Blog Archive

13 June 2009

Penguins win 3rd Stanley Cup

Way to go Pens !

12 June 2009

Japanese Buddhist based party wants to drop pacifism from constitution

Kyoko Okawa, leader of the Buddhism based Happiness Realization Party in Japan, has called for Article 9 (outlining Japan's pacifist based defense stance) to be dropped from the Japanese constitution in a recent interview. Her husband Ryuho Okawa founded the party (and the religious sect it is based upon) and believes he is the reincarnation of the Buddha. While Mr. Okawa's statements seem to discount his reincarnation story, he says Japan needs to take a more militaristic stance in its region-
  • "If you take the 'thou shalt not kill' precept too far, you cannot protect your country. Historical fact shows that weakness in Buddhism," Kyoko said. "That's why we wanted to develop Buddhist teaching."

The Okawa's also believe that external threats from Korea and China justify a more proactive stance in the defense of Japan. Far from a fringe group, the Party claims 10,000,000 members and could have some impact on elections in October.

Buddhists in Japan calling for militarization is not as crazy as it sounds. All of the Zen Buddhist sects in Japan supported the Emperor and the militaristic Japanese government in World War 2 which inflicted horrifying atrocities upon the people of China, Korea and many other countries that were the targets of their imperialistic ambitions. While many Buddhists like to describe their beliefs as being based upon peace and love, and abhorring killing in any form, they have yet to come to grips with the actions of Zen Buddhists in World War 2.

I don't believe that Mr. Okawa's statements in any way tarnish or devalue the message of peace spread by the Buddha. As with many other philosophies and religions, the message can become perverted over time as individuals attempt to spin the teachings for their own gain. I hope that Mr. Okawa finds his way back to the proper path soon.

11 June 2009

Newspaper Article on size of Flight 93 Memorial

A local columnist from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is also asking why the Flight 93 Memorial needs to be so big at the expense of local landowners.

Russia willing to abandon nuclear weapons.

Wow. As if you needed any further proof of the global influence of "Confessions of a Buddhist Anarchist," Vladimir Putin signaled that Russia is willing to abandon nuclear weapons if other countries are willing to do the same. Story Here. Vladimir has been trying to add me as a friend on Facebook for months and I guess I better finally give in.

Russia is simply running into the same economic constraints that all nations owning nuclear weapons must face. These weapons are horrendously expensive to design, build and maintain. You don't simply drop a missile in a silo and forget about it. They need constant maintenance and testing, not to mention security. Given Russia's dependence upon oil prices, which have only recently started to move higher, it is no wonder that Putin wants to get rid of some of these useless Cold War toys.

10 June 2009

Let them eat Plutonium

U.S. strategic and diplomatic efforts, along with those of the United Nations, have been geared towards the prevention of the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons by certain nations. Although the nuclear genie is apparently out of the bottle in North Korea, the U.S. government is hopeful that a mix of diplomatic, trade and military efforts will be enough to convince the Iranians to shelve their nuclear ambitions. Although it would be heresy to state it in Washington D.C., countries such as Iran should be free to develop any nuclear weapons that they want. Why ? Because they too will learn what a tremendous waste of money and national resources these weapons are.

It is estimated that by the year 1998, the United States had spent $ 5,800,000,000,000 ($ 5.8 Trillion- no, that is not a misprint) on developing and deploying nuclear weapons (and the delivery systems for them.) This figure is from a 1998 Brookings Report which estimated that annual maintenance was at least another $ 35 billion per year (so add another $ 350 billion or so to come up with the total price tag to date.) These numbers are staggering to say the least and do not include the amounts spent by the former Soviet Union, China, India, Pakistan, France and United Kingdom on their arsenals (not to mention Israel and possibly South Africa.) Taken in total, these numbers could easily double the amount spent by the United States.

Critics will argue that it was the very existence of these weapons that prohibited the Cold War from becoming a shooting war. They say the very deterrence based upon the threat of global annihilation was instrumental in creating one of the longest periods of peace in recent history. While global conflict may have been avoided, a new type of war by proxy was favored to keep the superpowers from conflicting head to head- as evidenced by Korea, Vietnam, the Arab-Israeli wars, Indo-Pakistani conflicts, Nicaragua and Afghanistan. Although the United States and Soviet Union faced no destruction on their own turf, many other nations were mercilessly destroyed in the game of global domination.

As nations like Iran and North Korea will learn, the deployment of nuclear weapons is easily countered by more nuclear weapons being deployed by your adversaries and so on, and so on. The rapid escalation in the sizes of the U.S. and Soviet arsenals matched this spiral as new generations of weapons were deployed leading to new weapons to counter them and so on. Eventually, the arsenal sizes far exceeded any possible strategic use and became the tremendous drain on national expenditures that they are. Moreover, they are tactically useless to these countries. They are vulnerable to adversaries first strike capabilities and guarantee virtual annihilation if unleashed.

Nuclear weapons represent the pinnacle in man's never ending quest to develop better ways to kill other men. Antiseptic terms like CEP, throw-weights, first strike and others totally ignore the horrific capabilities of these weapons which make them so appealing to the madmen who covet them. One document I read as a young intelligence analyst still sticks in my head twenty odd years later. It stated how the Soviets second strike on U.S. cities would utilize biological weapons, smallpox in particular, deployed by ICBM to kill off any survivors crawling around in the rubble. This wasn't fantasy concocted by anti-nuclear proponents, it was hard intelligence. The complete lack of humanity necessary to concoct such a plan (and probably the U.S. counter plan) is beyond frightening.

I would use a completely different diplomatic approach in dealing with these nations. First off, cut the U.S. nuclear arsenal by 90 % and encourage all other nuclear powers to do the same. Use the fuel for the peaceful generation of power and then negotiate to eliminate another 9%. Demonstrate to the wannabe nuclear powers how useless $ 5.8 Trillion worth of paperweights really are. Fears of proliferation can be countered by methods to track the origins of the materials used to make weapons. Every potential nuclear weapon has a return address. Make it clear that any use of such weapons by terrorists puts their host nation on the hook for retaliation. Keep 1% of today's weapons around as a safeguard. That is still adequate to annihilate anyone foolish enough to use them.

The enormity of the cost of nuclear weapons is not the only staggering part. The other is the way in which the U.S. government spent money with little or no oversight from the American people. We were sold a bill of goods by our elected officials based upon fear and propaganda in the same way the the citizens of the Soviet Union were. The entire sorry affair is yet another example of the innate corruption of governments and the economic rape of their citizenry which they indulge in. Imagine the good that these trillions of dollars could have done. The United States could stand, right now, completely debt free and funding the development of medicine, hospitals and transportation throughout the world. Instead, it was squandered in the name of the balance of power. What a different world it could have been.

09 June 2009

Legalize It !

Gay marriage should be legally accepted in the United States. The government, state or federal, should have no role in dictating to free people whom they can, or cannot, marry. The government, state or federal, should not use religious definitions of marriage or justifications to allow, or not allow, marriage between consenting parties. Despite the efforts of the religious right to prove otherwise, we do not live in a theocracy and I refuse to accept non-secular arguments about how people should live their lives.

Ask yourself how complete acceptance of gay marriage would directly affect you. For the life of me, I cannot. It doesn't in anyway weaken, invalidate or cheapen my marriage to the woman that I love. It in no way encroaches upon my rights or civil liberties which, incidentally, were never granted by a state or religion to begin with. It does not prevent me from participating in the commerce at which I work or the pastimes at which I play. I could honestly care less what my neighbors do in their own homes and lives as long as they afford me the same consideration.

I have read many arguments against gay marriage from a religious perspective. I respect the views of others and the passion with which they feel them. However, the liberties that we are born with as free men and women trump all religious arguments against gay marriage. The Old Testament has prohibitions against homosexual behavior- as well as many other arcane laws that few modern Christians or Jews even know about, much less practice. Thank goodness in my own case, my parents didn't have a handy copy of the Old Testament lying around when I came home late on a Friday night-

  • If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. They shall say to the elders of his town, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard." Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. So you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid. (Deut. 21:18-21.)


If the Old Testament was truly dictated by God to Moses, why would it include a prohibition against homosexual acts ? Without going into theological gymnastics, it would appear that this would argue for a Deist point of view- God created the world and all living things upon it. Humans were given free will to go about their business and therefore divine laws were needed to guide them to live their lives. First, most modern Christians, especially those that are born again and converse with God, would reject the Deist argument that the world is basically God's model train display that he gave life to and walked away. Alternatively, given evidence that homosexuality has a biological causation we must conclude that God created homosexuals. This begs the question of why God would create homosexuals and yet ban their behavior. Does he have a really bad sense of humor or does he enjoy the shame and persecutions that these people enjoy ?

I would choose answer "c." Something created the universe, name him, her or it whatever you want. This brings to mind the Buddha's famous parable about the man wounded by the arrow. The Buddha asked a man if he was shot by an arrow would he enquire into who shot the arrow, the composition of the arrow etc. or would he ask a doctor to remove it. He answered correctly and the best path was to address the immediate problem and pull out the arrow. Instead of sitting around all day thinking about who shot the arrow, and bleeding to death in the process, think in the here and now and save the man. If God does exist, his true intentions and way of thinking are unfathomable. If he is a just and loving God, then he created everything- heterosexuals, birds, thunderstorms, homosexuals, you name it. All created things are equal and deserve equal treatment and respect.

From a civil perspective, homosexuals need marital rights in order to codify their rights especially in terms of property, living wills, decedents estates and employer benefits. All citizens regardless of sexual preference deserve these basic rights protected by law. Protecting the rights of homosexuals in no way infringes or reduces the rights of heterosexuals. But, you say, what about polygamy ? Actually, that's fine by me as well. As long as marriage is between consenting adults I could care less if you marry 1 woman, 3 women or another man. Want to marry your cousin ? Fine by me too. This is better regulated by families than the government.

If the religious crowd is dead set against the word "marriage" I would hope the gay marriage supporters would concede and allow it to be called something else. Let's get on with our lives. There are far more pressing issues facing us.

08 June 2009

More on the Flight 93 Memorial

The government has shelved plans to use eminent domain to acquire land for the Flight 93 memorial- for now.
  • From an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. "The federal government backtracked today and decided not to seize the western Pennsylvania property needed to build a Flight 93 memorial, saying instead it would renew negotiations with landowners."

The federal government will attempt to negotiate with the landowners and pay them "fair value" for their properties in order to complete the memorial. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, however, does not rule out the use of eminent domain to seize the land stating that "I know that if we can't get it resolved, eminent domain is still a backstop." In other words, we will smile for the cameras and attempt to make nice, but make no mistake we are prepared to take your property if need be. Complicit in this scheme and present at the meetings with landowners was none other than Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Senator and political survivor extraordinaire. Thanks for standing up for your fellow citizens, Arlen.

The proposed memorial will consist of over 2,000 acres of land. For comparison, the Washington Monument occupies 106 acres and Arlington National Cemetery consists of a little more than 600 acres. Why is such an immense piece of ground needed to commemorate this event thereby necessitating the taking of land from private citizens ? Wouldn't a small park of say 10 or 20 acres and a monument be sufficient ?

Plans for the memorial design are here. Look, I'm no landscape architect and I have zero artistic ability but the design looks hideous to me.