20 December 2005

Emptiness and the Sublime ~ A Holiday Reflection

One of the wisest and most profound scholars and practitioners of the Buddhist tradition of Madhyamaka, the second-century master Nagarjuna, taught that the real meaning of the somewhat cryptic wisdom teachings on emptiness of our Founder, Shakyamuni, as, for example, in the Heart Sutra, mean that all form, all matter; even consciousness itself; are without inherent existence and have as their essential nature emptiness. There are elaborate and very involved logical and experiential bases for this doctrine, but I won't belabor the point. The conclusion from all of this (often omitted in glosses on Buddhism), however, is that far from there being simply nothing, i.e., no-existence (nihilism), the mere appearances to mind which those of us living in the World experience as suffering, transitory enjoyment, form, consciousness. . . the universe itself . . . are by their essential nature beyond conceptual thought; a genuine reality which is open, expansive, relaxed, and blissful.

Perhaps this points to the common ground between Western theological religion and Buddhist practice: The Western One-God and our Vajradhara are both representations of that which is so beyond human ordinary mental conception that all description, all words, all concepts fail us, and we can only revere it and seek to involve ourselves in its direct experience. And in so doing we discover that the sublime creates in our hearts potentially limitless lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity, purification, and wisdom.

May everyone's holidays be happy, and may they have a happy, productive, and healthy New Year!

More on Why Bush should be impeached and removed from office

Josh Marshall has an excellent analysis of why the right-wing apologists for this president's failure to uphold the constitution have it all wrong. Even if the argument that the president has extraordinary emergency powers has some merit, it is clearly and in my view inarguably incumbent upon the president to inform Congress of any such actions, as soon as practicable, and follow their legislative dictates on any further use of a particular power or application of a particular policy. Any other conduct is misdemeanor in office, and the president should be impeached. Including for failure to so consult with Congress. This president has been explicitly and quite blatantly violating the clear provisions of statutory law for years, without seeking Congressional approval. This is unacceptable, and the President should be impeached, convicted, and removed from office with all speed.

19 December 2005

The President has deliberately violated his oath to uphold the constitution and must be impeached

The New York Times reports this morning on Bush's explanation for why he violated the explicit terms of the law on surveillance of American citizens and the requirement for judicial review. His explanation is entirely unsatisfactory. There is no credible legal defense: when Congress speaks on a particular subject, and explicitly requires judicial review for a particular executive action, the president may not reply on vague "use of force" authorization or reliance on undefined additional executive powers to openly and deliberately violate the law. The conclusion is inescapable: this President has intentionally violated his oath to uphold the constitution. Impeachment forthwith is the only reasonable course of action, and those who fail to see this are facing the slippery slope of the end of American representative government (in the relatively near future), and facing it with frightening indifference.

13 December 2005

Global Warming: Rushing towards Catastrophe

The NYT has an editorial today about the shameful fiasco in Montreal, saying that the best that can be said about it is that the other countries struggling to work out a framework for dealing with the crisis of global warming refused to allow the US to blow the entire conference to smithereens.

Elizabeth Kolbert has a lead "Talk of the Town" piece in the current New Yorker too, in which she says it's no longer a question of putting off catastrophe; it's a question of rushing towards it. (No link currently available).

08 December 2005

Intolerable Shame, If True

I have no way of verifying the following, from Steve Clemons's The Washington Note, but I can say that Clemons is a generally reliable and sober person, who reports this as fact, so it carries a certain credibility to me. If this is true, it is so abominably shameful that a major shakeup at the CIA and the Administration is called for. This kind of unAmerican activity simply must stop. We Americans must not continue to tolerate this sort of thing being committed in our names.

Make it $100 million for Innocent Rendition Victim Khaled El-Masri
I just got off the phone with a prominent Arabic journalist producing a program on the politics and practice of rendition.This journalist,
Yosri Fouda, has interviewed at length Khaled El-Masri, the innocent victim of American kidnapping and rendition gone very wrong. I have not read extensively about El-Masri's case, so this may be public record, but what I did not know when I wrote last night's post were the details of how he was "dumped" after American authorities learned he was innocent.

Get this now. El-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, was kidnapped while vacationing by American intelligence agents. He was transported and "questioned" -- allegedly roughly -- by American authorities in Afghanistan. Along the way, these investigators finally figured out he was innocent and reported back to CIA Director George Tenet. Tenet had him held ANYWAY for another two months. And then. . .you might ask, could it get worse? Well, yes.
We dumped him blind-folded in the deep forest, mountainous triangle area between Albania, Serbia and Macedonia. He had to walk out with no money, no identification. He got to a border guard station -- and because of his inability to identify himself and because of how "outlandish" his story sounded to the border guards he met, he feared that the entire process would begin. We dumped him blindfolded in a forest in one of the toughest regions nearby. Were U.S. authorities hoping he'd just be shot by someone else? What were they thinking?Let's make sure that one of the journalists traveling with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice asks about this detail of the story that had escaped me and others before. What is this about dumping a known-innocent guy in the Serbia-Kosovo-Macedonia triangle? More later.-- Steve Clemons

UPDATE: My friend, journalist Eli Lake, has suggested in the comments section that someone (including TWN) pose the question of how the El-Masri case occurred to the CIA, which handled this case. He has a good point, and we will follow up on it. But others in the press corps ought to also follow up with the CIA. SCC

02 December 2005

The Great Misleader

Krugman in today's Times (unfortunately behind Times Select Firewall) argues cogently that Bush's "major policy address" on Iraq was more of the same deliberate misleadership we've become accustomed to, and, at least up until now, the press has largely acquiesced in.

Among his chief examples are the completely misleading figures given on oil production. Of course oil production in Iraq increased from 2003 to 2004. During and just before the war in '03 there was effectively no oil production, so if it didn't increase in '04 it would really be a major drop. The truth is that oil production in Iraq, depsite rosy predictions by the neocons in Fantasyland, has never achieved in pre-war, Sanctions-in-effect levels.

He also points out that the statements about "progress" in Fallujah, Samara and Najaf are pretty blatantly just not borne out by the real facts.

I was impressed by the CBS News dialog between Bob Schieffer and Lara Logan on the day of Bush's speech. Schieffer asked her about the Airport Road, which Bush claimed was now under Iraqi control. Logan said, "That's just not true, Bob," and proceeded to describe the real situation. This is what the American people have a right to expect: a press that does its homework and fact-checks everything the Great Misleader says.

01 December 2005

Lieberman defends Bush Iraq Policy

This is a good example of why I've thought for some time now that Joe Lieberman should resign from the Democratic party -- like Sharon from Likud -- and join the Republicans. Of course, he should resign his Senate seat too, since he was elected as a Democrat. To continue to serve as a Republican is a fraud upon the electorate... and he's already doing it, in everything but name.