Al Jezeera on Roku

I just discovered that I can watch Al Jazeera live on my Roku box. It’s not exactly obvious; it’s in the “Roku Newscaster” podcast aggregator/channel, which is available in the Roku Channel Store. Unlike many of the other news sources there the Al Jazeera feed is video not just audio.

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Epistle To Quakers

Thomas Paine is very entertaining to read, even more than two hundred years on.  In his “Epistle to Quakers” (sometimes appended to Common Sense), Paine excoriates the Quakers for, first, mixing religion and politics; then for not supporting the cause of independence from England; and, finally, for claiming biblical authority for their passive stance towards the Crown.  “What a slap in the face!” he says.  Literally — that’s exactly what he says: “What a slap in the face is here!”

And then, at the very of the pamphlet, this little gem:

And here, without anger or resentment I bid you farewell. Sincerely wishing, that as men and Christians, ye may always fully and uninterruptedly enjoy every civil and religious right; and be, in your turn, the means of securing it to others; but that the example which ye have unwisely set, of mingling religion with politics, may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of America.

And that emphasis is in the original.  Good stuff.

Tranche makes me blanche

From The Economist, 3 January 2009:

The second feature of the Danish system is that mortgage-holders can also buy the bonds in the market and use them to redeem their mortgages.  This is useful if a rise in trest rates (or a fall in house prices) causes mortgage-backed bonds to trade at a discount.  Redeeming their bonds allows homeowners to reduce the amount they owe.  In America, for instance, mortgage-backed securities have fallen far below their fundamental value in thinly traded markets, partly because the people who would benefit most from buying them have no mechanism to do so. “Everybody can buy that bond at a discount except that one guy who is most involved with the loan, the homeowner,” says Alan Boyce, a mortgage expert who has worked with George Soros, an investor and philanthropist, on promoting the Danish model in emerging markets.  In Denmark, by contrast, a fall in the value of mortgage bonds usually encourages homeowners to snap them up to redeem their own mortgages, as is happening now.

Seriously: Do not trust anyone who uses the term “tranche.”

Kalachakra 2009 [updated]

The Pakistan Taliban war is being fought in areas that 1500 years ago were Buddhist. The districts of Dir, Buner, and especially Swat are rich with Buddhist ruins, a record of a time when they were part of the Gandharan Buddhist heartland centered on the ancient capital of Taxila, now on the outskirts of Islamabad/Rawalapindi. Padmasambhava, for instance, was from Swat, ancient Uddiyana, before he went on to convert Tibet to Buddhism. These were rich, sophisticated centers of learning and art, famous for their monasteries, now sadly the locus of much suffering.

[updated 13 May 2009 with the maps above; for more detail you’re wanting John Huntington’s gorgeous map.]

[22 June 2009: It turns out that the identification of Uddiyana with Swat is contested; it might instead refer to modern-day Orissa, in eastern India.]