Assad as Style-Setter

In what will no doubt be a future embarrasment for Vogue Magazine, its current issue profiles the lovely Asma al-Assad, the wife of Mr. Benevolent himself, Bashar al-Assad.


Poem of the Day: C.P. Cavafy, “In the Same Place”

“In the Same Place” by C.P. Cavafy (1863-1933):  my translation

Surroundings of home, cafes, a neighborhood,
that I have seen and walked through year after year.

I gave you form amid joy and amid sorrows:
with so many incidents, so many details.

And you have transmuted into a feeling for me.


Στον ίδιο χώρο

Οικίας περιβάλλον, κέντρων, συνοικίας
που βλέπω κι όπου περπατώ· χρόνια και χρόνια.

Σε δημιούργησα μες σε χαρά και μες σε λύπες:
με τόσα περιστατικά, με τόσα πράγματα.

Κ’ αισθηματοποιήθηκες ολόκληρο, για μένα.


Ultimate Questions

What is death? A transitional period of life.

What is life? Becoming.

Where are heaven and hell? Right next to each other, like the back and front of a door.

What is hell? A place in which we decide to reside until we decide to live elsewhere.

What is heaven? Home.

Who are we? No/thing, energy, crossing time and space, but not confined by them.

Who is the Source? Pure no/thing, raw energy out of which form emerges.


Time Never Stops

Time never stops. It is inexorable. In moments of joy and tragedy, the earth continues to rotate and the seasons continue to alternate. Shabbat and meditation offer a glimpse of existence outside of time. There we reside in the presence of the Source: no limits, no boundaries, only the vibrations of no/thing.


How to Fight the Power of Corporate Wealth

Take your money out of the bank!  That hits them in the way they understand best.  Plus it’s peaceful, and you can do it very quietly.


Wealth and the Middle Class

What’s happened to the middle class?  That’s the question we need to ask in light of the bailouts and the crushing of workers’ unions in Wisconsin.  Does work matter any more or only shuffling paper?  Those of us committed to spiritual exploration need to recognize that the exploration of meaning and purpose in life requires that people are not always in survival mode. Spiritual truth is also connected to justice.

David Koch and Rupert Murdoch battle the middle class through Fox and the Wall Street Journal

The Wisconsin battle is part of a 150-struggle to break unions, now with the Koch Brothers leading the charge:

Bob Herbert discusses the financial crises facing ordinary, working, middle-class Americans:

This essay argues that we need to increase upper income tax brackets in order to prevent the concentration that would destroy democracy in this country.  While I do not agree with the authors (and others) that decreasing government waste is not an important issue and that we need to figure out how to make medicare work more efficiently (social security is in fact basically sound), I cannot fathom why we keep lowering tax rights on the wealthy.

Robert Reich makes a similar argument:

Ellen Brown argues that a state bank would solve many of Wisconsin’s and other states budget/pension issues–of course, that presumes that Walker and others are actually concerned about the budget rather than crushing labor

In the meantime, the percentage of underwater mortgage are on their way up:

Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO lauds the 14 Wisconsin Senators who stood up for workers’ rights:

More and more cities are broke: (via Dianne Bazell)

Jackob Hacker and Paul Pierson, in their book, “Winner Take-All Politics,” discuss the rising inequalities in the US economic system: (via Dianne Bazell)

Robert Reich argues that the real issue is not jobs, but wages:


Gold Wars in Columbia

Old conflicts over coca morph into new ones over gold.


NYC Leads the Nation in Promoting Health Food Choices for Schoolchildren

This is inspiring. New York city has introduced a massive healthy food program that will affect children’s food choices not only in NYC, but throughout the country.


Qadaffi: His Toady Supporters in the West and His Murderous Benefactors in Africa

A wonderful article, written with flair and sardonic elegance, skewering numerous, Western individuals and organizations for serving as toadies to a brutal dictator, the “loon of loons”:

Qadaffi has apparently supported a wide array of corrupt, violent, genocidal dictators throughout Africa, as well as several dubious leaders in Central and South America:


Natural Gas and the Environment

Natural gas water recycling from hydrofacking is not always effective:

In the meantime, political pressures effectively prevent the EPA from regulating natural gas hydrofracking:

WikiLeaks documents reveal that the EPA wanted to regulate hydrofacking waster water, but political pressures prevented them from acting in Pennsylvania and New York.  Now in New York there is an opportunity to exert regulatory pressure


Warriors and Heroes

Those who live in pain–emotional, physical, or spiritual–who wake up in the morning, get out of bed, and engage in life are courageous warriors, authentic heroes.


The Contentious Quest for Truffles in North Carolina

Trying to grow truffles in the US is an arduous, competitive, and uncertain business.


How to Start a Peaceful Revolution: The Story of Gene Sharp

A wonderful story about a mild-mannered man whose ideas have inspired non-violent uprisings worldwide against dictatorships.


Tajii Dolphin Hunt Ends One Month Early in Japan

At least this is one victory and another indication that there is a little space for humaneness in the human heart.  There is also increasing evidence for a growing inventory of unsold dolphin and whale meat in Japan, with Japanese consumers increasingly refusing to buy and eat this meat.


Even eagles need a push…

A moving story of an eagle and her child.  ‘The Push, about a mother eagle’s supreme act of love – to give her children a push – when her offspring were ready to leave the nest”:


The Odd Couple: Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry

This is a wonderful story about a friendship through baseball.


Tibetan Karmapa Cleared of Wrongdoing in India

A fascinating discussion of religion and politics that relates to Tibet, India, and China


Theories about the Origins of Life

This is fun (via Nelson French).  Where and how did life originate on earth?.


We Are All Related

We are all related in ways we do not see.


We Are Not Our Habits

We think we know who we are based on the activities in which we normally engage, by our personalities, by our hobbies, by our socio-economic statuses, ethnicities, and religions, by the ways we hold and move our bodies, or by the personal and professional roles we acquire in our lives. But do we? Are these what ultimately define us? I’m sure that these contribute to our development as beings and to our self-understanding, but they comprise only part of a much larger framework and foundation. We often focus on the easier-to-identify elements, but we don’t notice what may be even more illuminating and revealing.


James Kugel: The Little Self and the Big Self

I found this moving. It’s certainly not what I expected, and it reminds me of the classical mystical experience:  when you realize how small you are, how truly beautiful that is, and how you then can access the divine in ways you never thought possible.  We could also refer to it as the withdrawal of the ego.  To realize how interconnected we are, we must realize how small we are.  Those who have this experience are blessed and privileged.


Muffin Wars


Food and Farming Problems in India

India is having serious problems in feeding its own people.  This article touches both on weather changes (global warming) and on modern farming technology.  (via Nelson French)


Prisoners Close Budget Gaps and Learn Skills By Working

This has support from both conservative deficit hawks and liberals who believe that prisoners are much less likely to commit crimes after release if they have employable skills.


Arizona Bill Would Ban Foreclosues Without Full Title History

A positive development that would diminish the overwhelming power of banks in the housing loan industry:


John Galliano and Antisemitism

Chief designer for Christian Dior, John Galliano, is fired for antisemitic remarks:


Arab Antisemitism and Yusuf al-Qaradawi

This is an excellent primer on Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Also an essay on Arab antisemitism by Richard Cohen

In the meantime, Hamas resists letting the UN include the holocaust in its human rights curriculum


Saudi Arabia and Revolution

The situation is ripe for change in Saudi Arabia, but the country could end up divided between young, tech-savvy, democratic secularists, anti-democratic Wahabi Islamists, and restless Shiites:


The Egyptian Revolution on Twitter

This is cool to watch: (via Dianne Bazell)


Alan Dershowitz on Obama’s Veto of UN Security Council Resolution

This is a good analysis that also illustrates the complexity of the settlement issue.  The old Jewish quarter of East Jerusalem is not a settlement, and the Palestinians have agreed in principle that Maale Adumim and Gilo will become part of Israel proper in a negotiated peace treaty.  There are other security-related reasons for keeping certain settlements as part of Israel.    Now that does not mean that Israeli settlement policy has not been deeply flawed–it has.  But one-sided resolutions and essays that treat all Jewish presence in Jerusalem and the West Bank as evil are ahistorical, incorrect, and harmful to our hopes for peace.


Democracy, the Middle East and Israel

The US and the West are essentially tourists in the Middle East, while Israelis are residents:

Conservative Fouad Adjami has faith in Arab democratic movements and their implications for Israel

Also the road to democracy is long.  Democracy is not an election or majority rule, but many elections, tolerance for minority rights, and the growth of democratic institutions

Conservative Daniel Pipes is optimistic about democracy:

I don’t agree with this negative analysis, but it’s worth paying attention to. Benny Morris could well be correct, at least in the short term.  In the long run, I still bet on freedom.

Kevin Myers also has doubts about the possibility of true democracy in the Middle East:

Tzipi Livni advocates a code for democracies:

In Gaza, Islamist Hamas restricts the rights of secular individuals and groups, which are the cornerstone of a democratic society:

In this interesting piece, Nick Cohen argues that Europe’s obsession with Israel has promoted dictatorships in the Middle East:

Robert Kaplan argues that democracy will be more about the establishment of authority than the restraint of it and that Turkey will have substantial influence as it did in the Ottoman period:

I recall the peaceful nature of the demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia.  Even Libya was initially peaceful, but the protesters had to defend themselves when Qaddafi started massacring them.  This bodes well, and I remain optimistic in the longer-term (10-15 years).


The Islamist Role in Egyptian Politics

This is an analysis of the possible popularity of Islamist parties in Egypt.  The Muslim Brotherhood is only one such party, and the Islamist movement in Egypt is far from monolithic:


Support for Israel Remains Strong in U.S.

Obviously this is good news for the Jewish community and for US support of Israel.


Our Life Paths

A life path can seemingly take us up to the top of the mountain looking down or down to the bottom of the mountain looking up.  But our authentic selves are there in both places, waiting for our egos to set them free.


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