Taigen's Peace and Justice Page
2-26-13 - Happy Chernobyl Day - April 26, 1986
Starting a page for Fukushima today [a subpage of Engaged Buddhism/Current Events] featuring links and comments from Taigen Dan Leighton and John Steiner - the situation is much worse than it gets credit for being.
2-21-13 - Below is a link to my Dharma talk to my sangha Monday evening, reporting on my trip to Washington D.C. and the Climate Change rally in Washington D.C. Sunday Feb. 17.
This was a rally opposing development of the Keystone XL pipeline, which has been described by NASA scientist and leading climatologist James Hansen as "game-over" for climate change.
Close to 50,000 people attended from all over the country to urge President Obama to block this pipeline.
I decided to participate and took a 12 hour overnight bus ride Saturday evening to get there, and a 12 hour overnight bus ride back to Chicago Sunday night, organized by the Sierra Club, because this seems to me the key moral issue of this time. The future of our species, if not a habitable planet, is at stake.
A crucial point about the Keystone XL pipeline issue specifically is that the decision does not depend on congress, or the Supreme Court, but solely on President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry. As a leading scholar of Fossil Fuel has said, "Presidential decisions often turn out to be far less significant than imagined, but every now and then what a president decides actually determines how the world turns. Such is the case with the Keystone XL pipeline, which, if built, is slated to bring some of the “dirtiest,” carbon-rich oil on the planet from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. It could determine the fate of the Canadian tar-sands industry and, with it, the future well-being of the planet."
It is crucial for all future generations that we pressure our government and policy makers to adopt a sane energy policy that addresses the climate change happening around the world, and shifts rapidly from fossil fuel to sustainable energy sources. We still have time to lessen the suffering now arising from climate and environmental damage.
As [350.org] founder Bill McKibben has carefully documented, the business plan of the fossil fuel industry will certainly release far, far more carbon into the atmosphere in the next several decades than will sustain human life. He has likened this industry to the Tobacco industry, and now along with the Sierra Club is organizing to stop the Keystone XL pipeline; and also to encourage universities and other institutions to follow the successful example of divestment from South Africa, and stop investments in the fossil fuel industry, and eliminate all such investments over five years.
My talk below includes much more detail about Sunday's demonstration.
President Obama will face great pressure from the extremely wealthy fossil fuel industry, but if you want to support and encourage President Obama to stop the Keystone Pipeline, please call The White House comment line at 202-456-1111; submit comments at www.whitehouse.gov/contact; or write: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500.
Please Spread the Word
Related to this, Shudo Spring sends a link to Compassionate Earth Walk
7-31-12 - New York State is now in the cross-hairs of the gas industry and Governor Cuomo is itching to yield to them. That is why it is necessary to raise a storm and let him know we've caught on to the dangers of fracking. For those living in or near New York State, please sign and disseminate the petition. The same website has another form of the petition that non-residents can sign. With blessings, Ven. Bhikkhu Bodh. - Sent by Taigen
A message from Taigen on the threat of fracking
We face a serious new threat from the parasitic multi-national corporate profiteers already threatening us and many generations to come with Climate change, and more nuclear melt-downs from Fukushima model defective reactors built by General Electric.
Gas hydro-fracking endangers the environment and safe drinking water in increasing portions of the country.
The current Columbia Magazine includes a good, somewhat lengthy article about Josh Fox, Director of the documentary film Gasland, and about the serious dangers of fracking, including New York, Pennsylvania, and now L.A., though the peril is also in Wisconsin and Texas, among other states.
It is worth reading, at: [http://www.magazine.columbia.edu/features/summer-2012/gas-menagerie]
This Fracking has become personal for me, as the Zen temple of my friend and colleague, Rev. Dai-en Bennage, in northern Pennsylvania, is threatened, along with her whole region.
I have circulated on several Buddhist-related websites an open letter signed by a number of Buddhist teachers. Copies of it can be found on the informative environmental website EcoBuddhism: and also on my community's website. It mentions the relevant national representatives for her district in Pennsylvania to contact.
7-27-12 - received from Taigen Dan Leighton today:
Zen Buddhist Temple in Pennsylvania Endangered by Natural Gas Fracking
8-25-11 - These three short talks by FDR are inspiring examples of Presidential leadership, well worth watching now. FDR speaks of a second Bill of Rights, including the right to useful and remunerative work, the right to medical care, a decent home, and a good education as requirements for true security. This still applies today as principles for a moral society. FDR says that business and financial monopoly, reckless banking, and war profiteering have begun to consider the government as a mere appendage to their own affairs, and speaks of the danger of these forces. He "welcomes their hatred." FDR does not say that politics "are broken" and then dedicate himself to healing all partisanship by any means necessary. Politics involves struggle and conflict, and to engage in politics does not primarily mean placating or compromising with those causing harm. The social safety network established by FDR is now under attanck by corporate-sponsored politicians in both parties. It is up to all of us to speak up for a decent society. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoFLH8D7Xys&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjSTQwamo8M&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUZGkNAUSvY&feature=related
8-11-11 - Meditation Workshop for Social Activists Saturday August 20, 10 am - 1:00, 2:30 - 5 pm, Ancient Dragon Zen Gate, Chicago This workshop will include meditation instruction and manageable meditation periods, as well as meditative techniques to use during actions. The day will also include open discussion on meditative perspectives on activism, for example: sustainable activism without succumbing to burn-out or feeling overwhelmed; finding flexibility around particular tactics, and openness to new strategies; meditative approaches to non-violent civil disobedience; how to use the energy of anger and outrage without being controlled by it; and other related issues suggested by participants. The workshop will be conducted by Taigen Dan Leighton, Soto Zen Buddhist meditation teacher and Dharma Teacher of Ancient Dragon Zen Gate. Taigen also has been a committed activist engaged in Peace and Justice and Environmental organizing and actions for more than 45 years. The workshop will be Saturday August 20, 10 am - 1:00, 2:30 - 5 pm, with break for lunch. Lunch is not provided, but participants are welcome to bring a bag lunch and eat at ADZG, or eat in the neighborhood. Suggested donation $20., but any amount, less or more, will be accepted. Pre-registration is required; contact [firstname.lastname@example.org ] to register, or for more information.
8-08-11 - ALEC exposed. Check out the extremely informative website.
ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is a right-wing front group for our too-big-to-feel corporate overlords who have been willfully destroying our economy and planetary environment, and damaging millions of lives around the world for their own massive personal profit. They have been holding a conference in New Orleans, sponsored by BP and other mega-corporations, such as the Koch brothers. ALEC is drafting national and local legislation, working with national and state legislators to pass laws that damage worker and consumer rights, including privatizing many governmental functions. The ALEC exposed website includes names of state legislators around the country with ALEC ties, worthy of opposing in upcoming elections.
One example of its work, ALEC-sponsored legislation has increased prison population through stringent sentencing laws such as mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenders, then created laws to develop the use of Prisoners in the private sector to do everything from making chicken patties served in public schools, to creating triggers for the drone missiles attacking civilians around the world, taking jobs from American workers in many contexts. See the Nation article on ALEC and Prison Labor.
Please read: Paul Krugman: The President Surrenders
Also read "Democratic Politics in a Nutshell" by Glen Greenwald:
As Rep. Conyers and others say, in the current "deal," Obama went further than the Right-wing Republicans in cutting social security and the social safety network, with no increased taxes to the wealthy and corporations.
Obama and the Democratic leaders totally accepted the Koch bros. corporatists' framing about deficits and budget crisis, instead of the real jobs and growth crisis, according to Robert Reich,
Michael Lerner has commented on this article: Reich plays down the huge culpability of Obama and his economic advisors (who could have been Reich and Krugman, and no Republican forced Obama to go with the pro-corporate advisors he actually chose from the start).
Obama accepted the framing of the problems that the right-wing had developed, and has for 3 years been mis-educating people about the nature of the problem we face. No wonder, then, that he boxed himself in to the current situation in which he may now have few options left. Had he spent the past years educating people to the true situation, he would have had much greater flexibility to stand up to the Republicans in Congress.
Perhaps the greatest danger now is hopelessness and feeling overwhelmed. This is what our Corporate rulers are encouraging, and lots of that is available now.
I voted for the Audacity of Hope in 2008. I'm still looking
7-29-11 - The Supreme Court has given Corporations the right to give unlimited money to buy elections. But the following important story from Truth-out reveals new documentation on how the whole 2004 election was stolen in Ohio. Electoral politics seems less and less a venue for real change.
Bob Fritakis, The Free Press: "A new filing in the King Lincoln Bronzeville v. Blackwell case includes a copy of the Ohio Secretary of State election production system configuration that was in use in Ohio's 2004 presidential election when there was a sudden and unexpected shift in votes for George W. Bush. The filing also includes the revealing deposition of the late Michael Connell. Connell served as the IT guru for the Bush family and Karl Rove."
In These Times, which is Chicago-based but national in scope and distribution. In These Times has won more Project Censored awards (for bringing to light suppressed news stories) than any other magazine.
7-22-11 - Thanks to David Chadwick for maintaining this Peace and Justice page. It has become about five years out of date, through my neglect, not David's. With David's help I now intend to keep it more or less up to date with messages about significant actions or issues, etc., and occasionally new media or book resources. Thank you and bows to David for maintaining this refreshed page.
As David mentioned previously, for about a decade or so, starting with the farcical impeachment of Bill Clinton and continuing through the two stolen administrations of G.W. Bush with his criminal invasions and torture program, both still ongoing, I regularly forwarded to a list of folks articles with information or commentary that seemed useful. Sometimes these were sent out weekly, at times daily, but I discontinued several years ago due to various factors, mostly technical. I now hope to renew such messages on an occasional basis. If you wish to receive these, e-mail me at: email@example.com
on the American media:
I worked much of the 70s as a documentary film editor, which back then ended up meaning lots of work in corporate TV news, including ABC and NBC News in both NYC and SF, including local news but also the Today Show. I did manage to work on a few independent documentaries, including on Leonard Peltier, and Chinese-American immigration, and for Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.
But I saw inside TV News how easily mass views are manipulated, even though back then there was still some healthy investigative reporter context left over from Woodward & Bernstein. One example of manipulation was a story ridiculing Jerry Brown that I sabotaged. I also saw how the whole newsroom goes into high gear for calamities, with the unspoken "Oh boy another disaster," e.g. when I was in the TV newsroom when we were among the very first who heard about Harvey Milk's assassination.
Now it is just full-time corporate propaganda, almost no exceptions, from Fox News down to the NY Times and NPR, who still frame all issues very much in terms of the mainstream corporate profit interests. Prime examples are talking about them as tax cuts instead of social service cuts; taking seriously the American invasions and foreign occupations as part of a supposedly realistic "War on Terror"; and pretending that there is any serious debate about climate damage, visible to all these days. Such a debate is like debating the pros and cons of slavery, or of child abuse.
But it is still possible to find out what is happening outside the corporate media, if you work at it.
Overseas mainstream news, such as BBC news, also provide much more of a reality view than any U.S. mainstream corporate media.
Reliable useful information is also available in many good books, many of which I have not yet read. But here are a sampling that are very helpful.
The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein. A very important book with clear information about the devolution of our economy to the current Disaster Capitalism, in which corporate profiteers enrich themselves by exploiting and encouraging natural and man-mad disasters, e.g. the South Asian tsunami, Katrina, Haiti.
Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet [yes aa eaarth] by Bill McKibben, leading environmental scientist & climate activist. He details how our planet itself is already completely transformed in past 2 or 4 decades, much too late to stop it, and how we may best respond now. Very important, scientific information. Of course climate damage is obvious all round the world now, except in the claims of oil profiteers who've made vast personal profit from this devastation and mass-killing, and their shills in the congress and media.
JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters, by James Douglass (Touchstone Book, 2008).
James Douglass is an old-line Catholic Worker into Thomas Merton. The book is very thorough, and meticulously documented. This book reveals, with full documentation, that after the Cuban missile crisis almost led to nuclear war, JFK worked secretly together with Khrushchev, and had Decided to completely end the Cold War, and was about to End our role in Vietnam War when he got back from Dallas. Lots more fascinating details. After years of propaganda about his womanizing etc., I'd forgotten who JFK really was, and how courageous. A lot of this has never been revealed, though maybe as a whole we already knew. Douglass manages to end the book sort of upbeat. But reading it changed a great deal of how I see the last 50 years.
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, by John Perkins relates very clearly details of how US and multinational corporate dominance works, from one who was in the middle of it all over the world, from the Mideast to Indonesia to Latin America. This includes how airplane crashes are used to dispose of uncooperative heads of our client states.
Perkins has a second book, Hoodwinked, which I've not gotten to yet, but which has also been recommended by a reliable source.
On speaking about social issues in a Dharma context:
I have had to Work a lot at how to talk about current issues in Dharma contexts. But I feel I must do that, some of the time, as a Precept holder with responsibility to bodhisattva precepts. This is about basic morality, not politics.
Anger is a difficult obstacle. One Vinaya commentary says that Not being angry when it is appropriate violates the anger precept. But practically speaking, self-righteousness and stridency automatically stop people listening, maybe especially Buddhists. So the great energy of anger must be transformed, and breathing and other mindfulness practices can be used to transform the energy resource of anger into sustainable commitment, determination, resolve.
I believe in Preaching to the Choir. We need to keep talking about it all together somehow. I like the Buddhist slogan, "Awareness is Transformative" on many levels, personal and societal. Discussing what is happening in the world, informing folks, is important. How real change happens is mysterious, but it happens. "Suddenly"- Egypt!, and the possibility of democracy, even though it remains to be seen how that one will turn out.
We all do have the ability to respond to the suffering of our world, and we must use this response-ability if we are to do buddha's work. But it is important not to be self-righteous about tactics or strategy. How the current situation will be transformed is not at all apparent. So each of us can respond in our own particular ways; there is not one right approach. Though not sure I've ever met such a one, theoretically I can completely believe that the samadhi of one person sitting up on a mountain might somehow end the war in Afghanistan (though perhaps not so likely).
Surprisingly, a good guide for some of this comes from the US tax code. For Religious 501C3 nonprofit groups, you cannot advocate for a candidate or party, or particular legislation. But it is just fine to talk about the issues. I say that when I speak on issues in Dharma contexts, and that I actually have no desire to advocate for political parties, etc. At this point, both parties serve the corporate interests, with very rare exceptional people, and all of those have been driven out or are endangered by the free-spending on elections by the Koch Brothers from the John Birch Society, and their huge fortune, such election-buying recently sanctioned by the Supremes Court.
current issues and actions:
David has already posted about the hunger-strike around California state prisons, protesting the torture of prisoners at Pelican State Bay prison in Northern California. Prisoners now face death daily from hunger and need support. In addition to what David has already posted, See the powerful NY Times op-ed :
You can call Gov. Jerry Brown, as I have, at (916) 445-2841.
Or you can e-mail him, as I have also done, via: http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php
For more information on what you can do, See: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/take-action/cdcr-and-california-elected-officials-contact-informaion/
Resource disparity in U.S., a couple of statistics:
The wealthiest 1% in the U.S. make 25% of the income.
The wealthiest 400 people have more assets than the lowest 50% of Americans, 150 million people.
Tar Sand Pipeline Nightmare
If you were in Chicago 68 or Woodstock 69, or if you were not yet born but wish you'd been at these cultural landmarks, the place to be in late August, 2011 is Washington D.C.
President Barack Obama will decide as early as September whether to light a fuse to the largest carbon bomb in North America. That bomb is the massive tar sands field in Canada’s Alberta province. And the fuse is the 1,700-mile long Keystone XL Pipeline that would transport this dirtiest of petroleum fuels all the way to Texas refineries.
The Keystone XL Pipeline is a climate and pollution horror beyond description. From August 15th to September 5th, thousands of Americans – including Bill McKibben, Danny Glover, and NASA’s Dr. James Hansen – will be protesting at the White House, day after day, demanding Obama reject this tar sands nightmare. Given the high stakes, many protestors will also engage in peaceful civil disobedience, day after day.
If built, the Keystone XL Pipeline would lock America into a future of planet-warming energy dependency. Indeed, Dr. Hansen – America’s top climate scientist – has said that full exploitation of Canada’s tar sands would constitute a "game over" scenario for efforts to solve climate change.
President Obama alone – without input from Congress – has the power to approve or reject the Keystone XL Pipeline. He will decide as soon as September whether to honor his campaign pledge to create a clean-energy economy – including wind power for the mid-Atlantic and beyond – or to lock us in as a nation that cooks and distills filthy tar sands for much of our energy.
There has already been a massive oil leak of Tar Sands oil from a pipeline in Montana last week. On many levels this would poison our environment.
For more information see:
[see July 5 item]
Taigen's Peace and Justice Archives - pre 7-21-11
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