Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Right Speech

Negative attacks are part and parcel of politics. Always have been. As the Presidential primary campaign is heating up the attacks are becoming more negative. This process will only continue. In my brief campaign for office the last few months my opponents felt the need to attack me negatively and anonymously (mis-)using words on this blog to do so.

It is easy to lose sight of right and wrong in the heat of such battles. Things one would not normally do to ones neighbor become "acceptable" behavior (for some). Or do they?

From Jack Kornfield's book Teachings of the Buddha:


Abstaining from Lying

Herein someone avoids lying and abstains from it. One speaks the truth, is devoted to the truth, reliable, worthy of confidence, not a deceiver of others. Being at a meeting, or among people, or in the midst of relatives, or in society, or in the king's court, and called upon and asked as witness to tell what one knows, one answers, if one knows nothing: "I know nothing," and if one knows, one answers: "I know"; if one has seen nothing, one answers: "I have seen nothing," and if one has seen, one answers; "I have seen." Thus one never knowingly speaks a lie, either for the sake of one's own advantage, or for the sake of another person's advantage, or for the sake of any advantage whatsoever.

Abstaining from Tale-Bearing

One avoids tale-bearing and abstains from it. What one has heard here, one does not repeat there, so as to cause dissension there; and what one has heard there, one does not repeat here, so as to cause dissension here. Thus one unites those that are divided; and those that are united, one encourages. Concord gladdens one, one delights and rejoices in concord; and it is concord that one spreads by one's words.

Abstaining from Harsh Language

One avoids harsh language and abstains from it. One speaks such words as are gentile, soothing to the ear, loving, such words as go to the heart, and are courteous, friendly, and agreeable to many.

Abstaining from Vain Talk

One avoids vain talk and abstains from it. One speaks at the right time, in accordance with facts, speaks what is useful, speaks of the law and the discipline; one's speech is like a treasure, uttered at the right moment, accompanied by understanding, moderate, and full of sense.

That is called Right Speech.

adapted from the ANGUTTARA NIKAYA,
translated by Nyanatiloka

The concept of Right Speech is one of the Eight-Fold Path often translated as:
Wisdom (Sanskrit: prajñā, Pāli: paññā)
1. Right view
2. Right intention
Ethical conduct (Sanskrit: śīla, Pāli: sīla)
3. Right speech
4. Right action
5. Right livelihood
Mental discipline (Sanskrit and Pāli: samādhi)
6. Right effort
7. Right mindfulness
8. Right concentration

One description I've read contained the following useful paragraph:

The word Samma means 'proper', 'whole', 'thorough', 'integral', 'complete', and 'perfect' - related to English 'summit' - It does not necessarily mean 'right', as opposed to 'wrong'. However it is often translated as "right" which can send a less than accurate message. For instance the opposite of 'Right Awareness' is not necessarily 'Wrong Awareness'. It may simply be incomplete. Use of the word 'right' may make for a neat or consistent list of qualities in translations. The down side is that it can give the impression that the Path is a narrow and moralistic approach to the spiritual life. I use variant interpretations so you consider the depth of meanings. What do these things mean in your life right now?

Our typical western understandings of ethical behavior, particularly when it comes to politics, do little more than pay lip service to such ideas as "right speech."

Must it be so?

I don't think so... but it is so for now. How do we change that? The answer to such questions is usually "Let it begin with me.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Courageous Leadership

I picked up a small used book for a dime awhile back....

"The stories of past courage can define that ingredient - they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.

In such a time as today the limits of human endeavor become more apparent than ever. We cannot depend solely on our material wealth, on our military might, on our intellectual skill or physical courage to see us safely through the seas that we must sail in the months and years to come. Along with all of these we need faith."

Faith in what? For the author and many of us it is faith in God. For the future of our nation I sincerely hope it is faith in the ideals we have espoused this past 231 years.

Military might does not make a great nation. Nor does economic might.

"Peace does not rest in charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people. And in this world no act, no pact, no treaty, no organization can hope to preserve it without the support and the wholehearted commitment of all people."

The author wrote during a time of great danger. Great threat to his country. But I note that he writes of "all people." Not his nations people but all people.

"The meaning of courage, like political motivations, is frequently misunderstood. Some enjoy the excitement of its battle, but fail to note the implications of its consequences. Some admire its virtues in other men and other times, but fail to comprehend its current potentialities.

Without belittling the courage with which men have died, we should not forget those acts of courage with which men have lived."

This is an important point that no one, no one at all, speaks of this in todays political environment. Support the troops or you are a traitor. Show strength and a willingness to fight that either borders on or crosses over into bullyism. But what about the strength and courage it takes to sit down with an enemy and take the risks required to find peace? Or to stand up to the accusations one receives from the right wing even for hinting at suggesting such a thing?

Might it not be a better idea to talk with Iran than bomb them? Might there be some long term value in discussing with arab and other muslim peoples why there is so much anti-americanism and what we can do together to solve the problem? Might that be better than bombing their countries and killing hundreds of thousands of their people?

"The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy."

I think Anwar Sadat and Menachim Begin can attest to that.

"We know now that freedom is more than the rejection of tyranny, that prosperity is more than an escape from want, that partnership is more than a sharing of power. These are all, above all, great human adventures... We are called to a great new mission. It is not a mission of arbitrary power... The mission is to create a new social order, founded on liberty and justice, in which men are the masters of their fate, in which states are the servants of their citizens and in which all men and women can share a better life for themselves and their children."

That is a powerful vision. Why aren't I hearing this out of leaders today? Bush I talked of a "new world order" after the fall of the USSR. Clinton worked on building a global community... even if just economically. Bush II... says you're either with us or against us. The numbers of people "with him" have gotten increasingly smaller. None of these truly displayed a vision or a "new social order."

"Our foremost aim is the control of force, not the pursuit of force, in a world safe for mankind."

Uh... yeah... whatever happened to that? That is a truly courageous concept. One that requires real strength and not just a bully attitude.

"Just as the Family of Man is not limited to a single race or religion, neither can it be limited to a single city or country [editors note: dare I inject "or political party"]. The Family of Man is more than 3 billion strong. It lives in more than 100 nations."

And it has only grown since. What is wrong that understanding such as this has been lost in the dustbin of history? Old Europe, Arabs, south Asia, Koreans, Africans, latin Americans are all our Family. Family squabbles can get real ugly but don't you think at least some of them can be solved by loving our brothers and sisters and following up that love with loving action? Might it not be possible that such loving action would be reciprocated in kind? Just as violent action is reciprocated in kind?

"We must present to the world a concept of freedom which has not been diluted by the evils of prejudice and discrimination. As Woodrow Wilson once said in an address on citizenship: "No amount of dwelling upon the idea of liberty and of justice will accomplish the object we have in view unless we ourselves illustrate the idea of justice and liberty."

"Unless we ourselves illustrate the idea of justice and liberty." We neither protect nor promote our concepts of freedom, justice and the rule of law by compromising or giving them up. It just doesn't work that way.

A free and open society contains inherent risks. This in turn requires the free and open people to exhibit the courage spoken of earlier... the "acts of courage with which men have lived."

"While maintaining our readiness for war, let us exhaust every avenue for peace. Let us always make clear our willingness to talk, if talk will help, and our readiness to fight, if fight we must.

Let us resolve to be the masters, not the victims, of our history, controlling our own destiny without giving way to blind suspicion and emotion.

The making of peace is the noblest work of God-fearing men."


There is so much more but that will do for now. It would do for now if we could but hear a real leader step forth and speak of these things... with strength, and power, and conviction.

* Quotes are all selected from a book published in 1967 called "John F. Kennedy Words to Remember."

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Training equips officers to help mentally ill

I was planning on writing a diary regarding some things John F. Kennedy said a long time ago but that can wait another day.

In todays Troy Record there is an article pertinent to the recent events at Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign office in New Hampshire.

TROY - At 2 a.m. Troy Police Sgt. Matt Montanino gets a call about a person on the Green Island Bridge who is threatening to jump. It's the kind of call that many police officers dread. But Montanino is different. This is just the kind of call he's been trained to handle. Montanino is a volunteer member of the Emotionally Disturbed Persons Response Team (EDPRT).


The Troy Police Department is one of only two municipal law enforcement agencies in the state participating in the EDPRT initiative.

This insightful training first became news back in January 2006...

Troy cops train to deal with mentally ill
By: Ryan T. Fitzpatrick, The Record

TROY - Charged emotions and mental illness pervade many crimes and crises that police officers deal with on a daily basis.

That is why the Troy Police Department has taken its training efforts to the next level with its Emotionally Disturbed Persons Response Team (EDPRT).

A dozen officers graduated from the department's first 40-hour course on mental illness and crisis intervention Friday afternoon at RPI.
Revelations about the reality of mental illness in recent years has led to a shift in how to treat mentally ill suspects and emotionally charged situations.

"We've learned that mental illness is a disability. It is not a choice," said city Police Chief Nicholas Kaiser, addressing an audience of officer-graduates and local government officials.

Statistics show clearly how our prisons are full of people with mental illnesses and/or drug addictions. Rather than treating these problems proactively for what they are we wait until they reach crisis point and then punish them as crimes.

The real crime is our socities lack of response to actively helping our most needy and vulnerable friends, neighbors, and family members.

Training police in how to handle these situations is an excellent start.

Det. Sgt. John Cooney, the department's spokesman and also a graduate of the course, said he is sold on the idea of training officers to handle the mentally ill.

"We're called in to wear all these hats," said Cooney, referring to how officers sometimes have to think like a lawyer, doctor or counselor, depending upon the immediate problem at hand.

Just as a law course or a first-aid course could equip officers with the tools to address immediate legal or medical situations, EDPRT training aims to give officers the ability to effectively handle the role as ad-hoc counselor to a mentally ill person.

That is exactly why officer Mark Millington, a department veteran of 20 years, decided to attend the optional class.

"I was intrigued with it," said Millington. "I wanted some more tools, some more knowledge to deal with people with mental illness, or the emotionally disturbed."


"When they were identifying mental disorders and their symptoms, you rethink instances in your career where you've seen that," he said.

So often police get knocked for what they do wrong. It is important to applaud and highlight the positive roles they fill in society.

Sgt. Eric Weaver, of the Monroe County Sheriff's Department, near Rochester, helped run a similar program that served as a model for Troy's program, which he directed and helped teach.

"It's been my honor to do this. We learned a lot this week about what mental illness is, what mental illness is not," said Weaver. Part of the program established connections between the police and the city's mental-health institutions, such as Samaritan Hospital. "The EDPRT is so much more than responding to calls. It's about working together as a community. The best thing we can do is to work together as a community for the people."

That is part of what was being highlighted in todays follow-up article.

It was recognized recently by Joseph's House & Shelter for bringing compassion to a job that is often carried out in the most stressful of circumstances.

"Sixty-one percent of people who are homeless also have a mental illness. That Joseph's House is honoring our police force says a lot. That's a powerful statement," said Rensselaer County Mental Health Commissioner Katherine Macial.

Several years ago, Macial heard about a program being pioneered by police in Rochester which trained officers how to respond to such calls as potential suicides. They launched a training program to teach officers how to be more effective dealing with people suffering from mental or emotional distress.

The program was the brainchild of then-Sgt. Eric Weaver, who had first-hand knowledge of how debilitating mental illness is. Weaver himself reportedly suffers from bi-polar disorder. In baring his soul about his disability, Weaver enabled other police officers to gain valuable insight into the plight of a person suffering from mental or emotional distress. According to Macial, mental illness is a lot more common than many people realize.

"The EDPRT is a team that the community needs to know about," she said. "And we're starting to expand it. It's such a useful tool to officers when they have to deal with people under great emotional distress."

I applaud and support this effort completely and wonder if folks here on DailyKos might consider talking with their local law enforcement agencies to encourage them to institute similar programs if they have not already.

The initiative has brought more understanding to behavior that was formerly treated as a criminal matter, said Scarlet Clement-Buffoline, assistant vice president of Behavioral Health at Samaritan Hospital, an affiliate of Northeast Health.

Mentally ill people don't get better in solitary confinement in prisons.

"The program has been so successful that we haven't had any injuries to our officers or community members as the result of a call since the program began," he said.

In the past, there was no training in place to help officers determine that the cause of unruly behavior such as breaking a window or resisting arrest could be the result of a person in mental or emotional distress. With the EDPRT training Troy Police can now quickly make that assessment, Kaiser said.

Doesn't it make sense to help officers understand which folks they deal with are in need of help and which ones are actually criminal?

The officers clearly appreciate the added knowledge and tools and as a family member of a mentally ill person I certainly appreciate them knowing how best to come to a peaceful and safe resolution of an out of control situation.

I applaud the Troy, NY and Rochester, NY Police Departments, Chief Kaiser, and Sgt. Weaver for their vision, dedication, and professionalism.

It would probably be a good idea for society as a whole to insist that mental health coverage is available for all people regardless of ability to pay for it too. Might reduce the number of situations the police end up having to deal with in this first place... ya think?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Sharpest Sword

A little bathroom reading today from Teachings of the Buddha

The Gospel of Buddha
by Paul Carus (1894)

On a certain day when the Blessed One dwelt at Jetavana, the garden of Anathapindika, a celestial deva came to him in the shape of a Brahman whose countenance was bright and whose garments were white like snow.

The deva asked questions which the Blessed One answered.

The deva said:
"What is the sharpest sword?
What is the deadliest poison?
What is the fiercest fire?
What is the darkest night?"

The Blessed One replied:
"A word spoken in wrath is the sharpest sword;
covetousness is the deadliest poison;
passion is the fiercest fire;
ignorance is the darkest night."

The deva said:
"Who gains the greatest benefit?
Who loses most?
Which armour is invulnerable?
What is the best weapon?"

The Blessed One replied:
"He is the greatest gainer who gives to others,
and he loses most who greedily receives without gratitude.
Patience is an invulnerable armour;
wisdom is the best weapon."

The deva said:
"Who is the most dangerous thief?
What is the most precious treasure?
Who is most successful in taking away by violence not only on earth, but also in heaven?
What is the securest treasure-trove?"

The Blessed One replied:
"Evil thought is the most dangerous thief;
virtue is the most precious treasure.
The mind takes possession of everything not only on earth, but also in heaven, and immortality is its securest treasure-trove."

The deva said:
"What is attractive?
What is disgusting?
What is the most horrible pain?
What is the greatest enjoyment?"

The Blessed One replied:
"Good is attractive;
evil is disgusting.
A bad conscience is the most tormenting pain;
deliverance is the height of bliss."

The deva asked:
"What causes ruin in the world?
What breaks off friendships?
What is the most violent fever?
Who is the best physician?"

The Blessed One replied:
"Ignorance causes the ruin of the world.
Envy and selfishness break off friendships.
Hatred is the most violent fever,
and the Buddha is the best physician."

The deva then asked and said:
"Now I only have one doubt to be solved;
pray, clear it away:
What is it fire can neither burn,
nor moisture corrode,
nor wind crush down,
but is able to reform the whole world?"

The Blessed One replied:
Neither fire, nor moisture, nor wind can destroy
the blessing of a good deed,
and blessings reform the whole world."

The deva, having heard the words of the Blessed One, was full of exeeding joy. Clasping his hands, he bowed down before him in reverence, and disappeared suddenly from the presence of the Buddha.

Monday, September 10, 2007

It's Monday Morning - Do you know what your Congress is doing?

It's Monday morning, Sep. 10, 2007... do you know what your Representative to Congress is up to?

The Congressional Record for Friday, Sep. 7, 2007 contains a report of what the House and Senate did Friday. It also contains more information about what the House and Senate have planned for today then the House Calendar does. The Senate Calendar is considerably better.

Page about half way down to the title


Week of September 10 through September 15, 2007

Highlights for today include:
Committee on Armed Services, September 10, full Committee and the Committee on Foreign Affairs, joint hearing on the status of the war and political developments in Iraq, 12:30 p.m., 345 Cannon.

Committee on Education and Labor, September 10, hearing on proposals to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 10 a.m., 2175 Rayburn.

On Monday, at 10 a.m., Senate will begin consideration of the nominations of William Lindsay Osteen, Jr., to be United States District Judge for the Middle District of North Carolina, Martin Karl Reidinger, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of North Carolina, and Janis Lynn Sammartino, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of California, and after a period of debate, vote on the confirmations of the nominations at 11:00 a.m.; following which, Senator Barrasso will be recognized to speak in morning business; following which, Senate will begin consideration of H.R. 3074, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. During the balance of the week Senate will consider any other cleared legislative and executive business, including appropriation bills and conference reports, when available

CSPAN will provide on-line and on TV coverage of the House Armed Services Committee Hearing featuring the King George II's report on his disasterous war on Iraq.

It's Monday morning, Sep. 10, 2007... do you know what your Representative to Congress is up to?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

To impeach, or not to impeach: that appears to be the question:

Wherein the author butchers the bard (while watching his beloved Bears, hopefully, butcher the Seahawks) in an attempt to address the question of whether to impeach the butchering b'stards or not.

Hamlet: Act III, Scene I

To impeach, or not to impeach: that appears to be the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to prosecute
The slings and arrows of an outrageous administration,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To impeach: to investigate;
No more; and by an investigation to say we open
The heart-ache and the thousand unnatural shocks
That this nation is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd.

To impeach, to investigate;
To investigate: perchance to uncover: ay, there's the rub;
For in that investigation of the administration what truths may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the rich man's contumely,
The pangs of despised civil liberties, the law, and Delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he, our nation, might our quietus make
With so many a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under this weary strife,
But that the dread of so many deaths,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus, does conscience make cowards of us all?
Or is thus the native hue of resolution
sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry?
And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!
The fair America! Liberty, in thy orisons
Be all our sins remember'd.
Hamlet - Act III Scene I

It is probably safe to say that we all agree that the Bush Administration is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors too numerous to recount. As Rep. Henry Waxman said when asked about investigations his committee would pursue "Where to start?"

It is probably also safe to say that we all agree that, at the very least, Bush, Cheney, and Gonzales, ought to be removed from office.

The question is not "to impeach or not to impeach." The question is what should Democrats do with the power invested in their new Congressional majority during the next 2 years.

The slings and arrows of this outrageous administration have indeed caused a sea of troubles. On that I think we can all agree as well.

In their first 100 Hours the House is addressing many of the domestic troubles in that sea. Sen. Kennedy and Rep. Markey have introduced resolutions to prohibit funding of Bush's escalation of his Iraq disaster. Chairmen Conyers and Waxman have promised investigations into the...
The oppressor's wrong, the rich man's contumely,
The pangs of despised civil liberties, the law, and Delay,
The insolence of office....

To investigate, perchance to uncover....
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

What will history think of this, our time?

There is little in life that would please me more then to see Cheney and then Bush impeached. But is that enough? Is a focus on impeachment alone simply an expression of vengeance rightly earned?

Will history look askance on us if we leave these criminals in office?

Or will history look askance on us if we remove them but in our lust for vengeance leave the damage they have done in place?

To investigate or not to investigate: That is not a question.

The House and Senate have much work to do to reverse the damage to the:

1. rule of law
2. Bill of Rights
3. Separation of Powers
4. Checks and Balances of our 3 co-equal branches of government
5. widening gap between the have-mores and everyone else
6. and so much more

The House and Senate also have work to do on the various problems that have gone unaddressed the last 6 years (and some much longer then that).

They also have to figure out a way to get the administration to get real about Iraq and the rest of the middle east.

That is a boatload of work to be done and it won't all get done in 2 years but it needs to get started now.

At the same time, the crimes of this administration need to be investigated. Of greater importance (in my way of thinking at least) then convicting the criminals is reversing the damage and taking what action needs to be taken to protect us against it happening again.

John Conyers and Henry Waxman need to investigate thoroughly every aspect of this administrations crimes against the nation. Every detail needs to be uncovered and corrected. During the last couple years we have all learned a great deal about FISA. FISA is an excellently written law (that did not need altering or overriding in order to address our current problems) that grew out of the investigations into the crimes of the Nixon administration. I mention this just as an example of what else comes of investigation other than impeachment.

One of the problems we are experiencing is that some Democrats have said "Impeachment is off the table." There are many reasons this statement may have been made and I do not disagree with most of them.

It is my belief that a natural result of thorough investigations of this administration will be a national revulsion of this administration. A revulsion so strong that impeachment being on or off the table is taken out of the hands of politicians. We the People are the holders of the true power in the United States of America. My belief in this, in us, in our country, our way of life, and the strength of our Constitution has only grown by seeing how close we have come to it's destruction at the hands of this administration. Close... but even they couldn't do it and have had to bow to the Will of the People.

Further, from a purely political point of view, Henry Waxman and John Conyers have enough material to work with to investigate from here to election day 2008 and from that standpoint alone I would rather this administration die a slow, 2 year long death then see my desire for vengeance sated today.

Congress has work to do. Wrongs to right. Rights to reinstate. Problems to solve. Investigations to investigate. Let's strengthen them in doing these things and see how history unfolds.

Impeachments, resignations, trials, or electoral defeats will occur as they will... a natural result of doing the hard work set before us all.

It is ours to do the footwork... and let go of the results.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Today was the Governor Eliot Spitzer's first annual State of the State address. Governor Spitzer laid out an ambitious agenda.

My friend Howie Klein asked me to write a guest blog about it over at Down With Tyranny.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Don't touch that dial

The 10,000 Things will be back shortly. We're going through some much needed spring cleaning in prepartion for this Very Happy Democratic New Year.