic religions ("convert or die"). Certainly this heliocentric perennialism lessens racism, fundamentalisms, would promote a more peaceful co-existence on the planet. At least in its better moments. It does have a tendency to romanticize the mythic realm--the "perennial" philosophy arose in the time of slavery, prior to women's large scale entrance into the public sphere, endemic "civilizational" conflict, and the like. But in the modern world it tends to be more cosmopolitan in outlook.

Nevertheless this heliocentric view is still not yet the omnicentricism of Einstein: every point in the universe is the center expanding in all directions as itself, in itself.

This is not a renewed egocentricism per se--although given the right "planetary conditions" one can see how such a revival can occur. It is also not, the re-entrenchment, of another planet on top of all others, some new Super-Sun that is now the new center. In this analogy that would be post-metaphysics treated as another myth of the given, itself not recognizing its own construction and partiality.

Omnicentricism is the opening of all the systems, following their course and development, not another uber-planet imposed on from without (although it can be incorrectly applied this way).

Ishaq writes:
The straw man is here easy to describe, in that metaphysics doesn't concern itself about these irrelevant and peripheral forms of knowledge Wilber and other postmodernist thinkers are touting, metaphysics is only concerned about the spiritual completion of the individual. Knowledge of Spiral dynamics, zone 2 and 4 IMP levels is totally irrelevant to metaphysics.
It is true that knowledge of IMP, Zone 2, Spiral Dynamics is irrelevant to metaphysics and it can be argued more or less rightly that metaphysics is only considered with the awakened individual. And that precisely is the point. That those forms of knowledge are not necessary to metaphysics leaves them open to all kinds of other influences of which it is not and can not be aware--because it does not have the tools to recognize them.

Otherwise you are left, it seems to me, with the argument from authority. The Mother said so and so.....The great masters say such and such.....

Of course it is a science of awakening individuals. But awakened individuals arise in contexts nonetheless. Contexts that may be malformed, outdated, or wrong. And contexts that the awakened (to spiritual truth) individual may not be aware of.

But again we are back at the point--are there such contexts that an awakened being will be unaware of? I say yes. Seems to me, this view would say no. But that to me sounds very un-nondual as it were. Namely it is secretly privileging the perspective of the Formless over Form. Form is as best, then, a sort of "play" of the Formless or modification but not in any way purposeful, telic in nature.

The only argument that is to be made about why Zone 2 (or fill in the blank) is not to be brought in is that it is irrelevant. And why it is irrelevant? Because it is unnecessary. Circularity of thought seems to be front and center (to me anyway).

One other avenue (different than argument from authority) that Ishaq points to is the following (his words):
Because as legitimate integral mystics they study and learn all aspects of mysticism, including symbiology, mythology, and allegory, something I am sorry to say may be lacking in our post modern mystics, who have been told that these things are obsolete.
Nice use of legitimate there and "all aspects" of mysticism--Wilber's argument was only that the interpretations of the past mystics need re-imaging in today's light not their realizations.

Be that as it may, no one, so far as I know, has said that mythology, symbiology, and allegory are obsolete. I would direct Ishaq to my buddy Joe Perez's blog for oodles of symbiology. There's no conflict with him between symbolism and post-metaphysics.

The only distinction is that if one is going to use symbols, myth, allegory etc to be aware of the social construction involved in them. For the time of say the practice of the metaphysical science (when taking Zone 1) you don't need to concern yourself. Follow the practices, chart the experiences, like usual. But in the interpretation there needs to be (via Right View) a more conscious attention and when necessary negation of the original contexts. Or rather not the contexts themselves but the other connected contexts that are floating along with the original.

For example, as Campbell always pointed out, the mystics of the mythic era used analogies drawn from the process of planting and agriculture. Given that it arose during the time of techno-economic agrarianism that makes sense. Perfect sense. How many people today reading this are farmers? Or live in predominantly farming agrarian communities? Death, resurrection--seeds going into the ground and dying.

It's not wrong. It certainly is worth the meditation. Just don't take it for "fully real" or some metaphysically objective science. Because the metaphysical system (the mystical, esoteric) rightly de-literalizes the surface content/myth (as Campbell admitted) and realizes its truth on a higher plane. Great. Fantastic. Do that. But the metaphysical system does not ever question the rightness of the analogy itself because it was originally drawn from a world in which the metaphors were obvious and standard and large scale. That's fine. What's not the best is just repeating those for all times and places. Because even in the esoteric practice, you are still going to embed those analogies and the worlds they arise in even if in enlightened form. Which is no doubt better than an unenlightened form. But I would submit not as (relatively) good as enlightened plus metaphors from the world we live in instead of someone else's.

And not just the metaphors. The social and political and religious structures that ride on that content, usually unexamined.

That's actually all post-metaphysics is. It's not out to destroy or pump up its own ego. It's about finding a way of speaking that is true to our world just as they did for theirs. Just as down the line others will need to jettison our interpretive overlay because life will have moved in a direction that the metaphors no longer automatically connect. When that happens they become myths. Which is ok and is inevitable. But is not good for those investigating awakened consciousness in its fullest expression possible in a time and place.

In bodies, in non-duality.

Iraq Roundup

Big news out of Iraq is this piece by Michael Gordon in the NYTimes. Gordon only gets access to these stories because he is a "trusted" journalist in the White House's eyes. So this is definitely a line the administration wants to get out, but important to look at nonetheless.

Gordon's article covers a new plan devised by the American military staff and Amb. Crocker in Iraq which covers a security transfer over the next two years. In other words, more of the same. i.e. Continuation of the "surge/escalation". I would imagine the political bet is that Congress is never going to cut off the funds and Harry Reid is too ignorant to realize he could have 70 votes tomorrow for Baker-Hamilton, but Bush may take a Lugar-Warner type amendment and just ignore it. Such a bill would assume Bush would execute its meaning. Unlikely in my view.

Back to Gordon:

The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008. “Sustainable security” is to be established on a nationwide basis by the summer of 2009, according to American officials familiar with the document. The detailed document, known as the Joint Campaign Plan, is an elaboration of the new strategy President Bush signaled in January when he decided to send five additional American combat brigades and other units to Iraq. That signaled a shift from the previous strategy, which emphasized transferring to Iraqis the responsibility for safeguarding their security. That new approach put a premium on protecting the Iraqi population in Baghdad, on the theory that improved security would provide Iraqi political leaders with the breathing space they needed to try political reconciliation.

In other words, the exact same strategy since the transfer to the interim government, constitution, and elections: a unified non-sectarian Iraq that is an ally in the war on terror and beacon of democracy in the Middle East. Also a continuation of the Khalilzad vision of Sunni integration into the leadership.

Which, er, is coming it would appear in the near future, yes? The Shia and Kurds have no reason to deal. The Sunni have no bargaining chip. Period. End of sentence. The only chip the Sunnis might have is a fear of a Sunni-backed "surge" of their own from the West, back by Saudi, Egyptians, and Jordanians. Of course the Iranians will counter from the East. But the Sunni regimes will not invade so long as the Americans are there.

Consider the following from Petraeus' own EO:
“If eventually the Iraqi government and the various sects and groups do not come to some sort of agreement on how to share power, on how to divide resources and on how to reconcile and stop the violence, then the assumption on which the surge strategy was based is invalid, and we would have to re-look the strategy,” Colonel Mansoor added.
My only question: how long before eventually is admitted?

To be fair, there is a sense throughout the piece that they realize the chances for success are not terribly high. They are military men after all and have been assigned a task by civilian leadership and are doing whatever they think best to achieve that goal, however workable or unworkable they think the overall policy.

The smartest element of the plan might be the following:
The plan also emphasizes encouraging political accommodation at the local level. The command has established a team to oversee efforts to reach out to former insurgents and tribal leaders. It is dubbed the Force Strategic Engagement Cell, and is overseen by a British general. In the terminology of the plan, the aim is to identify potentially “reconcilable” groups and encourage them to move away from violence.
But given the overall lack of a national-federal establishment, I don't know if these deals hold or fray in the medium term.

Because here is the meat of the plan:
The plan envisions two phases. The “near-term” goal is to achieve “localized security” in Baghdad and other areas no later than June 2008. It envisions encouraging political accommodations at the local level, including with former insurgents, while pressing Iraq’s leaders to make headway on their program of national reconciliation. The “intermediate” goal is to stitch together such local arrangements to establish a broader sense of security on a nationwide basis no later than June 2009.
So the benchmark is now Summer 2009. Or is it Summer 2008? There is no movement to the larger scale accommodation. However much tactically can be gained by surging and local deal brokering, there is no context within which it functions. There is no effective government on the national scale. Everyone is holding their position for the coming fight. All this does is yet delay again the inevitable. And cause higher American casualties in the meantime and keep the US bogged down and delay having the Army face the near total and extremely painful overhaul that is going to have come in the wake of the failure of the post-conflict stabilization.

Nice work Sarkozy

Says he is headed to Libya to re-normalize and re-integrate the country into the world community. NIce move out the gates for him.
LONDON, July 24 --Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor flew to freedom Tuesday after more than eight years in a Libyan prison, receiving a presidential pardon and bouquets of flowers at an emotional arrival ceremony in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia.
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Traditional Chinese Amber Making a Comeback

After the violent Maoist alternative has died out. Respect for authority, raising children, all here....

Confucianism is enjoying a resurgence in this country, as more and more Chinese like Guan seek ways to adapt to a culture in which corruption has spread and materialism has become a driving value. For many Chinese, a system of ethical teachings that stresses the importance of avoiding conflict and respecting hierarchy makes perfect sense, even if it was first in vogue centuries ago.

State-supported commemorations of Confucius have become more common, and the number of people studying his works has increased. A new best-selling book and TV program based on the sage's teachings have made Confucianism easy for the masses to digest.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

My New Town

Vancouver gets some coverage (not the greatest) in the Washington Post today.

It covers how the provincial, federal, and local governments in BC, Canada, and Vancouver respectively promised to build greater housing for the downtown East Side of the city for the Olympic Bid. The fear in that community here is that its a cover for gentrification.

The article correctly points out that the neighborhood has rates of AIDS/HIV and Hepatitis C infections comparable to the so-called Third World. But for American readers I should point how very different the neighborhood is from say an American ghetto. I've walked in this neighborhood in the day and at night on a number of occasions and there is no fear of getting jumped or shot. As someone who used to live in Detroit, the Bronx, and a community in Chicago where I went to sleep to the pit-patter of gunfire nightly, I know that feeling of "desperation" and "fear" lurking in the corners.

The downtown East Side feels sad and worn down. Tragic but not desperate. It's also a very strange place, strange in a challenging way, in the sense that people really know each other. As opposed to city anonymity and suburban walling off mentality, people are out and visible. It's definitely tough to see the out in the open drug use, prostitution, and homelessness.

It's really fascinating living in a city that generally is pretty un-excited (some/many? antithetically opposed to) the Olympic buildup. The costs have already run over projection. There's some delays. Questions about the environmental impact. Questions like this about neighborhoods and the question where do these people go if you gentrify? I think the downside from my pov is that the Olympics is this sorta foreign business aggregate/herd that is just going to rush through create a fiction on TV and then push through to the next one.

On the positive side, there is a nice train line being built from downtown to the airport. That may be the best to come out of it.