Saturday, December 06, 2008

This is a government of law - Updated

Inscription on a New Orleans courthouse

Russ Feingold spoke with Bill Moyers last night about the rule of law and writes about it at Daily Kos today. Check it out.

A quote:
One area we spoke about at length, restoring the rule of law, has to be a top priority. Our founding fathers laid down a basic principle -- that we are a nation of laws and that no one, including the president, is above the law. From Guantanamo Bay and warrantless wiretapping to torture and excessive secrecy, the Bush administration has turned this principle on its head. The Constitution states that it and the laws of the United States are "the supreme Law of the Land." Yet, the current administration has claimed unprecedented powers as it has ignored or willfully misinterpreted the laws on the books.

I was in a hurry to publish this before running off to a potluck this evening (and pull bread out of the oven), so I did not acknowledge that I read about the Bill Moyers - Russ Feingold interview first at Acts of Hope where Jane R has a fine discussion of it.  Later I saw Senator Feingold's post.  I hope between Jane and me we have whetted y'all's appetite for rule of law.
--the BB

Gratuitous reckless endangerment

The Environmental News Service
WASHINGTON, DC, December 5, 2008 (ENS) - For the first time in 25 years, people will be able to carry loaded, concealed weapons in national parks and wildlife refuges under a new rule approved by the Bush administration today.

The new rule overturns a 25 year old regulation that required guns in parks to be unloaded and placed where they are not easily accessible, such as the [trunk] of a car.

Now, a person can carry firearms concealed and loaded at 388 of the country's 391 national park sites if that individual is authorized to carry a concealed weapon under state law in the state where the national park or refuge is located....

The new rule was approved despite concerns raised by every living former director of the National Park Service, several ranger organizations, retired superintendents, and thousands of national park visitors.
They are doing tons of things like this before leaving office. Once issued, such rules are not easy to overturn.

Can Obama play Herakles and divert the Potomac to clean up the Augean stables fouled by Bushco?

--the BB

Following up a bit on the last post

Juan Cole deconstructs Bush's lies, distortions, and convenient amnesia in the "self-glorifying speech on his Middle East policy at the Saban Forum in Washington, DC."

At the end he writes this:
Bush turned the United States into an aggressor nation. He kicked off an orgy of violence in Iraq that has probably left a million dead. He destroyed entire cities. He left millions of widows and orphans, and millions more displaced. He lied, he destroyed habeas corpus at home and abroad, he tortured. It is too soon to know if American democracy will ever really recover from [this] lawless regime.

What we were told then; what we have learned since

Here is an article from my political clipping collection. I gathered it on December 6, 2004. I found it on Yahoo News but the link no longer works, unfortunately. Since it is no longer accessible I will claim fair use to republish the entire article for the purpose of disseminating information not otherwise available in order to educate the public.

General: New Photos Could Be Used As Tool
By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press Writer

CAIRO, Egypt - A former military spokesman in Iraq said Saturday new pictures showing apparent abuse of Iraqi prisoners were the acts of an isolated few but will be used by some to try to tarnish the entire U.S. military.

Gen. Mark Kimmitt, now based in Qatar, spoke on the pan-Arab television network a day after the U.S. military launched a criminal investigation into photographs that appear to show Navy SEALs in Iraq sitting on hooded and handcuffed detainees.

Other photos show what appear to be bloodied prisoners, one with a gun to his head.

The photos, found by an Associated Press reporter, were among hundreds in an album posted on a commercial photo-sharing Web site by a woman who said her husband brought them from Iraq after his tour of duty.

Some of the photos have date stamps suggesting they were taken in May 2003, which could make them the earliest evidence of possible abuse of prisoners in Iraq. The far more brutal practices photographed in Abu Ghraib prison occurred months later.

The photos were turned over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which instructed the SEAL command to determine whether they show any serious crimes, said Navy Cmdr. Jeff Bender, a spokesman for the Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado, Calif. That investigation will determine the identities of the troops and what they were doing in the photos.
Kimmitt, the spokesman in Iraq at the time of the Abu Ghraib scandal , said he believes the photos show the acts of an isolated few.

After months of investigation, Kimmitt said the number of U.S. military troops involved in acts of abuse has been found to be very limited.

Asked by al-Jazeera if such pictures are a problem, Kimmitt said they are certainly a "tool" and some will try to use them to show the U.S. military in a negative light.

After outraged reaction from the Arab world to the first Abu Ghraib pictures, President Bush appeared on Arab television in May and said the torture was the act of a few.

The new photos drew strong reactions in Arab media as did the earlier ones.

"The two scandals confirm the image about the Americans known in the Middle East: that the Americans are not a charity or a humanitarian organization that is leading an experiment of democracy," said Sateh Noureddine, managing editor of the Lebanese leftist newspaper As-Safir. "Rather, (the U.S. government) is leading a retaliatory operation following the Sept. 11 attacks."

Noureddine said the photos "will definitely be front page news" in his paper's Monday edition.

Yonadem Kana, a member of an Iraqi government advisory and oversight group, said the photos were "rare cases exaggerated by the media."

One photo on the front page of the daily Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram showed three hooded prisoners pressed against one another on a floor with what appear to be white sheets wrapped around their torsos. The photo caption read: "Signs of a new scandal."

On a Web site known for its militant content, contributors also posted some of the photos, showing the faces of the Navy SEALs — one with a serviceman sitting on top of a group of prisoners — but with the faces of the prisoners blackened. The photos were similar to those carried by the satellite stations but had comments on them such as "God destroy America," and "God help the Mujahedeen," or holy fighters.

It is unclear who took the pictures.

Veterans for Common Sense has posted an article titled "Bush Signed Secret Executive Order Approving Torture." It is by Chris Floyd, is dated December 24, 2004, and evidently appeared in the Moscow Times. Russia, not Idaho, so I imagine Amurkins ignored it.

According to agents of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, President George W. Bush has signed a secret executive order approving the use of torture against prisoners captured in his "war on terror" -- including thousands of innocent people rounded up in Iraq and crammed into Saddam Hussein's infamous Abu Ghraib prison.

FBI documents, obtained in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and reported this week in the Los Angeles Times, detailed the agents' "disgust" at the "aggressive and improper" methods used by military interrogators and civilian contractors against prisoners, and the widespread, ongoing pattern of "serious physical abuses" they found at the American concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Iraq.

Most of the offences occurred long after the initial public scandal over "a few bad apples" at Abu Ghraib. For example, in June 2004, an FBI agent informed top officials in Washington that he had witnessed such torture techniques as "strangulation, beatings, [and] placement of lit cigarettes into the detainees' ear openings." The agent added that military officials "were engaged in a coverup of these abuses."
"Who? Us? Certainly not!" seems to sum up the White House response to this. Here is an excerpt from an article this year by Jason Leopold at the Online Journal (April 17, 2008):
President George W. Bush’s comment to ABC News -- that he approved discussions that his top aides held about harsh interrogation techniques -- adds credence to claims from senior FBI agents in Iraq in 2004 that Bush had signed an executive order approving the use of military dogs, sleep deprivation and other tactics to intimidate Iraqi detainees.

When the American Civil Liberties Union released the FBI e-mail in December 2004 -- after obtaining it through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit -- the White House emphatically denied that any such presidential executive order existed, calling the unnamed FBI official who wrote the e-mail “mistaken.”


But the emerging public evidence suggests that Bush’s denials about “torture” amount to a semantic argument, with the administration applying a narrow definition that contradicts widely accepted standards contained in international law, including Geneva and other human rights conventions.
Leopold references reports from ABC News. Here is a bit by Jan Crawford Greenburg, Howard L. Rosenberg, and Ariane de Vogue (April 11, 2008):
As first reported by ABC News Wednesday, the most senior Bush administration officials repeatedly discussed and approved specific details of exactly how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the CIA.

The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

These top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding, sources told ABC news.
Leopold's article goes on to cite Alberto "Abou" Gonzales pulling denials out of his posterior: "There has been no presidential determination necessity or self-defense that would allow conduct that constitutes torture."

Stephen Lendman lays out a timeline of policies and declarations leading into lawlessness related to torture in an article at The Populist dated July 22, 2008. After a chronicle of steps that disregard former policy, the Geneva Conventions, and international and U.S. law in general, Lendman notes this:
In December 2002, Donald Rumsfeld concurred by approving a menu of banned interrogation practices allowing anything short of what would cause organ failure.
The reader is left gasping as Lendman continues:
On February 7, 2002, the White House issued an Order "outlining treatment of al-Qaida and Taliban detainees." It stated that "none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al-Qaida (or Taliban detainees) in Afghanistan 'or elsewhere throughout the world...' " It meant they'd be afforded no protection under international law and could be treated any way authorities wished, including use of torture as was later learned.

A virtual blizzard of similar memos followed covering much the same ground to allow all measures banned under international and US law (including the 1996 War Crimes Act, 1994 Torture Statute and the Torture Act of 2000). The War Crimes Act is especially harsh. It provides up to life in prison or the death penalty for persons convicted of committing war crimes within or outside the US. Torture is a high war crime, the highest after genocide.

Two other memos particularly deserve mention - written by John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee and David Addington (Cheney's legal counsel). One was for the CIA on August 2, 2002. It argued for letting interrogators use harsh measures amounting to torture. It said federal laws prohibiting these practices don't apply when dealing with Al Queda because of presidential authorization during wartime. It also denied US or international law applies in overseas interrogations. It essentially "legalized" anything in the "war on terror" and authorized lawlessness and supreme presidential power.

On March 14, 2003, the same quartet issued another memo - this one for the military titled: "Military Interrogation of Alien Unlawful Combatants Held Outside the United States." It became known as "the Torture Memo" because it swept away all legal restraints and authorized military interrogators to use extreme measures amounting to torture. It also gave the President as Commander-in-Chief "the fullest range of protect the nation." It stated he "enjoys complete discretion in the exercise of his authority in conducting operations against hostile forces."
As we moved toward trials of tortured persons in military tribunals with microtome-thin legitimacy, military prosecutors have resigned rather than be involved in a "system of justice" that involved torture.

Here is a discussion on Countdown from early April this year:

Benjamin Davis, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Toledo School of Law, wrote the following in an article dated November 20, 2008, at Counterpunch:
Recently released reports confirm that the United States still has very important unfinished business with regard to torture. Civilians at the highest levels of government as well as military generals have committed crimes. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, State Department Legal Adviser John Bellinger, and documents from 2003 and 2004 provide further evidence that the White House endorsed the use of torture. The Department of Justice, Department of Defense, Department of State, Intelligence, and other leadership have all been complicit. Congressional leadership has been far too passive and encouraged these acts. These are bipartisan crimes. They are crimes against the United States and the world community.


We need to criminally prosecute the perpetrators. We must prosecute them because low-level soldiers ordered to do their bidding have been prosecuted. ...

These leaders not only consider themselves above the law, but above the United States. We need to prosecute them to reaffirm who we are as Americans. We are not vicious torturers. These people have no place in our city on the hill.
In a Raw Story article by Nick Juliano dated October 22, 2007, we read about the findings of Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh, two ACLU attorneys who pored over 100,000+ pages of government documents before publishing their book Administration of Torture.
President Bush gave "marching orders" to Gen. Michael Dunlavey, who asked the Pentagon to approve harsher interrogation methods at Guantanamo, the general claims in documents reported in the book.

The ACLU also found that an Army investigator reported Rumsfeld was "personally involved" in overseeing the interrogation of a Guantanamo prisoner Mohammed al Qahtani. The prisoner was forced to parade naked in front of female interrogators wearing women's underwear on his head and was led around on a leash while being forced to perform dog tricks.

“It is imperative that senior officials who authorized, endorsed, or tolerated the abuse and torture of prisoners be held accountable," Jaffer and Singh write, "not only as a matter of elemental justice, but to ensure that the same crimes are not perpetrated again.”

"Could it really be that orchestrated?" you may be asking yourself, appalled and wishing it all were not so.

Mark Benjamin reports at Salon on the behavior of the Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff:
June 30, 2008 | WASHINGTON -- The former Air Force general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers, helped quash dissent from across the U.S. military as the Bush administration first set up a brutal interrogation regime for terrorism suspects, according to newly public documents and testimony from an ongoing Senate probe.

In late 2002, documents show, officials from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps all complained that harsh interrogation tactics under consideration for use at the prison in Guantánamo Bay might be against the law. Those military officials called for further legal scrutiny of the tactics. The chief of the Army's international law division, for example, said in a memo that some of the tactics, such as stress positions and sensory deprivation, "cross the line of 'humane treatment'" and "may violate the torture statute."

Myers, however, agreed to scuttle a plan for further legal review of the tactics, in response to pressure from a top Pentagon attorney helping to set up the interrogation program for then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Back in June 2004, Bernard Weiner noted at The Crisis Papers that Bush was sounding a lot like former President Clinton parsing the meaning of "is."
After the release of the secret papers to the press last week, Bush unequivocally said: "I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture. The values of this country are such that torture is not a part of our soul and our being."
As Weiner continues to discuss the weasel words used by the Asshole in Chief, I am tempted to rename the criminal "Loophole Louie."
For example, Bush continues to assert the right to place himself above the law -- out of reach of Congress and the courts -- whenever he feels the need to do so. Bush said in the Feb. 2002 letter: "I accept the legal conclusion of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice that I have the authority to suspend Geneva (conventions) as between the United States and Afghanistan. I reserve the right to exercise this authority in this or future conflicts."
The presidential denials have been consistent.

June 23, 2004 (in Xinhua News Agency):
"Let me make very clear the position of my government and our country. We do not condone torture. I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture," Bush told reporters before the release.
To Katie Couric in 2006:
"I've said to the people that we don't torture, and we don't."
I suppose that George W. Bush has such twisted logic, enabled by the most soulless legal arguments, that he has convinced himself that he has not ordered torture and the U.S. has not committed torture. Harsh interrogation methods, sure, but not torture.

It is amazing what one can do by redefining basic concepts.

This is rooted in Bush's own narcisssim that cannot admit realities outside himself (including lack of empathy for anyone and anything outside his immediate realm of concern) and the Cheney putsch* to rise even higher than Nixon's dreams of an imperial presidency with boundless power and no exterior constraints, legal or moral.

They have behaved as though word, laws, and political structures mean only what they take them to mean (or force them to mean), regardless of precedent, logic, common sense, or common decency. Questioning their interpretation suggests ignorance, betrayal, or at the very least a lack of patriotism. Because they say so.

Secrecy and total control make it impossible to even explore the extent of their lawless activity.

In other words, we have been living under a tyranny for the past eight years.

While I am not advocating violent overthrow of the government, I do believe we have come close to the brink of it being justifiable, based on the level of criminal activity emanating from the White House. I blame Congress for not acting in accordance with its constitutional duties to act as a check on the executive branch. The sole signs of hope have been courts at various levels telling the White House "No!." Even that has had little effect.

The House and Senate are morally culpable of allowing Bush to commit his crimes.

Nancy Pelosi will go to her grave bearing the guilt of saying that impeachment was off the table. I will never support or endorse her again. My joy at having the first woman speaker has turned to ashes and wormwood. Bush should have been impeached a long time ago. I acknowledge the tainted situation created by the petty, vicious, Republican sumbitches who orchestrated the Clinton impeachment circus, forever corrupting and tarnishing the constitutional remedy for executive behavior that damages the state. Their actions border on treason for the damage they have done to this nation.

Frankly, I will not relax until the next 44 days have passed because I have no confidence that Bush and Cheney will behave with restraint. The evils they can yet perpetrate are vast. They have been busy setting traps and time bombs in government agencies and executive orders that will not be easily undone, even by dedicated and clever types such as those Obama is employing to get things back on track.

This is why it was so important to vote for change. It is not about simply one policy or another, or even any single horrendous act, but the entire complex of actions that have created an atmosphere of lawlessness that threatens the very structures of American society. We have been living on the brink of either complete tyranny or chaos for some time.

I am not without hope but my horror, anguish, and anger have been riding high since Bush came into office. He cannot get out of it a moment too soon. And though I would love to see him healed and redeemed I cannot say I wish him well. I wish him held accountable.

* I am using this definition, with emphasis on "illegally" (though it has been cloaked with pseudo-legality):
putsch - a sudden and decisive change of government illegally or by force
Because of its detailed chronicling, I especially recommend the Lendman article, found here.

United States Code, Title 18, Part 1, Section 2340. Definitions
(1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
(2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—
(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and
(3) “United States” means the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths, territories, and possessions of the United States.

On torture and the Geneva Conventions:
Torture is forbidden by the Geneva Conventions, both in cases of internal conflicts (Convention I, Art. 3, Sec. 1A), wounded combatants (Convention I, Art. 12), civilians in occupied territories (Convention IV, Art. 32), civilians in international conflicts (Protocol I, Art. 75, Sec. 2Ai) and civilians in internal conflicts (Protocol II, Art. 4, Sec. 2A).

On Geneva Convention protections in general:
GCIII covers the treatment of prisoners of war (POWs) in an international armed conflict. In particular, Article 17 says that "No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind." POW status under GCIII has far fewer exemptions than "Protected Person" status under GCIV. Captured enemy combatants in an international armed conflict automatically have the protection of GCIII and are POWs under GCIII unless they are determined by a competent tribunal to not be a POW (GCIII Article 5).
For an international understanding of what constitutes torture or is impermissible, Article 3 of the Fourth Geneva Convention includes this:
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
  • violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
  • taking of hostages;
  • outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;
  • the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
  • The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.
An important exemption, which nonetheless contains the injunction about being "treated with humanity":
Where in the territory of a Party to the conflict, the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention [ie GCIV] as would ... be prejudicial to the security of such State ... In each case, such persons shall nevertheless be treated with humanity (GCIV Article 5)
On the issue of whether waterboarding constitutes torture:
Leonard Doyle wrote an article appearing at The Independent, November 1, 2007:
When the US military trains soldiers to resist interrogation, it uses a torture technique from the Middle Ages, known as "waterboarding". Its use on terror suspects in secret US prisons around the world has come to symbolise the Bush administration's no-nonsense enthusiasm for the harshest questioning techniques.


In a further embarrassment for Mr Bush yesterday, Malcolm Nance, an advisor on terrorism to the US departments of Homeland Security, Special Operations and Intelligence, publicly denounced the practice. He revealed that waterboarding is used in training at the US Navy's Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School in San Diego, and claimed to have witnessed and supervised "hundreds" of waterboarding exercises. Although these last only a few minutes and take place under medical supervision, he concluded that "waterboarding is a torture technique – period".

The practice involves strapping the person being interrogated on to a board as pints of water are forced into his lungs through a cloth covering his face while the victim's mouth is forced open. Its effect, according to Mr Nance, is a process of slow-motion suffocation.

Typically, a victim goes into hysterics on the board as water fills his lungs. "How much the victim is to drown," Mr Nance wrote in an article for the Small Wars Journal, "depends on the desired result and the obstinacy of the subject.

"A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience to horrific, suffocating punishment, to the final death spiral. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch."

Let's not forget "rendition." From The UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT):
Article 3
1. No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.
And that, my friends, feels like a good Saturday morning's work. I need to take a shower.

--the BB

Friday, December 05, 2008

Ruby Friday?

The Cunning Runt is playing with a meme from someone else - that of Ruby Tuesday. Every Tuesday he puts up a photo with some rich red in it.

Well, by next Tuesday I will forget. That's how I am. And this is not that intense a red, though some of these leaves get that way.

This is just a shot of leaves from December 9 three years ago, just outside the building where I was working at the time - and am working once more.

I do have some pix with great reds in them though. If I can (1) remember on a Tuesday and (2) find them again.
--the BB

Local color

Epiphany 2006 - Pinole, California

Fernandes Creek

Pollarded Tree

Rose Hips

Just more nostalgia photos.

I don't really feel homesick for California and the recent visit reinforced that we are both glad to be living in New Mexico now. I still love my native state and all the gifts and beauty it gave me.

Speaking of place - with the exception of three weekend days I had eaten green chile every day since returning to New Mexico. With today's frozen meal for lunch I thought I had broken the pattern - but there were bits of jalapeño in the relish on the turkey.

I plan to bake bread for a potluck tomorrow. Hmmm, perhaps a cheese and green chile bread? Perhaps.

Last night, on the way home from work, I stopped at the gym for my first workout in about five years. Long overdue. Had I kept up gym workouts I would assuredly be healthier and probably would not have the shoulder and knee problems I have. I rode the exercise bike for half an hour, during the course of which I read two Hemingway short stories, then moved on to pump a bit of iron. I do low weights and very slow controlled movements. Last night, trying not to overdo on the first round, I only did a few exercises with very, very low weight. On the one hand it felt as though I had not really done much. Even so, by the time I got home I felt great. And I am not sore today. Which was the plan. Feel good and want to do it again soon. So I will go either tomorrow or Sunday (who knows, maybe both?).

My right knee, especially, reminds me that I am a much older man than I was five years ago. Age is not all in the head; it's in the knees as well. Nonetheless, I plan to be in pretty fine shape when I hit 65. (Yes, giving myself a few years to get there.)
--the BB

Make yourself heard

There is a great appeal before us, brought by Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. It is a call to restore law and order to the United States of America.

You can send a letter to every Senator and to President-elect Obama calling for the following:

Let President Obama and Congress know that we expect them to undertake the following


1."STATE SECRETS" DOCTRINE. Limit the application of the "state secrets" doctrine in order that the courts will once again provide a meaningful check on abuses of power and violations of law by members of the Executive Branch.

2.VIOLATIONS AND TERMINATION OF TREATY OBLIGATIONS. Make clear what process must be followed before any US treaty obligations are violated or terminated by any member of the Executive branch or by Congress. Congress should also reaffirm its commitment to treaty obligations forbidding aggressive war and torture by repealing the Military Commissions Act.

3.UNCONSTITUTIONAL SIGNING STATEMENTS. Limit the effect of "signing statements" by enacting legislation that (1) instructs the courts they are not to consider signing statements when determining legislative history; (2) prohibits the President from issuing any statement that purports to limit any part of the legislation as being advisory or that purports to assert any authority by the President to determine the scope or applicability of the legislation; and (3) provides that no one can rely upon signing statements as a defense for a violation of the law.

4.ACCOUNTABILITY FOR VIOLATIONS OF THE LAW. Authorize, designate, and assign special prosecutors to investigate and prosecute violations of the law, particularly for involvement in felonious warrantless wiretapping, torture, and kidnappings of people in the so-called "extraordinary rendition" program.

5.CONSTITUTIONAL REQUIREMENT OF A CONGRESSIONAL DECLARATION OF WAR. Reassert Congress’s vital constitutional role and forbid, by a criminal statute with severe penalties, any attack against another nation, except in cases of actual or imminent attack of the US by that nation or as permitted under the United Nations Charter and the Constitution, absent explicit authorization by Congress.

6.ASCERTAINMENT AND DISCLOSURE OF THE TRUTH AND PREVENTION OF FUTURE ABUSES. Appoint a select committee, similar to the Church and Ervin Committees, or an independent, non-partisan Truth Commission, charged with investigating illegal conduct or other abuses of power by the Bush Administration, disclosing such misconduct to the American people, and making recommendations concerning reforms that will prevent or deter similar misconduct in the future.


Here's the link.

Here's Mayor Anderson's post with explanations and footnotes.

You know what to do.

Just signed on myself.
--the BB

I haven't forgotten FISA

Granted, it has not been in the news much lately and when it has been mentioned I have done a rather poor job of passing on news for some time now.

Mcjoan, who does such a great job of keeping the public informed, has a long post today with updates on some cases in the courts dealing with FISA and warrantless wiretapping in general. Check it out.

It is so damned difficult to pursue justice when everything against you is deemed classified and everything that exonerates you is behind a government stonewall of secrecy. Major suckitude. You can't prove anything, answer anything, defend yourself properly, and the government can screw you over with impunity.

Alas, being a conscienceless narcissist, Bush is constitutionally incapable of self-awareness or remorse. We really need to get him hauled before the Hague since justice ain't gonna happen in the United States. Is he traveling outside the US after January 20?
--the BB

Pray for Zimbabwe - updated

I have asked prayers for Zimbabwe and her people on several occasions. My personal link was a seminarian from Zimbabwe who was studying in Berkeley and preached in our church.

The situation there continues to degenerate on multiple fronts: politics, disease, food, justice, etc.

President Mugabe was once a great liberation hero, leading in the struggle for indigenous rule in what was once part of Rhodesia. It is unfortunate that his drive for power has led him from that noble legacy into one of brutal oppression and corruption.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki is a friend of Mugabe and has been a strong enabler of the continued oppression and injustice in Zimbabwe - not to mention his wrong-headedness on AIDS that has cost many lives. He too goes down for infamy in my book and I am glad he is no longer president of SA.

Today there is an extensive post by FishOutofWater at Daily Kos titled Zimbabwe Imploding, South Africa Moving in. I commend it to you.
President Kgalema Motlanthe’s cabinet will today unveil a plan for rescuing the country, which is buckling under the weight of a shattered economy, food shortages, a cholera outbreak and rioting soldiers.

Cholera has broken out, being the most recent crisis. Since disease can spread across borders, this threatens all the neighboring nations as well.

The political power-sharing situation remains unresolved.

Pray for the people of Zimbabwe.

I commend to y'all's attention the comments by the Prime Minister of Kenya included in a post by Chris in Paris at Americablog.

--the BB

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Gratuitous digitalis - oh, and bay scenery

Here's a little San Francisco from our September road trip - shots while waiting at stop lights - just for Margaret.

And now some much older photos:

A tree in my old neighborhood

San Pablo Bay (northern part of the San Francisco Bay)
viewed from Pinole, about 8 minutes from my condo

White foxgloves with critter

Along the lower fence we had all white plants, creating a lovely cool area along the pergola.
--the BB

The Grand Tufti unsheathes his rapier

From Lambeth Palace:
"There are clear guidelines set out in the Anglican Consultative Council Reports, notably ACC 10 in 1996 (resolution 12), detailing the steps necessary for the amendments of existing provincial constitutions and the creation of new provinces. Once begun, any of these processes will take years to complete. In relation to the recent announcement from the meeting of the Common Cause Partnership in Chicago, the process has not yet begun."

The process has not yet begun. (Ouch.)

h/t to The Lead
--the BB

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Et lux perpetua luceat eis - updated with photo

12/03/08 :
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Capt. Robert J. Yllescas, 31, of Lincoln, Neb., died Dec. 1 at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., of wounds suffered Oct. 28 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit at Combat Outpost Keating...


Capt. Robert J. Yllescas, 31, of Lincoln, Neb. and of the 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

According to the Department of Defense, he was wounded on Oct. 28 "when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit at Combat Outpost Keating, Afghanistan." He died of his wounds Dec. 1 at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

"He is my hero. He is our children's hero."--Dana Yllescas, his wife, on her blog

The 31-year-old Yllescas was a son of Guatemala, having lived there for his first 18 years, and a son of Nebraska. He attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where was a part of UNL's Reserve Officer Training Corps. Upon his 2001 graduation, he also became a commissioned officer and entered the military. In the decade between wearing a mortar board and wearing a helmet, he fell in love, married, fathered two children, completed Army Ranger school, served two tours in Iraq and went to Afghanistan, "where he commanded about 90 U.S. soldiers and 200 Afghan fighters," according to the Lincoln Journal Star.
From his wife's blog:
I was not planning on telling (daughter) Julia yet the extent of Rob’s injuries, but she is just way too smart. When she found out we were going to be staying at Walter Reed for awhile, she said "That means daddy has an injury." Julia has had the opportunity to know our friend Ryan who had been through a similar experience and she understands what happens at Walter Reed. So, when I told her that, yes, daddy has had an injury, she asked me "Did daddy’s legs get chopped off?" "Yes, baby. Daddy lost his legs but he is still daddy and he loves you very very much." She teared up a little bit and then asked if daddy would be able to still wrestle with her. I told her that, yes, he will be able to do all of these things with her but it will take a while. She then said "But, mommy, Eva won’t know daddy." I said "You mean she won’t know him with his legs?" "Yes, mommy." "Baby, Eva won’t know any different and daddy will love you both just like he did before." I told her "You know how Ryan has a metal leg? Well, daddy will have 2 metal legs." Julia scrunched up her face and said "well, I’ll be painting those legs peach."

Our prayers for the repose of Robert and for Dena Yllescas and their daughters Julia and Eva.

Nothing new

Specifically, there is nothing new in me taking photos from office buildings or looking for architectural details. These are from 2003 when I was working in the Financial District of San Francisco.

Yerba Buena Island and the Bay Bridge
viewed from San Francisco

San Francisco

Courtyard fountain, San Francisco

Just roaming about in old photos tonight and thought I'd share these.
--the BB

Oh, give yourself a giggle. "Prop 8 - the Musical"

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

h/t John Aravosis at Americablog
--the BB

The Rude Pundit rudely observes

The [persons] who ran over Jdimytai Damour, thinking that a sale on Wii games was more important than a human life? **** them. Send 'em to prison on Christmas Eve. With their kids watching.
He also writes:
In other places, when refugees chase after relief trucks carrying bags of rice, we think it uncivilized. Here, if you shove others to the ground in hopes of saving a couple of bucks on Anal-Probe Elmo or what the **** ever, we call it enthusiasm.
The man has a point.

Full and unexpurgated version here.
--the BB

Visibility and raising consciousness

Random Excess has a post up today at Daily Kos discussing the White Knot (Marriage Equality Symbol). There is a link to the White Knot web site, from which I borrowed two graphics for the one above. As they say at

The White Knot is the symbol for marriage equality. It takes two traditional symbols of marriage—white and tying the knot—and combines them in a simple way to show support for the right of gays and lesbians to marry. All loving couples deserve the same legal rights, benefits, and respect that civil marriage bestows.

Visibility is the goal. Whether you are gay or straight, please show your support by wearing the knot and telling people why you are wearing it. It may seem like a small thing, but imagine the white knot gaining the pervasiveness and instant recognition of the AIDS Ribbon.

Wear your white knot to work, to school, to your place of worship. Celebrities will be wearing white knots down red carpets this awards season. Together, we will keep the topic at the top of people's minds and keep the conversation going.
I doubt they will mind if I borrow prodigiously here.

How to make a White Knot
  1. Start with a 6 inch piece of white ribbon. Widths between 3/4 inch and 1 inch work best.
  2. Tie a double knot in the center of the ribbon. Pulling the first knot tight will line up the ends of the ribbon nicely.
  3. Cut triangles into the ends of the ribbon. This will help prevent fraying.
  4. Pin it on and you're good to go.
This is everyone's symbol. We do not own it.
You may wear it early but they are hoping for a big roll out date of January 20, 2009.

I pass this on in case you want to use this symbol to take a public stand and help raise awareness. (Gotta go ribbon shopping this weekend.)
--the BB

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I was stopped dead in my tracks

By the sight of Jupiter and Venus near the crescent Moon last night.

So I whipped out my camera and did my best.

The first photo shown here was with the flash and caught the moon in the darkened sky.

The next, with no flash, catches the spotlight effect on the tree to the left, shows some of the lovely colors in the evening sky, and clearly shows the Moon and Jupiter. If you enlarge you might barely see Venus.

This last is obviously not mine but that of a professional photographer.

I found the photo via Watertiger at Dependable Renegade.

I doubt that one can live where I live, go through autumn, and not be in love with creation.

(The spring dust storms are another matter altogether.)
--the BB

Another sunset

Sunset, Albuquerque, 10-22-2005

I noticed the lovely shades of sunset as I left work this evening but my poor camera could not have captured the color when it was getting that close to dark.

So here is another taken when I worked here three years ago (prior to moving to New Mexico). Just to give y'all an idea of the treat God gives us in autumn around here.

I do this just to arouse delicious agonies in FranIAm. I am very naughty.
--the BB

Gratuitous sunset pic

Sunset, Hercules, California 3-12-2006

This was shot from the deck of my then-new condo a few months before moving to New Mexico. It has an elegiac tone.

But lovely.
--the BB

I'm in love

Made you look!

[I know, childish. But I couldn't resist.]

In love with creation.

And this place.

Here are photos I took walking to and from lunch today.

The Sandias


Tree with split personality

Velvet ash leaf
(from the tree pictured above)

The World Ash is a great theme of northern European mythology. The Ash is also a figure in my fiction, one of the deities (they are not all anthropomorphic). Woodworkers bear a tattoo of this leaf pattern. My young hero of the first books in the series gets one to proclaim his commitment and devotion to his trade. I am somehow drawn to, or feel something about, ash trees since my home town - Fresno - is named for the Modesto ash that grows in the region (or grew before it was all urbanized).
--the BB

Treat yourself

Get right on over to Mimi's and enjoy some music and visuals from the heart of southern Louisiana, courtesy of Georgianne and Susan Cowsill.

Emphasis on heart.

I might add that St Anna's Episcopal Church - 1313 Esplanade Avenue - has a ministry to the musicians of New Orleans if anyone wants to catch their Wednesday evening program. h/t to Kirstin for this.
--the BB

Monday, December 01, 2008


Although I think the Fresno County Library mural has been the best ever photo for my masthead, I went for another change. This seems appropriate for winter. It is sunset on the Manzanos Mountains as seen from my home office.

Today was non-stop: the first regular working day in which the new travel system was operative. I am part of the help desk team. The calls came fast and furious. As soon as I hung up there was another. At one point I had not even hung up and the phone rang. Just as I was about to log out for lunch, already half an hour late. That kind of day.

The silence of my home is so wonderful. Unlike most folks, I do not usually have the television playing, or a radio, or CDs. Just quiet. I have come to love it.

I have not commented on the Mumbai horrors as I feel I have nothing to add (except prayers).

Nor on President-elect Obama's cabinet choices. I have mixed feelings but trust him to make it all work. I AM impressed with the high caliber of intelligence and political savvy among them. Nice to think that competent people are being tapped instead of cronies with no relevant experience. There will be thinking outside the bubble.

[That last phrase was an homage to discussion chez le prêtre fou.]

I have tons of prayer requests and it is too late to try listing them. MP is among them, and a number of other dear blog friends. God knows who they are and they know who they are. So give a shout out on their behalf. Thanks.

And now to bed.

Sweet dreams, cherubs.
--the BB


Long before December 1 became an international recognition of HIV/AIDS it was, for me, my paternal grandmother's birthday. She was born in Stockholm on this day in 1887.

From the Episcopal Church I learned to recognize December 1 as the feast of Nicholas Ferrar.

Now for two decades it has been a day to bring the scourge of AIDS into the general consciousness, to make us - and keep us - aware of its drastic toll. To call us to educate, prevent, and work for a cure. To do our bit to destigmatize the disease.

And to remember.

To remember those we miss.

I am uncomfortable listing names as there are so many I will omit due to the vagaries of recall. Still, there are Gary who was like the older brother I never had, and David Lee who created beautiful music to the glory of God and who worked with the teenage children of alcoholics, and Jeff who cleaned our house (and whose partner I anointed when he died), and those whose hospital beds and homes I visited, and those I knew through school or church or through mutual friends.

What about the unnamed millions and the millions of orphans left behind?

Others have written eloquently today about so many aspects of this issue that I hesitate to add a post.

But for those I remember and all the rest:

May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

And Happy Birthday, Farmor. I miss you too and have been thinking about you frequently of late.
--the BB

Special rights? - updated

I had a visit from the blogger at Holy Hell (The News That Frustrates And, Or Scares The Batcrap Out Of Me) who responded to the sidebar item above with comments about Prop 8 and the subsequent protests that include the following:

You, the homosexual, are not any less restricted in marriage than I, the heterosexual am.

You have the same rights in marriage as I do, no more, no less.

You ARE demanding special rights.

I believe this is a major case of missing the point. Those who desire the legal status of marriage are not asking for fewer restrictions in marriage than straights. They are asking for exactly the same rights, no more, no less. BUT THEY DO NOT HAVE THEM. Which is why it is about equal rights and not special rights.

How can one conclude that gays have the same rights in marriage as others when they cannot marry? The middle sentence above flies in the face of the current situation, except in those very few states that allow same-sex couples to marry. In the vast majority of the United States it simply is not true.

Very few (percentage wise) homosexuals have been denied employment, housing or health care because they are homosexual.

Since the passage of proposition 8 church services have been interrupted invaded by condom throwing, cursing, spitting homosexuals.

White powder has been sent to a Mormon church and a Book of Mormon burnt on the stoop of another Mormon church.

Businesses and individuals have been targeted and harassed for their support in terms of monies for prop 8.

When black Americans were fighting for their Civil Rights it was because they actually were being denied rights afforded to every American.

You, the homosexual are not.

I don't know about percentages but I know that I was once denied housing (in West Hollywood, no less) in a "family" apartment building. I do not condone interrupting worship services and I'd like to know how many instances of this have occurred. This sort of thing quickly becomes the matter of urban legend and multiplies. I vehemently disapprove of white powder being sent in the mail, which is a crime.

There is a garbled distinction made between the struggle of African-Americans for civil rights and the LGBT struggle for civil rights. I don't believe in homogenizing oppression and playing the "who suffered the most" game because that sets us all against each other. Dr King said that no one is free until all are free and I am willing to go with that. He has been one of my heroes since I was in high school.

Intriguingly, the writer quotes Malcolm X ("by any means necessary") as a parallel to alleged (and some real) actions by gay protesters and then continues as though Malcolm X in his fiercest period (not to mention the Black Panthers) was not part of it:

You’ll kindly look back into our still fairly recent history and take notice as to how black Americans fought for their Civil Rights in comparison to how the homosexual movement demands their perceived Civil Rights by way of threats and intimidation.

The homosexual movement has conducted itself in a way far more similar to the Klu Klux Klan than to the black American who sought Civil Liberties.

My straight friend, the LGBT movement has not been lynching or shooting, so you might want to back off that analogy. One burning Book of Mormon is not quite a spate of cross burnings on lawns throughout many communities.

And I proudly boycott. I rather remember that being part of the civil rights struggle, the fight on behalf of migrant workers, and attempts to dismantle apartheid. Just saying.

Thanks for stopping by. I just think your understanding both of what has been and what is might be skewed.


There are some great comments by Rabbi Denise L. Eger at Susan Russell's blog.

--the BB

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Things I have done meme - updated

I saw this first at Fran's. Then at Mickey's. Then at Jane's. Caminante has done it too. I actually copied the list and worked on it and don't recall where I filed it. So here goes anyway.

We are all sheep.

Things I have done [in bold]

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
3. Watched lightening at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping [but I have been in a public fountain in just my tighty whities-TMI, I know]
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse [of the moon]
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris [I've stood at the base]
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain [I'm not sure on this one]
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen [just once]
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar [hate it!]
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job [been "let go" in downsizing but not really fired]
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle [not speeding, no, but on one, yes]
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book [not yet, but I hope to]
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible [several times]
86. Visited the White House
Update on #87
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating [I didn't eat it but I've caught and cleaned a rainbow trout.]
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant

I would like to do some of these that I have not done.
--the BB

And what, exactly, is "progress" in Iraq?

The Guardian reports:
Authorities in the southern Iraqi city of Basra have admitted they are powerless to prevent 'honour killings' in the city following a 70 per cent increase in religious murders during the past year.

There has been no improvement in conviction rates for these killings. So far this year, 81 women in the city have been murdered for allegedly bringing shame on their families. Only five people have been convicted.

John Aravosis
brought this to my attention. Have the police congratulated you on killing your daughter lately?

I do not believe this is about Islam. It is about barbaric tribal patriarchy. The sooner it is demolished the better. I believe we are in the midst of the death throes of the patriarchy. Something that has been around a good 6,000 years will not disappear suddenly or let go of power voluntarily. A lot of ugly, brutal struggle lies ahead.

Hmm, come to think about it, no wonder creationists think the world began 6,000 years ago. It began with the birth of patriarchy. Of course!

[Well, their world did, anyway. For the rest of us it has been a rather unattractive reality that is anything but divinely ordained.]
--the BB

Abandoning tradition on behalf of the Earth

I did something today that I have thought about for a couple of years but would never have imagined myself doing a decade ago.

I bought an artificial Christmas tree.

When I moved into Desert Farne (my then-new home in Albuquerque) I bought a tree for my first Christmas, even though I threw no parties and only I enjoyed it. It was an important thing to do in my new digs. But I felt guilty. I want the reality of treeness, not some phony contraption, yet I don't like the wastage of tree slaughter entailed in Yule traditions. Not when the forests of the earth are being destroyed at an alarming rate and the lungs of the planet are diminished. Not to mention the use it briefly and toss it approach.

I know, I could have a living tree that is potted but I don't want to struggle to keep one alive.

Fortunately, artificial trees have gotten better and better. I was very impressed with the realistic look of the floor model equivalent to the one I bought.

Have not put it up yet, though the wreath made by my sweet neighbor Neomia now hangs on the front door.

It won't be the same. But the kids and I shall forge ahead and sing "Tanya Baum" to her nonetheless. [All my Christmas trees have been named Tanya, of course.]

Blessed Advent, y'all.
--the BB

"I'm Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq"

That is the title of an article in today's Washington Post by Matthew Alexander. This is the man whose interrogations led to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He's a pro. He's also promoting his new book. But this is how the article begins.
I should have felt triumphant when I returned from Iraq in August 2006. Instead, I was worried and exhausted. My team of interrogators had successfully hunted down one of the most notorious mass murderers of our generation, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the mastermind of the campaign of suicide bombings that had helped plunge Iraq into civil war. But instead of celebrating our success, my mind was consumed with the unfinished business of our mission: fixing the deeply flawed, ineffective and un-American way the U.S. military conducts interrogations in Iraq. I'm still alarmed about that today.
This should give one pause.

Later he writes:
Amid the chaos, four other Air Force criminal investigators and I joined an elite team of interrogators attempting to locate Zarqawi. What I soon discovered about our methods astonished me. The Army was still conducting interrogations according to the Guantanamo Bay model: Interrogators were nominally using the methods outlined in the U.S. Army Field Manual, the interrogators' bible, but they were pushing in every way possible to bend the rules -- and often break them. I don't have to belabor the point; dozens of newspaper articles and books have been written about the misconduct that resulted. These interrogations were based on fear and control; they often resulted in torture and abuse.

I refused to participate in such practices, and a month later, I extended that prohibition to the team of interrogators I was assigned to lead. I taught the members of my unit a new methodology -- one based on building rapport with suspects, showing cultural understanding and using good old-fashioned brainpower to tease out information. I personally conducted more than 300 interrogations, and I supervised more than 1,000. The methods my team used are not classified (they're listed in the unclassified Field Manual), but the way we used them was, I like to think, unique. We got to know our enemies, we learned to negotiate with them, and we adapted criminal investigative techniques to our work (something that the Field Manual permits, under the concept of "ruses and trickery"). It worked. Our efforts started a chain of successes that ultimately led to Zarqawi.
Perhaps this would be a good time to ponder the assertion of George W. Bush that "the United States does not torture," an assertion I believe has been repeated by his parrot, Condi Rice (unease be upon them).

I suppose I do not need to repeat my frequent assertion that Bush and Cheney and their gang of thugs all should be tried at the international level for war crimes. That they have not been impeached is a horrid indictment of Congress, which has failed in its constitutional duty to act on high crimes and misdemeanors. The Founding Fathers surely weep.

You can read the whole article here.

h/t to Brandon Friedman
--the BB

Can you believe this crap?

["Sweet suffering Jesus on a stick!" for new readers]

OK, Mad Priest is busy cleaning up the language at his blog. I am sure Susan S. will come to the rescue to keep this one potty-mouthed.


How would you feel if your tax dollars were used to promote creationism among the Air Force as part of a "suicide prevention" program?

Ticked? Horrified? Disgusted? Outraged? All of the above and a few more?

You can read about it at Chris Rodda's post "Creationism: The Latest In Military Suicide Prevention." It's really sickening.
--the BB

Sunday reflections - Advent 1

I cannot say why I have always been struck by and attracted to the phrase from Isaiah "O that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down" but it seems quintessentially "adventine." [You may have noted that I go for the older translation; I think "rend" is much more elegant than "tear open" - ugh.]

The verse captures something of our yearning for God to DO SOMETHING about the mess in which we find ourselves, so much of it of our own making.

A great deal of apocalyptic imagery plays on this theme, with the Son of Man coming in the clouds much like images of YHWH the divine warrior striding on the clouds (or Marduk of Babylon and other storm deities before him). The divine warrior comes charging in, like the cavalry in the final reel, to rescue everyone from all manner of evils and disasters.

The Bible seems replete with instances of tweaking the listener/reader, however. We want a Messiah like King David and we get a very different sort of king in Jesus, for instance.

In the season of the Incarnation this imagery is drawn on, though with less violent overtones, with the Word leaping down from the heavenly throne to come to earth.

Yet what we see happening in the First Advent is something that really challenges our three-story universe and our imagery of God, or the appointed Savior, "coming down." Or, for that matter, overturning the universe and the laws of physics.

A child is born. Incredibly ordinary. Happens every day all over the planet.

In other words, the cry of the human heart may be answered but the answer does not come in the form we expect.

So as we continue to echo ancient yearnings for an apocalyptic sorting out of things we might do well to keep an eye out for other ways God might be at work. After all, God keeps coming when and where and how we least expect.

I believe God comes to us all the time. And that God's saving actions are, by and large (if not entirely) in the form of an emerging from within rather than an intrusion from without.

Norm Pittenger has a lot to say about this in his book The Incarnate Word. If I took nothing else from wading through that dense tome I did take this: a new way of seeing God at work. I now see the Incarnation as the flowering forth of that which has always been there (or, if you will, God was always with us).

In any case, Jesus clearly tells us to stay awake, alert, open, ready.

And as for all the false prophets out there, and deranged bible teachers and prophecy interpreters, a gentle reminder: no one knows when and we must always be ready. So when it comes to all your "prophetic" details, you would do well to just be silent. There is a long history of erroneous identifications and every generation was certain it had it right.

In the meantime, we do well to call upon God and wait upon God. And, in the classic formulation, pray as if all depends on God and work as if all depends on us. It's really an excellent combination.

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

--the BB