Monday, March 31, 2008


I'm looking at the face of Mental Blog, and off there to the right, in the sidebar, I have two little display units, one on top of the other. The first is called Random Wisdom. The second, Quote of the Day. Ordinarily I wouldn't point them out. They are there for you to notice if you've managed to spend more than 10 seconds on the page.

But today I want to draw attention to them, because the two quotes, entirely without my help, somehow seem to complement one another. The Random Wisdom was inserted by me a few days ago. But the Quote of the Day comes randomly from the Quote of the Day Magic Wizard, so I never know what's going to show up.

And here's what they say:

In the company of others, guard your speech.
Whenever you are alone, guard your mind.
Dipamkara Atisha: The Jewel Rosary of the Bodhisattvas

Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute.
Josh Billings

The first is obviously a Dharma quotation. That's what Random Wisdom random pick of Dharma quotes. Atisha was one of the great arya beings who helped establish Buddhism in Tibet. He was one of the first, if not the first, to codify the teachings into a graduated path known as Lam Rim.

The second is also a Dharma quotation. But not quite so intentional. I didn't know who Josh Billings was until I Googled his name. Wikipedia says old Josh was "the pen name of humorist born Henry Wheeler Shaw (20 April 181814 October 1885). He was perhaps the second most famous humor writer and lecturer in the United States in the second half of the 19th century after Mark Twain, although his reputation has not fared so well with later generations."

He was also the guy who really made famous the line about the squeaky wheel getting the grease. Not bad. One hundred and fifty years later, we may not know his name, but we sure know what he said. Wouldn't we all like to claim something like that?

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Chinese Soldiers Impersonating Monks

OK, so this is coming to you third-hand or so. I found this photo on the Kalachakranet website, along with an article attributed to Canada Free Press, dated March 21/08. I couldn't find the original of this article on the Canada Free Press site, so take it however you wish. There have been other stories in the last few days of how the Chinese inserted agents provocateurs into the Tibetan situation to incite violence and make the demonstrators look bad. But this picture, if it's legit, has got to be the most graphic illustration possible.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

The Brodhagen Eagle

Carved into the remains of a tree at the side of Perth Line 44, the entrance to John & Mary Van Bakel's place.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Give China Time...?

Predictably, since the spate of anti-Chinese Western media coverage following the Tibetan uprising, there has begun to be some push-back (both by the Chinese government and by Chinese media people and bloggers) and some more sober second thought.

It's true. Some of the Western media have distorted what coverage they were able to maintain, either deliberately or through ignorance. (And some of that ignorance can be blamed on the Chinese themselves...if you don't let people in to see what's going on, what do you expect?)

The first inkling I had of this was one of the early photos of a security officer chasing down a monk, about to hit him over the head from behind. I think I saw this from the Globe and Mail (or maybe National Post). Now, the caption to this photo stated that it was a Nepali police officer. In other words, this violence was not even taking place in Tibet, but in Nepal. But unless you paid attention to the caption, you saw a Tibetan monk about to be beaten by a policeman. And what would you assume, given all the news about riots in Tibet? That this was a Chinese policeman beating a Tibetan monk in Tibet. In fact, I heard a radio commentator mention this photo in precisely that context.

And there have been other instances.

So today, the LA Times has an article discussing this. And the cultural differences that make Westerners think of China as the demon (as opposed to the Dalai Lama), and that make the Chinese take these calls for restraint in Tibet very personally. We are given to understand that change cannot come all at once. That we must be sensitive to these cultural differences. That the Chinese government really are a bunch of good guys, but you have to understand, they are just as nationalistic as the next government. They don't want their country dismembered, and from their end, the Dalai Lama certainly looks like a splittist. They have no reason to trust his statements about non-violence, or his plea for autonomy not independence. He ain't no god-king to them. He looks like just another politician who's saying one thing but doing another.

At the end of the article, there is this quote:
"There's been significant improvement," said Xiao Gongqin, a history professor at Shanghai Normal University.

"Outsiders should avoid pressuring China too much or it will return to radicalism," Xiao said. "China will improve and enjoy more democratic rights, but it needs time."
OK. Let's say we go along with this. Never mind that this is the standard excuse in all cases of dictatorships trying to stave off the inevitable. Let's accept it for now.

How much longer did you think you might need, Chinese government? You've been in power since 1949, nearly sixty years now. Occupied Tibet for nearly fifty. In historical terms, I guess that's a blip.

But that fifty years in Tibet has been quite long enough to seriously endanger the cultural survival of Tibetans, not to mention ecological and economic survival (as Tibetans, not converted Chinese...)

So, do you think another sixty years might be enough to accomplish your democratic purposes? Is that enough time? Can we maybe sell you some guns to help with that? (Western countries are very good at selling guns...)

Here's my fear: that it is indeed just enough time to make things like the Tibetan problem just "go away".

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Dalai Lama's Anniversary Statement

The Statement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the Forty-Ninth Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day

On the occasion of the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan people's peaceful uprising in Lhasa on 10 March 1959, I offer my prayers and pay tribute to those brave men and women of Tibet who have endured untold hardships and sacrificed their lives for the cause of the Tibetan people and express my solidarity with those Tibetans presently undergoing repression and ill-treatment. I also extend my greetings to Tibetans in and outside Tibet, supporters of the Tibetan cause and all who cherish justice.

For nearly six decades, Tibetans in the whole of Tibet known as Cholkha-Sum (V-Tsang, Kham and Amdo) have had to live in a state of constant fear, intimidation and suspicion under Chinese repression. Nevertheless, in addition to maintaining their religious aim, a sense of nationalism and their unique culture, the Tibetan people have been able to keep alive their basic aspiration for freedom. I have great admiration for the special characteristics of the Tibetan people and their indomitable courage. I am extremely pleased and proud of them.

Many governments, non-governmental organizations and individuals across the world, because of their interest in peace and justice, have consistently supported the cause of Tibet. Particularly during the past year, governments and peoples of many countries made important gestures that clearly expressed their support to us. I would like to express my gratitude to every one of them.

The problem of Tibet is very complicated. It is intrinsically linked with many issues: politics, the nature of society, law, human rights, religion, culture, the identity of a people, the economy and the state of the natural environment. Consequently, a comprehensive approach must be adopted to resolve this problem that takes into account the benefits to all parties involved, rather than one party alone. Therefore, we have been firm in our commitment to a mutually beneficial policy, the Middle-Way approach, and have made sincere and persistent efforts towards achieving this for many years. Since 2002, my envoys have conducted six rounds of talks with concerned officials of the People's Republic of China to discuss relevant issues. These extensive discussions have helped to clear away some of their doubts and enabled us to explain our aspirations to them. However, on the fundamental issue, there has been no concrete result at all. And during the past few years, Tibet has witnessed increased repression and brutality. In spite of these unfortunate developments, my stand and determination to pursue the Middle-Way policy and to continue our dialogue with the Chinese government remain unchanged.

A major concern of the People's Republic of China is its lack of legitimacy in Tibet. The principal way to lend weight to their position is for the Chinese government to pursue a policy that satisfies the Tibetan people and gains their confidence. If we are able to achieve reconciliation by treading a path of mutual consent, then, as I have already stated many times, I will make every effort to win the support of the Tibetan people.

In Tibet today, due to the Chinese government's numerous actions, driven as they are by a lack of foresight, the natural environment has been severely damaged. And, as a result of their policy of population transfer the non-Tibetan population has increased many times, reducing native Tibetans to an insignificant minority in their own country. Moreover, the language, customs and traditions of Tibet, which reflect the true nature and identity of the Tibetan people, are gradually fading away. As a consequence, Tibetans are increasingly being assimilated into the larger Chinese population. In Tibet, repression continues to increase with numerous, unimaginable and gross violations of human rights, denial of religious freedom and the politicization of religious issues. All these take place as a result of the Chinese government's lack of respect for the Tibetan people. These are major obstacles the Chinese government deliberately puts in the way of its policy of unifying nationalities which discriminate between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples. Therefore, I urge the Chinese government to bring an immediate halt to such policies.

Although the areas inhabited by Tibetan people are referred to by such different names as autonomous region autonomous prefectures and autonomous counties, they are autonomous in name only; they actually have no real autonomy. Instead, they are governed by people who are oblivious of the regional situation, and driven by what Mao Zedong called "Han chauvinism". As a result, this so-called autonomy has not brought the concerned nationalities any tangible benefit. Disingenuous policies that are not in tune with reality are causing enormous harm not only to the respective nationalities, but also to the unity and stability of the Chinese nation. It is important for the Chinese government, as advised by Deng Xiaoping, to "seek truth from facts" in the real sense of the term.

The Chinese government severely criticizes me when I raise questions about the welfare of the Tibetan people before the international community. Until we reach a mutually beneficial solution, I have a historical and moral responsibility to continue to speak out freely on their behalf. However, it is common knowledge that I have been in semi-retirement since the political leadership of the Tibetan Diaspora has been directly elected by the general Tibetan populace.

China is emerging as a powerful country due to her great economic progress. This is to be welcomed, but it has also provided China an opportunity to play an important role on the global stage. The world is eagerly waiting to see how the present Chinese leadership will put into effect its avowed concepts of "harmonious society" and "peaceful rise". For the realization of these concepts, economic progress alone will not suffice. There must be improvements in observance of the rule of law, transparency, and right to information, as well as freedom of speech. Since China is a country of many nationalities, they must all be given equality and freedom to protect their respective unique identities if the country is to remain stable.

On 6 March 2008, President Hu Jintao stated: "The stability in Tibet concerns the stability of the country, and the safety in Tibet concerns the safety of the country." He added that the Chinese leadership must ensure the well-being of Tibetans, improve the work related to religions and ethnic groups, and maintain social harmony and stability. President Hu's statement conforms to reality and we look forward to its implementation.

This year, the Chinese people are proudly and eagerly awaiting the opening of the Olympic Games. I have, from the very beginning, supported the idea that China should be granted the opportunity to host the Olympic Games. Since such international sporting events, and especially the Olympics, uphold the principles of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, equality and friendship, China should prove herself a good host by providing these freedoms. Therefore, besides sending their athletes, the international community should remind the Chinese government of these issues. I have come to know that many parliaments, individuals and nongovernmental organizations around the globe are undertaking a number of activities in view of the opportunity that exists for China to make a positive change. I admire their sincerity; I would like to state emphatically that it will be very important to observe the period following the conclusion of the Games. The Olympic Games no doubt will greatly impact the minds of the Chinese people. The world should, therefore, explore ways of investing their collective energies in producing a continuous positive change inside China even after the Olympics have come to an end.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my pride in and appreciation for the sincerity, courage and determination of the Tibetan people inside Tibet. I urge them to continue to work peacefully and within the law to ensure that all the minority nationalities of the People's Republic of China, including the Tibetan people, enjoy their legitimate rights and benefits.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Government and people of India, in particular, for their continuing and unparalleled support for Tibetan refugees and the cause of Tibet, as well as expressing my gratitude to all those governments and peoples for their continued concern for the Tibetan cause.

With my prayers for the well-being of all sentient beings.

The Dalai Lama
10 March 2008

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Boycott the Beijing Olympics

Update March 22/08:
For what it's worth, the National Post agrees with me.

I think the world should turn its back on the Chinese and spurn the Olympic Games. The government of China has clearly demonstrated that it does not possess any of the values espoused by the Olympics. By their actions in Tibet they are showing that they are thugs.

They can't admit to the truth even in the face of evidence. Today they are admitting that the security forces have shot four Tibetans. That's two short of the evidence presented by Students for a Free Tibet. And many many short of the independent reports coming out of Tibet. Go to this site. But be prepared to see some gruesome photos. And that's just the brutality of the last few days. Never mind what has been perpetrated over 50 years.

What galls me the most is the way the Chinese have lied. Barefaced. As if they really expect the world to believe what they are saying. Is there anyone who truly believes that the man who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 is the one who is responsible for encouraging violent protests in Tibet?

Mostly I am indifferent to the Olympics. I don't pay much attention to them. So, it's easy for me to say boycott the games. Actually, I am in a sense opposed to the Olympics because I believe the organizers themselves have betrayed the ideals of the games. As far as I'm concerned, they're now more about money than any kind of sportsmanship. Be that as it may, we all want our bread and circuses, no? So, let the games begin.

Or rather, let them not begin this time around. Let us tell Beijing that the Olympic games are reserved for nations that show themselves to be civilized.

For a long time I fell for the argument that we should not make the athletes who train so hard and dream so abundantly of gold pay the price of upholding political or humanitarian principles. They're just athletes, it's said. They have nothing to do with politics.


I heard that argument again today. "We should not make the athletes into political pawns," someone said. And that's when the scales fell from my eyes.

What do they think? That China does not see these Olympic Games in political terms? Capturing the Olympic Games was a political and propaganda coup! The athletes are already political pawns, whether the IOC wants to admit it or not. And furthermore, the athletes have always been pawns in the Olympic money game. They are economic pawns. So I ask you, what is the essential difference between being a political pawn or an economic one?

And I'll tell you the difference. None. Except that money always seems to trump human rights. Why else are we falling all over ourselves in the rush to trade with China?

Let's for once do the right thing instead of the profitable thing.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Iraq War Turns 5

I hope I never have to use the headline: Iraq War Turns 50.

I have only one other thing to say, since there is not much that is original which can be said. Some of us foresaw from the beginning what a travesty this would be. Some of us sensed the lies without having any way of confirming our intuition.

This is what I have to say, after five years: The Murrican media should hang their heads in shame.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Peace Symbol Turns 50

By JOSEPH B. FRAZIER, Associated Press Writer Mon Mar 17, 2:49 PM ET

"Peace: The Biography of a Symbol" (National Geographic Books. 175 pages. $25), by Ken Kolsbun with Michael Sweeney: Baby Boomers may recall it through a swirl of tear gas, scrawled on walls, on signs in marches and silent sit-ins, or on the helmet covers of weary Vietnam soldiers.

The peace sign, which turns 50 in April, was introduced in a calmer Britain in 1958 to promote nuclear disarmament, and spread fast as times got tense.

Since its inception, it has been revered as a sign of our better angels and cursed as the "footprint of the American chicken."

The symbol that helped define a generation is less evident now, but it is far from forgotten. After what it went through, how could it be?

National Geographic Books is out with "Peace: The Biography of a Symbol," by Ken Kolsbun and Michael Sweeney, which traces the simple symbol from its scratched-out origins based on the semaphore flag positions for N and D (nuclear disarmament) to the influence it had, and retains, in social movements.

While the book details how the symbol came to be and how it spread, it focuses more on the backdrop of the peace movement generally, from its antecedents in the McCarthyism of the 1950s to nuclear proliferation, Vietnam, Kent State and the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention to its later promotions of other causes.

It has become "a rallying cry for almost any group working for social change," the authors write.

The book is enhanced by numerous photos, some chillingly familiar, some simply nostalgic.

Who can forget the frantic teenager kneeling over the fallen student at Kent State University. Or the student sticking a flower in the barrel of a National Guard rifle? Or the whaling ship bearing down on a Greenpeace raft? Or Woodstock?

The symbol itself was created by a British pacifist textile designer, Gerald Holtom, who initially considered using a cross but got an icy reception from some of the churches he sought as allies.

So on a wet, chilly Good Friday — April 4, 1958 — the symbol as we know it made its debut in London's Trafalgar Square where thousands gathered to support a "ban the bomb" movement and to make a long march to Aldermaston, where atomic weapons research was being done.

While Holtom designed the symbol, the U.S Patent and Trademark Office ruled in 1970 that it is in the public domain. It was quickly commercialized, showing up, among other places, on packages of Lucky Strike cigarettes, but also on a 1999 postage stamp after a public vote to pick 15 commemoratives to honor the 1960s.

Kolsbun is a jack of many trades that include longtime and enthusiastic peace activism, a propensity that shows through. Sweeney is a professor of journalism at Utah State University.

If you recall the mood and times of the '60s and 1970s, the book will take you back. Depending on your level of enthusiasm then, you might imagine a whiff of tear gas. Or recall the better times of the 1967 Summer of Love, which a lot of GIs remember another way.

Holtom clung to his pacifist beliefs to the end, which came on Sept. 18, 1985 at 71. His will requested that his grave marker be carved with two of his peace symbols, inverted.

For reasons unclear, the authors write, they aren't inverted. They're exactly the way he made them.

Maybe that's why.

Credits: I copied this article in its entirety from Yahoo News. I could have taken info out and put it in my own words, but I'm too lazy. The image is not included in the original article. Don't know where that came from.

Interesting article. I think it's fascinating that this symbol is not even as old as me. But then I'm 251 years old according to my profile.

The peace symbol seems as necessary now as it was 50 years ago. Maybe even more. Remember the "Peace Dividend" when the Cold War ended? Fantasy. We've been hearing a good deal in the last few days about the 3 trillion dollar bill to the US for Iraq. Iraq is just one of the many conflicts occurring right now. My two previous posts demonstrate that China is not a peaceful nation. Kosovo is heating up again. Darfur. Kenya. Sri Lanka. Columbia. Afghanistan. I haven't bothered to look for it, but I'm sure the Net has a page that lists the conflicts going on around the world right now.

They're not world wars, but they add up. And the victims most likely don't care that their conflict is "localized".

Really, we need more than the symbol. We need some of the real thing.

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Help the Tibetans Pt.II

Dear friends,
Tibetans have exploded onto the streets in frustration--call on China to respect human rights and enter dialogue with the Dalai Lama now:

After decades of repression under Chinese rule, the Tibetan people's frustrations have burst onto the streets in protests and riots. With the spotlight of the upcoming Olympic Games now on China, Tibetans are crying out to the world for change.

The Chinese government has said that the protesters who have not yet surrendered "will be punished". Its leaders are right now considering a crucial choice between escalating brutality or dialogue that could determine the future of Tibet, and China.

We can affect this historic choice--China does care about its international reputation. China's President Hu Jintao needs to hear that the 'Made in China' brand and the upcoming Olympics in Beijing can succeed only if he makes the right choice. But it will take an avalanche of global people power to get his attention--and we need it in the next 48 hours.

The Tibetan Nobel peace prize winner and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama has called for restraint and dialogue: he needs the world's people to support him. Click below now to sign the petition--and tell absolutely everyone you can right away--our goal is 1 million voices united for Tibet:

China's economy is totally dependent on "Made in China" exports that we all buy, and the government is keen to make the Olympics in Beijing this summer a celebration of a new China, respected as a leading world power. China is also a very diverse country with a brutal past and has reason to be concerned about its stability -- some of Tibet's rioters killed innocent people. But President Hu must recognize that the greatest danger to Chinese stability and development comes from hardliners who advocate escalating repression, not from Tibetans who seek dialogue and reform.

We will deliver our petition directly to Chinese officials in London, New York, and Beijing, but it must be a massive number before we deliver the petition. Please forward this to your address book with a note explaining to your friends why this is important, or use our tell-a-friend tool to email your address book--it will come up after you sign the petition.

The Tibetan people have suffered quietly for decades. It is finally their moment to speak--we must help them be heard.

With hope and respect,

Ricken, Iain, Graziela, Paul, Galit, Pascal, Milena, Ben and the whole Avaaz team

PS - It has been suggested that the Chinese government may block the Avaaz website as a result of this email, and thousands of Avaaz members in China will no longer be able to participate in our community. A poll of Avaaz members over the weekend showed that over 80% of us believed it was still important to act on Tibet despite this terrible potential loss to our community, if we thought we could make a difference. If we are blocked, Avaaz will help maintain the campaign for internet freedom for all Chinese people, so that our members in China can one day rejoin our community.

Here are some links with more information on the Tibetan protests and the Chinese response:

BBC News: UN Calls for Restraint in Tibet

Human Rights Watch: China Restrain from Violently Attacking Protesters

Associated Press: Tibet Unrest Sparks Global Reaction

New York Times: China Takes Steps to Thwart Reporting on Tibet Protests

ABOUT AVAAZ is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means "voice" in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Paris, Washington DC, and Geneva.

Don't forget to check out our Facebook and Myspace pages!

To contact Avaaz, write to You can also send postal mail to our New York office: 260 Fifth Avenue, 9th floor, New York, NY 10001 U.S.A.

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