Emmylou Harris & The Hot Band Life in Budapest 1988
'Tis the night before Christmas and the season of goodwill. The mood is forgiving. Our faces warm with mulled wine, our tummies full, we're meant to slump in the armchair, look back on the year just gone and count our blessings - woozily agreeing to put our troubles behind us.
As in families, so in the realm of public and international affairs. And this December that feels especially true. The "war on terror" that dominated much of the decade seems to be heading towards a kind of conclusion. George Bush will leave office in a matter of weeks and British troops will leave Iraq a few months later. The first, defining phase of the conflict that began on 9/11 - the war of Bush, Tony Blair and Osama bin Laden - is about to slip from the present to the past tense. Bush and Blair will be gone, with only Bin Laden still in post (my em). The urge to move on is palpable.
Yes, the new year would get off to a more soothing start if we could all agree to draw a line and move on. But it would be wrong. First, because we cannot hope to avoid repeating the errors of the last eight years unless they are subject to a full accounting. (It is for that reason Britain needs its own full, unconstrained inquiry into the Iraq war.) Second, because a crucial principle, one that goes to the very heart of the American creed, is at stake. And third, because this is not solely about the judgment of history. It may be about the judgment of the courts - specifically those charged with punishing war crimes.
This is why there must be a reckoning. Bush will do all he can to avoid it: and it is wholly possible that one of his last acts as president will be to cover himself, his vice-president and all his henchmen with a blanket pardon. Even if that does not happen, Barack Obama is unlikely to want to spend precious capital pursuing his predecessor for war crimes.
But other prosecutors elsewhere in the world should weigh their responsibilities. In the end, it was a lone Spanish magistrate, not a Chilean court, who ensured the arrest of Augusto Pinochet. A pleasing, if uncharitable, thought this Christmas, is that Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush will hesitate before making plans to travel abroad in 2009. Or indeed at any time - ever again.
Celtic Woman, starring the angelically lovely Chloe Agnew, performs "O Holy Night," from the Celtic Woman concert at Slane Castle, in Ireland.
This song was never broadcast on television, or released in the DVD of the concert.
CHICAGO, IL (AP)- Residents in Chicago took their frustrations out on a cardboard cutout of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich Monday.
A radio station came up with the idea of throwing a shoe at the makeshift governor as a fundraiser for a local charity.
Participants got three throws for a dollar.
For those of you who aren’t clear, Hawaii is one of our 50 states.
The gay community was hit harshly with realities over the last few weeks as a cabinet and senior White House staff was chosen in a Democratic administration that did not include a gay or lesbian appointee* and Pastor Rick Warren was chosen to give the Invocation on Inauguration Day.
(*This takes nothing away from open lesbian Nancy Sutly, new chief of the White House Council on Environmental Quality but that post is outside the power center of the White House and very issue specific.)
So despite my view that Inauguration day is a celebration that shouldn't be marred by the messy process of political compromise, I accept that for President-elect Obama, Inauguration Day is his first day of governing. He made a choice I disagree with and I won't soon forget the smugness of Warren's response. But, Barack Obama will own this inauguration, not Rick Warren. And I still believe in Barack Obama.
I still believe that he will lead our country to greater prosperity; health care for all; an energy policy that promotes a clean environment and a new economy. And I still believe that President Obama will work to enact public policy for to improve the lives of LGBT Americans. There will be missteps and compromises along the way. And those that simply don't understand what it means to be different in this world will have far more influence than I'd like in the debate. But the messy process of governing will also bring about progress in an Obama administration that will propel equality significantly forward.
It's just plain sad what the gay and lesbian movement has come to. November 4 was so extraordinary, so magical. The whole world seemed to come together. Except for gays and lesbians in California. We were supposed to feel crushed over Proposition 8. And now the whole scenario is gearing up to repeat itself on January 20: the whole world will celebrate the inauguration of the first black American president and the end of the George Bush insanity - the whole world except gays and lesbians who will be protesting Rick Warren's presence at the inaugural.
How is it that queers became the odd ones out at such a momentous turning point in history? By pushing an agenda of stupid issues like gay marriage.
[...] We have now come to the point that many unthinkingly equate opposition to gay marriage with homophobia.
Rick Warren is now the flash point, the one all our political allies, even Barack Obama, are supposed to denounce because he doesn't pass gay marriage the litmus test.
[...] The quote that got all the attention was when Warren said gay marriage would be on a par with marriage for incest, pedophilia and polygamy. And yes, I think that's off-base. Not up there are the scale of the whole God-sent-his-only-Son-to-die-on-a-cross bit, but weird nonetheless. But let's look the rest of the interview, the parts that didn't get as much attention as that one line:
Q: Which do you think is a greater threat to the American family - divorce or gay marriage? A: [laughs] That's a no brainer. Divorce. There's no doubt about it.
Q: So why do we hear so much more - especially from religious conservatives - about gay marriage than about divorce?
A: Oh we always love to talk about other sins more than ours. Why do we hear more about drug use than about being overweight? [Note: Warren is quite overweight.]
Just a reminder to all those gays and lesbians who never look beyond their cultural ghetto: we've got some serious problems going on in the world today that need to be addressed now. Global warming in particular can't wait. For thirty years Evangelical Christians have been the anchor that has pulled this country to the right, giving us first Reaganism and then Bushism. Wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. And a decade of world-threatening climate change denialism.
At a minimum, 80 million Americans identify as evangelicals, and up to double that depending on how you define evangelical. They are the largest single religious group in the country, and the fastest growing. They are not going away. Somehow, some way, queers are going to have to share this country with all these people.
I am delighted that there is a new generation of evangelicals that thinks the biggest issue isn't homosexuality but global climate change, AIDS, and poverty. And who "don't believe we should have unequal rights depending on particular lifestyles." I am so ready to make common cause with them. I couldn't care less about what they think of gay marriage.
Many areas of Afghanistan are boulder-strewn. In one place on the J-bad Highway where the passes open up into a mountain-bordered plain, it actually looked like a boulder farm.
Thousands of large round boulders appeared as if they'd been purposely arranged in rows. I chuckled to myself from the turret of the humvee as we rolled along. We would encounter these fields in many areas of the country, and some were just mind-boggling. Like a carton of bb's scattered on a living room carpet, the thousands of boulders had been there for eons.
SGT Burt Schtickum, (who is still recovering from a torn aorta and resultant valve replacement that he narrowly but miraculously survived), decided that the fields of large round rocks were, in fact, Taliban eggs. Taliban, SGT Schtickum reasoned, were hatched from these eggs-cleverly-disguised-as-rocks in much the same way that killdeer hatch from eggs that look like pebbles.
The eggs, he maintains, have lain dormant for generations, Godzilla-like; and are activated to spawn by contact with diesel exhaust. Fiendish. As we patrolled, this sage of Afghan naturalism explained, we stirred our own foes with the exhaust plumes belched from our humvees.
It's hard to argue with the sheer Darwinian logic SGT Schtickum applied to explaining the constant supply of Taliban we were presented with.
The video below is from one of our drives through the fields of Taliban eggs. We were on a back road in Kapisa Province when we were suddenly surrounded by scads of them. As you can tell from the quantity of unspawned Taliban, we're in deep over there.
When Obama invited Rick Warren to speak at the inauguration, he set off a major discussion about about what this says to the LGBT community, the Liberal (and Religious) Left, and the Religious Right. What's clear is that this particular decision has some hidden ramifications that will not be fully manifest for a very long time ...
Michelle Goldberg goes on to note that even when asked, Rick Warren is unable to distinguish his differences with James Dobson except as a matter of style. Furthermore, Warren believes that there is a strict hierarchy of authority which includes the fundamental correctness of the patriarchy. And he even admits to believing Jews are going to hell. If he thinks Jews are going to hell, what do you think he believes will happen with those Muslim allies he's now cultivating?
It seems that Obama and his team made this particular decision without truly understanding the overall consequences.
Who should he have used, Rev Wright?
Anybody but a man who believes political assassinations should be SOP in our foreign policy (a 'man of god' no less - Jesus weeps). Maybe a guy who wasn't a part of the bunch who now basically form the core of the Republican party? Maybe a woman whose church embraces gay couples in their congregation?
In fact, I have a friend who's a Presbyterian pastor in Detroit. His congregation can boast quite a few gay couples among the membership.
If Barry really has to have a religious man at the inauguration, I'll give him Pastor Pete's number. I'm certain he'd be honored and quite willing.