Monday, February 28, 2011

Tao Bible - Psalm 35:6

Let their way be dark and slippery: and let the angel of the LORD persecute them.
~ King James version ~

When the way is dark and slippery, we have strayed from our path.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
The author states that God causes those who do not fear him to walk a dark road.

As long as we allow the way of Tao to light our paths through life, we will rarely stumble and, when we do, we'll pick ourselves up and continue on the journey. When we choose to walk away from the light, then our paths become more treacherous.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

Chapter 7, Part 6 - Chuang Tzu

Do not be an embodier of fame; do not be a storehouse of schemes; do not be an undertaker of projects; do not be a proprietor of wisdom. Embody to the fullest what has no end and wander where there is no trail. Hold on to all that you have received from Heaven but do not think you have gotten anything. Be empty, that is all. The Perfect Man uses his mind like a mirror - going after nothing, welcoming nothing, responding but not storing. Therefore he can win out over things and not hurt himself.
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Chapter 7, Part 5C - Chuang Tzu

The next day the two came to see Hu Tzu again, and when they had left the room, the shaman said to Lieh Tzu, "Your master is never the same! I have no way to physiognomize him! If he will try to steady himself, then I will come and examine him again."

Lieh Tzu went in and reported this to Hu Tzu.

Hu Tzu said, "Just now I appeared to him as the Great Vastness Where Nothing Wins Out. He probably saw in me the Workings of the Balanced Breaths. Where the swirling waves gather there is an abyss; where the still waters gather there is an abyss; where the running waters gather there is an abyss. The abyss has nine names and I have shown him three. Try bringing him again."

The next day the two came to see Hu Tzu again, but before the shaman had even come to a halt before Hu Tzu, his wits left him and he fled.

"Run after him!" said Hu Tzu, but though Lieh Tzu ran after him, he could not catch up. Returning, he reported to Hu Tzu, "He's vanished! He's disappeared! I couldn't catch up with him."

Hu Tzu said, "Just now I appeared to him as Not Yet Emerged from My Source. I came at him empty, wriggling and turning, not knowing anything about `who' or `what,' now dipping and bending, now flowing in waves - that's why he ran away."

After this, Lieh Tzu concluded that he had never really begun to learn anything. He went home and for three years did not go out. He replaced his wife at the stove, fed the pigs as though he were feeding people, and showed no preferences in the things he did. He got rid of the carving and polishing and returned to plainness, letting his body stand alone like a clod. In the midst of entanglement he remained sealed, and in this oneness he ended his life.
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

The Union Label

It has been encouraging to see so many protesters out in Madison and other cities around the country. It indicates to me that more and more people are coming to understand the vital role unions play in providing economic benefit to the vast majority. Still, it is disheartening to know that a lot wage slaves still don't get it; they view unions with scorn and disdain.

In many ways, the big unions only have themselves to blame. It is not uncommon at all for the union big wigs to schmooze with and behave like the managers and/or owners they spend far more time with than their own rank-and-file members. It is not uncommon at all to hear or read about fiscal corruption of some of this nation's major union organizations.

It has been quite irritating that every two years the big-time unions throw all of their muscle behind Democratic Party candidates who, upon election, too often promote or support a wide variety of anti-union measures. Union spokespeople decry the fact that the candidates the unions helped to get elected treat those same unions as pariahs once they are securely in office. Yet, two years later, they act as if they've learned nothing from the preceding 2 years!

And it is not uncommon at all to learn that many in union leadership utilize some questionable democratic policies and strategies to subvert the will of the majority of their members.

Therefore, while I am happy to see more progressives rally around the public sector unions presently under attack, I concurrently hope that union leaders and activists don't squander the support they are receiving. It is high time for unions to reinvent themselves so that they stress greater democracy and transparency.

If they don't, the support now will be short-lived and more working class folks will turn away from them and may well applaud future efforts to tear them down.

Line by Line - Verse 23, Lines 15-16

those with whom he agrees as to its manifestation have the happiness of attaining to it;
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

When you are at one with Virtue,
The Virtue is always there.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Those who are with virtue, virtue is also pleased to have them
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

(No corresponding line)
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
For me, these lines can be summed up in the phrase, walking the talk. And it really isn't about what we say either.

So often, we each say that we have some bedrock principles that we would never, ever breach. Sooner or later, a situation presents itself in which we quickly abandon those very principles. We rationalize to ourselves and others that there are special mitigating circumstances and that we really aren't guilty of NOT walking our talk. Deep down, we know that it is nothing more than a big load of crap!

The sage doesn't need to conceptualize such principles; she lives them. She is virtuous not because it makes her look good to others or to satisfy her own self-image. No, she is virtuous because that is the way of Tao.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Into the Tube I Go

Around the time this entry posts, I will be on my way to the local hospital. I am being granted one of those opportunities to participate in an activity I loathe: I'm getting an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). While some MRIs are what they call open, mine will be in the more traditional tube. Such a wonderful experience for someone as claustrophobic as I am.

The purpose of the MRI is to take a picture of me wee brain. My mental health therapist is working in conjunction with my personal care physician to try to ascertain if some of the mental health issues I've been suffering from lately may have an organic component. In another week or two, I will follow-up on the MRI with an EEG (Electroencephalography).

As to the MRI, while I'm pleased as punch that the procedure itself is not physically painful, I still have three great worries. First, when I become anxious, my mouth goes dry. It makes it hard for me to swallow and not being able to swallow makes me far more anxious.

It is sort of Taoist, in a way. One things transforms into the other and becomes a seemingly endless flowing river of cascading anxiety.

I have developed a strategy to short circuit this unhealthy flow. I enter the tube with a damp rag in one hand. Just before the procedure begins, I place the rag over my mouth and I suck on the rag anytime my mouth starts to go dry.

The second worry, of course, has to do with my fear of being closed or hemmed in. I have a large personal space that is much more broad than the confines of an MRI tube.

I have developed a strategy to deal with this issue too. I now wear a sleeping mask that covers my eyes. It doesn't cover them completely, mind you, because total darkness is a bit disorienting and that sometimes sets off a panic attack as well. I position the mask to block off my ability to see the inside of tube, while allowing enough light in so that I'm not in total darkness.

I'm not sure how I will deal with my third concern. I'm told the procedure will take 45 - 60 minutes. I must lay on a flat slab with little movement during this time. The last MRI I had only took about 30 minutes and I almost didn't make it through due to severe pain.

While the procedure itself is pain-free, I suffer from a painful hip and some disc issues in my back. Simply put, laying flat hurts like hell. I plan to try my darnedest to grit my teeth and bare it. I hope that does the trick.

I'm not looking forward to this at all.

Chapter 7, Part 5B - Chuang Tzu

The next day Lieh Tzu brought the shaman to see Hu Tzu. When they had left the room, the shaman said, "I'm so sorry - your master is dying! There's no life left in him - he won't last the week. I saw something very strange-something like wet ashes!"

Lieh Tzu went back into the room, weeping and drenching the collar of his robe with tears, and reported this to Hu Tzu.

Hu Tzu said, "Just now I appeared to him with the Pattern of Earth - still and silent, nothing moving, nothing standing up. He probably saw in me the Workings of Virtue Closed Off. Try bringing him around again."

The next day the two came to see Hu Tzu again, and when they had left the room, the shaman said to Lieh Tzu, "It certainly was lucky that your master met me! He's going to get better - he has all the signs of life! I could see the stirring of what had been closed off!"

Lieh Tzu went in and reported this to Hu Tzu.

Hu Tzu said, "Just now I appeared to him as Heaven and Earth - no name or substance to it, but still the workings, coming up from the heels. He probably saw in me the Workings of the Good One. Try bringing him again."
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Beware the Smile of Eli

Beware the Smile of Eli
by Scott Bradley

Beware the Smile of Eli!
It lurks everywhere,
But mostly within,
Where it vies for our lips,
Upon the world to beam
And warm us within.

Beware the Smile of Eli!
We know it without;
It makes our hearts cringe!
Yet dwelling within it fills us with pride,
How vast is our wisdom,
Our insights so deep!
A sage among sages,
One of the wise.
Do they not praise us,
Bid us enter their fold?

What is this smile so foul yet so fair?
Why spirituality itself,
Did you not know?
Wisdom and insight,
Care and concern,
All in the grasp of a heart self-involved.

Spirituality itself,
Our most holy grail!
How it betrays us,
Or it we betray.

How can we know it
This smile so false?
That we know at all is answer enough.
It is spirituality self-aware,
Wisdom wise to itself,
Care convinced of its care.
Hard-won insight brims;
We have so much to share!

How great is our nurturing,
Our intentions so pure,
To be a sage of true standing,
A sage among sages,
Known to ourselves
And others as well.

Beware the Smile of Eli!
It lurks everywhere.
But mostly within.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.


If you're one of the millions of people worldwide who suffers from seasonal allergies -- particularly ragweed -- then a recently released study should have your mucus membranes groaning about now.
A changing climate means allergy-causing ragweed pollen has a longer season that extends further north than it did just 16 years ago, U.S. scientists reported on Monday.

In research that gibes with projections by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, plant and allergy experts found that ragweed pollen season lasted as much as 27 days longer in 2009 than it did in 1995. The further north in the Western Hemisphere, the more dramatic the change in the length of pollen season...
Yes, thanks to the lack of political will on the part of the US and a few other industrialized nations, you will be sneezing, wheezing, draining and suffering for longer than usual this year and in the years to come.

But don't worry, your misery is appreciated. You have helped to pad the bottom lines of some of the richest corporations and a few of those big companies -- the ones who manufacture allergy medications and remedies -- will express their undying gratitude by charging you inflated prices for products that often don't work that well in the first place!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Piece from Parenti

The Psalms are so boring and redundant. Verse after verse repeats the same basic ideas. So tonight, I'm giving my eyes and mind a break. In place of the usual Tao Bible post, I am sharing a large snippet from "Profit Pathology and Disposable Planet" by Michael Parenti. As is typical, what you will find below is part of the essay. Use the link above to read it in its entirety.
Some years ago in New England, a group of environmentalists asked a corporate executive how his company (a paper mill) could justify dumping its raw industrial effluent into a nearby river. The river—which had taken Mother Nature centuries to create--was used for drinking water, fishing, boating, and swimming. In just a few years, the paper mill had turned it into a highly toxic open sewer.

The executive shrugged and said that river dumping was the most cost-effective way of removing the mill’s wastes If the company had to absorb the additional expense of having to clean up after itself, it might not be able to maintain its competitive edge and would then have to go out of business or move to a cheaper labor market, resulting in a loss of jobs for the local economy.

Free Market Über Alles

It was a familiar argument: the company had no choice. It was compelled to act that way in a competitive market. The mill was not in the business of protecting the environment but in the business of making a profit, the highest possible profit at the highest possible rate of return. Profit is the name of the game, as business leaders make clear when pressed on the point. The overriding purpose of business is capital accumulation.

To justify its single-minded profiteering, Corporate America promotes the classic laissez-faire theory which claims that the free market---a congestion of unregulated and unbridled enterprises all selfishly pursuing their own ends---is governed by a benign “invisible hand” that miraculously produces optimal outputs for everybody.

The free marketeers have a deep all-abiding faith in laissez-faire for it is a faith that serves them well. It means no government oversight, no being held accountable for the environmental disasters they perpetrate. Like greedy spoiled brats, they repeatedly get bailed out by the government (some free market!) so that they can continue to take irresponsible risks, plunder the land, poison the seas, sicken whole communities, lay waste to entire regions, and pocket obscene profits.

This corporate system of capital accumulation treats the Earth’s life-sustaining resources (arable land, groundwater, wetlands, foliage, forests, fisheries, ocean beds, bays, rivers, air quality) as disposable ingredients presumed to be of limitless supply, to be consumed or toxified at will. As BP has demonstrated so well in the Gulf-of-Mexico catastrophe, considerations of cost weigh so much more heavily than considerations of safety. As one Congressional inquiry concluded: “Time after time, it appears that BP made decisions that increased the risk of a blowout to save the company time or expense.”

Indeed, the function of the transnational corporation is not to promote a healthy ecology but to extract as much marketable value out of the natural world as possible even if it means treating the environment like a septic tank. An ever-expanding corporate capitalism and a fragile finite ecology are on a calamitous collision course, so much so that the support systems of the entire ecosphere---the Earth’s thin skin of fresh air, water, and topsoil---are at risk.

It is not true that the ruling politico-economic interests are in a state of denial about all this. Far worse than denial, they have shown outright antagonism toward those who think our planet is more important than their profits. So they defame environmentalists as “eco-terrorists,” “EPA gestapo,” “Earth day alarmists,” “tree huggers,” and purveyors of “Green hysteria.”

In an enormous departure from free-market ideology, most of the diseconomies of big business are foisted upon the general populace, including the costs of cleaning up toxic wastes, the cost of monitoring production, the cost of disposing of industrial effluence (which composes 40 to 60 percent of the loads treated by taxpayer-supported municipal sewer plants), the cost of developing new water sources (while industry and agribusiness consume 80 percent of the nation’s daily water supply), and the costs of attending to the sickness and disease caused by all the toxicity created. With many of these diseconomies regularly passed on to the government, the private sector then boasts of its superior cost-efficiency over the public sector.

The Superrich Are Different from Us

Isn’t ecological disaster a threat to the health and survival of corporate plutocrats just as it is to us ordinary citizens? We can understand why the corporate rich might want to destroy public housing, public education, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Such cutbacks would bring us closer to a free market society devoid of the publicly-funded “socialistic” human services that the ideological reactionaries detest. And such cuts would not deprive the superrich and their families of anything. The superrich have more than sufficient private wealth to procure whatever services and protections they need for themselves.

But the environment is a different story, is it not? Don’t wealthy reactionaries and their corporate lobbyists inhabit the same polluted planet as everyone else, eat the same chemicalized food, and breathe the same toxified air? In fact, they do not live exactly as everyone else. They experience a different class reality, often residing in places where the air is markedly better than in low and middle income areas. They have access to food that is organically raised and specially transported and prepared.

The nation's toxic dumps and freeways usually are not situated in or near their swanky neighborhoods. In fact, the superrich do not live in neighborhoods as such. They usually reside on landed estates with plenty of wooded areas, streams, meadows, and only a few well-monitored access roads. Pesticide sprays are not poured over their trees and gardens. Clear cutting does not desolate their ranches, estates, family forests, lakes, and prime vacation spots.

Still, should they not fear the threat of an ecological apocalypse brought on by global warming? Do they want to see life on Earth, including their own lives, destroyed? In the long run they indeed will be sealing their own doom along with everyone else’s. However, like us all, they live not in the long run but in the here and now. What is now at stake for them is something more proximate and more urgent than global ecology; it is global profits. The fate of the biosphere seems like a remote abstraction compared to the fate of one’s immediate--and enormous--investments.

With their eye on the bottom line, big business leaders know that every dollar a company spends on oddball things like environmental protection is one less dollar in earnings. Moving away from fossil fuels and toward solar, wind, and tidal energy could help avert ecological disaster, but six of the world's ten top industrial corporations are involved primarily in the production of oil, gasoline, and motor vehicles. Fossil fuel pollution brings billions of dollars in returns. Ecologically sustainable forms of production threaten to compromise such profits, the big producers are convinced.

Immediate gain for oneself is a far more compelling consideration than a future loss shared by the general public...

Chapter 7, Part 5A - Chuang Tzu

In Cheng there was a shaman of the gods named Chi Hsien. He could tell whether men would live or die, survive or perish, be fortunate or unfortunate, live a long time or die young, and he would predict the year, month, week, and day as though he were a god himself. When the people of Cheng saw him, they dropped everything and ran out of his way. Lieh Tzu went to see him and was completely intoxicated. Returning, he said to Hu Tzu, "I used to think, Master, that your Way was perfect. But now I see there is something even higher!"

Hu Tzu said, "I have already showed you all the outward forms, but I haven't yet showed you the substance-and do you really think you have mastered this Way of mine? There may be a flock of hens but, if there is no rooster, how can they lay fertile eggs? You take what you know of the Way and wave it in the face of the world, expecting to be believed! This is the reason men can see right through you. Try bringing your shaman along next time and letting him get a look at me."
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Why Doesn't Scott Respond?

Many of you have left comments on Scott's posts and you may wonder why he rarely, if ever, responds. There are two reasons.

First, since he lives on a boat in the Sea of Cortez, his internet service often is hit and miss. One of you will leave a comment on a particular day and he might not get on the internet again until 2 or 3 weeks after. So, the time for a timely response has lapsed.

The second reason, however, is that for some reason -- I certainly don't understand it myself -- he has reported to me that he often can't see the comments section in his browser. Since he has responded to a few comments here and there, he hasn't always had this issue, but it does pose a problem now.

So, while your comments are still good, as they may cause other readers to think and ponder, if you have specific questions for Scott, I would suggest you email him directly. Just understand, as outlined above, it may take a while for him to respond.

In addition, if one of you tech savvy blokes could help figure out the issue with his not being able to see the comments in his browser, that would be beneficial too!

You Pay, They Don't

I know I've been hitting you with a lot of articles on economic themes lately, but I feel it is important to understand the lay of the land. Most of this information is rarely reported or reported accurately by the mainstream media, so too few Americans even are aware of the inconsistencies in economic and/or tax policy.

There is a very damning report from ThinkProgress. It is jaw-dropping, to say the least.
- BANK OF AMERICA: In 2009, Bank of America didn’t pay a single penny in federal income taxes, exploiting the tax code so as to avoid paying its fair share. “Oh, yeah, this happens all the time,” said Robert Willens, a tax accounting expert interviewed by McClatchy. “If you go out and try to make money and you don’t do it, why should the government pay you for your losses?” asked Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice. The same year, the mega-bank’s top executives received pay “ranging from $6 million to nearly $30 million.”

- BOEING: Despite receiving billions of dollars from the federal government every single year in taxpayer subsidies from the U.S. government, Boeing didn’t “pay a dime of U.S. federal corporate income taxes” between 2008 and 2010.

- CITIGROUP: Citigroup’s deferred income taxes for the third quarter of 2010 amounted to a grand total of $0.00. At the same time, Citigroup has continued to pay its staff lavishly. “John Havens, the head of Citigroup’s investment bank, is expected to be the bank’s highest paid executive for the second year in a row, with a compensation package worth $9.5 million.”

- EXXON-MOBIL: The oil giant uses offshore subsidiaries in the Caribbean to avoid paying taxes in the United States. Although Exxon-Mobil paid $15 billion in taxes in 2009, not a penny of those taxes went to the American Treasury. This was the same year that the company overtook Wal-Mart in the Fortune 500. Meanwhile the total compensation of Exxon-Mobil’s CEO the same year was over $29,000,000.

- GENERAL ELECTRIC: In 2009, General Electric — the world’s largest corporation — filed more than 7,000 tax returns and still paid nothing to U.S. government. They managed to do this by a tax code that essentially subsidizes companies for losing profits and allows them to set up tax havens overseas. That same year GE CEO Jeffery Immelt — who recently scored a spot on a White House economic advisory board — “earned total compensation of $9.89 million.” In 2002, Immelt displayed his lack of economic patriotism, saying, “When I am talking to GE managers, I talk China, China, China, China, China….I am a nut on China. Outsourcing from China is going to grow to 5 billion.”

- WELLS FARGO: Despite being the fourth largest bank in the country, Wells Fargo was able to escape paying federal taxes by writing all of its losses off after its acquisition of Wachovia. Yet in 2009 the chief executive of Wells Fargo also saw his compensation “more than double” as he earned “a salary of $5.6 million paid in cash and stock and stock awards of more than $13 million.”

Chapter 7, Part 4 - Chuang Tzu

Yang Tzu-chu went to see Lao Tan and said, "Here is a man swift as an echo, strong as a beam, with a wonderfully clear understanding of the principles of things, studying the Way without ever letting up - a man like this could compare with an enlightened king, couldn't he?"

Lao Tan said, "In comparison to the sage, a man like this is a drudging slave, a craftsman bound to his calling, wearing out his body, grieving his mind. They say it is the beautiful markings of the tiger and the leopard that call out the hunters, the nimbleness of the monkey and the ability of the dog to catch rats' that make them end up chained. A man like this - how could he compare to an enlightened king?"

Yang Tzu-chu, much taken aback, said, "May I venture to ask about the government of the enlightened king?"

Lao Tan said, "The government of the enlightened king? His achievements blanket the world but appear not to be his own doing. His transforming influence touches the ten thousand things but the people do not depend on him. With him there is no promotion or praise - he lets everything find its own enjoyment. He takes his stand on what cannot be fathomed and wanders where there is nothing at all."
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.


Here is another one of those not-so-publicly known facts as reported by Paul Buchheit on Alternet:
Sales tax on a pair of shoes: 6 percent. Sales tax on a credit default swap: 0 percent

That's right. Speculators don't pay a penny in taxes for financial purchases, including the high-risk derivatives and credit default swaps that nearly wrecked our economy.

Throughout the country state governments are cutting school budgets, services for the poor, police departments, and funding for food pantries and homeless shelters and elderly assistance. And they're raising sales taxes and property taxes and local taxes and fees...
It's enough to make the average person want to pull their hair out and gnash their teeth. Why is it that the poor and middle class seem to pay taxes on just about everything we need and use, yet the wealthy are allowed to shield so much of their largess from the tax man?
How much money could be generated through a financial transaction tax (FTT)? Economists Dean Baker and Robert Pollin estimated that a small FTT could generate $353 billion annually in the United States. In 2008 consumer advocate Ralph Nader said a tenth of a percent tax on all derivative transactions would raise $500 billion a year.

That's more than three times the budget deficits of all 50 states combined.

And the revenue estimates are probably understated. The Bank for International Settlements reported that annual trading in derivatives had surpassed $1.14 quadrillion (a thousand trillion dollars!), with about half the trades occurring in the United States. That doesn't include the multi-trillion dollar stock and bond markets...
So, there you have it. If I go to the store tomorrow and buy some toilet paper, I will have to pay sales tax on that purchase. However, if on the same day some filthy rich hedge fund manager spends one million dollars to purchase a credit default swap, he/she doesn't pay any sort of tax on that purchase at all.

Just ducky, isn't it?

Line by Line - Verse 23, Lines 13-14

Hence, those with whom he agrees as to the Tao have the happiness of attaining to it;
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

When you are at one with the Tao,
The Tao welcomes you.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Those who are with the Tao, the Tao is also pleased to have them
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

(No corresponding line)
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
For me, all these lines signify is that, when we are open, there exists the opportunity for qi to fill our lives with the vital flow of humility, love and grace. By being receptive to the unknown currents of the Grand Mystery, we become like the empty bowl or the uncarved block.

Another way to state this idea comes from Roshi Hogan's Teaching of the Tao:
Master Li once told his students, “Your mind should be one of a clay pot not yet fired in the kiln.”
To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

One Reason Americans Aren't Too Bright

I believe that it was Bill Maher who coined the term sheeple to describe the overall intelligence of the American populace. My hero George Carlin was a bit more blunt; he called Americans dumb and stupid. When you consider some of the crazy stuff too many Americans believe -- for example, most people in the Tea Party -- it's hard not agree with Maher's or Carlin's assessment.

Why is it that Americans are so easily manipulated into believing so-called "facts" that can be easily disproved just by thinking about them for, say, 10 seconds? While there are an abundant number of theories on this topic, I can at least shine a light on why NEW American citizens might learn "facts" that aren't necessarily true.

In an article posted on TruthDig, "How I Passed My U.S. Citizenship Test: By Keeping the Right Answers to Myself" by Dafna Linzer, the author highlights several answers on the citizenship test that are plainly incorrect.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a department within Homeland Security, spent six years consulting scholars, educators and historians before the current test was introduced in 2008. The result: 100 questions and answers designed to provide an in-depth treatment of U.S. history and government.

"The goal of the naturalization test is to ensure America's newest citizens have mastered a basic knowledge of U.S. history and have a solid foundation to continue to expand their understanding as they embark on life as U.S. citizens," said Christopher Bentley, a spokesman for USCIS...
The problem with this assertion is that said basic knowledge often is in error. It is rather a serious indictment on the overall level of smarts in this country when even the experts don't offer the choice of the correct or most correct answers!

Here are some examples offered by Linzer.
Take Question 36. It asks applicants to name two members of the president's Cabinet. Among the correct answers is "Vice President." The vice president is a cabinet-level officer but he's not a Cabinet member. Cabinet members are unelected heads of executive departments, such as the Defense Department, or the State Department.

The official naturalization test booklet even hints as much: "The president may appoint other government officials to the cabinet but no elected official may serve on the cabinet while in office." Note to Homeland Security: The vice president is elected.


Then there is Question 12: What is the "rule of law"?

I showed it to lawyers and law professors. They were stumped.

There are four acceptable answers: "Everyone must follow the law"; "Leaders must obey the law"; "Government must obey the law"; "No one is above the law."

Judge Richard Posner, the constitutional scholar who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago, was unhappy. "These are all incorrect," he wrote me. "The rule of law means that judges decide cases 'without respect of persons,' that is, without considering the social status, attractiveness, etc. of the parties or their lawyers."


I also wasn't asked Question 1: "What is the supreme law of the land?"

The official answer: "the Constitution." A friend and legal scholar was aghast. That answer, he said, is "no more than one-third correct." He's right.

Article VI, clause 2 in the Constitution, known as the Supremacy Clause, explicitly says that three things — the Constitution, federal laws and treaties — together "shall be the supreme law of the land."


Question 96 asks: Why does the flag have 13 stripes? The official answer: "because there were 13 original colonies." In fact, the flag has 13 stripes for the 13 original states.

Chapter 7, Part 3 - Chuang Tzu

T'ien Ken was wandering on the sunny side of Yin Mountain. When he reached the banks of the Liao River, he happened to meet a Nameless Man. He questioned the man, saying, "Please may I ask how to rule the world?"

The Nameless Man said, "Get away from me, you peasant! What kind of a dreary question is that! I'm just about to set off with the Creator. And if I get bored with that, then I'll ride on the Light-and-Lissome Bird out beyond the six directions, wandering in the village of Not-Even-Anything and living in the Broad-and-Borderless field. What business do you have coming with this talk of governing the world and disturbing my mind?"

But T'ien Ken repeated his question. The Nameless Man said, "Let your mind wander in simplicity, blend your spirit with the vastness, follow along with things the way they are, and make no room for personal views-then the world will be governed."
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Shades of Over There

As we watch the protests sweep across the Arab world, one of the sure signs that the current regime is in trouble is when the military and security apparatus starts to turn on the dictator. We saw glimpses of this phenomenon in Tunisia and Egypt. In the past few days, there have been reports of soldiers in Libya either seeking asylum in Malta or joining up with the anti-regime protesters themselves.

Well folks, it doesn't just happen over there. In a report Friday night from The Rainforest Action Network, approximately 100 members of the police joined the sit-in at the Wisconsin State Capitol.
“Police have just announced to the crowds inside the occupied State Capitol of Wisconsin: ‘We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out at 4:00 today. But we know what’s right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out, in fact, we will be sleeping here with you!'”


by Scott Bradley

Zhuangzi concludes his Inner Chapters with the curious story of the death of Chaos. Chaos is the emperor of a realm between two others, the emperors of which are his dear friends. Chaos frequently entertains them, being, as he is, in the middle. To show their gratitude, these two friends decide to do him a great kindness; seeing that he lacks the ‘seven holes’ common to humanity, each day they bore him one. “On the seventh day, Chaos died.”

The lessons here are many. Some are perhaps incidental, but nonetheless illustrate important aspects of Zhuangzi’s philosophy. Among these is the idea that we show each other the greatest kindness when we leave each other alone to follow our own paths. “Fish forget one another in the rivers and lakes, and human beings forget one another in arts of the Way.” (All quotes from Brook Ziporyn’s Zhuangzi) The wind blows through the forest and a great cacophony arises from the infinite diversity among the trees. This chaos, Zhuangzi tells us, is the expression of Tao. Let it be.

In Chapter Two, the emperor Yao confesses to Shun that he is obsessed with a desire to conquer other petty realms. Shun reminds him: “Once upon a time, ten suns rose in the sky at once, and the ten thousand things were all simultaneously illuminated. And how much better are many Virtuosities than many suns.” This, Dr. Ziporyn tells us, is a parody of the story later related in the Huainanzi where Yao sees these many suns as a problem and has nine shot from the sky. He explains: “Yao thinks ten different standards of ‘rightness’ will lead to chaos—there must be a single unified truth, a single ruler. Zhuangzi here allows all things their own rightness—and thereby there will be all the more illumination, with each thing its own sun.”

This likewise illustrates a major theme in Chapter Seven, in which he explains that the best way to rule the empire is to let it rule itself. “When a sage rules, does he rule anything outside himself?” When Tian Gen asked a nameless man how best to manage the world, the latter reluctantly answered, “Let your mind roam in the flavorless, blend your vital energy with the boundless silence, follow the rightness of the way each thing already is without allowing yourself the least bias. Then the world will be in order.” The death of Chaos through the beneficent management of his friends concludes this chapter.

Yet the most fundamental lesson here lies, I think, at the very heart of Zhuangzi’s thinking: “The Radiance of Drift and Doubt is the sage’s only map.” When Liezi, again in Chapter Seven, becomes enamored with the predictive powers of the shaman Jixian and brings him to his master, Huzi, this worthy soon has the shaman fleeing in fear. Huzi explains: “I just showed him what I am when not yet emerged from my source—something empty and serpentine in its twistings, admitting of no understanding of who or what. So he saw it as something endlessly collapsing and scattering, something flowing away with every wave. This is why he fled.” What he saw was Chaos. And this is where the sage roams, “in the homeland of nothing at all.”

Finally realizing that the way of his master was not something to obtain or understand, Liezi hid himself away “letting all the chiseled carvings of his character return to an unhewn blockishness. Solitary like a clump of soil, he planted his physical form there in its place, a mass of chaos and confusion. And that is how he remained to the end of his days.”

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

Help Wanted: Prophet

I'm not usually in the habit of promoting any type of religious article or commentary. However, I just read a most interesting piece at Consortium News, "America, a Land of No Prophets" by Rev. Howard Bess.

Here's a portion of it.
In 2011, the United States is without a prophet in the Bible tradition. In my lifetime, we have had prophetic voices, but only one truly significant prophet, Martin Luther King Jr. He fit the description and walked the walk.

Dr. King did not seek the role that was thrust upon him. Indeed, the burden often depressed him. Yet, he confronted racial discrimination. He championed the poor. He challenged the evil of the war in Vietnam. When he was killed, many among the rich and powerful were glad that he was gone.

Some will ask “How about Billy Graham?” Billy Graham was certainly the most popular Christian preacher of the last half of the 20th century. However, his popularity is the first signal that he was not a prophet.

The rich of America were Graham’s buddies, and he was a White House regular with every U.S. president during his years of popularity. He built an organization that was a financial juggernaut and is now a well-endowed institution.

Graham’s passion was the salvation of individuals who were willing to repeat the correct words in exchange for a promise of a home in heaven.

When compared to the prophets Moses, Micah, Jeremiah, Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr., Billy Graham is not only not one of them, but probably would be the object of harsh criticism by them all.

However, it is not just Billy Graham who fell short. It is the rank-and-file of American clergy – liberal, conservative and fundamentalist – who seemingly do not have a definition of morality that calls us to be our brother’s keeper...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tao Bible - Psalm 33:8

Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
~ King James version ~

With Tao, there is nothing to be in awe of.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
This statement is clear and straightforward: we should fear and be in awe of God.

Since Tao is nonbeing, there is nothing specific to focus our awe on. Instead, behold everything!

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

Chapter 7, Part 2 - Chuang Tzu

Chien Wu went to see the madman Chieh Yu. Chieh Yu said, "What was Chung Shih telling you the other day?" Chien Wu said, "He told me that the ruler of men should devise his own principles, standards, ceremonies, and regulations, and then there will be no one who will fail to obey him and be transformed by them."

The madman Chieh Yu said, "This is bogus virtue! To try to govern the world like this is like trying to walk the ocean, to drill through a river, or to make a mosquito shoulder a mountain! When the sage governs, does he govern what is on the outside? He makes sure of himself first, and then he acts. He makes absolutely certain that things can do what they are supposed to do, that is all. The bird flies high in the sky where it can escape the danger of stringed arrows. The field mouse burrows deep down under the sacred hill where it won't have to worry about men digging and smoking it out. Have you got less sense than these two little creatures?"
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Why the Rich Need to Ante Up

There has been a lot of excellent reporting and writing going on in the alternative press lately. I have and will continue to feature it on this blog. There is a deep class war going on in this country right now and so it is imperative to understand the lay of the land beyond what the government and mainstream media try to spoon-feed us.

One question I hear around my local community is: Why is it fair to expect the wealthy to pay a higher tax rate than others? Shouldn't we adopt a flat tax rate so that everyone is treated equally?

As Robert Parry explains, in part, in "The Solution to Our Budget Problems Is So Obvious: We Need to Raise Taxes on the Rich, ASAP,"
President Dwight Eisenhower’s inter-state highway system enabled companies to move their goods more cheaply; President John Kennedy’s space program spurred the growth in computer sciences; the Pentagon created the Internet (yes, with critical support from Al Gore when in Congress), which revolutionized commerce and spread information.

These innovations and many more were achieved by the federal government using taxpayers’ money. Yes, entrepreneurs in their garages and dorm rooms did expand on these breakthroughs and deserve credit and a share of the profits, but they also should pay back at a much higher rate for the taxpayer-funded R&D that made their fortunes possible...
You see, the infrastructure that paved the way for the rich to become rich was paid through tax dollars by you and me. It's like we provided them with a quick start-up loan and, now that we need them to pay it back, they want the loan to be canceled...unilaterally. They act as if the obtained their riches all on the own initiative and that we taxpayers played no role at all.

A good example of how taxpayer dollars pave the way to corporate profits can be seen in terms of the big pharmaceutical corporations. As Terry J. Allen writes in In These Times,
Our “socialist” president is doling out welfare payments—unfortunately, to one of the world’s most profitable and socially corrupt industries: pharmaceuticals. Barack Obama’s administration is ponying up $1 billion to create a new branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) designed to help Big Pharma develop new drugs...
So we taxpayers will underwrite the development of new drugs and the big pharmaceuticals will "pay us back" by charging us exorbitant prices for the drugs we helped them develop. To add more insult to injury, they will lead the charge for ever lower corporate taxes because they will say that it dampens innovation -- innovation that you and I pay for!

Another way you and I boost the bottom line for the big corporations are through a variety of non-income tax abatements. Ever notice how local communities compete for big business by offering a slew of property tax breaks and other goodies? The taxes they don't have to pay must be made up by someone else -- you and me again -- OR services must be reduced because of the greater stress on a constrained system.

In essence, the reason why it is ethically reasonable to expect the wealthy to shoulder a larger share of the tax burden is because the road they travel to their own pot of gold is built and paved by the rest of us. It is really as simple as that.

Chapter 7, Part 1 - Chuang Tzu

Nieh Ch'ueh Was Questioning Wang Ni. Four times he asked a question and four times Wang Ni said he didn't know. Nieh Ch'ueh proceeded to hop around in great glee and went and told Master P'u-i.

Master P'u-i said, "Are you just now finding that out? The clansman Yu-yu was no match for the clansman T'ai. The clansman Yu-yu still held on to benevolence and worked to win men over. He won men over all right, but he never got out into [the realm of] `notman.' The clansman T'ai, now - he lay down peaceful and easy; he woke up wide-eyed and blank. Sometimes he thought he was a horse; sometimes he thought he was a cow. His understanding was truly trustworthy; his virtue was perfectly true. He never entered [the realm of] `not-man.' "
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.


Recently, there was a very eye-opening interview on Democracy Now! conducted by Amy Goodman with Matt Taibbi. The transcript of the interview was posted today on AlterNet. Here's a small portion to whet your appetite and, possibly, blow your mind.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re seeing these mass protests in Madison, Wisconsin, and there’s other protests that are happening. We see the working poor, the middle class, under tremendous stress, and yet they’re the ones who are being hit hardest, not Wall Street. Explain what has happened. Why isn’t Wall Street in jail?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, it’s an incredible story. I mean, just to back up and provide some context, I think, for this Wisconsin thing, and especially for the Ohio thing, given what their governor used to do for a living—


MATT TAIBBI: Well, he was an employee for Lehman Brothers, and he was—

AMY GOODMAN: This is Governor Kasich.

MATT TAIBBI: Governor Kasich, yeah, and he was intimately involved with selling—getting the state of Ohio’s pension fund to invest in Lehman Brothers and buy mortgage-backed securities. And of course they lost all that money. And this, broadly, was really what the mortgage bubble and the financial crisis was all about. It was essentially a gigantic criminal fraud scheme where all the banks were taking mismarked mortgage-backed securities, very, very dangerous, toxic subprime loans, they were chopping them up and then packaging them as AAA-rated investments, and then selling them to state pension funds, to insurance companies, to Chinese banks and Dutch banks and Icelandic banks. And, of course, these things were blowing up, and all those funds were going broke. But what they’re doing now is they’re blaming the people who were collecting these pensions—they’re blaming the workers, they’re blaming the firemen, they’re blaming the policemen—whereas, in reality, they were actually the victims of this fraud scheme. And the only reason that people aren’t angrier about this, I think, is because they don’t really understand what happened. If these were car companies that had sold a trillion dollars’ worth of defective cars to the citizens of the United States, there would be riots right now. But these were mortgage-backed securities, it’s complicated, people don’t understand it, and they’re only now, I think, beginning to realize that they were defrauded.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what the crime is. Who has profited? Who should be on trial?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, you know, again, the broad crime in all of this was just fraud. They were taking—these banks were taking, again, these subprime mortgages, and they would have these billion-dollar pools of mortgages where, in some cases, 70 or 80 percent of the loans were to people who had no identification or no jobs or who had put no money down into the mortgage. And then they were taking these loans and applying this phony baloney, hocus pocus math, these derivative instruments, and turning them into AAA-rated investments. And they were marketing, again, these securities to, say, state pension funds as AAA-rated investments, which means credit risk almost zero. So they took the stuff that they knew was very, very risky and very, very likely to default, and they were going to the state of Wisconsin, the state of Ohio, the state of New York, and saying, "Hey, this is almost as safe as—or in fact, it is as safe as United States Treasury bonds. You should buy this, and you’ll earn a little bit more than you’ll earn if you buy T-bills." The reality was, they were just taking absolutely worthless stuff and sticking it with these people and then fleeing the scene. This is no different than drug dealers who take a bag of oregano and sell it to you as, you know, a pound of weed. That’s exactly the same scam...
I should note that I recently purchased Taibbi's new book, Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America, so you can expect to see some quotes from the book showing up here in the weeks to come. Of course, before I get to Griftopia, I'm working my way through Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

Line by Line - Verse 23, Lines 11-12

while even those who are failing in both these things agree with him where they fail.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

He who loses the way
Is lost.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Those who follow loss are with loss
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

If you're ready to fail, you can live with failure.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
Each of us needs some bedrock principles to live by. If our actions merely are dictated solely by popular opinion, whim or vested self-interest, then we become capable of committing dastardly acts that injure ourselves and others. We will come to embrace the notion that the end always justifies the means.

In Lao Tzu's view, following Tao means to cast aside selfish desire and instead to become a person of humility, compassion and peace. When we lose sight of these means, we have lost our way.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Hey Ho, The Privateers

Listen to either the mainstream or (much of the) alternative media and you will be informed that those nasty Republicans want to privatize the world! Not so for the Democrats; they supposedly represent our last line of defense against the nefarious GOP.

It MIGHT sound reasonable, but it is generally not true. The Democrats don't mind privatization as long as most people aren't aware of it.

Case in point. While liberals screamed and howled at the Bush administration for employing "private security" contractors -- mercenaries -- for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number employed during the Bush years pale in comparison to the number employed by the Obama administration.

According to Justin Elliott at,
The number of private security contractors working for the Defense Department in Afghanistan has more than tripled to about 19,000 since June 2009, according to a new congressional study...
Not only is this far more expensive to American taxpayers, but it also serves a very specific political purpose. As Elliott points out, "contractor deaths are not closely tracked and publicly disclosed in the same way that troop deaths are." Seems to be a conniving method for covering up information that would tend to anger the voting public.

Chapter 6, Part 15 - Chuang Tzu

Master Yu and Master Sang were friends. Once it rained incessantly for ten days. Master Yu said to himself, Master Sang is probably having a bad time, and he wrapped up some rice and took it for his friend to eat. When he got to Master Sang's gate, he heard something like singing or crying, and someone striking a lute and saying:





It was as though the voice would not hold out and the singer were rushing to get through the words.

Master Yu went inside and said, "What do you mean - singing a song like that!"

"I was pondering what it is that has brought me to this extremity, but I couldn't find the answer. My father and mother surely wouldn't wish this poverty on me. Heaven covers all without partiality; earth bears up all without partiality - heaven and earth surely wouldn't single me out to make me poor. I try to discover who is doing it, but I can't get the answer. Still, here I am - at the very extreme. It must be fate."
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

A Declaration of Un-Dependence

A Declaration of Un-Dependence
by Scott Bradley

In Zhuangzi’s story of the vast bird Peng and tiny quail that laugh at its long, high-flying journey to the Southern Oblivion is the lesson that comparison is an expression of dependence. In the scales of the egoic mind it is being better, prettier, smarter, richer, younger, older, more spiritual....that gives substance to an otherwise hollow existence. My being ‘someone’ depends on my perception of being somehow better than some other. This can reach pathetically amusing proportions when we see our obvious inferiors proudfully establishing their own inferiors. Pathetic, aren’t we?

“Even Song Rongzi would burst out laughing” at such as these. And this is because he had come to realize that his own self-image need not be dependent on the opinions of others. The whole world could praise or despise him and it wouldn’t matter. Little is known of his philosophy, but we know from the final chapter of the Zhuangzi that he said, “to be insulted is not a disgrace.” If my self-image is independent of the image that others form of me, how could their insults touch me? It is my own inner integrity that matters. Yet Zhuangzi says “even Song Rongzi” because he still depended upon his own self-opinion; he still needed to ‘be someone’.

Liezi is said to have ridden upon the wind, so great was his independence from “anxious calculations about bringing good fortune to himself.” Yet, though he was thereby able to avoid walking, still he depended on something: the wind. We know from his enchantment with the prophetic powers of the shaman Jixian that Liezi was enamored with overt manifestations of ‘spirituality’. It must have been a happy day when he discovered his own. And yet, his bondage continued in his dependence upon them.

But what if you could be free of all dependence? asks Zhuangzi; “so that your wandering could nowhere be brought to a halt? You would then be depending on — what? Thus I say, the Consummate Person has no fixed identity, the Spirit Man has no particular merit, the Sage has no name.” The Zhuangzian vision of ultimate freedom is not independence from the other, but complete transcendence of the self-other mechanism. Or, as he simply sums up, “just be empty.” His philosophy is a declaration of un-dependence.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

A Redundancy

Over at Notes From The Outside, Brandon put up a really good post last night about the situation in Wisconsin and unions, in general. A good read, in my opinion.

One point he made bears repeating.
I also think the term "collective bargaining" is redundant. Without the collective, there is no bargaining. There is only groveling before the boss, a sort of tyrant of the economic world. You can ask for a raise, but there's no negotiating. You are free to find work elsewhere, but of course all the other factories are paying the same, or less maybe, and you know, you aren't getting any younger. I actually find it amazing that a society that loves to talk about democracy is terrified of democracy in the workplace...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tao Bible - Psalm 31:19

Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!
~ King James version ~

Tao neither is bad nor good. Tao exists at the center point between the two.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
According to the writer, God is good to those who fear him.

Lacking desire, Tao neither strives for love nor hate, creation nor destruction, goodness nor evil. Tao merely is the process of existence itself -- the balance between being and nonbeing.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

He's Back

For anyone who is interested, Keith Olbermann is back...sort of. Since his departure from MSNBC, it has been speculated that part of his severance package included a clause keeping him off TV for a specified period of time.

Soooo, he has established a website called FOK News Channel (FOK stands for Friends of Keith). It went live tonight.

Chapter 6, Part 14 - Chuang Tzu

Yen Hui said, "I'm improving!"

Confucius said, "What do you mean by that?"

"I've forgotten benevolence and righteousness!"

"That's good. But you still haven't got it."

Another day, the two met again and Yen Hui said, "I'm improving!"

"What do you mean by that?"

"I've forgotten rites and music!"

"That's good. But you still haven't got it."

Another day, the two met again and Yen Hui said, "I'm improving! "

"What do you mean by that?"

"I can sit down and forget everything!"

Confucius looked very startled and said, "What do you mean, sit down and forget everything.'-"

Yen Hui said, "I smash up my limbs and body, drive out perception and intellect, cast off form, do away with understanding, and make myself identical with the Great Thoroughfare. This is what I mean by sitting down and forgetting everything."

Confucius said, "If you're identical with it, you must have no more likes! If you've been transformed, you must have no more constancy! So you really are a worthy man after all! With your permission, I'd like to become your follower."
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Oh Sharia

Over the past year or two, several communities and a few states have talked about legislation prohibiting Sharia law. The latest to jump on the anti-Islamic bandwagon is Tennessee.
Senate Bill 1028, introduced by State Sen. Bill Ketron, gives the state Attorney General authority to designate "Sharia organizations," defined as "two (2) or more persons conspiring to support, or acting in concert in support of, sharia or in furtherance of the imposition of sharia within any state or territory of the United States." Anyone who provides material support or resources to a designated Sharia organization could be charged with a felony and face up to 15 years in jail.

The bill states its intent is not to outlaw free religion, or the practice of Islam. It claims that Sharia presents a real threat to Tennessee...
I don't necessarily think we need to draft legislation of this ilk, but I certainly agree that I don't want to live under Sharia law. It has nothing to do, in my case, with being anti-Islam; it's more anti-religion.

I will say that, if our legislative representatives truly wish to pursue bills of this nature, then I have a suggestion for them: Expand it to include Biblical law as well. I certainly don't want to live under that either!!

I mean, look at the introductory text to the bill (see below) and simply replace the word "Sharia" with the word "Christianity." Seems to me that both religions desire the same end -- a theocracy.
Sharia as a political doctrine requires all its adherents to actively support the establishment of a political society based upon sharia as foundational or supreme law and the replacement of any political entity not governed by sharia with a sharia political order.

Sharia requires all its adherents to actively and passively support the replacement of America's constitutional republic, including the representative government of this state with a political system based upon sharia.

Chapter 6, Part 13 - Chuang Tzu

Yi Erh-tzu went to see Hsu Yu. Hsu Yu said, "What kind of assistance has Yao been giving you?"

Yi Erh-tzu said, "Yao told me, `You must learn to practice benevolence and righteousness and to speak clearly about right and wrong!'"

"Then why come to see me?" said Hsu Yu. "Yao has already tattooed you with benevolence and righteousness and cut off your nose with right and wrong. Now how do you expect to go wandering in any far-away, carefree, and as-you-like-it paths?"

"That may be," said Yi Erh-tzu. "But I would like if I may to wander in a little corner of them."

"Impossible!" said Hsu Yu. "Eyes that are blind have no way to tell the loveliness of faces and features; eyes with no pupils have no way to tell the beauty of colored and embroidered silks."

Yi Erh-tzu said, "Yes, but Wu-chuang forgot her beauty, Chu-liang forgot his strength, and the Yellow Emperor forgot his wisdom - all were content to be recast and remolded. How do you know that the Creator will not wipe away my tattoo, stick my nose back on again, and let me ride on the process of completion and follow after you, Master?"

"Ah - we can never tell," said Hsu Y u. "I will just speak to you about the general outline. This Teacher of mine, this Teacher of mine - he passes judgment on the ten thousand things but he doesn't think himself righteous; his bounty extends to ten thousand generations but he doesn't think himself benevolent. He is older than the highest antiquity but he doesn't think himself long-lived; he covers heaven, bears up the earth, carves and fashions countless forms, but he doesn't think himself skilled. It is with him alone I wander."
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Labor Talk

Over the past week or so, I'm sure that you've noticed that I have interspersed a lot of quotes and commentary on the labor crisis in Wisconsin with the typical Taoist fare. I believe we are at a crucial crossroads in the American experience and how this current crisis of ideals plays out will alter said experience for generations to come.

If you haven't kept abreast with all the commentary, analysis and reporting on this issue, here is a brief sampling of some of the things being written.
Yes, America Still Needs Unions
by Joe Conason

But if you thumb back through the pages of our economic history over the past hundred years or so, a number of obvious facts stand out. First, the United States enjoyed a far better distribution of income and a steady improvement of our productivity and power when the labor movement was strong. Second, labor always struggled to expand human and civil rights for everyone, whether or not they happened to belong to unions. And third, the success of labor’s effort toward a more equitable society ensured broad prosperity for decades. As labor’s power diminished, income and wealth skewed upward—and helped drive the economy into stagnation and recession.

So Americans not only display ingratitude when they denigrate unions, which have done so much to improve the lives of ordinary people, but ignorance as well. Even in its terribly weakened condition, the labor movement remains a bulwark against the kind of corporate tyranny that would swiftly make serfs of the rest of us...
Two Public Pay Standards, One Statement of Values
by David Sirota

To the government-funded bankers, we’ve applied the notion of “you get what you pay for.” Thus, our government has refrained from ending exorbitant pay packages at taxpayer-funded banks in the name of “retaining talent.” That was the mantra of politicians and publicly subsidized financial executives when they weakened proposals to cap annual bank salaries at $500,000. Though an astronomical sum, one Wall Street adviser told reporters that half a million bucks “is not a lot of money,” while others repeated a talking point from a corporate report insisting that government-sponsored banks would “experience a talent drain” if barred from paying employees millions.

Of course, this same idea of paying a premium to retain talent is nowhere in our discussion about the other set of public workers. Instead, we mostly hear politicians and media voices berating teachers, firefighters and police officers as “freeloaders” or “welfare cases.” This, despite the Economic Policy Institute reporting that these non-bank public employees make 3.7 percent less than those in similar private-sector jobs...
The Dirty Secret of Public-Sector Union Busting
by Alyssa Battistoni

Amid all the rightful outrage over Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to do away with collective bargaining rights for public sector unions in Wisconsin, one important point has been neglected: The demise of public sector unions would be most detrimental to women and African-Americans, who make up a disproportionate share of the public sector workforce.

Much has been made of Walker's decision to exempt from his plan firefighter, police and state trooper unions -- conveniently, the only three public sector unions that endorsed him. But as Dana Goldstein points out, not only are the exempted unions largely Republican-leaning, they’re also overwhelmingly male -- over 70 percent of law enforcement personnel are male, as are over 96 percent of firefighters. On the other hand, many of the non-exempt unions represent professions that are disproportionately female -- approximately 80 percent of teachers are women, for example, as are 95 percent of nurses...

Our Economic Pain Is Coming from Big Industry CEOs, Not Public Employees' Unions
by John Schmitt

Back in the late 1970s, public- and private-sector jobs were not that different. About 70 percent of private-sector workers had health insurance through their jobs. Public-sector workers were a bit more likely to have coverage than private-sector workers --about 75 percent at the local level, 80 percent at the state level, and 85 percent at the federal level. Then, as now, this largely reflected that, on average, public employees were older and more likely to be college-educated than private-sector workers.

Health-coverage rates today are little changed in the public sector. But, coverage is down almost 15 percentage points for private-sector workers.

Over the last three decades, in our role as "employers" of public-sector workers, we taxpayers did the right thing. We generally kept our commitment to public-sector workers and their families. Coverage hasn't slipped, even if most public workers now pay a larger share of premiums, and have seen increases in deductibles and co-pays. In our other role, however, as employees in the private sector, we didn't get the same treatment from our own employers...

Union-Busting Is Theft -- a Weapon of Class Warfare from Above
by Joshua Holland

Defunding the American labor movement is a huge goal for Walker's corporate sponsors. Contrary to right-wing spin, it's illegal for unions to use workers' dues for political purposes, but union PACs, which are funded by voluntary contributions from their members, help pay for not only the campaigns of politicians who are friendly to workers but also a number of progressive think-tanks and advocacy groups that have proven to be a thorn in the side of the Corporate Right. (Just one example among many is U.S. Chamber Watch, which has proven to be such an obstacle for the Chamber of Commerce that it explored launching a sleazy disinformation campaign to discredit the group.)

But unions do more than that to advance a pro-middle-class agenda. They also educate workers and, as a result, union members are more likely to vote their economic interests than be blinded by culture war issues. In 2004, although George Bush won the votes of white working-class men by 25 percent over John Kerry, blue-collar white guys who belonged to unions broke for Kerry by 21 percent. Charles Noble, a political scientist at IC Long Beach, commented, “Clearly, union members had a different perspective on the election, most likely provided by the unions themselves, which poured millions into educating and mobilizing union households...”

Class War in Wisconsin
by Jeffrey Sommers

Today, US private sector workers have been reduced to Japanese-like long hours. Their health plans consist of HMOs providing substandard care, often having to navigate numbing bureaucracies, only to be told "coverage denied". They no longer have employer-paid pensions. Most are now on their own when it comes to retirement. Or if lucky, they may have a generous employer that gives half towards a 401k plan that merely feeds traders on Wall Street, while never delivering enough returns actually to fund their retirement.

In short, it has been a return of the mean season. Briefly, in 2008, this frustration was directed against the Republicans. Yet, the Democrats delivered no tangible gains for labour since taking power then, and now, the right has helped steer working-class anger away from Wall Street and back to Main Street's teachers and public employees. Deftly executed, private sector workers without benefits now blame workers who do have them as the cause of their deprivation. Instead of seeing the gains unions can deliver, private sector workers now take the lesson that these gains have somehow been taken at their expense – all the while ignoring the trough-feeding that continues unabated on Wall Street...