Monday, November 30, 2009

Coming Home from the Graveyard

This morning filmmaker and author Michael Moore wrote an Open Letter for President Obama regarding Afghanistan-- a brilliantly written piece that I've copied below. Increasing troops in Afghanistan is not what I voted for--not what any Obama supporter I know voted for. Please take action as he indicates at the end of his article.

November 30th, 2009 3:44 AM

An Open Letter to President Obama from Michael Moore

Dear President Obama,

Do you really want to be the new "war president"? If you go to West Point tomorrow night (Tuesday, 8pm) and announce that you are increasing, rather than withdrawing, the troops in Afghanistan, you are the new war president. Pure and simple. And with that you will do the worst possible thing you could do -- destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you. With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics. You will teach them what they've always heard is true -- that all politicians are alike. I simply can't believe you're about to do what they say you are going to do. Please say it isn't so.

It is not your job to do what the generals tell you to do. We are a civilian-run government. WE tell the Joint Chiefs what to do, not the other way around. That's the way General Washington insisted it must be. That's what President Truman told General MacArthur when MacArthur wanted to invade China. "You're fired!," said Truman, and that was that. And you should have fired Gen. McChrystal when he went to the press to preempt you, telling the press what YOU had to do. Let me be blunt: We love our kids in the armed services, but we f*#&in' hate these generals, from Westmoreland in Vietnam to, yes, even Colin Powell for lying to the UN with his made-up drawings of WMD (he has since sought redemption).

So now you feel backed into a corner. 30 years ago this past Thursday (Thanksgiving) the Soviet generals had a cool idea -- "Let's invade Afghanistan!" Well, that turned out to be the final nail in the USSR coffin.

There's a reason they don't call Afghanistan the "Garden State" (though they probably should, seeing how the corrupt President Karzai, whom we back, has his brother in the heroin trade raising poppies). Afghanistan's nickname is the "Graveyard of Empires." If you don't believe it, give the British a call. I'd have you call Genghis Khan but I lost his number. I do have Gorbachev's number though. It's + 41 22 789 1662. I'm sure he could give you an earful about the historic blunder you're about to commit.

With our economic collapse still in full swing and our precious young men and women being sacrificed on the altar of arrogance and greed, the breakdown of this great civilization we call America will head, full throttle, into oblivion if you become the "war president." Empires never think the end is near, until the end is here. Empires think that more evil will force the heathens to toe the line -- and yet it never works. The heathens usually tear them to shreds.

Choose carefully, President Obama. You of all people know that it doesn't have to be this way. You still have a few hours to listen to your heart, and your own clear thinking. You know that nothing good can come from sending more troops halfway around the world to a place neither you nor they understand, to achieve an objective that neither you nor they understand, in a country that does not want us there. You can feel it in your bones.

I know you know that there are LESS than a hundred al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan! A hundred thousand troops trying to crush a hundred guys living in caves? Are you serious? Have you drunk Bush's Kool-Aid? I refuse to believe it.

Your potential decision to expand the war (while saying that you're doing it so you can "end the war") will do more to set your legacy in stone than any of the great things you've said and done in your first year. One more throwing a bone from you to the Republicans and the coalition of the hopeful and the hopeless may be gone -- and this nation will be back in the hands of the haters quicker than you can shout "tea bag!"

Choose carefully, Mr. President. Your corporate backers are going to abandon you as soon as it is clear you are a one-term president and that the nation will be safely back in the hands of the usual idiots who do their bidding. That could be Wednesday morning.

We the people still love you. We the people still have a sliver of hope. But we the people can't take it anymore. We can't take your caving in, over and over, when we elected you by a big, wide margin of millions to get in there and get the job done. What part of "landslide victory" don't you understand?

Don't be deceived into thinking that sending a few more troops into Afghanistan will make a difference, or earn you the respect of the haters. They will not stop until this country is torn asunder and every last dollar is extracted from the poor and soon-to-be poor. You could send a million troops over there and the crazy Right still wouldn't be happy. You would still be the victim of their incessant venom on hate radio and television because no matter what you do, you can't change the one thing about yourself that sends them over the edge.

The haters were not the ones who elected you, and they can't be won over by abandoning the rest of us.

President Obama, it's time to come home. Ask your neighbors in Chicago and the parents of the young men and women doing the fighting and dying if they want more billions and more troops sent to Afghanistan. Do you think they will say, "No, we don't need health care, we don't need jobs, we don't need homes. You go on ahead, Mr. President, and send our wealth and our sons and daughters overseas, 'cause we don't need them, either."

What would Martin Luther King, Jr. do? What would your grandmother do? Not send more poor people to kill other poor people who pose no threat to them, that's what they'd do. Not spend billions and trillions to wage war while American children are sleeping on the streets and standing in bread lines.

All of us that voted and prayed for you and cried the night of your victory have endured an Orwellian hell of eight years of crimes committed in our name: torture, rendition, suspension of the bill of rights, invading nations who had not attacked us, blowing up neighborhoods that Saddam "might" be in (but never was), slaughtering wedding parties in Afghanistan. We watched as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were slaughtered and tens of thousands of our brave young men and women were killed, maimed, or endured mental anguish -- the full terror of which we scarcely know.

When we elected you we didn't expect miracles. We didn't even expect much change. But we expected some. We thought you would stop the madness. Stop the killing. Stop the insane idea that men with guns can reorganize a nation that doesn't even function as a nation and never, ever has.

Stop, stop, stop! For the sake of the lives of young Americans and Afghan civilians, stop. For the sake of your presidency, hope, and the future of our nation, stop. For God's sake, stop.

Tonight we still have hope.

Tomorrow, we shall see. The ball is in your court. You DON'T have to do this. You can be a profile in courage. You can be your mother's son.

We're counting on you.

Michael Moore

P.S. There's still time to have your voice heard. Call the White House at 202-456-1111 or email the President.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bad Day at the Mall?

I know, I know. You're slumped in your chair pouting because by the time you got there, all the really cool stuff had already been swooped up at the mall.

Well, here's something to take the slump away-- an amazing music video put together by sangha brother Chris (aka Bowdawg). The music is Jetsunma's, and the devotion and creativity is pure Chris.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Two Black Friday Gifts for You

In the short time that I've used it, I've learned that Twitter is an amazing way to spread love and compassion throughout the world. Today I received two Tweets that I wanted to share with you.

The first is from Jetsunma-- a video of a guided meditation she taught in 1995.

Whenever we engage in meritorious activity such as meditation, it's appropriate to dedicate the merit to others. How perfect that Ani Palmo Tweeted a dedication prayer soon after!

Jetsunma taught this dedication prayer to the children at our temple many years ago, but like all her teachings to children, this one ain't just for the kiddies.

Children's Dedication Prayer
I dedicate this merit to the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings.
May I come to know them all as my family,
and may I save them from suffering in this
and every future lifetime.
May all sentient beings no longer suffer.
May I bring them food to eat,
clothing to keep them warm,
houses to make them safe,
and love to make them strong.
In this way, may all my mothers and fathers be happy
and practice Dharma until they are all free.
~ Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tears for Nepal

(Photo copied from the Facebook page of Tibetan Volunteers for Animals)

The past couple days were especially dark days on our tiny planet. In southern Nepal a huge Hindu celebration took place, in which half a million animals were ritually slaughtered to appease the goddess Gadhimai.

People and organizations from all over the world tried in vain to stop the Gadhimai sacrifice, known as the largest animal sacrifice in the world. They begged and petitioned the Nepalese government to intervene. They suggested alternatives to the slaughter, like offering flowers, incense or even food. Anything but innocent lives. Not wanting to interfere with religious practices, the government allowed the sacrifice to proceed.

Though this enormous sacrifice occurs every 5 years, many are wondering why it never received such press before. It's doubtful that it will ever fall into anonymity again.

A Nepalese man named Jagdish Aarohi wrote this appeal in a Republica Op-ed piece :
Twenty years ago, I first visited Gadhimai Jatra, a festival that is held every five years in my native Bara district. I was interested in photography and wanted to take some good pictures of Nepal’s indigenous culture. I did not fulfill my mission. Instead, I became a tireless campaigner for the abolishment of animal sacrifice.

I was not born a campaigner. I was born in Kalaiya, headquarters of Bara, in a vegetarian, quiet, middle-class farming family. I mainly worked as a farmer but enjoyed doing a little bit of social work in my free time. I never thought I would be the one to carry placards and distribute leaflet to devotees at the world’s largest killing fields of sacrificial beasts.

The first thing I witnessed at Gadhimai was the killing of five different kinds of animals as in panchabali: Buffaloes, goats, pigs, roosters and rats. The animals’ throats are slit with a knife. It is not done quickly. The animals die a slow and extremely cruel, violent death while the priests sprinkle the blood across the image of the deity and its surroundings. Legend has it that the longer it takes for the animal to die, the happier the goddess will be.

The whole affair stunned and nauseated me. I never knew that such kind of cruelty existed. But the worst was yet to come. Right after the completion of panchabali sacrifice comes the buffaloes’ turn. Drunken slaughterers—they are made to drink as a sane person cannot do such a task—enter the fenced yard where around 20,000 buffaloes are kept. Wielding swords, axe and khukuris, the men start randomly hacking the buffaloes’ necks.

The sword-bearers cannot chop off the buffaloes´ heads at one go because of the thick size of its necks. To make their task easier, the hackers first cut the buffaloes’ hind legs after which the animal falls on the ground. They then start hacking the neck until the head is separated from the body. It takes 20 to 25 swing of the sword to annihilate a big buffalo. The suffering the animals go through is unimaginable.

After witnessing the Gadhimai carnage, I started having terrible nightmares. I would see blood wherever I turned to look.

After I regained my senses, I vowed to campaign against such killings at all cost. Come what may, I would not give up. True to my vow, I have been campaigning and voluntarily working to improve the conditions of animals for the past 15 years.

If the Gadhimai organizers have their way, one can encounter the horrendous scenes on November 24 and 25. This time, the organizers want to set a world record by killing half a million animals. The unfortunate animals will include 20,000 buffaloes, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks and pigeons as well as mice and rats. According to the rules of the Gadhimai festival, all creatures that are brought here must be killed within two days.

The last Gadhimai festival held in 2004 saw 20,000 buffaloes sacrificed. Interestingly, the Gadhimai committee keeps the record of the number of sacrificial buffaloes because the devotees have to pay to get their animals beheaded. This year, the committee expects this number to cross the 25,000 mark. The committee, however, does not keep records of other animals or birds because of the sheer overwhelming numbers.

No sane person can endure such barbaric killings. But that is not all. Three to four days after the massacre, people start fleeing the Gadhimai venue because of the nauseating smell that starts to emit. Cars, rickshaws and cyclist start taking alternative routes. It is the people living in nearby localities who suffer the most. While the temple area turns into a breeding ground for disease, many fall sick. It takes months for the smell to go away.

I think there is hardly any other country that can be compared with Nepal when it comes to gruesome killings and bloodshed of animals. The extreme cruelty has been going on unabated. There are many other smaller-scale festivals like Gadhimai where panchabali and mass sacrifice is practiced. These are not even reported in the media....

...Why is the civil society keeping mum about the issue? Where are the role models who stop animal sacrifice in their own family, clan or neighborhood? Should we let our leaders get away by letting them say: ‘Gadhimai is too sensitive an issue to address’?

Animals cannot speak for themselves. Until now, it has been the priests speaking for them: Bring more, kill more animals. Few seem to realize that the Gadhimai organizers plan to raise millions through tenders and beheading fees. Animal sacrifice is a big business. For how long will we remain mute and let this inhuman killings in the name of religion continue?

Some of you might know that Jetsunma is now on Twitter. As we learned about the sacrifice, she began a string of Tweets inviting everyone to join us in prayers and commenting on the utter cruelty of such a festival. Her last few Tweets about it yesterday :
Now that all the thousands of animals have been murdered in Nepal, do the people feel better? Happier? Blessed? What ever happened to Karma?

What about the terrible suffering of 500,000 animals! Does their suffering make anyone a better person? Will the people and the land benefit?

How can purposefully causing suffering help anyone? Here in US we have horrific animal suffering too. Neglected, abused;such suffering!

A reasonable or compassionate person of ANY faith must be appalled! I think the skies WEEP for sorrow at the sight of horror inflicted!

As Buddhists, we pray for all involved. Certainly the animals have suffered unimaginable pain and terror. We also consider the horrific karma created by the people involved--those who did the killing, those who encouraged or permitted it, those who used the killings to raise money, those who offered their animals, those who did not rise in opposition, those who enjoyed themselves, those who felt satisfaction. We consider the children who were permanently scarred by witnessing such atrocities.

Karma is exacting. To whatever degree they participated, they have created the karma to experience the same exact suffering as they inflicted. It may not be in this lifetime. And that is the biggest obstacle. For if any of us immediately experienced the karma we created, atrocities like this would never, ever take place. Ultimately this 2-day celebration will result in eons of suffering--- in the perpetuation of the karmic interplay between killer and victim. Just as war cannot bring about peace, neither can slaughter bring about blessings.

May all such karmic cycles end for all beings.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


This is just hilarious.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pea Soup for Brains

I apologize for not having written much lately. I think the prednisone is affecting the part of my brain where creativity usually percolates. Lately it feels more like it's sputtering, like when you heat up split pea soup.

Brains are so...complicated. Only certain areas seem to be involved. I can focus fairly well and just finished reading a long novel (which kind of stunk but I hung in there for the absolute worst ending ever). But when it comes to creating something--gathering together the bits and pieces of a story I have in mind and stitching them together into sentences, paragraphs and a post-- it just isn't happening.

A few weeks ago when the prednisone dose was really high, my mind was like being in one of those game show booths filled with money when they turn on the fan. I couldn't grab hold of any thought for very long.

This is different. This is driving in the fog. You can see parts of the road, but it's the parts you can't see that unnerve you. (Wait a sec. "Unnerved" is too dramatic a word to describe how I feel. Something between "unnerved" and "unfazed" is what I'm looking for. Ugh, I'm just not finding the right word in my head. Where did all the words go?)

See what I mean?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day Prayer

With gratitude for those who have risked their lives
hoping to protect others
I pray
for all existing wars to end
for all new wars to be averted
for all people to know peace
in their minds
in their hearts
and in every fiber of their being

There never was a good war or a bad peace.
Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Republicans on Charade

Today I watched this video of somber, "concerned" Republicans in the House of Representatives taking pot-shots at the Democrat's health care reform bill while trying to bolster support for the "Hey We Got One, Too!" Republican bill. They were unconvincing, to say the least.

Rep. Mike Pense tried his best to look gravely concerned. He was near tears as he described an upcoming meeting with WWII veterans, telling how he'd make sure to spend time shaking every hand and thank them for risking their lives for protecting our freedom. He tried to link that somehow to Democrats who might vote with Republicans. (I don't get the connection. And given their abysmal track record with veteran's affairs, I really don't think Republicans should be bringing up the subject.)

Rep John Boehner spent the most time talking. I was curious about his voting record on health issues and looked it up on Project Vote Smart :
2008 Supported the interests of the Academy of General Dentistry 0%

2007-2008 Supported the interests of the National Breast Cancer Coalition 25%

2007-2008 St. Joseph Health System gave Rep. Boehner a grade of 0.

2007-2008 Supported the interests of the The Children's Health Fund 20%

2007 Supported the interests of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy 50%

2007 Supported the interests of the American Academy of Family Physicians 0%

2007 Supported the interests of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology 0%

2007 Supported the interests of the Assoc. of University Centers on Disabilities 0%

2007 Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance gave Rep. Boehner a rating of 50.

2007 Supported the interests of the League of Women Voters 0%

2007 On the votes that The Children's Health Fund considered to be the most important, Rep. Boehner voted their preferred position 0% of the time. reports that in this last election cycle Rep. Boehner received $445,000 from the health care industry-- 88% of it from Health Insurance and Pharmaceutical Manufacturers. In fact, during this same period, Rep. Boehner was the #2 Top Recipient of Contributions from the Pharmaceutical Industry in the entire House of Representatives.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor also chimed in, so I took a look at his voting record as well :

2008 Supported the interests of the Academy of General Dentistry 0%

2007-2008 Supported the interests of the National Breast Cancer Coalition 0%

2007-2008 St. Joseph Health System gave Rep. Cantor a grade of 8.

2007-2008 Supported the interests of the The Children's Health Fund 30%

2007 Supported the interests of the Academy of General Dentistry 0%

2007 Supported the interests of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy 100%

2007 Supported the interests of the American Academy of Family Physicians 0%

2007 Supported the interests of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology 0%

2007 Supported the interests of the Assoc. of University Centers on Disabilities 0%

2007 Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance gave Rep. Cantor a rating of 50.

2007 Supported the interests of the League of Women Voters 20%

2007 On the votes that The Children's Health Fund considered to be the most important, Rep. Cantor voted their preferred position 0% of the time.

Rep. Cantor accepted $341,000 from the health insurance industry for his last election--the second largest industry to support his campaign.

At the end of the charade, when they had grown tired of feigning outrage and promising to protect Americans, Rep. Boehner said, "The American people do not want this." Rep. Boehner, you are absolutely right. We don't.