Saturday, March 15, 2008

Saturday in Lent 5

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand towards heaven so that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness that can be felt.’ (Exodus 10:21)
I am of the school that favors the second Proper Preface for Lent, the one that speaks of preparing with joy for the paschal feast. I don't believe we should call this coming Friday "good" and then treat it as a funeral. It is a celebration of the very costly victory of God in Christ. We would not gather to recall it if we did not know "how the story ends." By this I do not mean that Good Friday is not, or should not be, solemn. But I am not big on lugubrious and I try to keep a good, moving tempo in "Sing, my tongue, the victory telling...."

Still, I feel the impending darkness of Holy Week this year. The world's woes, the church's anguish, and those of individuals near and far weigh upon me, as the posts of the previous weeks make clear.

It is all right to feel that weight. It is OK to hurt, to weep, to grieve, to be uncomfortable. We, who spend so much of our lives running from discomfort, denying evil and death, covering reality over with a facade of smiles and pastel flowers can, for a while at the very least, set aside all that denial and pretension, crack the sugar icing, and look deep within.

We can sit with darkness.

We can feel it.

It is all right.

Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:51-52)
We can feel the all-encompassing darkness of the blind man.

We can also allow our faith to stir, to rise up within us, to cry out, as he did, for help, to be importunate, to repeat our pleas.

And then we must face the difficult question.

What do we want?

May we sit with that for a while.

May the question tease us, haunt us, bless us.

May you have a very holy week indeed.

O Lord, in your goodness you bestow abundant graces on your elect: Look with favor, we entreat you, upon those who in these Lenten days are being prepared for Holy Baptism, and grant them the help of your protection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
--the BB

Three new flags in two days

I simply did not have the energy to observe hospitality last night and now I have some catching up to do. In the past two days we have had our first visitors from Kenya, Nigeria, and Colombia. Welcome to each and all!

We have been praying for each of these countries in days past and trying to have some awareness of them. (I confess to some naughtiness in posting a photo of the national mosque in Abuja above for the graphic associated with Nigeria; could not resist tweaking +Pete.)

I don't have time today to say much of anything but the links above will take you to the Wikipedia pages for each nation.

I am really happy to see visitors from Africa and South America helping to extend our global interconnectedness.

Here's a little something Kenyan to get y'all shaking your booty:

And some Kikuyu worship music:

Something with a more Arabic rap feel from Mombasa:

A playful love song from Nigeria:

Some contemporary Nigerian music (horny young men putting the make on the lovely ladies):

Some Afrobeat music from Nigeria:

More hip-shaking music, this time from Colombia:

Learn something about inland Colombian music here with a string trio:

Some carnaval music from Colombia:

We travel on the internet so you can sit back and enjoy.
--the BB

The MSM seem to be on vacation

THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
--Thomas Paine: The Crisis, No. 1

You are not likely to see coverage of the Winter Soldier testimony taking place in DC right now.

I knew of it, mostly from listening to Air America. PJ reminds us that it is happening. Jane R adds some good information (though it's stuff we don't want to hear, which is why we need to hear it).

Here is the web page.

The 1971 Winter Soldier Investigation held in Detroit revealed some of what had actually been happening in Vietnam, linking military policies and war crimes and calling the morality of that conflict into question.
Stay informed.

IOB, say what?

This is intimately linked with the FISA battle and issues of warrantless wiretaps and telecommunications immunity.

While we are busy fighting them on one front, they are busy doing sneaky rotten stuff on another. It is the most vicious game of Whack-a-Weasel imaginable and the weasels never, ever let up.
Almost 32 years to the day after President Ford created an independent Intelligence Oversight Board made up of private citizens with top-level clearances to ferret out illegal spying activities, President Bush issued an executive order that stripped the board of much of its authority.

You know how Bush hates oversight, accountability, transparency, honesty, and the rule of law.
--the BB

What has been happening in Iraq

Juan Cole gives some props to Gen. Petraeus in his analysis of what has been going on during the "surge." Some of Juan's comments:
But despite these controversies about the military side, Gen. Petraeus has certainly had successes. And he is clearly frustrated that they have not been taken advantage of by the Iraqi political elite. And my strong suspicion is that the US officers in Iraq are also frustrated with the White House for not pushing the Iraqis harder on a political settlement. It is very hard to see what Bush's political strategy is in Iraq. The "surge" was never meant to be the objective but rather the means.

Gen. Petraeus isn't specific, but I can give some examples. The Sunni Arab Iraqi Accord Front withdrew from the al-Maliki 'national unity' government last summer. The IAF is a coalition of three parties. Two of them say they are uninterested in coming back into the government. The third, the Iraqi Islamic Party, led by vice president Tariq al-Hashimi, is said to be seriously considering returning. Nothing has happened so far. In other words, it is still the case that al-Maliki's government is less successful at reconciliation with the Sunnis now than it had been last year this time before the surge had made much of an impact.

Sunni Arab provinces such as Diyala, Salahuddin and Mosul are still violent, and even al-Anbar, which has settled down, is not paradise. The Awakening Council model does not seem to have been successful outside al-Anbar and some Baghdad neighborhoods, and there is always the danger that the US is creating a powerful Sunni militia that despises Prime Minister al-Maliki as Iran's cat's paw.
It is worthwhile mentioning that what Gen. Petraeus said about the lack of political progress is the opposite of what John McCain has been saying. I am not saying that the contradiction is intended to be a political statement. But I am saying that Petraeus has just revealed himself again to be a straight shooter of a sort that has been all too rare in the Iraq misadventure.

There is more, with good detail (though in an approachable summary manner). I commend the article to your attention.

--the BB

Χριστε, ελεησον

Powerful Tornado Damages Downtown Atlanta
New York Times - 1 hour ago
Dave Martin/AP Windows were shattered at office buildings after a powerful storm crashed through Atlanta on Friday night. By SHAILA DEWAN and BRENDA GOODMAN ATLANTA - A powerful tornado scored a direct hit on the commercial center of downtown Atlanta ...
Tornado watch issued in metro Atlanta Atlanta Journal Constitution
Atlanta Braces for Another Severe Storm The Associated Press

Tibet - China
Exile Group Says 30 Killed in Tibet
The Associated Press - 1 hour ago
BEIJING (AP) - China ordered tourists out of Tibet's capital Saturday while troops on foot and in armored vehicles patrolled the streets and confined government workers to their offices, a day after riots that a Tibetan exile group said left at least ...
Video: Protests Turn Violent in Tibetan Capital AssociatedPress
Chinese Army Won't Quash Tibet Protests, General Says (Update3) Bloomberg

China sets deadline for rioters to surrender
Washington Post - 9 hours ago
By Chris Buckley and Benjamin Kang Lim BEIJING (Reuters) - China set a "surrender deadline," announced deaths and showed the first extensive television footage of rioting in Lhasa on Saturday, launching a crackdown after the worst unrest in Tibet for ...

Reformers Make Gains in Iran Vote
New York Times - 1 hour ago
TEHRAN, March 25 - With about half of the races for Parliament decided Saturday, more than 30 reformers appear to have won seats although most of their most prominent members had been barred from running by the country’s conservative establishment.
Iranians Loyal to Islamic Regime Lead in Early Count (Update1) Bloomberg
Iran Counting Votes in Parliamentary Elections Voice of America

Israel - Palestine
Israel's Deputy PM: West Bank Outposts Should be Dismantled
Voice of America - 3 hours ago
By VOA News Israel's deputy prime minister says the Jewish state's delay in dismantling unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank is hurting its relations with the United States.
China to supply crime-fighting gear to Palestinians AFP
Israel: Barak Skips Three-Way Meeting New York Times

US envoy presses Israelis, Palestinians on peace plan
Los Angeles Times - 10 hours ago
{US presses Israel, Palestinians on peace plan } {Tension over Jewish settlements persists after the three-way meeting. } By Richard Boudreaux, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer JERUSALEM -- An American envoy Friday gave Israeli and Palestinian officials ...

Albania depot blasts 'kill many'
BBC News - 1 hour ago
Many people have died in a series of huge explosions at a military arms depot near the Albanian capital Tirana, Prime Minister Sali Berisha says.
Explosions rock Albanian capital
Explosion rocks army depot in Albania, at least 50 feared dead Xinhua

Plus de 160 victimes dans une série d'explosions en Albanie
La - Il y a 2 heures
TIRANA (Reuters) - Une série d'explosions a fait environ 160 victimes, dont plusieurs Américains, samedi, sur une base militaire des faubourgs de Tirana, ont fait savoir les autorités sans distinguer les morts des blessés. Les déflagrations se seraient ...

Iraq - Chaldaean Catholic Church
Iraqi Christians mourn archbishop
Los Angeles Times - 9 hours ago
At the funeral, the Chaldean patriarch urges patience for the beleaguered minority in Mosul. Some members see it as the last straw and prepare to leave.
Iraq Christians mourn kidnapped cleric's death Reuters
Funeral mass for Iraqi archbishop BBC News

Wall Street - Economy
US stocks plunge on Bear Stearns bailout; wipe out week's gains
MarketWatch - 3 hours ago
By MarketWatch US stocks are hammered for a third session this week after Bear Stearns Cos. says it is in need of a bailout from the Federal Reserve and JP Morgan Chase, with shares of the investment bank plunging 55%.
Behind the Fed’s Bear Loan: Systemic Risk Fear Wall Street Journal
RBS, JC Flowers Interested in Buying Bear Stearns, NYT Says Bloomberg

Inflation Held Steady in February
New York Times - 21 hours ago
By MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM Inflation held steady in February as consumers prices stayed flat, the government said on Friday, taking some pressure off the Federal Reserve as it considers a new round of interest rate cuts.

East Asia
Hu Jintao Re-Elected As China President
The Associated Press - 7 hours ago
BEIJING (AP) - China's legislature re-elected Hu Jintao as president Saturday, giving him a second five-year term as leader of the world's most populous country.
Hu Jintao re-elected China President CNN-IBN

China calls for technology sharing mechanism for anti-global ...
Xinhua - 6 hours ago
CHIBA, Japan, March 15 (Xinhua) -- The world does not lack innovative environmental technologies which help cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but is short of an effective mechanism supporting distribution and common sharing of such beneficial ...
Japan Urges G-8, China to Cooperate on Green Energy Technology Bloomberg
Asia Security Role Goes Global Rright Side News

Malaysia PM urged to resign as rift opens in party
Reuters - Mar 14, 2008
By Jalil Hamid KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - The son of former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad on Friday asked Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to step down from office following the ruling coalition's election debacle at the weekend.

Pakistan buries victims of blasts
BBC News - Mar 12, 2008
Funerals have been held in Pakistan for the victims of two bomb attacks on Tuesday in the eastern city of Lahore. At least 24 people were killed and 100 injured in the attacks by bombers using vehicles packed with explosives.
Blasts Push Pakistan Toward New Policy TIME
NGOs slate Tuesday’s suicide bombings Daily Times

Au moins 10 blessés dans une explosion à Islamabad
TF1 - Il y a 56 minutes
Une explosion d'origine encore indéterminée a eu lieu samedi à Islamabad dans un restaurant fréquenté par des étrangers, faisant au moins dix blessés. "Il ya eu une explosion à l'intérieur du restaurant italien dans le centre de la capitale", ...
Explosion à Islamabad : 1 mort et 12 blessés
Un étranger tué et neuf blessés dans un attentat à Islamabad Le Point

UN Report: Glimpses of peace a 'window of opportunity' in Iraq
International Herald Tribune - 3 hours ago
AP BAGHDAD: A decrease in insurgent attacks in Baghdad that followed a surge of US forces to Iraq has held, but violence elsewhere raise questions about the sustainability of peace, a United Nations report released Saturday determined.

Facts About al-Qaida in Iraq
The Associated Press - Mar 14, 2008
A look at the shadowy group known as al-Qaida in Iraq: _ Membership estimated by US intelligence agencies to number between 2000 and 6000.
[Caveat: this is the AP - one cannot assume they are not parroting the WH]

Iraq: A nation in pieces - 16 hours ago
Five years on from the invasion and occupation of Iraq, I have returned to Baghdad to find people whose lives have been changed in ways that none of them could have forecast even at their most pessimistic moments.

Iran wants joint action with Iraq and Turkey against PKK
Tehran Times - 12 hours ago
DAKAR (Reuters) -- Iran, Iraq, and Turkey should work together to defeat Kurdish rebels while respecting each other’s territorial integrity and ensuring civilians are not harmed, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday.

Chadian opposition says France must stop playing Africa's policeman
International Herald Tribune - 12 Mar 2008
AP STRASBOURG, France: A Chadian opposition politician on Wednesday criticized France for wielding too much influence in his country and called for a new form of military cooperation with the former colonizer of the central African country.

South Africa - Global Health
SAfrican study suggests heart disease growing in developing countries
AFP - 13 Mar 2008
PARIS (AFP) - Heart disease, once predominantly the preserve of rich countries, is expanding fast in developing economies, although for rather different reasons, a study carried out in South Africa suggests.
SA health system in poor state: report SABC News
Spectrum of heart disease and its risk factors are broadening in ... RxPG NEWS

South Australia
50 people seek hospital treatment for heat stress
Adelaidenow - 12 Mar 2008
AT least 50 people have succumbed to Adelaide's record heatwave, seeking hospital treatment for a range of conditions related to the relentless heat.
Searing SA heat could trigger bushfires
Planes seek out hotspots in SA bushfire The Age

Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka: US throws lifeline to Tamil Tigers
Reuters - 14 hours ago - COLOMBO, March 15 (Reuters) - Smarting at mounting criticism of its human rights record amid escalating civil war, Sri ...
Sri Lanka bombs rebels, 39 Tigers killed in fighting: ministry - AFP - 5 hours ago
COLOMBO (AFP) — Sri Lankan jets bombed a Tamil Tiger training base as new fighting across the embattled northern region claimed the lives of at least 39 ...
Sri Lanka sets an example by fighting terrorism: PM - Hindu, India - 6 hours ago
Colombo (PTI): Sri Lanka has set an example to the whole world by fighting terrorism and establishing democracy in the war-ravaged Eastern part of the ...
Sri Lanka summons US envoy over rights report - AFP - 9 hours ago
COLOMBO (AFP) — Sri Lanka summoned US ambassador Robert Blake to denounce Washington's criticism of Colombo's human rights record in an escalating ethnic ...

Latin America
Chávez reafirma su voluntad de 'recuperar la confianza' entre ...
Terra España - hace 14 horas
El presidente venezolano, Hugo Chávez, reafirmó hoy la voluntad de su Gobierno de trabajar para 'recuperar la confianza' entre Venezuela y Colombia, un día después de que sostuvo su primera conversación telefónica en cuatro meses con su colega ...
Hugo Chávez llama a Uribe para sellar la paz entre ambos países El Faro de Cartagena (España)
Hugo Chávez gira hacia la paz, pero deja dudas Periódico Latino

Canada - Middle East
Protesters to continue opposing Afghan mission - 2 hours ago
Protesters plan to rally in 20 communities across Canada today against the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. "This war has nothing to do with the defense of democracy or women's rights in Afghanistan and everything to do with advancing US ...
A moving target Winnipeg Free Press
Peace group plans protests in 20 cities over extended mission in ... The Canadian Press

Dakar - Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC - OCI in French)
Sommet de l'OCI à Dakar: adoption d'une nouvelle charte pour un ...
L'Express - Il y a 20 heures
Les chefs d'Etat de l'Organisation de la conférence islamique (OCI) ont adopté vendredi à Dakar à l'unanimité une nouvelle charte, qui remplace un texte datant de 1972, pour donner un "nouvel élan" à cette organisation représentant 1,3 milliard de ...
L'OCI prône le "dialogue des civilisations" Le Point
Le sommet de l'OCI prend d'importantes décisions pour l'Afrique Afrique en ligne
And why do I have to go to the French google headlines to learn about this Islamic gathering, its deliberations and its proposals?

Menace d'interdiction du parti au pouvoir: la Turquie sous le choc
L'Express - Il y a 2 heures
La Turquie était sous le choc samedi d'une demande de dissolution par la justice du parti gouvernemental qui oppose une nouvelle fois l'establishment laïc aux cadres dirigeant depuis six ans le pays et qui sont soupçonnés d'islamiser la société. ...
Turquie: le recours est une "atteinte à la volonté nationale ... France Info
La justice veut fermer le parti du pouvoir RFI

United States (Guantánamo) - Al Qaeda
High Al Qaeda figure captured, Pentagon says
Los Angeles Times - 10 hours ago
Muhammad Rahim arrives at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. He allegedly helped Osama bin Laden flee Afghanistan in 2001. By Josh Meyer and Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA -- A high-level Al Qaeda operative who ...
US Transfers Bin Laden Aide Washington Post
Officials Say CIA Secretly Detained Suspect New York Times
So we hold him in secret for six months (per NYT article) and then announce that we have him just before the anniversary of launching our invasion of Iraq. Which leads the public to believe the U.S. is making progress in its war on terror. Don't you love the timing of announcements? (Or the withholding of announcements in the case of this week's report from the Pentagon that concluded, after reviewing 600,000 Iraqi documents that there was no demonstrable link whatsoever between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda?)
Stop Being So Religious

Do sad people have in

It seems
They have all built a shrine
To the past

And often go there
And do a strange wail and

What is the beginning of

It is to stop being
So religious



—Hafiz, Persian Sufi Poet, tr. Daniel Ladinsky

--the BB

Friday, March 14, 2008

Heart thread - 3/14/2008 - updated

Fr. Jake's step-mother died Thursday night.

Mark I is in deep despair following an accident.

Lynn asked for prayers on a thread (yesterday?) and I cannot recall any details but someone she cares about is in need of prayer (and God knows who).

KJ's sister Karen and her family still need prayers:
Thank you also for the continued prayers for Karen. Chemo 1 is done, and she's learning to adjust the expectations of herself. Moms don't have time for this!
Pastor Diane is battling the flu just as she heads into Holy Week.

Susankay put in a request at OCICBW:
Prayers, please for my friend Jon and his wife Janice. Jon is a many-decades paraplegic with a great zest for life who just returned home after 3 months in the hospital with operations, skin grafts etc for very serious bed sores and infection. Just found out they took him back to the hospital this afternoon with a new sore and infection. His body can't take much more of this and their emotions are pretty ragged too.
For the dioceses of San Joaquin, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy, et al. For the Standing Committee of Rio Grande.

Deacon Ormonde is still in the process of chemo.

My brother-in-law Jack seems to be doing OK at home though he cannot do as much as he used to for my sister Shirley.

My friend Lin sent out an e-mail Thursday:
Please say a special prayer for Patty – a friend who is having surgery for breast cancer today.
I know I'm forgetting a bunch. Perhaps we need a category: "miscellaneous known to God."

For Presiding Bishop Katherine.

There are the world's woes, of course, skimmed in the world watch posts.

But there are also thanksgivings!

For the Lovely Mona's birthday on Thursday.

For Kirstin recovering her energy and alertness and for me getting over bronchitis (yay!).

For the excitement spreading through the people in the Diocese of San Joaquin as they approach their Special Convention.

For passage of a FISA bill in the House today that does not include telcomm immunity.

For the coming of spring (at least in the northern hemisphere, my frame of reference, though I know it's not the only one).

OK, my friends, bedtime for me.

Shalom, Salaam, Мир, ειρηνη, Paz, Friede, Paix, Pax, Peace!

Update (Saturday afternoon):
The Cunning Runt is suffering the febrile crud (Cruddus febrilis shootmenowii).
--the BB

And yet we all hold each other up

Beautiful words from FranIAm:
With so much going on, with so many things that cry out for our attention, we all bend down under the strain. And yet we all hold each other up.

Let us not forget the dead. Let us not forget the living. Let us not forget the need for peace.

So much of war, hate, division, prejudice and destruction is our own internal need as humans to project evil out onto other people. This creates the first step towards dehumanization and the development of "the other."

That is the soil that grows hate, division, strife. We must replant those fields with peace.

Until we can stop objectifying those around us as "the enemy", until we can see that the enemy holds some real estate within each and every one of us, violence, hatred, war, division will not end.

Sadly, since this has not changed since the dawn of time, I wonder how it can change now. However, I must remember what the words at the top of the page tell me... I am not free to abandon this or any other cause of goodness. I must seek peace, I must long for peace, I must work for peace, I must be peace.
I am concluding where she began:
Do not be daunted
by the enormity of the world's grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated
to complete the work,
but neither are you
free to abandon it.
~ The Talmud

--the BB

Friday Prince Blogging - Duke of Brabant

Today we head to Belgium, where I first set foot on European soil (in autumn 1967). We feature His Royal Highness Philippe Léopold Louis Marie, Duke of Brabant, Prince of Belgium. The ducal title is given to the heir of the Belgian throne.

The Duke was born 15 April 1960 and is the eldest son and heir apparent of Albert II, King of the Belgians. [Wikipedia, the usual source of most of what I share on princes]

As someone who has lived near Berkeley, California, and taken continuing ed courses at the University of California (Go Bears!), I am swallowing my pride and including Prince Philippe who not only attended Trinity College, Oxford, but also Stanford (where he got a master's degree). Stanford put me on their waiting list. There is history. Go Bears! I am sure HRH is a very nice person in spite of his terrible taste in graduate schools. Did I mention: Go Bears!? (Crown Prince Haakon of Norway is a Cal Bear, btw.) Allez les Ours!

He married Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz, daughter of a Belgian noble family, on December 4, 1999.

They have three children: Princess Elisabeth, born 25 October 2001; Prince Gabriel, born 20 August 2003; and Prince Emmanuel, born 4 October 2005. It was announced (on 4 October 2007) that Mathilde is pregnant with their fourth child whose expected date of birth is April 15, 2008.
That's just a month from tomorrow!

The law of succession has been amended so that the eldest child may inherit, regardless of gender, and Princess Elisabeth is next in line to the throne after her father.

The Belgian monarchy's official website is here.

Very best wishes to Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde as they anticipate the birth of their fourth child.

Here is a video tribute to Princess Mathilde (she has a lovely smile):

A total romantic did this video of the Prince and Princess (I love mush):

Oh yes, we have wedding pics too!

And a video of the royal children:

And a family outing in the Ardenne:

OK, enough cute for one Friday!
--the BB

Your FISA update

From TPM:
The pro-civil-liberties Democratic version of the surveillance bill just passed the House.
There are all sorts of things about this version that are better than the White House/Senate Dem version, not least of which is no telecom immunity.

Late Update: The final tally has been revised to 213-197.
--David Kurtz
At Daily Kos we read this: [You may click on "this" to read the whole article.]
FISA: The good guys win a big one
by mcjoan
Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 12:09:10 PM PDT

First off, Steny Hoyer, I apologize for anything I might have ever said about you in relation to the Blue Dogs and FISA. I was wrong. You were great today. Thank you. The shrewd planning of Pelosi and Reid really tied the Republicans in knots, taking away all of their tricks for derailing the bill through obnoxious and obstructionist procedural maneuvering. Chairs Conyers and Reyes were excellent in sheparding their committee members.
The good news? No telcomm immunity!

Almost immediate update:
In the debate thread post, mcjoan shares a statement by Rep. Leonard Boswell (IA-03), who had "signed onto [a] letter to Pelosi urging her to rubberstamp the bad Senate bill."
"So yes, I like 20 others, signed a letter of concern. By the way, it was not a Blue Dog letter, a Blue Dog position but individuals, some of whom were Blue Dogs. Over the course of past weeks, a crdit to Chairman Reyes and Chairman Conyers and our super staff, an acceptable solution has been found. It makes FISA — supports FISA and gives protection to those who assist within the provisions of the law. For example, those who feel their civil rights have been violated can seek justice and telecoms who feel they have complied with the law, a judge can review the classified evidence and decide. This means to me that the Constitution and civil rights are protected and telecoms who are asked under pressure to assist in an emergency can know that classified evidence will be seen by a judge... The bill provides telecom companies a way to present their defense in secure proceedings in a district court without the administration using state secrets to block the defense. A company simply doing its duty following the law, this bill ensures they they will not be punished and I urge everyone who signed the letter with me to support this resolution."

--the BB

The consequences of Republican economic policies

Hoffmania drew my attention to this tidbit from Bloomberg (following Bush's speech to The Economic Club of New York):
The U.S. currency also plunged to below one Swiss franc for the first time as traders speculated the Fed will slash interest rates a full percentage point next week to keep a credit-market crisis from triggering a recession. As the dollar slumped, gold reached a record above $1,000 an ounce.
The Tibetan protests against China as the Beijing Olympics draw near should make everyone anxious. If the Chinese, who own vast portions of our ever-increasing national debt, call that debt in, where do you think that leaves us?


More tax cuts during time of war, anyone?

How about bailing out the lenders (screw the folks who have mortgages, they aren't wealthy enough to buy politicians)?

You didn't really need health care did you?

OK, then, back to privatizing everything so the corporations (and their principal officers) can get obscenely rich on the backs of the workers.

Good times!

Check out Paul Krugman's less-than-encouraging comments about the mess we're in.
--the BB

Not working well for the Iraqis, near as I can tell

From Gulf Daily News (the Voice of Bahrein):

Suicide bomb blast kills 18
BAGHDAD: A bomber detonated his explosives-laden car in central Baghdad yesterday, killing at least 18 people, as Iraqi police and soldiers searched for another possible attacker who accompanied him.

The bomber blew up his BMW car in the Iraqi capital's Bab Al Sharji area, security officials said.

Medics at Baghdad's three hospitals, Al Kindi, Ibn Nafis and Medical City, confirmed that at least 18 people were killed and 64 others wounded in the powerful blast that damaged dozens of nearby shops.

From the Detroit Free Press:
The website claims that between 82,000 and 89,000 Iraqi civilian deaths from violence have occurred. Other estimates put the number substantially higher.
The Los Angeles Times has an article about a physician-journalist who fled Baghdad, then around New Year's returned.
When we reached the hotel, I called my wife and told her Baghdad was a ghost town. I stayed in the hotel two days before going out.

When I did, I saw that people in my old neighborhood finished their errands and hurried home without laughing or talking to one another. Destruction was on every block.

I visited a doctor friend, who scolded me for returning. "It will never get back to normal," he said. "All the decent people have left the country."

I asked whether there was any hope.

"Maybe in 10 years," he said.

--the BB

From the pen of David Horsey

You can see his work here.
--the BB

Friday in Lent 5

This is my 1,000th post on this blog.

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

What a great verse for me today, lest I start thinking I'm hot snot or something because I have fun blogging and folks enjoy it, praise it, or whatever. I also know how very ignorant, biased, broken, and immature I am. I try to add to knowledge, grace, compassion, and beauty in the world but we all know I fall far short of that. As do we all, even in our best intentions. Let's set aside our worst intentions for now.

We are all clay jars. And that is fine. It is a glorious thing to be useful and appropriate for what is needed. My Hebrew Scriptures professor opined that "good" and "very good" in Genesis 1 meant "adequate and appropriate for its purpose." It is not some superficial moral quality, its is rightness for what God intends.

Would that we could recognize, appreciate, and celebrate being adequate and appropriate for our purpose. Is that not glory enough?

They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. (Mark 10:32)
Jesus walked ahead of them. He goes before us. He will not take us where he is not willing to go (unlike some politicians).

President AWOL on Afghanistan (yesterday):
"I must say, I'm a little envious," Bush said. "If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed."
Need we comment about what happened when he was younger and had a chance to be on the front lines?
So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’ (Mark 10:42-45)
This really is the nitty gritty, the culmination of Jesus' teachings on discipleship during the journey toward Jerusalem. It is linked with the third and final passion prediction in Mark. The world (and the predominant imperial social structure of his time, and ours) proclaims that it is all about dominance--who is in charge, who gives the orders, who reaps the benefits.

Jesus tells his disciples, then and now, that this is not his way.

Yesterday's collect:
O God, you have called us to be your children, and have promised that those who suffer with Christ will be heirs with him of your glory: Arm us with such trust in him that we may ask no rest from his demands and have no fear in his service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

O Lord, you relieve our necessity out of the abundance of your great riches: Grant that we may accept with joy the salvation you bestow, and manifest it to all the world by the quality of our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
--the BB

Petraeus admits the "surge" has failed

From the Washington Post:
BAGHDAD, March 13 -- Iraqi leaders have failed to take advantage of a reduction in violence to make adequate progress toward resolving their political differences, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said Thursday.

Petraeus, who is preparing to testify to Congress next month on the Iraq war, said in an interview that "no one" in the U.S. and Iraqi governments "feels that there has been sufficient progress by any means in the area of national reconciliation," or in the provision of basic public services.
[Emphasis mine]

h/t to Atrios

Did anyone in their right mind actually think the Iraqis were going to be both able and willing to to pull it together during a period of reduced violence? (And the reduction in violence had multiple causes, not just more US troops on the ground. Many of the quietest areas where were our troops were NOT. Sadr's call for holding off on violence had a lot to do with it. Then again, we have seen that things are still incredibly violent and out of control, even if there was a brief downturn.)

So, how many more Friedman Units (FU) do we need? John McCain's hundred years?

We have sown the wind.
--the BB

Bush weakens smog rules

Chris in Paris, who tracks environmental issues, shares one of the latest horrors:
EPA officials initially tried to set a lower seasonal limit on ozone to protect wildlife, parks and farmland, as required under the law. While their proposal was less restrictive than what the EPA's scientific advisers had proposed, Bush overruled EPA officials and on Tuesday ordered the agency to increase the limit, according to the documents.
Now, why does George W. Bush want us all to die?

I know, an overstatement. Well, not actually.

So long as he upholds the profits of his friends, he thinks he's done his job.

The man himself is a toxin on this planet.
--the BB

Debate - Votes - Lies: FISA

Georgia10 at Daily Kos calls the media out for their irresponsible parroting of lies. [Does NOBODY edit or fact check what gets printed? These assholes wag their fingers at bloggers for not being responsible "journalists, mind you. Have they, at long last, no shame?]

One of georgia10's samples:
Bush opposes it in part because it doesn't provide full, retroactive legal protection to telecommunications companies that helped the government eavesdrop on their customers without court permission after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (AP)

[Emphasis in georgia10's post]

Let's do a quick reality check.
The U.S. National Security Agency asked AT&T Inc. to help it set up a domestic call monitoring site seven months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, lawyers claimed June 23 in court papers filed in New York federal court. [link]
In case this point is too subtle, let's repeat:
Domestic call monitoring was initiated seven months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. BEFORE THE ATTACKS.

By the same crowd that failed to act appropriately to the warnings about impending attacks, thereby NOT protecting us.

Warrantless monitoring of communication is thus NOT inherently linked to protecting us from terrorists. But we will NEVER know just what it is all about if we grant immunity and never pursue hearings into the lawless behavior of the White House.


The Repugnicans in the House called for a secret session yesterday, a very rare event in the House of Reps, to discuss FISA. When this happens, the House is cleared and the reps cannot talk about the content later--in other words, it's basically "executive session." They probably thought the Dems would refuse and then they could accuse the Dems of all manner of stuff. But the Dems let it happen and afterward declared that nothing new was really brought up (surprise, surprise). Once again the GOP, like its emperor, had no clothes. All drama, no substance.

John Conyers made some comments (see emptywheel):
The more my colleagues know, the less they believe this Administration's rhetoric. As someone who has chaired classified hearings and reviewed classified materials on this subject, I believe the more information Members receive about this Administration's actions in the area of warrantless surveillance, the more likely they are to reject the Administration's scare tactics and threats. My colleagues who joined me in the hearings and reviewed the Administration's documents have walked away with an inescapable conclusion: the Administration has not made the case for unprecedented spying powers and blanket retroactive immunity for phone companies.
Debate continues in the House today on FISA and telcom immunity.

Kagro X had an article yesterday about maneuvers by Dem leadership that may have seemed counterproductive at first but was laying the groundwork to undercut the phony antics of the GOP on this issue. You will see good background there on the House and Senate bills, what is going on around the FISA issue.

Remember: if Bush's mouth is moving, he's lying.

Do not be afraid of the lying man.
--the BB