Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bring back the rule of law!

Mcjoan observes:
Mukasey and McConnell lied in their letter to Congress. Again.

Remember, lying to Congress is a crime. Impeach the sons of bitches now!

Glenn Greenwald notes;
Since Mike Mukasey himself just said in this letter that spying outside of FISA is "illegal," and since it's indisputable that the Bush administration did just that for years, doesn't that compel him as Attorney General to commence a criminal investigation into this "illegal" conduct?

Click through for more.

Damn them, if not to hell then at least to prison. We are governed by criminals, thugs, bullies, and liars. When will the American People wake up and take their country back?

One last bit of mcjoan:
The Attorney General of the United States--our nation's chief law enforcement officer--just admitted, in a letter to them, that the wiretapping the government has been conducting since 2001 is illegal. And they knew it. Does Congress really want to be rewarding such a brazen flouting of the law?

--the BB

¡Sí! se puede.

Obama en Tejas.

--the BB

Saturday in Lent 2

My apologies for missing the scheduled post yesterday. I fell off the Lenten wagon; mea culpa.

In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God. (1 Corinthians 7:24)

This verse is a reasonable summary of the portion appointed for today and I have very mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand we have the deep insight that we can live as God's children in any circumstance.
I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:11b-13, KJV)
On the other hand we have a passage that upholds the status quo ante without questioning it. I do have serious problems with that. It feeds rather nicely into a theology and practice that deems whatever shit happens to be God's will (and distinguishing God's permissive will from intention is rather dicey business), thereby encouraging a passive "close your eyes and think of England" (or rather Heaven) approach to life.

This does not square with the recurring critique of things as they are that is found throughout the Bible. The Torah calls the ways of the nations into question, most especially expressing God's concern for the poor, the widowed, the orphan, and the alien. These are the ones who generally lack access not only to the good things of life but also to a forum in which they can express their claims. They are the easily ignored and forgotten, the ones it is easy to take advantage of. With a repeated command to do justice by them, God hardly implies that they should be content with their lot.

Cries for justice become focused and more intense in the prophets. There is repeated critique of what goes on and accepted social structures and mores do not escape God's judgment. Widsom literature also incorporates a call for justice. Witness Job's claim to righteousness in that he did justice to the unfortunate and opppressed, not neglecting the obligation of the "haves" toward the "have nots."

Jesus calls societal norms and values into question. There is a continuous thread of God calling us to do and be more than has been the case in the past, to go beyond the restrictions of our inherited traditions and critique them in light of God's reign and its values.

So, though one may be "with God" in any circumstance, I cannot take today's passage from 1 Corinthians as a call to passivism or quietism, not will I let it preclude challenges to the social order.

As FranIAm said in a comment thread at OCICBW the other day:
"Paul - while quite insightful at sometimes - could be so fecking pedantic at others."

I love how delicious surprises sneak in. In Psalm 75 we read of God rising up to judgment, usually a rather fearful thought, but note the purpose or end of that judgment: "to save all the oppressed of the earth." The goal of God's judgment is salvation. Just sayin'.

On a much lighter note: check out this verse from the saga of Joseph and his brothers.
Now the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, ‘It is because of the money, replaced in our sacks the first time, that we have been brought in, so that he may have an opportunity to fall upon us, to make slaves of us and take our donkeys.’ (Genesis 43:18)
If you were worried about being taken as a slave, would you also be worrying about having your donkey taken away?

They came to the other side of the lake, to the country of the Gerasenes.* And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’ For he had said to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’ Then Jesus* asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’ He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits* begged him, ‘Send us into the swine; let us enter them.’ So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were drowned in the lake.

The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus* to leave their neighbourhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus* refused, and said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed. (Mark 5:1-20)
This is such a great story on so many levels. You gotta love Jesus posing a threat to the unclean pig industry. That element is one big Jewish joke told about a gentile territory. Not so funny if you are a pig farmer.

Notice how the former demoniac picks up on the call of the twelve: "the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him." To be with Jesus. He was basically, from the viewpoint of Mark's gospel, asking to become one of the twelve. He had his priorities absolutely right. Only Jesus had other plans for him.

Grant, most merciful Lord, to your faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve you with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
--the BB

Heart thread - Saturday 2/23 - updated

Thanks to all who have been keeping the prayers coming.

The latest word on my brother-in-law Jack is that they are holding off on surgery, feeding him, keeping his blood count up, and watching to see if it will heal on its own. This is all frustratingly vague (but discussing medical issues with my family has, for generations, been frustratingly vague). I thank you in advance for holding Jack and the family in your hearts.

Our friend Kirstin (of Barefoot and Laughing) is down with the flu, and feeling too miserable to blog about it.
--the BB

Compare and contrast

Sounds like one of those essay questions on a final, doesn't it?

This morning, for your entertainment and edification, we offer two videos. This first is a Republican effort using the imagery and style of the television series "24" that is every neocon's masturbatory fantasy--where laws can be bent in the name of a higher good and torture may be a necessary thing.

The next is an answering take-off on the first put together by Crooks and Liars:

Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to compare and contrast these messages. Explain which you are more inclined to believe, and why. Double-spaced, 14-pt, maximum two pages.

h/t to mcjoan at Daily Kos for the second video and Glenn Greenwald at Salon for the first one. Greenwald includes clips and season trailers from 24 so you can check out the inspiration.

If you are really inspired you may, for extra credit, compare and contrast what the White House says about the Protect America Act of 2007 and what the ACLU says about it. You may consult John Dean if you wish. Charlie Savage at the Boston Globe discussed it when it was passed.

This is an open-book test. Google away.

--the BB

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Prince Blogging

Today we head to the western end of the Iberian Peninsula and Portugal. Yes, today's feature is His Royal Highness Duarte Pio João Miguel Gabriel Rafael de Bragança, the Duke of Braganza and claimant to the throne of Portugal.

From Burke's Peerage:
Dom Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza was born on the 15th of May 1945. He is the 24th Duke of Braganza and the Successor to the Crown of Portugal. He is the son of Dom Duarte Nuno of Braganza and Dona Maria Francisca de Orleans e Braganza, Princess of Brazil.

The Duke of Braganza’s godparents were His Holiness Pope Pius XII and Her Majesty, Queen Amelia of Portugal, the wife of His Majesty King Carlos I of Portugal, assassinated by the republicans on the 1st of February 1908 and the mother of Dom Manuel II, the last reigning King of Portugal.

Titles and Official Styles.

His Royal Highness, the Most Serene Lord, Duke of Braganza, of Guimarães and of Barcelos, Marquess of Vila Viçosa, Count of Arraiolos, of Ourém, of Barcelos, of Faria, of Neiva and of Guimarães, Sovereign of the Royal Order of Saint Isabel, Grand Master of the Order of Our Lady of Conception of Vila Viçosa and Grand Master by Birth of the Order of Saint Michael of the Wing and Judge of the Royal Brotherhood of Saint Michael of the Wing.

Succession to the Crown of Portugal.

On December 24, 1976 Dom Duarte's father, Dom Duarte Nuno died. Dom Duarte Pio succeeded as claimant to the Portuguese throne, thus becoming the 24th Duke of Braganza.

Dom Duarte Pio is the closest male-line relative to Dom Manuel II, the last King of Portugal. There are closer female-line relatives (who according to the Constitutional Charter of 1826 have succession rights), but none of these has Portuguese Nationality (which was required by the Constitutional Charter for succession to the Throne); none of these female-line relatives makes any active claim to the throne.

He was born in the Portuguese embassy in Berne, Switzerland, thereby making him a Portuguese national and eligible for succession.

From Wikipedia:
On May 13, 1995, Duarte married Isabel de Herédia, a Portuguese businesswoman. This was the first marriage of a member of the Portuguese royal family to take place in Portugal since the marriage of King Luís I in 1862 and the first to a member of native aristocracy since the marriage of King Fernando I of Portugal in 1371. The ceremony was celebrated in the Monastery of Jerónimos in Lisbon and presided over by Cardinal António Ribeiro, Patriarch of Lisbon. It was attended by the principal Portuguese political figures, including the President of the Republic Mário Soares, the President of the Assembly of the Republic, and the Prime Minister Aníbal Cavaco Silva. Also present were representatives of most European royal houses.

Duarte and Isabel have three children:
HRH Infante Afonso, Prince of Beira, Duke of Barcelos (born March 25, 1996)
HRH Infanta Maria Francisca (born March 3, 1997)
HRH Infante Dinis, Duke of Porto (born November 25, 1999)

His Royal Highness Dom Duarte III Pio, Duke of Braganza, Head of the Royal House of Portugal, with his wife, son and daughter in the drawing room of their house near Sintra. (source)

If you understand Portuguese, here is a video of an interview with the Duke and Duchess.

--the BB

Dante put them at the bottom

The lowest rung of the Inferno, that is, where one encounters Cocytus, the lake of ice. There the bound, three-headed Satan gnaws on Brutus, Cassius, and Judas. I'm talking about traitors: those who betray the trust put in them.

Thursday constitution blogging is a day late this week. My apologies.

Article III.

Section. 3.

Clause 1: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

Clause 2: The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
--United States Constitution

U. S. Code § 2381. Treason

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
--United States Code

Back in October of 2005, when we thought it was Karl Rove (and not the OVP) at the center of leaking Valerie Wilson's identity, John Aravosis wrote of "the normalization of treason."
If a senior White House staffer had intentionally outed an American spy during World War II, he'd have been shot.

We're at war, George Bush keeps reminding us. We cannot continue with business as usual. A pre-9/11 mentality is deadly. Putting the lives of our troops at risk is treason.

Then why is the White House and the Republican party engaged in a concerted campaign to make treason acceptable during a time of war?
Remember, Mrs. Wilson was working to track development of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, specifically in Iraq and Iran. With her identity compromised, the entire operation and the network of anyone associate with it was at risk and no longer of any value to the United States.

In doing some reading on the understanding of treason in American jurisprudence I have learned that it is very difficult to prove, which is why it is often preferable to rely on the Espionage Act of 1917 in prosecuting those who betray the nation. There is no question that secret information was divulged in this whole affair.

While proving an act (not an attempt but an act) that confers tangible benefit to the enemy is a very high bar, there is some flexibility in the issue of the two witnesses.
However, the decisions defined with some flexibility favorable to the prosecution the boundaries of the act to which two witnesses must testify. Their testimony need not be identical or precise as to all aspects of the cited behavior, nor need it minutely cover every element into which an episode of behavior might be analyzed. The evidence was sufficient if it joined in identifying what reasonable jurors could regard as a connected, patterned transaction.

[Emphasis mine]

Well, these are just some musings. I doubt that one could successfully convict Richard Bruce Cheney of treason, though I believe he is guilty of it. That's my opinion, anyway.

--the BB

It's not ancient history, folks

You may have read a bit about the name Renzi today.

Arizona's Rep. Renzi Is Indicted In Land Deal
Washington Post - 1 hour ago
By Ben Pershing Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) used his position in Congress to influence a federal land-exchange deal, collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in payoffs, according to an indictment released yesterday.
Grand Jury Indicts Arizona Congressman New York Times

So, another scamp is indicted. Big deal. Right?

Well, actually it is a big deal, because when you pull one thread you never know what might unravel. Consider these comments by Max Blumenthal at The Nation (via Kagro X at Daily Kos):
In September 2006, just weeks before pivotal Congressional midterm elections, Paul Charlton, US Attorney for Arizona, opened a preliminary investigation into Republican Representative Rick Renzi of the state's First Congressional District for an alleged pattern of corruption involving influence-peddling and land deals. Almost immediately, Charlton's name was added to a blacklist of federal prosecutors the White House wanted to force from their jobs. Charlton is someone "we should now consider pushing out," D. Kyle Sampson, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez's chief of staff, wrote to then White House Counsel Harriet Miers on September 13. In his previously safe Republican district, Renzi had barely held on in the election. On December 7, the White House demanded Charlton's resignation without offering him any explanation.

Stacks of internal Justice Department e-mails subpoenaed by Congress in early March from the White House provided evidence that the dismissals of Charlton and seven other US Attorneys was a political purge orchestrated to install "loyal Bushies," as Sampson called them, into their posts and to protect Republican lawmakers like Renzi from indictments for corruption. The Administration's explanation that the ousters were "performance-related" has been discredited in light of the exposure of the e-mails--and especially proved false in Charlton's case. A model of professionalism, Charlton's office was honored with the Federal Service Award and hailed by the Justice Department as a "Model Program" for its protection of crime victims.
[Emphasis mine]

You remember Gonzogate: the whole scandal over the US Attorneys being fired for phony reasons but in a rather clear partisan pattern of quashing pursuit of Republican misdeed and urging pursuit of Democrat misdeeds.

Kagro X is right on, commenting:
Alberto Gonzales should have been impeached. Instead, American punditry insisted this was nothing, and Congress satisfied itself with allowing Gonzales to move on to the lecture circuit, unsullied by the criminality that average Americans who have given up on the sycophantic media knew was plain to see.
Emptywheel has a couple of posts on this (here and here). The latter one gets technical but the former one is helpful for a general grasp of things.
--the BB

Diocese of San Joaquin

A local comments at Jake's:
The Diocese of San Joaquin Special Convention is set for March 29, most likely in Stockton. We are still looking for a venue so the location is not yet set.
Please continue to keep the EPISCOPAL Diocese of San Joaquin and all its people in your prayers.
--the BB

The FISA battle continues

McJoan at Daily Kos lets us know that "AG Mukasey and DNI McConnell say the nation's security agencies have "lost intelligence" because Congressional Democrats haven't capitulated to Bush's will."

Cry me a flippin' river.

As mcjoan puts it so very clearly:
There's also a completely reasonable and simple solution to gain the telcos' cooperation even without amnesty: go the damned FISA court--which is still there, and not as busy as it used to be since they decided to bypass it--and get the damned warrants.

Harry Reid has this to add:
"But for the President, this debate isn’t about protecting America; it’s about protecting the telecommunications industry and his own Administration. He has explicitly refused to compromise on immunity for telecommunications companies even as he claimed the law’s expiration endangers Americans. I can only conclude, then, that the President would put Americans’ lives on the line to let phone companies off the hook. Democrats have different priorities."
[Emphasis either in the original or in mcjoan's posting thereof.]

In earlier post mcjoan gives us this quote from Bush:
Asked about a potential deal with Democrats, Bush said, "I would just tell you there's no compromise on whether these phone companies get liability protection."
"No compromise" is Bush-speak for "deal with Democrats."

Don't forget this reminder from mcjoan:
Let's just point out again that it was the Democrats who offered to extend the Protect America Act to "keep us safe," and Bush and the Republicans who forced that law to lapse.
Update 2:
Listen to the people:

h/t to Kagro X

--the BB

John McCain and his Friends - updates (2)

From Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films:

John McCain has 59 lobbyists raising money for his campaign, and yet he said "I'm the only one the special interests don't give any money to."
--Robert Greenwald [mass e-mail]

From John Aravosis at Americablog we get Newsweek documenting a discrepancy in McCain's assertions about discussions with lobbyists. John's conclusion:
So McCain said this week that he did not discuss the matter with anyone from Iseman's firm. But in 2002 in a sworn deposition he said he did. So, perjury, liar, or just losing his memory?
Update 2:
From Josh Marshall:
Turns out John McCain is such a scourge of lobbyists everywhere that his senior advisor, GOP lobbyist Charlie Black, is now conducting most of his lobbying work by phone from the Straight Talk Express.

I have to confess that this new detail has vanquished my ability to snark.

--the BB

Damn, my chums have good lines!

Never piss on a sunset while you’re waiting for the moon.
--the Cunning Runt

You can see (and read) what he's talking about here.
--the BB

A Heavenly Friday Five

Singing Owl from RevGalBlogPals gives us this one:

.... So how about we share five "heavenly" things? These can me serious or funny or a combination of the two.

What is your idea of a heavenly (i.e. wonderful and perfect):

1. Family get-together

In addition to the fact that everybody's there (especially the really notorious sinners), I think it would be wonderful to see my mother and my Aunt Margaret laughing warmheartedly at each other's jokes. Each of them had a great sense of humor but it ended where the other was concerned. A joke by one was always an offense to the other; not so in heaven! And just to see people no longer burdened by anxiety, guilt, shame, or pain. Nobody disapprovin' on anybody else. And with Jesus as sommelier we know the wine is going to be fabulous!

2. Song or musical piece

Well, Bach's St Matthew Passion is my favorite piece of music but it seems a bit lugubrious for heaven. Still, I want to hear it again, followed by some good Gospel singing and clapping, then performance of lots and lots of Mozart. Then some kirtan and dancing. A round of drinks, some BBQ and Dixieland. Oh my, how can one pick? Well, we do have eternity to party.

3. Gift

Travel. My beloved and the church sent me to Northumbria on pilgrimage. Enabling anyone to go to new places, meet new people, learn about other parts of the world, experience the earth's beauty, begin to understand other cultures, etc.

Knowledge. I think of Mr. Alan Amend, my high school history and humanities teacher. He gave us not just information but passion for learning, exploration, and clear and beautiful expression.

4. You choose whatever you like-food, pair of shoes, vacation, house, or something else. Just tell us what it is and what a heavenly version of it would be.

Hmm. A cozy cabin in the yellow-pine belt, neighbors no closer than a quarter-mile, summertime with lots of hiking, pine needles under my feet, the scent of kit-kit-dizze (Chamaebatia foliolosa, mountain misery, bear clover--smells like witch hazel), nearby groves of giant sequoia, streams and waterfalls, mountain azalea and alders and dogwood. A lake for swimming with spots for sunbathing. Nothing to do but explore and enjoy. Campfires with good conversation and laughter.

Hume Lake, oil on canvas - the BB (1968)

In the winter, a beach in the tropics with not too much humidity.

OK, year-round sunbathing with no fear of ultraviolet light. A chance to catch up on all the books I have bought and not yet read.

And the only outdoor sounds would be those of nature and early evening live outdoor concerts (without amplification). No traffic, no boom boxes. Distant sounds of children playing happily.

5. And for a serious moment, or what would you like your entrance into the next life to be like? What, from your vantage point now, would make Heaven "heavenly?"

Kazan waiting for me at the gate, his head suddenly lifted with alertness, then both of us wagging our tails and rolling around on the ground with joy at reunion. This is a very serious response and I know Scout, and Grendel, and Rowan will all understand.

--the BB

Nations in transition

Just because it is not in the news does not mean things are fine. We know that information in The Union of Myanmar (Burma) is tightly controlled and that the plight of the Buddhist monks and nuns, who led huge protests not so very long ago, remains dire. Civil rights activists like Aung San Suu Kyi remain under detention. MikeF pointed me to the Avaaz site where you can learn more about the situation in Myanmar. He also has a moving passage from a Sutta in one of his posts.

I realize there are many other spots in the world that need both prayer and concrete action (politically, economically, etc.)--in fact, there is no place that doesn't. But here are five other countries that are going through transitions.

The tensions in Kenya are far from resolved. This may be the first day in a while that I did not see several headlines about Kenya on the Google news page. A quick search yields results like this:
Kenya crisis talks break with no deal
Reuters South Africa, South Africa - 1 hour ago
By Duncan Miriri and Daniel Wallis NAIROBI (Reuters) - Negotiators for Kenya's political rivals broke off talks on the post-election crisis for the weekend ...

Hopes fade of Kenya crisis solution The Press Association

Africa's top diplomat pushes Kenya rivals to agree Reuters Canada

Kenya Reconciliation Talks Continue; Focus on Power Sharing Issues Voice of America

Mark Harris shares how the retired bishop Gitari has spoken out about how the Anglican Church in Kenya has not played a leadership role in reconciliation but rather split along tribal lines. Harris also notes: "The National Council of Churches of Kenya and CMS both have acknowledged the failings by providing contexts for leaders to explore the extent to which they participated in divisiveness in Kenya."

Pakistan has huge challenges following the recent elections, its complex situation and role in geopolitics, and international concerns about its harboring al-Qaeda members and its possession of nuclear weapons.

14 killed by Pakistan wedding party bomb: police
AFP - 1 hour ago
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) — A roadside bomb ripped through cars carrying wedding guests in northwestern Pakistan Friday, killing at least 14 people including ...

Musharraf Promises to Back Pakistan's New Parliament, Democracy
Bloomberg - 3 hours ago
22 (Bloomberg) -- President Pervez Musharraf said he would back Pakistan's new parliament in creating political stability, fighting terrorism and sustaining ...
Pakistan coalition partners thrash out PM choice AFP

New Pakistan government must free judges
AFP - 11 hours ago
ISLAMABAD (AFP) — Pakistan's new government must swiftly release all the top judges President Pervez Musharraf detained last year after street protests ...

On border, Pakistan polls raise hopes for peace with India
AFP - 12 hours ago
WAGAH, Pakistan (AFP) — Every evening as dusk falls on the India-Pakistan border post near Lahore, crowds gather on either side of the frontier and scream ...
Washington Post, United States - 4 hours ago
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's plea for American forbearance today comes at the very moment when those who represent the newly elected government are ...

Afghanistan (aka "The Forgotten War") has not exactly made the progress one would have expected, unless one were a realist with an awareness of Afghan history and how foreign influence works, or usually doesn't, in that country.

32 Taliban fighters killed in clashes in southern Afghanistan ...
International Herald Tribune, France - 18 hours ago
AP KABUL, Afghanistan: Clashes in southern Afghanistan in recent days have killed 32 militants, including two Taliban commanders, officials said. ...

Afghan, Coalition forces make continued arrests in S Afghanistan Xinhua

No Injuries As Senators' Chopper Makes Emergency Landing In ... CBS News

NATO chief calls for more commitment to Afghanistan
AFP - Feb 21, 2008
Countries contributing to a 50000-strong NATO-led force in Afghanistan must also rid themselves of the notion that the mission is failing, the alliance's ...
EurasiaNet, NY - Feb 21, 2008
The death sentence given recently to a 23-year-old journalism student in Afghanistan has fast emerged as the focal point in a culture clash, the outcome of ...

No one is secure in Afghanistan
The Post, Pakistan - 1 hour ago
The recent suicide attacks in Kandahar and district Spin Boldak proved the inability of the Karzai government in maintaining law and order in Afghanistan. ...

Kosovo just declared its independence from Serbia last Sunday (cf. earlier post below). This is a huge step and one fraught with conflict as Serbs consider the region part of their historical heartland. This nostalgic attachment does not square with current demographic reality as the population is not mostly ethnic Albanian and Muslim, not Serbian and Orthodox. This is why so many Albanian flags were seen as Kosovars celebrated independence last weekend. I imagine the new official flag, pictured above, will take a while to be produced in quantity and take hold. It was designed to avoid regional and ethnic favoritism, colors or design elements suggesting prior national identities.

The tensions might be reflected in common versions of the nation's name: Republika e Kosovës / Република Косово / Republika Kosovo / Republic of Kosovo (Albanian, Serbian, Turkish, English)

The Serbian response, as might be expected, is strong and negative. Small incidents have erupted and the U. S. embassy in Belgrade was attacked and set on fire. Russia backs the Serbian position rejecting recognition of Kosovo as independent.

Friday's Developments on Kosovo - 44 minutes ago
Developments Friday involving Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia: IN NORTHERN KOSOVO — Protesting Serbs attacked UN police guarding the key ...
The Associated Press

Q&A: The history of strife in Kosovo
MSNBC - 44 minutes ago
The breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo once again captured the international spotlight when it declared independence from the Republic of Serbia on Feb. ...

Serbs continue anti-Kosovo protests
The Press Association - 1 hour ago
Serbs protesting over Kosovo's independence have attacked UN police guarding a key bridge in northern Kosovo with stones and bottles. ...
Video: Rioting breaks out on Kosovo-Serbia border RussiaToday
Tensions high as Serbs reject Kosovo independence International Herald Tribune
UN police clash with Serb protesters in Kosovo Belfast Telegraph

Russian, Serbian FMs condemn Kosovo's independence
Xinhua, China - 2 hours ago
22 (Xinhua) -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Serbian counterpart Vuk Jeremic on Friday condemned Kosovo's unilateral declaration of ...

Bosnian Serbs threaten secession over Kosovo
Reuters - 5 hours ago
The parliament of the Serb Republic adopted a resolution late on Thursday branding Kosovo's declaration of independence an illegal act that violated ...

With Fidel Castro giving notice of his retirement for health reasons (and this is one time where that his fully credible), the future of Cuba is a hot topic of discussion (see post below). Many call for Cuba to change; others call for the U.S. attitude toward Cuba to change; and it's anybody's guess what will unfold.

Fidel Castro Rejects US, European Calls for Change in Cuba
Bloomberg - 4 hours ago
US demands for change in Cuba camouflage its intention to annex the island state, Castro said. "Dwindling European powers'' haven't known freedom and ...

Fidel Castro Will Always Lead Cuba, Locals Say
Washington Post, United States - 7 hours ago
García, who remembers being full of hope when Castro led a rebel army to victory in 1959, can't see Cuba truly being led by anyone else as long as Fidel ...

Fidel Castro says he's relieved to be stepping down as Cuba's ...
The Canadian Press - 3 hours ago
He also says that the process of selecting Cuba's next government has left him "exhausted." After nearly a half-century in power, Castro announced Tuesday ...

A fresh start for Cuba, US
Seattle Times, United States - 11 hours ago
The United States and Cuba have one of those rare moments for a fresh start. The best first step begins with an end to the pointless US economic embargo. ...

Clinton and Obama Differ on Cuba Policy
Wall Street Journal - 18 hours ago
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama engaged in a cordial disagreement over the future of US-Cuba relations in the opening moments of the presidential debate ...
McCain Hits Obama on Cuba New York Times Blogs

Well, that is this morning's end-of-week round-up on nations in transition. Obviously, it is a call to prayer.

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

Heart thread - Friday 2/22-updated

I have put updates below but for those who do not scroll that far:

My brother-in-law Jack continues to receive blood transfusions and they want his heart rate and blood count to stabilize before surgery. I find this troubling since I don't see how the blood count can stabilize until surgery. Catch-22, but what I get is third-hand. Prayers definitely needed. He has received 14 units of blood since Sunday.

My friend's ex-husband King died last night (in Alabama). Prayers for him, his current wife, my friend (his ex, who lives here), their daughter and her family (from Toronto) would be lovely.

FranIAm has a prayer request up, with a chance to help, at her site.

Fr Jake has requests for prayer for fs, a member of the community that comments there.

We are also remembering Callum, MP's border collie, and his canine and human family. Lots of folks in various rough patches on blogsites that MP notes.

And we are still joyously celebrating the birth of Alcibiades' new son.

I continue to visit Through the Dust each day and offer prayer for Deacon Ormonde Plater who is going through chemo for leukemia. Don't know how he slipped my mind in the first draft of this. He posted an update today.

Update 2:
Good heavens! How could I forget Fran's ordeals in the house sale. Prayers needed there until the deal is done and final.
--the BB

The faux maverick

The American people are beginning to see the real John McCain under the faux-honorable veneer. Howard Dean has provided a sterling example of how to deal with questions about McCain. If you are going to be chatting with other people this election cycle, you might want to take notes.

From National Journal On Air:
Q: So there is big news about John McCain -- the story that is in the New York Times, raising questions about his relationship with a lobbyist. This is a story the McCain people are saying is unfair and untrue. What do you think?

Dean: I have no idea whether the affair story is true or not, and I don't care. What I do care about is John McCain -- and this has been well-documented -- is talking all the time about being a reformer and a maverick, and in fact, he has taken thousands of dollars from corporations, ridden on their corporate jets, and then turned around and tried to do favors for them and get projects approved. He has tons of lobbyists on his staff. This is a guy who is very close to the lobbyist community, a guy who has been documented again and again by taking contributions and then doing favors for it. This is not a guy who is a reformer. This is a guy who has been in Washington for 25 years and wants to give us four more years of the same, and I don't think we need that.

Q: So are you saying that McCain, by virtue of what is spelled out in this story, has somehow suffered a hit in terms of his own legitimacy on the campaign finance and ethics issue?

Dean: Yes, he certainly has. This goes all the way back to the Keating Five Scandal and the S & L scandals, where he took a hundred thousand donations, rode on corporate jets and then intervened on Charles Keating's behalf -- and again and again we see this. We even saw -- it's so hypocritical -- we even saw that he is trying to harass Barack Obama about whether he's going to take public financing in the campaign, and he forewent his own public financing in the primaries after getting a loan, based on the idea that he might take public financing.

This is not a guy who is a reformer. He talks about change, and he makes a big deal about not being like Bush when in fact he is Bush. He voted for Bush's tax cuts after saying he didn't, and has been responsible for a $6 trillion national debt that our children are going to have to pay. He thinks we ought to stay in Iraq for 100 years. He thought it was great that the president vetoed health care for our kids under 18. This is four more years of George Bush, and I don't think the American people are going to buy it.

Check out dday's post here.

Tristero has a great article about what seems to be a recurring, and serious. problem.
Sure. Everyone makes mistakes. And even though McCain makes spectacular mistakes, that in and of itself isn't the real crux of the problem. Rather it's this: By his own admission, McCain can't learn from his mistakes. He knows himself that his personality is too rigid. That is the critical difference between John McCain and a truly qualified candidate for President of the United States. And no amount of straight-shooting hype will change that.
[Emphasis in the original]
Read it all here.

--the BB

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thursday in Lent 2

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
This is one of those passages with many ramifications. It strikes at the heart of individualism. We often hear that assertion, "It's my life, I can do what I want with it." While there is truth in this, it is only a half truth. Vis-à-vis society and the demands, desires, and projections of others, we need to find our own inner truth and become self-determining. Yes even there we neither exist nor act in isolation. Who we are and whatever we do affects, and is affected by, all those with whom we are in relationship.

Taking into consideration the Holy, the Ultimate, we not only need to recall who we are but Whose we are. To see ourselves--and others--as ultimately belonging to God, changes how we treat ourselves and others. Each look, expression, touch, word will reveal how whether we understand this.

He said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? (Mark 4:21)
Why are we, whom Jesus has proclaimed to be given as light to the world, so reticent to shine?

He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. (Mark 4:26-27)
We can furrow, we can plant, we can water, we can weed, we can fertilize, yet we still cannot control growth. Likewise we can, and must, do our part for the reign of God but it is not we who make it happen.

O Lord, strong and mighty, Lord of hosts and King of glory: Cleanse our hearts from sin, keep our hands pure, and turn our minds from what is passing away; so that at the last we may stand in your holy place and receive your blessing; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
--the BB

Dan Kurtzman's Liberal Manifesto

Bill in Portland Maine includes a great passage from Dan Kurtzman's book How to Win a Fight with a Conservative. I would love to post it all but BiPM got permission and I have not, so here is a teaser:
Liberals believe in clean air, diplomacy, stem cells, living wages, body armor for our troops, government accountability, and that exercising the right to dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

Liberals believe in reading actual books, going to war as a last resort, separating church and hate, and doing what Jesus would actually do, instead of lobbying for upper-class tax cuts and fantasizing about the apocalypse.


Liberals believe that supporting our troops means treating our wounded vets like the heroes they are, and not leaving them to languish in rat-infested military hospitals under the outsourced management of incompetent cronies who think they’re running a Taco Bell franchise.
[Highlighting mine]

Read it all here.
--the BB

I lifted this one from Eileen

Kees Kraayenoord (source)

The name of the song is God of the Moon and Stars by Kees Kraayenoord.

God of the moon and stars
God of the gay- and singles bars
Godof the fragile hearts we are, I come to you
God of our history, God of the future that will be
What will you make of me, I come to you

God of the meek and mild
God of the reckless and the wild
God of the unreconciled, I come to you
God of our life and death
God of our secrets unconfessed
God of our every breath, I come to you

God of the rich and poor
God of the princess and the whore
God of the ever open door, I come to you
God of the unborn child
God of the pure and undefiled
God of the pimp and pedophile, I come to you

God of the war and peace
God of the junkie and the priest
God of the greatest and the least, I come to you
God of the refugee
God of the prisoner and the free
God of our doubt and certainty, I come to you

God of our joy and grief,
God of the lawyer and the thief
God of our faith and unbelief, I come to you
God of the wounds we bear
God of the deepest dreams we share
God of our unspoken prayer, I come to you

God of the world that's lost
God of the lonely cross
God who has come to us, I come to you

Lyrics from here

h/t to Eileen
--the BB

Heart thread-multiple updates

Thanks to all who have offered prayers. Here is the latest information I have, along with a call for fervent prayer.

As of last night they were still trying to determine the extent of bleeding in King's brain and he may have ruptured his spleen. [Update: King has been moved to palliative care. Let us hold him in the light as he goes before us.]

My brother-in-law Jack evidently tore something internally when he took a fall a couple of weeks ago. It is near his spleen and they are working on scheduling surgery for today. He has received nine units of blood, so the blood loss has been quite severe.

Update 2:
Click on over to Fran's an offer prayers (perhaps more) for Kiara.

Update 3:
Dear Ones,

King died this evening. My friend (his ex-wife) sends her thanks for all your prayers. I know the family will continue to be held in love.

My brother-in-law Jack's heart rate was high today and surgery was postponed. Thanks for holding him before God.

Update 4 (Friday morning):
Little Sister writes: "Dr says no surgery until his heart rate and blood count stablizes. "  At this point Jack has received 14 units of blood.  They are pondering a more indirect but less invasive approach to surgery.  I will update here as I learn more.  Thank you all for continuing prayer.
--the BB

Zwei mehr

Welcome to visitors in the past 24 hours from Kuwait and Chile!

Yes, I know, neither nation has German as an official language and so the header today ("two more" in German) is a bit perverse, but it's what popped into my head and by now y'all know I tend to post what pops into my head.
Kuwait, of course, has a very interesting geopolitical situation, being an oil-producing country nestled amid Saudia Arabia, Iraq, and Iran.

Here is a 9:37min visual tour of Kuwait City (with western music):

Chile has one of the more interesting outlines being such a long and narrow country, running along the western side of the Andes.

Here is a 4:45m video of (rapidly shifting) photos of the capital Santiago de Chile:

Chile is also one of the countries for which I have a large physical flag. My ex visited there a few times on business and I also had a colleague, the Rev. Ivan Ramírez, who is Chilean. Ivan and Elena are wonderful people who ministered in the San Francisco area. When they visited their native country there was some culture shock, especially with the Church of the Province of the Southern Cone. (Note: this was some years ago.) The Anglicans in Chile were not very Prayer-Book oriented, very evangelical and charismatic and anti-Catholic. When Ivan presided at a Eucharist, he raised his hand for the blessing but refrained from making the sign of the Cross. Afterward someone came up and accused him of almost making the sign of the Cross, which implied that he was some kind of Catholic. Much of the evangelical thrust of the Anglicans in Chile was among the illiterate indigenous; little headway was made with the bulk of the population. Ivan would have been much more at home with the Roman Catholics in terms of liturgical and theological culture--as would I. At one point a brief window of opportunity opened for living in Chile for a year or two through my partner's work. There is no question that we would have worshiped with the Catholics while there.

And that's it for stories this morning.
--the BB

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fran already put this up

But I'm sharing it here anyway. There might be one or two out there who don't read both of us.

--the BB

Wednesday in Lent 2

Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. (Mark 4:5-6)
I cannot read these verses without thinking about folks who have a religious experience, become excited about its meaning in their lives, align themselves with their new-found path, and hope / assume/ desperately desire that this will now answer their questions, solve their problems, and make their fragmented lives whole. The phenomenon is the same no matter what path they follow; it is not unique to followers of Jesus.

If a freshly planted seed has soil and water and time to develop a good root system it can withstand a great many stresses. But if not, there is little hope. Last year I planted 8 fruit trees and a dozen roses. Seven of my fruit trees hung in there. One did nothing. When I finally pulled it up I could see that no roots had developed. The same with a rose bush that did not make it. I do not know why the others succeeded where these did not, but these clearly could not draw nurture from the soil, had no vitality to produce leaves, much less fruit or flowers in some future year. They remained sticks in my back yard.

Enthusiasm is natural when we experience some great blessing. It might be faith or it might be a new job, a new home, a new love. There is the period of "limerence" or infatuation. Everything is so rosy, so full of promise, ripe with potential. When we are in that state we are not likely to foresee obstacles, hidden shoals, limitations, or contrary indications.

When trials, failures, and questions arrive it becomes difficult to cling to this new thing if we have not established roots. What may have sprung up easily at first simply cannot last for long.

I have wondered about many in the Episcopal Church or some other Anglican province who came in from some other background (and all are welcome!) yet have not had either the opportunity or the inclination to develop Anglican roots. I am thinking of folks who may be attracted to sacraments or our liturgy or our sense of historical continuity yet are still, at heart, Calvinists or charismatics with only the thinnest veneer of Anglicanism. Or perhaps they came from the Roman side and desired a touch more freedom yet remain uncomfortable to Anglican messiness with no central curia to bring it under control.

This is a delicate subject. Having come to Anglicanism from a Baptist background, I was viewed with great caution by commissions on ministry and standing committees. They wanted to be sure I was not still more Baptist than Episcopalian and I had difficulty convincing them. To me it was silly because I had always been a high-church, sacramental Baptist (I know, utter oxymorons) who gladly jettisoned most of my Protestant trappings as I "swam the Thames." Nonetheless, I was sure of who I was. I had read, as I have shared here before, the BCP and all the trial liturgies from cover to cover, and the Constitution and Canons likewise. I was a student of Church history and knew a fair amount of the history of doctrine. I deeply appreciated an approach to theology that involved a constant dialogue among Scripture, tradition, reason, and the concrete present situation in which one lived, worshiped, served, and theologized. I had long since abandoned an approach that pulls verses out of context and applies them haphazardly and with great assertion of authority. I had studied the Bible, the issues involved in its development and transmission, and the history of its interpretation. In the Anglican ethos I found a true home. The broad embrace of our via media was important to me as we lived with the tension of being finite yet growing together in grace, of not having final answers yet being loved and transformed by the One who transcended both question and answer.

I do not think the Anglican ethos, as I have known it, is a true home for many. They do not seem to have the roots that can live with both wet and dry periods, with stresses of hot and cold, with attacks both above and below the soil line. Their frustration and discomfort lead to demands to remake the Anglican family into something it has not hitherto been. Perhaps at this point I should shift the analogy to that of the branches grafted on, as St Paul described the nations grafted onto the rootstock of Israel. Some grafts onto the Anglican stock do not seem to be taking well. What I find problematic is their desire to change the rootstock to conform to these grafts.

I myself am a graft, not a native Episcopalian. Perhaps I am blathering and spouting nonsense. But I toss it out there anyway. Just thoughts occasioned by a few verses from today.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside. ‘Drive out the wicked person from among you.’
When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters? If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another, but a believer goes to court against a believer—and before unbelievers at that?
In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—and believers at that. (1 Corinthians 5:9-6:8)
And, speaking of the roiling debates within Anglicanism these days, how about today's office lesson from the Epistles?

"Do not even eat with such a one." There we have the text for primates who will not receive communion with our Presiding Bishop because she consented to something they believe fosters sexual immorality. Though why a committed relationship that is so obviously grace-filled should be considered immorality remains the unanswered question. "Because the Bible says so" is just so much bullshit. No careful study of the texts supports such a bellowing denunciation. I think a more honest answer is "because that is what we were taught the Bible says."

This is one of my learnings from my days amongst fundamentalists (and I use that term in the narrow, historical sense): people confuse what they are told the Bible says with what it actually says. They are given a particular interpretation of a certain passage and forever thereafter assume that is what it means. They do not undertake individual research on the text, except to read commentaries that are already in conformity with what they were told. The other commentaries and studies, of course, are works of the devil. Whatever disagrees with the received interpretation is and can only be the work of godless unbelievers and deceivers. It is very difficult to break out of that kind of hermetically sealed hermeneutic.

And then there is the question of the courts. How very unseemly, and contrary to apostolic advice, it is for believers to take one another to secular courts!

Well, color me skeptical, but once again I raise the principal of "cui bono?" Who benefits?

There is no question that when Christians sue each other in court it is a scandal that does little to make our faith look attractive. I almost typed "does little to glorify God" but I backed off, and for a reason. There is a romantic notion that rolling over and letting the patrimony of the church be looted is a very Christ-like thing to do. While I am a firm believe that the Church is the people and the rest are "just things" I also uphold the principle of incarnation whereby a gathered people makes very good use of "things" like furniture on which they may sit and shelter over their heads and places to gather in general where formation for ministry may take place and kitchens where people may be fed, etc. In a sacramental faith "things" are never "just things."

I don't believe ceding ground to bullies is in any way Christ-like. Jesus, in his unique vocation, was led like a lamb to the slaughter. This does not mean we should all line up and carry signs that say "kill me." Jesus also unmasked bullshit.

Nor do I think God is glorified when pirates or bullies get away with their behavior.

You will also note that those who attempt theft are the ones who will first cry that it is unseemly to call them to account for it. As has beens said in many other places, if you stop stealing there will be no need to bring in the courts. Do not try to get self-righteous all over my ass about this topic. If you want to leave TEC, go! But leave the silver in the sacristy and the key under the mat.

"Why not rather be wronged?" Paul asks. Because it's unhealthy boundaries and lack of accountability, I answer. If I took these verses out of context and used them as guiding principles in all things, I would support the idea that all Christians should become complicit in every imaginable injustice. And that, I submit to you, does not sound like good hermeneutics, good ethics, good theology, or good practice.

O God, you so loved the world that you gave your only-begotten Son to reconcile earth with heaven: Grant that we, loving you above all things, may love our friends in you, and our enemies for your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
--the BB

If only he could connect the dots

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
photo via Dependable Renegade

George W. Bush:
"...outside forces tend to divide people up inside their country and are unbelievably counterproductive."

Ya think?

He was speaking of Rwanda, of course, following his visit to a genocide museum.
--the BB