Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mencius - Book 6, Part 2, Chapter 1A

A man of Zan asked the disciple Wû-lû, saying, 'Is an observance of the rules of propriety in regard to eating, or eating merely, the more important?' The answer was, 'The observance of the rules of propriety is the more important.'

'Is the gratifying the appetite of sex, or the doing so only according to the rules of propriety, the more important?' The answer again was, 'The observance of the rules of propriety in the matter is the more important.'

The man pursued, 'If the result of eating only according to the rules of propriety will be death by starvation, while by disregarding those rules we may get food, must they still be observed in such a case? If according to the rule that he shall go in person to meet his wife a man cannot get married, while by disregarding that rule he may get married, must he still observe the rule in such a case?'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

When It Matters Most

Trey Smith

The mantra of libertarians, Tea Party supporters and most conservatives is this idea of LIMITED GOVERNMENT. Yes, they want to shrink the government at all its various levels, particularly at the federal level. A leaner government apparatus will mean prosperity for all, greater freedoms, increased security...blah, blah, blah.

The way these people talk you would think that they absolutely loathe BIG government...except when it comes to natural disasters. It is then that the "shrink government" crowd lines up for all sorts of government help and financial assistance (just like everybody else). It is at these sorts of times that BIG government ain't so bad after all!

This is a major point that I think is lost for these sorts of people. If they had their way, the next time a Hurricane Sandy or, say, a major earthquake or flood strikes, a leaner government wouldn't be there to provide the kind of assistance they will demand. There wouldn't be the needed funds to help small business owners and homeowners. Needed but destroyed infrastructure wouldn't all be rebuilt or, at least, done so in a timely manner. There would be far fewer first responders to rescue the stranded or aid the injured.

Heck, with enough cutbacks, maybe the weather service wouldn't be in a position to warn citizens of trouble headed their way. People would be going about their daily business when WHAM, they are blindsided by calamity.

While government shouldn't be big just for the sake of it, in a large and populous nation like the United States, we need a big-sized government to insure the health and safety of our people and to manage an infrastructure that stretches from sea to shining sea. It's too bad that a lot of folks don't understand this idea...except when disasters occurs.

Afternoon Matinee: Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit

Like a Young Child

Trey Smith

Do you remember when you were a young child? You weren't very equipped to face the complexities of the world around you. Typically, you could deal alright with the the minor irritations and problems that arose, but in major situations, you looked to your parents or caregivers to provide a tremendous amount of assistance OR to solve the issue for you.

I can tell you that being [financially] poor is much the same way. While Della and I can deal with the everyday bumps and bruises of adulthood, when a major situation arises, we generally are powerless to do much of anything about it...without the assistance of family or the government.

As I noted yesterday, it's been raining like crazy here. We received over 3 inches of rain on Tuesday which pushed the monthly total to date near 17 inches. Heavy rain tends to make us a tad bit nervous because we have some problems with our aging roof.

Early yesterday afternoon, as I was helping Della bring in some groceries, I let out a loud gasp. "What's wrong?" my wife asked. I pointed to the north wall of our living room. The moment she saw it, she gasped too. You could see water dripping down the wall! And I don't mean just a wee amount of water; it was significant.

Having your roof replaced costs thousands and thousands of dollars. When you're poor, thousands of dollars is as much of a dream as millions or billions of dollars. Heck, we can't even afford to have a savings account!

As a stop-gap measure, we called a local roofing company and they sent out a guy to patch this one hole. It cost us $100. We can deal with that. This fellow pointed out to me -- from the attic crawlspace -- numerous holes and gaps. We don't have the hundreds of dollars needed to fix each one. We're lucky that most of these holes and gaps haven't resulted in more leaks.

My dad is retiring in two months and he and my step-mom don't have the money to loan us. (I should note that my 79 year old father has come to our rescue more times than I would like to admit, so there are NO hard feelings here at all.) I've been communicating with our USDA Rural Home Development rep as to what kinds of government assistance we might be able to tap into because, without some form of assistance, the roof situation will continue to deteriorate. This wouldn't be good for us or the US Government (which guarantees our loan AND provides a monthly mortgage subsidy).

In the end, we probably will need to give up our house. Della's profession is filled with months of more work than she almost can handle as well as months in which hours are hard to come by. When she's working many hours, we are able to pay the mortgage and all of our other bills. But when the hours dry up -- like right now -- we're hard-pressed even to meet our minimal monthly obligations. That said, under either scenario, we are not in a financial position to absorb a major cost like a new roof or getting the exterior of the house painted (something badly needed).

Bit by Bit - Chapter 2, Part 18

Trey Smith

The understanding of the men of ancient times went a long way. How far did it go? To the point where some of them believed that things have never existed - so far, to the end, where nothing can be added. Those at the next stage thought that things exist but recognized no boundaries among them. Those at the next stage thought there were boundaries but recognized no right and wrong. Because right and wrong appeared, the Way was injured, and because the Way was injured, love became complete. But do such things as completion and injury really exist, or do they not?
~ Burton Watson translation ~
This paragraph reminds me of the first two lines of Verse 18 of the Tao Te Ching.
When the great Tao is forgotten,
Kindness and morality arise.
It is interesting that we place such great importance on morality when the need of a moral code best illustrates how far we have strayed from the original nature of Tao. I mean, who needs rules except rule breakers?

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

Mencius - Book 6, Part 1, Chapter 20

Mencius said, 'Î, in teaching men to shoot, made it a rule to draw the bow to the full, and his pupils also did the same.

'A master-workman, in teaching others, uses the compass and square, and his pupils do the same.'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Tao Books - Liberation As Affirmation

Scott Bradley

I have just finished Ge Ling Shang's Liberation As Affirmation: The Religiosity of Zhuangzi and Nietzsche (Suny Series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture) and this brings me to that place where I presume to make a final critique.

On the negative side, I have already mentioned that some parts, particularly in the important foundational beginning, seem to have escaped the editor's scrutiny; not only is the grammar sometimes so poor as to render meaning obscure, but there are also times, irrespective of grammar, when meaning is opaque beyond my powers (at any rate) to decipher with any degree of confidence. For instance, though I have attempted an interpretation, I still do not understand what he means by "Dao throughs as one", a pivotal concept in his overall argument.

That does it for the negative. I found the book very helpful and insightful overall. I admit that this is largely a result of discovering that we agree in so many ways and because the affirmation of a scholar is encouraging.

Most importantly, and still more subjectively, I will presume to say that Ge seems to have really "got it" in terms of the spirit and intent of Zhuangzi. This is, in my experience, a rarity. Most translators and commentators, though perhaps quite knowledgeable about the Zhuangzi, do not seem to have made that spiritually appreciative connection with it that takes their understanding to that next, not quite definable, level. This, I suppose, is understandable. Scholarship is largely defined by its supposedly objective, and therefore un-involved, analysis. Yet, the nature of the subject, a spiritual transcendence that sets reason on its ear, requires a spiritually sensitive appreciation in order to be truly 'understood". One need only consider the numerous peculiar interpretations of wu wei to get the sense of this necessity.

I'll close with a one of Ge's partial summations of the Zhuangzian vision:
Everything, every moment in this world and this life, body, instinct, chaos, contradiction, appearance, all condemned and marginalized in the history of conventional philosophy and religion, should be affirmed and celebrated as sacred and divine.
Zhuangzi's call is ultimately to an affirmation of the human experience in its totality.

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mencius - Book 6, Part 1, Chapter 19

Mencius said, 'Of all seeds the best are the five kinds of grain, yet if they be not ripe, they are not equal to the t'î or the pâi. So, the value of benevolence depends entirely on its being brought to maturity.'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

A Moral Option

Trey Smith

Progressives are protecting less and less with each election cycle. The winner-take-all electoral system makes other parties irrelevant and relegates them to spoiler status, but the argument against supporting them is weaker as the system deteriorates. The argument that voting changes nothing for the average person is a valid one, and the sight of Romney and Obama declaring agreement on the issues of empire and finance makes that point quite clearly.

We are left with a plea to honor the memories of those who sacrificed, sometimes with their lives, during the freedom struggles of the 1960s. But those people fought and died for full citizenship rights, of which voting was just a part. No one today should worry about dishonoring or dismissing their sacrifice by refusing to take part in the farce that national elections have now become.

It is acceptable not to vote at all, or to vote for someone other than Barack Obama. Some who claim to be leftists argue against particular Obama policies only to conclude at election time that he should be elected anyway. These people undercut their own arguments and make a mockery of themselves. Their pleas to stop surveillance or drone assassinations or the destruction of nations such as Libya and Syria become hollow because they refuse to acknowledge the corruption that is an integral part of the system.

Arguing for the re-election of a person who so clearly is a danger to the nation and to the world is at best illogical, and at worst is immoral. The time for defending tiny victories should end. Barack Obama and the Democrats should know that their critics mean business, and will cease supporting them. Racist statements from right wing pundits and bizarre statements about rape and pregnancy shouldn’t fool anyone into supporting policies that are wrong for this country and for the world.

On November 6th it is perfectly acceptable, morally right, and politically principled to boycott the election or to vote for a party other than the Democrats.
~ from Not Voting for Obama by Margaret Kimberley ~
I realize that many US readers feel compelled to vote for tweedledee or tweedledum. That's what we've been taught since we were knee high. Voting both is a privilege AND a responsibility. If you don't vote, the thinking goes, you have no right to complain.

There might be some truth to this axiom IF we had two or more viable candidates who represented divergent perspectives. The problem we face, however, is that the only candidates who profess divergent views aren't viable (the system is rigged against them) and the only two that are viable agree on most of the salient issues facing the nation and the world.

What it comes down to is a moral dilemma. Do you choose to participate in a system rigged to produce an outcome acceptable to the elite or do you choose not to be a party to it? I've chosen not to be participate in the farce. How about you?

Afternoon Matinee: "Weird Al" Yankovic - The Saga Begins

At Her Mercy

Trey Smith

We split atoms. We map the heavens. We build skyscrapers that jut into the sky. We manufacture contraptions that fly far higher than any bird. We channel and harness rivers.

Our continuing technological advances have propelled human society forward. In the western world, life expectancy is ever inching upwards. Yes, we have become masters of this realm.

And yet, for all of our immense knowledge and capabilities, not unlike ancient humankind, we remain at the mercy of Mother Nature. When cataclysmic storms rain down from the heavens, we are reminded just how powerless we truly are. Each hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, flood, tornado, blizzard and ice storm shows us that, in the overall scheme of things, we're little toddlers compared to the forces of nature.

Compared to previous generations about our ONLY advantage is that we've become a tad bit better at predicting climatic events which helps us to better prepare to withstand them. Over the past few days, millions watched as Super storm Sandy marched toward the eastern seaboard of the US. By and large, the predictions of forecasters were on target. The storm made landfall about where they thought it would and the damage wrought was in the ballpark of what they anticipated.

But not all predictions pan out this well. In September, the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center forecast that my corner of the world in southwest Washington was in an area of likely drought development. According to those forecasts, it was supposed to be an exceptionally dry October. This forecast was way, way off.

As it now stands, October will be the third wettest month of this calendar year with rainfall 2.2 times of normal (15+ inches as I type this). It is very difficult to have a drought when there are deep puddles of standing water all around!

I will be very interested to see if the October 18 prediction for November holds true. As you can see below, we again are supposed to be in an area that is abnormally dry for this time of year. Right now, it's hard for me to imagine that this forecast will stand as we have one storm after another lined up over the Pacific Ocean taking aim directly at us.

Whether or not it rains like crazy or the tap is cut off, we can't do a thing to influence the outcome. Mother Nature will do what she will and we must deal with the results. You see, Mother Nature is driving the car; we're mere passengers along for the ride! 

(So, buckle up.)

Bit by Bit - Chapter 2, Part 17

Trey Smith

But to wear out your brain trying to make things into one without realizing that they are all the same - this is called "three in the morning." What do I mean by "three in the morning"? When the monkey trainer was handing out acorns, he said, "You get three in the morning and four at night." This made all the monkeys furious. "Well, then," he said, "you get four in the morning and three at night." The monkeys were all delighted. There was no change in the reality behind the words, and yet the monkeys responded with joy and anger. Let them, if they want to. So the sage harmonizes with both right and wrong and rests in Heaven the Equalizer. This is called walking two roads.
~ Burton Watson translation ~
In this vein, humans are no better than monkeys! We cling to our own depictions of the world and yet it doesn't change the world as it is. We squabble and fight to enforce our will upon others, but, at the end of the day, we each leave this world with exactly what we brought into it: nothing.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

Mencius - Book 6, Part 1, Chapter 18

Mencius said, 'Benevolence subdues its opposite just as water subdues fire. Those, however, who now-a-days practice benevolence do it as if with one cup of water they could save a whole wagon-load of fuel which was on fire, and when the flames were not extinguished, were to say that water cannot subdue fire. This conduct, moreover, greatly encourages those who are not benevolent.

'The final issue will simply be this the loss of that small amount of benevolence.'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.


Scott Bradley

Xiaoyaoyou is the term used by Zhuangzi to describe his vision of personal liberation: "free (xiao) distant (yao) wandering (you)". We need to be careful, I think, in labeling this or any other concept with the original words, now largely extinct, in order for them to seem somehow more profound, but such labels can help to focus attention on the concept nonetheless. Jargon is sometimes a cloak for an egoic involvement contradictory to the very concept under discussion. A parallel analogy might be the peculiar pride expressed when someone suggests that his religion is older than someone else's, or just that it’s ancient. So what? Really — so what?

As is often the case, I have already strayed from the intended focus of the post, but I wanted to express my ambivalence in using technical terms, though I have obviously deemed them useful in some cases. What needs to be avoided is the reification of spiritual expression in a culture now dead, the intellectual equivalent of adopting new dress of a special color and taking a new name. If it doesn’t belong now, in this culture, it doesn’t belong.

Ge Ling Shang (Liberation as Affirmation) provides a succinct and inspiring summation of Zhuangzi's vision: "To be a person of xiaoyaoyou is to be one with ziran and to dance with the rhythm and flow of life in an absolute affirmative state of mind."

Ziran is another 'special' term, the use of which helps to focus the attention on what is unique in proto-Daoist thought. Generally, I believe it is translated as 'spontaneity'. However, Ge Ling Shang renders it as 'nature' or 'self-so'. All three are the case. Nature ('Reality') is understood as a spontaneous, un-caused, arising, which is to say, it is 'self-so' (or 'so-of-itself'). As Jesus might say, "Go thee, therefore, and be likewise."

'Free and distant wandering' is participation in this spontaneous arising; it is to be one with transformation. Nothing is fixed. Truly. To be free is to be unfixed. To truly participate in this unfixedness, one's sense of self must also become unfixed. How do we know when this is the case? When, for example, that apparently greatest of transformations from life to death, does not bother one in the least, this is being unfixed. When first I started to think on these things, before ever I heard of Zhuangzi, I realized that indifference to one's own death was the ultimate test of one's freedom, for freedom, though freedom for, is also freedom from, though freedom itself recognizes neither.

This wandering is “distant” in that it transcends the limits and boundaries of all fixity. It is ‘beyond’ not as a place, but as a distinctly different way of being in the world.

The affirmation of all that arises is the proof of one’s identification with nature, for nothing arises that is not nature. It is an openness thankful and fearless. One’s participation in xiaoyaoyou, Ge tells us, is ultimately “tested by his love of fate” (ming). Think about it.

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

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mencius - Book 6, Part 1, Chapter 17

Mencius said, 'To desire to be honored is the common mind of men. And all men have in themselves that which is truly honorable. Only they do not think of it.

'The honor which men confer is not good honor. Those whom Châo the Great ennobles he can make mean again.

'It is said in the Book of Poetry,
"He has filled us with his wine,
He has satiated us with his goodness."
"Satiated us with his goodness," that is, satiated us with benevolence and righteousness, and he who is so satiated, consequently, does not wish for the fat meat and fine millet of men. A good reputation and far-reaching praise fall to him, and he does not desire the elegant embroidered garments of men.'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

All For One, Not One For All

Trey Smith

If you happen to be employed as a dishwasher and you earn the federal minimum wage, your gross income for the year will come out to slightly more than $15,000. From the first penny you earn per year to the last, ALL OF IT will be subject to the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax. The very same thing is true if you're a school teacher pulling down $40,000/year or a mid-level state worker who earns $90,000/year.

Thus, on the surface the FICA tax appears to treat everyone equally. It seems to follow the slogan of The Three Musketeers: One for all, all for one.

But initial appearances can be oh so deceiving!

You see, if you happen to be a worker who earns $155,000 or $328,000/year, only the first $110,100 is subject to the tax. If none of your annual income is derived from wages, then ZERO of your income is taxed through FICA. This is not to suggest that you pay no federal taxes at all -- though many can claim this -- but you aren't subject to FICA on some or all of your annual income.

To recap. While FICA appears to be a tax that treats income equally, it is not. Rather than being a fair tax, it is a regressive one. The more you make in wages or salary over $110,100, the less your tax rate is. Everyone who earns less than the threshold pays the same rate. Those who exceed the earnings ceiling end up paying a lesser rate on their overall yearly income.

This brings to mind a few questions: Why is there an earnings ceiling to begin with? What is so different between $1 and $110,101? And why are wages subject to this tax, while other forms of income are not?

If you've read this blog for any length of time, then you should have a strong inkling of what I think the answers are to these questions.

Afternoon Matinee: Don McLean - American Pie

Real Life Tao - The Tempests of Life

Trey Smith

One hundred years ago Hurricane Sandy would have caught those along the Atlantic seaboard off-guard. Yes, some might have had an inkling of the storm's mammoth size and ferocity, but chances are great that most people would have been caught ill-prepared and the loss of life would have been significant.

With our advances in science, the world has been able to watch as Sandy has plotted its course toward the mid-Atlantic states. We now fly planes into hurricanes to record the pressure and wind speeds. We employ a variety of computer models that predict the path of such storms. Both government and the media have focused on the coming tempest in such a way to warn people of the impending dangers.

We are now able to track storms of this nature because of our ever-broadening viewpoint. Satellites and other technological advances allow us to pull away from the earth to see the "big picture." It is because our vision is not as myopic as before that we can prepare and gird ourselves for the coming fury that will envelope us.

There is a lesson here. In our own lives, we often are too close to the matter of our deepest affections -- ourselves! Like Zhuangzi's well-frog (from Chapter 17 or this post by Scott), we imprison ourselves in our own little worlds. We don't allow ourselves to see beyond the confines of the well.

Because our vision is so focused on that which is close up, we often don't notice the tempests swirling around us. When they methodically slam into us, we are caught completely off-guard and we flail about as we try to find higher ground.

If only we would learn to take a broader view of life -- to see beyond the constrictions of ego -- we could see the tempests of life approaching and take the necessary actions to calm the clouds before they can blow up into storms.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

True Colors

Trey Smith

We know that there isn't much "Hope" for "Change" -- at least for progressive change -- should President Obama win a second term as president.

Even when he had the chance, with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress during the first two years of his presidency, and with a solid mandate from the voters to act on restoring civil liberties, taking significant action against climate change, ending the wars and defending Social Security and Medicare, he did nothing.

There are some Democrats still caught up in the fantasy, imagining that if the president is re-elected, and doesn't have another term to worry about, he will finally show his "real colors" and become the progressive they imagined him to be in 2008.

The evidence that this is not the case, though, is clear in the way he is campaigning. You don't hear, and did not hear in either of the first two presidential debates, any call for voters to give the president a strong Democratic majority in House and Senate. In fact, there was not a word in either of those debates from the president about the importance of getting rid of the Republican control of the House, and of solidifying the Democratic grip on the Senate to prevent Republicans from again blocking any progressive legislation.

If the president really planned on being a progressive, he would have taken the many opportunities handed to him by Romney in those debates, and by questions from the moderator and the audience in the second debate, to blame Republicans in Congress for the failures of his first term, and would have told the 65-70 million viewers to get out there and elect Democrats to Congress -- especially progressive Democrats. He had a chance to single out the Democrats in tough races where a win would really shift the balance not just to the Democrats, but to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, for example Elizabeth Warren over Scott Brown in Massachusetts, or Tammy Baldwin over Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, or Alan Grayson over Todd Long in Florida.

Instead, the president was silent about the congressional races.

What this tells us is two things. One, the president and his staff don't really care about Congress, and in fact think that the way to win the White House for a second time is to back away from progressive positions as much as possible, in order to win those so-called "middle of the road" voters who, for the most part, are swayed by weird, meaningless things like appearance, demeanor, and image. And two, the president and his handlers probably don't even want to have a progressive, or even a Democratic majority in Congress, because if they had such a thing, then the president would be compelled to do progressive things in his second term, and he doesn't really want to do that.

This is a president who is happier coddling corporations, massaging the military-industrial complex, and ignoring the indigent. That's easy to do when you have a Republican Congress. You can pretend to be a nice progressive guy trying to do the right thing, only to be stymied by the troglodytes in Congress. But if you helped elect those trogs by not fighting for a Democratic majority, it's really not honest to then blame Congress.
~ from Democratic Dysfunction and Warnings of Future Betrayal are Evident in the Obama Campaign by Dave Lindorff ~
I decided to share the majority of Lindorff's column (written before the 3rd debate) today because he makes a very important point. When Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were trying to win a second term, they were all over the country trying to help out their party's candidates in Senate and House races. Both talked about the importance of providing a strong majority in Congress for their party.

For the most part, Obama has been AWOL in this department. Lindorff has made a strong case as to why: Obama doesn't want to be constrained by a Democratic majority!

The way politics used to work in this country makes that sounds strange to write. Almost EVERY presidential candidate in US history has tried to cajole voters not only to vote for him but as many of his party's mates as possible. The fact that Obama has shown so much disinterest, in this regard, SHOULD tell you something very important about the man.

The question is: Are you listening?

Bit by Bit - Chapter 2, Part 16

Trey Smith

For this reason, whether you point to a little stalk or a great pillar, a leper or the beautiful Hsi-shih, things ribald and shady or things grotesque and strange, the Way makes them all into one. Their dividedness is their completeness; their complete­ness is their impairment. No thing is either complete or impaired, but all are made into one again. Only the man of far­ reaching vision knows how to make them into one. So he has no use [for categories], but relegates all to the constant. The constant is the useful; the useful is the passable; the passable is the successful; and with success, all is accomplished. He relies upon this alone, relies upon it and does not know he is doing so. This is called the Way.
~ Burton Watson translation ~
I used to think -- as many still do -- that there was this thing called perfection. But how can anything be perfect? No matter how well something is done, it can always be done better. No matter how lovely a thing is, it can always be lovelier. And no matter how much we screw things up (perfect botch job), we can always screw things up worse.

Even if there was a god of some sort out there, how could it be perfect? In thinking about itself and its creations, I'm sure this "god" could envision grander schemes in which to order the world.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

Mencius - Book 6, Part 1, Chapter 16

Mencius said, 'There is a nobility of Heaven, and there is a nobility of man. Benevolence, righteousness, self-consecration, and fidelity, with unwearied joy in these virtues; these constitute the nobility of Heaven. To be a kung, a ch'ing, or a tâ-fû; this constitutes the nobility of man.

'The men of antiquity cultivated their nobility of Heaven, and the nobility of man came to them in its train.

'The men of the present day cultivate their nobility of Heaven in order to seek for the nobility of man, and when they have obtained that, they throw away the other: their delusion is extreme. The issue is simply this, that they must lose that nobility of man as well.'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

At the End of All Belief

Scott Bradley

There is no faith deeper / than at the end of all belief.
— Chen Jen
I hope readers will forgive me for not only quoting myself, but also for quoting the same lines repeatedly. My only defense is that this particular line never ceases to inspire me. And if I say that it inspires me, it can only mean that it really has very little to do with me in terms of possession.

These words take me to the edge of a precipice. Innocent of every explanation and answer, one is invited to plunge into the wonderful, all-enveloping sea of trust.

Trust in what? One can say, trust in life, trust in things as they seem, trust in the Unknowable, or one can simply say, "just trust".

Trust may be something that we choose to do, but it is also already something that we necessarily do in every moment of our existence. To live is to trust. It is unavoidable. In this sense, to take the plunge into trust "adds nothing to life" at all. It is simple agreement with the fundamental condition of life.

What is trust? It is complete affirmation and acceptance of things as they arise. It is thankfulness. It is letting go completely. It is surrender. It is the freedom to wander without fear. It is complete non-dependence — nothing need be known, nothing need be true, no foundation or ground of being need be established. With nothing relied upon, there is nothing to lose, and therefore, there is nothing to fear.

The end of belief is a pre-condition for the ultimate plunge into trust simply because in belief one puts trust, which would otherwise be unmediated, in a ‘truth’ or a concept — one depends on something supposed to be fixed in a world utterly unfixed.

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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mencius - Book 6, Part 1, Chapter 15

The disciple Kung-tû said, 'All are equally men, but some are great men, and some are little men; how is this?' Mencius replied, 'Those who follow that part of themselves which is great are great men; those who follow that part which is little are little men.'

Kung-tû pursued, 'All are equally men, but some follow that part of themselves which is great, and some follow that part which is little; how is this?' Mencius answered, 'The senses of hearing and seeing do not think, and are obscured by external things. When one thing comes into contact with another, as a matter of course it leads it away. To the mind belongs the office of thinking. By thinking, it gets the right view of things; by neglecting to think, it fails to do this. These the senses and the mind are what Heaven has given to us. Let a man first stand fast in the supremacy of the nobler part of his constitution, and the inferior part will not be able to take it from him. It is simply this which makes the great man.'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Don't Mention It

Trey Smith

Here's the scenario: Some bad people have broken into your home and taken your family hostage. They lock you in a closet or the basement as they set about to ransack your house. As one of them secures the door to your holding area, he asks an accomplice, "So, what are we going to do with these folks?" The other fellow says in a very menacing tone, "We'll take care of them once we're done plundering the house!"

As you sit there with your loved ones wondering if "taking care of you" means they plan to kill you, you remember you have your cell phone in your pocket. So, you call 911.
911 Operator: 911. Can I help you?
You: Thank goodness!
911 Operator: What is your problem?
You: Let's see. My wife recently was laid off from her job and my hours were cut at work.
911 Operator: Sir, 911 is for emergencies!
You: I know, I know. Things look very bleak for us right now.
911 Operator: Sir, if you don't have some sort of emergency, I'm going to need to hang up.
You: Don't you understand? Our lives are in imminent danger!
911 Operator: Danger from what or whom?
You: Well, with all the rain of the past week, our roof has started leaking. Just yesterday our 16 year old son got sent home from school for mouthing off at his teacher.
911 Operator: Sir, these are not the kinds of problems that we deal with at 911. You should call your local Social Services agency during their regular business hours.
You: Don't you understand? I think they're going to kill us!
911 Operator: Who is going to kill you?
You: My next door neighbor refuses to bring back the lawn mower I lent him last week. What kind of a friend would do that?
911 Operator: For the last time, these sorts of issues are not a reason to call 911.
You: When we end up dead, I hope you lose your job!
Just like the above caller -- the person who steadfastly refused to tell the 911 operator what the imminent threat was -- neither presidential candidate over 3 televised debates ever uttered the words, climate change or global warming. In fact, they didn't even nebulously reference this growing threat to humanity.

Oh, they talked eloquently about all sorts of problems, but they steadfastly refused to talk about the one issue that might change or end life as we know it.

Curious, isn't it?

Afternoon Matinee: "Weird Al" Yankovic - Amish Paradise

Fingers in the Pie

Trey Smith

I went into my local township building Monday to settle up my local income tax bill. I had filed for an extension of my federal and state taxes back in April (call it my "Romney extension), because of my father’s unexpected death a few weeks before the tax filing date and the need to deal with his funeral and with arranging for care for my widowed mother, who has alzheimers, had taken up all my time.

I paid my local tax bill on time though, because at 1 percent of income it is a relatively small amount and was easy to get out of the way. I just made a rough estimate and dropped a check with the one-page form in the mail, figuring I’d settle the amount due after my federal taxes were completed. So, after finally getting my federal and state taxes done, I went to the town hall to settle up. It turned out I’d overpaid my local taxes by $165.

Ordinarily if I’ve overpaid my local tax, for example by paying too much in the four required estimated tax payments, the township simply applies the overpayment to my next tax year’s estimated payment. Not so this year. I was told that the collection of taxes by all the townships in Montgomery County had been privatized -- taken over by a private accountancy firm called Berkheimer Tax Administrator, a company expressly created to bid for outsourced collection operations of local towns, school districts and counties, for a fee.

The immediate problem for me resulting from this astonishing privatization of a fundamental local government activity -- the collection of taxes -- was that the local township office said they could not credit my overpayment as before. “Berkheimer is in charge of the money,” a township official told me, “and they will send you a check for the overpayment.”

“But that means I will be late in filing the first two quarterly estimated payments for 2012,” I said, adding, “but I’m really not late, because they already have my money!”

“You’ll have to call Berkheimer,” she told me. “We can’t do anything about it.”

After calling Berkheimer (and waiting through 15 minutes of listening to god-awful Muzak), I finally got a tele-clerk, who told me that there was nothing she could do. I would be issued a check for the overpayment, and would be charged a late fee for my late quarterly payments. She said I could write and explain about my father’s death and see if they could “do anything,” but she didn’t sound optimistic. I’m not either, and I sure don’t want to go through any more of those 15-minute Muzak experiences (which seem calculated to deter callers)!

I learned that for taking over the role of collecting my taxes for my local town, Berkheimer gets paid 1.39 percent of whatever taxes it collects. That’s a pretty cushy deal, given that nearly all of the local taxes collected ($6.4 million a year, in the case of my town), are automatically withheld by employers and then paid over to the taxing authority -- in this case Berkheimer. Talk about a cushy arrangement: $13,900 for every $1 million in taxes mailed in by employers! Even where it comes to self-employed taxpayers like me, it’s not a hard job. Send me a tax bill once a quarter, and book the check when I send back the payment coupon and a check.
~ from Privatization Madness: Now Private Companies are Collecting Our Taxes by Dave Lindorff ~
Yes, boys and girls, this is what privatization REALLY looks like: Government handing over basic services to corporations that reap big financial rewards for not having to do a whole helluva lot!!

It's happening everywhere as the oligarchs salivate at the next piece of the public sphere they can get their greedy hands on. Taxation. Prisons. Parking Meters. Food Stamps. And so much more.

Here, in the grand state of Washington, our elected leaders have handed the administration of our Food Stamp program over to J. P. Morgan. State workers still determine eligibility, but once you're in the system, J. P. Morgan becomes your daddy.

As I shared with you a few months ago, the state is no longer administering our Medicaid program. That too has been parsed out to several health "management" companies. The one I'm with -- I won't name it so I don't get in any trouble -- now manages the Medicaid program in 15 states. I bet their bottom line is growing at a phenomenal rate.

Regardless of who wins the presidency on November 6, don't expect the mass rush toward privatization to abate. As both candidates are beholden to corporate interests, neither wants to upset their best and biggest friends. Of course, we should continue to resist, but more and more we are in no position to halt it. Sadly, it's the wave of the future in the land of the "free"!

Bit by Bit - Chapter 2, Part 15

Trey Smith

What is acceptable we call acceptable; what is unacceptable we call unacceptable. A road is made by people walking on it; things are so because they are called so. What makes them so? Making them so makes them so. What makes them not so? Making them not so makes them not so. Things all must have that which is so; things all must have that which is acceptable. There is nothing that is not so, nothing that is not acceptable.
~ Burton Watson translation ~
Nothing is permanent and permanence is everything. Light is dark and dark is light. Right is right, so long as it is not wrong. Wrong is wrong, so long as it is not right. Above? Below? Sideways?

Humans like to believe that there are absolutes. Maybe there are. Maybe there aren't. We can be "absolutely" sure that what we think we know, we don't...or do we?

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

Derivations on a Theme -- Hand Ball

Trey Smith

I have written quite a few posts in the past year in which I bemoan the lack of principles exhibited by the two mainstream political parties in the US. When the opposition party holds sway, the other jumps up and down like an angry 2 year old about this or that policy, yet when the opposition party grasps the reins of power, they end up embracing many of the same policies with glee. It can be a maddening spectacle for those of us who watch from the sidelines as the parties contort themselves -- all dependent on which one takes the lead role.

But we should know that this ongoing phenomena isn't reserved solely for the political scene. Political intrigue merely reflects how most of us live our lives on a day-to-day basis. DagoodS makes this point abundantly clear in a recent post at Thoughts from a Sandwich. In his post, he is not talking about political races; it's about refereeing children's soccer matches.
But these parents are not interested in being informed. These parents are not there to learn the laws of the game. The last thing these parents want is game instruction. They want their child’s team to win. Win, win, win! And any call (or lack of call) by the referee standing in the way of winning is the equivalent of a deadly insult.

I know this because I watch what happens when their own players commit the same actions and the parents are strangely quiet. Ball hits an opposing player’s hand? “Hand ball! Hand ball!” Ball hits own teams’ hand? Not even crickets chirping.

Last week I was refereeing and the red team’s player collided with the blue team’s player — the red player ended up on the ground. Behind me I heard, “Foul, ref! He just knocked our kid to the GROUND and you aren’t going to call anything?” (There wasn’t any foul.) About two minutes later, a red player tripped a blue player and the blue player ended up on the ground. The center (correctly) whistled for a tripping foul. The exact same parent yells, “Just because they end up on the ground, doesn’t mean there was a foul!” I wanted to laugh out loud — they didn’t even realize their own contradictory statements.
In my mind, this overall issue relates to this blog because the Taoist sages frequently discussed the matter of distinctions. They warn us repeatedly that, when the ego is involved, we tend to distinguish the aspects of life in an unfair way. We want to penalize or constrict those we oppose, while providing wide berth to ourselves or those we favor. In other words, if you commit some offense, it is wrong as wrong can be and you should be sanctioned. If I commit the same offense, I can ALWAYS provide a justification, so no sanctions should be applied.

Since we all behave this way in our everyday lives, is it any wonder that this same behavior is carried forth into the political realm?

Mencius - Book 6, Part 1, Chapter 14B

'Here is a plantation-keeper, who neglects his wû and chiâ, and cultivates his sour jujube-trees; he is a poor plantation-keeper.

'He who nourishes one of his fingers, neglecting his shoulders or his back, without knowing that he is doing so, is a man who resembles a hurried wolf.

'A man who only eats and drinks is counted mean by others; because he nourishes what is little to the neglect of what is great.

'If a man, fond of his eating and drinking, were not to neglect what is of more importance, how should his mouth and belly be considered as no more than an inch of skin?'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Beyond Good and Evil Revisited

Scott Bradley

Transcendence of all moral discrimination is at the heart of both Zhuangzi's and Nietzsche's vision of human liberation. In fact, Nietzsche entitled one of his books precisely this. Yet, as we have seen, he did not in fact truly transcend this discrimination, but instead went to war against conventional morality in an effort to establish a new morality, that of the full exercise of the will to power, self-assertion. Zhuangzi, on the other hand, overturned the moral conventions of his time, exemplified in Confucianism and Mohism, as a means to transcending all conventional morality. Having done so, he was able to "follow along with" each and every morality no matter that they are themselves contradictory. Any one of them will do for someone with no fixed and absolute commitment to illusory "Truth".

Zhuangzi's purpose in transcending morality was simple; Dao, spontaneous arising (ziran) reality, is completely amoral. Should one wish to be utterly identified with this ever-transforming reality, where no discrimination between things exists, then the transcendence of morality is essential. The "Grand Transparency" is free of all such opaqueness.

Many immediately become upset at this proposition; comments on this blog have exclaimed that pedophiles would rejoice to hear it. These are the voices of those still bound by good and evil. Yet perhaps the first thing that needs to be understood about this proposition is that it is not understood as having been inscribed in stone by the hand of God for universal application. It is not a prescription for the world, but for you. And if you cannot trust yourself to live free of the constraints of law, then it most definitely is not for you.

Yet this transcendence is transformative. Today, even as I write, people are being murdered throughout the world because their rights and wrongs differ from those of others. Christians and Muslims, Sunnis and Shia, Muslims and Buddhists, Catholics and Protestants all fight and attempt to destroy one another because they each know good and evil. It is more than a platitude that religion has been the cause of more death and destruction than any other human fixation. The transcendence of good and evil, on the contrary, is a means to peace and harmony.

But this is only secondary. It is not primarily about the world; it is about you. It is a means to bringing peace and harmony to your own heart. And this is the only way the world in its turn might experience the same.

How does it liberate individual hearts? Try it on for yourself. Stop judging and condemning yourself. Forget sagacity, and enlightenment and all the other burdens of this idea of having-to-achieve-to-be-acceptable that weigh down your existence. Understand that there are no conditions to meet, but that Dao is expressed in you just as you are. Affirm yourself.

Not so burdened? Then you are either a sage or someone who has failed in the work of self-examination; and if in this latter you see yourself blessed, it can only be hoped that the collateral damage inflicted on others is minimal.

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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mencius - Book 6, Part 1, Chapter 14A

Mencius said, 'There is no part of himself which a man does not love, and as he loves all, so he must nourish all. There is not an inch of skin which he does not love, and so there is not an inch of skin which he will not nourish. For examining whether his way of nourishing be good or not, what other rule is there but this, that he determine by reflecting on himself where it should be applied?

'Some parts of the body are noble, and some ignoble; some great, and some small. The great must not be injured for the small, nor the noble for the ignoble. He who nourishes the little belonging to him is a little man, and he who nourishes the great is a great man.
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Absolute disproof of Free Will.


Correct me if I'm wrong as I've heard this is not possible to disprove the existence. I am though convinced this disproof is watertight.

Firstly, while it may be deemed difficult or impossible to disprove of free will, it is certainly impossible to prove there is free will. There is simply no experimental way for a person to follow a set of instructions and prove to themselves that there is a free will. Free will can only be "proved" to exist by unsubstantiated claims or references. It can be disproved though by simple reasoning.

Disproof of something that is in itself unprovable is not so much a necessity, so this disproof is only to allow people who believe there is free will to systematically learn otherwise. Feeling like you have free will is not proof!

Unless one can travel in time, then one can not prove that they could perform any act in any other way than the way they did.  One can not do an act and claim they could have done it otherwise. Please try if you will.

You may say "In 3 seconds time, I will lift my tea cup or I won't."

1, 2, 3. Action.

Now prove that was free will. I don't believe you can, unless you travel back in time to the exact situation and re-enact the opposite situation. You can not form an experiment by repeatedly counting to 3 and noting down whether you lift the cup or not. This experiment is not demonstrating free will; it is only demonstrating the only possible way things could be.

There is no repeatable experiment to display free will. There is no one-off experiment to prove free will as a one-off experiment can not be proven without then being able to rewind time and demonstrate the opposite result.

The strongest case for free will in compatibility with determinism is the modern compatibilist approach of Dan Dennett and it is almost convincing. While I can never respond to a scholar such as him in the way he deserves, I can state that the most valid claim made by him is in-fact unprovable. His case is so:

[paraphrased, I leave the research to you] "Evolution has favoured the ability to move out of the way of a moving car. So then, evolution would favour the species which would plan to not be in the way of the car in the first place." [not his words, just a simple approximation of his point] The idea being that free will is a natural creation of evolution and due to its effectiveness in producing longer living beings, it has been favoured by natural selection.

There is though no way to prove that this action is the entities' free will or a determined response to a given situation. Evolution has certainly favoured reproduction and death avoidance, but to say that we "therefore" have free will is no more valid a claim than the opposite claim that free will is an illusion. The latter claim though is further backed up by the very sticky and impossible to disprove point that you can not prove free will without also being able to travel in time. Also, if one could travel in time to prove free will, then there is no way in that experiment to prove that prior action has not influenced the repeated action.

Evolution is a genuine, amazing and proven fact and evolution could well have favoured, and it is very likely it would have, species with large brains which plan to avoid trouble. Great point and very likely true. There is though no proof, even given this, that the entity is exercising free will. It is far more likely that the action it makes are determined. Why should humans be exempt to the determinism on display in the universe? This claim of free will seems to me to be yet another false claim by humankind that it is special.

You can check out Ta-Wan's other musings here.

Afternoon Matinee: Coolio - Gangster's Paradise

Absolute disproof of God.


Correct me if I'm wrong as I've heard this is not possible to disprove the possible existence. I am though convinced this disproof is watertight.

Firstly, while it may be deemed difficult or impossible to disprove of God, it is certainly impossible to prove there is a God. There is simply no experimental way for a person to follow a set of instructions and prove to themselves that there is a God. God can only be "proved" to exist by unsubstantiated claims or references. It can be disproved though by simple reasoning.

Disproof of something that is in itself unprovable is not so much a necessity, so this disproof is only to allow people who believe there is a God to systematically learn otherwise.

A widely claimed feature of God is omnipresence. 'One can not hide from or be absent of God.' Due to this, God must be everything we know and do not know, entirely infinite, beyond any limit one could possibly place. God is then as much the rapist as the AIDS virus, as the cute puppy, as the smell of a flower. God is as much the meal as it is the turd.

Being omnipresent, the totality, all extremes and their balance, results in a bland nothingness. Any statement to move God from this state must then discredit the claim of omnipresence thus:

"God is not bland and nor is God as much the evil as it is the good."

"So then, God can not be omnipresent."

This may well encourage the following response;

"God is beyond your reasoning."

This though moves God to something indefinable and, if indefinable, it is not a thing with any qualities, so is null and void. If God is given qualities, then God is no longer omnipresent and so the so-called 'Proof of God' has broken down into a circular failure.

To escape this, God may have the attribute of omnipresence removed and to then be redefined as Good or some other set of qualities. I am though clear in my resolve that, once God is defined as a set of features but not omnipresence, then the initial infinite nature begins to deflate to the finite. Once this deflation is under way, there is nowhere to go besides annihilation.

A God that is not omnipresent is then smaller than the infinite, subject to external forces and so not 'all great' or worthy of the name God. Such a thing must have come into being and so then must go. A God that is omnipresent is featureless and valueless as it is as much the good as the bad. There is no escaping this argument that I can see.

So then, not only must this disproof be disproved, so also a valid proof of God's existence must be made. I'll bet my life it never will be.

You can check out Ta-Wan's other musings here.

Bit by Bit - Chapter 2, Part 14

Trey Smith

To use an attribute to show that attributes are not attributes is not as good as using a non-attribute to show that attributes are not attributes. To use a horse to show that a horse is not a horse is not as good as using a non-horse to show that a horse is not a horse, Heaven and earth are one attribute; the ten thousand things are one horse.
~ Burton Watson translation ~
How do I justify myself? By justifying myself!

How do I rationalize that whatever I want to do is the best thing to do? By rationalizing that the best thing to do is what my ego wants to do anyway!

I justify and rationalize my life by justifying and rationalizing it.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

What An Absolute Waste

Trey Smith

Do you know how much has been raised by the two mainstream candidates for President of the United States? For the first time in history, the total exceeds 1 BILLION DOLLARS!!  Main Street is in shambles and government programs are being cut left and right, but Americans can throw away 1 BILLION DOLLARS on one political race.

What makes this more insane than usual is that these two candidates don't disagree on all that much. As I have shown you over the past two months or so, on issue after issue, these two guys are in basic agreement. So, what's with this crazy amount of money being thrown around?

Mencius - Book 6, Part 1, Chapter 13

Mencius said, 'Anybody who wishes to cultivate the t'ung or the tsze, which may be grasped with both hands, perhaps with one, knows by what means to nourish them. In the case of their own persons, men do not know by what means to nourish them. Is it to be supposed that their regard of their own persons is inferior to their regard for a t'ung or tsze? Their want of reflection is extreme.'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.


Scott Bradley

Wang Fuzhi sums up Zhuangzi’s perspective on reality saying, "It's only the play of this wandering, nothing more." It is worth exploring how this wandering is also play.

For the child, play is largely a matter of pretending, and this, I would submit, is something of which the sage is also a master. Pretending that knows it is pretending is play. But why pretend? Nietzsche tells us that "untruth is a condition of life"; we require our daily dose of fiction to function in the world. The sage plays the game, knowing that it is a game. This is a form of transcendence.

Play is fun. And if life is not fun . . . well, that's no fun. I often speak of laughing as a form of transcendence. When we laugh at misfortune, grasping the seemingly infinite irony that is life as a whole, we transcend. And most importantly, when we laugh at ourselves, our own stupidity, our own bondage, our own 'failings', we transcend.

Seriousness has its place; but when seriousness judges and condemns, and makes of 'enlightenment' or 'awakening' some kind of driving necessity, it has become religion; it has robbed life of the possibility of playful wandering.

Playful wandering is now, just as you are, not a sage, not 'awakened', just human.

Nietzsche's Dionysian philosophy, a vision of Pan playfully cavorting through life surrounded by nubile and willing nymphs, despite the apparent tragic character of life, is another expression of this same perspective.

Yet, when I imagine Nietzsche in his elysian fields, I see him attempting to frolic while shackled to a ball and chain. He rightfully condemned 'civilization', with its creation of a "true world" as opposed to this actual world, as a great negating of life, but he formulated a response which was also steeped in negation. In declaring himself an antichrist, an immoralist, a re-creator and the like, he bound himself to the world of discrimination, and thus to negation. He went to war.

There is a great deal 'wrong' with the world and with us. Playful wandering dances on and through it all. It knows that it doesn't matter. It does not depend on salvation. It does not depend on change. It has no need of conquest. It knows only that life wants to laugh and dance and be what it is, and thus it lets it be so.

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

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mencius - Book 6, Part 1, Chapter 12

Mencius said, 'Here is a man whose fourth finger is bent and cannot be stretched out straight. It is not painful, nor does it incommode his business, and yet if there be any one who can make it straight, he will not think the way from Ch'in to Ch'û far to go to him; because his finger is not like the finger of other people.

'When a man's finger is not like those of other people, he knows to feel dissatisfied, but if his mind be not like that of other people, he does not know to feel dissatisfaction. This is called "Ignorance of the relative importance of things."'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Catch Us If You Can

Trey Smith

One of the headlines of recent weeks has been in regards to the outbreak of meningitis and the implications against a particular company -- New England Compounding Center (NECC) -- which allegedly distributed tainted steroid injections thought to be responsible for 24 deaths and climbing. While NECC has closed its doors over the scandal, that hasn't stopped surviving victims and the family of those who have died from filing suit. But, as it turns out, these civil suits face a big obstacle as lawyers for the plaintiffs expect NECC "to declare itself bankrupt."

Bankruptcy has become a tool for corporations to evade legal responsibility for all sorts of bad behavior. They reap tremendous profits from peddling defective products or steering people in the wrong direction and then, when they get caught, they dissolve the company! A bankrupt business makes it that much more difficult -- in some cases, impossible -- for the victims to receive much of any compensation for their pain and suffering.

This is how these kinds of scenarios tend to play out. The big bad corporation and its bigwigs get filthy rich while jeopardizing the health, safety and/or financial wellbeing of consumers or the general public. The government -- supposedly the watchdog on behalf of the people -- turns a blind eye. People start getting sick, dying or losing their financial shirts. The bad headlines spur some arm of the government "all of a sudden" to investigate.

As the situation grows worse, our nonexistent watchdogs spring into action. First, they work to minimize their own culpability and, in some instances, try to shield the guilty corporation from as much culpability as possible. If this doesn't work and the situation grows more dire, the scumbag enterprise bails on everybody. Too often, the company bigwigs get out of the game before they have to face the music, only to resurface barely unscathed to run the same gambit again in a different guise.

The victims -- those poor saps who, through no fault of their own, are now sick, broke or dead -- are left holding the proverbial bag. The hapless watchdogs announce some new law or policy that will prevent such heinous things from ever happening again, yet the new law or policy ends up NOT preventing much of anything. Before we know it, we have another such scandal on our hands...with yet another corporation making off like bandits

Afternoon Matinee: "Weird Al" Yankovic - I Lost On Jeopardy

Aah, The Joys of Aging

Trey Smith

On Oct. 1, the Obama administration started awarding bonus points to hospitals that spend the least on elderly patients. It will result in fewer knee replacements, hip replacements, angioplasty, bypass surgery and cataract operations.

These are the five procedures that have transformed aging for older Americans. They used to languish in wheelchairs and nursing homes due to arthritis, cataracts and heart disease. Now they lead active lives.

But the Obama administration is undoing that progress. By cutting $716 billion from future Medicare funding over the next decade and rewarding the hospitals that spend the least on seniors, the Obama health law will make these procedures hard to get and less safe.
~ from Obama Administration Dooms Seniors To Painful Aging by Betsy McCaughey ~
Every time someone tells me that President Obama is a liberal, I look at policy initiatives like this! Robbing Peter (the elderly) to pay Paul (younger folks) does not make one a liberal. This is how the Republicans tend to legislate -- always sticking it to one segment of society or the other!

So, this is what I have to look forward to. As I grow older, quality health care will be harder to come by. When you couple the new health care law with efforts to privatize Social Security for everyone below 65, it looks like life expectancy in the US is set to go down for those of us who don't claim membership in the top 1%.

What joy!  (I'd do somersaults, but I don't want to take the chance of further compromising my rickety hips and knees.)

Bit by Bit - Chapter 2, Part 13

Trey Smith

Everything has its "that," everything has its "this." From the point of view of "that" you cannot see it, but through understanding you can know it. So I say, "that" comes out of "this" and "this" depends on "that" - which is to say that "this" and "that" give birth to each other. But where there is birth there must be death; where there is death there must be birth. Where there is acceptability there must be unacceptability; where there is unacceptability there must be acceptability. Where there is recognition of right there must be recognition of wrong; where there is recognition of wrong there must be recognition of right. Therefore the sage does not proceed in such a way, but illuminates all in the light of Heaven. He too recognizes a "this," but a "this" which is also "that," a "that" which is also "this." His "that" has both a right and a wrong in it; his "this" too has both a right and a wrong in it. So, in fact, does he still have a "this" and "that"? Or does he in fact no longer have a "this" and "that"? A state in which "this" and "that" no longer find their opposites is called the hinge of the Way. When the hinge is fitted into the socket, it can respond endlessly. Its right then is a single endlessness and its wrong too is a single endlessness. So, I say, the best thing to use is clarity.
~ Burton Watson translation ~
This passage makes me think of the dialectic method as utilized by Karl Marx (among others).  In order not to bore you senseless with a long explanation of the dialectical method, you can read about the general term here and the Marxian version here.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.