Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tribals using Rome as a model for Government

I would imagine tribal peoples LIKE being tribal and view republics in the same fashion that conservative Republicans view large government. Who would want to go from a condition of more freedom (lawlessness, being your own law) to a condition of less freedom ESPECIALLY if they suspect all power is corrupt. They would prefer to exercise that corrupt power themselves.

Friday, October 28, 2011

U.S. Congress mentions Sharia Law

The other day I needed to spend some time at a neighbor's apartment and they subscribe to cable TV (we do not) and have accesss to C-Span so I listened for several hours to a broadcast of a Foreign Affairs session where Hillary Clinton spoke. One of the congressmen spoke at some length about his concern over the spread of Sharia Law in North Africa and elsewhere. He mentioned (or asserted) that Sharia permits the rape of the wives of defeated adversaries as part of the punishment. I am not certain how accurate it is to say that Sharia itself promotes such a punishment and perhaps those who practice such things falsely use Sharia as an excuse. I have heard that Qur'anic law forbids the execution of a virgin woman and therefore in some places it a practice to rape a virgin prior to her execution. I am reminded of the Hindu woman bandit, Phulan Devi, who was raped by many men in a certain town and returned with her gang to execute the men of that town. I suspect that some sects of Hindus in some regions have been influenced by the practices of some Muslims and those Hindus will practice a form of honor killing. Honor killings are not committed in every Muslim society and I read that they are unknown in Tunisia as one example.

I do find it interesting that congressmen in the US House of Representatives would discuss some aspect of Islam at length.  It is quite understandable that Americans see Islam as an ideological threat and it is equally understandable that many Muslim societies view the colonial aggression of the unbelievers as an ideological threat.

The transcript of that meeting is possibly available on-line

possibly here:

Prince Charles Related to Dracula

Prince Charles is claiming that he’s related to Dracula.

“The genealogy shows that I am descended from Vlad the Impaler,” Charles said.

Vlad the Impaler was also known as Dracula, which means son of the dragon (dracul) in the Romanian dialect of the time. Vlad’s father was a member of the Order of the Dragon.

Vlad, 15th-Century Romanian warlord, also inspired the 1897 novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker.

The heir to the British throne  was making the connection during an interview that will air as part of an upcoming TV show to promote the preservation of forests in Romania’s Transylvania region.  “So I have a bit of a stake in the country,” the prince said.

Charles, who owns a home in the region, has said Transylvania’s pristine landscapes and rural farming traditions make it a national treasure.

We know that the various royal families of Europe would arrange marriages with other royal families in order to forge bonds/allegiances in part and partly I suppose from the notion that all royalty was different both in kind and degree from peasants/serfs/commoners. It was this practice of consanguineous inbreeding which contributed to the genetic disorder of hemophilia (bleeding) which traces to the Romanov lineage in Russia.  Since education and cultivation of arts was a privilege of the wealthy and powerful it was probably considered more appropriate to arrange a marriage with a member of a royal household.

It is interesting to note that in the Greek language the word for vampire is "vreekolakas" and the Greek Orthodox Church in its theological document "Pedalion" (The Rudder) mentions that such things as vampires do not exist.

Politicians and Insider Trading

by Megan McArdle, an Atlantic senior editor


IN 1995, WHEN Alan Ziobrowski was an associate professor of finance at Lander University, in South Carolina, he found himself at home one night watching “one of those 60 Minutes–type shows.” That evening’s story caught his interest: Gregory Boller, a professor of marketing at the University of Memphis, had found some striking coincidences in which members of Congress, between 1990 and 1995, bought or sold stock in companies that could be affected by ongoing government activity.

According to Boller’s study, which Mother Jones also covered, Senator Lloyd Bentsen (D–Texas) had bought stock in a dairy processor and sold it 10 months later, days before the Justice Department began investigating the company for rigging bids to sell milk in public schools. Senator Bob Dole (R–Kansas) had purchased stock in Automatic Data Processing four days before President George H. W. Bush signed a law with new rules for military data processing. Representative Newt Gingrich (R–Georgia) bought Boeing stock just before he helped kill amendments that would have cut funding for the International Space Station—an outcome that helped Boeing secure a contract.

- END of excerpt

The Story of Chinese Character : 耳

Here is my post at the forum regarding this Youtube series

The Story of Chinese Character : 耳(漢字的故事 : 耳) on the etymology/origin of various interesting Chinese Characters:

I have a Wordpress blog and a Facebook group on the beginners experience learning Chinese. This youtube series seems like a good way to spark some interest in readers; attract their attention. And I occasionally mention the virtues of in my posts. The study of Chinese characters is for senior citizens (like me) a much better hobby than crossword puzzles to keep the memory active and also learn something new. The more we blog about skritter, yellowbridge, chinesepod and other resources to the general public the more likely it is for interest to spread. I think the average non-Chinese speaker just goes "out of focus" to anything Chinese because they simply assume that they cannot understand. I was astounded when I began to Google search and saw what a wealth of material their is on the Internet on Chinese. It is a shame that the Youtube series did not make an effort to fine a variety of tunes to make them more interesting.

I think the main point we can make in our blogs to the world is that Chinese is NOT something inscrutable and out of reach AND it has the longest continuous spoken and written history of any language in the world (Greek is number 2 so Greek is the longest in the West.) AND there is a kind of romance and mystery to the logograms which reaches back into the dawn of prehistory.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Quotable Sitaram

Quotable Sitaram - Page 386


Let us say that Divinity is Consciousness; Consciousness is divine, imagination is an aspect of consciousness, and within the realm of imagination dwell all things, and at imagination's borders, all impossibilities, absurdities, unicorns and horned rabbits, await admission and entrance. Hence, Imagination is the threshhold of existence, and the unimaginable is non-being.

Sitaram's Koan -

If only one human remained alive in the universe, 
Then which is the "One True Faith"?

Tohu Bohu - Page 241

Let us look about in the world, and behold all the anguish and bitterness in people's hearts concerning the uncertaintity of why the universe exists, why we are in it to suffer, desire, and aspire and what is the relationship between our own personal individuality and that ultimate cause of All: THIS is RELIGION.

The Perennial Anguish and Bitterness of Religion - Page 211

Someone who wallows in "physical proofs" and the material world, and desires for food and sex, is forever banished from reaching the spiritual realms. They do not have the "spiritualized" vision which Lord Krishna grants to Arjuna, to allow Arjuna to see the Universal Form. That is why, the spiritual can NEVER by arrived at by logic or argument, but only by faith and devotion, which is a GIFT, by God's grace or kripa. The spiritual is arrived at by BHAKTI, devotion, not syllogistic reasoning. Certainly it is possibly to apply logic to anything, even theology. Logic is NECESSARY, but not SUFFICIENT.

from Perpetuation of This Website - Page 357

Humans (and the institutions that they found or inheret) are inherently flawed (and yet contain that which is Divine). So my advice is summed up in title of my post "Temple in your mind/ Tirth in your heart" namely, listen to your own heart, find the Divinity within. Use the externals of temple/gurus/ satsang as necessary, but do not seek perfection in other people. Seek perfection in yourself, in the midst of your own imperfections.

from A Crisis of Parampara/Lineage/Succession - Page 272

Happiness through sense pleasure is an illusion. You will always feel an emptiness and a dissatisfaction. Only when you turn your attention to the ultimate cause of that emptiness and dissatisfaction will you begin your journey on the road to peace.

This perennial emptiness and dissatisfaction in the aftermath of all enjoyments and indulgence is the real point which lies at the heart of your dilemma, and not moral issues of what is right or wrong in your actions.

The physical world is a process of BECOMING; it is not BEING. As long as there IS a physical world, as long as we are born repeatedly into physical bodies, then nothing can be COMPLETE but rather everything is BECOMING.

The NOW moment is always filled with NEEDS. This is the source of our suffering.

from Teenage Girl Questions Sexual Morality - Page 293

As we gaze into the waters of evil, we see the good world reflected in a fascinating,perverted reverse order of precise symmetry.

from Evil Is A Mirror Image of Good

Even if foolishness exists in the world, foolishness can still be a powerful force.. and can have distructive effects and therefore needs and deserves to be studied in its own right.

from Website Feedback - Page 65

There is never any shortage of finger-pointers... to blame others... except when we make a fist to resort to violence, and then, all ten fingers are pointing at OURSELVES, or... very rarely, when a philosopher raises one finger in the air, to say "Aha!" at some new insight, in which case only one finger in the world is pointing upwards, directing the world's attention away from self and towards higher things....

from What Would Gandhi Do Today?

"Zen Koan practice is an attempt to break through the noise of the rational mind's lust for comprehension and reach the silence of simply Being." - Sitaram

from The Silence of Simply Being - Page 397

The real treasure, the only treasure, is non-attachment and the realization of the futility of the fulfillment of any and every gratification. This does not mean that we cease to gratify desires, but only that we cease to view gratification as our goal.

from The Broken Tray Koan and Commentary

The only truly miraculous power which any religion or belief can possibly possess is the power to transform the inner nature, the inner self of an individual believer.

In Defense of Mother Theresa - page 130

The mere recognition that there is such a thing as holiness and that it is to be desired is the beginnings of holiness.

In Defense of Mother Theresa - Page 130

Each of us holds a piece of the puzzle, an aspect of the truth: the fool and the philosopher; the begger and the king; the harlot and the renunciate. The Truth is too big for any one person, or to be put in "layman's terms".

God's Party Game of Souls

Have no doubt, that just as your spiritually ripe questions appear on this page, they also echo through those infinite universes, those countless worlds, through the hearts of those myriads of sentient beings. That is why you are beyond birth and death. It is the very nature of Consciousness itself.

Jalaluddin Rumi - Page 124

Death is our "final exam"...not multiple choice... but an essay.

from Chopping Wood in the Whorehouse

Religions are many, languages are many, races are many, but grief is one, joy is one, love is one, birth is one, death is one. From the one, comes many, but many never diminish the One.

from A Mother Grieves the Death of Her Son - Page 165

It is most fitting that a rainbow be chosen in the Old Testament as symbol of the covenant between God and man: no two people see the same rainbow, and one can never arrive at its source, no matter how long one journeys.

A Blue Beyond the Rainy Hyacinth - Page 415

The REAL omnipotence and omnipresence of God lies in God's ability and willingness to BE to each individual, for each individual who turns towards God with sincerity, hope and expectancy, to BE that Truth, to REVEAL that One Truth, in all of its manifold diversity, to IMPART that Truth to that individual, in the fullest measure which that person is able to comprehend, and in sufficient measure for what that individual needs at any given moment in their life.

from God and Jimmy Carter - Page 289

One of the fundamental messages of our modern Democracies is that Truth lies not simply in the consensus of the majority, but also in the sheltered sovereignty of that small minority who hear the beat of a different drummer and march accordingly.

Was Hitler a Christian? - Page 372

If three people say "apple" or "stone" or "water", we know that they are all talking about the same thing; such is the nature of language. Moses said "I", Pharaoh said "I", and God said "I", so if God can say "I" and man can say "I", then what is the difference between the divine "I" and the mortal "I"?

from The Spirit of Man is God's Candle - Page 349

The purpose of CONSCIOUSNESS, (being alive and having a soul and self awareness) is no more benefited by a gluttonous orgy of physical pleasures, than it is by a ghoulishly morbid torture chamber of unending pain.

Each of us is a complex sum total of our life experiences, triumphs and frustrations. As some sage in India might say "God wears many masks of Good and Evil." Perhaps the Universe is a reflection of God, or perhaps human concepts of God are a reflection of ourselves and the Universe. But certainly humanity reflects all of this, itself donning many masks of Good and Evil, kaleidoscopically, as we metamorphosize from sinner to saint, back to sinner, struggling in this Divine Drama to emerge from the pupa of our egos and spread our wings of selflessness and equanimity.

We read a line a thousand times. We look and do not see. Then, suddenly, one day, we read and see and understand, as if we had never read before. The verse has always been the same. It is we who have changed, ripened, become ready, receptive.

Some make iconoclasm their idol. Others use image and symbol to reach beyond to the nameless and formless which is beyond time, the Akal Purakh of the Adi Granth.

But cynicism never fails to make its regular pilgrimage to the citadels of Orthodoxy, their to make its abominable offering and sacrifice on the altar of Reason.

If I am ugly, yet I know that beauty exists. 
If I am foolish, yet I know there is Wisdom. 
If I am mortal, yet I know there is something Eternal. 
If I am unclean, it is Purity which teaches me of my uncleanliness. 
If I am sinful, yet I am not so sinful as to say there is nothing Holy.

from Sulekha Weekly - Page 292

When we dwell as pedestrians in a land, we behold the scenery from the most intimate detail and perspective, but that very closeness and intimacy in perspective prevents us from seeing symmetry, intention and design on a grander scale, bearing profounder implications. If we ascend to a mountain peak, we lose discernment of much of the finer details, but we can begin to recognize the "lay of the land" and its geography. From an orbiting space station, we can perceive global structure. And from vantage point of another galaxy, we may comprehend cosmic design.

Wisdom, Number, Measure, Hunger, Thirst - Page 311

If you wish to call the viper and the scorpion "brother", 
you must take some venom with your tea, smile, and say "Delicious!".

Expressions of our TRUE SELF are fleeting. But, when captured UNDISTORTED in words, they are EVERLASTING. In singing the words of the Lord's Katah (Sacred Scripture), we strive for the UNDISTORTED Image of the Lord's Lila (Passtimes). When we truly become a PART of that Lila, we need not return here in rebirth to this world. Then, we dwell eternally in the Lila itself, we BECOME the Lila.

from The Undistorted Image of the Lord's Passtimes - Page 93

Whatever path we choose, whatever scripture, whatever Name of God, with form or formless, we must become the very embodiment of that scripture, that Name, that Form. It must become as natural as our breath and it must flow from every pour like our sweat. And when we pass through a room, our presence and passing should leave that fragrance of divinity.

from Gita Take-Home Lessons- Page 277

Have no doubt! Whenever Dharma declines, my voice will arise. My voice is the Voice of Ram. My voice is the Voice of Krishna. My voice is the voice of Buddha, Nanak, and Rumi. My voice is the voice which echoes the eternal unchanging message of Dharma and Rta whose vibrations the Rishis echoed in the Vedas. I shall pass away, but these Words will never pass away. This Voice and these Words will arise in every persecution, in every holocaust, in every tyranny and oppression of individual religious freedom of expression. And have no doubt that the history of this Voice and these Words is the Divine Lila of the Lord.

from In What Way is Guru Bramha, Vishnu and Maheshwara? - Page 153

It is by THOUGHT, and EQUANIMITY that we transcend the unpleasant physical realties of our mundane corporeal existence. Mind makes suffering. Mind makes all things, in a way, all things that matter.

from Consatantly marvel in wonder at the ordinariness of it all! - Page 361

Perhaps one of the greatest religious truths ever stated is simply that 'The Judgement of God is a Mystery to Man". Who can know or say, in the ultimate scheme of things, after all the eternities of time have played themselves out, what is the value and purpose of any single human life and effort. Who can say what constitutes victory and defeat?

from The Repose of Father Lazarus - Page 362

Let us hope that the power of the offering of our will and ego and self, or even the gesture of such an offering, is in itself so pure and powerful that it transcends all dogma and doctrine, that even the flame of such an intention and resignation is fiery enough to burn away any sin of human frailty." - Sitaram

from The Repose of Father Lazarus - Page 362

Perhaps that Compassionate Lord of the Vineyard, who paid the penny wage to those who labored only the final hour of the day, will also have compassion upon those who labored in the heat of the afternoon, but fell weakened before the close of day.

from The Repose of Father Lazarus - Page 362

All the universe is consciousness, all consciousness is a mirror. When you look into that universal mirror of consciousness, and see your own reflection, you see Saguna Brahman. Once you see THROUGH that reflection, you experience Nirguna Brahman. If you ultimately unite with Nirguna Brahman, which is reabsorption of jiva into Brahmajyoti, the cessation of rebirth. This is Moksha.

from To Untie All The Knots - Page 377

Do we not all have wounds and doubts to be healed by a nurturing and comforting Parental song at our bedside; existential wounds of the coldness of the Infinite Universe and the obscene absurdity of daily life, society and governments?

from The Sounding of the Divine - Page 376

The human problems which we deal with are unchanging. No matter how fast computer chips might become, patience will always be a virtue. The more powerful and effective weapons and missiles become, the more essential it is to learn meekness and nonviolent methods of resolving disputes. No matter what progress science makes in birth control, genetics and cloning, our primordial sexual desires will always present a profound challenge to us as a source of temptation, misconduct and addictive behavior. No matter how many continents or planets we conquer and colonize, we will always have to face the emptiness and loneliness of a Universe in which we seem out-of-place and extraneous. No matter how wise and ancient we become, medically and genetically extending our life span indefinitely, there will always remain buried somewhere deep within us a weeping child seeking the consoling love of a heavenly parent.

from A Guide to Gurus - Page 373

A theory or hypothesis is a "story" which is SO GOOD that it HAS to be true, and if it isn't true, then a Universe should be created in which it BECOMES true. Faith is telling that story, and hearing it, again and again, with perennial freshness and joy. In the heart of the devotee, Ram is always returning to Ayodiya; there is always a "Festival of Lights"

from Festival of Lights - Page 365

When Individual Self perishes; Universal Self is Born. Only when your particular individual self perishes may that Universal Self be born in its stead.

from Dialogue with a Psychiatrist - Page 299

The world is transformed with words, one person at a time.

Finding Peace in a Religion

A friend asked : It seems you have sampled many religions. Did you finally found peace in one of them?

My reply:

Regarding "finding peace" I am better able to cope with life's sorrows and the gradual loss of old age, ending in death, because I have studied many religions and seriously practiced several (Greek Orthodox, Korean Zen Buddhism and Guyanese Hinduism) BUT my life is not free of suffering, regret, anxiety.

Also I read many books on psychology, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, self-help and between that and the religion studies I came to understand myself and others a little better.

It helps to realize that everything passes, everything is transitory, nothing is permanent.

We must not say "I am sorry that it is over" but rather "I am glad that it happened and I experienced it" whether we mourn the end of our school days or childhood or the loss of a loved one.

The Way of the Tao in the 33rd stanza says "he that can be content with whatsoever he has; he has attained true wealth" -  that desire is the source of all suffering - we suffer because we want things that we do not have (a sports car, better job, sexy lover) and we have things that we do not want (e.g. cancer) - and that mind makes all things which perhaps was first expressed by Schopenhauer in the West.

I practiced Greek Orthodox Christianity for 20 years (one of which was as a novice in a monastery in Boston)... 2 years as Buddhist, 2 years as Hindu ...   and gradually I ceased to feel the need for corporate worship but am content simply to think and write each day.

Most corporate human endeavors are corrupt and corrupting.  Power, fame, wealth corrupt. 

Another thing I realize is that whatever we come to understand in life is for the most part subjective and based upon years of small experiences; hence we may WRITE about our experiences all we please but the simple READING of what we write cannot convey to anyone the precise convictions that we have come to hold through our experiences.

Cardinal Newman coined the phrase "illation" to denote the gradual effect of years of experiences which slowly bring us to our values, views, principles, convictions. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh is an excellent illustration of illation in the life of the protagonist Charles Ryder as we follow him from his carefree college days and through his marriage and affair, and into World War II.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What is the Liberty in the Liberty Tower?

Some tourists, walking near me, pointed at the WTC building and said "Look, the LIBERTY TOWER." l laughed to myself as I wondered "What exactly IS liberty and who has it." Those who destroyed the WTC on 9/11 had liberty in the sense that no one stopped them and they did not fear death or crave life. It seems to me that those with the most wealth and or power are at liberty. Mostly "liberty" is an empty buzz-word most often on the lips of those who would enslave.

Muammar Gaddafi

I saw Gaddafi as a negative and destructive force in the world. Two of my friends, educators, one in India and another in Pakistan, held Gaddafi in higher regard. The educator in South India saw Gaddafi as a champion of socialism and an opposition to European and American imperialistic exploitation. The educator in Pakistan complained that Gaddafi was a "king" and his body should have been treated with more respect.  I resolved to read up on Gaddafi and see if I could find some positive facts to justify their admiration.  My main source is Wikipedia.

Here are my comments plus Wiki excerpts : 

I cannot admire a mentally disturbed narcissist like Gaddafi. Like I said, they should have assassinated him 30 years ago. Such tyrants exploit their nation as their own personal treasury to gratify their ego and their base desires. I can'...t understand why a nation puts up with such a dictator for years. I don't know the details of Gaddafi's death but I bet if anyone mistreated his body it was Muslims driven by tribal discord and not the non-Muslims. Read up on what the Italians did to Mussolini.

When you read about someone being beheaded or a woman having acid thrown in their face, or sending a brother to kill a sister in an honor killing, or chopping off a hand and a foot, it isn't something that happened in America and it isn't n...on-Muslims who do it. Think about that fact for a while. I have a lot more admiration for someone like Osama bin Laden than I do for Gaddafi for the following reasons: Osama was a wealthy man who gave up a life of pleasure to pursue an ideal he believed in. Gadaffi enslaved his own people in order to indulge his sick ego and enjoy a life of luxury. I dont agree with Osama's beliefs or the means that he employed to achieve his ends but one must admire a brave and clever enemy. I see nothing brave or clever in Gadaffi's or Saddam Hussein's life worthy of admiration.

The educator in India states: William Buell, you speak of Qadafi's ego, his wardrobe, his women body guards..but let me tell you all his clothes were stiched by his Arab tailors...that way he gave them employment, food ans shelter......what of the French President is h...e all clean ? Have Us Presidents given us a record of their personal and public lives that we can grant them a clean chit ? And for the Englishman's formal clothes and the branding that goes along...fortunes have been spent..they are not as crude as Qadafi's glittery fancy robes.If you know that he is "narsicisstic" I know that he was a socialist at heart as well (because a good friend lived in Libya for twelve years when there was a US embargo). Islam has its great side as very equitable and advocates fraternal love. It is great to see that in practice. Fundamentalists are there in all pockets and we cant have the founding fathers of so called "democracy" killing for the "establishment of democracy" because such acts are undemocratic. And we heard Qadafi's pan Am bombing case over the news so many times yesterday as if to say "today we avenged" .

If democracy believes in "fair trial" can we have democracy in Libya founded on th gory death of a "dictator" as Muammar Qadhafi ? Does your newspaper or other media sing any paens of the establishment of democracy in Iraq-Iran after the "d...ictatorial regime" of Saddam Hussein ? Before that, is the popular media fair ? While the perpetraters of democracy had the time, interest, energies, resources and resolve to hunt down Osama Bin Laden, I do not see them showing the same concern about the victims of the floods in the Sindh province ? What does the WHO say about its relief operations in Sindh ? There are enough atrocities that are taking place in the far West and the so called advocates of establishing a "democratic world" -who were themselves brutal and savage around 500 yeras ago and have killed a Galilio for what he said, and who needed a "Copernican Revolution" to reveal what the East knew eversince- must learn to mind their own business and leave things in the Middle East to nature and evolution ! this "humanatarian" farce is getting f too far and is a new form of colonization...and this time it is for "crude oil" . Beware of the media and employ your own senses to understand the world around you !

Thank you for liking what I have to say and it takes a man like you to actually empthasize. Any others may call me fanatic, because the media is now on its rounds making Qadafi the scapegoat.Good people should lead public affairs,media and education, like the Raja-rishi's of yore or what you call philosopher-kings...and that could make all the difference !

William replies:

Wikipedia is not a bad place to start
After seizing power in 1969, he abolished the Libyan Constitution of 1951. He established laws based on the political ideology[5] he had formulated, called the Third International Theory and published in The Green Book.[6][7] Rising oil prices and extraction in Libya led to increasing revenues. By exporting as much oil per capita as Saudi Arabia, Libya achieved the highest living standards in Africa. However, at the same time similarly oil-rich Gulf countries improved their living standards much further, and this fact was visible to ordinary Libyans.[8][9] Early during his regime, Gaddafi and his relatives took over much of the economy. Gaddafi started several wars and acquired chemical weapons.[10] The United Nations called Libya under Gaddafi a pariah state.[11][12] In the 1980s, countries around the world imposed sanctions against Gaddafi.[13] Six days after the capture of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2006 by United States troops,[14] Gaddafi renounced Tripoli's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and welcomed international inspections to verify that he would follow through on the commitment.[15] A leading advocate for a United States of Africa, he served as Chairperson of the African Union (AU) from 2 February 2009 to 31 January 2010.

In February 2011, following revolutions in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia, protests against Gaddafi's rule began. These escalated into an uprising that spread across the country, with the forces opposing Gaddafi establishing a government based in Benghazi named the National Transitional Council (NTC). This led to the 2011 Libyan Civil War, which included a military intervention by a NATO-led coalition to enforce a UN Security Council Resolution 1973 calling for a no-fly zone and protection of civilians in Libya. The assets of Gaddafi and his family were frozen, and both Interpol and the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants on 27 June for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and his brother-in-law Abdullah al-Senussi, concerning crimes against humanity.[1][16][17][18] Gaddafi and his forces lost the Battle of Tripoli in August, and on 16 September 2011 the NTC took Libya's seat at the UN, replacing Gaddafi.[19] He retained control over parts of Libya, most notably the city of Sirte, to which it was presumed that he had fled.[20] Although Gaddafi's forces initially held out against the NTC's advances, Gaddafi was captured alive as Sirte fell to the rebel forces on Thursday the 20 October 2011, later he had been beaten and killed soon after.

Although often referred to as "Colonel Gaddafi", he was in fact only a Lieutenant when he seized power in 1969.[31] He was, nonetheless, a holder of the honorary rank of Major General, conferred upon him in 1976 by the Arab Socialist Union's National Congress. Gaddafi accepted the honorary rank, but stated that he would continue to be known as "Colonel" and to wear the rank insignia of a Colonel when in uniform.

On gaining power he immediately ordered the shutdown of American and British military bases, including Wheelus Air Base. He told Western officials that he would expel their companies from Libya's oil fields unless they shared more revenue. In his warning, he alluded to consultation with Nasser. The oil companies complied with the demand, increasing Libya's share from 50 to 79 percent.[34] In December 1969, Egyptian intelligence thwarted a planned coup against Gaddafi from high-ranking members of his leadership. Many of the dissenters had grown uneasy with his growing relationship to Egypt.[35] In response to the failed coup, Gaddafi criminalized all political dissent and shared power only with his family and closest associates.[citation needed]

Gaddafi committed ethnic cleansing, expelling Italian settlers in Libya in 1970.[36] Despising the Christian calendar, he replaced it as the country's official with an Islamic calendar.[37] He renamed the months of the calendar. August, named for Augustus Caesar, was renamed Hannibal, and July, after Julius Caesar, was renamed Nasser, for Gamal Abdel Nasser. From 1971 to 1977, Gaddafi approved the Arab Socialist Union, modeled on Egypt's Arab Socialist Union (Egypt), to function as a political party in Libya.

In 1969, Gaddafi created Revolutionary committees to keep tight control over internal dissent. Ten to twenty percent of Libyans worked as informants for these committees. Surveillance took place in the government, in factories, and in the education sector.[39] People who formed a political party were executed, and talking about politics with foreigners was punishable by up to 3 years in jail.[citation needed] Arbitrary arrests were common and Libyans were hesitant to speak with foreigners.[40] The government conducted executions and mutilations of political opponents in public and broadcast recordings of the proceedings on state television. Dissent was illegal under Law 75 of 1973, which denied freedom of expression.[39][41] In 2010, Libya's press was rated as 160th out of 178 nations in the Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders.[42]

During the 1970s, Libya executed members of the Islamist fundamentalist Hizb-ut Tahrir faction, and Gaddafi often personally presided over the executions.[43][44] Libya faced internal opposition during the 1980s because of its highly unpopular war with Chad. Numerous young men cut off a fingertip to avoid conscription at the time.[45] A mutiny by the Libyan Army in Tobruk was violently suppressed in August 1980.[46]

From time to time Gaddafi responded to external opposition with violence. Between 1980 and 1987, Gaddafi employed his network of diplomats and recruits to assassinate at least 25 critics living abroad.[39][47] His revolutionary committees called for the assassination of Libyan dissidents living abroad in April 1980, sending Libyan hit squads abroad to murder them. On 26 April 1980 Gaddafi set a deadline of 11 June 1980 for dissidents to return home or be "in the hands of the revolutionary committees".[48] Gaddafi stated explicitly in 1982 that "It is the Libyan people's responsibility to liquidate such scums who are distorting Libya's image abroad."[49] Libyan agents have assassinated dissidents in the United States,[50] Europe,[51] and the Middle East.[39][49][52] As of 2004 Libya still provided bounties on critics, including $1 million for one journalist.[53] During the 2005 civil unrest in France, Gaddafi called Chirac and offered him his help in quelling the resistors, who were largely North African.[54] There are growing indications that Libya's Gaddafi-era intelligence service had a cozy relationship with western spy organizations including the CIA, who voluntarily provided information on Libyan dissidents to the regime in exchange for using Libya as a base for extraordinary renditions.[55][56][57]

Following an abortive 1986 attempt to replace English with Russian as the primary foreign language in education,[58] English has been taught in recent years in Libyan schools from primary level, and students have access to English-language media.[59]
Campaign against Berber culture

Gaddafi often expressed an overt contempt for the Berbers, a non-Arab people of North Africa, and for their language, maintaining that the very existence of Berbers in North Africa is a myth created by colonialists. He adopted new names for Berber towns, and on official Libyan maps, referred to the Nafusa Mountains as the "Western mountains".[60] In a 1985 speech, he said of the Berber language, "If your mother transmits you this language, she nourishes you with the milk of the colonialist, she feeds you their poison" (1985).[61] The Berber language was banned from schools and up until 2009, it was illegal for parents to name their children with Berber names.[62] Berbers living in ancient mud-brick caravan towns such as Ghadames were forced out and moved into modern government-constructed apartments in the 1980s.[5] During the 2011 civil war, Berber towns rebelled against Gaddafi's rule and sought to reaffirm their ancient identity as Berbers.[63][64][65] Gaddafi's government strengthened anti-Berber sentiment among Libyan Arabs, weakening their opposition.

Gaddafi shares some things in common with Niyazov of Turkmenistan -

Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov; (19 February 1940 - 21 December 2006), (Russian: Сапармурат Атаевич Ниязов) (Turkmen: Saparmyrat Ataýewiç Nyýazow) was a Turkmen politician who served as President (later President for Life) of Turkmenistan from 2 November 1990 until his death in 2006.

Foreign media criticized him as one of the world's most totalitarian and repressive dictators, highlighting his reputation of imposing his personal eccentricities upon the country, which extended to renaming months, which had been borrowed Russian words, after members of his family.[3] Global Witness, a London-based human rights organization, reported that money under Niyazov's control and held overseas may be in excess of US$3 billion, of which between $1.8-$2.6 billion was supposedly situated in the Foreign Exchange Reserve Fund at Deutsche Bank in Germany.

This following excerpt on Gadaffi from Wikipedia paints the picture of a KLEPTOCRACY rather than a socialist paradise - The Economy of Libya was centrally planned and followed Gaddafi's socialist ideals. It benefited greatly from revenues from the petroleum sector, which contributed practically all export earnings and 30% of its GDP. These oil revenues, combined with a small population and by far Africa's highest Education Index gave Libya the highest nominal GDP per capita in Africa. Between 2000 and 2011, Libya recorded favourable growth rates with an estimated 10.6 percent growth of GDP in 2010, the highest of any state in Africa. Gaddafi had promised "a home for all Libyans" and during his rule, new residential areas rose in empty Saharan regions. Entire populations living in mud-brick caravan towns were moved into modern homes with running water, electricity, and satellite TV.[5] A leaked diplomatic cable describes Libyan economy as "a kleptocracy in which the government — either the al-Gaddafi family itself or its close political allies — has a direct stake in anything worth buying, selling or owning".[18]

Libya may have appeared socialist in name and theory - From 1977 to 2011, Libya was known as the "Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" at the United Nations. The official name during this period was "Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" from 1977 to 1986, and "Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" (Arabic: الجماهيرية العربية الليبية الشعبية الاشتراكية العظمى al-Jamāhīriyyah al-‘Arabiyyah al-Lībiyyah ash-Sha‘biyyah al-Ishtirākiyyah al-‘Uẓmá

The above excerpt is from this link

It occurs to me that if we survey severaly thousant years of Libyan history we will see that Libya under Gaddafi was not one of the high points.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ubuntu and Digital Photo Uploads

F-Spot Photo management for GNOME
I had a pleasant surprise when I plugged the USB of my Panasonic LUMIX camera into my new Ubuntu machine and it automatically launghed F-Spot and copied the photos more quickly and with fewer mouse clicks than on Windows using the software that came with the camera. Before I tried this I googled on Panasonic Lumix Ubuntu to make certain it would not harm the camera. I noticed that some people had difficulties back in 2008. Now Ubuntu simply automatically handles the tast BUT I cannot navigate the the camera as a mass storage device nor can I find a command to eject, safely remove. The camera promps me to choose pict-bridge (the choice for Ubuntu) or PC (the choice for Windows.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Death By China

By Peter Navarro and Greg Autry - confronting the dragon - a global call to action -

This book seems a little extreme to me. They don't like Fareed Zakaria one bit for his pro China comments. I find it hard to believe that China is pure evil. Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

1000 Chinese Characters

Edited by Wang Guo'an - The Chinese University Press - Barnes & Noble $27 - ISBN 13:9789629962838 - show stroke order, idioms - alt. ISBN 962-996-283-7 ... Page count = 829

Based on the outline of graded characters of the National Committee for Chinese as a second language. Index by pinyin and index by stroke count
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

You Reap What You Sow

I trust Al Jazeera so I looked here first. Notice that the obituary has a quote from the Christian Epistles Galatians 6.1–10 "You reap what you sow" and not from the Qur'an because no similar sentiment to my knowledge is expressed therein.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chinese Word Puzzle of the Day

Each day it is possible to find some new word adventure or puzzle to solve.

I picked up one page of notes I had printed and I saw hui2 guo2 回国 which I guessed must be some country since I recognize guo2 国 ... so I went crazy looking in a small pocket dictionary (I was rusing to go out). I came home and found THIS link of words for countries in Chinese assuming it would be a piece of cake to spot hui2
but no luck.  Finally I came across THIS page (which looks like a useful site) and realized that it means to "return from abroad" or "return home" 

and when I look at yellowbridge dictioniary

I find various usages which imply "return"

182 回� 回电
to reply to a telegram; to wire back
183 回�� 回电话
huí diànhuà
return a phone call
184 回��史 回顾历史
huígù lìshǐ
to look back at history
185 回� 回国
to return to one's home country
186 回家 回家
to return home

And when I look at the yellowbridge entry for 回

Definition return, turn around; a time

   1. (象形) Pictographic. Originally, a picture of a swirl.
   2. See 回, � to see etymology for traditional form of this character.

Method Simplified form of 回, �. Created as unique simplification #100 (� » 回) via omission of part of the traditional character.

    * 请回答我。
      Please answer me.
    * 我回到了日本。
      I returned to Japan.

    * 他六点回来了。
      He returned at six.
    * 你最好马上回家。
      You may as well return home at once.
    * 他从国内回来了。
      He returned from China.
    * 他从大陆回来了。
      He returned from China.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What it takes to be President

William: I suspect Bush and Cheney would have a hard time if they were brought before Hague tribunal on war crime charges.. and what gets me, Bush is such a big Christian, pays lip service, but he joined Yale Skull and BOnes, which they should consider demonic... and he dodged Vietnam, and was an alcoholic until he allegedly walked on the beach with Billy Graham.

I figure Jesus would have said turn the other cheek, forgive your enemies, repay evil with kindness, regarding WTC, but obviously Bush never asked what Jesus might do
Well I think we can end our conversation on Politics.

Friend: I don't like it when people bash others. You know only what the media allows us to know but people don't actually know him personally.
I like Bush and I think he's intelligent. So he didn't go to Vietnam. I wouldn't either.
EVERYONE has their faults. Including the politicians that you like.

William: this is true.... for the Bushes the "D" word is Dynasty, they dont like it, yet they set their sons up as Governors... so it can amount to dynastic control by one family

Friend: You're not angering me but I think it's harsh to judge someone like that and I won't do it and I don't want to read it.

William: my apologies.... but then, a conservative frined who bashes Obama all the time says thats what comes with public life,... constant criticism, so one must be thick skinned

Friend: I'm sure the politicians know that and are prepared.

Friend: oddly, Bush pays so much lip service to Christianity, yet Jesus said 'You shall be judged for every idle word which proceeds from your lips..." yet wannabe christians will balk at harsh, critical judgment.
I suspect America's superpower days are coming to an end, and the dollar may go the way of the Pound Sterling as far as an international currency

Friend: To talk about war crimes, alcoholism, and what not.
just isn't right.

William: but, people feel free to use ammunition against Obama, if they dont like him...

Christianity IS all about judgment, being judged, but they skew it to be about forgiveness.... like Newt Gingrich with his divorces and affairs... on an interview he said 'true, but I asked God for forgiveness" - so that makes everything ok...
I mean, if America were REALLY a Christian nation, Bible based, they would criminalize divorce,... since Jesus spoke against divorce... but Jesus didnt say much about same sex unions, stem cell, euthanasia... etc
i think Jefferson had it right with separation of church and state,.... not all these "faith based initiatives"
Bobby Jindal came as a Hindu from India and converted to Roman Catholicism as a calculated agenda... had he gone to Indonesia he would have become Muslim, and in Sri Lanka he would have become Theravadin Buddhist... of that I am convinced
gov. in Louisiana
which is the ONLY state with Napoleonic code.

I laughed because Jeb Bush married an Hispanic Catholic, but waited YEARS to convert... but did become RC... and I am convinced that it was NOT personal conviction, but rather problems in Episcopal/Anglican made it more politically expedient to be RC ... and now, 60% of House/Senate is RC... in 1960 with JFK that was not so
I was a kid and watched JFK on Face the Nation or Meet the Press explaining that he would not take orders from the Pope... ha ha
no one seemed to bat an eyelash that Nixon was Quaker... but they are terrified of having a Mormon / LDS president
and a Jew... FORGET IT... this country is so weird

Friend: Our country does have it's quirkes but that's just how it is. I guess it just depends on what they feel is the best for the moment.

William: a president must be tall, slim, male, clean shaven, Christian, married, not TOO intellectual, and appear on the night time talk show circuit (I cannot imagine Eisenhower doing that)
Tom Dewey was the last candidate to have a mustache

William Howard Taft (1909-1913) was the last president in office to have facial hair (mustache)
the very first female prime minister was in Sri Lanka in 1960s, she died a year or so ago, but she got in because of an assassination

Monday, October 17, 2011

MLK Jr and Rev. Billy and Franklin Graham Compare/Contrast

MLKJr is my hero for several reasons and Billy Graham and his son, Franklin, are villains in my eyes for several reasons.  During the civil rights protests, Graham told people of color to "behave yourselves". Graham started sucking up to sources of power when he weaseled a 15 minute  audience with Harry S. Truman and then immediately snuck out with his boys onto the Whitehouse lawn for  a photo op "taking the knee" in prayer. Oh, how I can imagine Jesus nauseous at such behavior. When Truman found out about that photo op gambit he banned Graham from the Whitehouse.  The only TRULY Christian president was probably Jimmy Carter and he was the only president NOT to allow Graham to come to the Whitehouse and hold one of his corny "prayer breakfasts" because, Carter stated, 'the Whitehouse is not the place for that sort of thing.'  Graham sat in the Oval Office with Nixon saying "Yessuh" in agreement with Nixon's antiSemitic comments. When the tapes went public Graham looked perplexed and said "I do not remember saying those things"  WELL OF COURSE YOU DONT REMEMBER YOU DUMMY, because you are a yes-man who says anything that will please the source of your worldly wealth and power. Franklin Graham grilled candidate Obama saying "DO YOU believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven" and Obama wisely answered "I believe He is the only way FOR ME." One Newsweek article pointed out that Billy Graham had weaseled out of an answer to a journalist who asked "Rev. Graham, do you believe that only Christians are in heaven?" and Graham said "that is not for me to say that is only for God."  Now MLKJR knew that he would probably be assassinated yet he rid his home of all weapons because it would be hypocritical to preach nonviolence and yet have weapons for self defense. MLKJr KNEW that he must protest the Vietname war and yet he KNEW that doing so would cut him off from LBJ as a future source of power and support. So, I ask you all, compare the actions of MLKJr with the actions of weasels, parasites and demagogues like Billy and Franklin Graham and tell me how it ways in your moral balance. 

Knowing Facts vs Wisdom and Discretion

Smartness is often conflated with facts memorized. A young person may know many facts about current events or the Internet, algebra or calculus. The wisdom that comes with age, and old age, has to do with discretion, self-control, moderation, proactive vetting before action, delayed gratification. Postponing desires for the sake of achieving long term goals. Anyone may find facts with search engines but wisdom and discretion is something which comes only from years of experience and cannot be easily imparted to a young person simply by blogging or giving a lecture. On the other hand such wisdom may lead to overly conservative and cautious manners and too little risk taking so the young naieve person may take risks which will lead to success (but such risk taking behavior may also cause harm.) 

Sunday, October 16, 2011


I am not an expert in Sartre but I have read af few things about his work and I like his use of "facticity." I blogged several essays on why I feel that we do not have access to "the truth" and so in court we cannot "swear an oath" to tell the truth. We CAN know when we are lying or omitting something with the intention to deceive and we can be subject to the penalties of perjury. But I cannot KNOW that 2 + 2 = 4, that is HEARSAY from 1st grade. Only a Bertrand Russell or an Alfred North Whitehead could PROVE that 2 + 2 = 4 and I am told that proof would have 150 steps.  I will try to dig up some links to those blogs.  I submitted one to a judge and he excused me from jury duty because believing what I believe I am really not suitable for jury duty.  It is said that when Sigmund Freud first traveled to Greece and saw with his own eyes things like The Parthenon, he marveled to see what he had only read about. We do not doubt that there is a Russia and a China and that there was a Russian revolution and a Boxer Rebellion, but we only know these things through hearsay, reading. Internet.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Childhood Doomed to Disappointment

I remember reading one observation (perhaps as early as the 1970s but surely in the 80s) that the Soviet Space program mirrored the monolithic authoritarian nature of their government in that the astronaut was a passive passenger/occupant in the capsule and all the control was from the space center back on Earth IN CONTRAST to American astronauts who had a tremendous amount of control, almost like the pilot of a vehicle and that such individual  pilot autonomy was supposed to reflect the character of American society where the individual has a maximum of freedom and control. Perhaps these observations were an artifact of the observer's agenda; perhaps apocryphal but your post here about autonomous self-directed play vs. the need for conformity in corporate organizations reminds me of the astronaut scenario. 

I often think of John Wayne type movies where someone in a small band isolated from central command simply takes control and does something autonomous, self-directed, perhaps self-sacrificing, unexpected, bizarre, running out with a knife in the teeth and an armful of grenades. This is contrasted with societies and military with such centralized command that should the command center be destroyed the individual soldiers would not feel comfortable improvising on their own. On the other hand, the more the individual seeks creativity and autonomy the less cohesive and unilateral is the behavior of the group as a whole. 

Over a period of several years I watched the progress of one very loving first time mother on Facebook who nursed her baby boy and posted countless adorable photos of her son. I once teased her that she has a duty to post some grouchy photos of the child rather than all these joyous photos that give us the false illusion that there is never a moment of anger or sadness.  The mothers in the thread all laughed and admitted that their babies are often cranky but they tend to post only the blissfully idyllic photos and are reluctant to admit that their child is less than blissful.

There was one DEVASTATING observation which has haunted me during the several years of observation and yet I have never had the heart to express this thought. Perhaps somehow she will stumble across this post. As you read of my childhood experience you will see how I could easily imagine this blissful baby being set up for disappointment in later life.

The devastating realization related to MY situation as the only child of an adoring mother who placed me at the center of the universe. I grew up feeling that I was extremely likable and charming and intelligent and that throughout life I would have friends who adored me as my mother did. The worst thing of all was that my mother drummed into my head that my FATHER also adored me above all else. It took me years to realize that in fact my father resented me as a duty and a burden and felt only contempt for my existence.  He left home when I was only 10 and never even EXPLAINED his departure. My mother and I returned from our usual summer-long vacation to find that he had emptied the house of all his personal belongings and moved out.  As I grew older I came to see this as an act of cowardice.  

My father always provided for me and for a college education although that was part of a divorce settlement. After my mother's death I asked him WHY he married her since he always spoke of her and ALL her relatives with the utmost loathing and contempt. He explained that he was about to ship overseas to World War II and felt certain he would never return. It was convenient to marry this one person who was anxious for marriage and to have a place to stay during furlough leaves from training camp and have someone to send letters and packages overseas.

The point I am trying to make in this long post is that I was set up from infancy to have expectations of myself and the world which were totally unrealistic.  It was not until 4 or five years ago that I finally realized how much contempt I have for my father and how he has equal contempt for me.  He at times hinted that I would inherit some vast fortune (but added that there might be nothing left)... but part of the price I was expected to pay for that possible inheritance was to endure endless insults and mockery with a smile. And he took a third wife who utterly despised me and would never even have me to their home.

 He would announce a visit to NY once every year or so. Finally I was so fed up that I called and told him he should make other plans during his visit and not set aside any time for his token hour with me. He was in shock and could not understand why I would come to such a decision. That was the last I ever spoke to him. A few years later his wife called presumably to say that he was mortally ill in the hospital. I did not let her finish her sentence. I asked her to please never call again. She had her adopted daughter contact me via FACEBOOK.  Her daughter, who had never bothered to return the few emails I sent at first, gave me a long lecture about how my father had been so great to her as a grandfather to her children. But that was the whole point! He had a NEW FAMILY and a family he could respect because they were wealthy and successful in a way that I could never be. I just wrote back and said that I do not care to know when he dies, or where he is buried or to be mentioned in some obituary as a surviving relative.  

We see gifted people (e.g. the late Steve Jobs) who really don't fit into academia and so drop out and do something revolutionary.  Thoreau also seems like that reclusive iconoclastic non-conformist, moving off to Walden pond but then, in his essay "On Civil Disobedience" being the first to use the term "human rights" (though perhaps that story is apocryphal.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Grammar and Style in Blog Posts

Oh please.... I am a lonely, tragic old man with no intellectual contact with the outside world EXCEPT blogging on social networks. I touch- type 60 wpm and I blog these thoughts in a matter of minutes. Some of the stuff is not bad. YOU just got through complaining that you object to intellectuals when because of elitism. Well, you and certain others are equally elitist to make snarky remarks about grammar, style, lack of footnotes. I DON'T feel like worrying about paragraphs or footnotes. These are blogs, not doctoral dissertations and some people thumb them into Blakberries. I DO try to heed the spell checker and google for occasional increased accuracy. But to ask me for PARAGRAPHS is snarky and slightly absurd given the fact that many people are really not on the same wavelength with me so they aren't going to bother to carefully read all that I write and resonate with it as if it were some insight that they share. And IF Facebook were a medium with the ability to EDIT (like Google Plus), then perhaps as a reread I might add corrections and paragraphs, but one cannot edit a post, so it is a first draft format. So if someone is going to be snotty and criticize my spelling, grammar, punctuation, style, then dont bother reading the ideas that I slave to pound out in between the mundane tasks of life. Just dont bother to read what I write. I find it amusing that those who most loudly scold about form and style spelling do not really have the sort of mind that would recognize something profound if it leaped off the page and hit them in the face. If you clowns love paragraphs and style and footnotes than just go sit at the feel of Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann and listen to how Jesus talks to them every day and tells them to be president and dream your dreams about how some great avataric leader will single-handedly fix this dying world in a two term eight year presidency.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Picasso of Politics and Policy

I thought it was obvious that I meant a politician of the CALIBER of an Einstein or a Galileo , not Einstein or Galileo for president, but I guess I did not make that sufficiently clear. But in your reply are you not in a way CONFIRMING my observation that no single individual, however gifted, can be expected to turn things around in a brief 4 or 8 year term in office. And yet many people speak AS IF it were reasonable to expect that the right person in office would make all the difference and we have our many problems because of the current person in office.  Obviously, each century, a Picasso or a Mozart or a Babe Ruth comes along who is uniquely gifted to excel in some particular field of endeavor.  Certainly shear intelligence in a president is not going to make a difference. First of all, the president must have the support of congress, senate, and they seem to revel in partisan division.  I suspect that whatever the dynamics are that cause the problems for America and the world, it is not something that one individual or one Corporation or league of nations can fathom much less control.  Perhaps one problem is that we assign too much value to MERE WORDS, spin and rhetoric, personality, charisma, outward appearance.  Politics is like a popular sitcom which eventually loses popularity and fades into reruns.  Obviously there must been some set of causes which made Rome crumble but the greatest minds of that era could not see it. Whether a Gibbon or a Zinn can clearly see those causes in retrospect but even that is subjective opinion and subject to debate.  I recently read that the heavy burden of reparations placed upon Germany which made the climate in Germany ripe for someone like Hitler to seize power and such a theory sounds very plausible. BUT if some political Picasso or Mozart had been a prophetic Cassandra and WARNED the world, would they have listened and said "Oh my, that genius is right, someone like Hitler WILL come into power."  No, of course they would not! No one could really envision something like Nazi Germany or WWII or even a world war prior to The Great War (only called WWI after WWII came along.)

The NEXT 19 Presidents

Just for the heck of it, let's look at the last 19 presidents and then try to imagine what sort of people will become the NEXT 19 presidents (assuming America has that long of a future) - 

26. Theodore Roosevelt 35. John F. Kennedy
27. William Howard Taft 36. Lyndon B. Johnson
28. Woodrow Wilson 37. Richard M. Nixon
29. Warren G. Harding 38. Gerald R. Ford
30. Calvin Coolidge 39. James Carter
31. Herbert Hoover 40. Ronald Reagan
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt 41. George H. W. Bush
33. Harry S. Truman 42. William J. Clinton
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower
43. George W. Bush 44. Barack Obama 

Do you imagine that one or two future presidents will be HEAD AND SHOULDERS above these past 19 president... sort of like a Galileo, Newton, Einstein of politics and policy? I rather imagine that the next 19 will be a batch similar to these last 19. There may be a few women in office. I seriously doubt that anyone will be dramatically superior to these past leaders.  And let us say that our Galileo-Newton-Einstein president did get into office: what then?  In eight short years would that president be able to fix everything that is wrong and make things better? I doubt that some genius president would even be able to stop things from getting a whole lot worse. And if a political genius of a candidate DID come along, would the Joe-six-pack-the-plumber majority of voters recognize that genius and even give said genius the nomination to run?  I doubt that very much. Water seeks its own level and that is usually the lowest common denominator.

And yet so many people complain about those in office and seek to blame them for all that is wrong and speak as though "IF ONLY we could get the right candidate in office" then everything would be ok.

I listened to Ron Paul the other day and I am impressed. He is probably a sincere and capable leader type. But as I listened to several hours of interviews what most impressed me was how slick he is in answering all the questions and dodging all the bullets. Any good politician has to have the gifts of a great snake-oil peddler. 

How many Americans care about ideas or intellect?

When Obama was campaigning some jerky journalist said that he would rather hear someone talk about his bowling score rather than listen to some Harvard professor sipping merlot and munching arugula... so... no I don't think truth or intellect or come to think of it even morality are very important (the HONORABLE Newt Gingrich was questioned about his divorces and infidelities and he said "Well, but I asked God to FORGIVE me!" )   Americans dont like intellectuals. Adlai Stevenson was seen as an intellectual. Eisenhower was very intelligent and capable but was not seen as an intellectual. Someone said to Adlai Stevenson ":You are are every THINKING PERSON'S choice" and he replied, "Yes! But I need a MAJORITY." When Eisenhower was president of Columbia University he never met once with any of the faculty. He had no use for intellectuals and I suppose they had no use for him. I am ashamed to live in a culture where a sizable  number of people would actually admire the likes of a Sarah Palin or a Michelle Bachmann. The mere fact that the voting public would take seriously a person who claims on national television that she talks to Jesus every day and Jesus TOLD her to be president sickens me.  Count up how many television channels are educational and how many are Judge Judy, The Simpsons, Dancing With the Stars and Reality Shows about people on islands or nasty chefs in kitchens and you may judge for yourself how important ideas are to the general public. Or for that matter listen to how LITTLE theology there is in the media mega-ministries and then spend some time listening to Bishop Fulton J. Sheen and some of the Catholic channels on the Internet.  Someone who speaks two languages is called bi-lingual. Someone who speaks MORE than two languages is called a polyglot. Someone who speaks only one language is called an AMERICAN.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ubuntu: Audacity MP3 recording, Java, Adobe Flash and stroke order animation

Yesterday there was no way I could get the animations to work in either Firefox or Chrome on my new Ubuntu install (10.4 Lucid Lynx LTS long term service) even though I had visited and installed their special thing for Flash on Ubuntu and plugins, etc.

Today I did a lot of installs to get my Brother 7820N printer working (which was not hard) and to get the SCANNER working which was a BEAR and required that I go into TERMINAL and sudo NANO on a rules file, add a few cryptic lines and reboot.)

I dont know what changed but suddenly when I went back to I was able to do the stroke order animations both in Firefox and Chrome. 

I dont like it when things are erratic and unpredictable.  I like the Ubuntu pinyin input better than the MS Windows Pinyin, but that too is a bit unpredictable.

Also, I found some GREAT introductory mp3 dialogues from

The actual podcasts are

I find them very helpful for a beginner like me and in some ways more helpful than Rosetta Stone Mandarin although I do not have buyers regret and fully intend to plod through all five levels of Rosetta Stone and I am sure it will make me a better person. BUT, I dearly wished that these mp3 podcasts were downloadable for FREE, since I am already spending a lot between Rosetta Stone and Skritter (although worth EVERY PENNY!)  SO, here is what I did. I installed AUDACITY on my Ubuntu since I read that Audacity can record whatever is playing on the speakers.  What I discovered is that the Ubuntu version LACKS the ability to do this. I would have to run a cable from the output to the mic input. BUT, I have and OLD install of Audacity on my Dell XP Windows and that DOES have a dropdown which offers "Wave Out Mix" as a choice and that choice actually records whatever happens to be playing on the computer. I can press RECORD once the tutorial reaches the actual dialog and translation and then press PAUSE when the useful part of the lesson is over. One must be VERY CAREFUL to only use that PAUSE button to TOGGLE recording on and of and then one may load each lesson and record only what is useful. I captured the first nine lessons which was about 40 minutes. I wanted to save that as one MP3 so then I pressed the STOP recording button and then I can go to FILES and choose Save as MP3.

I think the basic subscription to ChinesePod is only $14 per month. They do offer PDF downloads to subscribers.  Perhaps when I can afford it I will subscribe to them and I shall certainly give them some advertising in Facebook, Google Plus, etc. 

The biggest drawback in Rosetta Stone is their reluctance to provide translations or pasteable Hanzi so that one might at least use

I have Word 2007 macros to convert from pinyin numeric codes to accented pinyin so I can search in google for the exercise sentences.

I thought I would mention all these technological adventures just in case it might benefit other students.

Chinese dissidents

Someone on Facebook who knows I am studying Chinese asked me if I have every spoken with "Chinese dissidents."

My reply:

Several weeks ago we went to a restaurant and I had a long talk with the beautiful young waitress from Fujian province.  She speaks Fujianese dialect as well as Mandarin. She mentioned something about her BROTHER... so I asked how her family was affected by the ONE CHILD policy. She explained that those living in the countryside were not as carefully monitored as those in large cities. She explained that in some cases, families simply elected to pay the fine/penalty for having a second child. She is not a DISSIDENT. I do have one friend on Google Plus who was raised in Brazil, lived in Japan and learned Japanese, and now lives in Mainland China, is fluent in Mandarin, learning Cantonese, writes with freehand strokes (not pinyin) and plans to take citizenship in 5 years.  The first think I asked him is whether it is scary there. He said his sister is also in China. He said one must view China differently from the "rose colored glasses" of the West who have not actually lived there. Tavis Smiley did a week long special from China and part of it was a long interview with the very successful rapper, Mr. Balon (cant remember first name), an African American who dropped out of some Ivy League law school in USA, moved to China, acquired native speaker fluency... and all because he felt that America would never accept him as an individual but would always see him as a Negro, whereas in China he has found greater acceptance.   So in answer to your excellent question, I have never spoken to a dissident but I have had contact with a number of people raised in places like Beijing.  One Chinese nurse in a NYC hospital, middle aged, told me she and others were thinking of returning to China because life might be better.  We are good friends with a young nurse who went through high school in Beijing and then came to America. She is native fluent, no accident, in English and of course Mandarin.   The most negative comments I have heard are from a Chinese speaking woman from Malaysia (where Chinese are a non-Muslim minority).  Her parents spoke Chinese, but she also speaks Malay. I asked her what she thinks of mainland China and if she would be afraid to move there. She said she dislikes Chinese people because they are so selfish. I have a feeling that this is her own personal prejudice, perhaps from experiences in Malaysia. We all realize that in America we can find people who praise America as the greatest nation in the world, and then one can find Americans who speak very negatively.  One can see intellectuals like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky who are critical of America.  I hope these anecdotes shed some light on the issues. In the 1970s I learned to get by in Russian and spoke to many Russians who had left the USSR.  They were devout Russian Orthodox who, for example, saw the Tsar's family as religious martyrs and saints. No one in the 1970s ever thought that the USSR would collapse or that there would be more freedom. I spent some months in a monastery in Jordanville NY who printed church service books and smuggled them to the underground church. I mention these things to point out that one may find "dissidents" in any arena as well as people who have a positive outlook.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Google Pinyin for English Speakers


I may have found the perfect solution for your problem. I purchased Rosetta Stone Mandarin two months ago. I am age 62. I want to learn more about reading Hanji and also about pinyin. I installed the Microsoft Asian Language feature and am able to enter Pinyin in Microsoft Word 2007. I did find a serious bug, incompatibility using Word 2003 BUT that may be because I have an old Dell Windows XP.  I searched on Youtube on Pinyin Input and found a demo of the following product (here is their home page)   What this product does is allow you to MOUSE HOVER over any Chinese writing and it will pop up a translation. The Youtube demo showed how Google Pinyin (which is entirely in Chinese) will be very user friendly to an English only reader because the mouse hover will translate each button and instruction.  I made friends with Pinyin Joe .... I think his site is but you may google. He explained to me that the older the operating system is the less stable Google Pinyin will be... BUT it is an ordinary program which may be installed and uninstalled easily (that was one of my concerns.)  Pinyin Joe suggested that one set a system RESTORE point prior to installing things like Microsoft Pinyin which once installed cannot be easily uninstalled.  I have joined which offers an online tutorial for both Chinese Hanji and Japanese Kanji.   Loqu8 (mouse hover translator) and Skritter are not free. Both require a monthly subscription fee of about $10.

I have created a Wordpress blog to record my Mandarin studies and links at

I have also created a Mandarin group on Facebook but so far I have only several members.

Leisure time an hunter-gatherers

There is no mythology surrounding the fact that at various times in history various classes of people have had to work 7 day a week 16 hours or more a day. In fact, the next time you happen to go on a cruise ship check out the work schedule of most of the crew, and they are glad to be there doing that because in their native land they would run the risk of being shot at or worse. So it makes very little difference what the myth or reality of the hunter gatherer is or was. There are people who study those Pidanha folks with the bird-like language in the rain forests and they do go into the jungle naked and return three days later laden with food. There are people who study the Chukshi raindeer herders above the arctic circle as well as the few Eskimos that are left. I am sure there are varying degrees of leisure or lack of leisure.  I suppose one may take seriously the descriptions of Upton Sinclaire's "The Jungle" and the packing towns. Oh, and by the way, most male Neanderthal skeletons show multiple healed fractures because they had a meat-only diet and hunted their large prey at close range with short spears so I doubt that their lives were a leisurely piece of cake.

Leisure and Education

Our word "school" comes from the Greek word "sxole" (pronounced sko-lay) which means "leisure" for in order to study one must have some leisure time. Aristotle observes on page 1 of the "Metaphysics" that philosophy did not begin until Egypt had produced a leisure class of priests.  Obviously if one is a hunter/gatherer and must spend 16 hours a day search for food, or perhaps if one is an agricultural worker and must spend 16 hours a day behind a plow or baling hay, then there is no time or energy left for study or learning.  People thought Thomas Jefferson was strange to build libraries and colleges since at that time education was only for the privileged wealthy and a farmer or blacksmith had no need for anything beyond perhaps 8th grade reading, writing and 'rithmetic. But Jefferson realized that there could not be a nation "of the people and by the people" UNLESS all people were literate and informed, even farmers and blacksmiths.

AVERAGE is the keyword in Grade Point Average

The fact that such a creative genius as STEVE JOBS was a "college dropout" who did not fit into the lowest-common-denominator mediocrity of higher education raises for me a red flag that our educational system of degrees and certification is a flawed sieve that retains the ordinary and unimaginative simply because they have the knack of memorizing everything in an overnight cramming session, vomiting it all back on a multiple choice exam (#2 pencils only, please) and forgetting it all six months later once they have their precious 3.9 A- grade average. AVERAGE is a word that should be capitalized.

More on the controversy of baptism

Can one PROVE that Apostle Paul or any of the other Apostles or the "good" thief on the cross was baptized? There does not seem to be a great stress upon this issue in the scriptures. In the early centuries when literally thousands of people apostatized to some Arian or Monophysite heresy and then wanted to return to the "true Orthodox" mainstream church, the debate arose as to whether to re-baptize them or to accept them simply by chrism anointing. A decision was made that SINCE the FORM of baptism (triple complete immersion) was maintained by the heresiarchs, then all that is necessary is chrismation  to fill that empty form of baptism with grace.. BUT if the ceremony of baptism by the heretics was not complete THEN rebaptism would be necessary.  And yet when Cyril and Methodius went to the Slavs in Russia there were mass baptisms of entire towns in rivers and it is my understanding that there were not enough priests or bishops to baptize each person individually with complete immersion and so crowds of people would enter a river and immerse themselves while a priest or bishop read prayers.  Rome and Constantinople mutually anathamatized each other in 1054. The Roman West had taken to baptism by aspersion or sprinkling and had abandoned complete immersion.  The conservative Greeks to this day hold that Roman Catholics are heretics and that they do not possess the valid grace of the sacraments.  The Roman Catholic Church by contrast holds that the Eastern Orthodox are not heretics but simply schismatics and that they do possess the grace of the sacraments and apostolic succession of ordination.  It all gets to be a sticky wicket. There are many Evangelical groups who avoid any sort of water baptism as being unnecessary since they believe in a baptism by "Spirit" in being "born again."

Media fanatics

The original purpose of this thread was to discuss the question of whether Michael Voris is a fanatic in his portrayal of Obama as an embodiment of consummate evil with the destruction of the Roman Catholic Church as part of his agenda.  I have to listen to Voris every day because my wife listens to him as well as to other shows (Barbara McGuigan) on that Catholic TV internet podcast and 89.7 (I think that is the number.) ...  I find some of these people to be fanatical although there are things that they say which I agree with.

As I explained, I was baptized twice, once with sprinkling and once with complete immersion by an old calendar bishop from Greece.  I do believe I possess some sort of faith but it is an interfaith sort of faith and I do not expect others to be persuaded of it. I think people like Gandhi can be just fine without baptism and I think there are baptized people who are utter monsters. I especially find monstrous and satanic many of the megaministry demagogues who lull the populace into complacency with promises of eternal security of salvation as if one emotional moment of lip service to some misguided credo can deliver them from paying the consequences for all future actions.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Reading into history what is not there

When I was in junior high, I purchased Carl Sandburg's four volume biography of Abraham Lincoln thinking that I would improve myself.  I read the first chapter and it was so unctuous and unrealistic, describing Lincoln as if he were some saint with a glowing halo literally walking on air and levitating. I was deeply disgusted. I am certain that Lincoln was a very great man but he was a human being with various strengths, weaknesses, insights but also blind-spots.  It does more harm than good to read into history what isn't there.   For example, there is a very bright scholarly person who is a deeply devout Eastern Orthodox Christian and I am certain I offended him because,  one day I posted regarding the doctrine of the Trinity to state that it is something which evolved and unfolded in history as a man-made construct with a certain agenda in mind. I was intrigued with the trinity in college and began to see threes, triads, triumverates everywhere and felt it was perhaps the fingerprint of a triune God. In later life, as I read Jaroslav Pelikan and others on the development of doctrine, it occurs to me that the first century Christians were a persecuted minority fighting a polytheistic majority and they had certain rhetorical agendas.  Even the Rabbis look at one verse in the Torah where Hashem G-D says to Abraham, "Do not worship the stars FOR THAT HAS BEEN GIVEN TO THE NATIONS."  So on the one hand the Christians HAD to portray themselves as monotheistic, but on the other hand they had the three hypostases of Father, Son and Spirit.  I am certain that is a textual l intercalation because it does not appear in all the ancient texts and surely it would have been cited as ammunition during the various disputes of Ecumenical Councils.  Anyway, my learned friend was offended that I question such a thing and said in so many words that I must have a bug up my ass or be in a bad mood or perhaps be off my rocker.

I sometimes think that the only PURE strict monotheists are the Muslims and I think their position about "shirk" and Allah not having any partners developed in history as a reaction or stance to other religions which bore some hint of polytheism. Even Judaism has the "shekinah" presence and the "hachma" wisdom. But I think it is obvious that Mohammad had a rhetorical agenda and need to react against any hint of polytheism just as the Christians had a two-fold need; ONE - to show that their beliefs were not NEW but really had always been present in ancient scriptures (because people venerated antiquity and found innovation suspect) BUT the Christians had to argue that they are monotheistic and distinguish themselves from the demonic polytheists.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Regarding more modern gender inclusive Bible translations

Sometimes prophetic foreshadowing is lost when one tampers with the language. For example, if you look at the Greek Septuagint version of Psalm 1 verse 1 ... where it CLEARLY states (paraphrasing) "Blessed/perfect/flawless/sinless is that ONE AND ONLY MALE (and they could have used anthropos for person but they wrote MAKRIOS ANER) who has never sat in the seat of the pestilent... etc."  and further on in that psalm it says "and who studies the law day and night" ... in those times women did not study the law, only males.   Consider the significance of the male ram which Abraham found CAUGHT IN A BUSH BY ITS HORNS... and which Abraham sacrificed in place of his son.   Had that ram been caught by his fleece then he would have been damaged, flawed and unfit for sacrifice BUT because that male animal was caught by its horns it was not flawed or injured.   I am afraid that what the public has tired of is not old English translations of the Bible but rather they have tired of the age-old idea of God become man, become man-God (theos-anthropos) and instead the public is busy reshaping religion into something that makes them feel comfortable and good about themselves which is part of the success of Joel Osteen who tells people a few jokes and makes them feel good about themselves, a gospel of prosperity. Sadly, many people that I listen to, including ordained clergy, have not a CLUE as to what the first thousand years of Christianity was all about.

Modern translations will render Psalm 1:1 "Happy are those people ... and the prophetic is lost" ... but NEVER MIND, because we all know that God does not have a KINGDOM but rather, a Democracy where the majority rules and knows best.

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