Category Page: politics
that on the category pages, the posts are in chronological order, unlike the rest of the weblog.
bush's brain tumor
Can't help but read about Karl Rove...an issue hovering on the edge of whether it really is an issue or not. Salon and other news sources had a billion non-stories about how, yes, the White House is still stonewalling as they buy time to find some way to spin this, or at least let it drop off the radar.
I was curious about what the Conservative buzz about all this was...I had no doubt that there was a huge amount of indignation at all the unified negative attention this is getting from the press. Finally I found this great Washington Post article/blog entry about all the Rove hubbub. It does a great job of summarizing a group of different arguments and putting them in context. I think people of the "hang Rove immediately" camp and the "fucking liberal media" camp should both read this article to help normalize your viewpoint and put it in perspective.
After a year or so of Google news, I'm beginning to really respect the Washington Post as a damn fine news source. Salon is cool, but perhaps a bit more prone to publishing five articles with exactly the same viewpoint and subject matter.
when bush lies, people die?
I think that the Annenburg Public Policy Center is a Good Thing(tm). Cheney tried to mention them in the Vice Presidential debates, but mistakenly pointed people at factcheck.COM, instead of factcheck.ORG.
I wish I had known about Annenburg Fact Check years ago. Usually I read the news, assume it's all slanted, and just try to get a general read on a situation based on a variety of sources. Sometimes it's nice to know that there actually are people out there who are able to do the work to verify what ads, articles and sources say.
In absolutely the most compelling Fact Check article yet in my opinion, they explore the musical question of whether or not Bush is guilty of manipulating intelligence information to justify a war on Iraq. The answers seem to make Bush look a lot better than most Seattle liberals would believe, but...still pretty bad.
I wish they would have examined evidence that Bush was eager to go to war before 9/11, but they can only explore things that are a matter of public record. They are not in a position to conduct an investigation.
The articles of interest:
Iraq: What Did Congress Know, And When?
Anti-war Ad Says Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & Rice "Lied" About Iraq
marriage is for white people
I was pretty surprised to see a Washington Post article with this title. Seems provocative, but really it's not such a big deal. From the article:
Traditional notions of family, especially the extended family network, endure. But working mothers, unmarried couples living together, out-of-wedlock births, birth control, divorce and remarriage have transformed the social landscape. And no one seems to feel this more than African American women. One told me that with today's changing mores, it's hard to know "what normal looks like" when it comes to courtship, marriage and parenthood. Sex, love and childbearing have become a la carte choices rather than a package deal that comes with marriage. Moreover, in an era of brothers on the "down low," the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and the decline of the stable blue-collar jobs that black men used to hold, linking one's fate to a man makes marriage a risky business for a black woman.
It's interesting to think about this just for black society, but it's also interesting because I think this is a larger trend in society. As all the religeons of the world begin to intermingle (a process that clearly sometimes involves deadly struggle), it becomes harder and harder for a culture to remain in the kind of isolation that makes one way of living seem like the uncontestable "right way".
People are experimenting with new ways of being a functioning society. Fundamentalists of all flavors would have you believe that this is somehow both the cause and result of a profound moral decline. In my mind, the world is just changing, finally mixing up, people bumping up against each other, and this is the process of people trying to work it out as a world community, for better or worse.
To me, the consolidation of world power and the incredible impoverishment and poisoning of the third world is of far more concern than the "defense of marraige". To me that's the least of our troubles. Who can stand up and say, "My way of life is the best because it causes the least suffering and is clearly God's way"? I don't think anyone has the corner on that market.
Granted, if you get married you have a lot of models for lifetime behavior. But some of them are like, the fucking lockhorns . Is that really so great?
bad news on 4/20
Well, it's bad news for stoners and Chemo patients everywhere as the FDA says:
No sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use. There are alternative FDA-approved medications in existence for treatment of many of the proposed uses of smoked marijuana.
I was curious if anyone had anything interesting to say about it in the media, and I think that Scientific American's article and The New York Times article are the best. The Scientific American article is actually pretty funny too.
For instance, I didn't realize (from the Scientific American article) that the National Institute of Drug Abuse grows one big field of substandard weed, and if you want some for research purposes you have to use the NIDA's ditchweed. Lame. It's a certain stoner lore that the government actually grows some incredible stuff.
Well, maybe they do. But they're not sharing with the scientists.
independence day in nepal
I have a friend and fellow dharma practitioner who is living abroad in Nepal. For a while now he's been sending out these colorful, sweet travelogues (only in Email, he doesn't have a blog yet).
This latest one was so good and so topical that I asked him if I could reprint it in the tinyblog. He said that would be fine.
I had heard about the political activity that's been going on in Nepal, that's recently coming to a head, but it's amazing to hear a first person perspective on what that looks like from the ground.
Yesterday was Independence Day in Nepal. Or so it seemed to me, and I told this to Parvoti, the Nepali girl who massages my back after my acupuncture treatments with Fatima, the Muslim Chinese needle artist who many of us at Pullahari monastery visit for help with our various (mostly) stomach ailments. Parvoti massages like you would to a soften up a piece of errant beef, kind of rough and haphazard, across the grain, but somehow it works.
Anyway I said, "Happy Independence Day," thinking I might get at least a smile from her. She looked at me quizzically: "Why happy?" We got into a discussion of America and "Independence." She asked, "Does America have King?" I said no, but we used to and threw him out. She said "Iraq and Nepal very bad country," and then I worked to dissuade her of this point.
Nepal isn't a bad country at all. It's been unusually peaceful, considering this revolution. People have died, but compared to what goes on in the Middle East or during your average school shooting in the US, not many. Over the past weeks there have been bandhs on the part of the Maoists (meaning, you can't leave the valley by road, and might even get into trouble in the valley), or strikes by the 7 political parties (meaning, you're not supposed to work), or curfews by the King (meaning, don't go outside or you risk getting shot). And through it all more and more people have been descending on the place from villages elsewhere in the country, so that people in the streets protesting have swelled recently to a half-million or so, all of them ignoring, especially, the curfews imposed by the King.
A few days ago the King, looking like the saddest of all sad sacks, and flanked by video-imaged flags, so that he appeared to be the host of a political kiddie show for a minor cable station, made an arrogant speech in which he seemed to understand that he still held the cards but was magnanimously deigning to offer a few, they not being trump. This of course angered everyone, doubling the amount of protesters the next day, who by now were no longer interested in a constitutional monarchy or even a ceremonial monarchy, but perhaps would prefer the King's head. There had earlier been talk in the Himalayan Times of which path to take with the monarch, England's or France's, and the French tack was winning out.
(A sidenote here: As this whole thing has been going on, I've been more and more puzzled as to why in God's name the king, with his great wealth and ability to escape to Switzerland, would still remain here as the anger has built and his inability to solve the enormous problems of poverty and lack of education and infrastructure and pollution and Maoists and everything else have manifested. And I've come up with a few ideas: One is that it's almost impossible to relate with the sense of entitlement of someone like him, especially because of the Hindu caste system, in which so many of the population are felt to be, by nature, not worth listening to. So even in general if it's hard for the powerful to give up power, in this case it might be like asking the dog's owner to put the leash on his own neck and give the lead to the dog. And the people themselves, since they tend to accept the caste idea too, tend not to think they've got the genetics to rule. Another thing is that it's not just the King, but the wealthy families, especially the Rana family, so I've read, who surround the King and into which he's intermarried, that are the source of trouble. If the King goes down his vast network of cronies goes down, so they're all whispering bad advice in his ear. And finally, in 1846, I think it was, the patriarch of the Rana family killed all the intellectuals and the nobility in a huge massacre at a party in Durbar Square in Kathmandu, wiping out the people who might have produced a group of founding fathers educated and benevolent enough to create a fairer system. But instead power was further concentrating in the hands of a few families, which then the caste system has cemented further.)
So anyway, there was to be a massive demonstration on the 25th in response to the King's intransigence, yesterday, and who knows what after that, perhaps a push to storm the palace. I didn't have a ticket out yet; my travel agent having been gone for the week. As collateral that I wouldn't go elsewhere he had the last bit of my cash and so I was borrowing, but the other Westerners were running out of money because the cash machines were also running out of money, since vehicles were not allowed on the roads to fill them. So early morning on the 25th before the curfew was to officially begin, Deanna and I set out on foot for an hour's walk to Thamel, the tourist area in the heart of Kathmandu.
Deeanna is an Australian who I'd met at Pullahari, a good friend now, in her late 50s, but who still didn't particularly like it when one Nepali on the way mistook her for my mother. We had some breakfast at Northfield's and then I was actually able to get some cash from my VISA card, so I felt great. Meanwhile the rolling metal doors were descending on all the storefronts as people prepared for the curfew.
Then the curfew began at 11 a.m. and so we had to get indoors someplace. We found a bar that was playing "Hitch," which turned out to be an entertaining way to spend a couple hours. Especially entertaining was the "English" subtitles for the movie, which seemed to be written by an Asian with English as a 5th or 6th language. Literally every other sentence made no sense. But I had a beer, so I've forgotten the words.
At 5 p.m. (curfew over at 6) we began to walk back to Boudha. The streets were utterly deserted except for soldiers and armored personnel carriers. They waved us two whities on, but would have given trouble to Nepalis. After an hour we got to Chabahil, close to Boudha, its streets covered with the sooty remains of many tire fires. In the distance we could see a crowd of protesters and in front of us, the army with batons and shields and some rifles making their way toward the crowd. Deeanna wanted to climb a tree to get out of the way in case shots were fired, but it seemed safe enough to me and anyway, the army would soon be going back to wherever they go because the curfew was about over.
Most of the soldiers were on the main street to our right, the protesters far in front of them. So we started walking down an alternate route on the left with fewer soldiers. But we didn't get far before the air started to get tense, and suddenly a group of 30 or so soldiers seemed to materialize out of nowhere and started hiking quickly back toward us. The leader looked like he was at the limit of his tolerance with anything, and for the first time I felt a little scared, like he might ignore the precious color of my skin and start beating me anyway, so we turned around and took a quick right down an alley to avoid them. We went 20 yards and then, oops!, there was a crowd of rock-throwing youths another 30 yards in front of us. And then turning into the alley behind us were the army. We'd actually gotten between the rock throwers and the army. How silly. How very unfortunate.
There was a driveway to our right, an indentation of a few feet and then an iron gate. We walked to it and stood against the gate, watching stones fly by. Hmmm, what to do, what to do. Not the place to be, no siree. Deeanna seemed a bit tense and I put my hand on her shoulder, said not to worry. She looked around with a rather blank expression. Actually I felt better than I had when the army was walking angrily towards us; at least we weren't -- directly -- in the line of fire.
And it went okay, because here I am writing this. There was a lull. The army was hiding behind the left and right entrances to the alley, occasionally coming out. One was loading his tear-gas rifle. Time to go! We got out, walked fast past the army, not looking at them much, busy busy, places to go people to see, then continued down the road towards Boudha, passing throngs of people, some happy, some angry, and many burning piles of garbage, until we returned to our safe little guesthouse, the Dragon Inn, owned by Tibetans who don't seem to have a care or a clue about what's happening in the country, but who make a really good yoghurt that I like to have with muesli and banana.
So that was our little revolution adventure, enough for me. I was really wondering what would happen the day after, as was everyone. And then the King broke the tension. That night he gave up, it seems. In an address at 11:30 p.m., long long past Nepali bedtime, he apologized for the deaths of protesters, affirming that the people were in charge and that the Parliament he dissolved in 2003 now had power again, that they should elect a Prime Minister on Friday. And although he didn't say it exactly, it's been interpreted by the public to mean that, whatever the Parliament decides about his role, which at this point seems to be a ceremonial function or a free plane ride out, he'll accept.
There was mass celebration on the streets all night, except for the Maoists, finicky as they seem to be, who have called it a ruse. Yes, the Maoists, who over the past 15 years having been shutting down schools and kidnapping kids and killing people and who the political parties seem to think can now be brought into the fold. Perhaps it's because, um, according to the dictionary at least Maoism and democracy don't go together, that the US consulate has still packed it in and gone and has told all Americans to do the same or forget about help.
Actually today it doesn't feel dangerous here, and today's news is that the Maoists have called a temporary ceasefire to assess whether the 7 parties are amenable to them, but momentum is carrying me out of here. My plane is supposed to leave tomorrow at 1:30 pm., just after the new Parliament will have started their first session. I'll go to Bangkok. Not sure how long I'll be there. Enough time to, hopefully, get my digestive tract back in fine shape.
I look forward to returning the US after that. May it be peaceful, clean, spacious! I hope you are all in good health, happy, and at ease.