Saturday, April 04, 2009

Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the warhorse from Jerusalem;
and the battle-bow shall be cut off,
and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
(Zechariah 9:9-10)
This King of kings and Lord of lords does not come to establish a dominion of power but to overthrow that pattern and replace it with one of peace.

Yet we seek to protect ourselves with domination structures and use of power.

We really do not follow very well.

Cleanse my hands, O God, and purify my heart; deliver me from false pledges and fraudulent protestations, for I would ascend your holy hill and know that I am not yet ready to do so.

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Well, tonight it was cartography

While I did manage to finish (I think) a very short chapter today, I have spent more time in genealogy and cartography this evening.

All authors have their own approaches. Mine, for the fantasy fiction I am working on, often starts with maps and family trees. I start with context. Where in place and time are my characters located and what is the nexus of their relationships?

I rapidly find myself wondering about all sorts of things. How and why did this person live so long and that one die so young? What is going on in terms of dynastic politics? Who were this person's friends (or enemies)? How did these people get from A to B? And why? By choice, by chance, perforce? What physical and personality traits show up in descendants - in which ones and in what combinations?

All of that is floating around in a rich stew, so to speak, and I await the pleasure of discovering the next bite.

Speaking of which, I had dinner with my best friend and his dad last night and enjoyed what may well be the most delicious stew I have ever tasted. Actually, the leftovers for lunch were even better - or was I just less tired and more sober when lunching today? All this with buttermilk biscuits (from scratch) to die for. Yum.

Anyway, dynastic relationships are clearer for me now and there is more detail on the map. Since I am about to recount a civil war, these things are critical, as you can well imagine.

Cartographo, cartographein, cartogegrapha, whom am I kidding? I have not conjugated in Greek in several decades; how can I expect to conjugate playfully in pseudo-Greek?

Sweet dreams, my little gypsy moths
--the BB

Heart thread - 04/04/2009 - updated with link

I ask your most fervent prayers for Jim, Ruthie, and their sons Taylor and Daniel, and all the larger family as Jim undergoes emergency surgery.

The great grandnieces, Clara and Olivia, continue to grow.

Continuing to remember Roseann and Gary.

For Lisa and her family, and for all who mourn.

For the healing of the world and all who work to make that healing happen.

--the BB

But will they do anything about it?

Vyan alerts us to this:
On Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers quietly released the final draft of an extensive report he first unveiled in January documenting the Bush administration’s "unreviewable war powers" and the possible crimes committed in implementing those policies.

In order to determine whether Bush officials broke laws, Conyers has recommended that Attorney General Eric Holder appoint a special prosecutor to launch a criminal inquiry to investigate, among other things, whether "enhanced interrogation techniques" used against alleged terrorist detainees violated international and federal laws against torture.
[Emphasis mine]

--the BB

¡No me digas!

Mcjoan offers this headline today:
New Report: Generals Knew About Guantanamo Torture, Lied to Congress

Imagine my surprise. Mcjoan then shares the following from the press release by the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research:
Newark, NJ - Today Seton Hall Law delivered a report establishing that military officials at the highest levels were aware of the abusive interrogation techniques employed at the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay (GTMO), and misled Congress during testimony. In addition, FBI personnel reported that the information obtained from inhumane interrogations was unreliable.

Professor Mark Denbeaux, Director of the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research, commented on the findings: "Who knew about the torture at GTMO? Turns out they all did. It's not news that the interrogators were torturing and abusing detainees. We've got FBI reports attesting to this. But now we've discovered that the highest levels knew about the torture and abuse, and covered it up.

"Abu Ghraib was the flashpoint and provoked the FBI to formally hand its reports to the DOD, which in turn forced the DOD to respond with what became known as the Schmidt Report. Schmidt's investigation was essentially a whitewash, but, ironically, the abuse was so pervasive that his team turned up still more incidents. To conceal the problems documented by both the FBI and the military, the DOD published an incomplete, sanitized report, culminating in Schmidt testifying before Congress that there was no torture or abuse at GTMO.

"Five generals were either complicit in the abusive interrogation techniques or were central figures in their cover-up. They concealed these practices from Congress, to which they are ultimately accountable. They undermined our democracy, and undercut America's claim to the moral high ground in the fight against terror."

We have an obligation to pursue this, expose this, and hold people accountable. Law students are doing the work Congress and the Department of Justice should be doing.

Oh, and just a reminded: Lying to Congress is a felony.
--the BB


DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Sgt. Devin C. Poche, 25, of Jacksonville, N.C., died Mar. 31 at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, near Tikrit, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade...

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty
Lance Cpl. Nelson M. Lantigua, 20, of Miami, Fla., died March 31 as a result of a non-hostile incident in Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10 Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Two other names have not been released yet.

Richard Burr: Obnoxious Pissant - Updated with h/t

Republican North Carolina Senator Richard Burr is obstructing confirmation of Tammy Duckworth to the Veterans Administration. Rachel has a few words to say.

UPDATE: h/t to jimstaro
--the BB

Saturday in Lent 5

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
This passage concerning a new covenant is possibly my favorite passage from Jeremiah, and how refreshing it is after the doom and gloom passages we have been reading in recent weeks!

The point of all religions and spiritual paths is transformation. The imagery used in this passage is having the purposes of God written on our heart, the ultimate reality becoming interiorized. What God wants, we will now want. As God loves, we will now love.

Sins forgotten is an image that allows us to transcend the past. Something more than we have even known is possible. Something new can emerge from what has grown old. Hope is possible because change is possible. We do not have to remain stuck.

Pretty powerful stuff.

May be we all be unbound from that which would trap us and hold us in death.

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

--the BB

Friday, April 03, 2009

Heart thread - 04/03/2009

I simply direct you to OCICBW. There are many to pray for tonight.

Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and prayers, and dispose the way of thy servants towards the attainment of everlasting salvation; that, among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, they may ever be defended by thy gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

--the BB

Friday in Lent 5

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7)
Jeremiah's advice to the exiles makes me think of the "Bloom where you are planted" line, though it is more profound than that. I think it reminds us that we do not serve God by seeking, anticipating, fostering, or delighting in the downfall of society. There is a mindset, fueled by apocalyptic imagery and an attitude like Ezra's, that expects divine rescue while the world goes up in flames and actually yearns for that to happen. I find it difficult to reconcile that with God's love for the world. Some go so far as to declare John 3:16 a lie, and sane people rightly recognize that as a sign of severe mental imbalance and utter betrayal of the Gospel.

Wherever we find ourselves, and under whatever circumstances, that is where we must live, learn to love, grow in grace, and serve others.

The verse from Psalm 141, illustrated above, reinforces Elizabeth's "rant" of yesterday, one that calls me to account for certain chainsaw imagery. Sigh. "But I don't want to repent." Still, God calls me to. Another sigh. I will retire the graphic, though acknowledging that what I have said before reflects my hyperbolic emotions.

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

Thursday, April 02, 2009

More mead, please!

Margaret wondered, "What happens next?"

Well, we move the scene from the mouth of the Fiona River to a village far to the north on another river where a week-long bachelor party is in progress. I mean, a solemn male-only series of instruction and ritual preparing a young man to become a husband.

In my not-quite-fully egalitarian society, but mostly far more progressive than the society we live in here and now, there is a week-long bachelorette party going on at the same time. Oh, and the bride is the serious dominatrix in this relationship. Yep, I've got some 8th-century kink going on.

Two old friends, widowers and kin, travel far to be part of this.

A couple more chapters of all this tedious domestic bliss before I bring on the drums of war.

Too much mead. Time for bed.

Save your shekels, kittens, I want y'all to buy lots of copies of all ten volumes when this gets published.
--the BB

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A young man goes sailing

He travels to places he had never heard of, meeting merchants and royalty, fishermen and priestesses. Returning home he brings his mother a necklace of intricate copper work set with aquamarines that remind him of the sea. She realizes her boy is becoming a man. Even as she accepts his lovely gift she knows she is beginning to lose him.

A voyage described only cursorily lays groundwork for journeys and alliances that will play out in marriages, wars, and a process of redemption for the son of a traitor. A linchpin chapter linking books 1, 3, and 5 in the Chronicles.

Yes, I am in chapter 8. And still having fun.

And now, to bed.
--the BB

For Jane R

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wednesday in Lent 5

Here is one criterion for discernment. Does what you are hearing (or reading) sound like the voice of the Jesus you know from the Gospels? (Not to be confused with the Jesus portrayed by others, I hasten to clarify.)

If it sounds like Jesus, pay attention. If it does not, be cautious, very cautious.

Almighty God our heavenly Father, renew in us the gifts of your mercy; increase our faith, strengthen our hope, enlighten our understanding, widen our charity, and make us ready to serve you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Chichester Psalms - Leonard Bernstein

The 2nd movement of Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, titled "Adonai ro-i", is a combination of psalms 2 and 23. Countertenor Lawrence Zazzo with the choir of Clare College, Cambridge

--the BB

Tuesday in Lent 5 - updated with Collect of the Day

Psalm 126 has long been a favorite of mine. Just as I viewed Pachelbel's famous canon as "our song" when I was partnered, so I considered this "our psalm."

It is a psalm of unexpected blessing, of good things unlooked for, of grace upon grace. It is not saccharine, for tears precede the harvest of joy, but there is a simple testimony of goodness that never fails to put me in a state of calm assurance and abiding hope.

Psalm 126 In convertendo

1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, *
then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, *
and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations, *
"The LORD has done great things for them."

4 The LORD has done great things for us, *
and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, *
like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears *
will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, *
will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

--The Book of Common Prayer

Almighty God, through the incarnate Word you have caused us to be born anew of an imperishable and eternal seed: Look with compassion upon those who are being prepared for Holy Baptism, and grant that they may be built as living stones into a spiritual temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

--the BB

The borrowed thread

For this evening's heart thread I commend to your attention all the prayer requests at OCICBW.

Almighty God, we entrust all who are dear to us to thy never-failing care and love, for this life and the life to come, knowing that thou art doing for them better things than we can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I would also like us to remember those who are unemployed, whether sporadically, chronically, or freshly.

Heavenly Father, we remember before you those who suffer want and anxiety from lack of work. Guide the people of this land so to use our public and private wealth that all may find suitable and fulfilling employment, and receive just payment for their labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

--the BB

César Chávez. ¡Presente!

César Chávez
March 31, 1927 – April 23, 1993


El Presidente Barack Obama hizo hoy las siguientes declaraciones para conmemorar el aniversario del nacimiento de César Chávez:

"Hoy, en lo que hubiera sido su octogésimo segundo cumpleaños, es importante que todos los estadounidenses recuerden el legado de César Chávez como educador y defensor del medio ambiente, y como el líder de derechos civiles que tanto luchó por un pago y trato justos para los trabajadores de Estados Unidos.

César Chávez empezó como trabajador agrícola, y eventualmente fue uno de los fundadores del Sindicato de Trabajadores Agrícolas (United Farm Workers) y luchó por darle a cientos de miles de personas mejores condiciones laborales y una vida mejor. Esta causa continúa en el trabajo de un sinnúmero de otros que siguen luchando por un pago y trato justos para los trabajadores estadounidenses.

El grito y lema de César Chávez, “Sí Se Puede” no era solo un eslogan, sino una expresión de esperanza y una firme respuesta dirigida a quienes dudaban que los trabajadores agrícolas se pudieran organizar y ejercer presión sobre los dueños de las empresas. Con su valentía, César Chávez nos demostró que una sola voz puede cambiar nuestro país y que, juntos, podemos hacer que Estados Unidos sea una nación más fuerte, más justa y más próspera”.

--via e-mail from Alex Flores

You can find the English text at the White House web site.

--the BB

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday in Lent 5

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. (John 9:1-3)

Why are we so eager to find blame, to find sin, to find fault? Is it because we hunger desperately to make sense of things, to have explanations?

I cannot accept any faith that does not allow for chance and randomness, for purely gratuitous happenings. The world, as I observe it, does not allow for purpose in everything, much less predetermination. Shit happens. Not because of anyone's sin or fault. God may bring glory out of it. Or not. At least in the short term.

I do believe that ultimately all things fit into a tapestry that we cannot yet begin to imagine. One way of saying "We'll all understand it by and by," I suppose. Maybe we won't. But I do trust God with the outcome.

In the meantime, my task is to seek and serve God at every turn, whether things make sense to me yet or not.

Be gracious to your people, we entreat you, O Lord, that they, repenting day by day of the things that displease you, may be more and more filled with love of you and of your commandments; and, being supported by your grace in this life, may come to the full enjoyment of eternal life in your everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tempted and tried we're oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long
While there are others living about us
Never molested though in the wrong

Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
Cheer up my brother live in the sunshine
We'll understand it all by and by

When death has come and taken our loved ones
It leaves our home so lonely and drear
And then do we wonder why others prosper
Living so wicked year after year

When we see Jesus coming in glory
When he comes down from his home in the sky
Then we shall meet him in that bright mansion
We'll understand it all by and by

Yeah we'll understand it all by and by

--the BB

A night of mead and knucklebones at cousin Utdar's

I promise not to give endless updates but for now I am being exuberant and trust y'all to indulge me.

This evening I organized my notes for the current book AND finished chapter six. So far it is really all exposition, laying groundwork and reintroducing characters, providing more background for people readers will have met in volumes 1 and 2. Variations of charming domestic scenes with underlying hints of things to come. Also the first appearance of a gay couple in the chronicles. In the next chapter I get to shift toward the genesis of the major conflict to ensue. What fun.

Also an update on the MRI of my right knee: a torn meniscus. I am optimistic about this because it is something that can be dealt with and I look forward to getting strength back in my leg. In three weeks I see the orthopedist.

Older houses need lots of repairs and maintenance. This is not a morbid observation, simply a factual and humorous one. Mercifully I rarely have pain in the knee and I get around fine, but it is swollen and damaged and needs to be fixed. And will be, Deo volente.

--the BB



03/29/09 :
DoD Identifies Navy Casualties

Lt. Florence B. Choe, 35, of El Cajon, Calif.,

and Lt. j.g. Francis L. Toner IV, 26, of Narragansett, R.I., died March 27 when an Afghan National Army soldier opened fire on personnel assigned to Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan...

While the initial announcement indicated that Lt. Choe and Lt. Toner were killed by a member of the Afghan army, later reports revealed that the two sailors were killed by an insurgent dressed up as a member of the Afghan National Army.

In addition to her husband, Lt. Florence Choe is survived by her three-year-old daughter, Kristin.

Lt. Frankie Toner was scheduled to come home on leave on Wednesday. He is survived by his wife, Brooke, his father and stepmother, Frank and Sharon Toner, his mother, Becky Toner, and his siblings, Amanda, John, and Michael. He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Additional information and photos from IGTNT

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Not so much writing this weekend

Though I did get five chapters written last week. Tonight I wrote only a few sentences and then worked on background. I researched the family tree of claimants to the Lion Throne, cut and pasted information on some relationships and rituals, and am now ready to work on the next couple of chapters where themes overlap and the main plot of the first section begins to emerge.

It is really nice to do this and not feel guilty about not studying for Russian. Woohoo.

Went to a fund-raising dinner in Santa Fe last night and got home late, barely woke up in time to get to church today. Had the great pleasure of Sunday dinner with a young family. Their little girl will be baptized in three weeks. The vicar will baptize but I get to preach that day.

The winds have been fierce of late and my allergies have kicked in. I would really like to stay in bed until the windy season is over, but that would not be very productive or lucrative.

Plans were also begun on the menu for Easter dinner.
--the BB

A little puzzle for your enjoyment

DSCN1184 - online jigsaw puzzle - 35 pieces

Detail of the Katherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, Russia
Click on the image to play the puzzle.


--the BB

Oops, our bad. - updated

The Washington Post has a little update on the torture story for us, written by Peter Finn and Joby Warrick:
When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they were convinced that they had in their custody an al-Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of him.

The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads.

In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida -- chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates -- was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.

Moreover, within weeks of his capture, U.S. officials had gained evidence that made clear they had misjudged Abu Zubaida. President George W. Bush had publicly described him as "al-Qaeda's chief of operations," and other top officials called him a "trusted associate" of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and a major figure in the planning of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. None of that was accurate, the new evidence showed.
[Emphasis mine]

Imagine that.

"Detainee's Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots" is the actual headline of the Washington Post article. The subheader is: "Waterboarding, Rough Interrogation of Abu Zubaida Produced False Leads, Officials Say"

Those motherfuckers watched way too much Jack Bauer on "24."

Digby, who tipped me to the WaPo story, writes:
Dick Cheney is going to hell. But we knew that. And so are Bush and Rice and all the rest who insisted on torturing Abu Zubaida, a brain damaged man who was so desperate that he made up fantastical terrorist plots just to make the torture stop. They not only committed a war crime, they made us all less safe by sending investigators all over the world on wild goose chases.

This story was always pooh-poohed by administration officials, who insisted that the information this man with serious memory problems gave under torture was vital in stopping many terrorist attacks. But they lied.

Forget hell. International courts and conviction for war crimes!

There are lots of other articles related to this today. bmaz concludes one at Emptywheel, in which motive for destroying the torture tapes is discussed, thus:
Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell, Tenet and Ashcroft. Means, motive and opportunity. Who could have imagined?

This certainly explains why it was that top White House lawyers including Gonzales, Addington, Bellinger and Miers, with "vigorous sentiment", assisted the CIA in the decision and process to destroy the torture tapes of abu-Zubaydah and others. There are definable offenses in their conduct: obstruction of justice, contempt of court, conspiracy, false statement/perjury, mishandling of classified material, and willful destruction of material evidence in federal investigations.

There exist patently clear crimes; where is the criminal justice system? We should not have to be humiliated by having to rely on other first world countries such as Spain, or international communities such as the Red Cross, to show us functioning justice and the rule of law.

I don't want the Obama Administration to be partisan and spiteful, I want them to do their damn job. Is that too much to ask?
[Emphasis mine]

Bmaz argues that if the tapes showed that torture works, they most certainly would have preserved them. But if the tapes show that it was pointless, then crimes have been committed to no purpose, Rather damning.

--the BB

Sunday in Lent 5

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. (Mark 8:35)

We can easily destroy ourselves trying to cling to our delusions about who we are and what our role in society is. We can find ourselves in letting go.

Fr. Brian had a lot to say about this in this morning's sermon at the mission.

I see it illustrated again and again - in individual lives, in congregations, in corporations, in communities. The more desperate we are to hang on to our fantasy or hold on to what is past, the more we lose any hope of authenticity and new life.

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

--the BB