Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tao Bible - Proverbs 8:18

Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.
~ King James version ~

Virtue is better and longer lasting than riches.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
This represents one of those highly ambiguous lines in the Bible. While one could easily argue that Solomon is speaking of heavenly riches, many fundamentalists take verses like this one to indicate that those who possess earthly riches -- bestowed by God himself -- are pleasing in the eyes of the Lord.

Wealth is problematic, at best. Your life will become one that always craves more and you must ever be on guard to protect what you have. The sage leads a simple and humble life that doesn't involve the continuous stress of worrying about losing what little she calls her own.

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

Chapter 21, Part 3A - Chuang Tzu

Yen Yuan said to Confucius, "Master, when you walk, I walk; when you trot, I trot; when you gallop, I gallop. But when you break into the kind of dash that leaves even the dust behind, all I can do is stare after you in amazement!"

"Hui, what are you talking about?" asked the Master.

"When you walk, I walk - that is, I can speak just as you speak. When you trot, I trot - that is, I can make discriminations just as you do. When you gallop, I gallop - that is, I can expound the Way just as you do. But when you break into the kind of dash that leaves even the dust behind and all I can do is stare after you in amazement - by that I mean that you do not have to speak to be trusted, that you are catholic and not partisan,' that although you lack the regalia of high office the people still congregate before you, and with all this, you do not know why it is so."
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Woo Yoo

There is a very interesting article, Yoo: President Can Slaughter Village, But Not Force Disclosure Of Political Donations, posted at TPM Muckraker.
Torture advocate John Yoo thinks that the President of the United States has the executive power to order a village of civilians slaughtered. But force federal contractors to disclose their political donations? That's a bridge too far.

In an editorial former Bush-era Justice Department official Yoo and David Marston wrote for the Wall Street Journal, the authors argued that the "only purpose" of an executive order being considered by President Barack Obama to require companies seeking federal contracts to disclose political contributions "is to dangle the specter of retaliation...and harassment."
If a small businesswoman wants to sell paper clips to the Defense Department, Mr. Obama would force her to reveal contributions to groups such as Planned Parenthood or the National Rifle Association. These donations are obviously irrelevant to whether she made the most reliable bid at the lowest price.
While the editorial says that the order "represents the latest salvo in the Obama administration's war on the First Amendment rights of its political opponents," there's no word from Yoo on whether the President has the executive power to torture executives to force them to disclose their political donations.
Not featured in the snippet featured on TPM Muckraker is Yoo's own acknowledgement that disclosure ONLY would kick in for those contributions of $5,000 or more. Obviously, Yoo thinks that small businesses that simply are fighting to survive in this dreadful economy have secret stashes of $5,000 and more that they utilize to impact the political process!

Of course, Yoo doesn't really give a flip about small business woman and men; this is about shielding big corporate persons from not being able to impact and influence the political process in secret.

My Ode to Easter 8

Chapter 21, Part 2B - Chuang Tzu

"I told you before, didn't I? These men of the middle states are enlightened in ritual principles but stupid in the understanding of men's hearts. Yesterday, when this man came to see me, his advancings and retirings were as precise as though marked by compass or T square. In looks and bearing he was now a dragon, now a tiger. He remonstrated with me as though he were my son, offered me guidance as though he were my father! That is why I sighed."

Confucius also went for an interview with Wen-po Hsueh-tzu but returned without having spoken a word. Tzu-lu said, "You have been wanting to see `Yen-po Hsueh-tzu for a long time. Now you had the chance to see him, why didn't you say anything?"

Confucius said, "With that kind of man, one glance tells you that the Way is there before you. What room does that leave for any possibility of speech?"
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Low Wages Everyday...Absolutely

This past week one of my favorite corporate entities has seen a spate of articles written about it and each article has been less inclined to paint Walmart -- the low-wage leader -- in a friendly light. I am sure the big wigs in Bentonville, Arkansas, are bristling at the bad publicity, but, the way I look at it, they have reaped what they have sown!!

Here's a rundown of the various ways the ubiquitous Walmart makes your and my life less hospitable.
Article #1: If Walmart Paid its 1.4 Million U.S. Workers a Living Wage, it Would Result in Almost No Pain for the Average Customer by Joshua Holland
A study released this week found that if the nation's largest low-wage employer, Walmart, were to pay its 1.4 million U.S. workers a living wage of at least $12 per hour and pass every single penny of the costs onto consumers, the average Walmart customer would pay just 46 cents more per shopping trip, or around $12 extra dollars each year.

Consider that the next time you hear some corporate mouthpiece warning of massive job losses if some minimally progressive policy were enacted. You never see them arguing on the cable news shows that increasing the minimum wage will hurt Walmart’s or McDonald's bottom lines; it’s always about the jobs that will be destroyed. According to the ubiquitous spin, large corporations, the embodiments of American-style capitalism, are so vulnerable to the meddling of no-nothing bureaucrats that any government intervention into the “free market” drives corporations away to sunnier locales or threatens their very existence. However well intentioned, it all ends up costing workers their jobs.

But the new study, conducted by Ken Jacobs and Dave Graham-Squire at the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education and Stephanie Luce at CUNY's Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, suggests that low-wage employers could pay their workers a wage that would afford them a dignified existence without threatening their profitability...


Walmart and other low-wage employers are poster-children for free-market hypocrisy, claiming that the “market” dictates they pay poverty wages while shifting some of their labor costs onto the taxpayer. A 2004 study by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce estimated that just one Walmart store with 200 “associates” costs taxpayers over $420,000 per year in government assistance to the poor...

Article #2: Wal-Mart's Shocking Impact on the Lives of Hundreds of Millions of People by David Moberg
Wal-Mart casts a global shadow across the lives of hundreds of millions of people, whether or not they ever enter a Supercenter. With $405 billion in sales in the last fiscal year, Wal-Mart is so big, and so obsessively focused on cost-cutting, that its actions shape our landscape, work, income distribution, consumption patterns, transport and communication, politics and culture, and the organization of industries from retail to manufacturing, from California to China.

Yet other paths are possible, and the company would not be so influential had the world not changed to enable its metastasized growth. Had unions been stronger, especially in the South, and more devoted to organizing the growing service sector, Wal-Mart might not have become such an obstacle to labor renewal. If antitrust enforcement had not been narrowed, Wal-Mart could never have grown as big as it did. There would be no such mega-stores if state governments had not repealed Depression-era fair-trade laws. And Wal-Mart’s push of American consumer -- product manufacturing to China depended on a previously established political and technological foundation of pro-corporate globalization.

But it would be a mistake to say that Wal-Mart is merely following the new logic of retail competition, for Wal-Mart reinforces all dimensions of this emerging business climate...

Article #3: Wal-Mart Resuming Sales Of Rifles & Shotguns At Hundreds Of Stores by Eric Lach
Wal-Mart will resume selling rifles, shotguns and ammunition at hundreds of stores as part of what The Wall Street Journal calls a "major retooling of [Wal-Mart's] U.S. operations," in which the retailer is returning to shelves many "heritage categories" it pulled a few years ago.

Wal-Mart, which is experiencing its worst-ever U.S. slump, had stopped selling rifles, shotguns and bullets at all but a third of its 3,600 U.S. stores, but the change will bring the products back to about half of the locations. Wal-Mart is the largest seller of firearms and ammunition in the country...The company said that the majority of the stores that will put guns and ammunition back on shelves are in rural areas...

Article #4: Wal-Mart -- It's Alive! How the Company Is Terrorizing the Country With its Corporate 'Personhood' by Barbara Ehrenreich
What is Wal-Mart -- in a strictly taxonomic sense, that is? Based on size alone, it would be easy to confuse it with a nation: In 2002, its annual revenue was equal to or exceeded that of all but 22 recognized nation-states. Or, if all its employees -- 1.4 million in the U.S. alone -- were to gather in one place, you might think you were looking at a major city. But there is also the possibility that Wal-Mart and other planet-spanning, centi-billion-dollar enterprises are not mere aggregations of people at all. They may be independent life-forms -- a species of super-organisms.

This, anyway, seems to be the takeaway from the 2010
Citizens United decision, in which the Supreme Court, in a frenzy of anthropomorphism, ruled that corporations are actually persons and therefore entitled to freedom of speech and the right to make unlimited campaign contributions...Wal-Mart's defense against a class action charging the company with discrimination against its female employees -- Dukes v. Wal-Mart -- throws an entirely new light on the biology of large corporations. The company argues that with "7 divisions, 41 regions, 3400 stores and over one million employees" (in the U.S., as of 2004, when the suit was first launched), it is "impossible" for any small group of plaintiffs to adequately represent a "class" in the legal sense. What with all those divisions, regions, and stores, the experiences of individual employees are just too variable to allow for a meaningful "class" to arise. Wal-Mart, in other words, is too big, too multifaceted and diverse, to be sued.

So if Wal-Mart is indeed a person, it is a person without a central nervous system, or at least without central control of its various body parts...

Article #5: Wal-Mart: Our shoppers are 'running out of money' by TruthDig staff
After it destroyed neighborhood retailers, forced manufacturing overseas and helped bankrupt the middle class, Wal-Mart is suddenly surprised to learn that its customers are too poor to shop. But the company’s top brass won’t admit that they are to blame for their shoppers’ poverty. Instead, they say it’s all about high gasoline prices and plan on expanding Wal-Mart’s e-commerce division to pick up the slack in sales. Yeah, that’ll solve the problem...

Line by Line - Verse 28, Line 21

and in his greatest regulations he employs no violent measures.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Thus, "A great tailor cuts little."
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Thus the greater whole is undivided
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

so your slightest gesture can change the world.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
Reading this final line of Verse 28 reminds me of a portion of Chapter 3 of the Zhuangzi.
Cook Ting laid down his knife and replied, "What I care about is the Way, which goes beyond skill. When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself. After three years I no longer saw the whole ox. And now - now I go at it by spirit and don't look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants. I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and follow things as they are. So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.

"A good cook changes his knife once a year-because he cuts. A mediocre cook changes his knife once a month-because he hacks. I've had this knife of mine for nineteen years and I've cut up thousands of oxen with it, and yet the blade is as good as though it had just come from the grindstone. There are spaces between the joints, and the blade of the knife has really no thickness. If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there's plenty of room - more than enough for the blade to play about it. That's why after nineteen years the blade of my knife is still as good as when it first came from the grindstone.

"However, whenever I come to a complicated place, I size up the difficulties, tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I'm doing, work very slowly, and move the knife with the greatest subtlety, until - flop! the whole thing comes apart like a clod of earth crumbling to the ground. I stand there holding the knife and look all around me, completely satisfied and reluctant to move on, and then I wipe off the knife and put it away."
To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Taxation Without Representation

The American colonists who participated in the famous Boston Tea Party of 1773 were protesting -- among other things -- a tea tax that they contended was a form of taxation without representation. It's ironic that current day conservative activists have chosen to call themselves the Tea Party since the taxation they routinely criticize has been adopted and maintained by this nation's elected representatives!

But while the modern day Tea Party rails against taxes levied by federal, state and local government -- elected representative bodies in every locale except for some places in Michigan -- I don't think I can recall the same kind of outcry for a real source of taxation without representation: fees, service charges and other assorted mechanisms to separate us from what little money we have left.

Ever studied one of your many bills closely? Aside from the cost of the product or service provided, there tends to be a number of official sounding fees included as well: Handling fee, Processing Fee, Monthly Service Charge, Assessment Fee and the list goes on and on.

In a manner of speaking, these fees are nothing more than mandatory taxes added on by unelected bodies. However, instead of going to a government entity that serves the public, this money goes to corporate headquarters to serve the corporation!

I realize that some people will argue that not one of us must have a credit card or bank account. We don't have to have electricity, trash collection or running water. We voluntarily choose to utilize these kinds of services and part of the contract between each of us and the service provider clearly states that a variety of fees will be added to the cost.

To this I say, BUNK! In order to live adequately in this modern world, almost all of the products and services listed above are needed to live an even minimal existence.

It would be one thing if service and product providers clearly stated their price for what they're trying to sell us, but they hide the genuine costs behind a labyrinth of fine print that, in a convoluted manner, details the various fees (taxes) we must pay in order to receive the product or service. It's not like we can agree to purchase the product or service and then negotiate as to which fees we feel hold merit. If we sign on the dotted line, those fees become mandated.

If you and I decide that a particular fee is unwarranted for a product or service and we gather a group of our neighbors who agree, what recourse do we have? To be certain, we can complain to a governmental body, lobby the corporation, write letters to the editor or conduct protests and boycotts, but we have absolutely no power or say so -- ourselves or through elected representatives -- directly to alter the decision-making process.

Even worse, if the corporation holds a monopoly in our community -- say it is the sole internet, Cable TV, electricity or trash collection provider -- we genuinely have no other option than to pay the stinking fees. In many cases, if we decide to take a stand to pay the amount owed minus this or that fee, we eventually will find that the service will be terminated and we're up shit creek without a paddle.

Why aren't Tea Party activists protesting this? Why don't they decry this real example of taxation without representation?

Chapter 21, Part 2A - Chuang Tzu

Wen-po Hsueh-tzu, journeying to Ch'i, stopped along the way in the state of Lu. A man of Lu requested an interview with him, but Wen-po Hsueh-tzu said, "No indeed! I have heard of the gentlemen of these middle states - enlightened on the subject of ritual principles but stupid in their understanding of men's hearts. I have no wish to see any such person."

He arrived at his destination in Ch'i, and on his way home had stopped again in Lu when the man once more requested an interview. Wen-po Hsueh-tzu said, "In the past he made an attempt to see me, and now he's trying again. He undoubtedly has some means by which he hopes to `save' me!"

He went out to receive the visitor and returned to his own rooms with a sigh. The following day, he received the visitor once more, and once more returned with a sigh. His groom said, "Every time you receive this visitor you come back sighing. Why is that?"
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Question - How Can One Hate Evil?

Throughout the Bible, Christians are admonished to hate evil. To offer one example from Proverbs 8:13,
The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
I have always had a problem with understanding this directive because both are negative and would seem to create a greater negative.

Since hate is the opposite of love and goodness is the opposite of evil, how can a person be good and loving if they spend their time hating something?

It goes back to the message on one of my favorite bumper stickers: Your Hate
Becomes YOU.

To see what other questions I've asked about the Christian Bible, go here.


by Scott Bradley

I've arrived at the introduction of Buddhism into China in Fung's History. I have frequently resolved to study Buddhism more thoroughly, but whenever I start, my eyes begin to cross. I don't say this to fault Buddhism; it's just that, on the one hand, I am not interested in long convoluted 'proofs' of anything, and on the other, I'm very shy of anything that tells me the way the universe works. Zen, perhaps because it was deeply influenced by philosophical Taoism, managed for the most part to escape the long-winded, 'profound' speculations of Indian Buddhism. With this I feel much more comfortable.

Or perhaps I'm just not smart enough to follow their reasoning. But if that is the case, it seems to me that something must be amiss; surely, the attainment of whatever Buddhism has in mind does not require an exceptional IQ? And while I'm on it, I might as well say that something likewise seems amiss to me when one must go to what seems to be unnatural extremes to realize what must certainly be a natural phenomenon.

Or perhaps I'm just too lazy to do what must be done. I confess that it's the testimonies of those who, for instance, were walking in the park when suddenly they experienced Unity, which appeal to me most. Sitting in the snow for years, cutting off one's arm as a sign of sincerity, meditating ceaselessly for years on end, breathing so deeply as to achieve a distended belly, flossing the sinuses — these things do not appeal to me at all. But to each his or her own. And perhaps I just don’t have ‘the right stuff’.

But I have to admit I feel, with what almost amounts to smugness, a certain joy in realizing that none of this really matters all that much in any case. All is well. Buddhism, as I understand it, does not agree — I must be saved from existence — but that's okay, too.

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

Breach of the Peace

It is not uncommon to hear American activists criticize the overzealousness of the police and other authorities when it comes to the exercise of free speech and assembly. Gone are the days when there are large public political events and protesters are allowed anywhere near the festivities. No, they tend to be stuck in unaptly designated "free speech zones" that can be blocks away from the noted political speaker or goings on.

It doesn't simply occur on this side of the pond. As the Guardian reports, the authorities moved forcefully to quell any protest at all for the royal wedding between Prince William and Catherine Middleton. Utilizing a British regulation, Section 60, the police were allowed to stop, question or detain anyone without discretion. Over 50 people were arrested BEFORE they could even attempt -- if that indeed was their aim -- to "breach the peace."

Reports have come out that several FaceBook pages -- which were being utilized for networking purposes by activists -- mysteriously were taken down as of the day before the event.

And why would some folks want to protest a public gala of royal proportions?
In London the daughter of Chris Knight, who was arrested with his partner and a friend, said the police were quashing freedom of expression. Olivia Knight said: "My father was going to take part in a performance. It was going to be in the great British tradition and was going to be playful, peaceful and satirical to highlight the obscenity of the royal wedding and the grotesque nature of the taxpayer having to pay for the Windsor wedding at a time of such austerity..."
Sounds to me like an excellent point to make. But alas, I guess free speech doesn't matter when royalty -- including economic royalty -- is the target!!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tao Bible - Proverbs 8:11

For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.
~ King James version ~

Wisdom is more valuable than any commodity.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
In this instance, Christian and Taoist thought are much in line. Wisdom provides the baseline for a virtuous life.

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

Chapter 21, Part 1B - Chuang Tzu

Tzu-fang said, "He's the kind of man who is True - the face of a human being, the emptiness of Heaven. He follows along and keeps tight hold of the True; pure, he can encompass all things. If men do not have the Way, he has only to put on a straight face and they are enlightened; he causes men's intentions to melt away. But how could any of this be worth praising!"

Tzu-fang retired from the room and Marquis Wen, stupefied, sat for the rest of the day in silence. Then he called to the ministers who stood in attendance on him and said, "How far away he is - the gentleman of Complete Virtue! I used to think that the words of the wisdom of the sages and the practices of benevolence and righteousness were the highest ideal. But now that I have heard about Tzu-fang's teacher, my body has fallen apart and I feel no inclination to move; my mouth is manacled and I feel no inclination to speak. These things that I have been studying are so many clay dolls - nothing more! This state of Wei is in truth only a burden to me!"
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Open Your Eyes

My wife and I were watching a news report about President Obama's visit to Alabama to tour the areas that were devastated as the result of this week's tornadoes and storms. I realize that Obama needed to say something and that it can be difficult to find that right words to describe such destruction, but what he did say stirred a reaction in both Della and I. To paraphrase, he said that he had never seen such devastation.

Della's reaction was "Oh, come on now." What about the devastation that recently visited Japan as a result of the earthquake and tsunami? What about the earthquake in Haiti or Hurricane Katrina? For that matter, what about Vilonia, Arkansas, or any of the other cities and towns the recent spate of tornadoes leveled?

My reaction was similar, but pointed in a totally different direction. I thought about the destruction and devastation caused by US bombs, missiles and drones in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and, of course, Libya. I bet if the president chose to visit many areas of the countries listed that he could find just as much, if not more, destruction and ruin.

I point this out not to trivialize the pain and suffering of those impacted by the storms in Alabama. It is hard for me to imagine the horrors and heartache many of these folks lived through. I'm glad the president decided to go there and see the aftermath of the storm's fury for himself.

That said, there is a lot of destruction and devastation -- both climatic and human-caused -- the world over. While what transpired in the south this week indeed is tragic, I think devastation is far more tragic when it's the result of conscious human decisions -- decisions that this president has made and continues to make.

My Ode to Easter 7

Chapter 21, Part 1A - Chuang Tzu

T'ien Tzu-Fang was sitting in attendance on Marquis Wen of Wei. When he repeatedly praised one Ch'i Kung, Marquis Wen asked, "Is Ch'i Kung your teacher?"

"No," replied Tzu-fang. "He comes from the same neighborhood as I do. Discussing the Way with him, I've found he often hits the mark - that's why I praise him."

"Have you no teacher then?" asked Marquis Wen.

"I have," said Tzu-fang.

"Who is your teacher?"

"Master Shun from east of the Wall," said Tzu-fang.

"Then why have you never praised him?" asked Marquis Wen.
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

All Creatures Great and Small

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
~ from The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism by Mohandas Gandhi ~
I have been a vegetarian (though not a vegan) for most of my adult life. My choice not to eat meat started in late high school as my own form of rebellion against a father who had a penchant for serving cooked meat exceedingly rare. As I studied vegetarianism -- one book that had a great impact on my thinking was Diet for a Small Planet -- my revulsion at consuming nearly raw meat morphed into a philosophical position. It came to the point in which I simply didn't feel right killing other creatures to sustain myself.

While I certainly understand that eating plant-based life involves killing as well -- almost all life entities must kill to live -- my thinking often returned to the Gandhi quote cited above. I have less qualms about so-called primitive societies -- like the American Indian -- who had a spiritual connection to the animals they consumed and made every effort to utilize all portions of the animal for utilitarian purposes. However, so-called modern society has lost this sort of spiritual connection and the animal as food industry is marked by exploitative and abusive practices.

As Zoe Well points out in Including Animals in Our Circle of Concern, treating animals more humanely and respectfully is not only good for the animals themselves, but it is in the best interests of humanity.
Our system of meat procurement is not only unimaginably abusive to animals, it has contributed to a host of problems, from environmental catastrophes as soil erosion, water pollution, water depletion, global warming, deforestation, ocean dead zones, and poisoned and depleted populations of sea animals, along with human health problems such as escalating rates of various cancers, heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, mercury poisoning, antibiotic resistance, and more. Choosing to eat fewer, or no animals or animal products would not only go far toward our own health (and save massive amounts of money on healthcare), but also toward slowing global warming and protecting our environment...
What started out for me as an act of teenage rebellion has turned into a long-term life choice. With one exception in the mid 90s -- and this exception made me very ill -- I have not consumed any meat for over 25 years. I can't imagine ever eating meat again.

I would like to take the last step by eliminating dairy from my diet, but alas, I don't think this is very likely. I must admit that I love to drink milk and eat yogurt -- both of which I consume daily. But I still hold out hope for myself in this area! ;-)

Line by Line - Verse 28, Line 20

The sage, when employed, becomes the Head of all the Officers (of government);
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

When the sage uses it, he becomes the ruler.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

The sages utilize them
And then become leaders

~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

Let Tao show you how to get right with Tao,
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
This is one of those lines than can be explained in one of two ways: the collective or the personal. As is my wont, I tend to look at sentiments like this from the perspective of the latter.

When we take all the attributes listed in this verse and apply them to our own lives, we become sages. It is through our understanding of the wisdom we have gained that we are able to lead our own self to embrace a life of simplicity, humility and virtue.

Those individual who live their lives in this way can serve as leaders (examples) to others.

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

Money Grubbing Pigs

Over the past month, I have shared with you numerous snippets from The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein as well as several articles and columns from a variety of alternative news sites. My motivation for hammering on this one issue is to try to help people understand what is afoot in this country as well as around the world.

The lockstep drive toward greater privatization of public assets has NOTHING to do with saving taxpayer money or the desire for greater efficiency. No, the sole impetus behind privatization is to funnel more and more public dollars into the hands of greedy Wall Street types and other SOBs. Corporate America is eying government as the next bubble to exploit.

Conservatives and even some so-called liberals are backing plans at the state level to sell off basic services to a whole host of corporate big wigs.

Mother Jones reports that many states are moving forward with plans to sell off all or part of the prison system.
In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich has proposed selling five prisons to private companies—a move that would bring in an estimated $200 million up front — while Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal plans to sell three state prisons to private operators. In Florida, the GOP-controlled Legislature is making an even broader push, hammering out a budget bill that would require the state to privatize the prisons in South Florida, where one-fifth of the state's 100,000-plus inmates reside.

Likewise, Maine's new GOP governor, Paul Le Page, has vowed to bring private prisons to his state for the first time, backing a bill that would also allow Maine to house out-of-state prisoners. In Texas, where prison privatization began decades ago, Harris County is now deliberating a plan to privatize the state's largest jail. And in Minnesota, Republican state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require the state to solicit offers from private companies to manage the state's inmates...
In Louisiana, according to the TPMMuckraker, Governor Jindal is pushing a plan to privatize the state's public employees' health insurance program.
Critics of the privatization plan have asserted that the OGB's more than $500 million surplus would somehow be divided between the state and the purchaser in the event of a sale, and a new bill in the Louisiana legislature appears to override the law that prevents the money from being used by the state for "cash flow" purposes...
I am sure most of you know what is going on in Michigan with their new law that allows the state to take over cities and school districts in financial trouble. An unelected administrator is allowed to abrogate union contracts unilaterally and basically to dismantle the city council or school board and the citizens impacted have no recourse whatsoever.

It should surprise no one that the first city targeted is Benton Harbor and several of the other locales on the "unofficial" list share a common trait.
Benton Harbor's population is 92% African-American and deeply impoverished by the de-industrialization of the city and surrounding area. Whirlpool’s recent plant shutdown is the most recent, crushing blow as the corporation continues to expand significantly in low-wage plants in Mexico, despite taking $19 million in federal recovery funds. Benton Harbor is plagued by the lowest per capita income in Michigan ($8,965), with 42.6 percent of the population living below the poverty line, including a majority of kids under age 18.

Like a set of other overwhelmingly poor and black cities whose economic hearts have been torn out by de-industrialization — such as East St. Louis, Ill., Gary, Ind., Chester, Pa. — Benton Harbor‘s plight was largely ignored by the state legislature...
And there is even more! According to PR Watch,
This week, USA Today reported that "In a major victory for Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, Indiana lawmakers today approved legislation that creates the nation's most sweeping system of taxpayer funding for private schools."

The Republican-controlled House passed the voucher program and a separate bill that will make opening charter schools easier by creating a pro-charter board that will approve charter schools. As of now, only the Indianapolis mayor, public universities and local school boards can open a charter school. No Senate vote has been made yet.

The Evansville Courier & Press states that the contentious bill caused Democrats to leave the state for five weeks in opposition.

"Most Democrats opposed the measure, saying it will deliver a blow to cash-strapped schools by spreading out the state's $6.3 billion in annual K-12 education funding. 'Every dollar that flows to the charter schools is going to flow away from the traditional public school corporations and make it harder for them to do their jobs,' said Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington..."
If most Americans continue to take a ho-hum attitude to this multi-tiered assault, we may wake up one day and no longer recognize this country! We may find that the official name of our nation has been changed to the United States of Corporate America.

Chapter 20, Part 9 - Chuang Tzu

Yang Tzu, on his way to Sung, stopped for the night at an inn. The innkeeper had two concubines, one beautiful, the other ugly. But the ugly one was treated as a lady of rank, while the beautiful one was treated as a menial. When Yang Tzu asked the reason, a young boy of the inn replied, "The beautiful one is only too aware of her beauty, and so we don't think of her as beautiful. The ugly one is only too aware of her ugliness, and so we don't think of her as ugly."

Yang Tzu said, "Remember that, my students! If you act worthily but rid yourself of the awareness that you are acting worthily, then where can you go that you will not be loved?"
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

It's About Time

While I have been a lifelong supporter of the union movement in this nation, one aspect of labor unions really galls the heck out of me. No matter how much or how severely the Democratic Party turns its back on organized labor, unions always can be counted on to throw around their muscle and financial resources to back Democratic Party candidates!

As I and many others have pointed out numerous times, if labor grants the Dems a free pass every two years, then the Dems have no reason to take the needs of organized labor seriously. Why fight for union members, if you know they will support you regardless of what you do?

Finally, one union has gotten the message loud and clear. According to a recent article posted at PR Watch,
Remember when the fight broke out in Wisconsin over the right to collectively bargain and President Obama and a phalanx of national democratic leaders spread out across the country fighting for the rights of American workers?

Right, we don't remember that either.

As unions battled for their very existence, the thunderous silence from Washington, D.C. did not go unnoticed by working families fighting for their livelihoods or by powerful political players. At least one organization has decided to hold a few of their former friends accountable.

The International Association of Fire Fighters, announced yesterday it would no longer be giving money to federal candidates. Rather, the 300,000-member union said it would put its energy and resources into the fight at the state level over collective bargaining.

The announcement sent a shock wave through the Washington Democratic establishment, because in recent years the union has given much more to Democrats than Republicans. It donated $1.9 million to Democratic candidates in national elections during the 2010 campaign cycle and only $408,000 to Republicans...
Needless to say, the Fire Fighters aren't completely turning their backs on the Democrats. You can be sure that the money they contribute in state races typically will not go to GOP candidates! Still, this represents an important first step. It says that this union is tired of being taken for granted!

While this announcement warms my cockles, I am not going to get overly excited about it. Why? I realize it could be nothing more than a stunt -- a political statement. It's easy to say that you won't back federal candidates financially when there are few, if any, official candidates yet. Let's see if they stick to it or if they walk it back as the campaign season draws near.

If I was a betting man, I would bet the house on the latter...unfortunately.

The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man
by Scott Bradley

My introduction to Zhuangzi came by way of Thomas Merton's The Way of Chuang Tzu, an adaptation of the original. There were two stories that really inspired and hooked me into seeking out the original. The first of these is entitled The Hanged Man.

When I looked for this in the original, however, I could only vaguely discern where it had come from. So I asked a scholar and translator of the Zhuangzi if there was any textual justification for Merton's adaptation. He responded that No, there was not, but isn't Merton great!

I like little reminders like this that it is not scripture we're dealing with here, but simply ideas. Like Zhuangzi himself says, it's the ideas that matter, and when we've got them, we can toss the words away. We can also, hopefully, eventually toss the ideas away, too.

It is only one little part of this piece that inspired me. It goes something like this: It is said that a hanged man cannot cut himself down. But what need to worry? Eventually nature will bring him down.

That's it. I figured that that kind of indifference to and trust in fate was worthy of further exploration.

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

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tao Bible - Proverbs 7:21

With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him.
~ King James version ~

Our own unfettered desires can land us in hot water.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
In this verse, Solomon warns his son about the wiles of the harlot. It should be noted that Solomon places the onus on the woman; she supposedly has the innate ability to overpower the righteous man.

Temptations in life do exist, but only if we have the unfettered desires for them to appeal to. Harness or remove the desire and the temptation vanishes.

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

Keith 04/28/11

Oh my, Keith has outdone himself!! This one is sure to become a classic. I love the proposal as it out-Tea Party's the Tea Party!

Chapter 20, Part 8B - Chuang Tzu

Chuang Chou returned home and for three months looked unhappy." Lin Chu in the course of tending to his master's needs, questioned him, saying, "Master, why is it that you are so unhappy these days?"

Chuang Chou said, "In clinging to outward form I have forgotten my own body. Staring at muddy water, I have been misled into taking it for a clear pool. Moreover, I have heard my Master say, `When you go among the vulgar, follow their rules!' I went wandering at Tiao-ling and forgot my body. A peculiar magpie brushed against my forehead, wandered off to the chestnut grove, and there forgot its true self. And the keeper of the chestnut grove, to my great shame, took me for a trespasser! That is why I am unhappy."
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Praise Him, Praise Him

As I have continued to watch the news reports about one harrowing experience after another in relation to yesterday's tornadoes and storms, I realize it is hard for me to fathom what these individuals have been through. I certainly can understand it on an intellectual level, but it is impossible to imagine what it must have felt like to have the building I was occupying disintegrate around me.

In more than a few of these reports -- both written and video -- the survivors have praised God for sparing their lives. In one video on the Weather Channel, 3 women tell of cowering in a tanning bed as a tornado ripped apart the tanning studio. The mother said that they were praising God and he protected them from the storm's wrath and fury.

If a person believes in a deity and they survive a frightening experience such as this, I certainly can understand WHY they would believe that the deity had answered their prayers. However, if you give God credit for saving your life, what about the other people in your community who saw theirs snuffed out? Unless you believe that the deceased were all atheists, Jews, Muslims and believers of our faiths, why didn't their god answer their prayers?

The Deep South is known as the Bible Belt. I am very confident that a good many of the people who died in these horrific storms were steadfast Christians. So, why did the three Christians who cowered in the tanning bed get to walk out alive, while so many other Christians in that same town and others did not? If one is going to give God credit for preserving some lives, it would seem that he should accept the blame for not preserving others.

For me, this provides an apt illustration of why prayer is more self talk than anything else. I am not denying that saying prayers might make a person feel more comfortable in a stressful situation, but it exerts little, if any, impact on how that situation plays out. For all the various people who prayed to be spared from the Grim Reaper in the Deep South, many were and many weren't.

My Ode to Easter 6

Chapter 20, Part 8A - Chuang Tzu

Chuang Chou was wandering in the park at Tiao-ling when he saw a peculiar kind of magpie that came flying along from the south. It had a wingspread of seven feet and its eyes were a good inch in diameter. It brushed against Chuang Chou's forehead and then settled down in a grove of chestnut trees. "What kind of bird is that!" exclaimed Chuang Chou. "Its wings are enormous but they get it nowhere; its eyes are huge but it can't even see where it's going!"

Then he hitched up his robe, strode forward, cocked his crossbow and prepared to take aim. As he did so, he spied a cicada that had found a lovely spot of shade and had forgotten all about [the possibility of danger to] its body. Behind it, a praying mantis, stretching forth its claws, prepared to snatch the cicada, and it too had forgotten about its own form as it eyed its prize. The peculiar magpie was close behind, ready to make off with the praying mantis, forgetting its own true self as it fixed its eyes on the prospect of gain.

Chuang Chou, shuddering at the sight, said, "Ah! - things do nothing but make trouble for each other - one creature calling down disaster on another!" He threw down his crossbow, turned about, and hurried from the park, but the park keeper [taking him for a poacher] raced after him with shouts of accusation.
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

When Hell Descends from the Sky

It has been a hairy week for those who live in the Midwest, Mid-South and Deep South. Scores of tornadoes have touched down in several states causing millions of dollars in damages, killing over 215 people and injuring hundreds more. Along with the tornadoes, we've also witnessed damaging straight winds, hail the size of golf balls and larger plus torrential rains that have led to floods. And it's not even May yet -- typically the most tornado-prone month!!

Whether or not you think global warming plays a part in all this, there's no question that, if the rest of the spring and summer continues with this pace of storms, 2011 will go down as one of the stormiest years in recent memory. As it now stands, there have been more tornadoes for an April than has ever been recorded before in modern US history.

Having lived for much of my early years in and around Tornado Alley, I certainly understand the anxiety tornado warnings bring. While I was lucky that I never experienced a touch down in the immediate vicinity of where I was located, I have been near where a tornado wreaked havoc.

Back in the late 80s, my wife and I called Morrilton, Arkansas home. One night she and I (along with our dog and cat) cowered in an interior closet with a mattress over our heads as a tornado touched down less than a mile from our house. Two years later, after we had moved to Beebe, a tornado fell from the sky about 2 miles from where we lived.

At another time, while living in Newton, Kansas, a series of tornadoes touched down in several communities all around Newton and the creek at the end of our block became a raging torrent due to a flash flood. I also experienced several near tornadoes when I was living in Hot Springs, Arkansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

We even saw a tornado one time while driving near Albuquerque, New Mexico. We were coming home from a trip out west when we noticed a funnel cloud and subsequent tornado a few miles to our north off of Interstate 40. We fumbled to find a local radio station and learned that a tornado warning had been issued because the tornado was headed in the direction of the city -- the same direction we were headed! Fortunately, the tornado fizzled out before it and we got to Albuquerque.

Over the last few days, many people have not been as lucky as I have been. They have been traumatized or worse by the seeming fury of Mother Nature. My heart goes out to those who must pick up the pieces amidst shattered lives.

Tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, blizzards and the like should remind each of us that, no matter how technologically modern current society appears, not unlike our ancestors, we still often are at the mercy of forces that we don't entirely understand.

Line by Line - Verse 28, Line 19

The unwrought material, when divided and distributed, forms vessels.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

When the block is carved, it becomes useful.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Plain wood splits, then becomes tools
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

(No corresponding line)
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
It would be unrealistic to expect any of us to stay in a pure primordial state. We have lives to lead, people to relate to, work to perform and leisure to enjoy. Just like an uncarved block of wood (or jade, Baroness) that is turned into a tool, we progress from infancy to the life of an adult.

I think it is important to remember, however, that our lives can be molded more than one time. This becomes possible if we always leave a part of ourselves in the uncarved block state.

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

So Much Money To Be Had

Again and again, our elected representatives have tried to cripple Medicare and Medicaid. They argue unconvincingly that the private sector can do a much better job than government delivering health care services to the American populace. For all their bluster, the one fact they have a hard time overcoming is the low administrative costs of government-managed health care.

As Dr. Margaret Flowers of Physicians for a National Health Program writes,
Our public insurances are our most efficient insurances with administrative costs of around 3%, despite the fact that they cover our most vulnerable and least healthy populations. Administrative and marketing costs for private plans are 15% or more, and the plethora of private plans further increase cost and complexity as patients and health professionals try to navigate their arbitrary and ever-changing rules...
Look at the difference in those figures!! Private plans are, at minimum, 5 times more costly to run. We are always hearing from our leaders that we should run the country more like a "successful business," yet, in this instance, they want to pursue the option that is far less cost-effective.

This right here should tell you all you need to know about this pseudo-debate. If the powers that be genuinely aren't interested in programs that keep administrative costs to the bare minimum, then it is rather obvious that something else is driving them to push for a system of private sector health insurance.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what that something else is. It is money. There are trillions upon trillions of dollars to be had and the greedy oligarchs are salivating at the opportunity of getting their hands on it. If you think these folks are rolling in the dough now, it will be but a pittance compared to where they could be if Medicare and Medicaid are eviscerated.

In fact, this is the driver for the entirety of the latest push for mass privatization. The powerful don't give a shit about what is the most cost effective; they simply want more and more government money to fill their wallets.

That's really what this whole thing is about. Plain and simple.

Chapter 20, Part 7B - Chuang Tzu

"And what do you mean when you say that it is hard to be indifferent to the benefits of man?"

Confucius replied, "A man sets out on a career, and soon he is advancing in all four directions at once. Titles and stipends come raining down on him without end, but these are merely material profits and have nothing to do with the man himself. As for me, my fate lies elsewhere.

"A gentleman will not pilfer, a worthy man will not steal. What business would I have, then, trying to acquire such things?

"So it is said, There is no bird wiser than the swallow. If its eyes do not light upon a suitable spot, it will not give a second look. If it happens to drop the food it had in its beak, it will let it go and fly on its way. It is wary of men, and yet it lives among them, finding its protection along with men in the village altars of the soil and grain."

"And what do you mean by saying, `No beginning but has its end'?"

Confucius said, "There is a being who transforms the ten thousand things, yet we do not know how he works these changes. How do we know what is an end? How do we know what is a beginning? The only thing for us to do is just to wait!"

"And what do you mean by saving, `man and Heaven are one'?"

Confucius said, "Man exists because of Heaven, and Heaven too exists because of Heaven. But man cannot cause Heaven to exist; this is because of [the limitations of] his inborn nature. The sage, calm and placid, embodies change and so comes to his end."
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Really Gutsy

If you didn't watch Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell last night, you've got to watch the video below. It concerns Donald Trump and O'Donnell's employer, NBC.

In almost Keith Olbermann fashion, O'Donnell calls out his OWN network for the manner in which they have facilitated Trump's race baiting and fear mongering. It would be one thing if O'Donnell was criticizing Faux Noows, CBS or ABC, but he goes for the jugular against the execs of the network that employs him.

It is truly a courageous and gutsy (maybe "stupid") move. Makes me wonder if we will soon find O'Donnell's program on Current TV too!

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Surrender in Trust

Surrender in Trust
by Scott Bradley

is the triumph of the heart.

Abide in Mystery.
Surrendered, open, empty.
Here fullness will arise.

We find ourselves here in this Universe without a clue as to why. We had no choice in our being here. We have no choice but to die. We are beings who crave certainty where no certainty can be found. How do we respond?

The answer of philosophical Daoism is, I believe, that we surrender in trust. We open our hearts and say: Yes, thank you, I entrust myself to-the-way-things-are. We affirm the human condition.

This is, for me, a wonderfully liberating experience. To utterly entrust oneself to the Is of Reality -- whatever that may be -- is to be free of fear of all loss. All is well.

Someone (BR) suggested that "surrender" sounds suspiciously like Islam. Certainly there are parallels. But Islam means 'submission' to the will of a personal, morally vengeful, revealed God with an agenda. We surrender into a Mystery beyond known attributes.

Surrender is not stoic resignation. It is affirmation, thankfulness, freedom and joy. It is like making love as an act of love. It is "sweet", indeed.

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

Keith 04/27/11

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tao Bible - Proverbs 6:16-19

These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
~ King James version ~

Seek balance and harmony in all you do.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
Solomon lists off a bunch of things -- two seem to be redundant -- that angers God.

Generally speaking, most Taoists wouldn't have a problem with the list above except for the fact that it employs subjective terms. What constitutes a proud look or who decides whether shed blood is innocent or not?

External criteria changes from generation to generation and from person to person. When we seek to live in harmony -- as opposed to trying to follow rules -- we organically do what needs to be done according to the circumstance or situation. We embody the concept of wu wei.

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

Chapter 20, Part 7A - Chuang Tzu

Confucius was in trouble between Ch'en and Ts'ai, and for seven days he ate no cooked food. His left hand propped against a withered tree, his right beating time on a withered limb, he sang the air of the lord of Yen. The rapping of the limb provided an accompaniment, but it was without any fixed rhythm; there was melody, but none that fitted the usual tonal categories of kung or chueh. The drumming on the tree, the voice of the singer had a pathos to them that would strike a man's heart.

Yen Hui, standing with hands folded respectfully across his chest, turned his eyes and looked inquiringly at Confucius. Confucius, fearful that Yen Hui's respect for him was too great, that his love for him was too tender, said to him, "Hui! It is easy to be indifferent to the afflictions of Heaven, but hard to be indifferent to the benefits of man. No beginning but has its end, and man and Heaven are one. Who is it, then, who sings this song now?"

Hui said, "May I venture to ask what you mean when you say it is easy to be indifferent to the afflictions of Heaven?"

Confucius said, "Hunger, thirst, cold, heat, barriers and blind alleys that will not let you pass - these are the workings of Heaven and earth, the shifts of ever-turning things. This is what is called traveling side by side with the others. He who serves as a minister does not dare to abandon his lord. And if he is thus faithful to the way of a true minister, how much more would he be if he were to attend upon Heaven!"
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Rah, Rah, Rah

Stephen Lerner has an article posted on AlterNet, We Have to Fight the Plutocrats to Build an Economy that Works, that fits into what I would call the "Rah, Rah, Rah" mentality. It aptly describes the problems we face in this country and it offers many of the general tools that we could use to counter and/or alleviate many of them, but it is very short on a specific strategy. It is preaching to the choir what almost everybody in the choir already knows!

As to the problems before us, Lerner frames them this way:
Wall Street, big banks, multinational corporations and the super-rich were able to seize the opportunity in 2008. They are now in the extraordinary position of leveraging the insecurity most Americans face to demand unending concessions, while simultaneously demanding security and certainty for their own capital and investments.

Events unfolding in statehouses in Wisconsin, Ohio and around the country demonstrate that Wall Street, giant corporations, the super-rich and the politicians they support are ruthlessly executing a plan to slash public budgets; destroy public employee unions and the livelihoods of teachers, nurses, firefighters and other civil servants; privatize public utilities, roads, schools, hospitals and prisons; permanently cut social programs and benefits; and, all the while, radically reduce their own taxes. But this is just the first step in the corporate elite’s campaign to eliminate the remaining islands of private-sector union strength and slash benefits and pay for all workers.

Corporations and the rich no longer think they need an American middle class with decent paying jobs to be profitable. Corporate profits can now be earned from a growing global consumer class, while at the same time mass unemployment and declining living standards become the new normal. The United States is important to the corporate elites as a safe haven, but they no longer see a decent living standard for the majority of Americans as important to their economic success...
He next identifies some of the immense barriers we face.
Until we break this corporate stranglehold, we will have no money to solve state budget crises. Given the scads of money that corporate interests pump into politics, without a demand from the streets, politicians think that they cannot champion policies that would hurt their “friends.” In state after state, Democrats will make massive cuts to services and public employee jobs like their Republican counterparts — they just won’t demand an end to collective bargaining on top of it. And absent a strategy of escalating and dramatic actions that expose the wrongdoing of corporations and the uber-rich that got us into this mess, we are trapped in a strategy that depends on politicians to rein in the very corporations they are in thrall to.

Corporations are creating an environment that is favorable to them but harmful to most Americans. Our job is to figure out how to turn this scenario on its head, to decrease their security so we can win greater opportunity and security for the rest of us, lifting the bottom, growing the middle and holding the top in check—just as we did for most of the 20th century...After discussing the realistic limitations of the labor and other established movements, he sums up his treatise this way.

Progressives need to offer an analysis that gives citizens the confidence to challenge the economic policy of Wall Street. At the same time, we need to provide an inspirational vision of the kind of society we are working to create. And we need to seriously plan how to achieve that vision by fighting for and winning transformative economic change that redistributes wealth and power. We can restore an arc of history that bends toward justice, equality and greater opportunity for us all, if we have the courage to challenge the most powerful and together take a step closer to the promised land. Otherwise, we may soon watch 100 years of victories disappear...
From my perspective, the whole problem with this article is that it doesn't tell us anything new. Even worse, the barriers he lists help to explain why we can't gain much of any traction. Without traction, the chances that the majority of citizens will come to understand what the major structural problems are is about nil. And without this level of understanding, the chances are remote that more than a small swath of the American public will ever take to the streets -- at least in a constructive manner.

We know what the problems are. What we have yet to figure out is what we can realistically do to alter the landscape. Lerner's article -- while certainly well meaning -- doesn't do much to nudge that process along.

My Ode to Easter 5

Chapter 20, Part 6 - Chuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu put on his robe of coarse cloth with the patches on it, tied his shoes with hemp to keep them from falling apart, and went to call upon the king of Wei. "My goodness, Sir, you certainly are in distress!" said the king of Wei.

Chuang Tzu said, "I am poor, but I am not in distress! When a man possesses the Way and its Virtue but cannot put them into practice, then he is in distress. When his clothes are shabby and his shoes worn through, then he is poor, but he is not in distress. This is what they call being born at the wrong time.

"Has Your Majesty never observed the bounding monkeys? If they can reach the tall cedars, the catalpas, or the camphor trees, they will swing and sway from their limbs, frolic and lord it in their midst, and even the famous archers Yi or P'eng Meng could not take accurate aim at them. But when they find themselves among prickly mulberries, brambles, hawthorns, or spiny citrons, they must move with caution, glancing from side to side, quivering and quaking with fear.

"It is not that their bones and sinews have suddenly become stiff and lost their suppleness. It is simply that the monkeys find themselves in a difficult and disadvantageous position where they cannot exercise their abilities to the full.

"And now if I should live under a benighted ruler and among traitorous ministers and still hope to escape distress, what hope would there be of doing so? Pi Kan had his heart cut out - there is the proof of the matter!"
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.