Saturday, September 30, 2006

Letter from Thich Nhat Hanh to Bush

I received this as an email today and discovered it is virally spreading around the Buddhist-inspired blogosphere, which I see is vast:

Letter from Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh to President George W Bush

Plumvillage, Sept 22, 2006

*"Our home is large enough for all of us. Let us go home as brothers and
sisters." - Ven Thich Nhat Hanh*

*Thenac, France -- *Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh recently wrote a handwritten
letter to US President George W. Bush about a dream he had of his
brother. He shared this dream of his with the President and implored Mr
Bush to rethink the situation in the Middle East. Here is the letter in

*Honorable George W. Bush
*The White House
Washington DC, USA

Plum Village
Le Pey 24240
Thenac, France

Dear Mr President

Last night, I saw my brother (who died two weeks ago in the USA) coming
back to me in a dream. He was with all his children. He told me,
"Let's go home together." After a millisecond of hesitation, I told him
joyfully, "Ok, let's go."

Waking up from that dream at 5 am this morning, I thought of the
situation in the Middle East; and for the first time, I was able to cry.
I cried for a long time, and I felt much better after about one hour.
Then I went to the kitchen and made some tea. While making tea, I
realized that what my brother had said is true: our home is large enough
for all of us. Let us go home as brothers and sisters.

Mr. President, I think that if you could allow yourself to cry like I
did this morning, you will also feel much better. It is our brothers
that we kill over there. They are our brothers, God tells us so, and we
also know it. They may not see us as brothers because of their anger,
their misunderstanding, and their discrimination. But with some
awakening, we can see things in a different way, and this will allow us
to respond differently to the situation. I trust God in you; I trust
Buddha nature in you.

Thank you for reading.

In gratitude and with brotherhood,
Thich Nhat Hanh
Plum Village

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Do your part!

Chris Bowers analyzes six polls. Three show major victories for Democrats in November; three show only minor victories, with Republicans retaining the majority. The verdict:

Here is the point I am trying to get across: it currently is equally probable that Democrats will sweep this election to a degree surpassing Republicans in 1994, and that Democrats will make only small gains in this election. The lesson of polling right now is that two possible nations have appeared before us, and we live in them both. The truth is not in between. Our work over the next six weeks will determine which nation we will live in for years to come: the nation with the huge Democratic sweep, or the nation with the extremely narrow Republican majority? One of the main factors determining this choice is how much you--and yes, I mean you--are willing to give of yourself over the next six weeks.

If you dream of accountability, if you believe in protecting the constitution, if you believe Bush and Cheney and Rumsveld and Rice and Rove and all the other neo-cons are dangerous or incompetent or corrupt or stupid or whatever you feel they are doing wrong, then get involved. Do your part! Whether that means giving your money or time or both, then do it. Don't wait. Find your candidate(s), whether local or somewhere else, and support him/her/them.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Bizarre Meanderings of a Wandering Mind

Taken to its extreme:
The view that everything is an illusion
Negates itself.
Indeed, the view that everything is an illusion
is an illusion.
And so, everything is real.
But that is also an illusion.
What then are we left with?
Between reality and illusion--
It is like adding a positive number
To a negative of equal measure.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Chinese timeline

The other day, while walking underground from Zhongshan Station to Shuanglian Station, passing one bookshop after another, I came to one with classic books like Journey to the West, which I plan to read in its entirety. After browsing for awhile, I approached the counter to purchase the book about the Monkey King's journey westard, and then noticed a thin booklet called Zhongguo lidai dashi nianbiao中國歷代大事年表 (Chronology of the Great Events of the Successive Chinese Dynasties). It is actually a fold-out timeline of Chinese history, from the mythical Three Emperors and Five Sovereigns down through the mainstream dynastic line. It also lists the capital cities and important events for each dynasty.

Unlike most such timelines, this one does not end with the fall of the Qing Dynasty, but instead continues and ends with the Republic of China. There is no Peoples Republic of China and the last time Beijing was the capital was during the Qing Dynasty.

Instead, the last capital city listed is Taipei. Interestingly, the first major event of the Taipei period of the Republic of China is the Cultural Revolution. Other events include the entry of China into the UN, and Our Country's (woguo我國) retreat from it; the death of Chiang Kai-shek and rise of his son, Chiang Ching-kuo; the lifting of martial law in the Taiwan region, Chiang Ching-kuo's death and Lee Teng-hui's selection as president; the establishment of ties between China and Korea, and the breaking of ties between Our Country and Korea; the first provincial, Taipei, and Kaohsiung elections; the first democratic elections; and the changing of the ruling party.

Some issues stand out: the timeline basically accepts the Kuomintang's (KMT) version of Chinese history, in which the Republic of China is the culmination and legitimate heir to the dynastic line. This was after all the view of the ROC government during the reign of Chiang Kai-shek and his son--the KMT was legitimate and the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), were the usurpers. The KMT's historical mission, as it saw it (perhaps still sees it) was to retake the Mainland, really to restore the authority of the true ruler. It is the age-old story of the Mandate of Heaven.

However, the fact that the timeline ends with democratic elections and the KMT's loss of executive power (temporary?) might be an indication of a more subversionary reading. Perhaps, it is meant to show the movement towards democratization, and highlight its lack on the Mainland. It will be interesting to see how the creators of this timeline alter it after the next elections.

That raises the question: who are the creators? Are they blue or green? It seems highly unlikely that they are green, though ending the timeline with the election of Chen Shui-bian and his Democratic Progressive Party could point to this. But representing the Republic of China on Taiwan as the true successor to the Qing Dynasty hardly strikes me as a green position. It would seem as if the creators are more likely from the blue camp.

I did a google search of the timeline's publisher--Yih Chyun Press (益群). That, I now know, is the publisher and distributor of Falun Gong's materials. How does this affect our interpretation?

Sunday, September 17, 2006


I think Roadrunner, one of the most brilliant cartoons ever, says it all, and better than I ever could.

Friday, September 15, 2006

What we are

This is pretty cool.

Mary Landrieu fights back

Check this out!

Slobbering hounds of hypocracy

Tweaked beyond infinity
Patterned genius on the edge.
Once a setting of the sun
Now a glowing orb rising over the horizon.
Golden rays embracing the ocean vast,
Multipled beyond the single vision
That once held us in its grasp.
Too many times have I failed to see
The reflected wonders in the depths.
I was carried away by circumstance
And the rumors of those with microphones
Speaking louder than the rest.
Assured of their own personal glory,
They spoke of evil
And of the inimical sin of the open-hearted.
They mocked the peace-loving hairy ones
And those who sought harmony with the earth.
They locked up those who decried
the emancipation of man,
And furnished criticism
of those who would help others reach their goals.
Yes, they called us evil,
When all along they were lying through their teeth.
Slobbering hounds of hypocracy,
Fooling those with little information.
They Made up stories to twist the masses
So that they looked away from their own inaction.
But all along there they were conniving,
Harboring but a single goal:
To return authority to their mindless demigods,
those who stood before cameras
on the ruins of once great civilizations.
Oh, they had a plan;
It was to reap from the planet
All that their greedy hearts could devour
At the banquet table.

In the beginning...

I was there in the beginning
And have the perspective of the oldest man alive.
I see through the eyes of antiquity,
And know the stories the elders told around the fire--
Miracles of first-hand experience
And awareness of the origin,
the cycles of ebb and flow.
I am one of those elders,
Since I was there from the moment of creation.
In my genes is the magic of the ages
Passed on and on and on.
It came down from the source
And flows through your veins as well.
You were there at the fire as was I;
You heard the legends of the ancestors,
How they communed with strange animals
And expressed their inner hearts
Using talismanic rhymes
That too this day coalesce before our eyes.

Some of my favorite words

In no particular order and without any explanation:

1. Magic
2. Integrity
3. Sincerity
4. Accountability
5. Responsiveness
6. Reality
7. Laughter
8. Humanity
9. Cohesiveness
10. Resonance
11. Ethereal
12. Serendipidity
13. Humor
14. tolerance
15. legitimation
16. mediation
17. community
18. profound
19. transform
20. Comprehend
21. Wisdom
22. levity
23. synthesize
24. interact
25. Harmony
26. liberate
27. Adapt
28. transcend
29. blend
30. friend
31. Divine
32. Mindful
33. Manifestation
34. Ideology
35. Structure
36. Unity/Diversity

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Keith Olbermann on Bush

Keith says it like it is, something very rare on television these days.

Clinton's meeting with bloggers

Yes, Bill Clinton met with a group of some of the top liberal/progressive bloggers in America. John Scher from Liberal Oasis reports:

The meeting was very casual and much of it off-the-record, but a transcript of the on-the-record portion should be available in a day or two.

Clinton has been getting into blogs over the past year or so. His aides have been including blog posts in his packet of daily news clips.

In particular, he was very impressed at how liberal bloggers were able to strip the legitimacy off of ABC's crockudrama "Path to 9/11," getting the facts out so quickly that even some conservatives felt they had little option but to concur.

And he dismissed criticism of liberal bloggers as counterproductive extremists.

This is a healthy development: for someone of Clinton's stature to recognize that blogs are more than potential ATMs to be talked down to, but can positively shape political discourse and create a more hospitable environment for Democrats to thrive.

He concludes by arguing that this is having a tranformative effect on at least Democratic politics in America:

As more and more people already in positions of great influence become open to really hearing the substance that originates in the blogosphere, the influence of entrenched special interests wanes, and the voices of the grassroots get louder.

Yesterday was a step in that direction.

More on a political symbol

Once again the metro pulled way from Qiyan station. I was sitting in the right seat with my camera pointed at the space where I knew the apartment building would appear in a matter of moments. There it was approaching. I caught a glimpse of the red, symbolic violence, but just as I was attempting to capture it in my sights, the building was already past, and then came the announcements in four languages--Mandarin, Hoklo, Hakka, and English--that we were arriving in Qili'an. The doors opened and as if pulled by an unconscious force I arose and exited the train. I exited the station and was determined to get a picture of the flag I discussed in the post below. Well, I walked back towards Qiyan and found the right building. I walked along the grassy field below the metro tracks, but unfortunately it is difficult to see the flag from the low perspective. This is the best I could do:

The only way to get a better shot would be to walk along the tracks, but a gate and a sign that said "Danger: High Voltage" convinced me not to pursue that path.

I know there are some people thinking: "It's probably just some Buddhist icon." Well, yes they are related. In fact, the Nazis co-opted an ancient symbol. Rather than give you the run-down myself, I'll provide you with some links to some of the interesting sites I found. First, here is what the Nazi flag looks like. You can learn more about the Nazi use of the flag here, and about the history of the symbol here and here. The last link is a compilation of quotes from different books that discuss how similar symbols were used throughout history by different cultures, before the Nazis turned it into a symbol of violence. Wikipedia also has a fascinating discussion of the Swastika's long history.

Lastly, I would like to clear up a few points in my last post. I was not arguing that Taiwanese people are anti-semitic. The thought never even crossed my mind. I wasn't even making a case about anti-semitism. The latter is partly because I prefer not frame this kind of phenomenon as "what they did to us," but instead choose the frame: "what humans have done to each other." To me, the swastika is but one symbol of mass violence that humans have produced, and there is the potential for such violence in any society. That is why we should remember--to prevent it from happening again and to not glorify or romanticize the symbols of its manifestation in former times.

I was also making a statement about how dangerous fictions are propagated and perpetuated about different peoples, groups, and events.

I should add that I sincerely apologize if the person is a devout Buddhist.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Something that I find disturbing

Somewhere between Qiyan and Qili'an on the Danshui metro line, there is a red swastika flag hanging in a window in a highrise apartment building. I have been trying to get a picture of it (as evidence), but the train is always moving too quickly for me to capture it. I will have to get out of the train at one of the two stops and walk along the track until I see it.

No, it is not the Buddhist image. I know the difference. It is the Nazi symbol. What is it doing in Taipei?

Since the late nineties, I also noticed some people riding motorcycles wearing World War 2 era German military helmets. Some of them are even marked with swastikas.

I debated this with Ingmar when he was here. He thinks that these displays of Nazi-era Germany are meaningless, and that the people displaying them are clueless about what happened. They are just doing it for fun. Or else it is just a small clique within Taipei society--the displays part of their fashion.

It is possible that this is a harmless fad, a group of people who think it is all a fun game, and that the symbols look cool. It is also possible that they are unfamiliar with the holocaust. I remember visiting Dachau when I was in college and seeing the George Santayana quote for the first time: "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it."

The making light of the holocaust by displaying its symbols for fun is already a dangerous act; it is a forgetting. Is it possible that children in Taiwan--that children anywhere--aren't learning about the holocaust. I don't mean to focus solely on what happened in Europe; genocides have occurred throughout history and humankind still has not learned.

But I also wonder if there is something more nepharious afoot. Is someone purposely exporting the items to Taiwan and elsewhere--either a local or a foreigner--as a way of propagating some kind of ideology? How was it that these symbols came to Taiwan? And how do the people who display them interpret them?

Perhaps as an aside, yesterday I did a search on "Taiwan politics" on Youtube. I found a video (I won't link to it) that was said to be an English version of a short Chinese documentary, called "The Taiwan Question." It claims to "explain to the people of Taiwan the political reasons why they are losing the psy-war battle with Red China." To make a long story short, according to the video, it's the age-old story that it's the fault of the Jews. They created communism. They are the reasons why Chiang Kai-shek lost China. They control the media.

All of the same lies, repeated over and over again for the last 50 years. Repeated so many times that they seap into the consciousnesses of unaware people--people who don't stay informed.

It is just like what is happening with the ABC/Disney docudrama, The Path to 9/11. It's the same message, except this time it's "Clinton did it." Worst of all is that they're not just showing it in America, trying to use it to swing another election. They are marketing it overseas as well. It will be aired by the BBC and in New Zealand and Australia, where it is being marketed as "the true story." As Digby says:

The reason this matters so much, and why Democrats are so apoplectic at the way ABC has handled this material, is that popular culture has a way of inculcating certain concepts into people's minds, especially young minds, far more effectively than talking head programs or earnest debates among political bloggers and columnists. This is the kind of thing that could taint the debate for generations if it takes hold.

The right howled mercilessly at Oliver Stone's depictions of JFK and Nixon, claiming that he was rewriting history. He was, and he used very clever techniques to do it --- particularly the odd, dreamlike optical montages that feel like memories. But the key is that these films were about events that happened long in the past --- they were re-writing history, not writing the first draft while the immediate events were still being debated. Certainly, nobody sent out high school study guides saying they were based on fact or claimed they were based on The Warren Commission Report or Nixon's memoirs. Stone never claimed that he was depicting a factual account but rather always said that he was providing an "alternate history."

"Path to 9/11" is using the sophisticated techniques (if not the talent) of Stone's "alternate history" style to create an alternate reality in real time. The purpose of this can best be compared to the "who lost China" and "sell-out at Yalta" campaigns of the late 40's. The right made political hay for decades out of those --- blaming the Democrats for being soft on communism. These set the stage for the next 50 years of full throated accusations of traitorous cowardice and we are dealing with the residual results of that cynical political calculation even today. (After all, the Republicans of the day were the reluctant warriors in WWII. They desperately needed to erase that image just as they desperately need to erase the image of the Bush administration's failures on 9/11 and Iraq.)

If this nonsense is allowed to stick, we will be battling these inaccurate demagogic, phantoms for another 50 years --- and I don't think the country will survive it. These new rightwingers make the red-baiters of the 50's look like Gandhi. In order for the Republicans to maintain power as often and as much as possible, they must find a way to blame the Democrats for terrorism and ensure that neither party can ever stray from the most hard line they can possibly maintain. It's the same formula that killed over 50,000 Americans in Vietnam and it's going to do far worse this time out if we let it happen again.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The mess at Facebook

For those of you who don't know about Facebook:

Originally created in 2004, the social networking site has expanded into the seventh-most trafficked site with nearly 8 million users. It focuses on college and high school students, allowing them to create a personal profile page that can then be linked to the accounts of other friends, creating a network of interlinked profiles. Currently the site is only open to college and high school students, though there has been limited recent expansion into companies and workplaces. Part of the reason for Facebook’s success is that it’s an online social network grounded in a physical space (i.e. a college campus) meaning that many of the faces and relationships on the site also exist in real life.

I logged onto Facebook today and noticed something very disturbing, and obviously, many other people were bothered by new changes:

Yesterday, Facebook launched a new feature called feeds, which is a live stream of constant updates on the recent activities of your Facebook friends. Everything you or your friends do on Facebook, from adding new friends, to changing your profile, or commenting on other people’s pictures, is now streamed live to your homepage when you log onto the site. It was new, technologically impressive, and unexpected.

And a lot of people didn’t like it. Really didn’t like it. It was a significant change from the old Facebook interface and many felt as if it was a violation of their privacy. To many it just “made stalking too easy.”

One of Facebook’s features is the ability to start groups accessible to anyone on the Facebook network called “Global Groups.” And so many protest global groups were created yesterday to protest the change to the site. (Note: Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's creator, has commented on these concerns on the facebook blog.) One group in particular, "Students against Facebook News Feed (Official Petition to Facebook),"; somehow connected the intangible elements of luck and timing to become the most popular “anti-feed” group.

By 11:55pm on Tuesday, its first day of existence, the group gone from 0 members to 68,607. At 12:55am it had grown to 85,521 members, having added nearly 20,000 members in an hour. At 2:06pm today there were 223,460 members, having almost doubled in size in 12 hours.

In essence, the group went viral.

Except that it didn’t, not in the way that we usually think about viral distribution on the internet. Viral distribution has traditionally involved the action of passing something along, either via email, or blog, etc. Traditionally spreading the word about the “anti-feed” group would have required two separate and distinct actions, first joining the group (which takes about 5-10 seconds to do and requires no follow-up) and then spreading the word (either via active means – email, instant-messaging, etc. or passive means – blogging, away messages, etc).

But with the creation of the "feed"; feature at Facebook has removed the active element once necessary for information distribution because it automatically updates your friends. Of course people still have to sort through stuff and decide whether or not they care, but the act of distributing of that information in Facebook has been automated.

Every time someone joins the Facebook group "students against Facebook news feed," every single friend that user has is made aware of this the next time they login, without any action other than joining the group being required from the user. Read the whole article.

It is a design with subtle fibers

Sometimes I try to express it,
But it is a design with subtle fibers.
You try to extract it from its source,
But just as you retreat with a strand,
It severs like silk in the mud.

Dandelion fuzz sent on its course--
The moment of inspiration is lost.
Just trying to piece it all together,
Difficult for one lacking in crossword skills.

Or think about the poet
Who dreamed of a cosmic landscape,
A glimpse into the mind of hazy, opiated madness.
Underworld reckonings
And memories of nomadic invasion;
Pleasuredomes of surreal ecstasy.
The lines were all there,
Resigned to perfect, superconscious verse.
Would he have recalled the visage
Of immortal delight the next rising of the sun?
When someone came and knocked on the door,
Arousing him from his slumber
And interrupting his iambic fantasy.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I've been seeing a specialist

He's helped me to regress--slow and easy--into all of my past lives. Pretty cool! Unfortunately, I can't stop quacking like a duck.