Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Irony is dead

bmaz posted this at Emptywheel yesterday:
U.S. prosecutors want a Miami judge to sentence the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 147 years in prison for torturing people when he was chief of a brutal paramilitary unit during his father's reign.
A recent Justice Department court filing describes torture — which the U.S. has been accused of in the war on terror — as a "flagrant and pernicious abuse of power and authority" that warrants severe punishment of Taylor.

"It undermines respect for and trust in authority, government and a rule of law," wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Caroline Heck Miller in last week's filing. "The gravity of the offense of torture is beyond dispute."


No further comment necessary.
--the BB

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ruby Tuesday

January 17, 2003

February 22, 2003

Liquidamber leaves, St John the Evangelist 2003

The Cunning Runt introduced me to this meme. He got it from Mary at Work of the Poet. Don't know if I will keep it up, but here's some gratuitous redness for you.
--the BB

Take it back

In a great example of government of the People, for the People, and by the People, Quaker Dave has put forth a great suggestion. Fran tipped me to it (thank you, Fran).

Part of Obama's appeal was his expression of faith in the People, saying We can do it, not that he can do it.

So let's do it.
--the BB

Monday, December 29, 2008

Le catch-up

Il n'y a pas beaucoup de choses à vous dire.

Lots of chillaxin over the long weekend. Lunch with a friend, getting together with a buddy, preaching at Canterbury, going to the gym, a festive party (with musicians and awesome food) in Santa Fe. And back to work today, followed by an energetic after-work conversation over coffee and, in my case, hot chocolate at the Flying Star. Sounds busier than it was, but now you're all caught up.

There is much to say

There is much to say about Somalia, Gaza, the economy, 2008 in retrospect, female genital mutilation in Kurdistan, Pakistan and India, a Canadian avalanche, voting in Bangladesh, etc. I have been doing things other than blogging lately and lack the energy to add my commentary to it all, except to note that Mitch McConnell is a hypocrite and asshole of the highest order (see link on economy above). Some of you will recall (with varying degrees of horror) my comments about obstructionists and chainsaws. McConnell's latest antics bring that mood back. I am sure there are good people in Kentucky who deserve better than Mitch. I hope they can organize and kick him out of office so far that his sorry ass lands several states away. Perhaps Gitmo.

I know that I don't really care about Bristol Palin whelping. Teenage boys knocking up teenage girls and babies ensuing is hardly news. Happens all the time (including among my own relatives in several generations). Ho. Hum. Anyone who gives a shit - outside the circle of family and friends, for whom it is legitimately a cause of wonder and joy - needs a life.

We now have a study showing that those who take virginity-until-marriage pledges are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who take no such vows - and are more likely to do so unsafely. How can this surprise anyone? Ignorance, denial, and fantasy do not make a recipe for happy outcomes.

Wait. Was I typing about premarital sex or Bush administration policies? In either case, somebody gets screwed with predictable consequences.

Ugh. Much too grumpy for the Twelve Days of Christmas.

In happier news: 20 days and 22 hours until Chimpy McCokespoon is out of office.

God loves this world. I need to remember this and take a deep breath.

Let us not only pray for peace in the world but also work for it.
--the BB


D0D Identifies Navy Casualty
Master-at-Arms Seaman Apprentice Joshua D. Seitz, 19, of Pensacola, Fla., died Dec. 25 in Manama, Bahrain. He was assigned to Naval Security Force, Naval Support Activity Bahrain.


12/29/08 :
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Cpl. Charles P. Gaffney Jr., 42, of Phoenix, Ariz., died Dec. 24 in Paktika, Afghanistan, when his combat outpost received enemy rocket fire. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Continuing the heart thread - 12/28/2008

Here is an update on my friend BJ's father (original prayer request here):
Just got back on line. I knew you would be my life line….It has been an amazing few days…my niece has spent time with him every day….this is the first we’ve seen of her since my mom’s funeral 2 ½ years ago. He is never alone…friends, folks I would have never thought of have shown up, sent him food, flowers, love….people I think he’s been mean to, are even there. He is getting worse and the doctor’s can’t figure out why…more tests tomorrow. I’ve slept in his room the last two nights…he sleeps better when there is someone there he knows. His personal nurses have been great…it is much more comforting than I expected…your loving prayers have helped beyond measure..
--BJ in Oakland

Thanks for the prayers and keep 'em coming.
--the BB

How things have changed. Oops, they haven't.

It Will All Be Over Soon
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Everyone can relax. This thing is clearly getting ready to wind down. Ask the brilliant minds up at the Pentagon. Back in April 2003, a formal Pentagon planning session stated emphatically that the U.S. occupation of Iraq would be coming to an end in December 2004. It is December by my calendar, so clearly we should start planning the tickertape parade down the Canyon of Heroes.

We can have Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seated in the lead car, and let the love and adoration of this nation wash over him like a bath of warm milk. Perhaps he will choose that glorious moment to reveal the 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 1,000,000 pounds of sarin, mustard and VX gas, and the 30,000 munitions to deliver the stuff we all went to war for in the first place. We can festoon the Canyon with plastic sheeting and duct tape. It'll be a party of historic proportions.

Surely Don can make it to the parade. His Pentagon couldn't have been wrong about the whole deal being done in December, because he is far too smart. Never mind that Senator McCain is calling for another 100,000 troops to be sent to Iraq. One wonders where the Senator thinks we will get those soldiers. Perhaps we could abandon Afghanistan, Europe and the Korean DMZ to throw every warm body into the fray. Perhaps there is some deep black program we don't know about that allows the military to hatch fully grown, fully trained soldiers like chickens on a production line. Perhaps any young people reading this should make sure their Selective Service cards are close at hand. Never fear, though. It'll all be over sometime this month.

via Hoffmania

Donald Rumsfeld is sad. Poor sad Donald. Why is Donald sad?

Because a lot of troops died in Mosul?

Because they really need armor?

Because he had to hand-sign so many death letters yesterday?

No, no and no. This snotbucket dickhead Rumsfeld is sad because - he's being criticized.
Subdued Rumsfeld 'Truly Saddened' by Criticism

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, responding to mounting criticism even from fellow Republicans, said on Wednesday he was "truly saddened" anyone could think he was not laboring to protect U.S. combat troops.

An uncharacteristically subdued Rumsfeld addressed his critics with an unprompted statement at the start of a Pentagon briefing, and said he stayed awake a night worrying about America's fighting men and women.

Asked whether the recent criticism had affected his ability to do his job, Rumsfeld said: "You get up in the morning and you think about what our troops are doing. And I must say, if they can do what they're doing, I can do what I'm doing."

Screw you anyway, Donnie. When the hell did these tough guys suddenly develop such a thin skin?


Steve Rendall was saying this:
A bizarre debate has emerged regarding whether journalists have a duty to investigate and assess the credibility of sources and their claims. Some highly placed journalists seem to say such judgments are not their job. Citing what they say are journalistic principles, they claim that investigating and reporting about the veracity of claims and the credibility of sources is just not what they do.

In fact, it's not only their job, it's an essential task of journalism. The Society of Professional Journalists is very clear on the subject: At the top of the group's Code of Ethics, under the heading "Seek Truth and Report It," the very first tenet implores journalists to "test the accuracy of information from all sources." Another tenet stresses the importance of gauging the credibility of sources: "The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability."

But from the Iraq War to the 2004 presidential race, reporters shirked their journalistic duty to take a critical approach to official and partisan claims—to document them when they are true, and debunk them when they are false. Indeed, many journalists have become little more than stenographers, repeating whatever they are told without question.
--FAIR (the whole article is worth a visit)

And so it was throughout the imperial Bush presidency.

(Speaking of imperial presidencies, remember the White House guards with their cute little uniforms and caps under Nixon, those trappings quickly abandoned? How quaint it all seems to next to the accretions of power accomplished by Cheney and Bush.)

It appears things may be shifting slightly but it is still the few, such as Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart on TV and the "left blogosphere" who cry foul when lies and distortions are promoted without question or verification.

Because we miss her:
Merry Christmas to all
Molly Ivins - Creators Syndicate

12.23.04 - AUSTIN, Texas -- And a Merry Christmas to all, including people who have white Christmas trees decorated entirely with purple balls. Merry Christmas to the Red states and the Blue states, to the R's and D's, and to all the troops stationed in Afghanistan, including the French troops there -- Mais oui, Christmas, y'all.
Merry Christmas to all the people who had to eat bugs on reality shows this year and to all the professional athletes who have not gotten into duke-outs. (Lumps of coal to the rest of you jocks.) Merry Christmas to the homeless and the people in the shelters, and especially to those who are feeding the people in the shelters. Season's Best to all the cops who collected for Blue Santa this year, and a Tiny Tim Salute to all the prisoners, including Martha Stewart. Her cell-wing lost the prison's Christmas decorating contest this year -- when it rains ...

Here's to all the Americans on both sides of this year's unusually peppy fights over the allowability of religious symbols on public property. This annual battle, in which the American Civil Liberties Union strives once more to make itself as popular as the Grinch, is over the part of the First Amendment that says the government cannot sponsor religion. I always liked what former Gov. Ann Richards said when informed there were demands that the large star on top of the state capitol come down. "Oh, I'd hate to see that happen," she drawled. "This could be the only chance we'll ever have to get three wise men in that building."

Feliz Navidad to all our immigrants, legal and otherwise -- may La Migra be far away and tamales close at hand. By the way, there are some new legal rights groups that will go after the scum who hire you and then refuse to pay you. Joyeux Noel to all our friends in Canada, and please overlook the pifflebrains who keep insulting you.
Merry Christmas to Tonya Harding and to Nancy Kerrigan, to the Red Sox and to the Cards, and possibly even to George Steinbrenner. Here's to the Texas Legislature, about to convene once more, depriving many a village of its idiot. Here's to John Ashcroft, how we'll miss him -- he was so sexy. A Cool Yule to all the jazzmen and their fans. And wishing a warm holiday to all the citizens with rings in their noses who find going out in subzero weather such a trial. And to those with tattoos, whatthehell.

Happy holidays to the sailors and ballroom dancers, the birders and the bingo players, the squaredancers, the folklorists, the scrapbook makers, the railroad buffs and everyone else with a harmless passion -- we appreciate you all. Here's to the carolers and the altar guild, the vestrymen (vestrypersons?) and the Santas, and to all who volunteer. Here's to everyone who suffered in the Florida hurricanes, including the claims adjusters -- may your days be merry and bright.

Festive greetings to the circus folk and the airline attendants trying to get all the Christmas presents into the overhead bin. Here's to all the proud new grandmas and grandpas, and of course, the aunts. Here's to everyone in the emergency room on Christmas Eve: It could be worse -- you could be Martha Stewart.

A joyous time to all the cooks, making everything from roast goose to turnip fluff, and especially to all the kitchen staffs of all the restaurants that are open on Christmas Day. Here's to everyone who got divorced this year and deserves a break -- may you even part with a kind thought for your ex.

A special holiday wish for all the Americans in Iraq and all the Iraqis, too -- peace on earth. Here's to those who are grieving -- isn't "loved one" a horrid expression? -- whether it is Joe or Tammy, or even Athena the perfect poodle we mourn.

May Baby Jesus' birthday be mellow for the tense, including the lady who said she shrieked both over having dinner with me and how the toilet flushed on the recent Nation cruise. Me and the toilet -- I'm so honored.

Here's to all the racetrack players and cabbies and guys who stop to help fix flat tires. Here's to all the non-Christians, may this day be special for you, as well. To all my brethren and sistren in the newspaper biz, even the editors, and to all the weathermen who report the unidentified flying object on Christmas Eve. Here's to everyone who sent a fruitcake and got one back. Here's to all the salespeople in all the stores who actually made it through without losing it this year, especially in the lingerie departments, where I used to work during the holidays.

And here's to all the rest of us, imperfect though we are. One thing I have learned over the years is that you should go ahead and eat the fudge, because the diet starts next year. And to all, a good night.

(c) 2004 Creators Syndicate
--via Working for Change

William Pfaff was writing this in December 2004, so we really cannot pretend we didn't know:
PARIS - A historian in the future, or a moralist, is likely to deem the Bush administration's enthusiasm for torture the most striking aspect of its war against terrorism.

This started early. Proposals to authorize torture were circulating even before there was anyone to torture. Days after the Sept. 11 attacks, the administration made it known that the United States was no longer bound by international treaties, or by American law and established U.S. military standards, concerning torture and the treatment of prisoners. By the end of 2001, the Justice Department had drafted memos on how to protect military and intelligence officers from eventual prosecution under existing U.S. law for their treatment of Afghan and other prisoners.

In January 2002, the White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales (who is soon to become attorney general), advised George W. Bush that it could be done by fiat. If the president simply declared "detainees" in Afghanistan outside the protection of the Geneva conventions, the 1996 U.S. War Crimes Act - which carries a possible death penalty for Geneva violations - would not apply.

Those who protested were ignored, though the administration declared it would abide by the "spirit" of the conventions. Shortly afterward, the CIA asked for formal assurance that this pledge did not apply to its agents.

In March 2003, a Defense Department legal task force concluded that the president was not bound by any international or federal law on torture. It said that as commander in chief, he had the authority "to approve any technique needed to protect the nation's security." Subsequent legal memos to civilian officials in the White House and Pentagon dwelt in morbid detail on permitted torture techniques, for practical purposes concluding that anything was permitted that did not (deliberately) kill the victim.
--my links are not working but it is from the International Herald Tribune, 12/22/2004

If we knew this much in December of 2004, why has that m**********r not been impeached?

Speaker Pelosi, just so you know, you have failed in your primary duty of upholding the Constitution of the United States.

Bush Makes Small Cut Back On Troops To Give Illusion Of Progress

by georgia10
Fri Dec 23, 2005 at 09:36:53 AM PDT

Today, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld makes a "surprise" announcement of what we knew all along: the US is cutting back on troops after the Iraq election. There were 160,000 troops in Iraq prior to the election. Rumsfeld announced that two brigades would not be deployed, around 7,000 troops. And yet the media reports that the cut of two brigades will take that number below 138,000. Am I the only one confused here?

Ah, but read further down to clarify:
The Pentagon sent an extra 20,000 troops to Iraq to bolster security during the recent elections, and Rumsfeld has previously said those 20,000 would be withdrawn in January to return U.S. force levels to a 138,000 baseline.
So, contrary to the belief that this is some sort of turning point for troop withdrawal...excuse me, "readjustment"....the military is merely engaging in the same strategy it's used for the last three years: pump up the numbers prior to a major political event, draw then back, then wait for the violence to surge again so you can send more troops in. Notice, significantly, that the troop number will return to a "baseline" of 138,000. We're back to square one. And that's being touted as progress?

We were discussing FISA:
Does War Make Presidents Kings?
by Armando
Fri Dec 23, 2005 at 09:34:26 AM PDT

Despite much noisemaking, even from non-conservative sources, it is now clear that legal justification for President Bush's authorization of warrantless domestic electronic surveillance rests entirely on the argument that Article II of the Constitution vests the Executive with plenary Commander in Chief powers which can not be restricted by the other branches of our federal government. The Justice Department's feeble apologia for the President's actions makes clear that the claim that FISA permits what the President has authorized is based on the view that if FISA does NOT permit it, then FISA is unconstitutional:
Armando really delves into the legal complexities, considering precedents in constitutional law. I really love how he wrote articles like this.

Josh Marshall:
When was the last time there was a major terror alert? They were something like a regular occurence for the eighteen months or so before the 2004 election. And through 2004 the administration pushed the line that al Qaida was aiming to disrupt the elections themselves. But as near I can tell there hasn't been a single one since election day.

Jerome à Paris concluded an article on the economy with this:
So in a nutshell:
• Bush is giving the money to the rich
• Americans cannot find jobs but can borrow easily
• the underlying economy stagnates
• the reported economy grows thanks to debt spending, both public and private
The only question is: when will it end?
I guess we're learning the answer to his question of three years ago.

--the BB

Saturday, December 27, 2008

4217 - updated with more photos

Latest Coalition Fatalities

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

Maj. John P. Pryor, 42, of Moorestown, N.J. died Dec. 25 in Mosul of wounds suffered when a mortar round impacted near his living quarters. He was assigned to the 1st Medical Detachment, Forward Surgical Team, Fort Totten, N.Y.

DoD Identifies Army Casualties (3 of 3)

Spc. Stephen G. Zapasnik, 19, of Broken Arrow, Okla...assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division...died Dec. 24 in Baghdad, of injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over...

DoD Identifies Army Casualties (2 of 3)

Spc. Stephen M. Okray, 21, of St. Clair Shores, Mich...assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division...died Dec. 24 in Baghdad, of injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over...

DoD Identifies Army Casualties (1 of 3)

Staff Sgt. Christopher G. Smith, 28, of Grand Rapids, Mich...assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division...died Dec. 24 in Baghdad, of injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over...


"T.J." Reilly, Jr.
Lance Cpl. Thomas Reilly Jr., 19, of London, Ky., was killed instantly by a rocket propelled grenade on Dec. 21 while supporting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, 3rd Marine Division, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
--source IGTNT

This evening I was driving on I-40 and passed an accident that had all traffic channeled to the far left lane or the right shoulder. In the center lane was an upside-down car, its front smashed. Sitting on the pavement was a young man with his hands cuffed behind him. DWI, I'm guessing. I have no idea what injuries occurred but the sight of that overturned and smashed car was dramatic.

I am trying not to envision the accident that led to the loss of these young men. My heart recoils at the grief of their loved ones. May they be surrounded with love and compassion at this painful time.

May the souls of these and all the departed rest in peace.

Selig sind die da Leid tragen den sie sollen getröstet werden.
Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.
--Brahms, Deutsches Requiem

Additional photos from IGTNT where you may also read more about these men, our brothers.
--the BB

Friday, December 26, 2008

Heart thread - 12/26/2008

I just got this from my friend BJ in Oakland.
My dad had a stroke on Christmas eve morning. We don’t know the extent of the damage, but it looks like no bleeding in the brain. He was very lucky, Sarah was going to see him later in the am and she called while out shopping and he didn’t answer the phone. That is so unlike him that she went right over. He was disoriented and couldn’t look at her. She stayed strong and forced him to the hospital. We are taking turns staying with him, we will see what will be. At this point the doctor says rehab and then home…but he cannot live alone, he will need 7/24 someone with him. So, we will see. Will keep you posted. Keep us, ALL of us, in your prayers.

I know y'all are great prayer warriors (to borrow a phrase from my evangelical past), so thanks in advance.

Feel free to add your own prayer requests in comments.
--the BB

As the snow lay round about cool and crisp and even

A blessed St Stevie's Day, y'all.

We did have snow today in Albuquerque, but not the kind that sticks around. It was not the fluffy flakes I am used to now but denser chunks that looked like coarse Kosher salt landing everywhere. All gone rather quickly.

David@Montreal encouraged "my inner camera" to be handy this Christmas, so with words instead of photos I will do my best.

St Gabe's was lovely on Christmas Eve. I drove directly from work to the storefront church, arriving early enough to take a short nap before leaving the car and heading inside. Votive candles were in all the window ledges, poinsettias were arranged in front of the altar, huge green wreaths hung on either side of the Cross - it was beautiful. With some new track lighting over the altar we were able to dim that space, bringing the lights up when the Angel announced glad tidings in the Gospel. There were luminarias leading toward the entrances.

We had over a third more than our usual Sunday morning attendance and I think faces glowed as much as candles (no, the congregation was not full of egg nog, they were radiating God). We sang a Christmas hymn between every element of the liturgy. Mother Rhonda preached a great sermon. I presided and sang the Mozarabic setting of Eucharistic Prayer D, something I always used to do at Christmas Eve and Easter. Fun to do it this year.

All in all quite lovely - simple, down-home, honest, beautiful, and satisfying.

I drove home after that, leaving later services to those who wished to stay up late.

Christmas day I drove to my best friend's house where three of us broke our fast with chilaquiles and Mexican hot chocolate (a tradition we've kept for a number of years - such a refreshing change from cloying Christmas sweets). Then we three queens of orient traipsed over to the brother-in-law's place for some family time (and sticky buns). Back to my friend's house for food prep, then on to the Christmas dinner at yet another friend's home. Lovely company, half of whom I knew prior to yesterday and half not. Great food. The table was stunning (yes, the host was not straight, why do you ask?) Oh, a ruby red grapefruit sorbet that was heaven!

Today I had lunch with another friend, shopped for oak bookshelves low enough to fit below windows (I will never have enough places for all my books - unless I stop buying them - hah!). There went half of the latest paycheck - but I got everything 20% off. Gonna be a lot of furniture moving in the next few weeks.

Just chilling, enjoying, and not posting a whole lot.

I hope you are enjoying a blessed Christmas (Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, change the terminology as suits you).
--the BB

Top Ten Myths about Iraq, 2008

I most heartily commend to your attention Juan Cole's article today titled "Top Ten Myths about Iraq, 2008."

In it he answers misconceptions, distortions, and outright lies such as the following:

1. Iraqis are safer because of Bush's War.
4. The Bush administration scored a major victory with its Status of Forces Agreement.
5. Minorities in Iraq are safer since Bush's invasion.

6. The sole explanation for the fall in the monthly death rate for Iraqi civilians was the troop excalation or surge of 30,000 extra US troops in 2007.
Professor Cole's sober rebuttal to such nonsense is refreshing.

When you hear crap like these myths being touted, you may respond with facts by becoming familiar with this article.

Remember, repeating lies until people believe them is what neocons do and people will fall for it unless an alternative - the truth - is made available.
Citizens have a responsibility not to let twaddle pass unchallenged.
--the BB

Thursday, December 25, 2008


My New Shorter OED lists the following definitions of the verb "discriminate":
  1. v.t. Make or constitute a difference in or between; distinguish, differentiate. (early 17th c.)
  2. v.t. Distinguish with the mind; perceive the difference in or between. (mid 17th c.)
  3. v.i. Make or recognize a distinction, esp. a fine one; provide or serve as a distinction; exercise discernment. (late 18th c.)
  4. v.i. Make a distinction in the treatment of different categories of people or things, esp. unjustly or prejudicially against people on grounds of race, colour, sex, social status, age, etc. (late 19th c.)
It is an excellent exercise in discrimination (exercising discernment) to note the different meanings of "discriminate" shown above and the course of their historical development. The various meanings seem to be in play in the fuss over the Rev. Rick Warren's scheduled role at the presidential inauguration, but that is not what led me to think of them this Christmas morning.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered this year's alternative Christmas message (following the Queen) on Channel 4 of the British TV network. The Sydney Morning Herald carries the headline "Anger over Ahmadinejad Christmas message." (Sound familiar?)

Borzou Daragahi in Beirut reports for the Herald:
Stephen Smith, director of Britain's Holocaust Centre, said the President's message of peace was "deceptive", describing him as a "wolf in sheep's clothing".

Mr Smith criticised "the fact that somebody who openly denies the Holocaust is given legitimacy on prime-time television, someone who uses Holocaust denial to be divisive".
Do not misunderstand me and think I am a fan of Mr. Ahmadinejad. I do believe he is a dangerous nutter. He is not the ultimate authority in Iran, though, and he has not started any notorious wars that I am aware of. We, however, have our own dangerous nutter, with more actual power than the Constitution allows, who has started an illegal and immoral war that still rages on, so U. S. Citizens, at least, might want to be measured, even discriminating, in their denunciations of the Iranian President.

The fuss seems to be over what Ahmadinejad has previously said in other contexts, not what he actually said in the Christmas broadcast. (This is really sounding familiar.)

I will join with those who denounce his Holocaust denials, just as I denounce denials of the Armenian genocide or the Darfur genocide (and the Sudanese government's complicity in it). I also have to note that in his speeches he often makes far more sense, speaks more truth, and has tons more class than Dubya, who comes across as a war-mongering hick next to Ahmadinejad.

Are we capable of discriminating between the Iranian president's truly revolting utterances and his Christmas message?

I have not read a transcript of the whole message but here are snippets:
IRAN'S President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has wished the world a merry Christmas, even though he thinks much of it is in crisis because the West's "bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist" leaders have strayed far from Jesus's path.


In the recorded message, Mr Ahmadinejad praised Christianity but said that if Christ returned to Earth, he "would fight against the tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems".
Bloomberg had a more temperate headline ("Ahmadinejad Calls for Peace, Says Jesus Would Fight Terrorism ").
Ahmadinejad, 52, also calls for justice and religious teachings that advocate peace, according to a transcript of the address. His message will be broadcast on the state-owned channel at 7:15 p.m. local time.

“As crises and despair multiply, a wave of hope is gathering momentum,” Ahmadinejad says in the transcript. “Hope for a brighter future and hope for the establishment of justice, hope for real peace, hope for finding virtuous and pious rulers who love the people and want to serve them.”


“Today, the general will of nations is calling for fundamental change,” Ahmadinejad said in the address. “This is now taking place. Demands for change, demands for transformation, demands for a return to human values are fast becoming the foremost demands of nations of the world.”
So, on the one hand we have a virulent anti-Israeli position and a nation where conversion from Islam to Christianity carries the death penalty and on the other we have a speech with rather obvious comments about how far we all are from Jesus' teachings and denunciation of bullies and terrorists.

If we exercise some discrimination on this we might forcefully disagree with the President's stances in some areas and find common ground with him in what he just said last night. We might disagree with Ahmadinejad's discriminatory track record and try to work with him where we agree on issues of terrorism and the "tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems."

I would suggest that we have something to learn from discriminating between definitions 1 through 3 of "discriminate" and definition 4. We need more of the former and less of the latter.

This may also have helpful implications for the current debate about the preachers who appear at civil celebrations.

I find myself still pained and angry at Rick Warren's selection and thoroughly unconvinced by his PR campaign to show how much really loves the gays. He has said he does not really believe our relationships are comparable to incest and pedophilia but the record shows he uttered that sort of thing before. Using the biblical principle that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matthew 12:34 KJV), I assume he said those things before because he believed them. I see no reason, in his world view, why his feelings along those lines would suddenly change unless he experienced a major conversion in his views on sexuality and sexual roles. That sort of change takes most of us years, though some may have Damascus road upheavals. A spokesperson for Saddleback Church said that the items recently removed from their web site have not been abolished, so a rearranging of a few items is not impressing me. I believe he wants to love us to straightness, and he may be sincere in that, but I'm having none of it. So there we are.

He may still give a grace-filled invocation. I hope he does, for the sake of the nation and the world.

Dialogue may ensue. Melissa Etheridge, whom I respect, has reached out to him and they are talking respectfully together. I wish all helpful dialogue every success.

For now I perceive him as a smarmy mega-church leader (full disclosure: I have trouble using "mega-church" in a positive sense as they all come across to me as a combination of personality cults and money-making institutions, though I am sure God's Good News must be in there somewhere and I know social ministries occur through them) with crappy theology and way too much of a public platform already, and a very public track record of working to oppress a segment of the population to which I belong.

I will try to evaluate both words and deeds on their own merit. Some of what Ahmadinejad says is true, positive, and may provide common ground for moving forward together. Some of what he says is false, reprehensible, and unhelpful. Like all of us, he is bundle of contradictions. We are all works in progress when it comes to personal integration, coherence, congruity, and integrity.

In that he is like me. Readers of this blog experience some of my own contradictions, mixed emotions, and conflicting thoughts. It seems Rick Warren shares that with us.

On this Christmas Day we might all journey a bit closer toward peace and good will if we exercise some kinds of discrimination and learn to lay aside #4.

Peace and wholeness to all.

--the BB

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

cum enim quietum silentium contineret omnia

When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run the half of her swift course, down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word.
--Wisdom 18:14,15

Here is one of my favorite Christmas songs. It has drive and strong rhythm and seems very assertive and masculine. OK, maybe my testosterone needs adjusting, but it's not syrupy. I did not find quite my perfect version on YouTube tonight but here is a nice one by the Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus.

Personent hodie
Anonymous, 1582
1. Personent hodie
Voces puerulae,
Laudantes iucunde
Qui nobis est natus,
Summo Deo datus,
Et de virgineo
Ventre procreatus.

2. In mundo nascitur;
Pannis involvitur;
Praesepi ponitur
Stabulo brutorum
Rector supernorum;
Perdidit spolia
Princeps Infernorum.

3. Magi tres venerunt;
Munera offerunt;
Parvulum inquirunt,
Stellulam sequendo,
Ipsum adorando,
Aurum, thus et myrrham
Ei offerendo.

4. Omnes clericuli,
Pariter pueri,
Cantent ut angeli:
'Advenisti mundo:
Laudes tibi fundo
Ideo: Gloria
In excelsis Deo'.

I am going to be audacious and offer my own prose translation, clunky but going for overall concept.

Today the voices of children sound out, joyously praising, for we have a child, given by the Most High God, born of a virginal womb.

The ruler of the upper realms was born in the world, wrapped in swaddling clothes, placed in a manger with the beasts of the stable; and the prince of the lower realms has lost his spoils.

Three magi came and offered gifts, seeking the little one, following the little star, adoring him and offering gold, incense, and myrrh.

Let all clerks and children sing together with the angels: You have come to the world, glory be to you from the depths, wherefore Glory to God in the highest!


I wish you all a season of joy and heart's content. But more than a season, I wish abiding peace for you and yours and for all sentient beings.
--the BB

Be born in us today

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Prayer from Bishop Marc

The Rt Rev Marc Andrus is the Bishop of California (my bishop). This is his Christmas prayer from Diobytes, the online diocesan newsletter:

God of the universe, you came among us as one of us, because of your infinite love for all. The world needed you then, and we need you now. You came to take away the sin of the world, our almost unbelievable propensity for self-interest. Plunging into human life fully you showed us the way out of the coil of our greed and avarice and self-protective fear, and you also broke the bonds of the world by your act of love.

We return again to remember this act of love, the Word made flesh; to give thanks for Jesus born in Bethlehem; and to pray for the rebirth of the Christ in our lives. Help us to be generous, unafraid, and so open to the possibilities of this surprising, still beautiful earth and all its people.

We thank you now for all those who have shown us the path of Christ in our lives –- teachers, parents, grandparents, friends, loves. We pray for all those who find themselves isolated this Christmas, without the warmth of human love. May we be your messengers to them.


--the BB

Monday, December 22, 2008

No Tanya Baum this year

When I attempted to set up the artificial tree Saturday morning the stand would not open up to perpendicularity, the way it is supposed to. I tried repeatedly. Finally, with my awesome strength, I tugged and one leg moved. Well, actually it bent and snapped off at the top.

I finally returned it tonight. You can imagine that by the evening of December 22 there were no such trees left of any size. I got my money back but had to tell all the kids "no tree this year."

We didn't have one last year, so this is not a first (or second) but since I had gotten all their hopes up, well....

I resist Christmas rather mightily until it is actually upon us. I do savor the Twelve Days.

Saturday afternoon I sat at the computer selecting photos and printing notecards with photos of New Orleans and California. Then I assembled them in mixed sets and have begun tying them in satin ribbon. I have picked up some bookstore gift cards. But I have not sent any cards or wrapped anything yet, or run to the post office. Still trying to figure out what to get for my best bud.

All right, this September, while in California, I finally delivered presents I wrapped in December of 2006. Can you tell I hate packaging things and putting them in the mail?

Why God, in Her wisdom, did not make me a parent. Hopeless.

My ex and I used to exchange presents on Epiphany. So much more sensible and we got to take advantage of the "post"-Christmas sales.

The kids may be disappointed but so am I. I was looking forward to a tree again.

Thanks to Mimi for sharing her tree with us. It cheered me up this evening.
--the BB

Sunday, December 21, 2008

we're not strategizing; we're really this angry

ChristieKeith has a terrific post up at Daily Kos titled "It's not Obama I'm mad at; it's way too many of you."
You keep telling us we need to reach out and build bridges to the religious right. Do you really think there is any point at all in telling us we need to reach out to homophobes and bigots, to the people who run the churches that abuse our youth and shove us out the doors, that have brainwashed our parents into rejecting us, that tell us they "love" us while they knife us in the hearts with their laws?

Why don't you tell them to reach out to us? We're the ones who have been wronged and harmed, disenfranchised, electro-shocked, had our kids taken away in ugly custody battles, lost our homes when our partner died, been thrown out of the hospital rooms of our lovers, had wills overturned and benefits denied. We're the ones who had our equality thrown up for a popular vote, and whose rights are denied us in the constitutions of 29 states. Telling us to reach out to them is like saying battered women need to reach out to their abusers, or children to the priest who molested them.

You lecture us not to hold this against Obama, but newsflash: at least for me, this has nothing to do with Obama. I knew he was regressive on my rights when I supported him; he always was, as was every viable presidential candidate. I also knew he had some weird idea that his religious beliefs were some valid explanation or even justification for his views on my civil rights. I'd like to see a Democrat get elected who can be for marriage equality and doesn't have to be a devout Christian, but I live in the reality based community and none, absolutely none, of this was any kind of surprise to me. I'm not a sulking scorned supporter who thinks Obama owes me something, and my support for him has not changed.
I think she captures a lot of the pain and anger very well, as well as why this matters.

She also explains why the "reach out, make some compromises, be patient" lectures only intensify the pain and anger. I understand the need for patience in any political struggle but when you are lecturing the victims of oppression to reach out and make compromises it somehow rings a little, well, smug and sanctimonious. Hows about you reach out when I'm swinging a baseball bat at YOUR head? See, it doesn't work too well.

Warren's not swinging baseball bats, you say? No, but he preaches a worldview in which gay-bashing makes sense. And just because he does a lot of really good social ministry does not mean his theology isn't bugfuck twisted. Because of his role in Proposition 8, we not only perceive him as our oppressor, he IS our oppressor.

So don't expect us to be happy, be patient, or shut up.

--the BB

Alas, no Sunday reflection today

It's not that I have no thoughts on today's lessons; I preached on them this morning. But I cannot capture that spontaneity tonight and I am tired. Beginning to feel the good ache of yesterday's time at the gym. I also hired a friend to help me sort through my mountains of paperwork this afternoon and we toiled until evening was nigh. Did a couple of loads of laundry, ran up and down the stairs many times, carrying things, and I'm pooped.

I hope y'all are having a blessed Solstice, Hanukkah, Advent.
--the BB

Susan S. will be so proud of me

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou - Free Online Dating

Now, I must draw your attention to this:
Around 49.5% of the pages on your website contain cussing.
This is 88% LESS than other websites who took this test.

[Emphasis mine]

I dropped the F-bomb at work the other day too, just at the end with only my supervisor to hear it. She was not grossed out, but she was startled. Oops.
--the BB


12/18/08 :
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Pvt. Colman J. Meadows III, 19, of Senoia, Ga., died Dec. 16, at Forward Operating Base Ramrod, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment...

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.


Latest Coalition Fatalities

12/20/08 MNF:
CF Soldier dies of non-combat related causes
A Coalition force Soldier died of non-combat related causes Dec. 20. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and official release by the Department of Defense.

Trying for balance

Juan Cole has a fascinating post up today. It begins thus:
I was in Long Beach,Ca. on Saturday for the annual conference of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, where Pastor Rick Warren and I were both headliners.

Also appearing on the stage Saturday evening were Melissa Etheridge and Salman Ahmad, singing Ring the Bells.
It was clearly the kind of event designed to bring people together and that challenges our divisions.

Juan has a lot to say about his experience of Rick Warren, mostly positive. The most critical comment came in this section:
Warren also talked about the increasing rudeness and rancor of public life in the United States, and urged greater civility and willingness to work with people across the spectrum of opinion. He said, "We can disagree without being disagreeable." He also made a point of saying that al-Qaeda is no more representative of Islam than the KKK is of Christianity. Contrast that to the sorts of things Mike Huckabee or Rudi Giuliani said during the presidential campaign.

But just a gentle reminder to Warren that saying for Melissa Etheridge to be married to Tammy Lynn Michaels is equivalent to pedophilia or incest is not actually very civil or nice or humane.
Toward the end we have this:
I came away liking and looking up to Warren. In fact, I wonder whether with some work he could not be gotten to back off some of the hurtful things he has said about gays and rethink his support for Proposition 8.

Maybe Melissa Etheridge, who is otherwise very angry about Prop 8, saw the same thing in him.
I am a huge fan of Juan Cole and I appreciate his making the effort to share this. If you read the article you will learn more about Warren, the good stuff you have heard is there but don't see in rants like mine. Still, I had to respond and here is the comment I submitted:
Juan, I appreciate your putting in some balance on the Rick Warren controversy and there is no doubt that he is leading evangelicals into some important areas of social ministry. More power to him on that. It is still a huge problem that he has also worked hard to take away civil rights from a chunk of the population and compared their relationships to incest and pedophilia. He may think he loves gays but it is the kind of "love" that nobody with any dignity wants because it comes across as devoid of respect. I grew up in an evangelical atmosphere and know it well. He wants to love gays into straightness and his church welcomes gays so long as they renounce their "lifestyle." He may be affable as all get out but to many he remains an oppressor, and that casts a serious shadow over the good things he is doing in the world. Ms. Etheridge is much more generous than most are ready to be. I would love to know the content of their conversation.
Radical shift-of-topic warning:

Now, there is something in Juan's article that also deserves a lot of attention and I want to point it out. The event was the annual conference of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Before I go further, I just want to praise MPAC as the most wonderful people. This is the American Muslim community at its best-- socially and spiritually active, deeply interested in civil rights, and insisting on reclaiming their religion from extremists. Many of them are religious and social liberals who dislike fundamentalism. Anyone looking for a worthy charity to donate to in this season of giving should seriously consider MPAC. It is an American organization and only accepts money from Americans, and Homeland Security presented there, so it has all the bona fides.
Juan's article is here.

If you want to know what is going on in Iraq on a daily basis you could do no better than to read Juan's blog Informed Comment. Grandmère Mimi and I are long-time fans of his work.
--the BB

Saturday, December 20, 2008

We'll never change hearts and minds this way

Image via Towleroad

Tonight was designated an evening to LIGHT UP THE NIGHT FOR EQUALITY. I was quite unaware of this until I stopped by Towleroad and learned about it.

Here's the idea:
On December 20th, we ask that you join us again for a nation-wide demonstration that will make an impact on the private sector. Candlelight vigils will be held at commercial centers in cities across the country in remembrance of the rights that once were for 18,000 marriages, and in honor of the rights that one day will be again - for EVERYONE.

I saw this mentioned at 4:30. There was to be a local gathering here in Albuquerque at 5:00. I hustled, tossing all the necessities in my gym bag for the next stop, donning warm clothing, locating a candle and a lighter, and dashing out the door. I was a few minutes late but folks were gathered at 4th and Central. I lit my candle and joined the crowd.

The advertised concept:
We will start at the courtyard between Maloney's/Raw/4th St. Pub (4th & Central) then a silent walk to Civic Plaza.
The setting:
People were driving by on Central, stopping at the light, noticing us, turning heads, wondering what was up.

The reality.
Everyone stood around in little circles talking to each other and ignoring all the people driving and walking by us. Ignoring. Totally.

I managed to persuade one really nice young woman to stand with me, facing traffic. We were the only ones.

Twice I suggested to the crowd at large that we had an audience going by us. No one seemed to care.

By 5:35 nothing had changed. Someone may have been in charge in theory but clearly no one was in charge practically. A bunch of aimless folks just kept chatting amongst themselves, waiting, near as I could tell, for Godot.

After half an hour of nothing happening, I blew out my candle, said, "Fuck it. This isn't accomplishing anything. I'm outta here." I walked back to my car and went to the gym where I pushed my body then sweated and soaked. A little shopping and home again.

I don't know if they ever marched to the Civic Center or if anyone saw them do it. I do know that half an hour was wasted when, if nothing else, we could have formed a line of thirty or more people along Central standing silently and with dignity, holding candles. It was supposed to be a sign-free statement but some had "just married" stickers on their jackets and others had small posters reading "2nd class citizen." It would have been enough to get some people thinking. As it is, I think we only had folks figuratively scratching their heads wondering who the hell was standing around.

It this lame, disorganized, feckless gathering is the best we can do, it's no wonder organized righties can run circles around us.

I have not been active in my community in this way since moving to NM. With a sudden eagerness to do something for us all, I dropped everything to join in. For this?

Standing around and talking amongst ourselves (rather like an Episcopalian coffee hour) IS NOT BEARING WITNESS. It is not education. It is not consciousness raising. Its a fracking circle jerk.

Here endeth the rant.
--the BB

I'm all for popularizing this

Juan Cole has this for us at Informed Comment:
Ghoul's Glossary: Shoewhack
Shoewhack (v.) To assault someone with footwear in such a way as to humiliate that individual, especially at a moment of supposed triumph or obvious hypocrisy. A shoewhacking generally involves an element of surprise. It is especially appropriate for individuals guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors who have for reasons of wealth and power nevertheless escaped any other punishment for their iniquity.
--the BB

Here's a better photo

Bishop Marc Andrus of California

You've seen portions of the Festal Green chasuble I made for St Cuthbert's, Oakland. The whole set was made in honor of Doris Hagen, for many years director of the Altar Guild, the den mother emerita of this particular cub scout - for keeping an eye on me all the years I was there. (Nice web site, designed by Vibol Peou, a terrific young man, so I encourage you to click the link above.)

Here is a picture from St Cuddy's of our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, wearing it. When I first glanced at this picture I thought someone had sneaked a shot of me that I had not seen. When I looked more closely I realized it was my bishop. Bishop Swing blessed the vestments at one of his visitations and it made me feel good to see my new bishop in them.

Speaking of St Cuddy's, their blog has a wonderful post celebrating the life of my friend (and one of my staunchest supporters, along with her husband Fred), Phyllis Brislawn. I wanted to post a photo and tribute to her when she died and it just hurt too much to do it. I am am glad to point you to it, along with pictures of her memorial service.

She is truly one of God's saints. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.