Friday 29 August 2014

Vegan Documentary Film "Cowspiracy" (my comments on Youtube)

My face on Youtube:

This is a ten minute discussion made with an awareness that most of the people who see it will (i) already be vegan, and (ii) already have seen the film being reviewed.  This is probably not what anyone is expecting to hear from "a political science perspective", nor from a vegan perspective, but I do reflect on what I feel is the core tension of the film; and, for me, it raises familiar questions about the NGO/Charity sector...

Sunday 17 August 2014

Sinomania: Can Anything Justify the Hype about the Chinese Economy?

Why is there so much hype about the Chinese economy?  I’ll mention just one factor among many: people don’t want to believe they’re living in a world where the rich get richer, while the poor are trapped in poverty.  The idea that China is suddenly becoming more affluent than Japan appeals to a (false) sense of upward mobility, on a massive scale.

The chart above (that I made myself) shows the I.M.F. projections for 2013–2017, GDP per capita at PPP.  China isn’t catching up with Japan.  In fact, China isn’t even catching up with poverty-stricken Chile.

Wealth, Poverty and the Perception of Corruption

When Transparency International first started publishing their corruption index, I hoped that it would spark other innovations in measuring corruption that would soon make it obsolete.  That never happened (click), and so it remains an important (if imperfect) measurement, with very little competition to compare it to.

Saturday 16 August 2014

How the Beatles Influenced Buddhism (via "T.M.")

[Question:] A bit of a flippant question, so I won't be offended if you don't want to stir this particular pot any longer... but why do you think there's such a strange passion among westerners to believe that eastern religions are not religions?

[My reply:] I think it's a very meaningful question (and I'm not offended by it at all)…

The packaging of Buddhism for western consumption has tried a variety of strategies, some sui generis, and some in direct response to other precedents (and competition from other religious groups, making the leap from East to West).

Thursday 14 August 2014

Combat Jack Identifies as Buddhist

In the midst of a long discussion of the politics of ethnicity in the United States, Combat Jack snubs Charlamagne by pointing out that his reasoning supposes that everyone is Christian; in reply, Charlamagne asks if Jack is an atheist.  No, instead, Combat Jack identifies as Buddhist (audio link below).

On Youtube, "Gods with a Lower-Case G"

Daoism and the deification of Douglas MacArthur.  The video is only 5 minutes long; why summarize?

Friday 8 August 2014

Metta (A Pali Word Drops Out of Common Usage)

The artist formerly known as "慈善·世界和平" (Metta World Peace) is changing his name to "熊貓的朋友"… or, at any rate, something in Chinese that means "The Panda's Friend".
This isn't the first time I've mentioned the man named Metta World Peace on this blog (click).

Thursday 7 August 2014

Language-instruction videos: why are the actors always flirting?

Admittedly, I'm offering a somewhat infamous example from a Modern Greek language course here, but in almost every living language I've studied, you run into this again and again, and you find the students laughing at the material…

…because it seems flirtatious even when the script doesn't remotely call for the actors to be flirting.

[Click here for the video on Youtube, it's only 30 seconds long.]

George Monbiot, a lifetime of excuses for eating meat

The most remarkable thing about George Monbiot's saga of alternating between veganism and endorsing meat-eating is that he has gotten paid to publish his opinion at every stage.  What he has to say it isn't any better than the type of diaristic writing that now floods the internet for free, and, really, it isn't any better-informed, either:

"While researching my book Feral, I also came to see extensive livestock rearing as a lot less benign than I – or [my colleague] – had assumed. The damage done to biodiversity, to water catchments and carbon stores by sheep and cattle grazing in places unsuitable for arable farming […] is out of all proportion to the amount of meat produced. Wasteful and destructive as feeding grain to livestock is, ranching appears to be even worse."

Sunday 3 August 2014

Genocide Lite

This "tribute to the traditions of the ancestors" is now a ditch between two parking lots.  It's a ditch with a memorial plaque, in a city that is itself named "as a tribute" to the same queen who authorized Treaty One.  Genocide Lite.