Saturday, February 09, 2008 erosion of both morale and excellence....

I originally read the phrase as "an erosion of both morals and excellence" and I think that reading holds up quite well, in or out of context. But the header here is the correct form. It is part of a larger post by DemFromCT at Daily Kos:
There have been two major problems with the Bush approach to science. One has been the placement of political minders in various positions to influence the science reporting. The other has been a philosophical acceptance that private industry should have a role in regulating the regulators. It's hard to say which has been the biggest disaster. The end result is an erosion of both morale and excellence in the science community. Both results are unacceptable, and require a ballot box response to right the ship (and, in the meantime, suggest an excellent set of questions to address to the candidates). Science research needs to be encouraged and nurtured, not held captive to political and commercial interests.

Read it all here.

--the BB

Eastern Europe

A hearty welcome to today's first visitors from Croatia and Turkey.

A few weeks ago I had three guests over for dinner. All three had been to Turkey, so conversation flowed around Istanbul and Ephesus especially. My friend Jane R also was in Istanbul recently and has blogged about her adventures, sharing photos of her travels, including the ubiquitous cats of Istanbul.

The photo I just snaffled off a National Geographic site on the net shows the Old Town of Rovinj on the Istrian Coast in Croatia. Back in my UCLA days I listened with fascination as Professor Krekič lectured on medieval Balkan history. Just reading place names makes me want to go there.

The flag collection now numbers fifty-three.
--the BB

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

I have learned to be content with whatever I have. (Philippians 4:11b)
I remember attaching a post-it to my computer back in the 90s. It read: "What you have is enough."

Fr. Jim Stickney, then rector of St Alban's, Albany, California, has that simple phrase up in his office. I had for a time served as transitional deacon then assisting priest at St Alban's and am grateful for his having taken me on. The reason his phrase was on my computer is that I was having trouble internalizing the sentiment.

I always have trouble internalizing that sentiment. I believe we call this a "growing edge."

One of my early sermons at St Cuddy's, in fact, included a confession that no matter how often I looked at those five words, I really, really wanted a computer with a whole gigabyte. (Hey, don't laugh, that was big back then. Damned whippersnappers.)

Our desire for more, always more, causes untold suffering--not merely mental anguish but human tragedy as people are exploited and oppressed for the sake of a consumer economy based not on sharing resources but on the principle that some must lose in order for others to win, some must lack in order for others to have.

Philippians is Paul's "happy" epistle, the one filled with rejoicing and very little chiding. We don't get the grumpy apostle here. And amid many wonderful passages we get this affirmation of being content, no matter what happens, no matter how much or how little he may have at the moment.

It is a radical critique of our consumerism, of our desiring, of our desperate quest for whatever we think may sate us, numb us, make us feel whole.

O God, teach me to appreciate the blessings you send and not to grasp. Fill me with your own Self that I may know true satisfaction and be freed from that emptiness which seeks that which cannot satisfy. Amen.
‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:20-24)

How fortuitous to look now at Jesus' prayer in the Fourth Gospel that speaks in those rhythmic Johannine repetitions that used to drive me crazy. Jesus prayers for our oneness with God and with each other in the mystery of his oneness with God.

"As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us."

Fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in te.
You have made us for yourself
and our heart is restless
until it rests in you.

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth your right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
--the BB

Fran did this to me!

A very tidy fantasy of book stacks.
Wish mine were this pretty and tidy.

Really. Honest. Usually someone does a meme or a quiz and I just yield to temptation because I am a weak and silly person, easily led astray. But Fran actually tagged me. She is also a notorious flatterer, calling me "a very learned and wise man" which actually translates to "pedantic and silly," but I'll take what I can get.

It's a book meme.

It goes like this:

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)

Find Page 123.

Find the first 5 sentences and read them.

Post the next 3 sentences.

Well, such a dilemma. Books are piled all around me when I am at the keyboard. Actually, if one is in the library, my office, my bedroom, or my living room there is high likelihood of sitting near piles of books. Some of the books are even on shelves. Many hundreds are still in boxes in the garage.

The instruction, however, says the nearest book of over 123 pages. I almost needed a ruler but the winner is (drumroll, please)....

The Liturgical Dictionary of Eastern Christianity by Peter D. Day (Michael Glazier Books).

The [Royal] Hours conclude with the kontakion, a collect hymn, the Prayer of the Hours, and a Dismissal.

HOZOH (Armenian)
A garment that is put around the shoulders of the dead.

HUDRA (East Syrian)
(also spelled Hudhra, Kudra)
A liturgical book that contains the Proper of the Liturgy as well as the Office for Sundays, feasts of our Lord, and principal saints' days.

For the sentence count I ignored the headers.

I think it is patently obvious that I did not cheat if this is what I came up with.

Quite a challenge--making charming piffle out of this. Fran had much more fun with hers, which included passing mention of somewhere I lived for two months: Montpellier (Hérault). [Fran and I keep triggering each other's memories, journeys, and stories.]

Runners-up in the category of nearest books include A New Pocket Dictionary: English-Armenian / Armenian-English; Contemporary Office Book (the breviary I use for daily reflections); Byzantine Daily Worship; The Photoshop Elements 5 Book; dictionaries in several other languages that I do not speak (Russian, Welsh, Lakota, Turkish) and one I do (French); sundry spiritual writings, a travel guide to St Petersburg; and one mystery novel.

The more interesting stacks of books are obviously elsewhere. Valerie Wilson's Fair Game sits near the comfy glider in the living room. Dom Crossan's God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now is in my briefcase (I was reading it yesterday). Scads of other books are lying around waiting for me to actually pick them up and read them. Someone needs to get offline for Lent, eh?

So, I am now going to go water the fruit trees. Then perhaps I will sit down and read some more Crossan. Today's Lenten reflection will be late.

Trees and roses were watered. More Crossan was read. Homemade soup was consumed. And I forgot to tag anyone. Which is different from saying I am not tagging anyone. Which I am. Not tagging anyone, that is. But earlier I just forgot. Now I am choosing. BB (Boris Bear--hah! you thought it stood for the Byzigenous Buddhapalian) out.
--the BB

It's we DFH who support the troops!

Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars reports on how we are treating our troops. From NPR's Morning Edition:
A document from the Department of Veterans Affairs contradicts an assertion made by the Army surgeon general that his office did not tell VA officials to stop helping injured soldiers with their military disability paperwork at a New York Army post.

The paperwork can help determine health care and disability benefits for wounded soldiers.

Nicole also notes that, while in his SOTU speech Bush called for allowing troops to transfer unused education benefits to family members, the budget he submitted makes no provision for this. As usual. Big words + No action = Big Lies.


John Sherffius
Feb 8, 2008

An unmitigated, reality-sodomizing liar

Dick Cheney spoke at CPAC Thursday, uttering some of the most blatant falsehoods / fantasies imaginable. Hunter captures the phenomenon:

Cheney doesn't believe in merely denying reality, he believes in pinning it down, attaching electrodes to it, then just clubbing it to death for fun.
It's interesting, because once again one would think it would be a key component of rational public discourse for people to, indeed, call him out on his happy, camouflage-colored delusions. But it's somehow off-limits, in the press, to point out when a public official is an unmitigated, reality-sodomizing liar.

Read it all here.

UPDATE (about two minutes after original post):
While we are on the subject of egregious falsehoods, check BarbinMD's brief bit on George Bush in tornado land. What mental pathologies allow him to utter such things?
--the BB

All the noble reasons....

Mcjoan at Daily Kos gives us an update on all the good we've done for the Iraqi women:
Reason #5930 for the invasion of Iraq, liberating Iraqi women, has been thoroughly debunked.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The images in the Basra police file are nauseating: Page after page of women killed in brutal fashion -- some strangled to death, their faces disfigured; others beheaded. All bear signs of torture.

The women are killed, police say, because they failed to wear a headscarf or because they ignored other "rules" that secretive fundamentalist groups want to enforce.


That pretty much redefines freedom and democracy in Bushspeak. It means freedom for private contractors to exploit this war for every dime they can get. I'm not sure where the democracy fits into the picture, but it pretty much means fear and horror for everyone else involved who isn't a profiteer. [snip]

--the BB

Friday, February 08, 2008

Friday Five: What are you Doing for Lent?

This comes via Diane at Faith in Community:

Friday Five: What are you Doing for Lent?
Mother Laura from over at Revgals says: Ready or not, Lent is upon us! And asks us to consider these questions:

1. Did you celebrate Mardi Gras and/or Ash Wednesday this week? How?
I spent the evening of Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday in my first Russian class. Our church had a Mardi Gras-themed dinner the previous Saturday as a fund raiser to send some youths on pilgrimage this summer. There was an art auction and also some great music performed by a group including two of our choir members.

I preached and presided at midday Mass on Ash Wednesday at San Gabriel Mission.

2. What was your most memorable Mardi Gras/Ash Wednesday/Lent?
Two Ash Wednesdays come to mind. On one I arrived at church early in the morning to get ready for the first of three services that day. Paramedics were at a house across the street where a parishioner lived. She was being taken to a nearby hospital. I quickly gave ashes and communion from the reserved sacrament to one person who'd shown for that service, then dashed off to the hospital. Ashes were too late for the lady across the street. She died that day.

The other was the morning after my ex told me our life together was over. I told only one member of the congregation what had happened. I normally choose the Isaiah option for the first lesson on Ash Wednesday but that morning I "accidentally" read from Joel. I preached about God's abiding presence when the world as we know it seems to be coming to an end. As we journeyed toward Jerusalem and the Cross we were also on our way toward Resurrection. Several people noted the passion in my preaching that day.

3. Did you/your church/your family celebrate Lent as a child? If not, when and how did you discover it?
My Baptist family or church? Not! But I had a sacramental and mystical streak in me that yearned for something the Catholics had and we did not. In high school I went to the Catholic Church on Ash Wednesday and got ashes. (Also to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.)

4. Are you more in the give-up camp, or the take-on camp, or somewhere in between?
I am in the slow down, de-clutter your life, and fall in love with God again camp. Not that I am any good at doing any of those three things. While serving parishes I felt that if I could guide the congregation through a good Lent then that was discipline enough.

I believe most of our giving up is superficial, often silly, and self-deluding and would vote for giving up despising ourselves. That might go a long way toward re-learning to love God and others.

5. How do you plan to keep Lent this year?
Resuming what I did during Advent: writing daily reflections here based on the Daily Office lessons appointed for each day. Alas, this is, for me, probably a superficial and self-deluding way to avoid doing something more radical and life-transforming. It does, however, require an effort and, by sharing it with others, makes me accountable to the blog community to do it.

--the BB

Happy Wyldday!

Bloggers welcome one of their own back home. Wyldth1ng, our blogging Marine, is back stateside and we are celebrating. Send him some love, Americans!

You can love the troops and hate war. This site honors those who serve our country in the military.

Welcome back, Wyld! All the best to you.

Diane and Scout welcome him back here. Fran does here. Diane has links to others who join in the welcome party.
--the BB

Orate pro Kenya

Mark Harris reports at Preludium:
BBC is announcing that there may be a breakthrough in Kenya on finding a way out of the violence of the past two months. Anglicans around the world have had the people of Kenya in our prayers and we have been particularly mindful of our Anglican brothers and sisters there caught up in both the struggles and in the efforts to overcome the violence. Let us hope and pray that this is indeed the breakthrough so desperately needed. (update at noon) It appears that it may be too early to think of a breakthrough. So keep the prayers going.

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us, unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
--the BB

Yes, he is Grace Kelly's grandson

Ladies and Gentlemen, this evening we journey in imagination to the House of Grimaldi and la Principauté de Monaco!
This week's prince is HRH Prince Andrea Albert Pierre Casiraghi, eldest son of HRH Caroline, Princess of Hanover. He is seen above on the left with his sister Princess Charlotte and his brother Prince Pierre at the funeral of their grandfather, Prince Rainier, the late ruler of Monaco.
TRH Pierre, Charlotte, and Andrea are here seen at the investiture of their uncle, His Serene Highness the Sovereign Prince of Monaco, Albert II.
HSH Uncle Al waves to the crowd.

Prince Albert has two children born out of wedlock. Should he have no legitimate heirs, as seems increasingly likely, the laws of Monaco have been altered so that his siblings and their heirs may inherit with preference given to males. Albert's elder sister Princess Caroline would thus inherit and Prince Andrea would succeed her in turn, presumably at that point taking the last name Grimaldi for the royal house. At this time he bears his father's surname.
Andrea and Pierre horsing around.

Prince Andrea was born June 8, 1984, to Princess Caroline and Stefano Casiraghi, "an heir to an Italian oil fortune." (Wikipedia, source of info here.) Princess Caroline and her brother Prince Albert are the children of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace, the former Grace Kelly, both now deceased.
Wikipedia notes:
Andrea was six years old when his father died in a boating accident.

Known for his delicate blond good looks and athletic skills — he rides, skis, plays football and also guitar; he was included by People Magazine in 2002 in the Top 50 World's Most Beautiful People. He is fluent in French, English, Italian, and German.

Papa Stefano Casiraghi was no slouch in the looks department either.

Now, ladies, if you continue to read this post I want you all to promise not to throw rocks at your husbands and boyfriends.
Here is a shot of Prince Andrea and a Spanish actress from 2003. Most of this post is for Grandmère Mimi--to cheer her up after her dutiful Disney trip--but this one is for johnieb.
Jane, dear, I am sure he might consider a contessa.
And, because Prince Andy seems to have other fans out there on the intertubes, we have some videos with musical accompaniment. Enjoy.

--the BB

Why Lent is a challenge

Mythtickle by Justin Thompson

It is also, of course, a great gift and grace, the space to sit with even the scary thoughts. Acknowledging them opens them to grace, healing, integration, transformation.

May we all find a quiet space today.
--the BB

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Friday after Ash Wednesday

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

This is one of the verses I memorized as a youth (Authorized Version*, of course). The words still ring in my mind: “whatsoever things are true, … honest … just … pure … lovely … of good report; if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

I am no philosopher and I certainly have my rather vehement criticisms of Augustine of Hippo, but he also had some good and grace-filled things to say. (Is that what they call damning with faint praise?) Augustine spoke of evil as “privatio boni” of which Wikipedia says: Privatio Boni can be loosely translated as "privation of good." It is a theological doctrine that good and evil are, in some circumstances at least, asymmetrical. Strictly speaking, it holds that evil is insubstantial, so that thinking of it as an entity is misleading: it would be more constructive to speak only of it as the lack of good.

While there are philosophical quibbles about this concept and its neo-Platonic roots, I am willing to go with the idea that good and evil are asymmetrical, not opposite and equal. Evil is a lack of the good, not an independent force. (Thinking at the keyboard, folks, so this may not be a tight exploration.)

It would be illusory and gross denial to ignore evil, to turn a blind eye to injustice, oppression, abuse, cruelty, corruption, and neglect—those practices that lead to suffering and destruction.

This is why I don’t think Paul’s admonition to the saints in Philippi requires us to dismiss or deny evil. His apostolic exhortation does, however, point us toward keeping our focus on what is primary and real: the good. We must consider evil but we do so in the context of good.

I rant extensively here about this world’s ills, especially about what I perceive as the disastrous policies of the current administration in the White House. There is always a danger that I can be consumed with anger and/or hatred. I need to guard against that because I do not want my soul to be destroyed from within by a festering darkness.

I would not, however, rail against what I see as injustice if I did not have some understanding and vision of justice. It is because of the positive good of justice that I seek to call injustice to account.

Thus, denouncing wickedness should never take over but always be grounded in a vision and pursuit of goodness. This means I am also called to justice and goodness. In the light of God’s goodness and justice, I really cannot think of myself as holier than George Bush, no matter how much I want to see myself as less wicked. (Those divine standards really let the air out of our balloons.)

I also need to think about the good and not fixate on evil, for all manner of reasons, both obvious and subtle. The Apostle Paul reminds us of this and calls us to think on what is good.

“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.* They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:14-19)

There is much debate these days in Anglican Land (thanks, Mark Harris, for that term) about God’s truth—how it is known, discerned, and practiced. In this passage from the Fourth Gospel we hear Jesus affirm that God’s word is truth and that Jesus has given his disciples this word. Given what we may reasonably discern of the development of Christian theology even within the New Testament period, not to mention the sub-apostolic era, it is clear that what Jesus taught (i.e., gave his disciples) was not a body of doctrine but a collection of sayings, parables, and actions from which doctrine was later developed. God’s truth is thus conveyed obliquely through story and deed. Unless we are going to assert that Jesus conveyed half-truths, partial truths, or distortions, it seems to me that we must conclude that the truth of God through Jesus is oblique metaphorical truth and it is in oblique and metaphorical truth that we are sanctified.

The paramount Word of truth, of course, has been identified as Jesus himself, at least since the time of the Fourth Gospel and most probably sooner. I doubt that many would deny that the disciples saw in Jesus a powerful and transforming experience of the truth about God.

All of this is quite different from doctrinal criteria. It is Jesus we seek to lift up so that he may draw the world to himself, not teachings about Jesus but Jesus himself. We speak of him through our understandings and formulae but they only point to him, they are not Jesus. It is important not to confuse the map with the territory.

May we all, indeed, be sanctified in truth.

Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live. (Ezekiel 18:31-32)

*For non-British, non-Anglican friends, Authorized Version is the formal title of what we commonly call the King James Version.

Support us, O Lord, with your gracious favor through the fast we have begun; that as we observe it by bodily self-denial, so we may fulfill it with inner sincerity of heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
--the BB

Visualize impeachment

Google headlines:
Cheney Defends Use of Harsh Interrogations
New York Times - 3 hours ago
By DAVID STOUT and SCOTT SHANE WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday vigorously defended the use of harsh interrogation techniques on a few suspected terrorists, saying that the methods made up “a tougher program, for tougher customers” ...

CIA Boss: Waterboarding May Be Illegal The Associated Press

US Attorney General Refuses Request for Waterboarding Investigation
Voice of America

Above the law???????????????????????

We have now the Attorney General of the United States telling Congress that it's not against the law for the President to violate the law if his own Department of Justice says it's not.

--David Kurtz at TPM
[You may augment Kurtz with Emptywheel's comments.]

Article. VI.

Clause 2: This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

--United States Constitution

Compare and contrast in no more than 300 words.
--the BB

Memory eternal

Paulo Rego Pieta (2002)
I look my last and latest on my children's bodies; henceforth shall I endure surpassing misery.... (Euripides, Trojan Women)

Cry aloud to the Lord!
O wall of daughter Zion!
Let tears stream down like a torrent
day and night!
Give yourself no rest,
your eyes no respite!
--Lamentations 2:18

It is a season of repentance and lament for me and for many of my friends. This is part of my lament, my wailing, my weeping. (--FranIAm)

Just had a good cry here while watching this video, borrowed via Fran.

May they rest in peace and rise in glory.
--the BB

... death itself will open....

Every Lent, then, becomes a little practice for death, every Easter a murmur of the vast futurescape ahead that teems with possibility.

Mike F has a lovely snippet by Sr. Catherine Grace at The Mercy Blog. I commend it to you. Lots of great posts at Mike F's place to nourish your spirit, btw.
--the BB

Blasphemy 101

AP Photo via CNN

George W. Bush spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast this morning. [Full text at the official White House site here.]

That he could stand up and say what he said without the earth opening up to swallow him is a reasonable instance for a case against either the justice or existence of God, but I am a person of faith who believes in God nonetheless.
Abu Ghraib

In prayer, we also grow in boldness and courage. The more time we spend with God, the more we see that He is not a distant king, but a loving Father. Inspired by this confidence, we approach Him with bold requests: We ask Him to heal the sick, and comfort the dying, and sustain those who care for them. We ask Him to bring solace to the victims of tragedy, and help to those suffering from addiction and adversity. We ask him to strengthen our families, and to protect the innocent and vulnerable in our country. We ask Him to protect our nation from those who wish us harm -- and watch over all who stepped forward to defend us. We ask Him to bring about the day when His peace shall reign across the world -- and every tear shall be wiped away.

Godde forbid we as a nation should try to heal the sick or help the suffering. By all mean toss that football to God. We'll veto that S-CHIP bill because in caring for many children an occasional adult might get health care too and we don't want that. And let's not talk of the feds doing much that is timely or effective for the victims of Katrina because solace to victims of tragedy is God's job. Asshat.

[Multiple other expletives deleted.]
In prayer, we grow in mercy and compassion. We are reminded in prayer that we are all fallen creatures in need of mercy. And in seeking God's mercy, we grow in mercy ourselves. Experiencing the presence of God transforms our hearts -- and the more we seek His presence, the more we feel the tug at our souls to reach out to the poor, and the hungry, the elderly, and the infirm. When we answer God's call to love a neighbor as ourselves, we enter into a deeper friendship with our fellow man -- and a deeper relationship with our eternal Father.

Can you imagine George W. Bush talking about compassion? As the Rude Pundit wrote today: Bush Prays, Jesus Pukes. [If extremely vulgar language offends you, do not click on any links to the Rude Pundit.]

The man who authorized slow drowning talks of compassion. The lawless, lying tyrant who launched an illegal and immoral preemptive war has the nerve to speak of peace.
We ask Him to bring about the day when His peace shall reign across the world -- and every tear shall be wiped away.

Believe, me George, you corrupt, cruel, incompetent, vain little man with the huge sense of entitlement and righteousness, there would have been fewer tears on earth without you and many will weep with joy when you leave office.

For millennia people have besought the gods for deliverance from tyrants. I follow in that honorable tradition.
--the BB


This morning I noted a new flag and want to say "Welcome" to our visitor from the island of Aphrodite, Cyprus.

This will be a busy day so this is a brief welcome, for which I apologize.
--the BB

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Yes, another FISA update

I'm just going to provide some links for those who want to follow what is happening.

Kagro X writes FISA: Get ready to get "Rockefellered." at Daily Kos.

Mcjoan follows with FISA Fight: Don't fall for it, Dems, also at DK.
There is one necessary fix to FISA, an easy one. Foreign to foreign calls routed through the U.S. should be surveilled without requiring warrants. Everything else is nothing but a massive and complicated cover up for Bush's lawbreaking, and an attempt to make that lawbreaking legal.
Mcjoan again with FISA Fight: Secrets and Lies.
I'll say it again: Don't fall for it, Dems.

When they lie about what the administration has done and intends to do, and when they lie about Democratic efforts to fix this mess, don't fall for it. Call them on it.
Emptywheel has a great post on her blog: Feingold Slaps Down Bond’s, Mukasey’s, and McConnell’s “Tired Accusations”
The baseless mischaracterizations being bandied about to confuse issues and help Bush cover up his administration's lawless behavior are simply inexcusable. Even Republican Senators should have more ethics than that (hard to believe that a decade ago I would have actually thought they had ethics and should occasionally be given the benefit of the doubt--seems like another planet).

Marcy (Emptywheel) was also live blogging the FISA debate, the most recent post being here.

Logan Murphy writes Action Alert: FISA Debate Continues - Call Your Senators at Crooks and Liars.

On a related note, Nicole Belle writes: Memo to Arlen Specter: We wanted you to investigate the Patriot Act Spying not the New England Patriots.

Remember, the United States Constitution is promulgated in the name of Us, the People.

[OK, I have to get a pet peeve off my chest. People, people, people, let's remember the difference between subject and object in our grammar. We the People is subject case; Us the People is object (direct object, indirect object, object of preposition). It hurts my ears to hear "we" used as an object. Not accusing anyone here but I hear it on the radio and read it online far too often.

And, while I'm at it.... You would never say "just between we." You instinctively know it sounds wrong. "You and I" = "we" while "you and me" = "us." I don't care what zealous and erroneous overcorrecting authority, including your parents or teachers, taught you to say "between you and I," it's a horrendous solecism. I am avoiding moral categories and I know language history too well to invoke "right versus wrong" here but it does violate the inherited structure of the English language. Even codgers of my generation do this but it conveys the message that one is unaware of how the English language works, quite possibly a valid message. I am sufficiently old and curmudgeonly to care about this shit.

Thank you for bothering to read that.]

--the BB

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained. (Philippians 3:12-16)

We have here not only encouragement to go beyond where we are now but also some advice about disagreement. While Saint Paul may well be saying that if you don’t agree with him God will eventually bring you around (that would be so like the old curmudgeon), he goes on to say “let us hold fast to what we have attained.” I am going to play with this and am not asserting that what I say here is what Paul intended, OK?

Where we are of the same mine, it’s way cool. But when we are not, then (1) let us wait upon God to reveal the truth to us and (2) let us hold fast to what seems certain and agreed upon.

Practical application: the Church struggles with issues related to sexuality and is not of one mind. God undoubtedly has more to teach us in this area and we have much to learn. It is all right to wait upon this. We do not have to be of one mind yet; we do not have to rush toward conclusions and closure. It is OK to leave the matter open for now. Furthermore, there are things we can agree on and we might do well to remember them, celebrate them, and acknowledge them in one another.

Can we, for instance, agree upon the goodness of creation? I mean, it’s right there in Genesis 1. Can we agree that God wills wholeness? Can we agree that we all need grace? Can we agree that we encounter God redemptively in Jesus? (I write here to a Church audience; if that ain’t your stance then Anglican squabbles are more an object of amusement or horror; I am not expecting everyone who reads this to be of a churchoid persuasion.) Can we agree that we all struggle with sin? That we are all limited and our understanding is limited? That we all yearn for God’s wholeness? If we can get that far, then we have all come together in mutual recognition of a desire to be holy. That’s quite a bit of common ground.

Granted, we may disagree about where holiness is manifested and how it is recognized and how it is lived out. But to agree on a shared goal while disagreeing on how it is realized is still progress when compared to saying I want to walk as a child of the light and you obviously love darkness. We are all seeing murky reflections in an ancient mirror and none of us is even ready for the fullness of God’s light. We all have shadows in and around us. Yet the Light of God enlightens everyone who comes into the world. So as we walk about with imperfect vision, creatures of both light and shadow, we do well to journey together with some humility.

I do not, in what I have just written, intend to condone oppression or cruelty (such is not the level of disagreement I have in mind). Not sayin' "Oh, you can go on oppressing people and we'll just amicably disagree about it." That is the neurotic playing the borderline's game. Not having it. But I am talking about a great many instances in which we are all trying to follow Jesus but we are not of one mind. The disagreement may be passionately felt. Is it possible for all parties to trust God and keep traveling together?

We have so very far to grow, after all. Consider this:

Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the live fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

This speaks of love of God without respect to what God may or may not do for us: love of God per se. If we move toward that level of maturity, our squabbles will, I predict, seem petty indeed.

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with your most gracious favor, and further us with your continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy Name, and finally, by your mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
--the BB

Lenten reflections

God willing and the Rio Grande don't rise, my Lenten discipline will be writing daily reflections here, as I did during Advent. I hope that now and again something here will be helpful to you, my friends and readers. If it rubs off on me and helps me grow in holiness and wholeness too, then we can say, as our Jewish siblings say during Hanukkah in Jerusalem: "a great miracle happened here."

Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep.
Let them say, "Spare your people, O LORD,
and do not make your heritage a mockery,
a byword among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples,
`Where is their God?'" (Joel 2)
As I listened to this passage today it seemed apt for those who follow the squabbles among Anglicans these days. We are, indeed, in grave danger of being a mockery and a byword among the nations. It is to weep.

What is more, no matter where one finds oneself in the great variety of positions on any number of issues, one is tempted to claim--with great drama and self-importance:
We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see-- we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 5)
Left or right, high or low, broad or narrow, Anglo-retentive or wildly inculturated--we all think we are the preservers of what God intends, reviled and persecuted yet clinging to the truth.

This is the moment when I hear the strains of Handel's Messiah: "He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn." The lot of us.

Only I don't think God is laughing. God's heart breaks to behold us. And our hearts should break as well.

Our sorry spectacle is out there for all the world to see. That we put our fractious selves out there in public is, I think, a good thing. What is done in secret leads to all manner of festering evil. Evils exposed to light and air have a chance of being healed. Eventually.

It is easy to despair. It is understandable to wish oneself quit of "those troublemakers" (whomever we label as causing our troubles). It is very human to wish no reconciliation with those whom we perceive as having done us great harm.

Godde, thank heaven, is bigger than that, having loved us "while we were yet sinners." And Godde calls us to be bigger than that too. We hear a word of reconciliation in today's epistle: "We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." There is a necessary corollary to this: reconciliation to one another.

Fr. J. Brian McHugh rephrased "repent and believe the gospel" many years ago as "turn yourself around and believe good news for a change!" How sorely we need to have a good turning around: turning from alienation to reconciliation, turning from abuse to healing, turning from distortions to truth, turning from fear to faith, from hatred to love, from death to life.
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!
There is the most shocking proclamation in the Collect for Ash Wednesday. God hates nothing that God has made. Why then do we persist in hating what God loves (including ourselves)?

May we turn and live.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

--the BB

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

An unpleasant and unsurprising update

The CIA Director acknowledged waterboarding before Congress today. This could easily get lost in the hoopla over Super Tuesday. It should not be swept under the rug.
The CIA on three occasions shortly after the September 11 attacks used a widely condemned interrogation technique known as waterboarding, CIA Director Michael Hayden told Congress on Tuesday.
You may read Paul Kiel's article at TPM, whence I lifted the Reuters quote, here.

You may also read further comments about this confirmation of what you have known in your heart (and head) all along here and here.
--the BB

The vexillary half-century mark

I don't know how the counter registers "Europe" with the EU flag, but it did today, along with Belgium. That brings us up to fifty flags so far.

A hearty welcome to these latest guests! Y'all come again, hear?

When I was on the tour described in the Switzerland posting below (1969) the European Union did not yet exist. Nor did the Euro exist when I was in England in 1997. We did encounter Euros in transit on the second trip to St Petersburg in 2004, in the Frankfurt airport. In Russia, however, one uses only Rubles (legally at least).

My first venture outside the US was my semester abroad in fall of 1967. We spent two week in intensive French at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont, then flew across the Atlantic, landing in Brussels. So my first point of contact with Europe was Belgium. We had just a brief time there but I do recall the sense of Flemish architecture and pommes frites (they are, after all, really Belgian fries and not French at all).

Speaking of which, I had some very nice ones with my green chile cheeseburger tonight across the street from the UNM campus at the Frontier, a local landmark. They were hot and delightfully crispy-crunchy on the outside. So there is my Mardi Gras extravaganza, which, as I ponder the current moment on the Church calendar, seems to call for a trip downstairs for something dripping in butter. Hmm, I could make some pancakes, though that would be second dinners--and I am a bear, not a hobbit. What to do, what to do?

As for techie adventures, I may have been indulging in condomless computing because some of my files have become corrupted. Again. The Apple guy--shout out to David!--cleaned it up and for the moment all is well. Just in case it does not stay that way, they ordered a new hard drive to have on hand if needed, and since the big crash came last month while the computer was still under warranty, it won't cost me anything if this happens in the next thirty days. After that, sucker, well... another story.

So that's my news. I have not read a thing about primary vote returns and am steeling myself to go look. Or I could make pancakes. Lots of real butter and maple syrup down in the kitchen....

The pancakes won. [Mad cheering everywhere, confetti and balloons falling from my office ceiling.] I dashed downstairs, mixed up some no-cholesterol eggs (I know, no reason on this occasion, but it's what I keep in stock), non-fat milk, dash of salt, bit of sugar, hint of vanilla, some flour, a bit of baking powder. No measurements. Whipped the heck out of it and slapped it into the pan. It was a very thin batter and I began, foolishly, to panic, so I added more flour. By the time I bit into the first batch I knew the added flour was a mistake. The first few were heaven. The rest we all right: a vehicle for butter and syrup.

Well, if this Tuesday's gonna be fat, and me with it, might as well make the most of it. All is well on the desert front.
--the BB

Fat Tuesday, Super Tuesday, miscellaneous

Photo via Susan Russell

If you are in a state voting today, make your voice heard!

Here is my first-hand report of the Democratic caucus in my neighborhood:
I voted at Pajarito Elementary School on the southwest edge of ABQ. Someone in line said he had talked to a relative who arrived there at noon and there was no wait. I arrived at 12:35 p.m. and there was a line from the door of the gym out to the sidewalk. The wind was blowing, (gently, thank goodness) and folks were cold. The crowd was mostly Hispanic and mostly 60+ in age, though there was a sprinkling of younger folk and they seemed to increase in proportion by the time I was leaving.

We found out there were two lines (A-L, M-Z) and I was in the second and shorter line. That helped us get inside sooner. I did not chat about preferences or political thoughts except generic pleasure at Dems eager to vote and that was shared. Folks were inconvenienced by the wait but pleased with the turnout.

No ID was asked for (something I cannot imagine in California where I moved from). I just signed my name and checked the box by my listing. Ballot was simple copied form. Some folks, perhaps chosen at random or every nth person, had a questionnaire to fill out; I did not. I filled in the box by my candidate's name and put the ballot in the box.

The entire process, exclusive of parking and walking to and from the gym, took 35 minutes. As I left the now-double line extended out the door and all the way to the curbside. I doubt those arriving as I left could bet out in less than 45-50 minutes.

There was a chap at the entrance to the school road off the main street with Hillary signs. Other than that I neither heard not saw any campaigning in the vicinity. Folks seemed in good spirits.

I would not want to get there at the end of the day when it is dark and even colder and have to wait outside. I take heart in people--well, Dems, specifically--being eager to vote.
On the computer front, I was ten minutes late to the Genius Bar (an Apple term, for all the PC folks), so had to reschedule. I go back again at 3:45 this afternoon, which means leaving in twenty minutes.

I will stay on that side of town afterward, drifting toward campus for my Russian class tonight. Maybe a green chile cheeseburger at the Frontier, read the first lessons in the text, see how much I can do in my workbook (learning Russian cursive--gackkk!). The printed Cyrillic alphabet is no longer much of a problem but the handwritten version is very challenging. The lowercase "t" looks like our cursive "m." Ugh. I so wish I could work around this particular part of the challenge but I also know that if a Russian ever writes something down for me I will need to know this.

Having class this evening means I will not be online distracted by election returns. I much prefer learning how things come out when it has all quieted down, so get my wish tonight.

And speaking of Fat Tuesday, a certain person has slammed on some weight, just after loving some. Feh.

Happy shriving. Play fair in the pancake races. Don't drown in butter on your blinis tonight. And repent, the lot of you. Hell, I may even repent myself.
--the BB

This should drive the fundies nuts!

If I maintain my usual stream of blaming others, I'd say PJ made me do it. But that's not true, nor has it been true of other silliness. In each case I have chosen and I need to come clean here before I shift into borderline personality disorder in which it is always someone else's fault.

Here we go with the Tarot, no less.

You are The Sun

Happiness, Content, Joy.

The meanings for the Sun are fairly simple and consistent.

Young, healthy, new, fresh. The brain is working, things that were muddled come clear, everything falls into place, and everything seems to go your way.

The Sun is ruled by the Sun, of course. This is the light that comes after the long dark night, Apollo to the Moon's Diana. A positive card, it promises you your day in the sun. Glory, gain, triumph, pleasure, truth, success. As the moon symbolized inspiration from the unconscious, from dreams, this card symbolizes discoveries made fully consciousness and wide awake. You have an understanding and enjoyment of science and math, beautifully constructed music, carefully reasoned philosophy. It is a card of intellect, clarity of mind, and feelings of youthful energy.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

This is a nice balance with PJ's being the Moon. I have become especially drawn to the moon after my first stint working in ABQ. The sky seems so much more vast and the moon and stars so much closer than in California.

Though in looking at the Tarot many years ago, I rather thought I was the King of Cups (and even wrote a sonnet about it). I believe it is the card of theologians.

Well, this should send the spiritually nervous scuttling back to their burrows muttering "occult" and other scary words. There are things in this world that I fear, and some of them are spiritual, but Tarot cards are not among them. Neither do I turn to cards or horoscopes or fortune tellers to unfold the future for me. As PJ puts it: "Don't really buy into it, but it's fun."

Now, where is all that youthful energy?
--the BB

Monday, February 04, 2008


My browser is not launching (I do blogging in Firefox but my Mac default browser is Safari). The last time this happened we had to reformat my hard disk and I lost everything that was not backed up. Fortunately, much was backed up. I have an appointment tomorrow morning to look at this. Here's hoping. Backing up and restoring is very time consuming, especially for folks like me who at one time had many myriads (in the strict definition: myriad = 10,000) of photos and graphics on this computer. Even my jump drive holds 6GB and it's a drop in the old bucket.

I am accustomed to composing in Blogger in Firefox while researching in Safari, bouncing back and forth. I also do my blog reading in Safari; that is where all my bookmarks are.

I am a Taurus. Like the orangutans, I am skeptical of changes in my cage.

Someone told me
It's all happening at the zoo.

I do believe it,
I do believe it's true.

It's a light and tumble journey
From the East Side to the park;
Just a fine and fancy ramble
To the zoo.

But you can take the crosstown bus
If it's raining or it's cold,
And the animals will love it
If you do.

Somethin' tells me
It's all happening at the zoo.

The monkeys stand for honesty,
Giraffes are insincere,
And the elephants are kindly but
They're dumb.
Orangutans are skeptical
Of changes in their cages,
And the zookeeper is very fond of rum.

Zebras are reactionaries,
Antelopes are missionaries,
Pigeons plot in secrecy,
And hamsters turn on frequently.
What a gas! You gotta come and see
At the zoo.
--by Paul Simon

It is now 3:33 a.m. I have managed to backup all my data (on the storage device I should have had hooked up a year ago (I know, I know). So now I feel much better about going in to "the shop."

Peace out.
--the BB