Saturday, July 26, 2008

Learning by contrast

Our understanding of light is very much shaped by our awareness of darkness, and vice versa. In a similar manner we learn about "smooth" by experiencing "rough" and so on. Life is full of contrasts and in these contrasts we experience the variety of creation and something of the divine creativity.

On one of my earlier flights from NOLA back to ABQ a fellow passenger commented on what one sees approaching Albuquerque: lots and lots of dirt.

He was right. It is a very earthy place and a large part of what stirs my emotions is soil.

I grew up a city boy. There is no way I can deny that and my more rural relatives would laugh me out of the room if I tried. But there is still something about growing up in the Central Valley of California that links one to the soil. For whatever primal, mythical, or simply delusional reasons, I feel a strong bond with the earth - and, specifically, with dirt. This does not mean you see me often out digging weeds, turning soil, etc. But there is something there.

I am also a Taurus. Fixed. Earth. Sign. Not water, air, or fire - earth.

So my heart sings when I see the vast expanses of "dirt" as the plane comes in over the eastern hills and prepares to land.

I probably would not have noticed or had that conversation with the young man coming to visit his fiancée in New Mexico were it not for the contrast.

When I first flew into New Orleans in late April I saw something very like the shots below, all taken when I flew in last Monday.

Now this one looks like most of the Central Valley of California - fields given over to agriculture, rectangles in a million shades of green and tan. I was not looking this soon on the first flight into New Orleans.

This is the sort of thing I noticed. Watery expanses.

Radical contrast with the desert West. Something exotic, different, new - and unsettling for a fixed earth sign type.
Lots of greenery, wet greenery, stretches of water covered with algae, trees growing out of water (how unnatural is that from a Western standpoint?). Green, green, and more green.

No wonder poor Mimi and her friends could not get over the reddish-brown, brown, and more brown of Santa Fe! Where was the green they were accustomed to?

I was also blown away six years ago when visiting Ohio and seeing the sort of pervasive greenery that simply does not exist very much until the very northern reaches of California.

The history of California centers on water wars in varying forms. The issue of obtaining, hanging on to, and utilizing water is critical to survival.

When I moved into my current house in Albquerque, the back yard was what I call "a big sandbox." The soil was a mixture of fine adobe clay particles (the ones that get caught up in the wind and fly everywhere!!!!) and sand. Not much in the way of organic matter to nourish growing things. I will be amending soil for years to come. The trees in our neighborhood are growing but it will be many years before we have any mature trees near us. I look forward to that day.

And I do love driving along tree-shaded streets in New Orleans, immense oaks forming a shady canopy overhead. Wonderful. Beautiful. Somehow restorative to the soul.

On that first flight into New Orleans, though, I looked out the airplane window and thought, "OMG, they've shipped me off to the swamps and I shall surely perish there." Well, I haven't perished and I actually enjoy the city (when I have time and energy to do so).

May Godde bless all our homes in all their variety and teach us to appreciate the wondrous variety in this world, and among its peoples. May we experience the other and the different with less fear and more delight and all grow together in grace.

--the BB

Friday, July 25, 2008

La semana pasada yo di un paseo

Last Saturday I took a walk I have long been wanting to take. In spite of midday summer heat I strolled across the Montaño Bridge, one of the newer links between the West Side and the rest of Albuquerque. It spans the Rio Grande (imagine Mimi calling it my "little river" - teehee) and is "the road to church" when I am attending the "mother parish" of St Michael and All Angels.
The first shot looks south, this one looks across the lanes of traffic toward the north.
I enjoyed watching a great egret wading at the edge.
Here it is again, moving in toward the bank and the shelter of shrubbery (avoiding the gawking guy with the camera, I believe).
Afternoon clouds over the Sandias on the east side of town. They rise somewhat abruptly another 5,000 feet - 1524m - above the city (which is itself at 5,000 feet elevation). My friends and I never tire of looking at these mountains in the changing light and atmosphere.

Flores pequeñas

The acequia (canal) running parallel to the river on the east (mountain) side

The road to church - it felt almost like Sunday morning only I was on foot.

Looking toward Los Volcanes in the west (contrast and exposure enhanced)

The acequia on the west side of the river

Well, that is the tour. I needed some fresh air, big sky, mountains, and local river time and thus treated myself to the same. It had rained so the water is roiled and colored by the reddish clay soil. I have always lived in arid climes and so my "inner" dirt to water ratio is rather high.

I now have a couple of photos up in my office here in New Orleans - one of the gate to my friend's house and one of the Sandias rising over a mass of cottonwoods. They are comforting.

Some new folks have arrived here and now carpool with me. I took them on a long ride home after work tonight, repeating much of the route I was taken on two weeks ago. It was a nice buffer between work and Friday night. We enjoyed the immense older trees, the architecture, the sloping green of the levee, people out and about doing what folks do on Friday evenings.
--the dirty BB

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Une guerre sans fin

Yes, it's 9-1/2 minutes long but we all need to feel the cumulative effect of McCain's own words and position on the occupation of Iraq. Watch at least part of it, if you can.

From Jed, the master of these videos.

h/t to Joe Sudbay at AmericaBlog

--the BB

In the aftermath of the forced vote: Zimbabwe

Jenni Williams offers a report on Zimbabwe that speaks for the common people (at
Zimbabweans have lost faith in politicians’ ability to return life to the living. We do not think power sharing or a government of national unity (GNU) can work in Zimbabwe. We need an independent and impartial transitional authority under African leadership.

African leaders should not dictate that a GNU be the only solution to our crisis. Zimbabwe is not Kenya and their solutions cannot be imposed on us, especially with our historical experiences of 1987. We need a solution to address the specific of the Zimbabwe crisis. In Zimbabwe, the military elite runs the show not only on military might but also on political partisanship. For the ordinary soldier, police officer or prison officer to keep their job they have to follow political orders. This is the situation at any police station in the country. A transitional authority would be better placed to address this problem. A neutral person from Africa must be found who, supported by Zimbabwean technocrats, can form an interim authority that will neutralise the pillars of state, including the police. The violence can only be stopped when the victims can once again report abuses to an impartial body and trust that the perpetrators will be arrested and put on trial no matter who they are. For this to happen, magistrates and judges will also need to know that they will also be watched to ensure that there is justice through the courts for all equally.
I recommend reading the whole article to get a sense of Zimbabwe's plight.

Alas, President Mbeki of South Africa's role in all this has been a farce and a crime. Robert Mugabe, once a liberation hero, has become one of the world's worst bullies and tyrants, a criminal of the first order.

Pray for the people of Zimbabwe.

--the BB

Monday, July 21, 2008

Some political humor

Instead of a rant (though the day is not yet over), I want to share a couple of jokes that I nicked from Padre Mickey (who, in turn, nicked them from comments by Hoosier X.

Q.: What is the difference between Obama and Osama?
A.: The Republicans are trying to get Obama!
Q.: What do Obama and Osama have in common?
A.: The Republicans haven't laid a glove on either.

So, if the Repugnicans want to play the Obama/Osama game, hit them with these two.

Alas, they are sadly true in that the Republicans have given Osama a free ride from Tora Bora onward.
--the BB

So the UK cannot trust our assurances

How anyone could trust any word from the mouth of GWB is beyond me. Anyway....

Christy Hardin Smith at Firedoglake pointed me to the news that "The Human Rights Annual Report 2007 [text, PDF] released Sunday by the UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee [committee website] recommended that the UK not rely on any assurances made by the US that it does not use torture." (source)

This means the UK would be reluctant to extradite prisoners to the United States. In other words, we have joined the torture nations where one would not want to send even a terrorist.

To think that the United States has come to this.

A special ring in hell for W.
--the BB

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Yesterday evening and the next morning- corrected

Unretouched photo of a rainbow as I prepared to turn left and head to dinner.

Sunset clouds and Hanwi (the night sun) looking out my bedroom window when I got home.

Silly me. These are clouds tinted with sunrise from the next morning. I lose track of days and, evidently, when pics are taken. Sorry.

Time capsules

Study cites seeds of terror in Iraq
War radicalized most, probes find
By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff | July 17, 2005
WASHINGTON -- New investigations by the Saudi Arabian government and an Israeli think tank -- both of which painstakingly analyzed the backgrounds and motivations of hundreds of foreigners entering Iraq to fight the United States -- have found that the vast majority of these foreign fighters are not former terrorists and became radicalized by the war itself.

The studies, which together constitute the most detailed picture available of foreign fighters, cast serious doubt on President Bush's claim that those responsible for some of the worst violence are terrorists who seized on the opportunity to make Iraq the ''central front" in a battle against the United States.

--Grand Moff Texan's diary at Daily Kos

Funny how some folks act as though it's news that information was manipulated to lie us into war with Iraq. Another tidbit from 2005:
From May 2002 until February 2003, I observed firsthand the formation of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans and watched the latter stages of the neoconservative capture of the policy-intelligence nexus in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. This seizure of the reins of U.S. Middle East policy was directly visible to many of us working in the Near East South Asia policy office, and yet there seemed to be little any of us could do about it.
I saw a narrow and deeply flawed policy favored by some executive appointees in the Pentagon used to manipulate and pressurize the traditional relationship between policymakers in the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies.
I witnessed neoconservative agenda bearers within OSP usurp measured and carefully considered assessments, and through suppression and distortion of intelligence analysis promulgate what were in fact falsehoods to both Congress and the executive office of the president.
--Karen Kwiatkowski's article "The New Pentagon Papers" in Salon (the link now attributes this to Steve Benen but I clipped the original).

The big topics of the moment were Karl Rove and the outing of Valerie Wilson as a CIA agent and the nomination of John Roberts for SCOTUS.

How about revisiting the Blessed Molly, patron saint of political reporting you love to read:
Molly Ivins - Creators Syndicate
07.20.06 - AUSTIN, Texas -- Never let it never be said our president does not provide laughs, even as we wobble on the rim of war in the Middle East.
Look what a good time Vladimir Putin had with him. Bush, responding to questions from the international press corps on his conversation with Putin the previous evening, said, "I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world like Iraq, where there is a free press and free religion, and I told him that a lot of people in our country, you know, would hope that Russia would do the same thing."

Putin, with a fairly straight face, replied, "We certainly would not like to have the same of kind of democracy they have in Iraq, I'll tell you that quite honestly." Don't you hate it when the international press corps laughs at what a stoop Bush is? Bush, who fancies himself something of a fast-reply artist, said, "Just wait." Heh, heh.
I think the problem is the rest of the world doesn't understand Dekes (Delta Kappa Epsilon). We need a Deke short-course in embassies around the globe.

Another citizen looking a bit nonplussed at the G8 Summit was Tony Blair, listening as Bush, noisily chewing with his mouth open, said, "See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over. I feel like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen."

Could he possibly believe that? You could probably suggest unleashing Israel on Syria, except the Israelis don't seem interested in the program. One, they don't know who would replace President Assad. And two, it could get them stuck there for years -- kind of like, oh, you know, that great democracy "what'sitsname."

Meanwhile, the nation needs to take a break from FOX and get a grip -- the 24/7 drumbeat for war is silly.

Also providing comic relief these days is Holy Joe Lieberman, senator from Connecticut, Al Gore's 2000 running mate, and the most annoyingly sanctimonious person in politics. Lieberman has more than miffed Connecticut Democrats by backing the war in Iraq and other Bush policies, setting off a big primary fight. Lieberman now threatens to run as an independent if he loses the primary, thus opening the seat to a Republican and further alienating Democrats.

Brother Ralph Reed, alas, tanked in Georgia. Do you think he knows Baptists don't approve of gambling? Meanwhile, in Texas, we're all excited about the possibility of having Tom DeLay back on the ballot in his old district. You must admit the Republicans have lost their moral compass since DeLay quit. Now, if we could just have a free press and free religion like Iraq!
(c) 2006 Creators Syndicate

This article shared for informational and historical purposes.
The link I had no longer works.



Much about the approaching elections, how Dems need to articulate and stay focused on message, and what an asshat Joe Lieberman is.

We are still, unfortunately, a nation with relaxed safety standards and ever-diminishing regulations thanks to those of the robber-baron mentality who don't believe regulation can ever be a good thing. So competition decreases, monopolies develop, and public health and safety (physical, economic, and every other way) are increasingly at risk.'

I still eat tomatoes, wild and crazy guy that I am.
--the BB

558 - 4125 [Updated with video]

Latest Coalition Fatalities

DoD Identifies Air Force Casualty
Tech. Sgt. Jackie L. Larsen, 37, of Tacoma, Wash., died of natural causes July 17 at Balad Air Base, Iraq. She was assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

DoD Identifies Navy Casualty
Aviation Boatswain Mate Third Class Petty officer Daniel R. Verbeke, 25, of Exton, Penn., died July 14 in Paoli, Penn. of complications from injuries he suffered in a flight deck accident in December 2005 while serving aboard...

h/t to IGTNT for the video

The 2008 Santa Rosa Plum Harvest at Desert Farne

On the tree

In the bowl
The birds had actually gotten to about two-thirds of the plums already. I have a small bowl of them for my neighbors who have been watering to keep my garden alive and this bowl went to brunch today.

Thank you Mother Earth and Father Sun and all whose labor made the planting and tending of this tree possible. I gave a thank-offering of prayer tobacco as part of the harvest ritual.

And I ate and it was good.
--the BB

Scrumptious Brunch

The road to my friend Diane's house

The wild turkeys who think they own the road and are sufficiently interbred with domestic turkeys to be terminally stupid

The very delicious frittata with strawberries from Bill's yard, blackberries that Diane picked not that many yards from where the table was set, canteloupe (my favorite melon), and green salad. We also had browned butter biscuits and plums I picked from my tree this morning.

Thunder rumbled as we sat down and we ended up moving under a porch. You can see why.

After the rain, the chickens came out.

Diane lives near the river, as you may guess by the greenness of the scenery (well, there is that dirt road and it had lots of mud puddles when I left).

Last night I had a teppan-style meal with Kathy. The laciest tempura as appetizers and tender filet mignon in teriyaki sauce for me, scallops and shrimp for Kathy.

Now if I could only extend the stay home for a couple more days.... But at least I don't fly out until tomorrow.
--the BB

Sunday reflections

I preached on wheat and weeds this morning. At the end I included comments by a friend: "Great Gospel reading, one of my favorites. Weeds - well, aren't we all weeds? Were not some of the great ideas/movements in history considered "weeds"? "

It was only this afternoon that I remembered my hymn from six years ago, inspired by the same Gospel lesson. It has been on my blog before, but here is a re-run.

This world is sown with heaven’s seed
Text: Paul E. Strid, © 2002
Tune: The Eighth Tune (Tallis’ Canon)

This world is sown with heaven’s seed,
Like star-cast bounty, splendor-filled,
Yet cast on earth amidst our need
With God’s own life and love free-spilled.

Here in the soil of daily life
It grows and spreads with vigor sure,
Yet with God’s peace there springs up strife
And weeds for which we find no cure.

Our wisdom is too frail to sift
The good from evil, life from death;
We know too well the painful rift
Between our clay and God’s own breath.

God, you alone know false from true,
And you alone within one space
Can hold them both, give each their due,
And reconcile our fallen race.

Bring all creation into flower,
Let all fruit flourish, all things grow
Into their fullness, by your power,
And help our feeble minds to know

That all creation comes from you
And you alone are goal of all,
That when you sift the false from true
And free the world from death’s sad pall,

Then may we know the weed’s own role,
The value of each pest, each trial,
The worth of each beloved soul,
Your grace to save and reconcile.

To you be glory in the field
Of earth and heav’n and of our heart;
May all creation praises yield
And sing the Gardener’s gracious art!
-the BB

Sunday kitteh blogging

This is Toby. He joined us after our brunch today. He is settled on the table after some time on my lap. I include him as a little "catnip" for Her Ladyship, +Maya Pavlova, since Maya's Jane sends me woofy pictures now and again.

Stop the insanity

I have long held that he is that crazy/stupid/evil. And I believe he will do it. I want him stopped.

Source: Bush will attack Iran
United Press International - 1 hour ago
JERUSALEM, July 20 (UPI) -- An unnamed Israeli security official claims US President George Bush will attack Iran late this year if talks on the Mideast nation's nuclear program falter.
Ahmadinejad Says Nuclear Talks Were a `Step Forward' (Update1) Bloomberg
Nuclear Talks With Iran End in a Deadlock New York Times

Could someone 51-50 him on his next fund raiser in California?

What does a nation do when a mad man becomes its leader? [And though this applies to Ahmedinejad I am talking about Bush.]
--the BB

Can you imagine?

Can you imagine George Bush interacting with US troops in this relaxed a manner with so many smiles among our women and men in uniform? Real smiles?

Whaddya think? Will these men and women feel good about serving Obama as Commander in Chief? I'm thinking, damn skippy!

h/t to Joe Sudbay at AmericaBlog
--the BB

Erm, um, well... - updated

This morning I saw the following Google headline:
Maliki Doesn't Endorse Obama Troop Withdrawal Plan (Update1)
Bloomberg - 2 hours ago
By Tarek Al-Issawi July 20 (Bloomberg) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki hasn't endorsed any specific plan for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, a government spokesman said, a day after a magazine report that he supported Barack Obama's ...

Well, I don't really recall ever thinking Maliki specifically endorsed Obama's plan, only that his timetable and Obama's were in synch. (Sorry, spell checkers and common usage, when I am shortening synchronicity I have trouble changing a "ch" to a "c" - the history of words is too great a love in my life.)

Kevin Drum has an article at CBS News discussing the alleged "retraction" by Maliki (under what I can only presume to be serious White House pressure):
The retraction claimed that Maliki's comments were "were misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately," which might be plausible if there were only a single sentence in question. However, how likely is it that Spiegel mistranslated three separate comments? Here are the relevant excerpts from the interview:
Today, we in Iraq want to establish a timeframe for the withdrawal of international troops — and it should be short.

....U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.

....Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic....The tenure of the coalition troops in Iraq should be limited.

There's just no way that all three of these passages were mistranslated. Maliki, for whatever reason (Mark Kleiman runs down the possibilities here), wants American troops out, and he wants them out sooner rather than later. There's really no way to spin that away.
Drum's consideration of how the press narrative will evolve is fun to read with plenty of snark for those with eyes to read.

The bottom line is that the Iraqi people and leaders think that Democrats have more realistic discussions about the desired future of Iraq than Republicans do. Just saying.

SPIEGEL sticks to its version of the conversation.

That's a quote from the international version of Der Spiegel.

h/t to Virginia Dem at Daily Kos
--the BB