Saturday, December 20, 2008

We'll never change hearts and minds this way

Image via Towleroad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here endeth the rant.
--the BB

I'm all for popularizing this

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

Here's a better photo

Bishop Marc Andrus of California

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

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

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

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

I'm obviously not very original - a follow-up

Someone came to this site this morning via a Google search on "kenneth starr asshole." There were plenty of hits.

I have become a cliché machine in my own lifetime. Sigh.

Then again, I'm Number Two on the list.

Just did the search myself. There are 57,100 hits for it (in case you are curious about statistics).

Did I mention that Ken Starr is an asshole?
--the BB

Too cheap to call a florist

Camellia anemonefolia by Pierre-Joseph Redouté

Here is a little floral something from me to you for the holidays.

I hope it brightens your winter day (or summer day if you're down under).
--the BB

The week in review - photos

The abused bear models his new vest. (It was not I who wrapped a snake around his neck; we don't get to undo what our predecessors have done.)

My little garden in the snow

TGIF - walking out of work last night

--the BB

Friday, December 19, 2008

He's still a sex-obsessed asshole

Ken Starr, I mean.
The sponsors of Proposition 8 asked the California Supreme Court on Friday to nullify the marriages of the estimated 18,000 same-sex couples who exchanged vows before voters approved the ballot initiative that outlawed gay unions.

The Yes on 8 campaign filed a brief arguing that because the new law holds that only marriages between a man and a woman are recognized or valid in California, the state can no longer recognize the existing same-sex unions.

"Proposition 8's brevity is matched by its clarity. There are no conditional clauses, exceptions, exemptions or exclusions," reads the brief co-written by Pepperdine University law school dean Kenneth Starr, the former independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton....

The measure's backers announced Friday that Starr, a former federal judge and U.S. solicitor general, had signed on as their lead counsel and would argue the cases.
From the Sacramento Bee

And some people think we are overreacting to Rick Warren. I think they fail to grasp that he is part of a much larger whole and that he embodies it for us.

Now, I'm not kicking Obama to the curb over this, but I am ticked. I am in a "wait and see" mode overall. But if I were an Obama fund-raiser, I would not want to be calling me any time in the immediate future.

I would also like to see the media and progressives respond quite firmly whenever anyone pulls out this "marriage has always been between one man and one woman" line by saying, "That's not true." Because it isn't. Not even in the Bible. Perhaps especially not in the Bible. (700 wives and 300 concubines for the man who built the Temple in Jerusalem, for instance.) We need to make it known, as clearly and as loudly as necessary that some things are simply not true.

And granting falsehoods equal time with truth is not fair and balanced; it's stupid, disingenuous, and perpetrates gross harm on public discourse.

Did I mention that Kenneth Starr is a sex-obsessed asshole?

h/t to eugene

Gratuitous photo

December 22, 2005
--the BB

Awesome summary

Markos cites a list by Kagro X that represents the repeated cycle of Republicans doing whatever they want, Democrats caving every damned time.
8. We wonder what we ever did to deserve this sorry bunch of representatives.

Check it out.

Then weep or laugh or snort in disgust as moved.

Note to Dems in Congress: Have you, at long last, no shame?
--the BB

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Where is he?

I just wandered along a YouTube thread beginning from a Davie Neiwert open thread at Crooks and Liars and ended up listening to the Roches singing "Everyone is good." [You can click the link, embedding is disabled.]

And, given my comments about Dick Cheney and theodicy the other day, found myself wondering:

Where is the eager little boy so beloved of God that was once Richard Cheney?

I truly believe God still loves him.

I'm not there yet. But I would love to see him emerge from the undisclosed location.
--the BB

Legally and Morally Bankrupt

I commend to your attention today's editorial from The New York Times:
Now, a bipartisan report by the Senate Armed Services Committee has made what amounts to a strong case for bringing criminal charges against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; his legal counsel, William J. Haynes; and potentially other top officials, including the former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.

The report shows how actions by these men “led directly” to what happened at Abu Ghraib, in Afghanistan, in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and in secret C.I.A. prisons.

It said these top officials, charged with defending the Constitution and America’s standing in the world, methodically introduced interrogation practices based on illegal tortures devised by Chinese agents during the Korean War. Until the Bush administration, their only use in the United States was to train soldiers to resist what might be done to them if they were captured by a lawless enemy.

The officials then issued legally and morally bankrupt documents to justify their actions, starting with a presidential order saying that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to prisoners of the “war on terror” — the first time any democratic nation had unilaterally reinterpreted the conventions.

Now, if the useless Congress had done its job and impeached W's ass long ago he would not be in a position to pardon these inhuman bastards.

(I can year you now: So, Paul, how do you really feel?)

h/t to Hoffmania
--the BB

No, I'm not gonna get conciliatory here - updated (2x)

The furor (whether in a teapot or not) has reached the stage where Obama's defense of picking Rick Warren makes it into the Google news headlines.

It certainly rages in the comments on my friends' blogs and in some of the major progressive blogs.

Obama said this today:
I am fierce advocate for equality for gay and -- well, let me start by talking about my own views. I think it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something I have been consistent on and something I intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency.

What I've also said is that it is important for America to come together even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues.

And I would note that a couple of years ago I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak, despite his awareness that I held views entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion.

Nevertheless, I had an opportunity to speak, and that dialog, I think, is a part of what my campaign's been all about, that we're never going to agree on every single issue. What we have to do is create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable, and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans. So Rick Warren has been invited to speak, Dr. Joseph Lowery -- who has deeply contrasting views to Rick Warren about a whole host of issues -- is also speaking.

I do believe we need a larger perspective and a long-term one. I also believe that winning equal rights is a long, hard struggle that is not accomplished overnight.

I also believe we don't have to take it anymore.

John Aravosis, one of the most outspoken on this issue (he has post after post on it) writes:
It's odd, and therefore telling, that Obama considers all of us equals, yet he only seems to reach out to those who bash gays, and not those who bash blacks, or Jews, or people with disabilities, or any other member of America's civil rights community.

Why is that?
Good question.

I know there is more to Rick Warren than his homophobia and misogyny and overall smarminess. He has actually done some important ministry in areas that need attention. But he still remains a powerful, wealthy bigot who equates gay marriage with incest and pedophilia in moral terms. He also plays loose with the truth (McCain's "cone of silence" in the political sphere or the utterly false assertion that all cultures and all religions have defined marriage as between one man and one woman for the past five thousand years--hasn't he effing read Genesis or 1 Kings?). He put his influence, his face, his imprimatur, and his energy into revoking human rights in my native state.

So why don't we just get some preacher from the KKK (I won't go so far as the Aryan Nation) to give the invocation? Don't we want them to feel welcome at the table too? Will it be nicely balanced if we have prayers from a Holocaust denier AND a female rabbi? Wouldn't that be a nice statement about inclusivity even when people disagree? If you have a rabbi up there too, how could American Jewry find it problematic? Lots of lovely differing voices!

We know that queers are one minority you can still make fun of and kick around (or beat to death in a remote area or urban center).

How do we make that unacceptable?

The number of reported attacks against LGBT people increased 24 percent in 2007 over 2006, and they were expected to jump in 2008, said Sharon Stapel, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.
-- Associated Press
h/t pico at Daily Kos

Suicide statistics are significantly higher among gay youth than they are among straight youth. I was lucky; I survived; many gay youth do not. I eventually began to confront what I had been taught to believe about God. The initial spark came when my best friend, and then girlfriend, told me that she didn't believe God hated me. That she believed that if I was gay that God made me that way. Before her, I had never heard anyone who was Christian say they believed that. I didn't know that any Christians existed that didn't believe homosexuality was evil. And though it was a painful process, from that moment on, I began to come to accept my being gay.

But it was hateful teachings from people who preached just like Warren does that planted in me the seeds of fear and hatred that led to me nearly killing myself. That's why Obama's using Warren to pray to God on his behalf for the inauguration ceremony hurts so much. You might not think so because you yourself have never experienced that level of religiously born self-hatred. But I tell you, as one who has directly experienced it, Obama is giving legitimacy to homophobia.
--vacanthook in "The effects of legitimized homophobia."
[Emphasis mine]

--the BB

On the brighter side

Phoenix Woman has a post up today about "The OTHER Preacher at the Inaugural":
Like most people, I was shocked to see that Rick Warren was going to give the opening benediction at Barack Obama's inaugural. Warren is not only a raging homophobe and James Dobson with a slicker style, he's also repaid Obama's previous efforts at outreach by stabbing him in the back.

Lost in all the uproar over Warren's presence is the presence of another preacher at the inaugural: Joseph Lowery, the fellow who will give the closing benediction -- and who, in addition to being a civil-rights hero on the order of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself, is also a friend to the GLBT community.

We have cause to cheer here. The Rev. Mr. Lowery is a great man.

I note this to have balance in the inaugural story.

I do NOT, however, believe that we need to "balance" truth with lies, knowledge with ignorance, or love with hate. That sort of phony "balancing" has become a trademark of corporate media and does not serve the interests of truth, knowledge, or love.
--the BB

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

We knew her when

Yes, our beloved Grandmère Mimi is becoming famouser and famouser. Check out the article in the Lafayette Parish Daily Comet.

Blogging Thibodaux grandmother attracts national attention

The Huffington Post and now the Daily Comet. Tomorrow the world!

Yes, that's the indefatigable and undefeatable Mimi.

We're very proud of you and I, for one, don't think fame will spoil you, Mimi.

And isn't it silly that people act as though being a grandmother means one must be boring or feeble or conventional? Sigh.

h/t to the Mad One (who I suspect actually likes her)
--the BB

Having had my rant

... below, this is far more serious in the short run. May Godde have mercy on those who suffer for the cupidity and stupidity of others.

Chrysler shuts down all production - 2 hours ago
Close of business Friday will be the start of a month-long closure of 30 US plants. Company cites 'continued lack of consumer credit.
Chrysler Idles Plants for a Month; GM Halts Volt Engine Factory Bloomberg
Chrysler to idle Fenton North plant Friday

--the BB

Here is my letter

You may have heard that Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church, has been asked to give the invocation at President Obama's inauguration.

So what? you may wonder.

Well, it is a huge insult, and a visceral one, to the LGBT community.

The blogs I read are abuzz.

Noweeman has a post "Rick Warren? Are you kidding me?" at Daily Kos where it is currently the top recommended diary. You can also read BarbinMD's "Rick Warren?" there.
Warren dodged Waldman's question about whether he supported civil unions or domestic partnerships, answering instead, "I support full equal rights for everyone in America," adding that he only opposes a "redefinition" of marriage. He went on to say he's opposed to gay marriage the same way he is opposed to a brother and sister marrying (that would be incest), a man marrying a child (that would be statutory rape), or someone having multiple spouses (that would be polygamy). Pressed by Waldman, Warren said he considered those crimes equivalent to gay marriage. (The American Prospect, December 15, 2008)
At Americablog Joe Sudbay writes "Rick Warren is a major fail and a total affront":
If he's there on January 20th, I won't be. And, unlike Rick Warren, I actually worked hard to get Obama elected. It's weird and disturbing. I'd expect George Bush to have a homophobe on the stage. But Obama? That's not the kind of change I expected, and it's not change I can believe in.
The Human Rights Campaign sent a letter to Obama:
Our loss in California over the passage of Proposition 8 which stripped loving, committed same-sex couples of their given legal right to marry is the greatest loss our community has faced in 40 years. And by inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table.
John Aravosis has a long post with the above and other responses - "Obama picks homophobe pro-'Prop 8' evangelical preacher to give the invocation at inaugural "

Yes, Warren was one of the big-name proponents of Prop [H]8, right there with the RCC bishops and the Mormon Church.

Sad pony guerilla girl had a diary up yesterday titled "I don't care if you have gay friends." She begins:
Rick Warren, pastor at Saddlecreek Baptist Church, author of The Purpose-driven Life, and public thinker with the politics of James Dobson, wants us all to know that he can't be homophobic because he has gay friends.

She then tears that sappy excuse to shreds. For my money it ranks up there with the lie about hating the sin and loving the sinner. Anyone who says it is self-deluding (if not outright lying).
I don't care if these people have gay friends. Because if these folks think that their friends are perverts out to destroy the world, they're probably pretty shitty friends anyway.

So it's done. If you have a friend who's gay, it doesn't get you off the hook anymore. You still have to take responsibility for your beliefs, actions, and words. And if you can't do that, then your friends are putting up with a lot of crap from you, and you should just be grateful that you have any friends.

This movement isn't about people being friends. It's about autonomy, safety, and equality, but definitely not making friends. And if you're flapping your mouth about the sinfulness of a group of people, and that group of people is getting shot down in the streets, you really need to look up the definition of friendship in the dictionary. Because you're doing it wrong.
[Emphasis mine]

Greg Sargent writes about it at TPM (including the PFAW letter):
As you regulars know, this blog has argued that it's premature for liberals to get too agitated about Obama's cabinet picks and that we should wait to let his policies do the talking. But I'm not sure how you can defend this one, even if the two men are friends and the choice doesn't necessarily have actual policy implications.

After all, the decision really gives Warren an extraordinary platform -- not to mention yet another data point supporting the bogus notion that the radical Warren is some kind of "moderate." If the first black president doesn't mind him giving the invocation at his historic inaugural, how bad and bigoted can he really be?
John Amato discusses it at Crooks and Liars:
We've covered many of Warren's sins (Rick Warren is the new Jerry Falwell: 'The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers.') so why did Obama bring him on for this?

I've been very supportive of Obama so far, but I have to say that Obama's decision on this one is highly insulting.
Atrios (Duncan Black) has a post titled "Liars for Jesus" with quotes from Warren. His conclusion:
That's some lying we can believe in, my friends.
Kirk James Murphy has stronger words at Firedoglake:
President-elect Obama chose eliminationist hate preacher Rick Warren to give the invocation at Obama's Inaguration. With this choice, Obama sends three destructive messages. Number one: In Obama's America, equal rights and reproductive freedom aren't for everyone. Number two: President-elect Obama likes sharing the national stage with hate. Number three: While Obama enjoys his equality before the law, LGBT Americans can go to Hell. Literally. Gee. Is this change we can believe in? Does Obama's America include GLBT's, along with the fundamentalists who want to take away their rights?


There are many preachers in America who don't hate gays; who don't have all these "concidental" associations in their past. It would be simple enough for Obama to show that he believes in tolerance and equality by choosing one of them. If not, who he chooses here, will be used, fairly, to judge who he is.
As you may infer, I don't intend to cut Obama any slack on this one. My background has way too much of the sanctimonious haters in it.

Noweeman includes this in one of his updates:
As suggested by a number of commenters, you can email Parag Mehta - his email address is: - with your opinion. He is Obama's LGBT liaison on the transition team.
My letter is below.

Dear Mr. Mehta:

I have noted, via several blogs, that Rick Warren is being asked to give the invocation at the inauguration.

I am sure you will hear many voices, pro and con, about this. Here are my thoughts.

Rick Warren is famous and comes across as affable. He is also, that veneer notwithstanding, not all that different from Don Wildmon or James Dobson. He is a well-known homophobe who equates gay relationships with incest and bestiality. His thinking in this area is ignorant and, because of the influence he wields in conservative circles, harmful to the LGBT community as it undergirds their oppression and continued second-class status among the American citizenry.

He is entitled to his view, of course, but that the Obama team would give a man like this such a platform and validation is a slap in the face to all LGBT Americans.

Make no mistake about it; this is a visceral insult.

I have had to cope with my own sister putting a Yes on Prop 8 sign up on her lawn. She is a conservative evangelical and a Republican, so although this was a gratuitous insult to her own brother it was not surprising.

But to have a Democratic transition team that proclaims "hope" and "change" to sponsor an affable bigot really comes as a surprise, a disappointment, and an insult. We would expect this of a Republican administration catering to the religious right.

I urge President-elect Obama and the transition team to reconsider. You should not be inviting distrust, disappointment, and a feeling of betrayal in such a large segment of your supporters so early on. This hits us where we live, it is an issue of millennia of injustice being perpetuated in our own time, and you will lose huge amounts of good will.

It may be too late. I hope it is not.

Please do not betray your friends and supporters.

Thank you.


The Rev. Paul E. Strid

"Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart." --Abba Poemen

John Aravosis has a great spoof up at Huffington Post that captures the context, the impact, and my feelings about Dianne Feinstein.
--the BB

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tonight's sewing project

Until Daniel's stole, I had not sewn anything for quite some time. Tonight I tackled another project. It's a long story, but there is a bear (more of a plush bearskin, like a rug) passed around at work. We are encouraged to take out all our frustrations on the bear (not the public, right?). The person with the most horrendous customer service story of the week gets the bear until the next staff meeting. We are supposed to do something to this poor bear.

Now, since the bear is my sacred totem, this is quite painful for me.

When the concept was presented I was wincing internally. It. Is. Just. So. Wrong.

Back when I could afford cleaning folks I did not allow them to pick up my kids by the arm.

I got the bear last Wednesday.

The bear has spent the weekend with my kids. Tonight I took some coarse brown fabric and some dark gray satin and made a vest for the bear. No buttons, no fancy decorative top stitching, just a plain vest, but one with finished hems.

You didn't expect me to pierce it, tear it, beat it, or humiliate it, did you?

No, of course you didn't.

May the vest be an enfolding of love around the bear's heart, no matter what ensues.

All bears should be loved.
--the BB

PS: BB could also stand for Boris Bear (my nom d'ours).

Leaving behind a trail of cement-melting slime

This graphic could only come to us
via Jesus' General to whom a tip of the helmet.

Greg Miller reports in today's Los Angeles Times:
Reporting from Washington -- Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that he was directly involved in approving severe interrogation methods used by the CIA, and that the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should remain open indefinitely.

That's the short version in the lede. The headline and subhead read:
Cheney was key in clearing CIA interrogation tactics
The vice president says that the use of waterboarding was appropriate and that the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should stay open until 'the end of the war on terror.'

They might have screamed:
Cheney: unrepentant torturer

I rather like the theological response of the Rude Pundit:
Yes, indeed, the gastropodic, nearly amorphous globularity that occasionally forces itself into a frightening figure we haltingly refer to as "man," known as "Dick Cheney," has heaved its mass up to the surface of the earth, pustules popping, leaving behind a trail of a cement-melting slime. Ah, Christ, the people of the nation think, is it feeding time again? Will he never be satisfied? Have we not sacrificed enough virgin children for him to engorge? The very existence of Dick Cheney has turned more people into atheists than all the storms and wars in history, for if something that degraded and hideous is allowed to not only live, but thrive, then there can be nothing we might call "God" in the universe.
You have to admit, Dick Cheney does make theodicy difficult.

I don't like the devastation of tsunamis, inflicting, as they do, vast suffering. But they make sense in terms of geophysics behaving as geophysics must - following laws and devoid of moral content.

What laws does Cheney follow? He seems to embody the sort of evil - a will to power combined with indifference to the plight of others - that we usually associate with a whiff of sulfur. Just saying.

We're back to the issue of war crimes, lack of justice, and lack of notice discussed by Glenn Greenwald in the article noted in the previous post.

Every time Saruman Cheney makes an appearance I forget the world's beauty. I suppose that is what happens when one travels through Mordor.
--the BB

Oh please - updated (2X)

Michael Calderone at Politico talks of the press corps:
"Our job is to hold him [Obama] to account," Whitaker said, adding that he thinks "we're going to have to get tougher."
Excuse the fuck out of me. NOW you've decided to hold a president accountable?

Or, as John Aravosis more politely puts it:
Actually, we needed all of you two wars, an economy, and a Constitution ago.
Presidents SHOULD be held accountable and the media should do a fair chunk of it, checking facts, calling bullshit when it's being slung, etc. But where were their gonads over the past eight years?


It had better be substantive, fact-checked accountability or I hope Obama kicks them where they should have had nuts during the Bush disaster.


Digby has some comments on this:
Eight years of relentless harassment and character assassination, during which time the village media felt that Clinton and then Gore were "getting away with too much" because none of the endless GOP generated scandals ever came to anything, and so they had to take him down. Then, in order to "prove" they weren't just childish scandal mongers after destroying Al Gore, they went the other way and laid on their backs and let Bush walk all over them as he oversaw the destruction of the country. Now, in order to once again "prove" they aren't lapdogs, they are going to pick up right where they left off eight years ago, asking endless questions about inconsequential nonsense and breathlessly speculating about what the inconsequential nonsense might mean until a whole lot of people think there must be something to it or these people wouldn't be talking about it so much.

It's a coincidence, I'm sure, that they only feel the need to make sure that politicians don't "get away with" anything when the politician is a Democrat and they only need to prove they aren't reflexively hostile when it's a Republican. I'm also sure that ill-informed bloggers speculating as to whether or not that might actually be a reflection of the political values of the political establishment would be wrong, so I'll refrain from doing it.

I think it's time to use the header I almost used when I first put this post up. It's from my header collection used in my daily clipping archive (which I don't post).

They really are corporate tools with very few exceptions.

Margaret, in a comment, commends Glenn Greenwald's article (found here). A few paragraphs therefrom:
The bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee report issued on Thursday -- which documents that "former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior U.S. officials share much of the blame for detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba" and "that Rumsfeld's actions were 'a direct cause of detainee abuse' at Guantanamo and 'influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques ... in Afghanistan and Iraq'" -- raises an obvious and glaring question: how can it possibly be justified that the low-level Army personnel carrying out these policies at Abu Ghraib have been charged, convicted and imprisoned, while the high-level political officials and lawyers who directed and authorized these same policies remain free of any risk of prosecution? The culpability which the Report assigns for these war crimes is vast in scope and unambiguous:


This Report was issued on Thursday. Not a single mention was made of it on any of the Sunday news talk shows, with the sole exception being when John McCain told George Stephanopoulos that it was "not his job" to opine on whether criminal prosecutions were warranted for the Bush officials whose policies led to these crimes. What really matters, explained McCain, was not that we get caught up in the past, but instead, that we ensure this never happens again -- yet, like everyone else who makes this argument, he offered no explanation as to how we could possibly ensure that "it never happens again" if we simultaneously announce that our political leaders will be immunized, not prosecuted, when they commit war crimes. Doesn't that mindset, rather obviously, substantially increase the likelihood -- if not render inevitable -- that such behavior will occur again? Other than that brief exchange, this Senate Report was a non-entity on the Sunday shows.


The media fixation on the ultimately irrelevant Blagojevich scandal, juxtaposed with their steadfast ignoring of the Senate report documenting systematic U.S. war crimes, is perfectly reflective of how our political establishment thinks. Blagojevich's laughable scheme is transformed into a national fixation and made into the target of collective hate sessions, while the systematic, ongoing sale of the legislative process to corporations and their lobbyists are overlooked as the normal course of business. Lynndie England is uniformly scorned and imprisoned while George Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld are headed off to lives of luxury, great wealth, respect, and immunity from the consequences for their far more serious crimes. And the courageous and principled career Justice Department lawyer who blew the whistle on Bush's illegal spying programs -- Thomas Tamm -- continues to have his life destroyed, while the countless high-level government officials, lawyers and judges who also knew about it and did nothing about it are rewarded and honored, and those who committed the actual crimes are protected and immunized.
At the end of his post, Greenwald has links to other articles on implications of the Senate report.

As Willie Loman's wife once said, "Attention must be paid."
--the BB

Monday, December 15, 2008

Un tout petit peu de neige

Now, you who have real weather, please refrain from snickering at what is called snow in Albuquerque. Other parts of New Mexico have enough snow for serious skiing. If that happened here I would not have moved hither. I am a weather wimp and make no bones about it.

I enjoy the dusting of powdered sugar version of snow. It suits me fine. And even with that today, it was a long, slow, somewhat tense commute home this evening. I like driving fast on roads built for fast driving, with no car nearby. I don't think I got much over 40 at the fastest and most of this evening was driven between 15 and 35, hovering around 25 for the most part).

The last stretch was on road that had not recently had a car on it, so I was out in the middle of nowhere. That was all right but someone came up behind me and was just a bit too close for my comfort. I kept thinking, "Back off, asshole." When I came to the one stop sign out in The Middle of Nowhere, I slid just a bit while braking. Not much, just a teensy bit. Enough to remind me that this is not driving on a dry surface. I did not like thinking the person behind me might slide in my direction. Anyway, I made it home safely.

Here is the first photo I took today, before lunch. This is basically the view behind me, though with more scope since I stepped out on the balcony to take it.

The next shot is out the mezzanine window after I finished eating lunch.

This was taken as I was leaving work.

Walking down the street toward the parking lot.

And here is Rafa as I found him in the lot. He had more snow than this two years ago on the Tuesday before Christmas. That was the first time he had ever been snowed on and I had to clear him off with my arm. I promptly bought a combination snow brush/ice scraper that has been useful on several occasions since then, tonight being one of them.

Not a whole lot to report on my day, but those are the visuals.
--the BB

Doing what I intended

Vast stretches
View from the west mesa, September 2007

Yesterday was fairly successful. Of the things I hoped to accomplish, I managed these:
Posted a Sunday reflection
Posted a welcome to two more nations
Went to church
Went to the gym and worked out enough to feel it today
Did a load of laundry

I did not do a second load of laundry, but there were two bonuses. I had lunch with friends after church and I ended the gym trip with luxuriating in the sauna, the hot tub, and the steam room - all three. I really felt mellow by the time I got home.

Much more productive than the previous weekend. Progress.
--the BB

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Isabel Bayrakdarian

David@Montreal brought Isabel Bayrakdarian to my attention in a comment and I am sharing a video here so you may all get a taste of her singing.

When looking at the Wikipedia article about her, I noticed she has sung on the soundtracks of Ararat and LOTR: The Two Towers, so I had already heard her in two movies.


Thanks, David!

Updated to correct a typo.
--the BB

Weekend catch-up

Our first visitor from St Lucia stopped by around November 12 and our guest from the Democratic Republic of Congo clicked this way around November 21. I am behind in my welcomes. In spite of my tardiness, the welcome is hardy. I hope you and your fellow citizens visit again!

The Democratic Republic of Congo was introduced in the Western Central Africa geography post. Here I will add a paragraph related to the river from which the nation takes its name (Wikipedia):
The tropical climate has also produced the Congo River system which dominates the region topographically along with the rainforest it flows through, (though they are not mutually exclusive). The name for the "Congo" state is derived in part from the river. The river basin (meaning the Congo River and all of its myriad tributaries) occupies nearly the entire country and an area of nearly one million square kilometers (400,000 sq mi). The river and its tributaries (major offshoots include the Kasai, Sangha, Ubangi, Aruwimi, and Lulonga) form the backbone of Congolese economics and transportation. They have a dramatic impact on the daily lives of the people.
Democratic Republic of Congo: Healing the Wounds of War (this video is a year old, put out by the International Medical Corps (IMC). It gives us a graphic image of the people's plight.

Here is an excerpt of a report from yesterday by Franz Wild and Bill Varner:
Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Rwanda is supporting rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo, while the Congolese government is arming a Rwandan militia, a United Nations report said yesterday.

The report to the UN Security Council “found evidence that the Rwandan authorities have been complicit in the recruitment of soldiers, including children, have facilitated the supply of military equipment, and have sent officers and units from the Rwandan Defense Forces” to the DRC. The support is for the National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP, led by Laurent Nkunda.

A “Group of Experts” appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to monitor UN sanctions in Congo also cited “extensive collaboration” between Congolese government troops and rebel groups in the country’s North Kivu province that fight against Nkunda, the report said. Groups including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, are getting government support.

Nkunda says he is fighting to protect Congo’s Tutsi minority from militias such as the ethnic Hutu FDLR that took refuge in the east of the country after participating in the genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994. Since August, more than 250,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, the UN said.

The CNDP is accused of war crimes by the UN. Its military leader General Bosco Ntaganda is wanted by the International Criminal Court for recruiting child soldiers.

The Congolese rebels’ funding sources include local and export taxes, payments from landowners in areas they control and the charcoal trade, the report said.
Democratic Republic of Congo - The Faces of Peace

Mi Amor & Basokin of D.R. Congo in Africa

Papa Wemba - Awa Y'okeyi [this is haunting and rather lovely]

Saint Lucia is an island nation in the Lesser Antilles and is named for Saint Lucy of Syracuse whose feast, coincidentally, was yesterday. Wikipedia informs us of the following:
The volcanic island of Saint Lucia is more mountainous than many other Caribbean islands, with the highest point being Mount Gimie, at 950 metres (3,120 ft) above sea level. Two other mountains, the Pitons, form the island's most famous landmark. They are located between Soufrière and Choiseul on the western side of the island. Saint Lucia is also one of the few islands in the world that boasts a drive-in volcano.

The capital is Castries, the official languages are English and Patois. The culture is a blend of African, French, and English. St Lucia is a commonwealth nation.

St Lucia guide

Groovy Soca Music, St Lucia

Zouk - Ai Amor

Sunday reflectons - Advent 3

I am adding a bit of music. This Guadete by Steeleye Span is anticipatory, since it is Christmas music - Rejoice, Christ is born of the Virgin Mary.

Now, here is the actual introit for today:

We have come to one of the year's two "Rose Sundays," so named for the liturgical color. At the current price of vestments, few churches have rose vestments and altar hangings. It is the one liturgical color I had not added to my own collection, though I have sufficient yards of rose moiré fabric to make them. Just never got around to it.

Gaudete Sunday is named for the opening word of the traditional Latin introit for this day, taken from Philippians 4.4 (see graphic above).

John the Forerunner is featured in the lessons of Advent 2 and 3 since he is the hinge person between the pre- and post-Incarnation eras. Standing in the line of prophets calling people back to God, he represents the heritage of God's spokespersons. Pointing to the one who comes after him, he signals the way forward into God's promised future. In the icon above we see him clothed like Elijah and pointing toward Christ.

I believe today's Gospel calls us to join John in bearing witness.

ουκ ην εκεινος το φως αλλ ινα μαρτυρηση περι του φωτος
--John 1.8

"He was not that light but that he should bear witness concerning that light"

Bearing witness, testifying, speaking up and speaking truth - this is a critical element in both doing justice and proclaiming Good News.

Scholars of the Hebrew Scriptures tell us that it was a shared belief that words DO something. The prophetic word, once uttered, unleashed the process by which God's message became a reality, whether the word was judgment or salvation (and they usually went hand in hand and in that order).

One can see that in order to take action on the injustices and ills of the world we need first to become aware. Those who speak up repeatedly about genocide, torture, climate change, corruption, disease, etc. keep reminding us over and over until, collectively, we pay attention. We first become aware, then uneasy, then sufficiently troubled (or frightened) to act. It may take a long time, way too long, before action is taken, but the first step is bearing witness.

Those who bear witness often feel that their words fall on deaf ears. This was not unknown to the prophets of old nor is it unknown to the prophets of our own era. Still, one must speak.

I often discuss really uncomfortable topics on this blog: genocide and torture being, perhaps, the most disquieting. Corruption, natural disasters, and the unspeakable price of war add to this. I do not expend this effort to dwell on the negative; I do it to bear witness, to remind myself and you of things we should not brush aside and ignore.

Now I know that the likelihood of my changing the course of history is pretty slim. For that matter, I am mostly preaching to the choir since we all tend to read the blogs of those we find to be congenial and like-minded sorts. So there is little chance that I am changing minds or behavior.

Nonetheless, I hope to provide information and encouragement to the chorus of witnesses overall. Just my drop in a vast ocean yet the ocean is made up of water that comes in drops.

[At the moment it is coming in snowflakes that are dancing in front of my window, swirling about in the breeze.]

Because the Holy One loves justice, we are called to love justice and to do it. We cannot remain silent and still be faithful.

This has its positive side also. The old prophetic refrain is "turn and live." The turning may list all the ills from which we need to turn but it is always, ultimately, a turning TOWARD, a positive turn toward God and toward life.

For this reason we bear witness also to love, and life, and faith, and hope, and humility, and steadfastness, and loving-kindness.

One Ash Wednesday I preached on our need to deal with both the shit and the Shekinah. I did not use either of those words. The former is not suitable for sermons and the latter is too much technical jargon for the average person. I spoke of the sin and misery and mess of our lives that we resist acknowledging and also the glory and grace of our lives that we also resist acknowledging. Facing reality and becoming whole involve both of these and we need to break out of denial and integrate it all.

So we must bear witness to Good News. We need to be a people of, and voices for, hope. The disciples were not turned into valiant witnesses on Good Friday. Though they proclaimed a crucified Savior they would not have proclaimed anything if he were not also a risen Savior. We are an Easter people and our lives need to be shot through with alleluias.

So even in the midst of the faithful waiting and eager readiness of Advent we are called to rejoice. Not in an empty manner devoid of context. This is not an abstract imperative to be happy. We are called to rejoice IN THE LORD. And we are called to rejoice always.

We have a long story, one that is anchored in slaves being set free, in exiles coming home, in love being stronger than death, in compassion outlasting evil, in light that darkness cannot overcome.

We bear witness to that heritage every day in the way we live, the way we see, the way we respond, the way we take action, and the words we share with others.

And because of this heritage of a collective experience of grace we are enabled to give thanks in all circumstances.

As I look at the graphic immediately above I think not of Hobbes the tiger but of the late Alice Higgins, my neighbor in West Hollywood. Mrs. Higgins led a severely circumscribed life yet whenever anyone greeted her and asked how she was she invariably replied, "I have a lot to be thankful for."

She stands high on my list of the living saints in my life.

I have a long way to go to be as grace-filled as she.

May we all grow in grace and rejoice in the Lord always.

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

--the BB


On the subject of my being scatter-brained:

Another thing that happened today is that I hit my head on a low doorway. Hard.

When I am walking and looking ahead this never happens. I have good peripheral vision. But if I am looking down, or in this instance sideways, I am susceptible to forceful encounters with immovable objects.

I have a tender spot on my crown this evening. It is quite possible more stuffing fell out.
--the BB