William (aka Bill the Godfather)

William (aka Bill the Godfather)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Obama gets a pass...

Big surprise here (that someone in the press is actually noting this).

The Obama infatuation is a great unreported story of our time. Has any recent president basked in so much favorable media coverage? Well, maybe John Kennedy for a moment, but no president since. On the whole, this is not healthy for America.

Our political system works best when a president faces checks on his power. But the main checks on Obama are modest. They come from congressional Democrats, who largely share his goals if not always his means. The leaderless and confused Republicans don't provide effective opposition. And the press -- on domestic, if not foreign, policy -- has so far largely abdicated its role as skeptical observer.

Obama has inspired a collective fawning. What started in the campaign (the chief victim was Hillary Clinton, not John McCain) has continued, as a study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism shows. It concludes: "President Barack Obama has enjoyed substantially more positive media coverage than either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush during their first months in the White House."

Read the rest here.

The (British) Supreme Court has ruled...

Pringles are a potato chip.

You just can't make stuff like this up. No one would believe it.

A day of violence

The well known and infamous abortionist George Tiller was shot dead today while serving as an usher at his church. Within hours of the shooting police reportedly arrested a suspect. Details are being withheld as this is still early in a homicide investigation.

Mr. Tiller (I refuse to refer to him as a doctor) was one of only a handful of abortionists in the country who would perform late term abortions. For those unfamiliar with that term, it refers to the killing of the child in the later stages of the pregnancy (even up to the final days) in a manner too cruel and horrific for this blog to describe. Late term abortions are illegal in many states and in almost all civilized countries. Even in Europe (!) where the right to kill one's child has been enshrined as a "human right," late term abortions are not allowed.

For the record I unreservedly condemn this crime. It is a yet another link in a vicious cycle of violence, which must at some point be broken. Vigilante justice weakens the foundation of respect for the rule of law and is unacceptable. Likewise I remain an opponent of capital punishment.

But please spare me from the sobs of the pro-death cult which is so entrenched in our country even to the point of holding the active support of our country's president. Tiller is no martyr. He was a mass murderer in his own right with the blood of God only knows how many innocents on his hands.

I feel true sadness for his family and pray that in some way they may find comfort during this time. As for Mr. Tiller; I commend his soul to the mercy of God. But do not ask me to weep for the man. I think I see this in a similar light to a well known criminal assassin being rubbed out by a rival. It's not right. But evil men tend to come to an evil end.

-Matthew 26:52

NOTE: I will not permit any comments endorsing this crime. Those holding such opinions are invited to post in some other corner of the blogosphere.

Memory Eternal: Millvina Dean

Ms. Millvina Dean has reposed at the age of 97. She is generally believed to have been the last living survivor of the Titanic disaster. Ms. Dean was a baby at the time and had no memory of the shipwreck that killed 1500 people including her father.

May her memory and that of all those who perished at sea that night be eternal.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ostrov (Part 1 of 12)

Someone uploaded the entire movie to youtube. The film is in Russian with English subtitles. The other parts are linked at the end of each segment. I can not recommend this movie too strongly.

More on California's fiscal nightmare...

A broad array of Californians would be touched in fundamental ways by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest proposal to balance the state budget: senior citizens who attend day-care centers, voters seeking absentee ballots, children who ride the bus to school, parents seeking enforcement of custody orders.

These services could go by the wayside in a plan the governor unveiled Friday to slice $2.8 billion more from state spending. The announcement was the closing act of a two-week drama during which Schwarzenegger proposed dismantling many of government's functions.

His new proposal would expand on cuts he put forward in earlier plans to close $21 billion of the budget shortfall as he and lawmakers begin negotiations to keep the state from running out of money by the end of July. That deficit projection has since swollen to more than $24 billion.

Schools would be hit by $680 million in new cuts to classrooms and by $315 million in cuts for transportation. The state's social safety net would lose $1 billion more in funding for the poor, disabled and aged. Cities and counties would lose an additional $242 million in transportation funding.

"These are no longer cuts," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a nonprofit advocacy group. "These are amputations, and the question is, which limb are we cutting off today?"

Several of the governor's proposals, including cuts to schools, would be contingent on whether the state's tax revenues dip as deeply as projected. All would require legislative approval.

It is unclear what tone the budget negotiations will take. The governor and legislators have said they understand the gravity of the situation and the need to act quickly, and they have expressed optimism that they can do so. But in recent years, despite similar declarations, state leaders have engaged in weeks -- even months -- of acrimonious fights over less serious problems than they face now.

Schwarzenegger would save $100 million by suspending laws requiring the state to pay for a variety of local government services, including offering absentee ballots before elections, resolving child custody problems, investigating deaths at mental hospitals, posting safety signs on beaches, collecting DNA samples from bodies, caring for abandoned pets and many more.

Local governments would have to pay for the services or stop providing them.

Read the rest here.

Spitting in the eye of mainstream education

Via the LA Times :

Reporting from Oakland — Not many schools in California recruit teachers with language like this: "We are looking for hard working people who believe in free market capitalism. . . . Multi-cultural specialists, ultra liberal zealots, and college-tainted oppression liberators need not apply."

That, it turns out, is just the beginning of the ways in which American Indian Public Charter and its two sibling schools spit in the eye of mainstream education. These small, no-frills, independent public schools in the hard-scrabble flats of Oakland sometimes seem like creations of television's "Colbert Report." They mock liberal orthodoxy with such zeal that it can seem like a parody.

School administrators take pride in their record of frequently firing teachers they consider to be underperforming. Unions are embraced with the same warmth accorded "self-esteem experts, panhandlers, drug dealers and those snapping turtles who refuse to put forth their best effort," to quote the school's website.

Students, almost all poor, wear uniforms and are subject to disciplinary procedures redolent of military school. One local school district official was horrified to learn that a girl was forced to clean the boys' restroom as punishment.

Conservatives, including columnist George Will, adore the American Indian schools, which they see as models of a "new paternalism" that could close the gap between the haves and have-nots in American education. Not surprisingly, many Bay Area liberals have a hard time embracing an educational philosophy that proudly proclaims that it "does not preach or subscribe to the demagoguery of tolerance."

It would be easy to dismiss American Indian as one of the nuttier offshoots of the fast-growing charter school movement, which allows schools to receive public funding but operate outside of day-to-day district oversight. But the schools command attention for one very simple reason: By standard measures, they are among the very best in California.

The Academic Performance Index, the central measuring tool for California schools, rates schools on a scale from zero to 1,000, based on standardized test scores. The state target is an API of 800. The statewide average for middle and high schools is below 750. For schools with mostly low-income students, it is around 650.

The oldest of the American Indian schools, the middle school known simply as American Indian Public Charter School, has an API of 967. Its two siblings -- American Indian Public Charter School II (also a middle school) and American Indian Public High School -- are not far behind.

Among the thousands of public schools in California, only four middle schools and three high schools score higher. None of them serve mostly underprivileged children.

Read the rest here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Scientology under attack

One of the world's all time greatest scams is under attack in a court in France and has just been summarily excommunicated by of all entities, Wikipedia. The pseudo-religious cult which has acquired a reputation for heavy handed tactics against defectors and critics has already been outlawed in Germany and may be on the way to a similar fate in France where it has been accused of criminal fraud. The trial has gripped international attention and may serve to rally the cult's many critics who are often subjected to abuse and outright harassment from the group and its members.

And in a remarkable move yesterday the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia which permits almost anyone to edit any article has banned all editing by Scientology affiliated computers and IP addresses after a multi-month investigation revealed thousands of abusive edits linked to the cult. Most of the edits were on some 400 pages related to their group, where negative references were removed and replaced by positive ones according to news reports. Wikipedia reports that the volume of abusive edits was swamping their ability to keep up and reverse them.

A Royal Snub


When President Obama hits Europe next week for the 65th anniversary of D-day, he will land smack in the middle of a tempest in a very appropriate, diplomatic teapot.

The American president is among the dignitaries set to commemorate the June 6 invasion of France by the Allies as they began the final act in the liberation of Fortress Europa from Adolf Hitler’s Nazis.

Somehow, the French didn’t invite Queen Elizabeth II to this year’s ceremony, though the popular British monarch was a participant in the 50th and 60th anniversaries. In a special twist of Gallic logic, the French invited British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose popularity is at a low point amid scandals and a poor economy, rather than the comforting figure of the British monarch.

Elizabeth, then a princess, was a plucky volunteer on the beleaguered British home front during the worst of World War II. After the war, she married Prince Philip, who served with distinction in the Royal Navy during the fighting but had family connections to Nazis and had earlier expressed sympathy for Germany under Hitler.

In their typical backhanded way, the French have sort of apologized for snubbing the queen and have said that she is welcome to attend.

But when it comes to huffiness, the aristocracy knows no peer. Buckingham Palace has huffily responded that the queen is not amused and that no royal is available to attend the ceremony.

Explaining why the queen was skipped over, the French said the celebration was a “Franco-American affair,” which has strange echoes of a favorite pasta dish rather than political nuance.

The White House has been mum.

Source.

Maybe the next time the French President is in London the Queen will send her regrets with the explanation that she is dining with the Duke of Anjou. Of course the British really only need one word to put the impertinent French in their place.

Waterloo.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hmmm

Via CNN:
Father Alberto Cutie, an internationally known Catholic priest who admitted having a romantic affair and breaking his vow of celibacy, is joining the Episcopal Church to be with the woman he loves.

Cutie (pronounced koo-tee-AY) will pursue the priesthood in the Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida said in a written statement.

It was not immediately clear how long the process would take.

This strikes me as an odd move unless his disagreements with Rome are more than merely disciplinary. It's pretty widely acknowledged that TEC is doctrinally about as not Catholic as you can get. Still if he is one of those cafeteria Catholics we read about then I salute him for his honesty. Would that more of the cafeteria crowd would do the same thing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Time for a break from the Russian stuff

Got an email from a buddy back east today. Summarizing, he gently points out that there are other countries in Europe and elsewhere with a rich heritage (including monarchical) besides Russia. Was there some doubt? Anyways this is for you Kurt...



Gotta love that thundering Germanic marching music.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Gay-Marriage Solution: End Marriage?

When a Jewish boy turns 13, he heads to a temple for a deeply meaningful rite of passage, his bar mitzvah. When a Catholic girl reaches about the same age, she stands in front of the local bishop, who touches her forehead with holy oil as she is confirmed into a 2,000-year-old faith tradition. But missing in each of those cases — and in countless others of equal religious importance — is any role for government. There is no baptism certificate issued by the local courthouse and no federal tax benefit attached to the confessional booth, the into-the-water-and-out born-again ceremony or any of the other sacraments that believers hold sacred.

Only marriage gets that treatment, and it's a tradition that some legal scholars have been arguing should be abandoned. In a paper published March 2 in the San Francisco Chronicle, two law professors from Pepperdine University issued a call to re-examine the role the government plays in marriage. The authors — one of whom voted for and one against Proposition 8, which ended gay marriage in California — say the best way out of the intractable legal wars over gay marriage is to take marriage out of the hands of the government altogether.

Instead, give gay and straight couples alike the same license, a certificate confirming them as a family, and call it a civil union — anything, really, other than marriage. For people who feel the word marriage is important, the next stop after the courthouse could be the church, where they could bless their union with all the religious ceremony they wanted. Religions would lose nothing of their role in sanctioning the kinds of unions that they find in keeping with their tenets. And for nonbelievers and those who find the word marriage less important, the civil-union license issued by the state would be all they needed to unlock the benefits reserved in most states and in federal law for married couples.

Read the rest here.

This is a fairly libertarian approach and one that I have been urging as the only viable solution to this quandary for a number of years now. It won't sit well with social conservatives. But we do not live in a theocracy. And since marriage is first and foremost a religious sacrament, it really should not be in any way under the purview of the state.

113 years ago today

The coronation of the Holy Royal Passion Bearer Czar Nicholas II

Monday, May 25, 2009

Help Wanted: Maritime bounty hunters and adventurers

A letter of marque issued by the United States against France during the Quasi War

Classical libertarianism has always recognized a (very) few legitimate functions properly reserved to the government, two of those being national defense and law enforcement. Until perhaps now. One of my favorite Congressman, Ron Paul of Texas, has come up with a novel (or very old depending on one’s POV) response to the problem of modern day piracy. He wants Congress to exercise a long moribund constitutional power (Article I Sec 8) which asserts that “Congress shall have the power… To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.” It’s the letters of marque and reprisal part that he is interested in.

First we need to discuss what a letter of marque is (or more correctly was). A letter of marque was essentially a license issued by a sovereign government to a private (non-government) person or entity authorizing them to commit certain belligerent acts which normally could only be done by national governments in retaliation for some offense. In practice this usually meant capturing commercial ships at sea that belonged to a hostile foreign nation or that were discovered carrying war contraband. So called private warships or “privateers” that were armed, manned and otherwise equipped at private expense would sally forth on the high seas and seize enemy ships and their cargoes. These would then be brought into a port where a duly constituted court would review the capture and either let the ship and its cargo go or condemn the vessel as a lawful prize. If a vessel was condemned as a lawful prize then it and its cargo were forfeit. The ship and cargo were normally sold at auction with the proceeds being split between the financiers of the privateer and her officers and crew on a prearranged basis. Back in the day a lot of people got very rich privateering.

The letter of marque was an essential item though as it distinguished the lawful plundering of maritime commerce, or kidnapping, robbing and killing of people from the unlawful sort. It was in short, what separated the pirate from the patriotic business adventurer. Absent a proper letter of marque you were considered a pirate, and in those days pirates typically got rather short shrift in the legal system. What Congressman Paul wants to do is revive the practice by issuing letters of marque against pirates and essentially create a group of modern day maritime bounty hunters.

Alas, there are some problems with this idea. First the issuance of letters of marque and reprisal is pretty much illegal nowadays. Point in fact the practice was outlawed by the Declaration of Paris in 1856. Privateers were reclassified as war-criminals, essentially no different than pirates. Although the United States never signed the DofP it has abided by the treaty ever since. During both the Civil War and the Spanish American War the United States gave formal assurances that it would not issue letters of marque although there appears to have been some contemplation of the practice.* (The Confederate Government did issue letters.) Only one letter is alleged to have been issued by the United States since the War of 1812. This to a civilian airship during World War II, however available records do not confirm this.

Modern international law covering war and belligerency no longer contains any provision for letters of marque and reprisal. The concept is effectively dead, and without recognition under international law the letters would not shield their holders from prosecution for piracy, kidnapping, robbery, murder or any other criminal charges. Recall that a major point of a letter of marque is to protect the holder from being condemned as a common criminal. As virtually all nations no longer recognize this 18th century practice as legal, a letter will not be of particular value to its holder.

In other words any enterprising and patriotic business adventurer contemplating the acquisition of a letter of marque so that he might plunder the vast wealth of Somali maritime commerce in retaliation for their undoubted piratical depredations would do well to ask himself how much faith he is willing to put in that piece of paper should he be captured or arrested? Remember that in the present day and age under international law if you are boarding another ship without permission and you don’t wear a naval or law enforcement uniform you are liable to be labeled a pirate in your own right. And while we Americans have grown a bit soft and romantic in our attitudes towards piracy, in some parts of the world that’s still a charge that can put you on the fast track for a long drop with a short rope.

Beyond the legal questions there are the practical and moral considerations. Letters of marque were essentially a license to wage war for private profit. As one might expect, they were the subject of frequent abuse with the line between lawful activity and unlawful piracy being often blurred or simply ignored. The temptations were just too great. And of course these vessels were manned by civilians who were not under any military discipline. There is no reason to believe such would not happen again.

Just look at the problems we have had with private contractors and mercenary units in Iraq. Romantic notions about "privateering" aside, in real life these persons were all too often little more than pirates with a get out of jail free card. Their ruthlessness and brutality was a constant source of scandal, which is one of the reasons the practice has long been banned by the international community. It was simply too difficult to regulate. Do we really want Black Water security doing maritime bounty hunting?

In conclusion, and with all due respect to Congressman Paul, privatizing war and or law enforcement is a really bad idea that is best relegated to the history books.

*At one point during the Civil War when relations with England had been strained to the breaking point the British Ambassador was pointedly warned (and the warning was duly relayed to London) that there were 300 blank letters of marque sitting on President Lincoln’s desk. The threat being that if hostilities broke out Britain could expect substantial damage to her commercial shipping. The crisis was resolved in due course without war.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A war story

One of the great cemeteries populated by the First World War

(I wrote this essay several years ago but think it worth reposting. It has been very slightly modified for grammar and to reflect the passing of my cousin Sarah Jane.)

From my grandmother and my cousin Sarah Jane (memory eternal) I gleaned the story of my great-uncle Francis Guy (known as Guy in the family). He was one of the older children (14 in all) of my great-grandparents who lived in Endicott New York at the turn of the last century. My great-grandfather was by all accounts a good man, hard working and God fearing as they used to say in those days. But he also had a reputation for being stubborn with a "my way or the highway" mentality.

By contrast my uncle Guy was a shy youth in his middle teens who had been born with some minor disfigurement on his face to which no one really paid any notice other than him. But he was very self conscious about it. In late 1914 my great grandfather wanted him to get a job at the local shoe manufacturing plant run by the Endicott Johnson company, then the biggest by far employer in my home town. Guy was perfectly OK with this. But he asked if he could set aside a small amount of his earnings to save for an operation which he felt would remove the offending birth mark. My great-grandfather said no. He was a man who believed that if you were born that way, it’s what God intended and that’s the end of it.

Well he was also not very diplomatic about it and there was an argument, a real barn burner by all accounts. When it was over an ultimatum was given to the boy; do as you’re told or get out and make your own way in the world. In the heat of anger and hurt Guy left home.

Now at this time what would become known as the Great War had just broken out in Europe. Guy like a lot of kids of his generation had rather romantic notions about war. The United States had not fought a really serious one in almost sixty years and memory dulls with time. With the United States still neutral and in need of a job Guy struck out for Canada where he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Army (Canada was part of the British Empire then). I am not sure if he lied about his age. He landed in the Princess Patricia Regiment which would gain great fame in the war. After preliminary training the regiment was shipped to England and then over to the continent where it joined up with the British Expeditionary Force holding the left wing of the Allied line with the Belgian Army in one of the few parts of Belgium not occupied by the Germans.

In September of 1915 during one of the innumerable back and forth battles near Ypres his unit assaulted the German trench works. The attack was repelled with the customary horrific casualties but Guy made it back to his own trench unharmed. When he looked back over the battlefield known as no man’s land between the opposing trench lines he saw amongst the human wreckage of war one of his close friends lying wounded. The odds of surviving in no man’s land were not good since neither side respected stretcher bearers or medics. The wounded were usually left to die. Guy leapt out of the relative safety of his trench and rushed forward to save his buddy. He reached him and under heavy fire dragged him back to the trench. After lowering the wounded soldier down Guy turned to drop down himself when he was shot in the stomach. He died several days later at a military hospital and was buried in one of the vast cemeteries near Ypres created by the carnage of the War to End All Wars.

My great-grandparents received the telegram while watching a silent movie at the local cinema house. The lights were turned on and half the town showed up to express their sympathy. The Canadian Army later (and retroactively) conferred the Military Medal on him posthumously which my great-grandmother was buried with. I am told that in Ottawa there is a book on display with the names of all of the dead of the Princess Patricia Regiment inscribed in it. A page is ceremoniously turned each day. On one of those pages is the name of an Irish-Catholic kid with a birth mark from a small town in upstate New York, Francis Guy Dwyer. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

The next worse thing to a battle lost, is a battle won.
-The Duke of Wellington

Old men declare war. But it is the young who must fight and die.
-Herbert Hoover


In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Royal Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Memorial Day Movie Recommendations

There seems to have developed a custom of broadcasting and watching war movies on Memorial Day. I am not really opposed to the idea though I think far too many films tend to glorify armed conflict. For those who have a mind to recall the meaning of the day by watching a movie, I have two that I can recommend without hesitation.

Saving Private Ryan and...

Taking Chance

The latter is an HBO film which will almost certainly be shown tomorrow. Both are wonderful movies and very appropriate for the day, though Saving Private Ryan's graphic violence renders it unsuitable for young children.

Feel free to leave your own recommendations in the comments.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Something is rotten in Finland (part II)

I have posted on this issue before. It appears that it is an ongoing problem in the Finnish Orthodox Church.

Via InterFax:

Helsinki, May 21, Interfax - The clerics of the Finnish Orthodox Church of the Constantinople Patriarchate are going to participate in the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups Conference Courage to Follow the Law of Love which opened Tuesday in Järvenpää and Helsinki, Finland.

The participants will begin every day by attending the Orthodox service, and then going to sauna, the social movement Yhteys (Unity) which is fighting for the rights of sexual minorities, reports.

May 22, Helsinki University will host the open church seminar which will address the issues of homosexual relations. According to a published schedule, General Secretary of the Finnish Ecumenical Council Archpriest Heikki Huttunen will present his paper Homosexuality in the Orthodox theology.

In January issue of Aamun Koitto, this well-known priest of the Finnish Orthodox Church addressed at length his viewpoint on homosexual "marriage" as "the reflection of the Divine power and benign sexual source."

The clergy of Constantinople Patriarchate also intends to hold a discussion of the issues of spiritual integration of homosexuals into the Church. The subject matter of one session is entitled as Can a male priest fall in love to another man and live with him?

Source.

Here is a copy of the program.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Quote of the day...

“We need to draw a bright line once again between monetary policy and fiscal policy. The recent crisis has muddied that separation considerably and we must restore it. The Fed must not be seen by the public or the Congress as a piggy bank that can substitute for difficult fiscal policy decisions.”

-Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Charles Plosser.

Source

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

9 Trillion dollars: Where did it go?

Remember folks... They are the government. They know what they are doing and they are on our side.



That heroic congressman is Alan Grayson (D) of Georgia. No I am not kidding. He really is a Democrat.

What Quantitative Easing Means in Pictures

Someone in the Federal Reserve pushed a button today and created another $7.7 Billion out of thin air and went shopping. What did they buy with their newly printed money? U. S. Treasuries (7 and 10 yr notes). Now in fairness this is loose change. But it's part of a pattern of behavior. The Federal Reserve has resolved to keep the Treasury in money even if they have to print it and buy their bonds to do it. This has been going on since March with predictable results.

The dollar is plunging in value against other currencies and there are already worrisome signs of inflation creeping into the core CPI and the price of commodities and commodity based equities are rising. Also we are starting to see movement by large institutional investors into traditional safe havens like gold which has been rallying (gold was up $12.00 oz today). For those who don't have the appetite for long and admittedly dry articles on macro economics some witty illustrations have been appearing of late that seem to cover the essentials.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words...

Whose to blame for California's fiscal disaster?

Time for California voters to look in the mirror and face some tough facts.

...The results Tuesday fit Californians' long-standing pattern of demanding what is ultimately irreconcilable, all the more so in an economic downturn: lower taxes and higher spending.

"We all want a free lunch, but unfortunately that doesn't exist," said former Gov. Gray Davis, whose 2003 recall stemmed largely from a budget crisis brought on by the dot-com bust. For decades, Davis said, Californians have been "papering over this fundamental reality that the state has been living beyond its means."

Davis and many other elected officials bear some responsibility for that. But so do voters.

In the Proposition 13 tax rebellion of 1978, Californians voted to require a two-thirds approval by the Legislature to raise taxes, a major obstacle to budget agreements. Over the last couple of decades, voters have also passed a patchwork of ballot measures directing billions of dollars to favorite causes, among them public schools and transportation projects.

On Tuesday, Californians showed they were unwilling to scale back their demands in tight times: Voters turned down propositions that would have freed up money that they set aside years ago for mental-health and children's programs.

"The irony is that the more the hands of the Legislature and governor are tied up, the more frustrated people are," said Tim Hodson, director of the Center for California Studies at Cal State Sacramento.

Together, voters' piecemeal decisions since the 1970s have effectively "emasculated the Legislature," said John Allswang, a retired Cal State L.A. history professor.

"They're looking for cheap answers -- throw the guys out of power and put somebody else in, or just blame the politicians and pretend you don't have to raise taxes when you need money," he said.

"This is what the public wants, and they deceive themselves constantly. They're not realistic..."

Read the entire story.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Can anyone translate this?

I don't know Russian but am informed that this is an essay dealing with Vatican II from a Russian Orthodox perspective.

Update: Rorate Caeli has the translation posted here.

Hat tip: Jesus Felix

7 мая 2009 г.
Протоиерей Максим Козлов. Чем для нас ценен опыт реформ Католической Церкви?
[ Интервью ]

Портал Патриархия.ru публикует интервью протоиерея Максима Козлова, профессора Московской духовной академии, настоятеля храма святой мученицы Татианы при МГУ, данное журналу «Нескучный сад» (№ 5, 2009).

II Ватиканский Собор Католической Церкви (1965-1965 гг.) привел к самым радикальным реформам в ее истории. Одной из главных задач было явить «открытую миру Церковь» путем «современного изложения религиозных истин». Одним из результатов ― упреки Церкви в том, что она стала слишком современной, обмирщенной. По мнению протоиерея Максима Козлова, главной ошибкой была иллюзия, что общество в большинстве своем готово жить по-христиански.

― В чем, по-Вашему, причины радикализма II Ватиканского собора?

― Нужно понять ситуацию, в которой находилась Католическая Церковь к началу 60-х годов XX века, и в целом ситуацию в мире. Это было время массового отхода людей и в Западной Европе, и, в определенной степени, в Америке, Северной и Латинской, от регулярного участия в церковной жизни. Это была эпоха начавшейся сексуальной революции, чрезвычайных симпатий значительной части общества, особенно молодежи, к леворадикальным идеям ― от просоветских до маоистских. Это именно с того времени Че Гевара стал восприниматься как некий символ жертвенности, едва ли не большей, чем христианская. Это было время настоящего духовного кризиса, храмы пустели, в этих условиях Католической Церкви надо было реагировать на то, что происходит, пытаться искать новые возможности диалога с обществом, с таким, каким оно тогда было, может быть, и ценой ошибок. II Ватиканский собор стал попыткой церковного ответа на секулярность мира, как когда-то Тридентский собор у католиков (1545-1563 гг., официально отвергший протестантские догматы ― прим. ред. «Нескучного сада») стал ответом на лютеранскую реформацию. И сам этот шаг, потребовавший мужества и решительности, безусловно, можно приветствовать.

― Какие реформы II Ватиканского собора, на Ваш взгляд, можно назвать положительными?

― Из наиболее положительных поворотов я бы назвал по-новому декларированное и в значительной мере пережитое Католической Церковью осознание всехристианского единства перед той опасностью, о которой в эти же годы писал А.И. Солженицын: значительные силы в мире хотят, чтобы христиан не было вообще. На фоне вызовов современной эпохи, несмотря на всю разность наших вероучительных различий и их безусловную значимость, есть то, что христиан объединяет ― это новый подход (скажу сейчас страшное словосочетание) к экуменической проблеме, который и был высказан Католической церковью, и который, безусловно, нужно приветствовать: на II Ватиканском соборе Католическая Церковь отказалась от проставления знака равенства между собой и Вселенской Церковью. До Собора утверждением католиков было: Католическая Церковь равна Вселенской Церкви, теперь Католическая Церковь определяет себя как «часть, находящаяся во Вселенской Церкви», признавая также путь Православного Востока. Православные для католиков перестали быть схизматиками (еретиками). Прямым следствием этого стало признание католиками действительности Таинств, совершаемых в Восточных Церквах (Православных и Древневосточных), то есть Церквах, сохранивших исторический епископат. Христианин Восточной Церкви может приступать к Таинствам в Католической Церкви без требуемого ранее принятия ее вероучения. Конечно, это не значит, что и мы аналогично должны прийти к признанию всех таинств Католической Церкви. В православном богословии однозначного канонического и догматического ответа на вопрос, существует ли Евхаристия в христианских Церквях, сохранивших исторический епископат, но пребывающих вне Вселенского Православия: католиков, монофизитов — на сегодня не существует.

Что касается изменений внутренней «политики» Ватикана, здесь очень важным моментом я бы назвал шаг по преодолению многовекового клерикализма Рима. Имеется в виду жесткое разделение Католической Церкви, сформулированное еще на Тридентском соборе, на две неравных части: Церковь учащую ― духовенство, и Церковь учащуюся ― мирян. На II Ватиканском соборе многократно было подчеркнуто значение мирян, получивших возможность более активного участия в Церкви. Статус организаций мирян существенно повысился, церковные общины были признаны важнейшей составляющей Церкви. И это вошло в значительной мере в жизнь Католической Церкви. Например, в итальянском городе Римини проходят ежегодные съезды христиан, в которых принимает ежегодно около миллиона человек. Это и выставки, и библейские лекции, в этом году большой раздел, кстати, был посвящен Солженицыну. Эти съезды инициируются и проводятся только силами волонтеров-мирян, священники не являются здесь организационной силой. Священство может приглашаться, участвовать и т.д., но главным организатором и идейным вдохновителем являются миряне.

Как положительный я бы обозначил новый подход II Ватиканского Собора к богослужению. До Собора католическая месса служилась на латинском языке, который уже очень мало кто понимал в середине XX века даже из европейцев. После же миссии Католической Церкви в Латинскую Америку, Африку, Азию, ― страны, совершенно не связанные с романской культурой, стало очевидно, что латиноязычное богослужение пришло в очевидное противоречие с молитвенными нуждами многих и многих миллионов католиков. Этот переход на национальные языки, кстати говоря, был совершен в духе восточнохристианской традиции, которая предполагает, что богослужения совершаются на национальном языке верующих.

Однако методы реализации этих правильных по сути реформ были очень неоднозначны, саму реализацию реформ нельзя отнести к положительным результатам Собора.

Когда декларируются реформы, часто возникают некий административный жар, к тому же не всегда самые разумные люди оказываются во главе процесса их проведения. На практике, к сожалению, было не просто допущено богослужение на национальных языках, но фактически запрещена латинская дореформенная месса: на ее совершение требовалось столько санкций практически из самого Ватикана, а люди, хотевшие молиться по-старому, особенно клирики, имели вид настолько неблагонадежный по отношению к господствующей тенденции, что латинское богослужение фактически прекратило свое существование.

Уже в самом начале реформы Собора вызвали критику с двух сторон. «Левое» большинство было недовольно недостаточным радикализмом. Люди, живущие в западном светском обществе с приоритетом прав человека как гуманистических секулярных ценностей, при этом причисляющие себя к католикам, удивлялись, почему Собор не разрешил женское священство, не отменил целибат, не предоставил мирянам еще более широких прав (таких, как у священства), не разрешил разводы и аборты.

Критика справа связана с именем архиепископа Марселя Лефевра (1905-1991). Он и его последователи критиковали Ватиканский Собор по нескольким позициям: за излишний экуменизм, за реформы богослужения, приведшие с их точки зрения, к утрате сакрального языка богослужения, а также к секуляризации богослужебного сознания. Действительно, обмирщение богослужебного сознания ― одно из негативных последствий реформ. Это выразилась в излишнем подчеркивании «горизонтальной составляющей» ― то есть общения верующих на службе ― в ущерб «вертикальной составляющей» ― устремленности общины к Небу. Престолы были вынесены из алтаря на середину храма, священники стали совершать богослужения лицом к народу, а не, как мы бы сказали, к Горнему месту, как это было до того, стали бесконтрольно появляться бесчисленные варианты переводов и чинов совершения мессы. Произошел разрыв, утрата идентичности, тождественности богослужения. Например, если раньше католик мог от Африки до Полинезии прийти на службу и понять, что он присутствует на мессе, то теперь не так.

Совершенно справедлива критика Лефевром усвоенной Католической Церковью идеологии прогресса, когда «прогресс» как поступательное прогрессивное развитие общества признается религиозной ценностью вне зависимости от религиозного состояния этого общества. То есть, само по себе умножение материальных благ, смягчение нравов, толерантность в отношении к разным системам ценностей, права человека, вне зависимости от связи с христианством признаются позитивной ценностью. Общество оценивается не столько по степени и качеству своей религиозности, сколько по тому, насколько эти категории прогресса присутствуют или возрастают. С этим Православная Церковь, конечно, согласиться не может.

С идеей прогресса связана получившая развитие на II Ватиканском соборе идея «анонимного христианства», когда люди, не только видимо принадлежащие Церкви, но и люди, открыто не противоречащие ей, ее духу, признаются ей не чуждыми. Это может быть и справедливо для нехристианских стран, сообществ, не сталкивающихся с евангельским благовестием, но совершенно неприложимо для общества европейского и американского, которое от христианства отворачивается шаг за шагом. Это не анонимное христианство, а отступление от Бога и Церкви.

Послереформенный опыт Католической Церкви показал: несмотря на то, что Церковь сделала шаг навстречу обществу, стараясь стать более современной, понятной и близкой этому обществу, общество не пошло в сторону Церкви. Это нужно понять и принять ― и практически, и историософски, и эсхатологически: ожидать от общества, что оно в большинстве своем вновь готово будет принять христианские ценности не на уровне декларации, а на уровне норм, реализуемых в жизни, ― значит пребывать в иллюзии.

Другой важный урок, который нам дает опыт II Ватиканского собора, ― как бережно нужно подходить к тому, что составляет многовековое предание Церкви, прежде всего в богослужении. Важно признать, что мы с одной стороны, сходны с католиками и страдаем определенного рода закостенелостью, в значительной части церковного народа ― взглядом на службу как на что-то, не нуждающееся в понимании, а скорее, призванное возбудить некое благочестивое настроение. С другой стороны, важно понять, что путь изменения богослужения должен быть не в приспособлении его к упрощенным представлениям общества, сформированным средствами массовой информации и просто очень низким гуманитарным общеобразовательным развитием. Христианство ― сложная вещь сама по себе. Но не самое сложное в христианстве ― понять церковно-славянский язык. А вот как донести красоту и значительность этой службы ― это тот вопрос, который должен ставиться, и на который мы должны искать ответы.

Source

Eurabia Has A Capital: Rotterdam

This is must reading.

"...Holland is an extraordinary test case. It is the country in which individual license is the most extensive – to the point of permitting euthanasia on children – in which the Christian identity is most faded, in which the Moslem presence is growing most boldly.

Here, multiculturalism is the rule. But the exceptions are dramatic: from the killing of the anti-Islamist political leader Pim Fortuyn to the persecution of the Somali dissident Ayaan Hirsi Ali to the murder of the director Theo Van Gogh, condemned to death for his film "Submission," a denunciation of the crimes of Muslim theocracy. Fortuyn's successor, Geert Wilders, has lived under 24-hour police protection for six years.

There is one city in Holland where this new reality can be seen with the naked eye, more than anywhere else. Here, entire neighborhoods look as if they have been lifted from the Middle East, here stand the largest mosques in Europe, here parts of sharia law are applied in the courts and theaters, here many of the women go around veiled, here the mayor is a Muslim, the son of an imam.

This city is Rotterdam, Holland's second largest city by population, and the largest port in Europe by cargo volume..."

Read the rest here.

Hat tip Rorate Caeli

Great Credit? Hold onto your wallet... it's about to be picked

I have made this point in the past, usually in more nuanced language. But it bears repeating. And for those who prefer plain English, let's lay it on the table. Credit cards are evil. And the institutions that issue them are scum sucking crooks. Credit is just a fancy word for 'debt.' And "debt" is a four letter word. I strongly endorse a credit cardless society. It will be a great day when American's finally decide they are tired of being ripped off by these thieves, cut up their plastic and ship the pieces to VISA, Master Card, American Express etc. in a box weighted with lead bars C.O.D.

The credit industry's unethical, and soon to be (though not yet) illegal practices by which they milked hundreds of billions of dollars over years from people was enough to make me swear off their plastic millstones from around my neck years ago. But now that Congress is finally about to crack down on at least some of their shady lending practices, which would make members of a certain Sicilian fraternal society blush, they have decided to start soaking those with solid gold credit.

For those who harbor any doubts, read this.

Slow posting for a few days...

Looks like a busy few days ahead. Posting will be a little slower than usual.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Roman Priest's Case For Celibacy

The scandal surrounding the Rev. Alberto Cutie has raised questions in the minds of many concerning the Catholic Church's discipline of priestly celibacy. Why does the church continue to defend a practice that seems so unnatural and so unnecessary?

There is a very bad argument for celibacy, which has appeared throughout the tradition and which is, even today, defended by some. It goes something like this: Married life is spiritually suspect; priests, as religious leaders, should be spiritual athletes above reproach; therefore, priests shouldn't be married

This approach to the question is, in my judgment, not just stupid but dangerous, for it rests on presumptions that are repugnant to solid Christian doctrine. The biblical teaching on creation implies the essential integrity of the world and everything in it.

Genesis tells us that God found each thing he had made good and that he found the ensemble of creatures very good. Catholic theology, at its best, has always been resolutely, anti-dualist -- and this means that matter, the body, marriage and sexual activity are never, in themselves, to be despised.

But there is more to the doctrine of creation than an affirmation of the goodness of the world. To say that the finite realm in its entirety is created is to imply that nothing in the universe is God. All aspects of created reality reflect God and bear traces of the divine goodness -- just as every detail of a building gives evidence of the mind of the architect -- but no creature and no collectivity of creatures is divine, just as no part of a structure is the architect.

Read the rest here
.

This sounds like a compelling argument for voluntary celibacy. My problem is that I have never heard a compelling argument for compulsory celibacy. But assuming for the sake of discussion such an argument exists how does one square that with the lack of celibacy in the Eastern Churches (I refer to those under the Pope)? If there are reasons that justify enforced celibacy in the Latin Church how do you justify not enforcing it in the Uniate Churches?

Tincture of Lawlessness

Anyone, said T.S. Eliot, could carve a goose, were it not for the bones. And anyone could govern as boldly as his whims decreed, were it not for the skeletal structure that keeps civil society civil -- the rule of law. The Obama administration is bold. It also is careless regarding constitutional values and is acquiring a tincture of lawlessness.

In February, California's Democratic-controlled Legislature, faced with a $42 billion budget deficit, trimmed $74 million (1.4 percent) from one of the state's fastest-growing programs, which provides care for low-income and incapacitated elderly people and which cost the state $5.42 billion last year. The Los Angeles Times reports that "loose oversight and bureaucratic inertia have allowed fraud to fester."

But the Service Employees International Union collects nearly $5 million a month from 223,000 caregivers who are members. And the Obama administration has told California that unless the $74 million in cuts are rescinded, it will deny the state $6.8 billion in stimulus money.

Such a federal ukase (the word derives from czarist Russia; how appropriate) to a state legislature is a sign of the administration's dependency agenda -- maximizing the number of people and institutions dependent on the federal government. For the first time, neither sales nor property nor income taxes are the largest source of money for state and local governments. The federal government is.

The SEIU says the cuts violate contracts negotiated with counties. California officials say the state required the contracts to contain clauses allowing pay to be reduced if state funding is.

Anyway, the Obama administration, judging by its cavalier disregard of contracts between Chrysler and some of the lenders it sought money from, thinks contracts are written on water. The administration proposes that Chrysler's secured creditors get 28 cents per dollar on the $7 billion owed to them but that the United Auto Workers union get 43 cents per dollar on its $11 billion in claims -- and 55 percent of the company. This, even though the secured creditors' contracts supposedly guaranteed them better standing than the union.

Read the rest here.

Some scenes from the game (7-4 Mets win)

(Click on images for full size)

Fr. David and I drove from Merced to Pleasanton and took the BART train into the city for the game. It was a lot easier than driving in San Francisco, which is challenging under the best of circumstances and parking is downright nightmarish. Fortunately SF has excellent public transportation. My Godson Basil (Bob) met us in the city. He had gone in earlier from work and went to the book store by the ROCOR cathedral on Geary Street.

From the main BART station in SF we walked a couple blocks looking for a place to grab a nice meal before the game. We saw a lot of interesting looking bar and grill joints before settling on a German restaurant where the service was good, the food excellent and the beer outstanding...

Fr. David and my Godson Basil. Fr. D. rather uncharacteristically decided to go Roman leaving the cassock at home.

Basil and me. Yes, that's German beer. And yes it was really good (I'm not usually much of a beer guy). Then after dinner (I recommend the jager schnitzel) it was off to the game...

John Maine keeping em honest at first base...

The impressive score board at AT&T Park. The clock is right the time stamp is wrong...

David Wright on guard near 3rd base...

Fr. David and Basil at the game. Our seats were on the field level 12 rows back on the 3rd base line. The Giants rallied and it got a little hairy in the bottom of the 8th. I think Basil was praying...

Me. Looking more confident than I felt at the time.

I was pleasantly surprised at the number of other Mets fans in the park last night. If I had to guess I would say a good 1/3 of the fans were rooting for New York. We had Mets fans on every side of us many wearing their hats and jerseys. After our three runs in the top of the 9th to break the tie all the Giants fans headed for the exits leaving the Mets fans pretty much in ownership of the stadium. And it was by no means deserted.

All in all it was a great trip and much fun.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Take me out to the ballgame...

Off to watch the Mets thump the Giants.

A blast from the past

In the spring of 2002, as the scandal over sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests was escalating, the long career of Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland of Milwaukee, one of the church’s most venerable voices for change, went up in flames one May morning.

There, on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the archbishop watched a man he had fallen in love with 23 years earlier say in an interview that the Milwaukee archdiocese paid him $450,000 years before to keep quiet about his affair with the archbishop — an affair the man was now calling date rape.

The next day, the Vatican accepted Archbishop Weakland’s retirement.

Archbishop Weakland, who had been the intellectual touchstone for church reformers, has said little publicly since then. But now, in an interview and in a memoir scheduled for release next month, he is speaking out about how internal church politics affected his response to the fallout from his romantic affair; how bishops and the Vatican cared more about the rights of abusive priests than about their victims; and why Catholic teaching on homosexuality is wrong.

Read the rest here.

I won't say that the heretics like Weakland and the rest of the lavender mafia / modernist crowd are why I left the Roman Church for Orthodoxy. That would be untrue. But I will say that they certainly did not make my decision any more difficult.

Why is this man not an Episcopalian?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monetizing the Debt: Explanation For Non-Economists, Bankers and Other Laymen

This is MUST READING for those who want to know what the government is doing to our money and economy.

Via Seeking Alpha:

As I see uncountable search engine inquiries with the phrase "monetizing the debt" landing at my blog (The Prudent Investor) I begin to realize there is a huge void of knowledge not only amongst interested economic laymen but also among employees from what were highly prestigious financial institutions only 2 years ago. Let me fill you in with the executive briefing version. In order to monetize the debt you need the following:

  1. An economy in shatters that cannot produce enough taxes for the state
  2. A parliament/congress/senate full of incompetent politicians eager to continue showering their constituencies with pork regardless of a nation's declining tax income
  3. A people that has never received any macroeconomic education in their schools (otherwise they'd be shouldering the pitchforks by now)
  4. A central bank with a transaction computer running under Unix (Windows would probably crash before any real economic damage could be done)
  5. Commercial banks with executives searching the web for an easily understood explanation of the said term and no idea about monetary inflation either, but a perfect understanding of their contracts sweetened with lavish bonuses, no matter whether they remain prudent or crash the cart against the wall.
Now that we got our most important players together (starving retirees, widows and kids will only appear on the scene after the monetizing-the-debt-party has sunk the world into a depression), we take a punch bowl (literal), fill it with cheap credit and pass it around to everybody except the central bank computer (it will have to work hard very soon).

In contrast to all commodities, unbacked fiat money is created at virtually no cost. This is most comfortable as it means the central bank computer can keep the party going.

All that needs to be done are a few keystrokes (maybe they already have macros for the task) and a screen wide enough to accommodate the ever growing number of zeroes after the $/€ sign.

Read the entire article here.

But don't worry folks. Remember they are the government. They know what they are doing and they are on our side.

Apologies...

...for the dearth of posting over the last couple of days. I was busy on Saturday, and on Sunday I was a little under the weather. I am back though. On a pleasant note I am planning on catching the new Star Trek flick sometime this week (probably tomorrow early afternoon before all the kids get out of school). Later this week Fr. David, my Godson and I are going into the city to watch the Mets slay the Giants. Should be a fun day. Also a reminder that my email address has changed. I have abandoned AOL. Please click on the link for the new one. It is also linked in the sidebar.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Chief Justice slams Notre Dame

One of the Vatican's highest ranked clerics and a frequent critic of President Obama said Friday that Notre Dame is causing a "scandal" by giving the president an honorary degree and a platform to address graduates at its commencement next weekend.

'The proposed granting of an honorary doctorate at Notre Dame University to our president, who is so aggressively advancing an anti-life and anti-family agenda, is rightly the source of the greatest scandal," said Archbishop Raymond Burke, who is the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's highest court.

Read the rest here
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Thursday, May 07, 2009

On Dialogue with Anglicans

A large part of the OCA’s flock and the majority of the episcopate came to Orthodoxy from other denominations or from atheism. You yourself were born into an Episcopal (Anglican) family. Do heterodox roots help or hinder in dialog with representatives of other faiths? What is the OCA’s general attitude towards ecumenism?

Because America is a very pluralistic country, we have to have contacts with representatives of other faiths. The OCA takes part in the National Council of Churches of the USA and the World Council of Churches. We participate in discussions conducted within the framework of the ecumenical organizations, although we rarely approve of what they do. But they do many good things; especially, in providing an opportunity for the Orthodox to meet with one another.

Now about the theological dialog with the heterodox. If the matter concerns the Episcopal Church/USA, then this dialog has stopped. But we engage in dialog with Episcopalian traditionalists many of whom embrace the Orthodox faith. And I personally, and our entire Synod gives great attention to bringing these people into the fold of the Orthodox Church in America.

You are not afraid of accusations of proselytizing?

This is not proselytizing - it “aggressive proclamation” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are all called to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Orthodoxy - is preaching of Christ in all its fullness.

-Metropolitan +Jonah (OCA) in a recent wide ranging interview. I strongly encourage reading it all.

Source.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Many Years!

Via T-19 the news that the well known champion of classical Anglicanism Edith Humphrey is to be received into the Orthodox Church on the Feast of Pentecost. May God grant her many years.

Mormons Baptize Obama's Mother (she's been dead for 14 yrs)

President Barack Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, who died in 1995, was baptized posthumously into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last year during her son's campaign, according to Salt Lake City-based researcher Helen Radkey.

The ritual, known as "baptism for the dead," was done June 4, 2008, in the Provo Utah temple, and another LDS temple rite, known as the "endowment," was performed in the same temple on June 11, said Radkey, who found the record while doing research in the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Read the rest here.

Latin Trinitarianism and the Filioque

Some interesting (and characteristically deep) thoughts on an oft discussed topic which continues to divide Rome from Orthodoxy have been posted online. Where? At Energetic Procession of course.

Please leave any comments there.

An "Empathetic" Justice System

From the Washington Post...

Should the judge be an umpire or an empathizer?

Chief Justice John Roberts memorably likened the judge to a baseball umpire, dispassionately applying existing rules to call balls and strikes.

President Obama is more, well, touchy-feely. As he weighs a replacement for retiring Justice David Souter, the president said, he wants "someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book; it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives." That "quality of empathy," he said, is "an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes."

This is red-alert talk for conservatives. "Those are all code words for an activist judge who is going to . . . be partisan on the bench," Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch warned on ABC's "This Week."

Even before the election, Northwestern University law professor Steven Calabresi, a co-founder of the Federalist Society, was already at Defcon 4. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, he argued that Obama's "emphasis on empathy in essence requires the appointment of judges committed in advance to violating" the judicial oath to do equal justice to rich and poor. "To the traditional view of justice as a blindfolded person weighing legal claims fairly on a scale, he wants to tear the blindfold off, so the judge can rule for the party he empathizes with most."

I admit to a bit of wincing at the word "empathize," with its sensitive-new-age-guy aura. If I thought Obama was advocating a pick-your-favorite-side approach, I'd be on the barricades, too. But his position is not anything like this absurd caricature. Indeed, it reflects a more thoughtful, more nuanced understanding of the judicial role than Roberts's seductive but flawed umpire analogy.

Like its downscale cousin, the dictate that judges should "interpret the law, not legislate from the bench," the judge-as-umpire trope is fundamentally misleading. Of course judges are supposed to be neutral arbiters of the cases that come before them, ruling on the merits of the claims rather than the sympathy evoked by one party or the other. Of course judges are bound by the text of legislation, the words of the Constitution, the weight of precedent.

Yet if the right answer was always available to a judge who merely thinks hard enough, we could program powerful computers to fulfill the judicial function. That's not possible -- not, anyway, in the cases that matter most. Those inevitably call on the judge to bring to the task his -- or her -- life experiences, conception of the role of the courts and, as Obama put it, "broader vision of what America should be."

Obama's most controversial formulation of the empathy argument came in a 2007 speech to Planned Parenthood. "The issues that come before the court are not sport," he said, disputing the umpire approach. "They're life and death. And we need somebody who's got . . . the empathy to recognize what it's like to be a young, teenage mom; the empathy to understand what it's like to be poor or African American or gay or disabled or old."

Read the rest here.

This is scary folks, very very scary. The only good news is that his pick is unlikely to alter the ideological composition of the court. Justice Souter was a dyed in the wool liberal activist judge. He will almost certainly be replaced by one of a similar bent. But what happens if something compels an unexpected retirement on the part of Justices Scalia or Thomas?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Inflation Nation

From (if you can believe it) the New York Times, a must read op-ed piece...

"...Some of my fellow economists, including many at the Fed, say that the big monetary goal is to avoid deflation. They point to the less than 1 percent decline in the consumer price index for the year ending in March as evidence that deflation is a threat. But this statistic is misleading: unstable food and energy prices may lower the price index for a few months, but deflation (or inflation) refers to the sustained rate of change of prices, not the price level. We should look instead at a less volatile price index, the gross domestic product deflator. In this year’s first quarter, it rose 2.9 percent — a sure sign of inflation.

Besides, no country facing enormous budget deficits, rapid growth in the money supply and the prospect of a sustained currency devaluation as we are has ever experienced deflation. These factors are harbingers of inflation.

When will it come? Surely not right away. But sooner or later, we will see the Fed, under pressure from Congress, the administration and business, try to prevent interest rates from increasing. The proponents of lower rates will point to the unemployment numbers and the slow recovery. That’s why the Fed must start to demonstrate the kind of courage and independence it has not recently shown.

Milton Friedman often said that “inflation was always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.” The members of the Federal Reserve seem to dismiss this theory because they concentrate excessively on the near term and almost never discuss the medium- and long-term consequences of their actions. That’s a big error. They need to think past current political pressures and unemployment rates. For the next few years, they cannot neglect rising inflation."

I strongly encourage the reader to peruse the entire article which may be found here.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

At 50-1 it's Mine That Bird



“I wish my mother and father were here to see what I have accomplished in my life,” he said an hour later, dissolving in tears once again.

-Calvin Borel the winning jockey at this year's and the 2007 Kentucky Derby.
Read the story here.

After winning the 2007 Derby, Borel and his fiance received a surprise invitation to the White House state dinner for Queen Elizabeth II who was visiting at the time.

Notre Dame’s Obama invite riles Catholic bishops

There is good news here and bad news. The bad news is that the liberal wienies that have been dominating academia in Catholic Universities for decades are still thumbing their nose at their own church's teachings. The good news is that an increasing number of Catholics are not suffering this in silence any longer. And the "we are not putting up with this anymore..." attitude seems to be spreading into the ranks of the Roman Catholic hierarchy here in the United States.

Sad and embarrassing as this is for our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, I see it as cause for cautious optimism on the direction their church is moving in. There was a time not too long ago when this kind of insanity would not even have raised an eyebrow.

From MSNBC:

This coming week, Bishop Thomas Wenski of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orlando, Fla., will take the unusual step of celebrating a Mass of Reparation, to make amends for sins against God.

The motivation: to provide an outlet for Catholics upset with what Wenski calls the University of Notre Dame's "clueless" decision to invite President Barack Obama to speak at its commencement and receive an honorary doctorate May 17.

The nation's flagship Catholic university's honoring of a politician whose abortion rights record clashes with a fundamental church teaching has triggered a reaction among the nation's Catholic bishops that is remarkable in scope and tone, church observers say.

At least 55 bishops have publicly denounced or questioned Notre Dame in recent weeks, employing an arsenal of terms ranging from "travesty" and "debacle" to "extreme embarrassment."

Read the rest here
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