Thursday, October 31, 2013

They Are Stealing Our M. O.!

Trey Smith

Google and Yahoo, two of the world's biggest tech companies, reacted angrily to a report on Wednesday that the National Security Agency has secretly intercepted the main communication links that carry their users' data around the world.

Citing documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with officials, the Washington Post claimed the agency could collect information "at will" from among hundreds of millions of user accounts.

The documents suggest that the NSA, in partnership with its British counterpart GCHQ, is copying large amounts of data as it flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the worldwide data centers of the Silicon Valley giants. The intelligence activities of the NSA outside the US are subject to fewer legal constraints than its domestic actions.

The story is likely to put further strain on the already difficult relations between the tech firms and Washington. The internet giants are furious about the damage done to their reputation in the wake of Snowden's revelations.
~ from Google and Yahoo Furious Over Reports that NSA Secretly Intercepts Data Links by Dominic Rushe, Spencer Ackerman and James Ball ~
This is quite ironic, don't ya think? Here we have two corporations known for secretly gathering all sorts of data and information from their users and they're upset with the government for doing much the same!

Afternoon Matinee: Protest - Do the Evolution

Performed by Pearl Jam

I'm ahead, I'm a man
I'm the first mammal to wear pants, yeah
I'm at peace with my lust
I can kill 'cause in god I trust, yeah
It's evolution, baby

I'm at peace, I'm the man
Buying stocks on the day of the crash, yeah
On the loose, I'm a truck
All the rolling hills, I'll flatten them out, yeah
It's herd behavior, uh huh
It's evolution, baby

Admire me, admire my home
Admire my son, he's my clone
Yeah yeah, yeah yeah
This land is mine, this land is free
I'll do what I want but irresponsibly
It's evolution, baby

I'm a thief, I'm a liar
There's my church, I sing in the choir:

Admire me, admire my home
Admire my son, admire my clones
Cause we know, appetite for a nightly feast
Those ignorant Indians got nothing on me
Nothin', why?
Because, it's evolution, baby!

I am ahead, I am advanced
I am the first mammal to make plans, yeah
I crawled the Earth, but now I'm higher
2010, watch it go to fire
It's evolution, baby
It's evolution, baby
Aaaaahhhh, do the evolution!
Come on!
C'mon, c'mon!
~ from Lyric Wiki ~

Taoist and Buddhist Tweets 120


The big mouth causes fear and panic.
In times of fear and panic,
people huddle around a leader with a big mouth.

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

Bit by Bit - Chapter 23, Part 13

Trey Smith

He who concentrates upon the internal does deeds that bring no fame. He who concentrates upon the external sets his mind upon the hoarding of goods. He who does deeds that bring no fame is forever the possessor of light. He who sets his mind upon the hoarding of goods is a mere merchant. To other men's eyes he seems to be straining on tiptoe in his greed, yet he thinks himself a splendid fellow. If a man goes along with things to the end, then things will come to him. But if he sets up barriers against things, then he cannot find room enough even for himself, much less for others. He who can find no room for others lacks fellow feeling, and to him who lacks fellow feeling, all men are strangers. There is no weapon more deadly than the will - even Mo-yeh is inferior to it. There are no enemies greater than the yin and yang - because nowhere between heaven and earth can you escape from them. It is not that the yin and yang deliberately do you evil - it is your own mind that makes them act so.
~ Burton Watson translation ~
It is so much easier to focus on the foibles of others. We can rant and rave about their shortcomings. We can express disgust or indignation. But we rarely have the influence or power to cause the perceived changes to take hold.

We do possess the power to change one person: ourselves. That takes work and, let's face it, most of us are lazy! So, we focus on the external and allow the internal to languish.

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

Not Even the Pope Is Safe From the NSA

Trey Smith

This whole thing is getting surreal. There is a report out yesterday that the NSA "listened to phone calls to and from the Vatican and wiretapped the accommodation where Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, future Pope Francis, was staying at the time."

I am not a big fan of the institution of the Pope, but wouldn't you agree that this is going very far afield? If nothing else, it should convince those few unconvinced people out there that these pervasive surveillance programs have almost nothing to do with thwarting terrorism...unless, of course, you view the Pope as a potential terrorist who hides suicide bombs under his robe!

The report makes clear that this has nothing to do with suspected terrorism at all. No, it seems that "the pope has been of interest to the US secret services since 2005 and that the calls from the Italian bishops and cardinals were divided into four areas of interest: Leadership intentions, threats to financial systems, foreign policy objectives and human rights."

Now we know the truth. For the most part, US spies aren't worried about those who might be thinking of attacking the US or her allies. What they are really worried about are those who might muck up our economic hegemony by promoting subversive ideas like basic human rights!

Yang Zhu, Chapter 11


MENG-SUN-YANG asked Yang Chu:

"There are men who cherish life and care for their bodies with the intention of grasping immortality. Is that possible?"

Yang Chu replied:

"According to the laws of nature there is no such thing as immortality."

Meng-sun-Yang: "Yet is it possible to acquire a very long life?"

Yang Chu: "According to the laws of nature there is no such thing as a very long life. Neither can life be preserved by cherishing or the body benefited by fostering."

Meng-sun-Yang: "What would be a long life?"

"All things were the same as they are now. The five good and bad passions were of old as they are now. So also the safety and peril of the four limbs. Grief and joy for the things of this world were of old as they are now, and the constant change of peace and revolution. Having seen and heard all these things, one would already be awearied of it at the age of a hundred. How much more after a very long life!"

Meng-sun-Yang: "If it be so a sudden death would be preferable to a long life; therefore we ought to run on to a pointed sword or jump into deep water to have what our heart yearns for."

Yang Chu: "No. Having once come into life regard it and let it pass; mark its desires and wishes, and so wait death.

"When death comes, disregard it and let it come. Mark what it brings you, and be drifted away to annihilation.

"If you pay no regard to life and death, and let them be as they are, how can you be anxious lest our life should end too soon?"
Translator of Yang Zhu's Garden of Pleasure is Anton Forke. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the Yang Zhu label below.

Shenzi IV

Scott Bradley

All-embracing and non-partisan, unstrained and unbiased, unhesitating but without any fixed direction, going worth to things without secondary considerations, ignoring all calculations, uninvolved in any clever schemes, choicelessly moving along with things: these were aspects of the ancient Art of the Dao. Peng Meng, Tian Pian, and Shen Dao got wind of them and were delighted.
(Zhuangzi 33; Ziporyn)
Our first impression of these values may be that they are extreme — impractical and unrealizable. But then we must remember that they are expressions of an "ironic dao". This is to say that they do not necessarily destroy what they negate, but rather transform it. Thus, we have the knowing that is not-knowing, the doing that is not-doing, the dao that is not-a-dao. In the case of wuwei (not-doing) for example, we are not enjoined to stop doing, to become vegetative "quietists", but rather to do our doing in a way altogether different from how we would normally do it. This involves a certain release of our grip upon the how and the wherefore of it. We do not make it happen; we let it happen even as we are making it happen. We are similarly not bound by outcomes; our inner repose is not affected by the success or failure of our endeavors. Cook Ding danced his butcher's dance, blinked, and wondered at the perfectly completed task laying all about him. The job got done, though he was not entirely sure how it was done.

"Choicelessly moving along with things" can thus be taken to suggest choosing that is a non-choosing; life hardly allows for any other interpretation. Will you go with me to the lake? If you are to 'move along with me', you must choose. But that choice can be made without it having a grip upon you, without your peace being dependent upon how it pans out. There would therefore be no arising of "I should have gone" or "I should not have gone". Choicelessness would then be a choosing without attachment to or fear of outcomes.

Still, these values may be overstated; the author didn't live them; the 'ancients' didn't live them; Shenzi didn't live them. It is unlikely that we or anyone else could ever live them. What then is the point in reciting them? Let us hope that the author had enough self-awareness to realize that his saying was not doing and thereby absolve him of the vices of self-deception and hypocrisy, though I suspect this is overly generous. More to the point, let us admit that our saying is no match for doing. But then the very unattainability of these values makes that much easier to do. They are then simply expressions of an ideal way of being that we would do well to attempt to approximate, and in that approximating, grow. Once again we are asked to forego our need for things to be 'true' and 'real'. There is no "ancient Art of the Dao"; nor does there need to be.

It needs to be said that this is my take; I suspect the author was himself a "nook and cranny scholar" in the sense that he had fixed himself in the belief that there really was such a Dao, people who had realized it, and that he, because he articulates it, somehow embodies it.

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

BP - Stop Treating Capitalists As If They're Gods...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Taken From the Mouths of Babes

Trey Smith

Food assistance benefits for over 45 million Americans will be slashed starting this Friday, in the first-ever nationwide reduction in benefits under the US government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), popularly known as food stamps.

The cuts total $11 billion over the next three years and amount on average to a month’s worth of food assistance. They will mean yet more privation for millions of working people, including the poorest and most vulnerable members of society — children, elderly people, the unemployed, the disabled and new mothers.

That this brutal cut takes place under conditions of continuing mass unemployment and economic slump, with record numbers of people living in poverty and homelessness and hunger on the rise, testifies to the ruthlessness of the American ruling class. The callous indifference of the media and the entire political establishment, beginning with the Obama White House, to the suffering of broad layers of the population is reflected in their virtual silence on the imminent cutback in benefits.

As far as the corporate-controlled media is concerned, snatching food from the mouths of hungry children is not even worth reporting. As for the politicians, Democrats as well as Republicans are saying virtually nothing because there is a bipartisan agreement to impose the cuts.

Meanwhile, the government bailout of Wall Street and corporate America continues unabated. The Federal Reserve is expected this Wednesday to announce the extension of its $85 billion-a-month subsidy to the stock market and the banks in the form of its “quantitative easing” money-printing operation. Trillions of dollars have been pumped into the financial markets and interest rates have been kept at near-zero to drive up share values to record highs in the midst of the deepest crisis in the real economy since the Great Depression.

This channeling of social wealth into the coffers of the super-rich has produced the highest levels of social inequality in nearly a century. The American financial aristocracy is choking on its own wealth.
~ from Cutting Food Stamps: The Ruthlessness of the American Ruling Class by Andre Damon and Barry Grey ~
This is yet another example of a snippet in which I don't have anything to add. The authors have expressed the indignation over this issue about as well as one might expect.

Afternoon Matinee: Protest - Little Boxes

Performed by Malvina Reynolds

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same,
There's a pink one and a green one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same
And there's doctors and lawyers
And business executives
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same,
There's a pink one and a green one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
~ from Lyric Wiki ~

Taoist and Buddhist Tweets 119


It is only an argument
if you take part.

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

Bit by Bit - Chapter 23, Part 12

Trey Smith

If you do not perceive the sincerity within yourself and yet try to move forth, each movement will miss the mark. If outside concerns enter and are not expelled, each movement will only add failure to failure. He who does what is not good in clear and open view will be seized and punished by men. He who does what is not good in the shadow of darkness will be seized and punished by ghosts. Only he who clearly understands both men and ghosts will be able to walk alone."
~ Burton Watson translation ~
Serenity is one of those attributes that a person really can't practice. If you practice it, then you are forcing it. It becomes artificial, not free flowing.

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

Dianne Feinstein Finally Stands Up For Somebody

Trey Smith

Not you or me, mind you!

The Democratic Senator from California had spent the entire summer and early fall badmouthing anyone with the temerity to suggest that the pervasive spying programs of the NSA may have gone too far. Every time someone complained about the violation of the rights of American citizens, Feinstein shouted, "Terrorism! We must defeat terrorism!" Suggest that it is unethical to target innocent citizens of the world and Feinstein offered the same refrain.

But it now appears that Feinstein does care about one person: Angela Merkel. Though Merkel is not one of Dianne Feinstein's many constituents -- she's the leader of Germany -- the senator is outraged that the NSA has been spying on her!! And so, Ms. F is ready to spring into action.

As I have noted before, it is not altogether shocking that elites only become alarmed when programs, laws, regulations or behavior impact their own kind. Government and Corporate America are free to harass and abuse the general public, but NOT the power brokers themselves. We have seen this same kind of reaction with the financial crisis. The big Wall Street banks were allowed to foreclose on the common people at will and face next to no indignation OR punishment. But when those same firms targeted the pocketbooks of the wealthy, that's when the sharks started to circle in the water.

Though the myth still prevails, the people must get it through their thick heads that, by and large, our representatives in Congress (and the White House) do not represent the American public. Sure, they act like they do around election time, but that's only to convince the masses to vote for them. Once they become ensconced in office, they don't give a damn about what happens to you and me. We don't matter one wit...until they need our votes again!

Yang Zhu, Chapter 10


TUAN-MU-SHU of Wei was descended from Tse-Kung.

He had a patrimony of ten thousand gold pieces.

Indifferent to the chances of life, he followed his own inclinations.

What the heart delights in he would do and delight in: with his walls and buildings, pavilions, verandahs, gardens, parks, ponds and lakes, wine and food, carriages, dresses, women and attendants, he would emulate the princes of Chi and Chu in luxury.

Whenever his heart desired something, or his ear wished to hear something, his eye to see or his mouth to taste, he would procure it at all costs, though the thing might only be had in a far-off country, and not in the kingdom of Chi.

When on a journey the mountains and rivers might be ever so difficult and dangerous to pass, and the roads ever so long, he would still proceed just as men walk a few steps.

A hundred guests were entertained daily in his palace. In the kitchens there were always fire and smoke, and the vaults of his hall and peristyle incessantly resounded with songs and music. The remains from his table he divided first among his clansmen. What they left was divided among his fellow-citizens, and what these did not eat was distributed throughout the whole kingdom.

When Tuan-mu-Shu reached the age of sixty, and his mind and body began to decay, he gave up his household and distributed all his treasures, pearls and gems, carriages and dresses, concubines and female attendants. Within a year he had disposed of his fortune, and to his offspring he had left nothing. When he fell ill, he had no means to buy medicines and a stone lancet, and when he died, there was not even money for his funeral. All his countrymen who had benefited by him contributed money to bury him, and gave back the fortune of his descendants.

When Ch’in-ku-li heard of this he said:

"Tuan-mu-Shu was a fool, who brought disgrace to his ancestor."

When Tuan-Kan-Sheng heard of it he said:

"Tuan-mu-Shu was a wise man; his virtue was much superior to that of his ancestors. The commonsense people were shocked at his conduct, but it was in accord with the right doctrine. The excellent man of Wei only adhered to propriety. They surely had not a heart like his."
Translator of Yang Zhu's Garden of Pleasure is Anton Forke. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the Yang Zhu label below.

Shenzi III

Scott Bradley

All-embracing and non-partisan, unstrained and unbiased, unhesitating but without any fixed direction, going worth to things without secondary considerations, ignoring all calculations, uninvolved in any clever schemes, choicelessly moving along with things: these were aspects of the ancient Art of the Dao. Peng Meng, Tian Pian, and Shen Dao got wind of them and were delighted.
(Zhuangzi 33; Ziporyn)
The author of the Tianxia ("All Under Heaven") introduces each philosopher or group of like-minded philosophers with a description of what aspect of the 'true' Dao seems to have most inspired them. His criticism of each is that they all attach to only one "corner" of the true Dao and thus fail to encompass the whole which, except for among an unnamed few in the district of Lu (home of Confucius and Mencius), has largely been lost. Taken as a whole, these introductory remarks give us a wide view of what he understood the "ancient Art of the Dao" to have been. But this is a subject for another study. For our present purposes, it is enough to know that whatever his criticism of Shenzi, he believes him to have at least attempted to give expression to these positive values. We thus have two sets of values to ponder, those which the author believes Shenzi appreciated and Shenzi's actual use of them.

Before we consider the first of these sets of values in detail, it is worth noticing that they are all descriptive of a 'state' of mind; they are psychological expressions. The "Art of Dao" is thus a way of being in the world, not some metaphysical entity. It may be that these attitudinal ways of being in the world require being informed by some metaphysic, but the author does not seem to think it necessary to tell us what it is, if this is so. Were we to ask today who is a Christian we would likely hear a recital of doctrinal beliefs, 'facts' which a Christian believes. Here we have something entirely different — a description of psychological behaviors. This alone is well worth pondering if we wish to understand how these ancient Chinese philosophies differ from our contemporary tendency to found everything on 'facts'. Things must be 'true'. These philosophies are much more concerned that they work. From the Zhuangzian perspective, the efficacy of a dao is all that can be judged in any case; our knowing of the 'truth' of things is entirely "unfixed" and thus unrealizable.

We need not 'cross-over' to this point of view, though the sentiment expressed here is that it would be liberating to do so. It is no easy task, in any case; these tendencies permeate our entire interface with reality. But to simply entertain the possibility of this different take on how we might best live can have a positive effect. And this requires just a bit of imaginative meditation: "How would it feel . . . ?"

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

TYT - Cop Who Pepper-Sprayed Protesters Awarded $38K

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Yang Zhu, Chapter 9, Part 4


Tse-Chan in his perplexity found no answer.

Later on he met and informed Teng-hsi.

Teng-hsi said:

"You are living together with real men without knowing it.

"Who calls you wise? Cheng has been governed by chance, and without merit of yours."
Translator of Yang Zhu's Garden of Pleasure is Anton Forke. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the Yang Zhu label below.

We're Not Talking Sock Hops Here

Trey Smith

You don’t need to be talking to a terror suspect to have your communications data analyzed by the NSA. The agency is allowed to travel “three hops” from its targets – who could be people who talk to people who talk to people who talk to you. Facebook, where the typical user has 190 friends, shows how three degrees of separation gets you to a network bigger than the population of Colorado. How many people are three “hops” from you?
~ from Three Degrees of Separation: Breaking Down the NSA's 'Hops' Surveillance Method by the Guardian US Interactive Team ~
Utilizing this interactive tool with the average of 190 Facebook friends, we find that the second degree (or "hop") nets 31,046 people and the third degree results in 5,072,916 people. Repeat this process over and over again with different individuals and you'll end up with almost everybody who communicates via the internet!

I hope you are able to discern the great danger here. By being "connected" with over 5 million people, you stand a huge chance of being "connected" to someone up to no good. More than likely, it is someone you've never heard of. It is someone you couldn't pick out of a lineup if your life depended upon it. It is someone who is a complete stranger to you.

From the standpoint of the NSA, CIA or FBI, none of that matters. You are connected by a mere 3 degrees! Because you are so "closely" connected, you must be watched. If a person only 3 degrees from you is up to no good, then obviously so are you!

In the end, almost everybody will be 3 degrees away from some sort of troublemaker which means ALL OF US will be placed under suspicion. That's WHY they have to watch everybody.

Afternoon Matinee: Protest - Final Straw

Performed by R.E.M.

As I raise my head to broadcast my objection
As your latest triumph draws the final straw
Who died and lifted you up to perfection?
And what silenced me is written into law.

I can't believe where circumstance has thrown me
And I turn my head away
If I look I'm not sure that I could face you.
Not again. Not today. Not today.

If hatred makes a play on me tomorrow
And forgiveness takes a back seat to revenge
There's a hurt down deep that has not been corrected
There's a voice in me that says you will not win.

And if I ignore the voice inside,
Raise a half glass to my home.
But it's there that I am most afraid,
And forgetting doesn't hold, it doesn't hold.

Now I don't believe and I never did that two wrongs make a right.
If the world were filled with the likes of you then I'm putting up a fight.
Putting up a fight. Putting up a fight.
Make it right. Make it right.

Now love cannot be called into question.
Forgiveness is the only hope I hold.
And love - love will be my strongest weapon.
I do believe that I am not alone.

For this fear will not destroy me.
And the tears that have been shed
It's knowing now where I am weakest
And the voice in my head. In my head.

Then I raise my voice up higher
And I look you in the eye
And I offer love with one condition.
With conviction, tell me why.
Tell me why.
Tell me why.
Look me in the eye.
Tell me why.
~ from Lyric Wiki ~

Taoist and Buddhist Tweets 118


Some are lost in life.
Some seek spiritual solace.
Some admirable people just live!

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

Bit by Bit - Chapter 23, Part 11

Trey Smith

"Utilize the bounty of things and let them nourish your body; withdraw into thoughtlessness and in this way give life to your mind; be reverent of what is within and extend this same reverence to others. If you do these things and yet are visited by ten thousand evils, then all are Heaven-sent and not the work of man. They should not be enough to destroy your composure; they must not be allowed to enter the Spirit Tower. The Spirit Tower has its guardian, but unless it understands who its guardian is, it cannot be guarded."
~ Burton Watson translation ~
The person who is well-centered does not allow external criteria to have much impact. If a person has a strong foundation, then the winds of life cannot easily blow you down.

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

Which Is the More Dangerous Obsession?

Trey Smith

Twelve years after September 11, 2001, the United States’ obsession with al Qaeda is doing more damage to the nation than the terrorist group itself.
On the surface, it's hard not to disagree with him. So much that has gone on under Presidents Bush and Obama has been predicated on this idea that we want to stop the next 9/11 BEFORE it happens. That's why we've undertaken such extraordinary measures like curbing civil rights and spying on anything that moves.

But, if you dig only an inch or two below the surface, things don't add up. The erosion of our civil rights hasn't made us safer; all it has done is make Americans less secure in our public and private lives. The plethora of intelligence programs doesn't appear to be aimed at stopping terrorism at all. What the myriad of recent revelations has shown is that surveillance is being conducted on ordinary citizens of the world and even leaders of allied countries. Unless you think the Chancellor of Germany or the President of Brazil is a closet terrorist, it would seem that the prevention of terrorism isn't what this is all about.

In my mind's eye, this seeming obsession is nothing more than a ruse. Terrorism is this generation's bogeyman. Our leaders use it to shift away our attention from their true obsessions: power and wealth.

When you scrape away all the hubris, power and money for the few is what we're left with.

Yang Zhu, Chapter 9, Part 3


Chow and Mu said:

"Long ago we knew it and made our choice.

"Nor had we to wait for your instructions to enlighten us.

"It is very difficult to preserve life, and easy to come by one's death. Yet who would think of awaiting death, which comes so easily, on account of the difficulty of preserving life?

"You value proper conduct and righteousness in order to excel before others, and you do violence to your feelings and nature in striving for glory. That to us appears to be worse than death.

"Our only fear is lest, wishing to gaze our fill at all the beauties of this one life, and to exhaust all the pleasures of the present years, the repletion of the belly should prevent us from drinking what our palate delights in, or the slackening of our strength not allow us to revel with pretty women.

"We have no time to trouble about bad reputations or mental dangers. Therefore for you to argue with us and disturb our minds merely because you surpass others in ability to govern, and to try and allure us with promises of glory and appointments, is indeed shameful and deplorable.

"But we will now settle the question with you.

"See now. If anybody knows how to regulate external things, the things do not of necessity become regulated, and his body has still to toil and labour. But if anybody knows how to regulate internals, the things go on all right, and the mind obtains peace and rest.

"Your system of regulating external things will do temporarily and for a single kingdom, but it is not in harmony with the human heart, while our method of regulating internals can be extended to the whole universe, and there would be no more princes and ministers.

"We always desired to propagate this doctrine of ours, and now you would teach us yours."
Translator of Yang Zhu's Garden of Pleasure is Anton Forke. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the Yang Zhu label below.

Shenzi II

Scott Bradley

Though he is said to have written 42 essays, only 7 fragments of Shenzi's work have survived. The greatest part of these, on 6 bamboo strips from the Warring States Period, are inaccessible to the non-Chinese speaker. A treatment of these fragments is to be found in one doctrinal thesis (The Shen Dao Fragments; Paul Thompson) but is only available at an extravagant price. What remains for this author, therefore, is what we have in the Tianxia (33rd) chapter of the Zhuangzi. This chapter critiques many of the philosophers of the Warring States Period, including Shenzi.

The author of this chapter clearly seems (to me) to have been a syncretist of decidedly Confucian persuasion. A.C. Graham includes it in his Syncretist School of chapters. Liu Xiaogan, who also sees this and other chapters as syncretist but prefers a more contemporaneous designation, includes it in his Huang-Lao School (Chapters 11B-16, 33). He believes this school of thought to have been part of a larger Zhuangzi School, but to have significantly diverged from him in its efforts to integrate Confucianism and Legalism with 'Daoism'. Daoism, as we currently think of it, he goes on to say, has its beginnings in Huang-Lao. I would add that his other two divisions of the School of Zhuangzi, the Transmitter School (those closest to Zhuangzi's thought) (Chapters 17-27, 32) and the Anarchist School (those most removed from his thought) (Chapters 8-11A, 28, 29, 31) also diverge toward what became religious Daoism. [The 30th Chapter, "Discoursing on Swords", is considered by nearly all scholars to be completely spurious and unworthy of inclusion in the Zhuangzi.]

My reading of the Tianxia chapter sees the author as more Confucian than Daoist; he does not even presume to critique Confucianism, but rather suggests it as the true, all-encompassing dao by which to critique all the others, including the proto-Daoists Shenzi and Zhuangzi. All other philosophies are the product of "nook and cranny scholars" who got some of the true dao, but not all. His analysis of Shenzi's thought is thus necessarily skewed.

This is not to say, however, that he does not appreciate many aspects of Shenzi's dao. In fact, what he does affirm in Shenzi, and indeed most all the other daos he critiques (Huizi and his fellow rhetoricians are alone in being unaffirmable), would probably make a true Confucian squirm. His Confucianism is in fact syncretistic and unorthodox.

The next post should hopefully begin to actually examine what Tianxia had to say about Shenzi.

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

BP - Government...SIZE Doesn't Matter - But COST Does

Monday, October 28, 2013

Yang Zhu, Chapter 9, Part 2


Tse-Chan pondering over these things, stealthily betook himself to Teng-hsi to consult him, and said:

"I have heard that the care for one's own person has its influence on the family, and the care taken of a family influences the state. That is to say, starting from the nearest one reaches to what is distant. I have taken care of my kingdom, but my own family is in disorder. Perhaps this way is not the right one. What am I to do? what measures am I to take to save these two men?"

Teng-hsi replied:

"I have wondered for a long while at you. But I did not dare to speak to you first. Why do you not always control them? Administer exhortations based on the importance of life and nature, or admonitions regarding the sublimity of righteousness and proper conduct."

Tse-Chan did as Teng-hsi had advised, and taking an opportunity of seeing his brothers said to them:

"That in which man is superior to beasts and birds are his mental faculties. Through them he gets righteousness and propriety, and so glory and rank fall to his share. You are only moved by what excites your sense, and indulge only in licentious desires, endangering your lives and natures.

"Hear my words. Repent in the morning, and in the evening you will have already gained the wage that will support you."
Translator of Yang Zhu's Garden of Pleasure is Anton Forke. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the Yang Zhu label below.

Not a Particularly Good Argument

Trey Smith

The US National Security Agency was forced on Sunday to deny that its director ever discussed a surveillance operation against the German chancellor with President Barack Obama, as the White House tried to contain a full-scale diplomatic crisis over espionage directed at allied countries.
~ from NSA Denies Discussing Merkel Phone Surveillance with Obama by Paul Lewis ~
Oh, the tangled webs they've weaved!

The Obama administration finds itself between a rock and a hard place. Germany and much of the EU -- as well as quite a few other nations -- are incensed that it has been revealed that the NSA routinely has been spying on the leaders of our allies. Obama can't very well say that either he ordered this spying or, at least, was apprised of it because that would create a serious diplomatic rift with some of our staunchest allies. But the above contention is just as bad, if not worse.

If the NSA has been conducting this sort of spying and the president is not in the loop, then this buttresses the argument that US spy agencies are out of control and must be reined in -- something the Obama administration is strongly opposed to. It says that they are behaving like outlaws in the wild west.

One or the other and neither leaves the US government in a very good light!

Afternoon Matinee: Protest - Flag of Hate

Performed by Kreator

Dark shadows lie over the city
Tonight someone will die
You can hear painful screams
The air is full of flies
Mayhemic legions are ready
To steal the human souls
Come into my vault and do like you get told

I'll eat your intestines
No matter if you pray or please
I'll bring you down to your knees
Tonight you're gonna meet your fate
You try to run but it's too late
I am here to liquidate

Time to raise the flag of hate
Destroy the earth is our only aim
To strike all down is the only way
To give 'em death and let them pay

The galleys of the underground
Sail on the sea of blood
All that we want - crucify your god
The posers on this earth have no right to live
Torture is what we give
~ from Lyric Wiki ~

Taoist and Buddhist Tweets 117


The eyes do not look, they absorb.
The mind is responsible for looking.
The failure here is how it divides information
from a limited sensory input into values good and bad.
Here is the illusion.

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

Bit by Bit - Chapter 23, Part 10

Trey Smith

"He whose inner being rests in the Great Serenity will send forth a Heavenly light. But though he sends forth a Heavenly light, men will see him as a man and things will see him as a thing. When a man has trained himself to this degree, then for the first time he achieves constancy. Because he possesses constancy, men will come to lodge with him and Heaven will be his helper. Those whom men come to lodge with may be called the people of Heaven; those whom Heaven aids may be called the sons of Heaven.

"Learning means learning what cannot be learned; practicing means practicing what cannot be practiced; discriminating means discriminating what cannot be discriminated. Understanding that rests in what it cannot understand is the finest. If you do not attain this goal, then Heaven the Equalizer will destroy you."

~ Burton Watson translation ~
At first blush, the author seems to be talking in paradoxes. Practicing what can't be practiced? Understanding what cannot be understood?

For me, what I think the author merely is suggesting is wu wei -- living without conscious ego-based designs. An ideal, to be sure, but one that we certainly can approximate...if we have a mind to.

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

You've Got To Own It

Trey Smith

Unlike so many other Americans, Della and I do not need to sign-up for health care at the government website. Both of us are already on Medicaid. So, we have not been impacted by its much reported website woes.

There is no question that isn't working as well as it is supposed to. Even President Obama has admitted as much. What I find remarkable is the excuse trotted out by liberals: It is the fault of the private contractors hired to develop the site. Don't blame Team Obama -- it's not their fault!

But who hired these contractors and who is responsible for overseeing their work? Team Obama! And this result shouldn't be all that surprising anyway. Such results are typical when a government service is privatized. It tends to cost taxpayers more money and the results tend to be lacking.

Look at prisons across the nation. This governmental function was privatized on the arguments that it would save taxpayer dollars AND that prisons would be run more efficiently. But that's not what has happened at all! Private prisons predominantly cost taxpayers more. Not only are private prisons more expensive, but the services provided tend to be degraded. The mega corporations that run many of today's prisons are making a lot of public money, while treating their workers and the inmates like dirt.

In other words, some of the blame should fall on the shoulders of the contractors that developed the government's health care website. The major onus, however, falls on the Obama administration. They readily embraced privatization and so they've ended up receiving basically what they asked for: a major political headache with a hefty price tag!

Yang Zhu, Chapter 9, Part 1


TSE-CHAN was Minister in Cheng, and governed for three years, and governed well.

The good people complied with his injunctions, and the bad were in awe of his prohibitory laws.

So Cheng was governed, and the princes were afraid of it.

Tse-Chan had an elder brother, Kung-Sun-Chow, and a younger, Kung-Sun-Mu. The former was fond of feasting and the latter of gallantry.

In the house of Kung-Sun-Chow a thousand barrels of wine were stored, and yeast in piled-up heaps.

Within a hundred paces from the door the smell of drugs and liquor offended people's noses.

He was so much under the influence of wine that he ignored the feeling of remorse, was unconscious of the safe and dangerous parts of the path of life; what was present or wanting in his house, the near or remote degrees of relationship,the various degrees of relationship, the joy of living and the sadness of death.

Water, fire and swords might almost touch his person, and he would be unaware of it.

Within the house of Kung-Sun-Mu there was a compound of about thirty or forty houses, which he filled with damsels of exquisite beauty. So much was he captivated by their charms, that he neglected his relatives and friends, broke off all family intercourse, and retiring into his inner court turned night into day.

Within three months he only came forth once and yet he still did not feel contented.

Was there a pretty girl in the neighborhood, he would try to win her with bribes or allurements, and only desisted with the impossibility of obtaining his desires.
Translator of Yang Zhu's Garden of Pleasure is Anton Forke. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the Yang Zhu label below.

Shenzi I

Scott Bradley

As previously stated, Chad Hansen ("A Tao of Tao in Chuang-Tzu"; Experimental Essays on Chuang-tzu) makes a great deal of what he understands to be Shenzi's (Shen Dao) "absolute mysticism" as a means of contrast with Zhuangzi's abandonment of all "absolutism". In other words, he understands Shenzi to have asserted the existence of a metaphysical Dao, the context of which informs our life-engagement, whereas Zhuangzi made no such assertion, but was completely skeptical of any such metaphysics, and instead suggested there are as many daos as there are people to hold/walk them. If his reading of Shenzi is correct, then I agree whole-heartedly with this conclusion. However, I am not so sure that this interpretation of Shenzi is entirely correct, or if it is true that he believed in a metaphysical Dao, that that should be understood as forming the foundation for his philosophy generally. In any case, I have long found the presentation of Shenzi's so-called 'proto-Daoism' (and 'proto-Legalism') in the Tianxia (33rd) chapter of the Zhuangzi quite thought-provoking, and Hansen's use of him has renewed that interest.

A few biographical facts about Shenzi are in order, but first it seems important to say that what makes his thought particularly interesting to me is that it is a philosophy of life. He asks and answers the question, how best to live. This is the norm for classical Chinese philosophy, but is frequently not the case today where philosophical inquiry seems to exist for its own sake, as a self-fulfilling intellectual exercise (Knowledge for knowledge's sake). Thus, we might discuss Shenzi in a 'scholarly' manner without reference to how it informs our living, but this is not what this inquiry is about. My interest is in whether he has something to add to or can shed further light upon that way of being in the world advocated by Zhuangzi. And it is this way I am endeavoring to better understand for the purpose of growing and living my own philosophy of life.

Shenzi (ca. 395-315 B.C.E.) is thought to have been a contributing scholar at the Jixia Academy in Qi, where philosophers of many stripes were invited to reside with the financial support of the government. His dates make him as an elder contemporary of Zhuangzi (ca. 369-286 B.C.E.) and thus his thought may very well have informed that of Zhuangzi, though they make no mention of each other.

Shenzi is considered both a precursor of both Daoism and Legalism. The latter believed human nature to be essentially 'evil' and thus necessitating the constraints of law (fa) with its rewards and punishments. What makes Shenzi a possible influence upon both these otherwise polar opposite points of view is his belief that nature is amoral. This was a break from Confucianism which understood 'Heaven' as a moral force which, if we could understand its principles, would guide us to the only best way to live. Mencius, possibly another member of the Jixia Academy, was the greatest advocate of this view, and consequentially declared human nature 'good'.

From here, we will take yet another look at Shenzi from the perspective of the Tianxia.

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

MR - How the Koch Brothers Will Profit from the Climate-Destroying Keystone Pipeline

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Yang Zhu, Chapter 8, Part 2


Kuan-Yi-Wu said:

"Since I have told you about cherishing life, please tell me how it is with the burial of the dead."

Yen-Ping-Chung said:

"Burying the dead is but of very little importance. What shall I tell you about it?"

Kuan-Yi-Wu replied:

"I really wish to hear it."

Yen-Ping-Chung answered:

"What can I do when I am dead? They may burn my body, or cast it into deep water, or inter it, or leave it uninterred, or throw it wrapped up in a mat into some ditch, or cover it with princely apparel and embroidered garments and rest it in a stone sarcophagus. All that depends on mere chance."

Kuan-Yi-Wu looked round at Pao-Shu-huang-tse and said to him:

"Both of us have made some progress in the doctrine of life and death."
Translator of Yang Zhu's Garden of Pleasure is Anton Forke. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the Yang Zhu label below.

Somebody's Grandmother, Somebody's Mother

Trey Smith

I offer the following two snippets without comment (because they speak for themselves).
An eight-year-old girl provided Amnesty International with the quote that leads its latest report on targeted killing in Pakistan's tribal regions. A drone strike killed the girl's 68-year-old grandmother as the old woman gathered vegetables last autumn. "I wasn't scared of drones before," the little girl said, "but now when they fly overhead I wonder, will I be next?"

Her uncertainty is understandable. An elderly matriarch's death is inevitably tragic for her grandchild. Her survivors are made to bear an even greater burden when the death is cloaked in mystery. Was the strike a murder? A terrible mistake? Did the grandmother inadvertently do something to make the drone pilot suspicious? How can other innocents avoid her fate? The U.S. doesn't just refuse to explain its actions (or to compensate the families of innocent people it wrongfully kills). Our government cloaks the killings in extreme secrecy, refusing even to acknowledge its role. Of course little eight-year-old girls wonder if they're next. What would you think if a Hellfire missile arbitrarily blew up your grandma? I wonder if an eight-year-old girl is next too. It would make no more or less sense.
~ from 8-Year-Old Girl on Drones: 'When They Fly Overhead I Wonder, Will I Be Next?' by Conor Friedersdorf ~

The last time I saw my mother, Momina Bibi, was the evening before Eid al-Adha. She was preparing my children's clothing and showing them how to make sewaiyaan, a traditional sweet made of milk. She always used to say: the joy of Eid is the excitement it brings to the children.

Last year, she never had that experience. The next day, 24 October 2012, she was dead, killed by a US drone that rained fire down upon her as she tended her garden.

Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day. The media reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother's house. Several reported the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All reported that five militants were killed. Only one person was killed – a 67-year-old grandmother of nine.

My three children – 13-year-old Zubair, nine-year-old Nabila and five-year-old Asma – were playing nearby when their grandmother was killed. All of them were injured and rushed to hospitals. Were these children the "militants" the news reports spoke of? Or perhaps, it was my brother's children? They, too, were there. They are aged three, seven, 12, 14, 15 and 17 years old. The eldest four had just returned from a day at school, not long before the missile struck.

But the United States and its citizens probably do not know this. No one ever asked us who was killed or injured that day. Not the United States or my own government. Nobody has come to investigate nor has anyone been held accountable. Quite simply, nobody seems to care.

I care, though. And so does my family and my community. We want to understand why a 67-year-old grandmother posed a threat to one of the most powerful countries in the world. We want to understand how nine children, some playing in the field, some just returned from school, could possibly have threatened the safety of those living a continent and an ocean away.

Most importantly, we want to understand why President Obama, when asked whom drones are killing, says they are killing terrorists. My mother was not a terrorist. My children are not terrorists. Nobody in our family is a terrorist.
~ from Please Tell Me, Mr. President, Why a US Drone Assassinated My Mother by Rafiq ur Rehman ~

Afternoon Matinee: Protest - No Irish Need Apply

Performed by The Weavers

I'm a decent boy just landed from the town of Ballyfad
I want a situation, yes, and wants it very bad
I seen employment advertised - "It's just the thing," says I
But the dirty spalpeen ended with 'No Irish Need Apply'

"Woah," says I, "but thats an insult, though to get the place I'll try"
So I went to see the blaggard with his 'No Irish Need Apply'
Some may think it a misfortune to be christened Pat or Dan
But to me it is an honor to be born an Irishman

Well I started out to find the house, I got it mighty soon
There I found the old chap seated, he was reading the Tribune
I told him what I came for, when he in a rage did fly
"No!" he says, "you are a Paddy, and no Irish need apply"

Well I gets my dander risin', I'd like to black his eye
To tell an Irish gentleman, 'No Irish Need Apply'
Some may think it a misfortune to be christened Pat or Dan
But to me it is an honor to be born an Irishman

Well I couldnt stand it longer, so ahold of him I took
And I gave him such a whelping as he'd get at Donnybrook
He hollered "Milia murther," and to get away did try
And swore he'd never write again 'No Irish Need Apply'

Well he makes a big apology, I bid him then good-bye
Saying "when next you want a beating, write 'No Irish Need Apply'"
Some may think it a misfortune to be christened Pat or Dan
But to me it is an honor to be born an Irishman
~ from Lyric Wiki ~

Taoist and Buddhist Tweets 116


Follow leaders
and be forever in the shade of stupidity and greed.
Follow the learned
and be forever confused.

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

Bit by Bit - Chapter 23, Part 9

Trey Smith

Nan-Jung Chu said, "Then is this all there is to the virtue of the Perfect Man?"

"Oh, no! This is merely what is called the freeing of the icebound, the thawing of the frozen. Can you do it? The Perfect Man joins with others in seeking his food from the earth, his pleasures in Heaven. But he does not become embroiled with them in questions of people and things, profit and loss. He does not join them in their shady doings, he does not join them in their plots, he does not join them in their projects. Brisk and unflagging, he goes; rude and unwitting, he comes. This is what is called the basic rule of life-preservation."

"Then is this the highest stage?"

"Not yet! Just a moment ago I said to you, `Can you be a baby?' The baby acts without knowing what it is doing, moves without knowing where it is going. Its body is like the limb of a withered tree, its mind like dead ashes. Since it is so, no bad fortune will ever touch it, and no good fortune will come to it either. And if it is free from good and bad fortune, then what human suffering can it undergo?"

~ Burton Watson translation ~
Emptying ourselves of our baggage and ghosts is a good first step, but it is not the ultimate leap. An empty mind can just as easily be filled with bad conceptions as it can with good. It is only when we search our hearts that we can find the eternal spring from whence true compassion and virtue flows.

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

Who Is Laughing?

Trey Smith

Alan Grayson, a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives from Florida, wrote an excellent piece in the Guardian in which he openly admits what many of us had already surmised: Most members of Congress have been completely kept in the dark about America's ubiquitous surveillance programs.
Despite being a member of Congress possessing security clearance, I've learned far more about government spying on me and my fellow citizens from reading media reports than I have from "intelligence" briefings.
That's a damning admission. It flies in the face of what members of Team Obama have been saying for months. As Grayson points out, it is next too impossible for Congress to provide any meaningful oversight when they aren't provided with adequate information.
I've requested classified information, and further meetings with NSA officials. The House Intelligence Committee has refused to provide either. Supporters of the NSA's vast ubiquitous domestic spying operation assure the public that members of Congress can be briefed on these activities whenever they want. Senator Saxby Chambliss says all a member of Congress needs to do is ask for information, and he'll get it. Well I did ask, and the House Intelligence Committee said "no", repeatedly. And virtually every other member not on the Intelligence Committee gets the same treatment.
It is more than obvious that very few people are "in the know" and that's the way the intelligence community likes it. Providing crucial information opens up these agencies to someone saying, "Hey, you can't do that!" If few people know what you're really up to, then you can pretty much do whatever you damn well want...which happens to describe what the NSA and other agencies have done.

Yang Zhu, Chapter 8, Part 1


YEN-PING-CHUNG asked Kuan-Yi-Wu as to cherishing life.

Kuan-Yi-Wu replied:

"It suffices to give it its free course, neither checking nor obstructing it."

Yen-Ping-Chung said: "And as to details?"

Kuan-Yi-Wu replied: "Allow the ear to hear what it likes, the eye to see what it likes, the nose to smell what it likes, the mouth to say what it likes, the body to enjoy the comforts it likes to have, and the mind to do what it likes.

"Now what the ear likes to hear is music, and the prohibition of it is what I call obstruction to the ear.

"What the eye likes to look at is beauty; and its not being permitted to regard this beauty I call obstruction of sight.

"What the nose likes to smell is perfume; and its not being permitted to smell I call obstruction to scent.

"What the mouth likes to talk about is right and wrong; and if it is not permitted to speak I call it obstruction of the understanding.

"The comforts the body enjoys to have are rich food and fine clothing; and if it is not permitted, then I call that obstruction of the senses of the body.

"What the mind likes is to be at peace; and its not being permitted rest I call obstruction of the mind's nature.

"All these obstructions are a source of the most painful vexation.

"Morbidly to cultivate this cause of vexation, unable to get rid of it, and so have a long but very sad life of a hundred, a thousand, or ten thousand years, is not what I call cherishing life.

"But to check this source of obstruction and with calm enjoyment to await death for a day, a month, or a year or ten years, is what I understand by enjoying life."
Translator of Yang Zhu's Garden of Pleasure is Anton Forke. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the Yang Zhu label below.

Skepticism At a Crossroads

Scott Bradley

Chad Hansen does an excellent job of bringing us to an understanding of the skepticism of Zhuangzi vis-a-vis our inability to know anything about the ultimate foundations of apparent reality. In order to do this he has had to wipe away the cobwebs of traditional readings of Zhuangzi that continue to muddle the interpretive efforts of modern-day translators and commentators and come to the text on its own terms. Nearly all default to the idea that Zhuangzi was trying to introduce us to a metaphysical Dao, the One, and Hansen makes an excellent case for the exact opposite. Zhuangzi's skepticism regarding the ability of language to provide us with "fixed" assertions about the way things 'really are' is not, Hansen tells us, a therapeutic ploy to get us to take the leap of belief through spiritual intuition (prajna, enlightenment) into union with an ineffable Dao. His skepticism was complete and uncompromising.

But what was his aim? Why did he engage in this philosophic exercise about language as found in the Qiwulun chapter (2) of the Zhuangzi? Was it, as Hansen seems to assume, simply to extend and perhaps correct the conclusions of the School of Names (that consideration that extends across a wide swath of debate among Confucians, Mohists, 'logicians', and 'sophists' regarding the nature and reliability of language), or did he have something else in mind? It seems clear to me, even within that very chapter, that Zhuangzi had something else entirely different in mind. In the context of the entire Inner Chapters, it is inconceivable (to me) that we could come to any other conclusion.

Zhuangzi brings us to this place of realizing our utter not-knowing to suggest an alternative way of engaging with our being in the world. He suggests that we engage life on its own terms, not in terms of our ability to 'understand' it. He recommends a trustful leap into the very happening of life, a following along with things as they unfold, a thankful acceptance of things as they are, however they are.

He does not subsequently abandon his skepticism for some kind of intuitivism that fills in the blanks for us in some novel, 'spiritual' way. Never does he depart in any way from his not-knowing; to do so would be to abandon honesty. The "Illumination of the Obvious" (yiming) is the practice of genuinely, authentically, (phenomenologically), letting life be what it is. Authentic living is living life the way it is.

Hansen actually says this well: “Mysticism amounts to no more than an admission of our ignorance of what is so of things.” Only it seems that for him, mysticism can only be an abandonment of our ignorance instead of, as it is for Zhuangzi, its complete acceptance.

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

TYT - Civilian Deaths in Drone Strikes - Devastating Report

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Matter of Trust

Trey Smith

Germany and France are to spearhead a drive to try to force the Americans to agree new transatlantic rules on intelligence and security service behavior in the wake of the Snowden revelations and allegations of mass US spying in France and tapping of the German chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone.

At an EU summit in Brussels that was hijacked by the furore over the activities of the National Security Agency in the US and Britain's GCHQ, the French president, François Hollande, also called for a new code of conduct agreed between national intelligence services in the EU, raising the question of whether Britain would opt to join in.

Shaken by this week's revelations of NSA operations in France and Germany, EU leaders and Merkel in particular warned that the international fight against terrorism was being jeopardized by the perception that mass US surveillance was out of control.

The leaders "stressed that intelligence-gathering is a vital element in the fight against terrorism", a summit statement said. "A lack of trust could prejudice the necessary co-operation in the field of intelligence-gathering."

Merkel drove the point home: "We need trust among allies and partners. Such trust now has to be built anew … The United States of America and Europe face common challenges. We are allies. But such an alliance can only be built on trust."
~ from Germany and France Warn NSA Spying Fallout Jeopardizes Fight Against Terror by Ian Traynor ~
Folks in the EU have reason to be upset. Their supposed allies -- the USA and UK -- have been caught spying on them. EU leaders weren't all that concerned when the spying concerned average citizens -- they became outraged when they learned that they too were being targeted. Understandably, they are demanding change.

But how can one trust agencies with the capabilities of the NSA and GCHQ? Diplomats can say all the right things and our own president can promise not to spy on "our friends" anymore. New rules and regulations can be negotiated. Heck, they can even be ratified. All the things one would expect can be done to "mend the fences", but, at the end of the day, will it mean actual change?

Once the genie is out of the bottle, it becomes very difficult to put it back. If you have the capacity to spy on anyone of your choosing, who is to say you won't continue the practice? Let the politicos hammer out new rules of engagement, while you work behind the scenes to make your spying operations ever more difficult to detect.

The point here is that the NSA and GCHQ repeatedly have shown that they are not to be trusted to follow even their own rules and their nation's laws. By their very nature, they are entities that should be distrusted at all turns. When they say, we won't spy on you anymore, why should anyone believe them? Therein lies the vexing problem (of their own making).