Monday, December 28, 2009

More on Iran

Juan Cole has updates on the rekindled situation in Iran, offering (as usual) some perspective for westerners.
The chanting on Sunday turned against Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself, not just against President Ahmadinejad. He was castigated as the Dictator and as worse than the old shah, and the very ideological basis of the regime, the doctrine of clerical rule, was chanted against in the streets. The legitimacy of the regime, profoundly shaken by the events since early June's presidential election, is now being shredded further.
--the BB

Heart thread - 12/28/2009 - updated

For Katherine's health and for all who love her.

For Mark's recuperation and deep comfort for his soul.

For Jack facing surgery next month.

For the people of Iran.


For Klady's son who had surgery on his hand today that healing and recovery may be swift.

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

[Yes, I know it's transferred to tomorrow but it's on my heart today.]

--the BB

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mousavi's Nephew Martyred

Fletcher Christensen explains why this is a big deal:
- First of all, the most obvious point to most Western readers: Ali Mousavi is the nephew of one of the principal figures in the Green movement, Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Mousavi is the man who lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in what was widely (and internationally) seen as a clear case of election fraud.

- More important, I suspect, is the fact that Ali Mousavi was Seyyed, an acknowledged male descendent of the Prophet. Remember that Iran is an overwhelmingly Shi'a country, and home to over 1/3 of the Shi'a Muslims in the world. The Shi'a tradition attaches special importance to the family of the Prophet. (There's much more I could say on this topic, but my knowlegde is rather limited beyond this point, so I'll simply encourage anyone interested to do their own research on the Seyyed online.

- Lastly, this killing occurred on the Iranian national holiday of Ashoura - a day set aside to celebrate the martyrdom of the son of the first Shi'a Imam, a man who was Seyyed himself. I hesitate to say too much about this - I recommend that you visit the two links above to get a better idea of what this holiday means. The short of it, however, is that the martyrdom of Seyyed Ali Mousavi, coming on today of all days, will inevitably evoke deep and abiding comparison to the martyrdom for which the day is commemorated. Both men were killed standing up against what they saw as an unjust regime.

CatM, discussing why cable has so little coverage of Iran right now, notes the following:
Meanwhile, Iran may be on the verge of a revolution, and the ripple effect from a regime change in Iran would be huge. It could lead to further destablilization in the Middle East, with war spreading outside its borders; or it could lead to a positive turn in relations between the US and Iran or even Israel and Iran. That just might be something worth canceling one's vacation for, and it is far more interesting than what Sarah Palin said on Facebook the other day.

From Iran, Sullivan has reports of police refusing to fire on protesters as ordered; protesters are no longer cowering from the Baseej but instead the Bassej are cowering from protesters. Protests have gone from peaceful to increasingly violent, with attacks against the Baseej and security forces, including setting fire to Baseej buildings and possibly obtaining arms. As the Daily Dish points out, it was gaining access to munitions that contributed to the success of the 1979 Iranian revolutionaries.

More than 10 protesters have been killed in the streets in the past 24 hours, including Mousavi's nephew. Protesters have spread beyond Tehran, with hundreds of thousands apparently taking to the streets.
Juan Cole adds:
For the regime to create a member of the Mousavi family as a martyr on Ashura was most unwise. Shiite Islam even more than traditional Catholicism thrives on the blood of martyrs.

Junior or middle-ranking Ayatollahs favorable to the ideas of Montazeri show up in a number of these reports about protests in provincial cities, suggesting a generational split in the clerical corps and trouble for Khamenei ahead.

Iran's political crisis is far from over, even though the opposition has little hope of coming to power as long as the security forces remain firmly behind Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us, unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

--the BB

Saturday, December 26, 2009


12/24/09 DoD:
Marine Casualty Identified
Lance Cpl. Omar G. Roebuck, 23, of Moreno Valley, Calif., died Dec. 22, as a result of a non-hostile incident in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.


I am afraid I have not kept up in honoring the fallen of late.

May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

Add Image

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas dinner

Luminarias in front of the house, during one of the moments when they were all burning.

The table.

It has been a lovely Christmas here at Desert Farne. Friends and family enjoying each other's company. My ex-daddy-in-law was engaged and engaging, which is pretty impressive in one's mid-90s. Great food, if I say so myself, though I only fixed half of it and Bill the rest. Even after living apart for seven years we're an amazing team in the kitchen.

I am beyond grateful for his presence in my life.

There was the joy of old and new friends.

Now the dishes are all done and folks were sent home with See's candies.

I can catch my breath. At least tonight. A busy weekend remains.

Prayers offered for the lonely this Christmas, the homeless, the hungry, the depressed, those caught up in war and civil strife, the frightened, the grieving. May we strive for a society where basic human needs are met, the dignity of every person honored, and peace flows over and through us.

--the BB

Christmas Eve

This is about half of the luminarias put out at the church tonight.

Tarted up a bit for the Twelve Days

A vision in red, white, and green

The nacimiento before the arrival of the Baby Jesus

Here is a side view of the chancel area. You can see the three wise guys lurking between the veiled chalice and the altar book on the right. They still have a way to go before Epiphany.

We sang nine hymns (the first two verses of each of the first seven, then all verses of "Silent night" and "Joy to the world."

Real bread (thank you, Linda), real frankincense (thanks, Scott, for the thurible), a banner for color (thanks, St Mike's), poinsettias (thanks, Warren and Anne Marie). A dear friend and two new guests (thanks, Google). We had singing in harmony. Snacks and hot cider afterward as we sat around and shared.

Mostly, thank you, God, for loving your creation enough to become part of it, joining us to yourself.

--the BB

Thursday, December 24, 2009


The cards are all placed by the chimney with care.

All my "kids" are under the tree, the first time they have all been in one place since I cannot remember when.

I have tons of cleaning and cooking still to do, but a sense of rightness now prevails.

--the BB

Blessed Christmas!

και το φως εν τη σκοτια φαινει και η σκοτια αυτο ου κατελαβεν
And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not comprehended it.
John 1:5

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

They just don't care

Isn't it time that we all realized that a lot of these people just don't care? If all 45,000 of the people cited by that famous Harvard study who will die for lack of a decent health-care system dropped dead on his f**king lawn tomorrow morning, Joseph Lieberman would not CARE.

He would step over their bodies to get to a fundraiser. He is a vindictive, wretched sack of pus and all that will ever matter to him for the rest of his sorry political career will be settling scores and fluffing his tush in somebody's green room. There is no less excusable public man in America than this bitter old carny-whore;....
--Charles Pierce

Well, um, yes.

h/t to watertiger

--the BB

I commend to your attention Professor Cole's summary

Top Ten Worst Things about the Bush Decade; Or, the Rise of the New Oligarchs
By spring of 2000, Texas governor George W. Bush was wrapping up the Republican nomination for president, and he went on to dominate the rest of the decade. If Dickens proclaimed of the 1790s revolutionary era in France that it was the best of times and the worst of times, the reactionary Bush era was just the worst of times. I declare it the decade of the American oligarchs. Just as the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union allowed the emergence of a class of lawless 'Oligarchs' in Russia, so Neoliberal tax policies and deregulation produced American equivalents. (For more on the analogy, see Michael Hudson.) We have always had robber barons in American politics, but the Neoliberal moment created a new social class. At about 1.3 million adults, it is not too large to have some cohesive interests, and its corporations, lobbyists, and other institutions allow it to intervene systematically in politics. It owns 45 percent of the privately held wealth and is heading toward 50, i.e. toward a Banana Republic. Thus, we have a gutted fairness doctrine and the end of anti-trust concerns in ownership of mass media, allowing a multi-billionaire like Rupert Murdoch to buy up major media properties and to establish a cable television channel which is nothing but oligarch propaganda. They established 'think tanks' like the American Enterprise Institute, which hires only staff that are useful agents of the interests of the very wealthy, and which produce studies denying global climate change or lying about the situation in Iraq. Bush-Cheney were not simply purveyors of wrong-headed ideas. They were the agents of the one percent, and their policies make perfect sense if seen as attempts to advance the interests of this narrow class of persons. It is the class that owns our mass media, that pays for the political campaigns of 'our' (their) representatives, that gives us the Bushes and Cheneys and Palins because they are useful to them, and that blocks progressive reform and legislation with the vast war chest funneled to them by deep tax cuts that allow them to use essential public resources, infrastructure and facilities gratis while making the middle class pay for them.

Read it all here.

--the BB

It isn't Christmas without them

Mrs. Londquist's Peppar Kakar
(Swedish Pepper Cookies)

1 Cup melted butter
1-1/4 Cup sugar (white or brown)
Cream butter and sugar together.

1/2 Cup sour cream
1-1/2 Cups light molasses
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Mix together in a very large bowl and add the butter & sugar mixture.

1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
8 Cups flour
Mix dry ingredients together then add to wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Roll to 1/8 inch thickness on floured board. Cut.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 15 minutes.

This recipe makes a lot of cookies. You may keep the dough in the refrigerator and roll out and bake some at a time. It takes a bit of work to make the cold dough malleable but if it gets too warm it does not handle well either. Practice, and lots of sprinkling with flour.

They are best made around Thanksgiving, stored in an airtight container, and served at Christmas. We love making holes in some of them and hanging them on the Christmas tree. Those hanging on the tree will be perfectly edible when Epiphany arrives.

[Photos of my Christmas tree with said cookies to follow.]

--the BB

We will, we will rock you!

Going for full-on intimidation, our team terrified the competition in the holiday decoration contest and prizes (with chocolate and other candies) came our way today when the judges visited out Winter Wonderland. It has been suggested we need to retire our jersey now.

I am very proud of my cow, so we start with her tonight. Isn't she a sweetheart?

Our stockings were all hung by the chimney with care.

You've seen the flying reinducks, but we have skiing ducks on a bunny hill too.

The Queen of all Snowflakes has been a constant centerpiece.

In addition to Hannukah and Kwanzaa, yesterday was noted as well.

And Christmas was not forgotten (just the last to be completed).

Click on this one to see detail.

So that's the report back from the holiday decorations. I am happy to lay my scissors down and not cut another snowflake until next year. Most of today was spent processing updates in the system and/or hoping for snow.

Here is the forecast from the National Weather Service:
Tonight: Rain likely before 11pm, then snow likely. Cloudy, with a low around 25. Breezy, with a south wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west between 20 and 25 mph. Winds could gust as high as 35 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. Total nighttime snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.

Wednesday: A 50 percent chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 35. West wind between 5 and 15 mph. New snow accumulation of less than one inch possible.

Wednesday Night: A 20 percent chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 17. West wind between 5 and 10 mph.

Thursday: A 20 percent chance of snow showers. Partly cloudy, with a high near 32. West wind between 10 and 15 mph.

Thursday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 11. West wind between 5 and 10 mph.
Here is a photo from December 15, 2008:

--the BB

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's about time someone called Tweety on his BS

Chris Matthews, a loudmouthed tool aka Tweety, with an inflated sense of his own importance, shot off his mouth, again. Cenk Uygur takes him to the woodshed, reminding Matthews that he is in no position to cast aspersions on blogging activists. Cenk rips him a new one by reminding us all, with clips, of Tweety's infantile adulation of W the "cowboy." It is positively embarrassing to watch Matthews' behavior.

Matthews SO deserves this take-down. Delicious.

--the BB

Cutting deals

Rahm Emanuel, the President's Chief of Staff, was Bill Clinton's Political Director. And Rahm Emanuel's take away from Bill Clinton's failure to get health insurance passed was 'don't get on the wrong side of the insurance companies.' So their strategy was cut a deal with the insurance companies, the drug industry going in. And the deal was, we're not going to attack your customer base, we're going to subsidize a new customer base. And that script was pre-cooked so it's not surprising that this is what comes out the other side.
--Robert Kuttner talking with Bill Moyers and Matt Taibbi

Cynical? You bet I'm cynical.

Read or watch more here.

--the BB

Too big to hide anymore

The three of us, as experienced investigators and prosecutors of financial fraud, cannot answer these questions now. But we know where the answers are. They are in the trove of e-mail messages still backed up on A.I.G. servers, as well as in the key internal accounting documents and financial models generated by A.I.G. during the past decade. Before releasing its regulatory clutches, the government should insist that the company immediately make these materials public. By putting the evidence online, the government could establish a new form of “open source” investigation.


So far, prosecutors and regulators have been unable to build such evidence into anything resembling a persuasive case against any financial institution. Most recently, a jury acquitted Bear Stearns employees of fraud related to the collapse of the subprime mortgage market, in part because available e-mail messages suggested the employees had done nothing wrong.

Perhaps A.I.G.’s employees would also be judged not guilty. But we would like to see the record to find out. As fraud investigators, we would like to examine the trading patterns of A.I.G.’s financial products division, and its communications with Goldman Sachs and other bank counterparties who benefited from the bailout. We would like to understand whether the leaders of A.I.G. understood that they were approaching a financial Armageddon, and whether they alerted their counterparties, regulators and shareholders to the impending calamity.

Fair enough. We, the taxpayers, bailed their sorry asses out.

--the BB

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I am declaring a truce in honor of my mother's birthday

My mother was born 99 years ago today. Happy birthday, Mom.

My dislike of secular Christmas music is no secret. And I'm not even talking about music wars between Maddy and Mickey.

This is just too fun and I enjoy it a lot.

Of course, if most of what is pumped into the airwaves in December were as well performed as this....

h/t to Michal Anne on FB

--the BB

Dear President Obama:

If not now, yesterday would be good.

--the BB

Friday, December 18, 2009

O Tanya Baum!

I name all my Christmas trees Tanya so I can sing to them, "O Tanya Baum!"

Those who read this blog a year ago may recall that I bought my first artificial tree then discovered that it was defective and had to return it, late in the season with no replacements, thus ending up with no tree.

I got another one this week, not as splendiferous in stature and quality of false needles, but Tanya was swiftly assembled and illuminated and stands proudly in the living room. I still need to add the red glass balls and cookies but that is the accomplishment of the evening.

That and lying on the couch comme une pomme de terre and watching part of Rachel Maddow, sleeping through whatever was next, and ending with a mindless comedy. I needed to chill and have done so. And now, to bed.

By way of follow-up on office decor, I got the background landscape done for the Nativity scene today. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are there now along with several sheep. Monday I will add more vegetation, livestock, shepherds, and angel. There will be more photos next week.

¡Sweet dreams, my mischievous mapaches!

--the BB

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Winter Wonderland" or "Kindergarten 101"

A wreath made from cutouts of all our hands.

As I said last evening, calls to the help desk are few this time of year.

Please note: no calls were neglected and we provided our own supplies for the following decorations. All this has been done between calls over the past two weeks.

A rare item not made by hand: the door Santa. Snowflakes and the three-dimensional star, however, were hand made.

By day's end our stockings were hung on the fireplace with care.

It is like working in a slow motion snow storm. The air currents make the snowflakes move gently. It is actually rather magical and is basically what got us going on this major kick.

The snow scene in the window. It started when I drew a snowman. Then a snowwoman. Then the snowchildren. Then the brick house and the walkway thereto. And I could not rest until the whole scene was sketched in. One deer is on the window wearing a pilgrim hat left over from Thanksgiving. Click to see detail. And then their are the reinducks (see below).

Small rubber ducks are handed out in the department as prizes for this and that. One of our coworkers used pipe cleaners to make antlers for nine of the ducks and put a red nose on one. Voilà: reinducks! Another colleague, realizing that ducks fly in V formations, arranged them thus and they now fly over our snow scene. On, Dasher! On, Dancer!

A gift-wrapped door. Yes, lots of paper chains were made also.

Although premature, we are ready for Kwanzaa.

And we have been keeping Chanukkah after our fashion. Every large flame has been put in place with the blessing in Hebrew recited aloud.

Over my desk, of course, is the Virgin of Guadalupe. Each rose drawn and colored and cut out.

Our corner of this three-section suite was looking a bit naked. Today three of us collaborated on this three-dimensional tree made of green wrapping paper. Notice the presents under the tree.

There is more to come but most of it is done now. Judging is next Tuesday. May I say this? We had better win!

I would also say this. We work well together and have had an enormous amount of fun doing this.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Senate bill, as it stands, is just wrong

"Is it a bailout for the insurance industries?" "It certainly is, it contains everything the industry wants, and it's been stripped of things that the industry didn't like, so it absolutely is a big gift, a big bailout to the industry."
--Wendell Potter, former CIGNA executive, speaking of the Senate HCR bill

Adventures in a mock winter wonderland

Starched shirts picked up at the cleaners? Check.
Antihistamine supply renewed (inexpensively)? Check.
Fridge restocked with large blocks of sharp cheese (a staple)? Check.
And another four pounds of butter (it's the holidays)? Check.
Supper of chicken salad on awesome multi-grain bread? Check.
Artificial Christmas tree purchased? Check.
More decorating materials for the office? Check.
One hundred pounds of playground sand? Check.
One hundred brown paper bags? Check.
Ninety-six votive lights? Check.

All in all, a productive trip home from work.

The last three items on the list are for luminarias (or farolitos if you're from Santa Fe instead of Albuquerque). We want to line the walkway to the church on Christmas Eve. I have half that many bags and candles for my own house on Christmas Day, to welcome guests for dinner.

The last few weeks of the year are a very slow time at work. If historical patterns prevail, things will ramp up in January. So we have turned our slow moments into decorating the office. There is a major winter wonderland theme going. I don't know how many paper snowflakes the ten of us have cut out in the past couple of weeks but a host of them hang from the ceiling, slowly moving in the air currents and thus evocative of a slow motion snowfall. I cut out eighteen of them yesterday afternoon alone.

Today I finished a snow scene in the window. It began with four snow people. Then a brick house. Then the walkway to the house. Then more snow and trees and bushes. Finally mini-snowflakes in the sky. I am taking the camera in to work, so you will see the result.

Each day we add a paper flame to the paper menorah in the glass doorway.

Today I also drew, colored, cut out, and applied twenty small roses to a print of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Tomorrow I will prepare a kinara for Kwanzaa. I am thinking a little Stonehenge for the Solstice.

Any ideas of graphics for Ramadan?

Finally I will put together a small Nativity scene. I don't believe in mixing church and work but we are being as equal-opportunity as we can here.

There were See's foil-wrapped chocolate balls today. Heaven. One thing I miss about California is See's candies. Anyone who wants to ship me a box of See's Nuts and Chews, I will give you my address.

On the down side, there was secular Christmas music in the background, but more softly than yesterday, thank goodness. And when I left Home Depot this evening, blaring into the night was Jingle Bell Rock, on the top of my loathed music list. I could not get in the car and drive away fast enough.

No Advent meditations here. But fun.

--the BB

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Straight to the frigid realm of Lake Cocytus

The United States Senate has produced enough bullshit in 2009 to fertilize crops across the nation for the next several decades.

Wouldn't it be refreshing if they just admitted that they all work for the health insurance companies? We the People have never mattered in their calculus. We kid ourselves if we think otherwise.

I am not too happy with Article I. Section 3 of the Constitution tonight. Which is to say: emotionally I want to jettison the Senate altogether. Now that's an emotional response, not a reasoned argument, but I think y'all can see where my gut is coming from right now.

Put another way, I feel about Lieberman, Snowe, Baucus, Reid, and the Rahmster right now the way I feel about "Jingle Bell Rock" (which I had to listen to three thousand times today at work). Toss them in Lucifer's mouth in lowest ring of the Inferno with Judas, Brutus, and Cassius.

Oh, wait, those three betrayed their benefactors. The Senators have served theirs very well. They just have not served the American People.

Ship them to hell anyway.

My theology is better than this. Politically, however, I am eager to see these people voted out (in Rahm's case, fired).

And no latkes for Lieberman this year!

--the BB

A Christmas prayer from Bishop Marc

Dear God, the troubles of our world have left many of us speechless. We don’t know how, in the numbness around jobs lost, illnesses we don’t have the resources to cure, a planet imperiled by the accumulated effects of our greed, and the seemingly endless presence of war and violence, to say our prayers. We are lighting candles, though – in our Advent wreaths, quietly, in side chapels of our churches, in our rooms where no one else but You can see. The candle flame is our prayer, wordless but filled with meaning, with petition, hope, and faith. And the candle flame is your answer to our prayer. You lighten our darkness, O Lord. Amen.
--+Marc Californiae