Saturday, December 27, 2008

4217 - updated with more photos

Latest Coalition Fatalities

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

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

DoD Identifies Army Casualties (3 of 3)

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

DoD Identifies Army Casualties (2 of 3)

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

DoD Identifies Army Casualties (1 of 3)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 26, 2008

Heart thread - 12/26/2008

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

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

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

As the snow lay round about cool and crisp and even

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Myths about Iraq, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 25, 2008


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and wholeness to all.

--the BB

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

cum enim quietum silentium contineret omnia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Be born in us today

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Prayer from Bishop Marc

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

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

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

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


--the BB

Monday, December 22, 2008

No Tanya Baum this year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 21, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--the BB

Alas, no Sunday reflection today

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

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

Susan S. will be so proud of me

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

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

[Emphasis mine]

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


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

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.


Latest Coalition Fatalities

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

Trying for balance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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