December 25, 2007 archive

Four at Four

Some news and the afternoon’s open thread.

  1. Merry Christmas from George W. Bush.

    According to the AP, Bush makes holiday calls to troops. “Bush made Christmas Eve calls to 10 U.S. troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other spots around the world, thanking them for their sacrifice and wishing them a happy holiday even though they’ll be far away from their families and friends. The president made his calls Monday from the Camp David presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains, where he is spending Christmas. He spoke with members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard, including seven serving in Iraq… Among those joining the president at the wooded compound in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains are Mrs. Bush’s mother, Jenna Welch; and the first couple’s twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna; the president’s sister, Doro Bush Koch and her family; and the president’s brother, Marvin, and his family.”

  2. Merry Christmas from Iraq.

    The AP reports Suicide attacks in Iraq kill at least 34. “Two separate suicide attacks, including one apparently targeting workers in a northern oil hub, killed at least 34 people on Tuesday… A suicide truck bomb exploded outside a residential complex belonging to a state-run oil company in Beiji, home to Iraq’s largest refinery, killing 25 people and wounding 80… Most of the dead were civilians, and at least four were children… In Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, 10 people were killed and five people were wounded in a suicide bombing… Local officials said a bomber wearing an explosives vest targeted a funeral procession for two members of an Awakening Council group – fighters who have turned against al-Qaida in Iraq – who were accidentally killed by U.S. troops during a dawn raid.”

  3. Merry Christmas from Afghanistan.

    The Canadian Press reports Christmas in Kandahar not quite the same without snow and family. “It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas in Kandahar, but without a speck of snow in sight, Canadian troops say it just doesn’t quite feel like it… Carols, festive fare, dance parties, and king can beer rations have even been plentiful this Christmas Eve, but for family men like Capt. Patrick Hannan, it just isn’t the same without his wife and 10-year-old daughter.” Stories in the American press about U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan? Not a one that I could find, but France’s AFP reports on A Christmas far away from home for troops in Afghanistan.

  4. Merry Christmas to Pakistan.

    According to The New York Times, American aid may help the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

    Weeks before it is to begin, an ambitious American aid plan to counter militancy in Pakistan’s tribal areas is threatened by important unresolved questions about who will monitor the money and whether it could fall into the wrong hands…

    Weeks before it is to begin, an ambitious American aid plan to counter militancy in Pakistan’s tribal areas is threatened by important unresolved questions about who will monitor the money and whether it could fall into the wrong hands…

    The region remains so dangerous that it is virtually off limits even to American military officials and civilians who would oversee the programs. The Pakistani authorities have ruled out using foreign nonprofit groups, known as NGOs, shorthand for nongovernmental organizations. But neither do they approve the American choice of private contractors. They would like the money to go through them…

    Concerns about corruption are so severe, however, that the first grants will be held to only about $25,000 each, to finance small projects like repairing water wells and small sewage plants…

    Because the United States is viewed with such opprobrium, it will not be identified on any of the aid, preventing any possible flow of good will. The aid will instead be presented as Pakistani. That, said a senior United States Embassy official, would help the Pakistanis feel like owners of the effort. “This is about teaching them how to get smart about how to run the country and win people’s support,” the official said.

May there be peace on Earth.

Our Christmas in the Barn (with video)

My wife, children and I aren’t practicing Christians but we do believe that Jesus was part of the divine hierarchy that has guided the overall evolution of the human being.  We have celebrated a somewhat traditional Christmas as a family ever since Leslie and I got married years ago, but we gradually started making small alterations to the way we celebrated together that were consistent with our spiritual practice. For years Leslie has done an excellent job of working out how to mold our holiday celebrations into something more Sahaj or natural. One example of this she describes in her post about transforming Independence Day into Inner Dependence Day.


Sorry for the last essay, I’m not a wonk by any means of the imagination, but occasionally I want to be and try my hand at it, usually it fails miserably.  Currently I don’t even feel like much of a tech guy as it seems I was able to break my own SoapBlox site in under 4 hours.  Please remove my Contributing Editor status as I feel I don’t belong in the same company as the rest of the crew and would do more damage than good by remaining directly connected to Docudharma.

An online reputation is easily wrecked, I’ve wrecked my own twice, both with bad essays that should have been researched further.  Let this serve as a warning to those newer bloggers that don’t understand the power vested in credibility.

Thanks for giving me a shot.  May the next person do a better job.


Merry Christmas Dharmenizens!

Boys, Girls, and Jewellry

There is an interesting summary over at alternet about the rustic and complicated politics behind the gifting of jewellry. Essentailly, the gifting of jewellry is fraught with sterotypical notions that reinforce traditional power relationships between men and women. What does it all come down to? Men are stupid and desparate and women are endlessly manipulative. Men are told through adds that they still have to buy sex, and women are told they are only desired if they recieve a worthy bauble.

Indeed, the workplace ritual of a newly engaged women “showing off” her engagment ring is also a time of judegment. Did he get her a big enough ring, is it pretty enough? How does it compare to the others. I see it after Christmas as well. I can’t count how many times I have been asked if I plan to “upgrade” my little chip. The history of the diamond engagment ring is largely a lesson in marketing when DeBeers launched their, ” A diamond is forever” campaign in the 1940’s. Within three years of that campaign launch 80 percent of American marriages were starting with a diamond ring. Never mind that diamonds have frequently been harvested through slavery and used to fund conflict. The diamond industry is hyper sensitive about this and claims here that most diamonds on the market today are conflict free. However, if you buy online at Amazon it isn’t easy to get a straight answer about the source.

Diamonds became more accessible for ordinary people and DeBeers conveniently controlled a large portion of the market. Women learned they should covet diamonds. I work with many a young woman who is waiting to get engaged until their intended can “save” enough for an appropriate rock.

LCE: The Hydrogen Economy vs The Sustainable Poutpourri

This a Lazy Comment Essay, where I copy a comment from elsewhere as a short essay.

This comment is in response to a comment thread in my own diary on the Big Orange (posted here first), The Next Economic Revolution: Economic Growth and the Steady State.

paul2port says:

Regarding energy

Wood, followed by coal, followed by oil followed by….

Energy specialists seem to think the next sustainable energy economy will be — hydrogen.

There needs to be a lot of innovation and breaking down of the old established system to replace oil.

It can’t come too soon, as far as I am concerned. …

And then after a round where I demur and raise some issues and he answers and I demur again, says:

We’re not arguing here

The elegant solution might involve that tricky, tiny atom, hydrogen. Let’s put aside the political aspects your quite correctly identify, just for a moment. It might work someday.

In the meantime I’m all in favor of some inelegant kludge. If solar photovoltaics come down in price there will be a point where you won’t care if they’re only 20-30% efficient. There’s so much solar energy hitting the earth that they’ll simply be everywhere.

My Lazy Comment Essay, after the Fold.

Lesser Of Two Evils?

Which presidents and political parties were responsible for America’s deadliest wars? To what extent can you blame a president or a political party for choosing to go to war? This map may hold some answers. It illustrates the history of American war from 1775 to 2006. War is a necessary evil. Politics, however, shouldn’t be.

Pony Party, Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!!!!

(If you’ve never seen “Love Actually”, please don’t think that song is meant to be serious!)

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.~Garrison Keillor

Christmas in Iraq

I’ve written about the real War on Christmas- in Iraq. Well, the New York Times has this, today, from Baghdad:

Inside the beige church guarded by the men with the AK-47s, a choir sang Christmas songs in Arabic. An old woman in black closed her eyes while a girl in a cherry-red dress, with tights and shoes to match, craned her neck toward rows of empty pews near the back.

“Last year it was full,” said Yusef Hanna, a parishioner. “So many people have left – gone up north, or out of the country.”

In a safe neighborhood, in the midst of the relative calm of the current relative downturn in violence, this is still less than a Merry Christmas.

Iraq’s Christians have fared poorly since the fall of Saddam Hussein, with their houses or businesses frequently attacked. Some priests estimate that as much as two-thirds of the community, or about one million people, have fled, making Sacred Heart typical. Though a handful have recently returned from abroad, only 120 people attended Mass on Monday night, down from 400 two years ago.

But, of course, that was in a safe neighborhood. Elsewhere, the violence continues, irrespective of religion or season. The Washington Post reports:

Gunmen stopped a minibus driving north of Baghdad on Monday and abducted 13 Iraqi civilians inside, Iraqi police reported. The mass kidnapping was a renewed tactic that has grown increasingly rare as violence has ebbed in Iraq.

An ominous sign?


Merry Christmas From Docudharma

Let’s Open Our Presents

Headlines For December 25: A School in Georgia as a Laboratory for Getting Along: Alaskans Weigh the Cost of Gold: Court curbs insurers’ ability to rescind medical policies: Italy seeks Condor plot suspects: At Christmas, Iraqi Christians Ask for Forgiveness, and for Peace


A School in Georgia as a Laboratory for Getting Along

DECATUR, Ga. – Parents at an elementary school here gathered last Thursday afternoon with a holiday mission: to prepare boxes of food for needy families fleeing some of the world’s horrific civil wars.

The community effort to help refugees resembled countless others at this time of year, with an exception. The recipients were not many thousands of miles away. They were students in the school and their families.

More than half the 380 students at this unusual school outside Atlanta are refugees from some 40 countries, many torn by war. The other students come from low-income families in Decatur, and from middle- and upper-middle-class families in the area who want to expose their children to other cultures. Together they form an eclectic community of Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims, well-off and poor, of established local families and new arrivals who collectively speak about 50 languages.

Alaskans Weigh the Cost of Gold

Mine Could Imperil Salmon, Way of Life

NONDALTON, Alaska — The gold mine proposed for this stunning open country might be the largest in North America. It would involve building the biggest dam in the world at the headwaters of the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, which it would risk obliterating.

Epic even by Alaskan standards, the planned Pebble Mine has divided a state normally enthusiastic about extracting whatever value can be found in its wide-open spaces. It is an ambivalence that has upended traditional politics, divided families and come to rest at kitchen tables like the one 75-year-old Olga Balluta sat beside one autumn afternoon, listing her favorite foods.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

The muses are ancient.  The inspirations for our stories were said to be born from them.  Muses of song and dance, or poetry and prose, of comedy and tragedy, of the inward and the outward.  In one version they are Calliope, Euterpe and Terpsichore, Erato and Clio, Thalia and Melpomene, Polyhymnia and Urania.

It has also been traditional to name a tenth muse.  Plato declared Sappho to be the tenth muse, the muse of women poets.  Others have been suggested throughout the centuries.  I don’t have a name for one, but I do think there should be a muse for the graphical arts.  And maybe there should be many more.

Please join us inside to celebrate our various muses…

The Doctor and The Dying Woman

“I am dying, doctor.  What should be done?”

“Get better parents next time.”

Most everyone here has probably read of the “dying woman,” Kathy Stengl, who is confronting presidential candidates.  The following is just one account:…

[Mike Huckabee] greeted her. She told him of her diagnosis and a need to redirect health care spending.

“Actually, that’s what I did in Arkansas,” Huckabee said. “We started moving our whole state system toward prevention.”

Stangl asked what he would do as president to change the national health care system.

Huckabee responded that it must start with federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

The preacher did a bit better than Dr. Ron Paul might have done but not much.  If Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (Lam) is a genetic disease, as suspected, the only prevention would be preventing the birth of those with the defect.  Since Huckabee is a right-to-lifer, one might shudder at his proposal for prevention.

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