William (aka Bill the Godfather)

William (aka Bill the Godfather)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wisconsin

It’s not the end. But it’s the beginning of the end. Hillary is running out of time and opportunities to recover from an ever increasing deficit. She not only needs to win Texas and Ohio, she needs to win them by double digits. I don’t see it happening. The nomination is Obama’s to loose right now. Barring a major blunder I think he will end the primary season with enough of a lead that the so called super delegates will feel obliged to put him over the top at the convention. That said I will concede to taking a very deep breath before posting this prediction. There is more than one political graveyard populated by those who underestimated the Clintons.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Serbia

As we approach the Great Fast, I expect my posting to be less frequent. I will of course continue to monitor comments and check email. In the meantime let us all pray for the faithful in Europe, especially Serbian Kosovo which has been ceded by the EU and NATO to the Saracens. It has been a long time since I have been so appalled by the actions of my own government. Why they would support the creation of a Muslim country with known ties to Iran and various radical Islamic groups in the heart of Europe is beyond me.

The Serbs would be well justified in expressing their resentment at those entities which have aided the dismembering of their country. Sharply reducing their diplomatic representations with the EU and the United States (already done) is a good first step. They could also make it clear that they consider NATO to be an unfriendly power and one that is a threat to their sovereignty by signing a mutual defense treaty with Russia. If they really want to tick the US off they could invite the Russians to build an air force base somewhere in Serbia.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Quote of the day...

"I'm not comparing McCain to Hitler. Hitler had a coherent tax policy."
-Ann Coulter in remarks to the CPAC Convention earlier today.

See my previous post.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Republican Naderites

John McCain effectively sealed the GOP nomination for the presidency of the United States yesterday with the withdrawal of Gov. Romney. This was swiftly followed by the predictable howls of rage from the far right wing of the Republican Party. I for one am delighted. I have long been a bit of a fan of Senator McCain even though I do disagree with him from time to time. I find a man who is willing to put principal over party loyalty and patriotism over political expediency both refreshing and sadly rare among those who serve in Sodom on the Potomac. That’s not the only reason I am delighted though.

For some years I have been increasingly concerned with the growing influence of the radical right wing of the party. They are what I have hitherto referred to as the 100%ers. As in you're 100% with us or 100% against us. They are characterized by people like radio talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and by those who hang out on right wing political websites like Free Republic. One can also include in this group various elements of the Protestant Evangelical movement like Dr. James Dobson and the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. Their influence has I think been by and large unhealthy. It has greatly contributed to the sense of politics no longer being about public service and more about a perpetual state of war with power being the ultimate goal, along with the annihilation of the “enemy.” “Enemy” being more often Democrats and liberals than Islamic Jihadists.

Their take no prisoners approach to politics has been profoundly harmful to the American ideal of liberal (in the classical sense of the term) democracy. Gone are the days when a Jefferson could write “I do not agree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.” Now we live in an age where, at least on Free Republic, expressing a politically incorrect thought will get you labeled as a traitor and produce calls for your execution. In fairness the Democrats have their own extremists on the political left. And their own web sites that they tend to gravitate towards. And the harm they have done is also visible with their vicious attacks on the character of anyone slightly to the right of Gus Hall. Also like our own 100%ers they have in the past done much injury to their own party by maintaining a degree of influence over it that is vastly disproportionate to their numbers.

But tonight I am celebrating. For the first time in a while I entertain real hope that the strangle hold the far right has exercised over the GOP may be about to be severely weakened. A significant number of the right wing are so furious that McCain is going to be the GOP nominee that they are threatening to sit the election out or support a third party candidate. The general theory behind this is that after the GOP gets its clock cleaned in November everyone will remember who is really calling the shots and will be appropriately deferential to the Free Republic types in future elections. However I think they have gravely miscalculated.

First if McCain does loose in November (a very real possibility) there is likely going to be a hunt for those responsible. My guess is that there will be a great deal of finger pointing (there always is after a lost election, just ask the Democrats). And the far right and Evangelical Protestant mafia are in the process of painting a giant bull’s eye on themselves. Again look at what happened in 2000 and again in 2004. Large numbers of the left wing of the Democratic Party who were mightily displeased with the “moderate” and “centrist” policies of the Clinton Administration defected and backed Ralph Nader. In 2000 this undoubtedly cost Al Gore the election. In ’04 a strong argument could be made that it also severely hurt John Kerry bid for election which was lost by a whisker. The recriminations were swift and furious against the far left, who basically threw a temper tantrum and decided they would teach their fellow Democrats a lesson by handing the country to George W Bush for what turned out to be eight years.

There are of course a couple of important differences between Democrats and Republicans though. One of them being that Democrats tend to be somwhat forgiving of disloyalty to the party. Republicans by and large are not (just ask John McCain). My guess is that rather than the vast majority of mainline conservatives crawling back to the far right and begging them to come home again after a McCain defeat that they will anathematize the “traitors.” The GOP party establishment will waste no time in planting the blame directly on the shoulders of those who are even as I type doing all in their power to undermine McCain’s chances of election in November. The vast majority of the party will never forgive them for putting the Clintons back in the White House. Nor should they.

But there is another possible way that the GOP’s Naderites could be in the process of hanging themselves. What if McCain wins?

OK. Have you stopped laughing yet? Good.

Because it’s not at all certain that he will loose. I will be the first to admit that it’s not looking good this year in terms of the temperament of the country. Most Americans (including yours truly) have had enough of G. W. Bush and am more than ready to see the backside of him. The war is unpopular, the economy appears to be going south, and Lyndon Johnson has a stronger claim to being a fiscal conservative than this president. These are all elements which do not give rise to any sanguine sentiments for the future. But there are some favorable signs that many are missing.

The Democrats have never met an opportunity that they could not come up with a way to blow. And they may be in the process of doing just that. It’s early February and John McCain is now clearly the nominee presumptive of the GOP. But it will be April at the earliest before the Democrats have a clue who their nominee will be. Right now it’s locked in a dead heat between Obama and Clinton. Both camps are digging deep for money, money that will not be available for the general election in November. And the longer this two way race goes on the more bitter it is likely to get. It is not at all beyond the realm of possibility that the Democrats may be on their way to a brokered convention with fully 40% of their delegates being so called super delegates. That is essentially party big shots and members of Congress etc. And it may fall on them to hand the nomination to one or the other. I am hard pressed to think of a faster way to alienate the followers of the loosing candidate.

But I can think of one way. Michigan and Florida both have been disqualified and their delegates barred because they violated party rules and scheduled early primaries. Hillary Clinton broke (at least in spirit) the pledge signed by all the candidates not to participate in those primaries. She won them both and is now demanding that their delegates be seated at the convention. That would give her an extra 300+ delegates and a credible edge over Obama. Maybe even enough of an edge to convince the super delegates to hand her the nomination. The resulting row could make the one in the GOP look like a disagreement over whether to have Italian or Chinese take out for dinner.

And while the Democrats are slugging it out McCain will be raising money and spreading his message. It needs to be remembered that McCain’s various and well publicized fights with the President and other members of his own party may give him some level of immunity from the hostility that many voters have felt towards the way the Republicans have been running things for eight years. He has always been very popular with moderates and independents and he may also draw off some conservative Democrats, especially if Hillary Clinton is the nominee. It might be enough to counterbalance those extreme conservatives who are busy taking “the pledge” over at Free Republic and elsewhere (“I will under no circumstances vote for John McCain.”).

So what do these people think will be their level of influence in the administration of a man who they are doing their level best to bury, should he actually win? Let's just say that they should forget sitting out the election. They had better actually go out and vote for Hillary or Obama. If McCain wins the only way Rush and Dr. Dobson will see the inside of the White House for the next four to eight years is going to be if they stand in line with the tourists.

Yes, I am cautiously optimistic that the long reign of the radical right over the GOP may be finally about to be curbed. Let’s just hope that the price for breaking their malicious lock on power is not eight more years of the Clintons renting out the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House. And I don’t even want to think about the Supreme Court justices they will nominate.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Shrove (Fat) Tuesday

Tuesday is primary election day for probably more than half of all Americans. In New York it is also the day they will throw a ticker tape parade for their football champions. But for many millions of Roman Catholics and high church Protestants it marks the last day before the beginning of Lent on the calendar of the Western Church.

It is the earliest date for Lent (and Easter) for Western Christians in well over a century. (We Orthodox won't be starting Great Lent for another month.) In consideration of the occasion I thought I would post a not too often used canon of supplication (from the Greek tradition) to the Most Holy Mother of God for the confession of a sinner. Perhaps it will be a source of spiritual edification for some of my Western readers as you prepare for your Lenten confessions. Wishing all of you a blessed fast...

CANON OF SUPPLICATION

TO THE

MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD

AT THE CONFESSION OF A SINNER

How may I lament my sordid life, Sovereign Lady, and the multitudes of my numberless evil deeds? What may I say to you, Pure Virgin? I am at a loss and I quail. But help me.

From where shall I, wretch that I am, begin to tell my wicked deeds and my dreadful offences? Also what will then become of me? But, Sovereign Lady, before the end take pity on me also.

I have trodden every road of sins, O Immaculate, and have in no way found the path of salvation. But I run to you, loving Lady: Do not despise me as I repent from my soul.

I think continually on the hour of death, O All-pure, and the fearful tribunal, but by habit I am terribly a prey of evils. But help me.

The corrupter of what is good now seeing me naked, leaderless and far from God of godly virtues, is eager to swallow me down. Sovereign Lady, rescue me.

Ode 3. None is holy as you.

I have shamefully befouled my soul, Sovereign Lady, Mother of God, through numberless offences, wretch that I am. And, wholly in the grip of despair, as I am, where may I now go?

Alas, I have defaced that which is according to God’s image by my proud disposition, wretch that I am! And where now may I go? But hasten, O Virgin help me.

There is altogether none born in this life among mortals who has done the lawless deeds of dire licentiousness as I, loving Lady; for I have befouled divine Baptism.

I have reached the limit of evils, All-holy Virgin; but speedily help me; for heaven and earth bitterly cry out against my numberless outrageous acts.

Ode 4. Christ my power.

Ranks of Angels and the armies of heaven, the Powers of your Son tremble at your might, Pure Lady; while I, though despaired of, am in the grip of foolhardiness.

The whole earth is amazed and trembles as it watches one who dreadfully and wickedly does outrageous deeds.

I have wickedly befouled the temple of the body, and the Temple of Lord, which mortals enter trembling, I the prodigal, alas, enter without shame.

Do not make me, Sovereign Lady, do not make me a stranger, who have been estranged from the shelter of your Son and am utterly unworthy. But wash me clean also from the stain of my offences.

Ode 5. By your divine light, O Good One.

Adam transgressed one commandment of your Son, O Virgin, and suffered exile. But how may I lament the abyss of my offences, I, rebel and transgressor against God?

Cain was revealed of old as a destroyer and murderer of his brother before he had been cursed by God. But what then shall I do who have dared all? For I have slain my soul, and now I am not ashamed.

I have rivalled dread Esau, I have defiled soul and body by gluttony and pleasure, befouling my life with drunkenness and lechery. Who would not weep at me, wretch that I am.

By your divine light, O Good One, heal the passions of the soul, which the Corrupter has sown in me. Deliver me from his bitter captivity. For he laughs as he sees me leaderless.

Ode 6. Watching life’s sea.

My life is dissolute, my soul filthy and my life utterly wretched, while I have defiled my whole body by wicked deeds. Therefore hasten, O Virgin and help me.

The end is upon me and I cannot endure, loving Lady. My conscience reproves me, for it sets before me my wicked deeds and the disorder of my life; and I quake with fear at the tribunal of your Son, pure Virgin.

Truly, O all-pure, the fearful and unquenchable river of fire and the unsleeping worm await the burning fever of my flesh. But deliver me from them by your prayers.

I am in the grip of terror and I quail before the assaults of the foe, loving Lady; for before the end the Corrupter grinds his teeth at me, seizing me as a prisoner stripped bare of virtues.

Ode 7. An Angel made the furnace.

The Crafty One has heated the flame of my passions sevenfold and with adulteries of the heart has slain me utterly. But with the streams of my tears water me, Mother of God, and do not reject me.

Sovereign Lady, do not let me be drowned in the mire of my offences; for the most evil foe, seeing me in despair, loving Lady, laughs at me. But with your mighty hand raise me up again.

My wretched and unfeeling soul, fearful is the judgement and terrifying and unending the punishment; but none the less fall down now before the Mother of your Judge and God, and why did you despair of yourself?

All my hope, Sovereign Lady, I the prodigal have placed in you. Do not turn your face away from me; do not shut your compassionate heart against me, Mother of God, but help me.

Wretch that I am, I have become dark by the multitude of my numberless evils, and changed for the worse in the eye and the mind of my soul. Bring me swiftly therefore with the beams of your light to the sweetness of dispassion.

Ode 8. From the flame you made dew well up.

Virgin Mother, who gave birth to God, one of the Trinity, and carried him in your arms, quench the fiercely flaming furnace of the passions and wash my soul with streams of tears.

I tremble at death’s coming, O all-pure, and do not wholly fear that judgement; while I do not wholly cease from doing evils. Take pity and save me by your prayers before the end.

Grant me never silent groans and a fount of tears, Sovereign Lady, that I may wash away my many faults and incurable wounds, so that I may reach eternal life.

I have declared to you the multitudes of my evils, for no one else in the world has angered God, your Son and Lord, as I, Sovereign Lady. Reconcile me to him speedily by your prayers.

Master, compassionate by nature, do not stand me with the condemned at the hour of judgement, but at the prayers of your Mother, have mercy and place me with the sheep at your right hand.

Ode 9. It is impossible for humans to see God.

See, I approach you, O all-pure, with great fear and love, for I, your servant, know the strength of your fervent prayer. For the supplication of a Mother, O all-blessed, has great strength with her Son. For he is moved by compassion.

Take with you the Choirs of Archangels and the multitude of the hosts on high, the Forerunner, the companies of Apostles, the Prophets, Martyrs and Ascetics, and Martyr Bishops, and make intercession for me, pure Virgin, to God.

May I find your help, pure Virgin, both now and at the moment when my spirit departs. Speedily rescue me from the demons and deliver me from their tyranny, O all-immaculate, and do not let me, loving Lady, be handed over to them.

I await a compassionate Judge who loves mankind, your Son, pure Virgin. Do not disdain me, but make him merciful to me, to stand me then at the right hand of his most pure tribunal, O all-praised; for in you have I hoped.

Principalities, Archangels, Dominions and Seraphim, Powers, Authorities and Angels, Thrones with the many-eyed Cherubim as they and we now honour your Offspring, Virgin Mother, we all devoutly glorify you.

Then:

It is truly right to called you blessed, who gave birth to God, ever blessed and most pure and Mother of our God. Greater in honour than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption you gave birth to God the Word; truly the Mother of God we magnify you.

And at once the Gospel according to Mark [11:22-26]

The Lord said: Have faith in God, for Amen I say to you, if anyone tells this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea’, and does not doubt in their heart, but believes that it will happen, it will be done for them. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you are receiving it, and it will be yours. Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your offences. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive you your offences.

Then:

Have mercy on us, O God, according to your great mercy, we pray you, hear and have mercy.

Also we pray for mercy, life, peace, health, salvation, visitation, pardon and forgiveness for the servant of God N.

And that he/she may be pardoned every offence, both voluntary and involuntary.

For you, O God, are merciful and love mankind, and to you we give glory, to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages.

Amen.

And this Prayer of our venerable Father John of Damascus.

Let us pray to the Lord.

Master, Lord Jesus Christ our God, who alone have authority to forgive sins, as you are good and love humankind, overlook all the offences of your servant N., both in knowledge and in ignorance, voluntary and involuntary, in deed and word and by thought, and count him/her worthy to partake of your divine, holy, immaculate and immortal Mysteries; not for burdensome misery and punishment and increase of sins, but for sanctification, illumination, purification, support, a pledge of eternal life and your heavenly Kingdom; for a wall and help and a warding off of every foe, for the wiping away his/her offences and for the glory of your might. At the prayers of our most holy Lady, Mother of God, of the honoured, heavenly, spiritual, immaterial, bodiless Powers and of all the Saints, who have been well-pleasing to you from every age.

Amen.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

About that football game...

It got pretty crazy in Times Square as the Giants won.

My hat is off to the New York Giants. I am of course not a football fan and until yesterday had watched maybe one game from start to finish in the last two years. Perusing the New York newspapers online you would think this is the biggest event likely to precede the Second Coming. But I do have to admit it was an exciting game and probably will be remembered as one of the best in Super Bowl history. Maybe this is an omen for a good year for New York sports in general.

Baseball season is just around the corner... :-)

John McCain & the Conservatives

This from Bill Kristol...

This is an important moment for the conservative movement. Not because conservatives have some sort of obligation to fall in behind John McCain. They don’t. Those conservatives who can’t abide McCain are free to rally around Mitt Romney. And if McCain does prevail for the nomination, conservatives are free to sit out the election.

But I’d say this to them: When the primaries are over, if McCain has won the day, don’t sulk and don’t sit it out. Don’t pretend there’s no difference between a candidate who’s committed to winning in Iraq and a Democratic nominee who embraces defeat. Don’t tell us that it doesn’t matter if the next president voted to confirm John Roberts and Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court, or opposed them. Don’t close your eyes to the difference between pro-life and pro-choice, or between resistance to big government and the embrace of it.

... Some conservatives can close their eyes to all this. They can choose to stand aside from history while having a temper tantrum. But they should consider that the American people might then choose not to invite them back into a position of responsibility for quite a while to come.
Read the rest here

Some Super Predictions...

Obama and Clinton will come really close to a draw on Super Tuesday. I anticipate an already very close race will get tighter. This one could be a nail biter. On the Republican side McCain will not sweep the primaries but he will be the clear winner at the end of the night. There are not enough delegates at stake to lock up the nomination but when the dust settles I think it will be the end for Huckabee and quite possibly Romney as well. Most likely on Wednesday morning the Republicans will know who their nominee for President is going to be. The Democrats will have a ways to go. Part of the reason for this is that a lot of the GOP primaries are winner take all especially in some of the bigger states like New York. The reverse is generally true in the other party. Huckabee will ensure that the right wing of the GOP, which cordially detests McCain, will split their vote and give him the victory in a lot of states.

Whats that? There is a football game in an hour and a half? That's nice. There are fifty-six days until baseball season. GO METS!!!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Rod Dreher on L' Affair OCA

Rod Dreher of The Crunchy Con blog (a recent convert to Orthodoxy) has posted an interesting piece on the current troubles in the OCA.
I've not made this scandal an issue on this blog because I learned the hard way how easy it is for me to get caught up in this kind of controversy, to my own great spiritual detriment. It's not that I'm holding the OCA to a different standard than the Roman Catholic Church, my former communion, which I devoted an immense amount of time and energy criticizing for its corruption regarding the sex abuse scandal. It's rather that I know that I have to exercise spiritual self-discipline, knowing my own weaknesses. I must say, though, how impressed I am with the laity and some of the clergy of the OCA, who are in open revolt against the hierarchy. Read, for example, this recent thread on OCANews. People aren't willing to sit silently and let the bishops destroy the Church by their dithering, their weakness and inaction (to say nothing of the kind of corruption that led the Diocese of Alaska recently to ordain to minor clerical orders a convicted child molester; did these people learn nothing from the public agony of the Catholic Church in recent years?!). It is interesting, and heartening to me, to see that people aren't demanding changes in church doctrine, or anything like that. They only want the bishops to act like sober Christian men, and reform the church's government.
Read the entire post here. (Hat tip to the Young Fogey)

I am not sure I agree with everything he wrote but it's a pretty reasonable essay and striking for its lack of polemics. The scandal has been the occasional topic of discussion here at A/O but I have deliberately avoided making it a major feature. There are a couple of reasons. First I totally agree with Rod that it is easy to allow this sort of thing to become a distraction. I have enough issues on my spiritual plate that I don't feel a need to add any more thank you very much. The second reason is that while I concur that the laity should not ignore impropriety among our hierarchs that we need to temper our response according to the circumstances.

The current scandal involves money and not something really serious like what the Roman Catholics or the Episcopalians have had to deal with. The latter being rampant heresy and in some cases just plain apostasy and the former being a massive cover up and facilitation of child molesters. (I still think there are some fairly senior Roman Catholic bishops who are fortunate they are not in prison. But thats a topic for another day.) And while I don't dismiss embezzlement or misappropriation of money as unimportant, it is not a crime which rises to quite the same level as the other issues just mentioned.

We all need to remember our proper place in things. When the Faith is threatened, no one including laymen may remain silent. Similarly if a crime is being committed, even by a bishop, that is likely to cause serious harm to other people then silence and inaction are not a morally permissible response. But outside of these things I believe it is dangerous spiritually to try and become the policeman of the Church. That is not my place. The responsibility for judging others is a very heavy one that I rather doubt a spiritually mature person seeks out.

Yes, I think it is simply impossible not to conclude that some of our bishops in the OCA have let us down rather badly. But I am not on any commissions and I am not myself a bishop. The responsibility for judging most of the persons involved in this matter does not lie with me (for which I thank God). While I am not going to ignore this matter, neither am I going to allow myself to be consumed by something which does not affect my faith.

Striking a reasonable balance between apathy and becoming the self appointed police of the OCA is I think what we should be striving for. The Church is no stranger to scandal. There is an old saying I have heard from more than one cynical cradle Orthodox to the effect that Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops. We need to focus on the really important things in our lives and not get distracted (at least excessively) by those things for which we are not responsible and over which our influence is at best limited.

That said I am looking forward to the All American Council in Pittsburgh where I suspect the bishops are going to get an earful from the faithful who are quite justifiably unhappy with their stewardship.