The blog Socialism Or Your Money Back has posted a short Q&A concerning socialism. It's an interesting read - here.
For some reason or another, I'm practically always labeled a socialist on every political quiz I take. In fact, I believe that's been my answer every time. However, the main reason I'm not a socialist is because I'm enough of a realist to know it wouldn't work. Human nature is never going away, and people are greedy. They don't want to share. People want to be the best, they want the nicest things, and they want to be lazy. While socialism could work in communes and very small communities, and certain aspects could be worked successfully into our world (such as workers having a lot of rights), capitalism, at least at the moment, isn't going anywhere.
15 June 2007
The blog Socialism Or Your Money Back has posted a short Q&A concerning socialism. It's an interesting read - here.
14 June 2007
I'm sorry for the striking loss of posts recently. I got accepted into a university where I'll be pursuing my major in political science, and that's been my only focus lately. I've also been working 8-5 every single day, and getting home after 6 and trying to do everything I need to do with dial-up isn't really the best environment to get work done in. However, I've spent my day off minimizing everything; I've unsubscribed to blogs and newsletters, deleted a bunch of time-wasters from my bookmarks folder, and sought out time-saving apps and sites. At least when I get to school I'll have broadband!
I'd love to hear how some of you save time and increase your productivity. Leave me tips in the comments.
Posted by Ashley at 4:09 PM
Urban dictionary, the site where you can discover the meaning of any slang and made-up word in the world, says that a "decidership" is "A form of government with one person exercising absolute power and unrestricted control in a government who regularly disregards opinions, petitions or mandates of the people or elected representatives." It's scary, but America is a decidership.
The Bush administration has proven time and time again that it doesn't care what people of this country think or want done. No poll or protest could ever change their mind. They do what they want to do. When the ground they're standing on gets a little shaky, they use the media as a tool of diversion. Find another Osama tape, blame something on the lying liberals. Change the subject.
Sometimes I feel as though George Bush will not step down from his presidency. It's hard to imagine, isn't it. Luckily, I don't think Americans are dumbed down to the point that they'll accept that yet unless something catastrophic takes place. Something akin to 9/11.
06 June 2007
The Global Incident Map shows terrorist threats all over the world. Most of them don't make the news, so it's interesting to see what's going on. Each event has it's own symbol, and when you mouse over you get a definition such as, "INDIA - Smallpox alert in Northeast". There's no real use for this, but it's noteworthy nonetheless.Global Incident Map
Posted by Ashley at 4:59 AM
03 June 2007
A petition has been created for the removal of the Aunt Jemima image and name, one of the many racist/sexist icons used by an American company. According to the petition,
The racist, sexist stereotype of Aunt Jemima has become entrenched into the subconscious memory and culture of all Americans, and like a health-destroying bad habit, has sneaked into our existence and psyches as to have become a normal image that no longer holds feelings of disgust, shame and revulsion. That the manufacturers of Aunt Jemima have for over 100 years been able to so skillfully integrate this disparaging symbol into American culture, as to lend it as imparting endearing qualities across all racial, gender and ethnic groups, has had a profound impact on the image black Americans have had of themselves and of the image whites, and other races, have had of black people, and especially the image that black women have had to contend with.There is also an article about the history of Aunt Jemima at Beautiful, Also, Are the Souls of My Black Sisters.
I have a feeling that, in the decade coming up, many degrading logos and images will be replaced by something far better. Or maybe that's just wishful thinking of my part. But I do think that people are finally realizing that icons like Aunt Jemima is dangerous to our society.
31 May 2007
Adam Kokesh, a "war-on-terror" veteran, may have his honorable discharge status removed because he attended an anti-war protest wearing his uniform. This reminds me a lot of the professor who was added to the no fly list because he gave a lecture criticizing the president. Remember what the attendant at the airport asked? "Have you been to any protests lately?"
Why is our government punishing our soldiers for speaking out about a war they feel is wrong? Because there is already a growing number of people in this country who have lost confidence in the Iraq war, and they're scared that once the soldiers start speaking out they'll have to play by the rules. From monitoring their blogging to taking away their benefits, the American government is prosecuting it's soldiers for not wanting to be a witness to a great crime.
28 May 2007
There has never been a lack of literature surrounding the animal rights movement. A topic as controversial as it is, people on both sides of the debate have written long essays and books filled with an uncountable amount of facts, numbers, and names. It's hard for AR-ers to read everything, but The Animal Rights Library is a great place to start. Containing full texts from both classic and modern writers such as Jeremy Bentham and Peter Singer, activists can read up on the pro-AR side of the story without having to spend hundreds of dollars on books.
The Animal Rights Library
Note: If anyone knows of a similar anti-AR online library, please post in in the comments.
23 May 2007
On March 30th, Alfredo Ramos killed two girls in Virginia Beach, VA while driving drunk. He later admitted to being in the country illegally. Since then, officials have made more of an effort to detain and deport illegal immigrants.
The story made national headlines when Bill O'Reilly made (yet more of) a spectacle of himself while arguing with Geraldo Rivera. Here's the video: (note: I'm currently using a slower connection, so I'm assuming this is the right video)
Mr. Rivera's right. Completely. This had nothing to do with illegal immigration, but it had everything to do with drunk driving. Instead of working to further reduce the number of people who drives drunk, which would be a daunting task, all the focus has gone to the seemingly easier solution: blame a group that already has a ton of bricks on their shoulders. America is increasingly becoming more and more hostile to immigrants, particularly those of South American heritage. Our government's even gone so far as to build an actual fence! The American people need to realize that our entire nation was built upon immigrants wanting a better life and a fresh start - to take that same hope away from people today is selfish.
22 May 2007
Note: Sorry this is a day late.
Green is the New Red has been my favorite blog since I found it last year. It focuses on "eco-terrorism", aka the Green Scare. It's horrifying how much freedom is being taken away from activists, and it's not just those of us who work for the environment/animal rights causes. Every time a bill like AETA passes, it's a setback for everyone who wants to change this country through activism. Reading Green is the New Red keeps all of us up-to-date on those people working to put activists behind bars, and how the rest of the world views activism.
Green Is The New Red
Posted by Ashley at 8:53 PM
18 May 2007
I came across an interesting short article in the May/June issue of VegNews. Apparently, Yum Brands, who owns KFC, unknowingly tried to buy an abandoned warehouse owned by PETA in Norfolk, VA. When PETA offered them the property for free if they would put stronger animal welfare rules into place, they said no.
17 May 2007
A new Center on Education Policy survey has concluded that students in the 4th, 8th, and 12th grades are performing only slightly better in history and civics. 43% of 12th grade students, for example, in 2001 performed at or above the basic level, jumping to only 47% last year. For the same group, there was just a 1% increase in civics.
Although I'm glad there's been at least a little progress, it's nothing to be overly happy about. There's still a long way to go before we can be certain that American students are learning about their nation's history and the way the government works. Both subjects are vital to a successful nation. History teaches us to learn from our mistakes, how to spot bad government before it takes over, and gives us a much deeper understanding of how this nation works and how it came to be. Civics is undoubtably the most important class available to students. Politics affects every one of us, whether we realize it or not. With less emphasize in schools, it's inevitable that every new generation will be less and less interested in politics, law, and rights. Even today, there are millions who feel that voting is pointless, and that don't care if a law is just or not as long as it doesn't directly effect them. People are becoming passive and unconcerned with the state of America and the rest of the world, and with students not getting the best history and civics education, leaders will have an almost open door to uncontrollable power and corruption.
I graduated from high school in 2005, and I can say with all confidence that I didn't get a great education. Sure, I took pre-calculus my senior year, was in AP History and English, and took two years of Latin, but every teacher I had was more concerned with test scores than with making sure every student had a complete understanding of the subject. When a school has higher test scores, they get awards and, more importantly, money. Instead of classes being about learning, they've become nothing more than a crash course before the big test. There's so much standardized testing in schools nowadays that most children are burned out before they get to high school. We've also become fantastic guessers and bullshitters. I can easily make a paragraph into a full page essay by doing nothing but adding fluff. My teachers used to teach us how to guess on an exam or end of school test; just eliminate until you find the one that makes the most sense. Why not just teach us enough that we can take the test without having to guess?
Another, even bigger, problem in schools is having more opportunities for the more advanced students. This was at least true in my own high school. The AP students were encouraged, given more freedom to learn how they wanted, and were treated with respect by teachers and counselors. Not so for the rest. I was lazy in my 9th grade Honors English class, so my teacher reccomended me for the regular 10th grade course. I was utterly stunned when I got there. We never did anything. I remember reading maybe three books at most, writing a one page fictional "fairy tale", and watching cartoons. I felt like I was in a special ed. class. It was like the teacher didn't even care about us; she spent most of the time getting stuff together for her AP class for 12 graders. I had the same teacher for that same class two years later, and we wrote two essays a week, read a new book every month, had lengthy discussions about everything from news and politics to literary devices and eras. The difference was startling, and in a way I'm glad that I had the opportunity to see what it was like for students who don't have the AP privalege. One teacher we had even told us that they didn't worry as much about the academic kids since most of them wouldn't go to college or make the most of themselves. She was under the impression that they were all lazy and incapable of doing anything worthwhile. Maybe they would have cared more if the teachers had cared about them.
14 May 2007
YouTube is a lot more than just a place to watch music videos and quirky home movies. There is so much political and news-related material that you can find practically anything; the latest clips from your favorite news program, satire (not all of it good), old campaigns and commercials, commentary, interviews, and more.
There's also plans for CitizenTube, a politically themed site from YouTube. Which is a great idea, since it'll make videos easier to find.
Posted by Ashley at 10:19 PM
09 May 2007
I'm currently reading Michelle Goldberg's Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. While the whole topic is certainly worth talking about at great length, there's a passage I came across from George Grant's book that shows just how scary these radical right-wing Christians are:
Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a comission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ - to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.A lot of readers might think he's an extreme example of Christian Nationalism, and he is, but I think it still speaks very clearly for the religion and its followers. I don't want anyone to think I'm anti-Christian, because I'm not. What I am against is the people who use it to make decisions, and the people who, like Mr. Grant here, want it to take over every aspect of everyone's life.
But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less....
Thus, Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land - of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ.
The biggest problem I have with Christianity is its refusal to accept other religions. And when politicians use it as a basis to their policies, it threatens our freedom both to religion and personal behavior. Gay marriage and abortion are perfect examples.
I've noticed, as has Michelle Goldberg in her book, that Christians are almost always mentioning how they're under attack and being persecuted for their beliefs. That astounds me. Especially since when Christianity (or any other religion for that matter) is used as a foundation for government or laws, people of other religions are being persecuted.
Posted by Ashley at 6:58 PM
08 May 2007
On April 25th, the BBC had an article about Britain's Royal Society of Chemistry offering £500 to anyone who could answer a math question from a Chinese entrance exam.
This is the BBC's example of a similar question from a UK exam:
When I was in elementary school, our teachers used to tell us that the Chinese school systems were much more strict than our own, and that the students were twice as smart as us. What I'm wondering now, however, is why the west is so far behind. Any thoughts?
07 May 2007
Americans United "...protects separation of church and state by working on a wide range of political and social issues." An organization like AU is especially important today in a country controlled by the far right. One of their recent victories was having Wicca recognized as a religion for military tombstones (here's my story on that). For the sake of our freedom, please support Americans United.
06 May 2007
According to Wired, soldiers must now have personal e-mails and blogs run by an officer before posting. While I understand the need for military secrecy when it comes to things like positions and plans, this rule is set up to fail. Eventually, if it hasn't already happened, officers will stop approving blogs that are critical of the war, with the explanation that it'll embolden the enemy (which the Bush administration already holds to be true). The main problem I have with this blogging regulation is that it'll silence the voices of our soldiers, making the war farther away from Americans than it currently is.
When you watch the mainstream media, you'll notice that the most frivolous news usually gets the most attention. For example, CNN going commercial free for the death of Anna Nicole Smith. Little if any attention is paid to Afghanistan or Iraq. This is mostly because our war-mongering leaders know that they can get away with much more if the general public is oblivious to what's really happening; if they're living behind pretty curtains. Silencing soldier bloggers is along the same lines; as long as people don't know what the soldiers are really feeling, there will be no larger outcry for a change.
05 May 2007
The Kentucky Derby was today, so I thought it would be appropriate to discuss it here. Horse racing is cruel and exploitive. I'm sure some of the owners treat the horses alright most of the time, but when a horse is injured, is the owner thinking first about the horse or their investment? They're treated as objects. Horses aren't free when they're constantly being trained so their owners can win a fancy prize. Animal Aid has a great site for horse racing. You can read it here.
Smoking bans are nothing new. In 1590, Pope Urban VII wanted to excommunicate people who smoked tobacco in or around churches. More recently, as more and more information concerning the dangers of second-hand smoke has been discovered, companies, states, and even whole countries have put some sort of ban in place.
There's always a lot of controversy over any kind of ban. One one side are people who see improved living conditions, in this case with better health and smoke-free restaurants. On the other hand, people feel as if they're losing their freedom to enjoy life and being told how to treat their own bodies.
I support smoking bans. In fact, I'd love to see every public place in the country have a smoking ban of some kind. It's not that I have a problem with people smoking, especially since I have no business in the matter. However, I don't want my health to be jeopardized because of someone else's smoking. If you walked into a place of business swinging a gun around firing, you'd be arrested on the spot. Why? Because you're jeopardizing the health and well-being of the people around you. Smoking does the same thing, but because it takes years, even decades, to notice the effects, you're not arrested. Instead, you're handed an ashtray.
Due to time restraints (see next post), I've scanned Wikipedia for a list of the reasons people might not support a ban.
- Government is interfering with personal lifestyles and rights. My argument against this is that the smoker is also interfering with personal lifestyles and rights. I doubt the person next to you wants lung cancer.
- Economic loss. Like Wikipedia says in a few more words: just as many people want smoke-free environments.
- Disputes over science of bans. I feel like there's been more than enough evidence of second-hand smoke being dangerous. Anyway, until further evidence disproves the theory, wouldn't it be better off on the safe side?
- Hypocrisy. The main point of this part of the article was that people felt as though the government was be hypocritical due to their using smoking bans but still profiting off tobacco tax. In my opinion, this isn't hypocritical in any way. Public smoking bans are protecting other citizens from second-hand smoke; their health is in danger because of someone else. However, people should be allowed to smoke if they want to. As long as they aren't endangering someone else, they should be able to smoke. I don't see this as hypocrisy, just as the government protecting the lives of its citizens.
- "Victimless crime". Supposedly, smoking is a personal choice, and if other people don't like it, they can leave. You know people inside that building are smoking, so if you choose to go in, you know you're going to be inhaling their smoke. Like the article says, not everyone has the choice to leave.
- Health care. This argument says that if you don't smoke, then you'll live longer, therefore racking up just as much or more health care costs then smokers, who'll die way before you. This is absurd. It's like punishing people for wanting to be healthy.
- Smoking moves. When you ban smoking in public buildings, people will move outside. When you ban smoking outside in a specific area surrounding a non-smoking building, people will smoke somewhere else. I don't quite see the debate here, except that smokers might run out of places to smoke.
01 May 2007
A petition was started this past winter by Monica Gabrielle, Lorie Van Auken, Mindy Kleinberg, and Patty Casazza in relation to information that concerned pre-knowledge of the September 11th attacks.
Excerpt from the petition:
We, the undersigned, demand the immediate declassification and release of all transcripts and documents relating to the July 10, 2001 meeting that took place between former CIA Director George Tenet and then National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice. It has been alleged that this urgent and out-of-the-ordinary meeting was called to discuss the increasingly dire warnings of an imminent al Qaeda attack within the U.S.When this petition reaches 15,000 names, they are going to take it to Washington, DC. There are already 11,145 signatures at 3:45pm, May 1st. This petition is important because the public has the right to know just how accountable our government was for those attacks.
...In addition, we again call for the declassification and release of both the redacted 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry Into The Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 (JICI) and the CIA Inspector General’s report, “CIA Accountability With Respect To The 9/11 Attacks”.
Petition - Public's Right To Know
Kudos to 911Blogger for their post on the petition
30 April 2007
A new feature of this blog will be Monday Spotlight. Every week I'll blog about a specific website that advances freedom, animal rights, environmentalism, human rights, or any similar cause.
Lantern Books is an online retailer/publisher that specializes in books concerning "animal advocacy, children's books, health & environment, psychology, religion, social thought, and vegetarianism".
Lantern Books also publishes a fantastic blog, The Lantern Books Blog, which has a wide array of material. Even better, most posts have a section at the end devoted to books on related topics.
You can visit their website here: Lantern Books
Previous spotlight: Charity Navigator
Posted by Ashley at 4:07 PM
26 April 2007
Today is the 21st anniversary of the worst nuclear accident in history. On this date in 1986, near Pripyat in Ukraine, reactor number 4 of the Chernobyl power plant was part of a routine shutdown. The employees, who have since been regarded as inadequate, disregarded the safety instructions about the reactor becoming unstable at such low power. After a quick power surge, the reactor exploded and fires fed contamination into the air, ultimately releasing 100-150 million curies of radiation. The radiation contaminated parts of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus, although some European stations recording small amounts of radiation far away from the plant. Belarus, who got the worst, lost 20% of it’s farmland immediately after the accident. Half of the radiation from Chernobyl was found in Belarus. 200,000 people eventually had to be evacuated, but because the government was slow and wasn’t honest with the citizens in the surrounding towns, many people were exposed unknowingly to the radiation. As officials realized how far-reaching the radiation had traveled, the evacuated more and more people. Thousands of “liquidators” were brought in from around the USSR to work in the cleanup efforts. All of them received very high does of radiation. To fight the fires that were continuously feeding more radiation into the air, they threw 5,000 metric tones of lead, boron, sand, and clay onto it. After it failed to significantly reduce radiation, they built what has since become known as the “sarcophagus”. However, because it was hastily built, it was not made to last. Plans are underway to build a newer, stronger containment. Initially, there were only two deaths (both workers who will killed during the first explosions), but by August the figure had risen to 31.
Many studies have been done around Chernobyl since the accident. Today, 1 out of 4 Belarussians live on contaminated land, which is about 2.1 million people. The radiation collected in the soil, destroying farms and poisoning groundwater. Thyroid cancer has increased dramatically in children born and raised after the accident. Overall, though, it’s very hard to say what the exact toll of the Chernobyl tragedy was. Although most scientists agree that the high numbers of thyroid cancer patients is a direct result of the radiation, other illnesses are harder to attribute to it. Many of them could also be caused by stress or poor nutrition. In the studies done throughout the years, the number of actual deaths due to Chernobyl has been anywhere between the 31 killed immediately after the accident to Greenpeace’s 270,000. The number usually agreed upon is 10,000 - 50,000. Chernobyl had a lasting effect on the area’s citizens, but it also had a large effect on the rest of the world.
Chernobyl taught us that accidents can and do happen. Since 1986, nuclear power plants have been made considerably safer, but they will never be fool-proof. Activists have used Chernobyl for years to highlight just how dangerous nuclear power is. Every year in America, there are a number of unreported near-accidents at plants around the country. Luckily, none of them have become disasters, but it’s not inconceivable that it could happen here in America.
There are plenty of alternatives to nuclear power. The US would be much better of investing all of their money and resources in clean energy, which will be the choice for future generations. For example, in place of dangerous, dirty, and current sources of energy, there could be wind, water, or solar power. Great leaps are being made in science that are constantly making these forms of energy cheaper and more effective. Let’s all get behind clean energy and save ourselves from another Chernobyl.
Please take a moment to give your thoughts to the victims of Chernobyl, some of whom have to live with terrible illnesses and destroyed lives.
Chabad's Children of Chernobyl
Chernobyl's Children Project International
Children of Chernobyl USA
For the Children
Humanity for Chernobyl
Strong Like a Willow
There's also a great book on the subject, Svetlana Alexievich's Voices from Chernobyl, a collection of first-hand accounts of the disaster.
25 April 2007
There's always been people with disgusting and offensive humor. Most of the time I just ignore it. I gave up trying to change people long ago, especially since I grew up in a place where most of the people aren't exactly considerate (your typical redneck, racist, chauvinistic Bible-belt town). But this says a lot about today's American culture.
I can't even imagine how you propose a joke like this. It's hard to picture someone saying, "I know what we could do - lets joke about being in a rape club. That'd be hilarious!" Like the good people at Feministing put it, ASSHOLES.
Posted by Ashley at 9:25 PM
The U.S. has just made an agreement where Japan will build the first nuclear power plant in the country in 30 years. Supposedly, according to Samuel Bodman (our energy secretary), Japan is capable of making the safest reactors.
I've always been against nuclear power. I think it might have something to do with my near-obsession with Chernobyl (who's anniversary is tomorrow - watch for my post), but I have a feeling it goes a lot further than that. I remember reading somewhere that there are thousands of near-accidents at U.S. plants that go unreported. It's not inconceivable that something catastrophic will happen due to one of these.
There's also no perfect way to get rid of nuclear waste, which sticks around for thousands and thousands of years. There's no telling what long-term affects the waste will ultimately have, but I can assure you it won't be good.
The main reason I'm against Nuclear power: It's unnecessary. The money our government is investing in this project could very well be invested instead in clean energy. We all know that clean energy is the way to go, but for one reason or another our leaders are ignoring it. It would be better for the US to go ahead and put all our resources into clean energy instead of being behind the times.
24 April 2007
Rosie O'Donnell is a woman full of controversy. You either love her or hate her. It just so happens that I love her.
She's been in the news a lot lately, thanks to some of the statements she's made on The View. In my opinion, she's been in the news a bit too much. She's become a distraction for the media.
I've watched The View in the past, although I'm not a regular. I'm just not much of a television person. Recently, she's made statements about 9/11, the media, Iraq, and Trump. Bill O'Reilly wants her fired, and she's become his liberal of choice on his show (which I don't personally watch, I just hear about. I'm not keen on making his ratings any higher). That is particularly funny to me. Bill O'Reilly, master bullshitter, liar, and propagandist, getting oh so upset over a liberal that makes sense.
I think it was the 9/11 questions that got the media's attention. But it really doesn't matter. The whole point of The View is to talk about anything, and that's exactly what she does. She just brings up actual news and questions instead of the pretty news that the media and most people are used to. Our freedom of speech (which might not be around that much longer - enjoy it while you can) affords her the right to say whatever she wants. If she wanted to, she could get on the show tomorrow and say Bush is a yellow-winged pixie from the world of Xenji who's come to kill us all with his magic ray-gun.
People need to realize that if you don't appreciate O'Donnell's views, just don't watch her. It's not that big of a deal.
During the Spanish Civil War in the 30s, American volunteers traveled to Spain to help defeat fascism. Recently I came across a site that had posted letters from soldiers writing home. I wanted to share one with you.
July 6, 1937
My Dear Friend:
I'm sure that by this time you are still waiting for a detailed explanation of what has this international struggle to do with my being here. Since this is a war between whites who for centuries have held us in slavery, and have heaped every kind of insult and abuse upon us, segregated and jim-crowed us; why I, a Negro who have fought through these years for the rights of my people, am here in Spain today?
Because we are no longer an isolated minority group fighting hopelessly against an immense giant. Because, my dear, we have joined with, and become an active part of, a great progressive force, on whose shoulders rest the responsibility of saving human civilization from the planned destruction of a small group of degenerates gone made in their lust for power. Because if we crush Fascism here we'll save our people in America, and in other parts of the world from the vicious persecution, wholesale imprisonment, and slaughter which the Jewish people suffered and are suffering under Hitler's Fascist heels.
All we have to do is to think of the lynching of our people. We can but look back at the pages of American history stained with the blood of Negroes; stink with the burning bodies of our people hanging from trees; bitter with the groans of our tortured loved ones from whose living bodies ears, fingers, toes have been cut for souvenirs - living bodies into which red-hot pokers have been thrust. All because of a hate created in the minds of men and women by their masters who keep us all under their heels while they suck our blood, while they live in their bed of ease by exploiting us.
But these people who howl like hungry wolves for our blood, must we hate them? Must we keep the flame which these masters kindled constantly fed? Are these men and women responsible for the programs of their masters, and the conditions which force them to such degraded depths? I think not. They are tools in the hands of unscrupulous masters. These same people are as hungry as we are. They live in dives and wear rags the same as we do. They, too, are robbed by the masters, and their faces kept down in the filth of a decayed system. They are our fellowmen. Soon, and very soon, they and we will understand. Soon, and very soon, they and we will understand. Soon, many Angelo Herndons will rise from among them, and from among us, and will lead us both against those who live by the stench of our burnt flesh. We will crush them. We will build us a new society -- a society of peace and plenty. There will be no color line, no jim-crow trains, no lynching. That is why, my dear, I'm here in Spain.
Here is the link to the page. There are plenty more for you to read.
I feel that, of all the changes that have overcome me throughout my life, one of them has had an especially profound effect: Buddhism.
Before I officially started to call myself a Buddhist, I subscribed to Buddhist thought. I think one of the most important aspects of Buddhism is that you don't have to be a Buddhist to get something out of its philosophy. In fact, a lot of people don't even consider it a religion, but instead a lifestyle.
Buddhism has made me more mindful and conscious of myself and those around me. The first book on Buddhism I ever encountered taught me to love everyone, even those I'd never met or disliked. The Buddha taught that you should treat everyone as you would treat your mother; after all, they were your mother in a past life.
Non-attachment is also a big part of Buddhism. Attachment, whether it's to things, places, or people, always leads to suffering. Through non-attachment, however, we can free ourselves from that suffering and have happier lives.
Like I said earlier, you don't have to be a Buddhist to take something away from the Buddha's teachings. You can learn compassion for the world around you, and you can give yourself and others a happier existence through love.
A Basic Buddhism Guide: Introduction to Buddhism
After long being discriminated against, Wiccans who die in the military can now have a pentacle on their tombstone. I first became aware of this fight in March of last year (you can read my original posts on the topic here and here).
I feel that Wicca is probably one of the most misunderstood religions in America. I've seen topics on message boards arguing whether it's a religion or not; I've heard people call them satanists; people generally think they're crazy. Even the poll on the site of the article shows that 33% of 120,001 people (which comes to about 39,600) do not support the Wiccans. This goes to show that we're still a long way from being free of discrimination.
Here's the Wikipedia article on Wicca, and here's the AOL article about the victory.
20 April 2007
I used to be a big magazine reader. Two years ago, I was subscribed to 15. I've learned my lesson since them.
My original reason for so many subscriptions was a combination of a trance-like devotion to women's magazines like Lucky, Glamour, Marie Claire, etc., and my liking mail. Luckily, I've broken free of the world in which sickly is beautiful and I have to want the latest $800 purse. Right now, there's only one magazine I still read, and that's Vanity Fair.
I've always thought it would be fantastic if magazines offered subscribers the option of going hard-copy free. Wouldn't it be nice if, instead of receiving a magazine in the mail, you could read it in .pdf format? I know some people still like to have something they can hold in their hands, but I'd much rather be able to read it without worrying about the distance it's traveled and whether or not the magazine is made out of recycled paper.
This excerpt is from Sulak Sivaraksa's 1976 lecture at the World Fellowship of Buddhists meeting in Thailand.
Is it too much for us Buddhists to appeal for:
1. The return to the traditional culture and spiritual values, for the elimination of those foreign elements which can cause discord and hatred among the people and can destroy the beauty of our traditions and customs.
2. An educational system that provides equal opportunities to every citizen, rich and poor, city dwellers and country people.
3. An economic policy that does not create gaps between people. There should be a policy which prevents the minority becoming richer and richer, while taking away the chances for a decent living from the majority. The Government should refrain from importing luxurious items for the sake of the consumption of the rich minority, forbid the transferring of money by the rich to deposit in foreign banks outside the country - not to mention the rich buying property abroad!
4. The re-organization of the armed forces, to educate soldiers to become friends of the villagers, not to oppress and terrorize them. The ignorance and ill-behavior of the soldiers can lead to more opposition that is violent from among the population.
5. The reform of life in the countryside. Efforts should be made to help farmers, small merchants and others to exercise their professions and organize themselves in order to produce better and to sell their products, and to encourage and protect people who are working to help in the work of rural development.
6. Attention to miserable conditions in the slum areas. Land should be distributed to those in the slums who would like to go and settle in the rural areas in order to have a better life. Food and transportation should be provided to those who wish to participate in such a programme.
7. A neutral and independent policy towards the conflicting powers to maintain a truly independent stand, non-aligned, trying to avoid involvement in any international conflicts in order to preserve peace.
8. A sensible and intelligent policy towards the armed opposition movement. Violent confrontation should be avoided. Sincere and direct contact with the leaders of the movement should be made immediately. Try to listen to every point of criticism and prove to the people by action that points being made by them can be realized in more peaceful ways in cooperation with them.
I thought that piece was rather interesting. One point that I want to highlight is number 4. "...to educate soldiers to become friends of the villagers, not to oppress... . The ignorance and ill-behavior of the soldiers can lead to more opposition that is violent from among the population."
When I read that, I immediately thought of Afghanistan and Iraq. I can't even begin to count how many instances I've heard, videos I've seen, of our troops treating the citizens of those countries disgustingly. And Sivaraksa is right; ill-behavior can and probably will lead to even more violence.
Look at it this way: If America were invaded in the name of "liberation", and the invading nation's troops treated us like objects instead of people, would you still love them? I'd bet that most people wouldn't. We'd be angry and fight back.
Funerals have increasingly become more and more lavish. Coffins are lined with luxurious material, hundreds of dollars are spent on flowers, and people pay to give their departed loved ones the best farewell they can manage. However, I doubt the dead cares what they're laying on.
Funerals are meant, not for those that have died, but for the families. People generally put a lot of thought into every minuscule detail, but I doubt they consider the environmental aspects.
Obviously, a traditional burial isn't the most eco-friendly option. Vast amounts of land are used for graveyards, and modern coffins aren't exactly biodegradable.
Recently, cremation has come under fire (haha). A professor from the University of Melbourne named Roger Short has discovered that cremation produces carbon dioxide, which is a culprit of global warming. Thus, this also isn't the best option.
Before I go further, I want to say that I do not wish to impose my opinions on people. Everyone is free to decided what they want done with their bodies after their death. I only want to show people that there are ways to keep the environment in mind.
Something that Mr. Short is a proponent of are green burials. The boxes, like the bodies, are biodegradable.
Or you could donate your body to science. This could actually be a great idea for animal rights activists who wish to save animals from the hand of scientists.
Personally, I don't care what happens to my body after I die. I'm sure it won't matter to me. But I hope that my family and friends will keep the environment in mind.
19 April 2007
18 April 2007
I'm happy that a lot of people, including tons of bloggers, are taking notice of ethanol. Especially that they're talking about how it isn't all it's cracked up to be.
The largest problem I see with ethanol is the contribution it'll have on world hunger and the environment. It would take huge swaths of land to produce the corn needed, and we're already far over what the limit should be with agricultural practices like factory farming. And because so much corn will be needed to meet our demands, poorer nations will suffer horribly. A lot of people that depend on cheap corn will have to either find something else to eat (which isn't easy) or starve to death.
Recently, people have started talking about how ethanol isn't actually as green as it's supposed to be. Here are two related articles: That's Fit and LiveScience.
What really worries me about ethanol is that the Bush administration and "fake" environmentalists will use it as a publicity deal. Instead of actually researching and studying how to make transportation and fuel more efficient, they will just jump on the bandwagon and go with what makes them look good. I hope more and more people will talk about ethanol in the future, and that it'll break into the mainstream.
Updated: Discovery has another article.
With the recent events at Virginia Tech, a lot of people have been talking about gun control. I'm very liberal, but with gun control I'm undecided. I haven't quite made up my mind about where I stand on the issue.
I grew up (and still live) in the gun-toting "Bible Belt", so I've grown up around guns. I've shot a gun. I've held guns. My father's a lifetime member of the NRA. I've been to gun shows. There's a gun in this house right now. I'm not surprised to hear a gun shot at any time of the day.
I've always felt uncomfortable around guns. After all, they're made for killing. Why shouldn't I be uncomfortable around them? Most gun owners frequently regurgitate the phase, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people". We just need to keep "nut jobs" from owning and obtaining guns. Right? No. I disagree. People might pull the trigger, but without that gun it isn't as easy. Strangling or stabbing someone can still cause a death, and it does happen, but people generally have to be much closer than with a gun. Guns make murder easier. Another problem I have is that murderers aren't always nut jobs. They could be perfectly responsible people that make a bad decision one day. And if someone is a nut job, they could still easily obtain a gun.
And that's why I don't support an all-out ban on guns. If our government banned guns, they would still be available on the black market. This technology will never go away until it's replaced with something better; that's they way our world works. If only government and police were allowed guns, how could we protect ourselves from gun-wielding psycho cops (not that there are many of them, but still)?
Something else I've heard a lot of recently is this statement: "If we ban guns, we may as well ban _____ because of ______." For example, on a recent MySpace group post, someone said something along the lines of, "We may as well ban planes because of 9/11". This is totally irreverent, and I think most people would understand why.
So as you can see, I might not be as liberal as some of my peers on the issue of gun control. However, I personally loathe firearms. They aren't going away anytime soon, and as long as our leaders have them, I feel a little bit safer if the general populace can have them too.
Dennis Kucinich is my choice for the 2008 elections. Here's an earlier post I did on his positions.
Now I like him even more. He's planning to file articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney. Would would be great. I'd eventually like to see both him and Bush impeached, because at this point they're probably going to go down in history as the worst administration, but I'd love to see that extra little bit when people go to read about them.
Here's the link to the related article on AlterNet.
17 April 2007
I just finished reading Martha Burk's piece for AlterNet titled "How the Income Tax System Shortchanges Women", and wanted to share a piece with you. In the article she outlines five ways to make income taxes fairer. I think this would be a wonderful idea:
Get marital status out of the tax code. The basic tax-paying unit in the U.S. system is the "household" -- defined as married heterosexual couples or single individuals. We should redefine the tax unit to follow the model used in almost all other industrialized nations: Each taxpayer is treated as an individual regardless of household type. This would eliminate both the marriage penalty and the marriage bonus, and at the same time would no longer exclude gay or cohabiting couples.
MWC News recently published an article highlighting compensation paid to the families of killed Iraqis. According to the Human Rights Watch, only around a third of victim's families have been compensated. What I really want to talk about though are the contractors.
It seems that if an Iraqi is killed by a contractor, their family will not receive compensation since that contractor isn't part of the military:
"Human Rights Watch is also concerned by the air of impunity surrounding civilian contractors employed by the US government. Although the claims process covers Department of Defense employees, claims against contractors are denied out of hand on the grounds that they 'are not government employees.'The problem with contractors is precisely that they aren't "government employees". They don't have the same rules. Another problem is that they cost exorbitant amounts of money.
'It's shocking that the US government doesn't compensate the deaths of civilians caused by their hired guns,' Garlasco said. 'Contractors operating under the US military umbrella, as well as soldiers, should be held accountable when they kill Iraqi civilians without any justification.'"
There's a wonderful documentary directed by Robert Greenwald called Iraq for Sale, which I highly recommend.
16 April 2007
The UK has recently decided to stop using the phase "War on Terror", for fear that terrorists will feel that they're part of something larger. I think there's a bigger problem surrounding the word though.
At least in the U.S., the word terror has become the word of choice for officials hoping to get their way. If there's a bill that would otherwise never be passed, just add "terrorism" to it and it's done. The Bush Administration is using fear-mongering to pass laws that do away with our freedom and contradict the constitution.
Thus, it's unlikely that America will ever go the same way as the UK in this matter.
Our cell phones are killing bees
There is mounting evidence that radiation from cell phones is what's causing the major die-off of US and European bee populations. To further understand the problem, Britain's Bumblebee Conservation Trust wants the public to keep tabs on the whereabouts of local bees.
Presidential hopeful John Edwards wants to ban new coal-fired power plants and charge polluters
I've never been a huge fan of Edwards (personally I'm rooting for Kucinich), but I'm starting to think maybe I'm a bit wrong. I'm going to do a little research into him now. His plan would be a great way to curb global warming. The money (which could be up to $40 billion) would be used for clean energy.
Yangtze River "irreversibly damaged"
China's river could be polluted beyond control. Which could have major consequences as a result. This is hardly surprising news, however, considering China is one of the most polluted countries in the world.
In a recent experiment, fifteen people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes were given transfusions of their own stem cells. The result? Except for two of the patients, the volunteers no longer needed daily insulin injections.
This is big news. Stem cells are the potential "miracle cure" that scientists have been searching for for years. Many currently incurable diseases could be cured, and millions of lives saved. Unfortunately, many people are still very much opposed to using stem cells. I hope that this breakthrough will show those same people that the advantages far, far outweigh any negative concerns.
14 April 2007
This is the M.A.R.S. Floating Wind Generator. According to Magenn's website, the advantages of this device are "global deployment, lower costs, better operational performance, and
greater environmental advantages". It's first official model will be shipped this year. One of these could be used to generate electricity for an entire town.
It always makes me sublimely happy when I see things like this. The possibilities for clean energy are endless; the only problem being the funding. Just think of what could be done with the money the government uses for oil and coal.
M.A.R.S. is going to be great, especially for developing nations. It would be much easier to install, cheaper, and there wouldn't be wars over it like there is over oil.
For more information, visit Magenn Power Inc.
13 April 2007
It's recently come to my attention that the FDA plans to regulate natural medicines such as herbs, vitamins, and even juice. This deeply troubles me, for if this plan were to go into action it means that we would no longer be free to choose how we heal ourselves. The FDA would be able to push conventional drugs on us even more.
I tend to stay away from the conventional medicine simply because they usually make me feel worse. For example, incense or peppermint oil can get rid of a headache rather quickly with no side-effects, while Tylenol can make you groggy. Not only that, but by using natural cures we're being very kind to our bodies.
Instead of my going any further into this topic, I want all of you to read Mike Adam's article about the topic.
Health freedom action alert: FDA attempting to regulate supplements, herbs and juices as "drugs"
I've written my state representatives and the FDA about this, and I urge you to do the same.
11 April 2007
This is an excerpt from Paul Carus's Gospel of Buddha According to Old Records, published in 1894. It was meant to show the many similarities between Buddhism and Christianity, in part by writing it in chapters and verses. It's a beautiful piece.
II. Samsara and Nirvana
Look about you and contemplate life!
Everything is transient and nothing endures. There is birth and death, growth and decay; there is combination and separation.
The glory of the world is like a flower: it stands in full bloom in the morning and fades in the heat of the day.
Wherever you look, there is a rushing and a pushing, an eager pursuit of pleasures, a panic flight from pain and death, a vanity fair, and the flames of burning desires. The world is full of changes and transformations. All is Samsara.
Is there nothing permanent in the world? Is there in the universal turmoil no resting-place where your troubled heart can find peace? Is there nothing everlasting?
Is there no cessation of anxiety? Can the burning desires not be extinguished? When shall the mind become tranquil and composed?
Buddha, our Lord, was grieved at the ills of life. He saw the vanity of worldly happiness and sought salvation in the one thing that will not fade or perish, but will abide forever and ever.
Ye who long for life, know that immortality is hidden in transiency. Ye who wish for a happiness that contains not the seeds of disappointment or of regret, follow the advice of the great Master and lead a life of righteousness. Ye who yearn for riches, come and receive treasures that are eternal.
The truth is eternal; it knows neither birth nor death; it has no beginning and no end. Hail the truth, O mortals! Let the truth take possession of your souls.
The truth is the immortal part of mind. The possession of truth is wealth, and a life of truth is happiness.
Establish the truth in your mind, for the truth is the image of the eternal; it portrays the immutable; it reveals the everlasting; the truth gives unto mortals the boon of immortality.
Buddha is the truth; let Buddha dwell in your heart. Extinguish in your soul every desire that antagonizes Buddha, and in the end of your spiritual evolution you will become like Buddha.
That of your soul which cannot or will not develop into Buddha must perish, for it is mere illusion and unreal; it is the source of your error; it is the cause of your misery.
You can make your soul immortal by filling it with truth. Therefore become like unto vessels fit to receive the ambrosia of the Master's words. Cleanse yourselves of sin and sanctify your lives. There is no other way of reaching the truth.
Learn to distinguish between Self and Truth. Self is the cause of selfishness and the source of sin; truth cleaves to no self; it is universal and leads to justice and righteousness.
Self, that which seems to those who love their self as their being, is not the eternal, the everlasting, the imperishable. Seek not self, but seek the truth.
If we liberate our souls from our petty selves, wish no ill to others, and become clear as a crystal diamond reflecting the light of truth, what a radiant picture will appear in us mirroring things as they are, without the admixture of burning desires, without the distortion of erroneous illusion, without the agitation of sinful unrest.
He who seeks self must learn to distinguish between the false self and the true self. His ego and all his egotism are the false self. They are unreal illusions and perishable combinations. He only who identifies his self with the truth will attain Nirvana; and he who has entered Nirvana has attained Buddhahood; he has acquired the highest bliss; he has become that which is eternal and immortal.
All compound things shall be dissolved again, worlds will break to pieces and our individualities will be scattered; but the words of Buddha will remain forever.
The extinction of self is salvation; the annihilation of self is the condition of enlightenment; the blotting out of self is Nirvana. Happy is he who has ceased to live for pleasure and rests in the truth. Verily his composure and tranquility of mind are the highest bliss.
Let us take our refuge in the Buddha, for he has found the everlasting in the transient. Let us take our refuge in that which is the immutable in the changes of existence. Let us take our refuge in the truth that is established through the enlightenment of Buddha.
Eventually I'll read the whole thing. I came across that while reading A Modern Buddhist Bible: Essential Readings From East and West, edited by Donald S. Lopez, Jr.
Posted by Ashley at 5:30 PM
There are millions of charities in the world. There are charities for every conceivable purpose. So obviously, it isn't easy to sort through them to find the one that you feel the best about. That's where Charity Navigator comes in. I personally use Charity Navigator every time I hear about a charity or think about giving money to one.
The purpose of Charity Navigator is to show you what happens to the money you donate to specific organizations. Every charity listed has its own profile which includes information such as a breakdown of expenses, capacity, ratings, income statements, a history, leadership and their salaries, and a list of similar charities.
Some great features of the site include categories, Tips & Resources, and the "My Charities" list (a service that you have to setup a free membership for). There is also a complete directory of charities reviewed by the site. There are also lists such as "Top Ten Charities Everyone's Heard Of" that'll give you a few ideas if you're not sure where to start.
Posted by Ashley at 12:48 PM
09 April 2007
Richard Norton-Taylor has written a piece for The Guardian called "Revolution, flashmobs, and brain chips. A grim vision of the future". It's quite an interesting read. Here's an excerpt:
An electromagnetic pulse will probably become operational by 2035 able to destroy all communications systems in a selected area or be used against a "world city" such as an international business service hub. The development of neutron weapons which destroy living organs but not buildings "might make a weapon of choice for extreme ethnic cleansing in an increasingly populated world". The use of unmanned weapons platforms would enable the "application of lethal force without human intervention, raising consequential legal and ethical issues". The "explicit use" of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons and devices delivered by unmanned vehicles or missiles.
Posted by Ashley at 5:12 PM
A decorated Korean War hero, Walter F. Murphy was on his way to a conference at Princeton University when a clerk told him that he was on the Terrorist Watch List. After being surprised by this, the clerk asked him if he had been to any peace marches lately, because "we ban a lot of people from flying because of that." No, he hadn't been to any peach marches, but in September 2006 he had given a public lecture highly critical of George Bush. He shared his experience at Balkinization.
Another terrifying example of how much freedom Americans are loosing.