Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A brief history of Religion in 90 seconds

Here is a most interesting map. It largely gets it right. There are a few exceptions / mistakes. Zoorastrianism (the dominant world religion) from the birth of Zaruthustra to the spread of Islam is not mentioned. Neither are the old time religions of Europe: paganism (especially the religions of the Romans and Greeks, animism, wicca, druidism) and the religions of the Nile Valley, Inca and Aztecs. Another small omission is that a Christian blue dot circa 50 AD should have shown up on the Malabar coast of India (to mark the arrival of Christianity in India).

Since it places religion in the context of time it challenges the notion that any one religion has the monopoly on truth. For example, how do you square the Christian belief that only Christains can attain salvation with the fact that Christianity is a relatively new entrant into the world of religion. What happens to the souls of all those Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, and Zoorastrians who lived before Christianity came along. Are they doomed because they had the bad luck of being born before Christ. Is God unfair? Is He capricious?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Slave Trade in Sudan

Slave trade in southern Sudan. Heart wrenching.


Fat Tuesday in Germany....

So I had the opportunity of doing Mardi Gras in Germany. They call it Carnival. I had no idea that it was such a big deal. Its a great party. I was in Mainz which is just outside of Frankfurt. Over 20,000 people, dressed up in costume, partying in the streets, drunk as skunks, singing German bar songs and American pop songs. If you had any doubt that American pop culture is THE world culture it can be put to rest…its something powerful to hear 20,000 Germans congregated in a city square singing along to the Clash or the Nylons or Green Day....The German cops were there but they stayed in their cars, no guns, no violence, no fights, no nothing....Just good, clean albeit inebriated fun...the way it is supposed to be.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Why Dick Cheney may need a stent again but this time in his brain….

There are incredibly optimistic people and then there is Dick Cheney…..Is this guy delusional or what? In an interview this week with ABC news after visiting our troops in Tokyo he says things in Iraq are actually going well: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=2891738

According to Cheney the British withdrawal is actually good news and a sign of progress in Iraq. "Well, I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well," Cheney told ABC News' Jonathan Karl. This despite Tony Blair's own admission that withdrawal is taking place because things have not gone so well.

If women are from Venus and men from Mars then Cheney is from Pluto. Lets pray for the continued good health of President Bush at least for the next two years so our delusional VP does not ever have to ascend to the Oval office. The only worse thing than Bush as President would be Cheney as President.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Day Dysfunction died…the short, hard life of Anna Nicole

When I was young my parents told me not to exploit people who had obvious mental problems. Therefore I never really got into the whole Anna Nicole reality TV thing. Even a few minutes of watching her revealed that the woman’s life was an ongoing train wreck. I actually felt nothing but a sense of sadness when I would happen to catch her antics on TV while channel surfing.

I think it says volumes about how coarse our culture has actually become (and about our fascination with dysfunction) that in death her tragic and pathetically short life has taken on an even larger role. She is pretty much ubiquitous now on cable TV…one may mistakenly think that her death was actually important given the amount of coverage that it is getting. I can’t remember a time since Lady Di met her untimely end in a Paris tunnel when all of the worlds press seemed to have a single minded focus on one story.

Why is America so fascinated by sleaze? She was a waitress, a stripper, a Playboy centerfold, a drug addict and one of the great gold diggers in history. She was briefly married to J. Howard Marshall, a 94 year old billionaire who died shortly after marrying her. She then proceeded to make a claim to half his estate and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court before it was settled. It is rumored his family gave her 400 million dollars to get her to go away. Not bad for a few months marriage where given the age of the groom she probably did not even have to apply her best talents.

I think we are fascinated with Anna Nicole because she embodies all the things (drugs, sex, money) we like to look at from a distance. A woman who due to a weakness of character, suffered a complete loss of control fuelled by her own addictions and demons. And all of this happened on TV, in our living rooms actually. We perhaps self righteously conclude that despite all the bad things we end up doing, all our bad decisions, at least we are not Anna Nicole Smith.....and that makes us feel good.....

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentines Day Debate in the House

My Valentines Day Prayer

Roses are Red,
Viagara is Blue,
Our Iraq Policy is ******,
Can we Impeach W

So the GOP has started a very pardoxical debate today in Congress. Out of one side of their mouths they are saying that the Democrat sponsored non binding resolution opposing the Surge is a toothless and a completely useless gesture. And out of the other side of their mouths they are saying that this action by the Democrats is the first step in handing over our civilization to the Islamo-Fascists. I dont think even a spin meister like Karl Rove can square that circle.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Who by Sri Aurobindo

A friend recently introduced me to the poems of Aurobindo Ghosh. They are beautiful. Here is one called Who?

In the blue of the sky, in the green of the forest
Who's is the hand that has painted the globe
When the winds were asleep, in the womb of the ether
Who was it who aroused them and bathed them to glow
He is lost in the heart...in the cavern of nature
In the luminous net of the stars He is caught
In the strength of a man...in the beauty of a woman
In the laugh of a boy....in the blush of a girl
The hand that sends Jupiter spinning through heaven
Spends all its cunning to fashion a curl.
These are His works, His ways and His shadows
But where is He then...
By what name is He known?
Is He Brahma?Or Vishnu?
A man or a woman?
Bodied or bodiless?
Twin or alone?

Gorgeous huh!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Just How Rich is the United States?

To say you have a 11.5 trillion dollar a year economy is generally meaningless to most folks...11.5 trillion is too large a number for most people to comprehend.

In order to make sense of the number I have typically resorted to comparing the US economic output to the remaining countries of the world.

The US accounts for half of the globes economic production while having only about 5% of the population...This means that the United States alone is as rich as the sum of the GDPs of all remaining 191 countries. Or conversely if the worlds population was 100 people. 5 Americans would produce as much as the remaining 95 people.

I think the link below is a better way to communicate this idea. The writer compares each of the 50 US States output to a country's GDP. It shows starkly the absolute economic primacy of the United States.

Just look at the major countries that are equal to the production of some US States.

Canada= Texas, France = California, Saudi Arabia =Tennessee, Israel = Oregon etc.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Why I like Obama?

On the surface Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) has many disadvantages and hurdles to overcome before he can become President. For starters his middle name is Hussein. His last name misses being Osama by one letter and his first name is pronounced Baraaaak...unpronounceable to many Red Staters and a good number of Blue Staters too.

Then he happens to be black and politically inexperienced (a 3 term IL Congressman and barely a 1/2 term United States Senator - he was elected in 2004). In addition, there have only been two Senators in the history of this country who have moved directly from the Senate to the Oval office (Warren Harding and John F. Kennedy). Therefore you can say that the odds are significantly stacked against him becoming President.......but still I like him. I really, really do.

He has a very sunny disposition - almost Regeanesque in nature. He is also an incredible speaker. He has that rare gift to connect with his audience that very few of our politicians in recent times have had. RR had it and so did Clinton.....that wonderul elocution that is almost otherworldly. He speaks in paragraphs not in sound bytes.

Then there is the gift of his unique lineage. Immigrants and many Americans will identify with and love his story. He is an African-American in the literal sense of the word. The product of a Kenyan and a Kansan (they met in grad school) who grew up in Hawaii, went to Harvard, was the President of the Harvard Law Review (first Black to hold that position) and taught law at the University of Chicago.

He is the first major black politician running for President who is also not a direct descendant of slaves. I think this may be appealing to white voters as he would likely not induce white guilt. His language is also (most refreshingly) of the post civil rights generation. He does not speak in terms of oppression and we shall (or we have to) overcome. He has overcome. He wants the corner suite, the crown, the room with the best view. He wants it because he knows its his birthright. He has broken through the glass ceiling. He is not Sidney Poitier in "Guess Who is Coming to Dinner" but rather the honored guest at the dinner table. An American before he is an African- American....Equal.

In both of his books Dreams of My Father and The Audacity of Hope his story is both inspiring, genuine and open. He admits to expirementing with cocaine and being a lost and angry young man until he found his calling.

He was not in office when the Senate rubber stamped Bushs war in Iraq (he was opposed to it anyway) so he does not have to explain why he authorized the war like Hillary Clinton does. He can come out against the war boldly and without nuance. On the biggest foreign policy blunder in US history he was right and Hillary was wrong.

Is he electable? This is the 64 million dollar question. He is very Liberal. He is ranked as the 18th most liberal Senator in the United States Senate. This is of course problematic once the dirt diggers get out their spades and the fear mongers start to get creative with the truth.

What Red state can Obama win? Once again the other great question. Obama wins if Blacks in Southern states that are traditionally Red come out in droves and vote for him. Is it probable? I am not sure. Histrorically poor blacks do not vote but historically there has also never been a nationally electable black Presidential candidate. Therefore all bets are off. Obama could surprise us.

But first he has to win the nomination. I am not even sure he can do that because in order to do that he has to beat the Clinton machine. She can proabably raise 500 million dollars in the next two years. She has the smartest brain in politics working for her - a fellow by the name of William Jefferson Clinton. So these are the other odds that the young Senator must overcome if he is to prevail.

Either way the next two years are going to be exciting and long. Stay tuned.