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November 05, 2008


May I be the first to say 0--- --HURRAY FOR YOU! You epitomized what all of us are feeling. Thank you so much. Your Ma

OK, there seem to be three things to mention here. The first is that, by my mother's own admission to me just a few moments ago, it was a late night and she's undercaffeinated, which may account for the bizarre substitution of hyphens for actual words. Secondly, she's psyched that her name, Ma, forms part of Obama. And thirdly, she's unusually proud of the fact that her lovely state, Vermont, was the first to be called for Obama. I hereby give her permission to have some of her own "Go Obama" carrot cake for breakfast. She's earned it. But wash it down with some coffee, Ma, OK?

I went to the polls rather than send in a ballot, and I'm glad I did. It was a lovely community moment. I didn't realize how emotional it would be until I filled in the bubble next to Obama's name. I didn't vote for him because of the fact that he is black, but it definitely did thrill me that we've come to the point where there is a serious and credible (sorry to hate on Jessie Jackson) black candidate for president.

Happy to be living in a blue state!

I had tears in my eyes all day yesterday. The polls were swamped, everybody was all grins here in Seattle. I watched the returns w/my best friend and we screamed for ten minutes and called all of our friends. I sobbed during obama's acceptance speech, a lot because of the beauty of his words and presence, but also because of the overwhelming humility that he conveys that feels very authentic. There were hundreds of happy people in the streets hugging each other, enthusiastic and hopeful and proud. The crowd on Capitol Hill was multiracial, gay and straight, lots of young people. There were even some American flags, and for the first time in years, it didn't feel like hubris but pride in the possibility that we can all be so different and share some happiness. Could it be that the rule of ignorant bullies is faltering, and thoughtfulness returns to the public sphere as a value?

We are happy and inspired over here, and excited about maybe not seeming like complete jerks to the rest of the world.

I was almost embarrassed by my sudden and tangible enthusiasm after Obama's speech last night. As a practitioner I felt like - where is this coming from?

Your post just helped me clarify a bit of that in my mind. Thanks Gonchig!

I live with two anarchists, which made too much enthusiasm difficult in the runup. But I stayed up last night until way too late, considering that I had to go to work today, to see the election called.

I am by no means a fan of John McCain, but I was truly impressed and moved by his concession speech. I agree with my mother's assessment that if he'd displayed that grace and strength of character during the campaign, we may have been in trouble.

I was proud to have voted for Barack Obama, not because of his race, but because he is an intelligent, thoughtful individual. I don't know that we will necessarily get all that we hope for from this administration, but I believe that by the election going this way, we will be in a far better position to lay the groundwork for long-term change than we would have been had the pendulum swung the other way.

I am in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. My county went to McCain, but my every precinct in my city was definitively carried by Obama, and, with 44% of the county-wide vote, he did better here than any Democrat has done in 44 years (1.5 presidential cycles longer than my lifetime).

Yes we did and I hope he can.


Like everyone else here, I was all grins today!

To Christian -- I hope our country can help out a fraction with the terrible things you mention. It's an awfully tall order, but you'd think we could offer a certain degree of assistance. I don't know much about the kidnappings in Europe; I know that, in Mexico, they are totally out of hand. There was a story just two days ago about a 17 yr old who helped kidnap a 5 yr old from a family that he was supposedly friends with, and asked for a ransom that translates to $23,000. The parents were poor fruit sellers, so I don't know how the kidnappers thought the family was going to come up with that kind of cash. Anyway, everything got botched and the criminals injected acid into the little boy's heart before the police could arrive, even though they did arrive rather quickly. These stories are usually linked to our country via the relatives who live here: i.e., someone is rumored to have a relative in the US (so he must be rich, right?) and so that person becomes a kidnapping target. I live a few hours from the border, so naturally I meet people who get entangled in these horrific stories from time to time. It's numbing.

Anyway, back to a cheerier topic, things can't just keep going downhill, right? Surely, there must be some room for improvement.

I was speaking with one of my classmates, a nun from Malaysia, this morning a bit about the election and she said she thought there was a lot of good in the American people, but that things hadn't been so great between the US and pretty much everyone else for a while. I said I think that we are basically a good people, but that fear often trumps compassion in the hearts of so many of us. Rebuplicans are particularly good at playing on people's fears.

With Obama, as with my precious Buddhist teachers, the moment I saw his face there was a flash of recognition....

As time went on
I saw good qualities
in him

His intentions

Seemed, (through my admitedly clouded lens)

Well-formed, and simply,


"Good, good, good"

That's what HH Dalai Lama said to me when he held my hand so many years ago,

And here, on this auspicious blog by my dear bro,

the 2 stand together in a foto


Just got this: "Rosa sat so Martin could walk so Barack could run - so our children could fly"

I am glad you are happy.
But let's remember what his holiness Penor Rinpoche said:
The world is unreliable.

Peace Vajra Brother!

The excitement of Obama's election has swept the media and talking heads here in Israel. We are already looking at how "change" will affect our own upcoming elections featuring fear-mongering right wingers vs. a strong woman candidate.

I do find it curious that African Americans appear to identify so whole-heartedly with Obama even though his background and experience is decidedly different from theirs. He had no ancestors kidnapped and brought over as slaves. I think it's great that anyone who has felt discrimination can look at him with pride as "one of us". He is. He's a human being.

Look, I am glad that Mr. Obama was elected. Really.

But, reading this post and the press, I got the feeling that the emotion is mostly the result of eight disastrous years. It is not because Mr. Obama is excellent. Nobody knows yet, right? It looks like a bit of psychological decompensation.

I have written many times here that I like American culture, so I hope I won't be misjudged on my intentions now: I don't want to hurt your feelings.

A friend of mine (a Korean man, if that matters) told me once that the most dangerous kind of person is the person who thinks of herself as good. He is a Presbiteryan alright, but, still, I think he has a point. Self-righteousness is the root of all evil if power is compounded.

It is for example striking to read the political discourses of Jules Ferry in the second half of the 1800's, because he was one of the most fervent advocate of imperialist colonialism for the purpose of bringing the lights of the Enlightenment to obscurantist countries around the world. He really meant to do good. In France he is most famous for imposing mandatory education until the age of 16 and he is a "fatherly" figure of the Third Republic (the republic of teachers). And Jules Ferry was not a Christian, the times were very much about being strongly anticlerical.

Do you see what I am hinting at?

Another problem I see in the American rethoric about America is the Foundation Myth. Why can't you see that this is mostly a posterior reconstruction to define negatively an identity? Three words: Boston Tea Party. Or, from Tocqueville: tyranny of majority. Jefferson had slaves he had sex with (and another of the so-called Founding Fathers). It was a democracy with slaves, like Athena.

I don't remind these obvious facts to diminish the great achievements of America as a nation, but foundation myths are almost never true. (Like I read that many believe there is an origin to the game of baseball. Read S.J.Gould on that one.)

There is continuity everywhere and all the time, and this truth of continuity is unpleasant because it threatens the fuzzy feeling of personal or national identity. We feel the need to feel different from others ("not our kin") and close to some others ("our kin"). This contradiction is present in everybody, including social animals, and, as a result, at the level of nations as well (the concept of nation itself is the result of this inevitable contradiction).

Is Mr Obama black or white? Technically, he is a "mixed-blood". Perhaps he is considered as black because some Americans want to see him as a black man, so they can exorcise their guilt about slavery and the need for a Civil Rights movement. See Zendette excellent post here.

About the "Gross National Happiness", I doubt that Mr. Obama has anything to do with that philosophy. I read that the public records of the campaign show that he received more sponsoring from banks and financial institutions than Mr. McCain. Doesn't that say something? Plus, after he beat Ms. Clinton, his speeches started to lean to the conservative right even more.

Sarabaite: the kidnapping in Europe I referred to are the Orwellian "extraordinary renditions": kidnappings by the CIA on European soil, with the complicity of several states, with the consequence of people being flown to countries where they were subjected to torture.

Americans want to do good, but they don't know much about life abroad and other cultures.

Change will come in America when you will have a left party and the Republican party (a political oddity in the ideologies of the world) will wane.

But I agree it is best to open that bottle of champagne now, and not wait for real change.

Christian, my brother. I agree with you in part. What I was expressing and feeling was what many of us felt: relief. We've been so ashamed of our dimwit president and the nasty machinations of his evil veep that we're happy just to pull the emergency brake. I, too, fear Obama will be too conservative for my taste, but predict he will finally lead America to take a couple things seriously: evolving beyond fossil fuels; our health care crisis; and international diplomacy. I can't tell you how important it was to hear him say the words "I will be open and honest with the American people and I will listen, especially to those with whom I have disagreements."

Watch "John Adams." It's fascinating and not hagiography (the Boston Tea Party is depicted as a mob out of hand and not flattering at all). I would simply argue that the framing of the American idea was brilliant, however imperfectly executed in our history, especially by Jefferson, Sally Hastings or otherwise. One proof? 230 years later, 130,000,000 citizens voted without any violence and negligible shenanigans, to effect another peaceful transfer of power. This is not small.

Regarding the black thing. Yes, it was clear to most what his heritage was. But his wife is from a working-class black background and, in a lot of voters' eyes, I'm sorry to say, the family was just black and they had prejudices to confront. As a nation, we gained back some self-respect by the fact that so many did see him as just a human being with the qualities we felt inspired by right now to lead the country in a different direction. How it all plays, we'll see. But the moment was deeply emotional for us, maybe not as rational as you'd prefer, and I was trying to explain a little bit why.

I would like to watch the series "John Adams".

I have just read an article in the French newspaper "Le Monde" about this very topic. I don't know enough of American history to check the facts, but here is the report.

Of the so-called Founding Father, only one did not own slaves: John Adams.

Are you sure the series is not apologetic? :-)

For the rest of them, it says that George Washington freed his 124 slaves... at his death. In 2007, a discret passage was found, which was used by the slaves of George Washington every six months (in Philadelphia, where slaves were legally free if they resided more than than... six months). It also says that Jefferson was the most hypocritical of all: he owned more than a hundred of slaves, working on his plantation, but he went to great lengths to keep it discrete. He proposed segregation or "return" to Africa as a solution for the future. Apartheid, anyone?

Furthermore, the Capitol and the White House were built by slaves. Ths very foundation of the USA is slavery. Lincoln was a pragmatist, he also didn't believe in equality among men (the Western world had to wait the end of the twentieth century to start considering it, anyway).

If there wasn't a worship of the Constitution in America, as if it were a sacred text, or Lincoln, or the Founding Fathers etc. it would be all right. After all, the French constitution did not apply in the colonies. (Napoleon, the tyrant, freed the slaves in 1804, just after the successful revolution in Haiti.)

But just because the new President is considered as a Black (which, in my book, he isn't), America rejoices (yes, even some Republicans), something is overly narcissitic. He even did not do a single thing yet! Do you think that a Black man cannot be evil?

From abroad, I can tell you that the foreign policy of the USA is relatively constant over time, and it is disastrous. I would be surprised and delighted to see it change, but I don't hold my breath.

Yes, the beauty of America is that we can reinvent ourselves every 4-8 years. (I wish it didn't make us seem so schizophrenic to the rest of the world, but...) I live in DC and have worked for the government for the past 3; and I can get so sick of the never-ending poitical maneuvering and nonsense that saturates every facet of life here sometimes.
But Barack Obama is truly something different.
It's just a shame it took such an extraordinarily deep and sickening dive into the pit of prideful ignornace, aggressive and unfetterd stupidity at it's boldest, an outright attack on personal liberty and the environment -- before America shook itself awake and said "No F__KING MORE!" And the fact that it was a visionary and a man representing the triumph of love, reason, discipline, and hard work like Mr. Obama -- rather than a aristocrat born of privelege like Kerry -- also speaks volumes about how deeply resonant his messaage is for common Americans.
Konchog, if you have yet to read "The Audacity of Hope" I would strongly recommend it.

Hey Ariel --
I'm partway though "Audacity" and really enjoying it!

I hope you're right about our President elect. Not being as close to it as you are, I only have to say that I feel pretty good about our decision. I'm not attaching a huge amount of importance to it, except that it's a relief that Bush and many of his like are being shown the door. It's been so clear in the last two terms that most of our opinions as ordinary citizens truly don't matter "upstairs" in DC.

Sarabite -- hello!
I've got hight hopes for Mr. Obama, but then again, my cynical analytic side prevents me from becoming too optimistic. Maybe I need to learn a littel Buddhist detachment from folks like you and Konchog.

In the south, a person with 1/16th "black blood" was considered black. It was a stigma. A false and arbitrary designation. Probably the majority of US citizens are mixed genetically. In that sense, Obama truly represents us.

Having shook Obama's hand before the Iowa caucases and having listened to him, i was affected by his eloquence, responded to his honesty, and my heart recognized him.

My ESL class of mostly new, young and Spanish speaking immigrants were joyously supporting Obama even though they could not vote.

Now, we watch and it will go as it goes. The effort will be good, but perhaps more time will be needed than expected.

Sammy- a fellow ELD teacher! Very cool!
About half of my students speak Spanish; the other half are from various Asian countries. Something that I found interesting is that many of the Asian students mentioned that their parents thought that the older candidate ought to be respected. I'm just glad that the kids are interested this time; the last two elections generated so little interest that the kids hardly recognized the candidates' names.

Namaste Sarabaite, where are you teaching? i came to ESL late and am so grateful to find my heart's desire. Only one quarter of my class is Vietnamese and very young 14 & 19. Also several 19 y.o. in the Hispanic section. And my 19 y.o. son justed voted for the first time! i am in Iowa.

Out in a suburb of Los Angeles county, Sammy. It's also been very rewarding -- I started teaching regular English in a middle school 12 yrs ago and started ELD about five years ago, give or take. It was a class that had been punted around because nobody else wanted to teach it, and it finally came around to me. Luckily, it was a perfect match.
Congrats for your son! It took a while for me to catch on to paying attention to politics and history, so I'm still playing catch-up. When I read now about the stuff that happened in my own lifetime that was completely over my head, I feel chagrined, as when I wrapped up Nelson Mandela's autobiography over the summer. Probably, I will later feel the same about what's happening in Myanmar now, which I know I need to read more on.

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Mongolia Bird List: "L" = Lifer

  • Amur Falcon -- L
  • Arctic (Hoary) Redpoll -- L
  • Arctic Warbler -- L
  • Asian Brown Flycatcher -- L
  • Asian Dowitcher -- L
  • Asian Short-toed Lark -- L
  • Azure Tit -- L
  • Bank Swallow
  • Bar-headed Goose -- L
  • Barn Swallow
  • Bean Goose -- L
  • Black Grouse -- L
  • Black Stork -- L
  • Black Woodpecker -- L
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • Black-eared Kite -- L
  • Black-headed Gull -- L
  • Black-tailed Godwit -- L
  • Black-winged Stilt
  • Blyth's Pipit -- L
  • Bohemian Waxwing -- L
  • Booted Eagle -- L
  • Brown Shrike -- L
  • Carrion Crow
  • Chinese Penduline Tit -- L
  • Chukar -- L
  • Cinereous Vulture
  • Citrine Wagtail -- L
  • Coal Tit
  • Common Cuckoo
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Common Greenshank -- L
  • Common Kestrel
  • Common Merganser
  • Common Pochard -- L
  • Common Raven
  • Common Redpoll
  • Common Redshank -- L
  • Common Rosefinch -- L
  • Common Sandpiper
  • Common Shelduck -- L
  • Common Snipe -- L
  • Common Starling
  • Common Swift
  • Common Tern
  • Crested Lark -- L
  • Curlew Sandpiper -- L
  • Dark-throated Thrush -- L
  • Daurian Jackdaw -- L
  • Daurian Partridge -- L
  • Daurian Redstart -- L
  • Demoiselle Crane -- L
  • Desert Warbler -- L
  • Desert Wheatear -- L
  • Dusky Thrush -- L
  • Dusky Warbler -- L
  • Eared Grebe
  • Eurasian Bullfinch -- L
  • Eurasian Coot -- L
  • Eurasian Curlew -- L
  • Eurasian Griffon
  • Eurasian Hobby
  • Eurasian Jay
  • Eurasian Nutcracker -- L
  • Eurasian Nuthatch -- L
  • Eurasian Skylark
  • Eurasian Sparrowhawk
  • Eurasian Spoonbill -- L
  • Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker -- L
  • Eurasian Tree Sparrow
  • Eurasian Treecreeper -- L
  • Eurasian Wigeon -- L
  • Eurasian Wryneck -- L
  • Eyebrowed Thrush -- L
  • Falcated Duck -- L
  • Fork-tailed Swift -- L
  • Gadwall
  • Garganey -- L
  • Godlewski's Bunting -- L
  • Goldcrest -- L
  • Golden Eagle
  • Gray Heron
  • Gray Wagtail -- L
  • Great Cormorant
  • Great Crested Grebe
  • Great Gray Shrike -- L
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • Great Tit
  • Greater Short-toed Lark -- L
  • Greater Spotted Eagle -- L
  • Green Sandpiper -- L
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Greenish Warbler -- L
  • Hawfinch -- L
  • Hazel Grouse -- L
  • Hen/Northern Harrier
  • Herring Gull
  • Hill Pigeon -- L
  • Hoopoe
  • Horned Grebe
  • Horned Lark
  • House Sparrow
  • Isabelline Shrike -- L
  • Isabelline Wheatear -- L
  • Kentish (Snowy) Plover -- L
  • Lesser Spotted Woodpecker -- L
  • Lesser Whitethroat -- L
  • Little Bunting -- L
  • Little Owl -- L
  • Little Ringed Plover
  • Long-tailed Rosefinch
  • Long-tailed Tit
  • Long-toed Stint -- L
  • Mallard
  • Marsh Sandpiper
  • Meadow Bunting -- L
  • Mew Gull -- L
  • Mongolian Finch -- L
  • Mongolian Ground-jay -- L
  • Mongolian Lark -- L
  • Northern Lapwing -- L
  • Northern Pintail
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Northern Wheatear
  • Olive-backed Pipit -- L
  • Oriental Plover -- L
  • Oriental Reed Warbler -- L
  • Oriental Turtle Dove
  • Pacific Golden-plover -- L
  • Paddyfield Warbler -- L
  • Pallas' Reed Bunting -- L
  • Pallas's Leaf Warbler -- L
  • Pallas's Sandgrouse -- L
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Pied Avocet -- L
  • Pied Wheatear -- L
  • Pine Bunting -- L
  • Pine Grosbeak -- L
  • Pintail Snipe -- L
  • Red (Common) Crossbill
  • Red-billed Chough -- L
  • Red-crested Pochard -- L
  • Red-flanked Bluetail -- L
  • Red-necked Grebe
  • Red-throated Flycatcher -- L
  • Richard's Pipit -- L
  • Rock Dove
  • Rock Sparrow -- L
  • Rook -- L
  • Ruddy Shelduck -- L
  • Ruddy Turnstone
  • Ruff -- L
  • Rufous-tailed Robin -- L
  • Saker Falcon -- L
  • Scaly Thrush -- L
  • Sharp-tailed Sandpiper -- L
  • Siberian Accentor -- L
  • Siberian Rubythroat -- L
  • Smew -- L
  • Spotted Flycatcher -- L
  • Spotted Redshank -- L
  • Steppe Eagle -- L
  • Swan Goose -- L
  • Temminck's Stint -- L
  • Thick-billed Warbler -- L
  • Tree Pipit -- L
  • Tufted Duck -- L
  • Twite -- L
  • Upland Buzzard -- L
  • Ural Owl -- L
  • Water Pipit -- L
  • White Wagtail
  • White-cheeked Starling -- L
  • White-naped Crane -- L
  • White-winged (Two-barred) Crossbill -- L
  • White-winged Scoter
  • White-winged Tern -- L
  • Whooper Swan -- L
  • Willow Tit -- L
  • Wood Sandpiper -- L
  • Yellow-billed Grosbeak -- L
  • Yellow-browed (Inornate) Warbler -- L