Saturday, February 02, 2008

Perspective

Plutonium Page shared these figures from work by Christopher Helleman and Travis Sharp of the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation:
Note that the amounts were restated into 2007 dollars. You can see it at Daily Kos.
--the BB

Fran is to blame; I swear

I admit it: I've taken this one twice. Brain freeze is an easy affliction while doing this, as is the challenge of typos. If you spell the country correctly it accepts it the second you get to the end and you don't need to capitalize (that saves some time). The first time I think I got 76. A bit better this time around. Even as you do it all manner of other countries come to mind. Those moments when you are thinking and not typing are scary.

87


--the BB

It's all Fran's fault this time around




You're Love in the Time of Cholera!

by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Like Odysseus in a work of Homer, you demonstrate undying loyalty by sleeping with as many people as you possibly can. But in your heart you never give consent! This creates a strange quandary of what love really means to you. On the one hand, you've loved the same person your whole life, but on the other, your actions barely speak to this fact. Whatever you do, stick to bottled water. The other stuff could get you killed.


Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.


I have not read the book but the movie was stunning. I will leave comment on the accuracy of this description to the great love of my life.

--the BB

Oh, crap!

Now, granted, three days from now I will be in my first Russian class, which I think is way cool. But Fran gets Cal (love the photo of the Sather Gate, girlfriend) and I get Moskva. There is no way I want to deal with a Russian winter. I am a California sun-worshipping kind of guy. And look at the effing architecture in this photo!

Вздох! [Sigh!]




You're Lomonosov Moscow State University!

Though you're often cold and depressed, no one can question
your access to knowledge and the creativity that often accompanies suffering.
You see yourself as a varied teacher, sometimes spreading the word of
monarchs, tyrants, or even mere corrupt politicians. Along the way, you've
lived an unstable and interesting existence and grown very tall. Now, you're
in quite a rush. Uh.



Take the University Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.



I was just rhapsodizing about spring in North Berkeley today, both online with Kirstin and at lunch with my ex. February in Berkeley is magnolias and non-bearing plum trees in bloom, daffodils, the bright yellow of oxalis even, tulips soon to follow (if the deer don't get them first). You will never be nostalgic about Bambi again if you have deer eat your tulips. They wait until the blooms are just about to show color and then munch them, leaving you with all those bare stems. Daffodils and iris, however, they leave alone. Foxglove is also cool as the deer are not fond of digitalis. So plant the tulips inside your very high fence and let the daffodils and bearded iris naturalize and spread outside along your driiveway.

Blessings of the Day

The Presentation in the Temple
Moscow School. Ca.1500.

Castle De Wijenburgh, Echteld, Netherlands, 72 x 61cm.

The Presentation in the Temple Ambrogio Lorenzetti, 1342 Panel, 257 x 168 cm Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Check out Louis S. Glanzman's portrayal of Anna the Prophetess here.

I hope you are having a wonderful Candlemas today. And that you had a terrific Imbolc cum feast of St Bride/Brigid yesterday. (Padre Mickey tells of Brigid here, then goes off to shake his booty in Carnaval.)

Today is the natal festivity of someone very dear to me and I am off to have lunch with the birthday person.

May the prayers of the holy prophetess Anna and Simeon the God-receiver ascend on behalf of us all.
--the BB

It's silly quiz time. Again. - Updated with reflections


I could not get this image onto the blog in html but screen caps are so helpful.

Yes, here we go again. Always constrained by the categories of the particular silly quiz, of course. In this one, as with so many, there were questions where I strongly felt "BOTH" or "NEITHER."







What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Emergent/Postmodern

You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.


Emergent/Postmodern



86%

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan



79%

Roman Catholic



71%

Neo orthodox



68%

Modern Liberal



64%

Classical Liberal



43%

Charismatic/Pentecostal



32%

Reformed Evangelical



11%

Fundamentalist



0%




[chortle]

Now let's compare this rejection of tradition with these results, shall we?


Another version of my beliefs yielded these top results:
#1 Eastern Orthodox Church
Why people think all liberals are secular humanists is beyond me.
Oh, that's right; they are taught this is the case by ignorant demagogues. Pity.

#2 Episcopal/Anglican Church
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home

#3 Evangelical Lutheran Church
They keep telling me we're in communion with each other

#4 Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
Bit of a surprise on this, I dare say

#5 Methodist/Wesleyan Church
I do have a strong affectional side to me

#6 Roman Catholic Church
This might be higher if I didn't spit in the pope's eye so often

#7 Liberal Quakerism
Very good people

Christian Denomination Selector is here.

UPDATE:
As I was going to bed last night, I thought to myself: "Postmodern Orthodox--now that sounds right to me." I also think Anglicanism as I have experienced it (note that important qualifier) is a good place for a Postmodern Orthodox person. To me it is very significant that before I was confirmed
(1) I had read every page (including the lectionary and tables of finding dates) of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and all the Prayer Book Studies leading toward the 1979 BCP, which had its first adoption in 1976, the year after I was confirmed;
(2) I had read every page of the Constitution and Canons; and
(3) I was a student of Church history with an emphasis on the early and mediaeval periods, so that I knew what the early councils were about, how doctrine developed/evolved, and the issues reflected in the creeds.

You clever readers will have noted that my interest in Church history wanes in the modern era. I did study Reformation history but I find it challenging to get excited about modern history. As always, theology is framed in the imagery and structure of the rest of our thought. The emergence of the nation-state and rise of the bourgeoisie yielded more legal and transactional ways of thinking. These are essential but they have tended to dominate much of popular theology in a way that mystics and poets find, well, "challenging" (to go back to where this paragraph began).

The narrowing of atonement to penal substitutionary imagery, for one thing, seems too reliant on some passages in the Bible while ignoring many others. In Baptist seminary I was forced to look at the variety of ways in which biblical authors tried to communicate their experience of God through Christ as well as the variety of ways in which that has been pondered, debated, expanded, and communicated across the centuries. As various understandings have lost their force through shifts in cultural imagery and philosophical approaches, new understandings have emerged or old ones have been viewed from different angles. Anselm and Abélard will be ever with us in the tension of objective and subjective approaches. Either/or thinking demands that we pit them against each other. Yin/yang thinking sees complementarity giving rise to a greater whole, but that is not the way we are trained to think in the West.

To me, much of the current unpleasantness in Anglicanism arises from the attempt to force a modern (and I use that term somewhat narrowly in the sense of pre-modern, modern, post-modern) model of theology onto a larger scope of Christian experience and thought. This frames debate in rationalist categories, whether one is a Reasserter or Jack Spong, and by this I mean they are both caught up in the Enlightenment, for both good and ill. Their arguments seem outdated in a world of quantum physics, just as they would have seemed utterly bizarre to Christians in the first millennium.

Whether I am feeling very early+mediaeval or very post-modern, that sort of debate "seems so yesterday" to me. It is simply not cogent or relevant to how I am experiencing God in the world and in the community of faith today. When the framework of debate seems questionable, it is difficult to get caught up into the debate. When I read Anglicans who sound like 19th century Baptists with 20th century fervor and when I read Spong (to use one of their favorite bêtes noires), I simply find myself bored and want to move on. For me, those debates are over and both sides lost.

So, why aren't we spending our time talking about lives that are changed by an encounter with God (descriptive discourse that can be filled with joy and thanksgiving) instead of screaming beyond each other about how we are supposed to believe (proscriptive discourse)?

A parish priest who listens to her flock, attentively and lovingly, will know that people's experience of God and approaches to faith vary widely--if there is a local community that does not operate on the model of a cookie factory. Yet all these people, drawn to Christ and growing in grace, being changed from glory into glory in both the most ordinary and the most amazing ways, are living testimony to God's saving work.

Speaking of factories, perhaps it is the model of standardization and mass production that has had far too much influence in out theologizing. 'Nuff said on that.

Micro-loans are transforming economies these days. It is the antithesis of global corporatism. I see far too much global corporatism in religion these days. I wonder what micro-mission might do, renewing small communities from the grassroots up? [This last paragraph is just me thinking out loud, something that popped into my head only just now. I have not pondered it at all. Perhaps others can help think about it.]

SECOND UPDATE (the first was the commentary):
Somewhat paralleling the final paragraph here, only in the social and political sphere, is Simon Barrows' article yesterday at Ekklesia titled "Challenging the neo-liberal paradigm."
--the BB

Friday, February 01, 2008

Your FISA updates


The line held this week, but there's more to be done.

You can check out mcjoan's posts at Daily Kos:

FISA Fight: Where we stand - Fri Feb 01, 2008 at 10:41:46 AM PST
[This one has phone and fax numbers.]

FISA Fight: Feingold on the agreement - Fri Feb 01, 2008 at 01:15:32 PM PST

FISA Fight: A time to lead - Fri Feb 01, 2008 at 04:31:43 PM PST
[Statements from Obama and Clinton plus the following words of Harry Reid:]

"All last year, I had four Democratic senators running for president. I wish they could all have been elected president, but only one can be. And so two of them are out of that race now. I still have two Democratic senators. As you know, next Tuesday is Super Tuesday, and they're both very busy, as is Senator McCain. So I probably can't get them back here until Monday, but I need them back."
Then there is this:
FISA Update
By: emptywheel Friday February 1, 2008 7:19 am
Apparently, Reid has brokered a Unanimous Consent agreement that everyone, from Feingold and Dodd to Jeff "Mutual Defense" Sessions, have bought off on.

And this:
Dems Capitulate on FISA
By: Jane Hamsher Friday February 1, 2008 2:13 pm
Harry Reid once again used Senate procedure to tank retroactive immunity and other changes Democrats wanted to the FISA bill. George Bush gets everything he ever hoped for.
A special comment by Keith Olbermann:



You may read the transcript of Keith Olbermann's special comment here.

FISA: GOP Blinks (Somewhat)…Let’s Get To Work
By: Christy Hardin Smith Friday February 1, 2008 5:15 am
I'm sure Dick Cheney's admission that telecoms handed over private communications records without a warrant to the Bush Administration had nothing at all to do with this. (H/T to C&L.):
...But the moment he says anything else, any doubt that the telecoms knowingly broke the law, is out the window, and with it, any chance that even the Republicans who are fighting this like they were trying to fend off terrorists using nothing but broken beer bottles and swear words couldn’t consent to retroactively immunize corporate criminals.

Which is why the Vice President probably shouldn’t have phoned in to the Rush Limbaugh Propaganda-Festival yesterday.

Sixth sentence out of Mr. Cheney’s mouth: The FISA bill is about, quote, “retroactive liability protection for the companies that have worked with us and helped us prevent further attacks against the United States.”

Oops. Mr. Cheney is something of a loose cannon, of course. But he kind of let the wrong cat out of the bag there.

Good one, Dick. In my business, we like to call this an "admission against interest."
Glenn Greenwald is pessimistic about the deals that mcjoan finds positive:
The whole agreement seems designed to ensure that the GOP gets everything they want -- that they are able to defeat all of the pending amendments which Dick Cheney dislikes, and to do so without having to engage in a real filibuster. In what conceivable way is this an instance of "Dems not caving" or "holding tough?" This is how CQ described the agreement:

Republicans pressed for the threshold to head off any amendments that would significantly change the bill, which was negotiated with the White House.
I commend Greenwald's post, including the updates.

A lot to sort out. I am sure Cheney-Bush want us confused, throwing our hands up because it's not simple. I admit I get a headache trying to know exactly what I want our Senators to do. Besides kneecapping Bush and ripping out the Cheneybot's pacemaker with their bare hands (for starters).

Well, I guess my testosterone is ramping up for the Superbowl. I daresay I would like to see some giants among the patriots of this land accomplish something memorable.

WE CAN SEND A CLEAR MESSAGE TO ALL OUR SENATORS THAT WE DO NOT WANT THE RULE OF LAW COMPROMISED BY ALLOWING TELCOM IMMUNITY.
--the BB

Speaking of princes

Felipe the Fox, aka el Príncipe de Asturias, just turned 40 two days ago. In conjunction with this event the Spanish royal court has released video of their Royal Highnesses Felipe and Letizia with their daughters.



¡Feliz Cumpleaños! Vuestra Alteza Real. Many happy and healthy years to come for you and yours.

The earlier post on him is here.

[And if anyone is wondering: No, I'm not a royalist.]
--the BB

Not all Orange is Daily Kos

The darling daughters:
Amalia, Alexia and Ariane on holiday in Argentina [source]

Guilherme Alexandre, príncipe de Orange
This photograph was produced by Agência Brasil,
a public Brazilian news agency.
[Source: Wikipedia]

The Dutch Coat of Arms

Today we feature His Royal Highness Willem-Alexander , Prince of Orange, Prince of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, Jonkheer van Amsberg. His full name is Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand van Oranje-Nassau, but he used the surname "van Buren" when running in the New York City Marathon.

Wikipedia (the main source of information for this post) tells us he is an aircraft pilot and sportsman. He is also the eldest son and heir of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. He has two younger brothers: Prince Friso and Prince Constantijn.
Willem-Alexander was born on April 27, 1967. Although he had not planned to marry until in his 40s, a certain young lady changed his mind. "[O]n February 2, 2002, he married Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti ..., an Argentine woman of Spanish, Basque, and Italian ancestry who, prior to their marriage, worked as an investment banker in New York City."
The Prince and Máxima have three daughters: Catharina-Amalia Beatrix Carmen Victoria (Amalia for short), Alexia Juliana Marcela Laurentien, and Ariane Wilhelmina Máxima Ines.
Assuming that Willem-Alexander will succeed to his mother's throne, he will be the first male Dutch monarch since 1890 and will be known, in English, as King William IV of the Netherlands.
His page on the Dutch royal website is here.

The Prince was not always interesting in royal duties and may well have been a handful. A profile in Hello Magazine says this:
But his increasing rebelliousness and problems with his parents meant that the teenage prince was sent to Atlantic College near Cardiff for a two-year course, where he gained an International Baccalaureate in 1985. "I had problems with my parents at the time," said Willem-Alexander in a TV interview much later. "And my parents had problems with me. So it was best for us to split up."

After the obligatory military service – it is compulsory in the Netherlands – which was spent in the Royal Netherlands Navy, Willem-Alexander studied history at Leiden University, gaining his degree in 1993. But books did not interest him nearly as much as flying planes did and, after gaining his Military Pilot's Licence, Willem-Alexander immersed himself back in the armed forces, spending several months studying at the Netherlands Defence College. He has since flown humanitarian relief missions in Kenya and even acted as pilot for his country's politicians, ferrying government ministers to meetings abroad.
Beyond family he has an unusual interest:
But his real interest lies in water management – above all in Eastern Europe – and he is both honorary member of the World Commission on Water for the 21st Century and patron of the Global Water Partnership, a body established by the World Bank, the UN and the Swedish Ministry of Development Cooperation.


All right, time to move to videos:


Thursday, January 31, 2008

And Fiji makes forty-six!

Welcome to our first visitor from Fiji.

Somewhere, floating among the piles and boxes of papers I have accumulated is a Fijian worship booklet with the Holy Eucharist in Fijian. If I could lay my hands on it, I might add a prayer here. But, alas, it's not happening tonight.

It came into my hands when I was tutoring a wonderful Fijian gentleman preparing for ordination in the Diocese of California several years ago. We talked about liturgy and music in the Episcopal Church and about the customs involved in worship and culture. What a joy it was to spend some time with Jimmy.

Now that my memory has been jogged by our guest today, I need to add Fijian Anglicans to those Asian Christian congregations in the diocese of my canonical residence.

One of the first things that struck me after moving to New Mexico was the dearth of Asians compared to the San Francisco Bay Area where I had lived from 1981 to 2006 (or even Los Angeles County where I'd lived from 1964 to 1981). This was not some surprise as I was quite aware of the overall demographic of New Mexico. It was just somewhat striking to realize it on an everyday level of experience. I don't walk into situations where I can use my two to five phrases in various Asian languages and Albuquerque is not known as a mecca for Chinese food. Lordy, I'd love to eat my way around the Bay, savoring some good Hunan and Szechuan dishes!

Well, me rattling on. Again. As usual.

Welcome, Fijian friend. Come back again.
--the BB

Well, big duh!

Gutenberg Bible

This is really a very silly quiz. I don't mind that it is multiple choice because how else could we have quizzes that are easy to take and score instantly? But when choices include "pizza" or "San Francisco" it really robs the quiz of any meaning. I knew all the answers though I would quibble quite seriously with one. Wisdom literature and poetry are overlapping categories and the Protestant divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures are highly arbitrary and misleading. I never use them, preferring the Jewish distinction among Torah, Prophets, and Writings. And yes, I could click "yes" on the question whether I have read every word of the Bible. At least three times, most of it many times.

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes




How many people are aware that Thomas Cranmer's desire in liturgical revision included a norm of all Christians reading or hearing read most of the Bible in the course of the Daily Office and Communion services? It is very Anglican to be immersed in Scripture. Granted, I was raised a Baptist and learned the Bible through a very different process, for which I am and always have been grateful. Part of my gratitude, though , is knowing the Bible well enough to note when it is being misused.

OK, enough. I'm ranting again and politics has had me doing too much ranting today.

h/t to Diane who get me started on this one.

Hugs to all who will accept them.
--the BB

Yep, Pres. Reverse-Midas-Touch has managed to do it

AP shares the bad news:
WASHINGTON - The U.S. military isn't ready for a catastrophic attack on the country, and National Guard forces don't have the equipment or training they need for the job, a commission charged by Congress reported Thursday.

Even fewer Army National Guard units are combat-ready today than were nearly a year ago when the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves determined that 88 percent of the units were not prepared for the fight, the panel said in its report.

...

The commission's 400-page report concludes that the nation "does not have sufficient trained, ready forces available" to respond to a chemical, biological or nuclear weapons incident," an appalling gap that places the nation and its citizens at greater risk." [emphasis mine]
h/t Hoffmania

This is an independent commission providing this assessment.

Bush has pretty much screwed up everything he was involved in, whether in business or government. Why ruin such a consistent record? He's broken our military too. No matter how great an effort our wonderful men and women in uniform make, they have an incompetent Commander-in-Chief, who operates out of his gut (well, he couldn't very well operate out of a brain, could he?) with no goals, no clearly defined mission, no plan for withdrawal, and no concern for the troops he daily sends into risk.

Who supports a raise in military pay? Dems
Who supports quality healthcare for our troops when they return? Dems
Who favors diplomacy first and military action as a last resort? Dems
Who favors adequate training, armor, supplies, and rest between deployments? Dems
Who trumpets their "support" for the troops? GOP
Who has thwarted bills to actually support the troops? GOP

Just saying.
Of course, once you break the military you can replace through privatization, right? And isn't that pretty much the goal of all the WH policies?

Cui bono? [Who benefits?]

Well, let me give you a clue. Not the American people.
--the BB

From the pen of Jeff Danziger

Have we thanked them adequately?

Check them out. These are the two who decided Mukasey might be OK, gave him the benefit of the doubt, and enabled him to become our Attorney General. We owe them so much. Like voting them out of office at the earliest possible opportunity. I might give Chuck Schumer a second chance [with one helluva tongue lashing] but I am a California native and have had to live with DiFi's compromises too long. When she supported an anti-flag-burning amendment to the Constitution I told her I would never vote for her again. If I were still living in California that would mean something. Now I don't have the opportunity to vote against her. She could lead me out of yellow dog Democrat territory so that I would vote for anyone who ran against her, no matter how awful.

Yes, I bear grudges. Deal with it. She could have been a great senator. Every now and again she says or does something really wonderful. Then she lets her inner Republican take over and upholds the Bush agenda. Repeatedly. She's a great example of what that touted bipartisanship gets us. Fucked over. Dry and without condoms. Leaving us raped, pregnant, diseased, and left to deal with the misery we owe to our rapists, who never gave a shit about us. We weren't even objects of desire--just something to be dominated and degraded and tossed aside. Rape, after all, is about power not sex. Yep, that's bipartisanship these days.

You see, while abuse continues it's pointless to discuss bipartisanship. Making nice with your abuser does not stop abuse, no matter how many times you tell yourself the abuse is your fault and it will stop if you can just be the woman, man, partner, parent, colleague, etc. your abuser wants you to be--which is presumed to be the correct ideal, of course, no matter how arbitrary, twisted, and sick it may be.

The Dems in Congress have been behaving as abused persons for far too long. They buy into the abusers' framework, they try to placate their abusers, they internalize all the lies they are told, and they take it, over and over and over again. Then they despise themselves, which plays further into the hands of their abusers. They tell themselves there are no alternatives to either making nice or getting slapped down. They cannot imagine any other way of being. That is exactly what the abuser has wanted to establish, a situation where the victims cannot even imagine things being other than as they are, or to imagine that they don't deserve what happens to them.

So here we are, making nicey nice with AG Michael Mukasey while he conveys, with less obvious contempt than Abu Gonzales, that the White House does not give a shit what Congress thinks, what laws it passes or does not pass, what oversight it thinks it is going to exercise, what subpoenas it issues. It is a law unto itself with plenipotentiary powers not subject to any restraints from Congress or the Courts.

Mukasey, a very borderline nominee for his position, was considered "the best we can get"--and isn't that the despairing perspective of the severely abused? Thanks to DiFi and Chuck turning, he got confirmed. Those hopes that he would be better than Bush's old BFF Fredo? Pfft!

Glenn Greenwald writes:
All day long, in response to Mukasey's insistence that patent illegalities were legal, that Congress was basically powerless, and that the administration has no obligation to disclose anything to Congress (and will not), Senators would respond with impotent comments such as: "Well, I'd like to note my disagreement and ask you to re-consider" or "I'm disappointed with your answer and was hoping you would say something different" or "If that's your position, we'll be discussing this again at another point." They were supplicants pleading for some consideration, almost out of a sense of mercy, and both they and Mukasey knew it.

Mukasey can go and casually tell them to their faces that the President has the right to violate their laws and that Congress has no power to do anything about it. And nothing is going to happen. And everyone -- the Senators, Bush officials, the country -- knows that nothing is going to happen. There is nothing too extreme that Mukasey could say to those Senators that would prompt any consequences greater than some sighing and sorrowful expressions of disapproval. We now live in a country where the President -- and those acting at his behest (see Lewis Libby, AT&T, and Verizon)-- have the power to break the law and ignore Congress and every other aspect of government, and can do so with impunity.
...
It ought to be newsworthy, to put it mildly, when the President announces that he has the power to violate the law at will. But in another sense, it's not really newsworthy any longer. It's been going on for years and we've chosen to do nothing about it. We have a Government where the President is not bound by the law, and it is just as simple as that.

That, my friends, is where we are today. We effing let it happen. Our representatives in both houses of Congress have let it happen. Makes you wonder whether we might not be better off today if the earth had opened and swallowed the Capitol and all in it during the SOTU speech, doesn't it?

So, how do we appropriately thank these people?
--the BB


[Note: I recognize that not all are spineless compromising slime-buckets. Alas, too many are, so the collective judgment stands in spite of some sterling exceptions.]

UPDATE:
Here is Greenwald's description of bipartisanship, only slightly less unsavory than mine:

But more importantly, "bipartisanship" is already rampant in Washington, not rare. And, in almost every significant case, what "bipartisanship" means in Washington is that enough Democrats join with all of the Republicans to endorse and enact into law Republican policies, with which most Democratic voters disagree. That's how so-called "bipartisanship" manifests in almost every case.

Let's see: now why are we in Iraq?

I saw this at Digby's Hullabaloo and felt compelled to pass it on. From Roads to Iraq:
American Oil companies offered five million dollars to each Iraqi MP to pass the Oil law

Reported today on Akhbar Alkhaleej newspaper [link updated]

An Iraqi MP preferred to remain anonymous told the newspaper that highly confidential negotiations took place by representatives from American oil companies, offering $5 million to each MP who votes in favor of the Oil and Gas law.

The amount that could be paid to pass the votes do not exceed $150 million dollars in the case of $5 million to each MP, pointing out that the Oil law requires 138 votes to pass, which the Americans want to guarantee in many ways, including vote-buying, intimidation and threats!

Focusing on the heads of parliamentary blocs and influential figures in the parliament to ensure the votes, the Americans guaranteed the Kurdish votes in advance but they are seeking enough votes to pass and approve the law as soon as possible.

La República Bolivariana de Venezuela


Today we had a guest from Venezuela, land of the cuatro, a stringed instrument related to the lute and guitar though somewhat smaller than a guitar. Of course, there is much more to Venezuela than this, but it springs to my mind because of Jackeline Rago, a talented Venezuelan musician, who has taught music through the La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley, California, and is now working through the Jazz School in Berkeley.

When a group of talented amateur musicians working with Jacki wanted a space for a master class by a Venezuelan percussionist, they contacted St Cuddy's, Oakland. I don't think I could say "Yes!" enthusiastically enough. What an evening that was, with me hanging around in the offices and pacing energetically with the rhythms of the music. The group performed at St Cuthbert's a couple of times thereafter and brought incredibly joy to us all. I coined the name for the group: Ritmozolano.


On Jackeline's website one reads the words of Jennifer Dunning of the New York Times: "...and Jackeline Rago nearly steals the show with a maraca solo whose hushed beat magically fills the theater..." I have heard her do a maraca solo in the church and it knocked my socks off. If you ever get the chance....

To get a bit of the sound of Venezuela, check out the website of the Venezuelan Music Project. (My hips are bouncing in the chair as I type right now.)

So, with that, I want to bid welcome to whoever dropped in today from Venezuela. Regrese y visite con nosotros.
--the BB

Thursday Constitution Blogging


Fourteenth Amendment

Section. 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.



Once again we get to ponder whether, and to what extent, the Constitution is relevant to our lives. Today I take a quick glance at the first section of the 14th Amendment. I draw your attention to these words: "All citizens born ... in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States...."

There are folks nowadays who argue that the children born in the United States of undocumented alien parents should not be granted citizenship. Whatever one's views on the challenges of immigration, it is evident that such a proposal would involve amending the Constitution and overturning the precedent of United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898),

Wonk Kim Ark was born of Chinese parents (subjects of the Chinese emperor) in San Francisco, where he made his residence. He twice visited China briefly and, on the second trip, was denied landing on his return on the claim that he was a Chinese subject and not an American citizen. The court found in his favor.

English common law and findings were examined as pertinent to the intent and understanding of the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment. It was noted that:
It thus clearly appears that by the law of England for the last three centuries, beginning before the settlement of this country, and continuing to the present day, aliens, while residing in the dominions possessed by the crown of England, were within the allegiance, the obedience, the faith or loyalty, the protection, the power, and the jurisdiction of the English sovereign; and therefore every child born in England of alien parents was a natural-born subject, unless the child of an ambassador or other diplomatic agent of a foreign state, or of an alien enemy in hostile occupation of the place where the child was born.
The U. S. Supreme Court concluded that, even in the light of the fierce anti-Chinese laws of the time, Mr. Wong Kim Ark was, by virtue of his birth in the United States, a citizen thereof.

A further comment at Findlaw states:
In Afroyim v. Rusk, a divided Court extended the force of this first sentence beyond prior holdings, ruling that it withdrew from the Government of the United States the power to expatriate United States citizens against their will for any reason. ''[T]he Amendment can most reasonably be read as defining a citizenship which a citizen keeps unless he voluntarily relinquishes it. Once acquired, this Fourteenth Amendment citizenship was not to be shifted, canceled, or diluted at the will of the Federal Government, the States, or any other government unit.
This amendent basically overtuned the horrid decision in the Dred Scott case. It garnered approval of enough states for ratification on July 9, 1868. [Wikipedia]

In the archives at Orcinus one may read an extensive treatment of anti-Asian sentiment and practices in the United States in which Dave Neiwert draws on the research he did for his book Strawberry Days.

In another of his posts, Dave notes:
After all, the first "illegal immigrants" were Asians. The nakedly racist Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first law to attempt to limit immigration to America; prior to that, immigration had been open to anyone, though citizenship was reserved to "free white persons" and then expanded in 1870 to include people of African descent.
I find it extremely intersting, and pertinent, that those most exercised over issues of border control, are not pushing for a fence along our border with Canada. Why is that? It wouldn't have anything to do with skin color and culture, would it?

If the borders of this land had been "secure" in the era following 1492, most of us would not be here.
--the BB

WAR IS PEACE; FREEDOM IS SLAVERY; IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH - updated

Reuters photo via the Independent
Chris in Paris posted a note at Americablog about a journalist sentenced to death for downloading a report on women's rights:
Afghanistan is sentencing a journalist to death because he downloaded and distributed a report on women's rights. Is this the government that we're propping up with our soldiers and tax dollars? I understand that different cultures have different views but this is so incredibly against everything we stand for as a country. Is this really the kind of government we want to support?

You may read more at the UK Independent article, including how you may join their petition on behalf of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh. The Independent notes:
The Independent is launching a campaign today to secure justice for Mr Kambaksh. The UN, human rights groups, journalists' organisations and Western diplomats have urged Mr Karzai's government to intervene and free him. But the Afghan Senate passed a motion yesterday confirming the death sentence.

The MP who proposed the ruling condemning Mr Kambaksh was Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, a key ally of Mr Karzai. The Senate also attacked the international community for putting pressure on the Afghan government and urged Mr Karzai not to be influenced by outside un-Islamic views.
[emphasis mine]

We sure are making a difference in the Middle East and Central Asia.

UPDATE:
For several other brief updates on Afghanistan, check out Juan Cole here.  None of it is encouraging, of course.
--the BB

Memory eternal

The names of those Americans who died this month in Iraq:

Joshua R. Anderson, 24, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 02, 2008
Ryan D. Maseth, 24, Army Staff Sergeant, Jan 02, 2008

Thomas J. Casey, 32, Army Captain, Jan 03, 2008

Andrew J. Olmsted, 37, Army Major, Jan 03, 2008

Menelek M. Brown, 24, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class, Jan 04, 2008

Jason F. Lemke, 30, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 05, 2008

James D. Gudridge, 20, Army Specialist, Jan 06, 2008

Timothy R. Hanson, 23, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 07, 2008

Todd E. Davis, 22, Army Specialist, Jan 09, 2008

Jonathan Kilian Dozier, 30, Army Staff Sergeant, Jan 09, 2008

Sean M. Gaul, 29, Army Staff Sergeant, Jan 09, 2008

David J. Hart, 22, Army Sergeant, Jan 09, 2008

Zachary W. McBride, 20, Army Sergeant, Jan 09, 2008

Ivan E. Merlo, 19, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 09, 2008

Phillip J. Pannier, 20, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 09, 2008

Matthew I. Pionk, 30, Army Sergeant 1st Class, Jan 09, 2008

Christopher A. Sanders, 22, Army Sergeant, Jan 09, 2008

Curtis A. Christensen Jr., 29, Marine Lance Corporal, Jan 11, 2008

Keith E. Lloyd, 26, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 12, 2008

Danny L. Kimme, 27, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 16, 2008

David H. Sharrett II, 27, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 16, 2008

John P. Sigsbee, 21, Army Specialist, Jan 16, 2008

Richard B. Burress, 25, Army Specialist, Jan 19, 2008

Jon M. Schoolcraft III, 26, Army Specialist, Jan 19, 2008

Justin R. Whiting, 27, Army Staff Sergeant, Jan 19, 2008

James M. Gluff, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, Jan 19, 2008

Michael R. Sturdivant, 20, Army Sergeant, Jan 22, 2008

Tracy Renee Birkman, 41, Army Sergeant, Jan 25, 2008

Duncan Charles Crookston, 19, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 25, 2008

Robert J. Wilson, 28, Army Staff Sergeant, Jan 26, 2008

Mikeal W. Miller, 22, Army Sergeant, Jan 27, 2008

Alan G. Rogers, 40, Army Major, Jan 27, 2008

James E. Craig, 26, Army Sergeant, Jan 28, 2008

Gary W. Jeffries, 37, Army Staff Sergeant, Jan 28, 2008

Evan A. Marshall, 21, Army Specialist, Jan 28, 2008

Brandon A. Meyer, 20, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 28, 2008

Joshua A. R. Young, 21, Army Private, Jan 28, 2008


May these brave Americans rest in peace. May their families, some how, find comfort.

May the war victims of Iraq rest in peace. May their families, some how, find comfort.

May those who started this war with lies not find peace until they realize the horror of what they have done. May they be held accountable in this life.

The names are taken from georgia10's article at Daily Kos where it is noted:
For the first time in five months, month-to-month deaths in Iraq have increased.

--the BB

Remember the rule of law? Pretty vague memory, isn't it? - Updated


Smintheus at Daily Kos discusses Attorney General Mukasey's testimony:
The answer that waterboarding him personally would constitute torture puts Mukasey in line with DNI McConnell.

Funny though that in his answer to Kennedy, Mukasey doesn't need to know any further circumstances to make that decision. He's been claiming that torture is situational; certain circumstances make waterboarding legal. But with regard to himself, he doesn't hesitate to issue an opinion without even the slightest quibbling about possible circumstances.

That seems to imply that waterboarding Michael Mukasey would be torture under any conceivable circumstances - because he's innocent of wrongdoing. And yet none of the people who've been tortured by the CIA under George Bush's orders had been convicted of anything. The presumption of innocence is the very foundation of our law. Neither George Bush nor Michael Mukasey is in any position to rule that none of the prisoners might conceivably be innocent. They haven't attempted to assert that power. These and other prisoners of course remain innocent before the law until found guilty of some crime.

Essentially Michael Mukasey is declaring: No, you may torture other innocent people but never me. He is what passes these days for America's lawyer.

SSJOAS!

It would have been nice if the Senate of the United States of America had told the Sociopath-in-Chief that they would NEVER confirm anyone as Attorney General who would not unequivocally acknowledge that waterboarding is torture and therefore illegal. Of course, Bush could not do that, because we know we've waterboarded and if we admit that it's torture then it would follow, as the night the day, that the maladministration is guilty of violating the law. Which, my friends, the whole world already knows. We have a lawless thug in the Oval Office who has been turning the United States into a rogue nation.

Oh look! Britney got 52-50ed. [No, I am not going to provide a link; y'all have better things to think about.]

UPDATE:
Scott Horton has a great article up at Harper's about Mukasey's appearance. It really captures a lot of the issues and makes them quite clear. I recommend reading the whole thing.

Horton cites "Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin’s summation of the Mukasey testimony:"

You’re crazy if you think I’m going to admit that any of the interrogation practices previously performed by the Administration that just hired me are illegal. Saying that would suggest that people in the Administration violated the law and are subject to criminal prosecution, and that previous OLC opinions have condoned war crimes. The only thing I will tell you is that I sure hope we don’t continue one of these practices in the future (lucky for me you haven’t pressed me about the others!). But don’t ask me to say that the President can’t do any of them later on if he wants to. I mean, come on, guys, I just got here, you know? I just put new drapes in my office. I really don’t want to have to get fired only three months after I started. Oh, and by the way, the President, my boss, never violates the law. Got that?

There you have it: our American democracy gone down the tubes. Drawing toward his conclusion, Horton writes:
Mukasey promised a new rapport with Congress and with the American public, and he promised to restore the integrity for which the Justice Department was once famous. At this point he’s made a few positive personnel moves and given a few encouraging speeches, but when we come back to a focus on the major issues that he was forced to confront in the second day of his confirmation hearing, there is precious little to separate his opinions and conduct from his tarnished predecessor, Alberto Gonzales.
h/t to Smintheus at Daily Kos for the Horton tip.

--the BB

Why I love this man

Do not turn away from these great struggles before us. Do not give up on the causes that we have fought for. Do not walk away from what's possible, because it's time for all of us, all of us together, to make the two Americas one.

We came here to the Lower Ninth Ward to rebuild. And we're going to rebuild today and work today, and we will continue to come back. We will never forget the heartache and we'll always be here to bring them hope, so that someday, one day, the trumpets will sound in Musicians' Village, where we are today, play loud across Lake Ponchartrain, so that working people can come marching in and those steps once again can lead to a family living out the dream in America.
--John Edwards

Whoever walks up to the podium on January 20, 2009, takes the oath of office and speaks for the first time as President to the nation, ought to take the words in John’s third paragraph excerpted above and repeat them, and tell us s/he has taken them to heart and that the first 100 days of the new administration will include not just a promise but a plan to do exactly what John said, rebuild New Orleans. Far more that that must be done to deal with the two Americas. But such a pledge would offer proof that those who today said John Edwards’s message matters aren’t just saying so for effect, but truly believe it.

--Meteor Blades


Thanks to Meteor Blades' article for underscoring the words of Edwards challenging us all.
--the BB

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ni hao ma?--see comments

Welcome to our guest from Hong Kong!

One of the joys of working with the Asian Commission of the Diocese of California was getting to know Asian Episcopalians from several lands.  Our congregation was blessed with Cambodian-Americans and one lady from Singapore by way of Canada and Boston, but we also had folks in the diocese with roots in China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.

David Lui was a great friend.  He was from Hong Kong and had studied theology there as well as in London during his stint in the UK.  I had the joy of working with him on his theological studies in Oakland and then seeing him ordained a priest at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.  He went on to minister at a church in the Sunset District of San Francisco that brought Anglo and Chinese communities together.

Here's a shout out to my buddy David!

So nice to have someone from Hong Kong visit here.  Come back again!

Now, remind me, please

Who thought Mukasey would not be a White House tool?


Screen cap from Talking Points Memo
--the BB

And Denmark makes forty-three

Greetings to today's visitor from Denmark; nice to have you here.

You may have been lured here by googling Prince Fredrik or perhaps some more interesting path, but I am just glad you visited.

In the central part of California, not far from the coast, lies the town of Solvang. It is a tourist spot that draws folks in by giving the feel of a Danish town. Realistic? Probably not but we all love our fairytale ideals of "old world" locales. My father's home town, Kingsburg, located south of Fresno, tried to mimic this by touting its Swedish roots. Just try to turn an annual Watermelon Festival into something Swedish! (Well, they do, with mixed success. The point is, as ever, to have an excuse to party, and that always works.)

There was a time when most of the shopkeepers in Kingsburg were second-generation Swedish Americans but the last time I tried to by Christmas limpa in the local bakery there the young woman had no clue what I meant.

Today, however, is not the season of watermelon festivals. In fact, I just glanced out the window and I see snowflakes drifting very erratically to the ground. I hope driving to Corrales this afternoon (and returning again) does not get too exciting. I love snow. I hate icy roads.
--the BB

Many of us are lamenting today




Christy Hardin Smith captures much of what I am feeling in her essay "The Heart of the Democratic Party" at Firedoglake.
With John Edwards dropping out of the Democratic presidential race, we are losing a fierce and committed voice for change and for justice. I, for one, feel that loss like an ache.

One of the signature issues of his campaign -- one that is near and dear to my own heart -- was Edwards' commitment to giving voice to those who have none in our money-driven political process. The Democratic party has long been the champion of the downtrodden and folks in need. Although we have sadly forgotten that obligation to the least of these our bretheren the last few years, the message still resonates here in Appalachia and all over this nation where people are in need of hope, and a little dignity.

John Edwards candidacy has been a daily reminder to pick up the charge of the better angels of our nature, and to speak up against those injustices that too often get shoved to the side for more monied and powerful interests.

I hope she will forgive me going for just one more paragraph, her conclusion:
We are the heart of the Democratic party. We are the change we wish to see. But only if we continue to do the work to make that change possible. Each and every day. I wanted to take some time to thank John and Elizabeth Edwards for being such an inspiration. But it occurs to me that the best thanks that any of us can give them is to keep on doing the necessary work, for a better tomorrow, a better nation, for all of us...


Photo of John Edwards via kk+ (via Firedoglake)

SusanG posts his farewell address at Daily Kos. He gave it in New Orleans, where he began his campaign.
I began my presidential campaign here to remind the country that we, as citizens and as a government, have a moral responsibility to each other, and what we do together matters. We must do better, if we want to live up to the great promise of this country that we all love so much.
...
Do not turn away from these great struggles before us. Do not give up on the causes that we have fought for. Do not walk away from what's possible, because it's time for all of us, all of us together, to make the two Americas one.

Thank you. God bless you, and let's go to work. Thank you all very much.
Thank you, John and Elizabeth, from the bottom of my heart.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to cry a bit.
--the BB

Solidarity with a deacon friend


Deacon Ormonde Plater faces a tough patch. Send some love and prayers his way.

I have learned so much from this man, on many different levels, that I don't know how to thank him except being a faithful servant of Christ where I am.
--the BB

Mahātmā Gāndhī

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall — think of it, always."

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?"

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

"There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for."


Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the assassination of Mohandas K. Gandhi (October 2, 1869–January 30, 1948). H/t to the cartoon strip Mythtickle for the reminder. The photo and quotes above come via Wikipedia.

As a high school student who piously took "thou shalt not kill" as an absolute command, I was drawn to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the teachings of Mahātmā ("great soul") Gāndhī, along with the writings of Leo Tolstoy. My admiration for Gandhi has not diminished over the years.

Gandhi retains the moral force that is lost when nations and movements seek to enforce their values by force. Do I need to point out that the "winning hearts and minds" part of spreading democracy has been, shall we say, missing of late?

UPDATE:
Grandmère Mimi has some other great quotes from Gandhi.  Check them out here.
--the BB

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I could not resist sharing this



Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake writes:
Meanwhile, enjoy this exclusive video of Republicans negotiating in good faith with Democrats to give Dick Cheney and the telecoms retroactive immunity. (h/t Avedon) [emphasis mine]




--the BB

Tuesday Prayer Blogging


Grant us, O Lord, the blessing of those whose minds are stayed on you, so that we may be kept in perfect peace: a peace which cannot be broken. Let not our minds rest upon any creature, but only in the Creator; not upon goods, things, houses, lands, inventions of vanities or foolish fashions, lest, our peace being broken, we become cross and brittle and given over to envy. From all such deliver us, O God, and grant us your peace.
--George Fox (1624-1691) Founder of the Society of Friends

Via The Communion of Saints, edited by Horton Davies

--the BB

Tragic math

John Cory has a guest post up at Hoffmania. I took the lines in the graphic above from it. He writes:
The folks who see profit and growth in the numbers of veterans of this war, the Health Care Insurers know an opportunity when they see one. In her December 2007 report Emily Berry for American Medical News gives us a tour by the numbers:

30,000 troops have been wounded in action.
39,000 have been diagnosed with PTSD.
84,000 vets suffer a mental health disorder.
229,000 veterans have sought VA care.
1.4 million troops (active duty and reserves) deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan so far.
Estimates run between $350 billion to $700 billion needed for lifetime care and benefits for veterans.

And now, making the rounds in Washington is a plan that has become known as “The Psychological Kevlar Act of 2007” which reaches out to the pharmaceutical industry to partner with the Department of Defense to use the drug Propranalol to treat symptoms of PTSD even before a soldier succumbs to full blown PTSD. An ounce of prevention after all is worth funding for experimentation, I mean research. A numb soldier is a happy soldier.
The reason I keep harping on the lying s*** ** **** that is George W. Bush is because his lies have consequences in the lives of millions. The lies that led us into Iraq have huge consequences that most of us ignore as we go through our days. Unless we have lost a family member of friend. Or someone we love comes back maimed.

Injured is such a wimpy word. I remember seeing on public transporation in France back in the late 60s the notice that we were to yield seats to the "mutilés de guerre"--those mutilated by war. Believe me, I do not have a photographic memory. That phrase, however, is obviously going to haunt me for the rest of my life.

I realize that words, the labels we attach to people, have impact. This is why we avoid using such a searing phrase. One would not say, "This is my friend Chad; he got mutilated in Iraq." It's too brutal. Yet it is also the truth of what happens day after day. Because of lies. Orchestrated lies.

Cory also notes this: "In 2005 alone, there were 6,256 veteran suicides. That’s 120 every week or an average of 17 suicides every day." [emphasis mine]

You really need to read all of Cory's article.

Then have a good cry.

Then get angry enough to do something about the war criminals in the White House.

UPDATE 1:
Speaking of lies, when Bush asserts or implies that "the surge is working" one should always bear in mind that the escalation (aka "surge) had a stated purpose when it was proposed: creating a more stable environment in which political progress could be made by the Iraqis. Violence may well be down (though far from eliminated) but political progress is not being made. Kudos to the troops but, in terms of its purpose, it's not working.

Blue Texan at Firedoglake writes:
Since the surge was announced, 937 Americans have been killed in Iraq. Last month, more Americans were killed than in June, 2003. For...what exactly? So that Iraq may at some point get around to getting some of the things on Bush's laundry list done, so that may in turn lead to some form of government that's possibly functional at some point in the future. Great.

A reduction in violence to 2003 levels was not the goal of the surge. Political reconciliation was. BushCo doesn't need our help in rewriting history. And we sure as hell shouldn't be applauding a failed policy that has taken the lives of 937 more Americans and who knows how many Iraqis just so Bush could pass the buck to the next President.
UPDATE 2:
James Carroll wrote in the Boston Globe yesterday:
YOU AND everyone you love are riding on a large bus. The bus driver, unskilled and careless, drives too fast, ignores traffic signals, and barrels off the road occasionally. Because the bus is huge, other vehicles swerve to get out of its way, with cars crashing repeatedly. But your driver just keeps going, leaving carnage in his wake. Naturally, you are terrified - but your reactions are irrelevant.

Finally, the bus itself crashes, killing many. Miraculously, you and your loved ones climb out of the wreckage. A second bus is standing by, and you gratefully scramble aboard. The engine starts up, but then the bus lurches dangerously onto the road, going too fast. Only then do you see that this new bus has the same driver, and he has learned nothing. Welcome to the United States of America. And welcome to the annual State of the Union address.
h./t to Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post for this one.


--the BB