William (aka Bill the Godfather)

William (aka Bill the Godfather)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Week Recess

Barring something urgent or time sensitive there will be no blogging until Bright Monday at the earliest. I will still be checking email now and then but responses may be slower than usual. Comments will be on moderation to prevent spamming during the down time. Wishing all a blessed Holy Week and the joy of the Resurrection...

Under the mercy,
John

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Where is he now?

Back in August of last year blogdom suffered a great loss when Michale Liccione announced a new job in New York City and closed up shop over at Sacramentum Vitae. Via T-19 I note he has resurfaced as a columnist with First Things magazine. I look forward to reading other articles by him.

Odds and ends

As a follow up to my tongue in cheek apology, I note that Owen the Ochlophobist has picked up on the recent Roman Catholic liturgical horror show (brought to you courtesy of Cardinal Mahony). His comments as usual are both insightful and right on the mark. Caution; ecumenically minded Orthodox (and Catholics) are not likely to appreciate some of his observations. For the record I fully agree with them.

As almost anyone reading a blog online must be aware, there has been a terrible terrorist attack in Moscow. Many people have been killed and injured. Please keep our brothers and sisters in Russia in your prayers as they deal with this disaster.

Finally we are now into Holy Week and blogging is going to start winding down. After today (barring something really urgent or time sensitive) there will be no blogging until Bright Monday at the earliest. I wish everyone a blessed Holy Week and the joy of the Resurrection.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Can Obama avert a fiscal catastrophe?

Last summer President Obama told me that once health reform became law, he could pivot to the "broader structural changes" needed to bring the federal deficit under control.

Without health reform, he said during a July telephone interview, there would be no hope for fiscal reform. With it, he would be in a position to "start laying out a broader picture about how we are going to handle entitlements in a serious way."

Well, it's been six days since he signed the bill, and he still hasn't saved Social Security.

Just kidding. We can give him another day or two.

But the long-term threat is no joke, as Obama has acknowledged many times. If Obama does not pivot, the country will be in serious trouble.
Read the rest here.

Color me skeptical, very very skeptical.

Members of Protestant right-wing militia are charged with sedition

Nine members of a "Christian" militia have been charged with sedition and conspiracy to murder police officers in the hopes of sparking an armed insurrection against the United States. As I have noted on many threads going back years, the rhetoric of our politics in this country has been drifting into dangerous territory. Extremism and extremist beliefs are going mainstream. Just glancing at the comments on a thread dealing with this topic over at Free Republic one can note more than a few people who are clearly in sympathy with these lunatics.

When you deny the legitimacy of the President of the United States, and call members of one of the two main political parties "traitors" this is what is going to happen. At some point people will start to believe you and someone will reach for a gun.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Russia considers a holiday commemorating the Baptism of Rus

The government has proposed a new national holiday, Baptism of Rus Day, in what could be viewed as a victory of the Russian Orthodox Church in the clericalization of Russian life.

The government has submitted a bill to the State Duma that would introduce the Baptism of Rus Day on July 28, when Russian Orthodox believers commemorate Prince Vladimir, who christened Rus in 988, a Duma source told Itar-Tass on Friday.

Culture Minister Alexander Avdeyev proposed the holiday at a government meeting in February, supporting an idea voiced earlier by the church, Itar-Tass said.

The church has seen its clout grow in recent years. It has long pushed for the study of its doctrines in public schools, and next month, grade school students in 19 Russian regions will begin religious studies that focus on the four faiths labeled "traditional" in federal law: Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism, RIA-Novosti reported in early March.
Source.

What do you see?

US Money supply 1998-2009
(click for full size)

What does this bring to mind?

When I look at this chart I feel myself sucked into a time warp. Suddenly it's 1972. Everyone is throwing a big party. The good times are rolling. But on the bridge I see Leslie Nielson looking through his binoculars at a massive wall of liquidity steam rolling towards him and his ship...

Rule Britannia

HMS Astute Britain's new super submarine

OK this is a little off my usual topics. But the former navy sailor in me started drooling when I read this. It appears that the British lion still has some roar left, and maybe a few sharp teeth.
She could prowl the depths of the oceans without stopping for her entire 25-year lifespan, her sleek curves undetected. She generates her own oxygen and fresh water from the surrounding sea, never has to refuel and never needs to break the surface. Indeed, the only reasons for her to come up after 90 days on patrol are to restock with food and to help preserve the sanity of her crew.

Astute is the world's most technologically advanced submarine, and remains a great British achievement despite overspends and delays. It is the stealthiest Royal Navy submarine ever to go to sea and its highly advanced Sonar 2076 system - capable of detecting the QE2 leaving New York all the way from the English Channel - is superior to the U.S. Navy equivalent. It can carry 38 weapons - heavyweight Spearfish torpedoes and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles. The latter have a range of 1,000 nautical miles - enough to reach 96 per cent of the planet's populated areas from the sea.
Read the rest here.

What Happens When Congress Fails to Do Its Job?

In 2008 Barack Obama almost asked Evan Bayh to be his running mate. It was "a coin toss," recalls David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager. Bayh lost that toss, but the fact that he was a finalist—much as he'd been for John Kerry four years earlier—was proof that he was doing something right in his day job as junior senator from Indiana. His future seemed bright.

Last month he announced his retirement.

There was no scandal. Bayh wasn't plagued by poor fundraising or low poll numbers. Nor is fatigue a likely explanation: at 54, Bayh is fairly young, at least when you're grading on the curve that is the United States Senate.

What drove Bayh from office, rather, was that he'd grown to hate his job. Congress, he wrote in a New York Times op-ed, is "stuck in an endless cycle of recrimination and revenge. The minority seeks to frustrate the majority, and when the majority is displaced it returns the favor. Power is constantly sought through the use of means which render its effective use, once acquired, impossible."

The situation had grown so grim, Bayh said, that continued service was no longer of obvious use. Americans were left with a bizarre spectacle: a member of the most elite legislative body in the most powerful country in the world was resigning because the dysfunctions of his institution made him feel ineffectual. "I simply believe I can best contribute to society in another way," Bayh explained, "creating jobs by helping grow a business, helping guide an institution of higher learning, or helping run a worthy charitable endeavor."

This is what it's come to, then: our senators envy the influence and sway held by university presidents.
Read the rest here.

I apologize

I used to tell people that Roman Catholics had abandoned serious Lenten penances. No more. I would rather keep the monastic fast all year than endure this for 2 hours. Lord have mercy!

So where are the Orthodox works of charity?

That's a question often asked of Orthodox (especially by Catholics). Of course in the United States we are relatively few in numbers and only beginning to deal with our scandalous jurisdictionalism. And in many parts of the world the Orthodox Church is either under the thumb of hostile governments (i.e. most of the Middle East) where Christian charity is severely restricted, or recovering from long periods of persecution (most of Eastern Europe). That said where the Church has been allowed to operate without interference from hostile entities these works are visible. And we can pray that one day we may see something similar here in N. America.

In Greece the church now operates and maintains:

- 20 nurseries and kindergartens
- 84 homes for the elderly
- 13 hospitals for the chronically ill
- 30 different institutions
- 8 institutions for people with disabilities
- 54 camping areas
- 33 youth institutions
- 10 hospital clinics
- 6 hostels
- 36 orphanages/boarding schools
- 195 soup kitchens
- 44 schools of iconography
- 136 schools teaching Byzantine and European music
- 47 different schools
- 35 blood banks
- 1 home for the blind
- 13 school dormitories
- 7 mental health institutions

Source.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Israeli British relations are severely strained

Israel is in a tight spot these days. It has ticked off two of its most prominent allies. The United States has made no secret of its pique over Israel's calculated (I use the word deliberately) insult of Vice-President Biden during his recent visit there. As noted in the preceding post President Obama communicated very clearly his deep anger over Israeli intransigence and their offensive behavior towards an ally during the recent visit by PM Binyamin Netanyahu to Washington.

However it is not just the United States that are seriously annoyed with Israel right now. Great Britain, another long standing ally, is furious that the Israeli secret intelligence service Mossad used at least a dozen fraudulent British passports for members of their murder squad sent to assassinate Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January. Mr. Mabhouh was allegedly a high ranking member of Hamas, a terrorist organization.

Israel's refusal to even discuss the matter so angered the British that they have taken the extremely unusual step of expelling an Israeli diplomat believed to be the London station chief of Mossad. Britain is demanding assurances from Israel that they will not forge or otherwise abuse British passports in the future. Thus far Israel has failed to respond to the demands which Britain has labeled as non-negotiable.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

US-Israeli Relations: From chilly to frigid

For a head of government to visit the White House and not pose for photographers is rare. For a key ally to be left to his own devices while the President withdraws to have dinner in private was, until this week, unheard of. Yet that is how Binyamin Netanyahu was treated by President Obama on Tuesday night, according to Israeli reports on a trip viewed in Jerusalem as a humiliation.

After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisers and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman, who spoke to the Prime Minister, said.

“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House telephone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea.”
Read the rest here.

What is happening to the Republican Party?

From a Harris Poll released yesterday...

  • 24% of Republicans (and 14% of Americans) think Obama may be the Anti-Christ.

  • Two thirds of Republicans -- 67 percent -- and 40 percent of Americans overall, believe that Obama is a socialist.

  • A majority of Republicans -- 57 percent -- and 32 percent overall believe that Obama is a Muslim.

  • 45 percent of Republicans, and 25 percent overall, believe that Obama was "not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president."

  • 38 percent of Republicans, and 20 percent overall, say that Obama is "doing many of the things that Hitler did."

Source

I have been a lifelong Republican and am very close to de-registering from the party. For sometime now it has been increasingly clear to me that the GOP is falling under the influence of extremists, conspiracy theorists and people that should be dismissed as members of the lunatic fringe.

Paul Krugman (a man with whom I rarely agree about anything) made an observation that strikes me as pretty on the mark.
“In the short run, Republican extremism may be good for Democrats, to the extent that it prompts a voter backlash. But in the long run, it’s a very bad thing for America. We need to have two reasonable, rational parties in this country. And right now we don’t. “
Source

Just in case there was any doubt

Members of Mother Grove Goddess Temple will celebrate at 7 p.m. Saturday with A Breath of Appalachian Spring: A Ritual in Celebration of the Spring Equinox, in the parish hall of the Episcopal Cathedral of All Souls in Biltmore Village.

Saturday's event is open to all faith traditions, said Byron Ballard, wiccan priestess and a member of the temple. Mother Grove “isn't a wiccan group, though some of us are wiccans,” she said.
Read the rest here.

If you are an Episcopalian, don't start walking for the exit. RUN!

Hat tip Fr. Z.

Justice

If you can call it justice, the man we convicted of first degree murder during my recent stint on jury duty was sentenced. He got 53 years to life. He will be a very old man before he is even eligible for parole. Personally I hope they never let him out. What he did was evil. And he has no remorse.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Religious discrimination in the Army

At 2 o'clock on a Monday morning, the sound of angry pounding sent Army Spec. Zachari Klawonn bolting out of bed.

THUD. THUD. THUD.

Someone was mule-kicking the door of his barracks room, leaving marks that weeks later -- long after Army investigators had come and gone -- would still be visible.

By the time Klawonn reached the door, the pounding had stopped. All that was left was a note, twice folded and wedged into the doorframe.

"F--- YOU RAGHEAD BURN IN HELL" read the words scrawled in black marker.

The slur itself was nothing new. Klawonn, 20, the son of an American father and a Moroccan mother, had been called worse in the military. But the fact that someone had tracked him down in the dead of night to deliver this specific message sent a chill through his body.

Before he enlisted, the recruiters in his home town of Bradenton, Fla., had told him that the Army desperately needed Muslim soldiers like him to help win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yet ever since, he had been filing complaint after complaint with his commanders. After he was ordered not to fast and pray. After his Koran was torn up. After other soldiers jeered and threw water bottles at him. After his platoon sergeant warned him to hide his faith to avoid getting a "beating" by fellow troops. But nothing changed.

Then came the November shootings at Fort Hood and the arrest of a Muslim soldier he'd never met: Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, who is charged with killing 13 people and injuring more than 30 in a massacre that stunned the nation. And with it, things only got worse.

Staring at the note in his hands that dark February morning, Klawonn trembled with panic and frustration. His faith, he believed, had made him a marked man in the Army. Now the November rampage had only added to his visibility.
Read the rest here.

This is a very disturbing story. If even half of what is reported in here is accurate there has been a monumental failure on the part of the Army in general and this young soldier's chain of command in particular. That a commanding officer would respond to persistent reports of religious harassment, intimidation and even threats by suggesting that the soldier move off base "for his own safety" is a direct indictment of the entire chain of command. It is an admission that the CO has lost control of his unit. He should be summarily relieved of command and cashiered. I would also suggest that Non-Judicial Punishment (in the Navy we called it Mast) should be imposed on the more junior members of this soldier's chain of command with reprimands and demotions handed out as appropriate.

As a veteran who had a good friend in the Navy who happened to be Muslim, I am disgusted by this. Heads need to roll and a message needs to be sent. Anyone who can't conduct themselves in a professional manner and respect other people's personal religious beliefs has no place in the armed forces of the United States period.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Democrats Rejoice...

But David Brooks does not...
Parties come to embody causes. For the past 90 years or so, the Republican Party has, at its best, come to embody the cause of personal freedom and economic dynamism. For a similar period, the Democratic Party has, at its best, come to embody the cause of fairness and family security. Over the past century, they have built a welfare system, brick by brick, to guard against the injuries of fate.

If you grew up, as I did, with a Hubert Humphrey poster on your wall and a tradition of Democratic Party activism in your family, you recognize the Democratic DNA in the content of this bill and in the way it was passed. There was the inevitable fractiousness, the neuroticism, the petty logrolling, but also the basic concern for the vulnerable and the high idealism.

And there was also the faith in the grand liberal project. Democrats protected the unemployed starting with the New Deal, then the old, then the poor. Now, thanks to health care reform, millions of working families will go to bed at night knowing that they are not an illness away from financial ruin.

For apostates like me, watching this bill go through the meat grinder was like watching an old family reunion. One glimpse and you got the whole panoply of what you loved and found annoying about these people.
Read the rest here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The NY Times discovers Greek Rite Catholics... (because their clergy are not celibate)

RUDNO, Ukraine — Let the rest of Europe be convulsed by debates over whether the celibacy of Roman Catholic priests is causing sex abuse scandals like the one now unfolding in Germany. Here in western Ukraine, many Catholic priests are married, fruitful and multiplying — with the Vatican’s blessing.

The many feet scampering around the Volovetskiy home are testament to that.

The family’s six children range from Pavlina, 21, to Taras, 9. In the middle is Roman, 16, who wants to be a Catholic priest when he grows up. Just like his father.

Dad is the Rev. Yuriy Volovetskiy, who leads a small parish here and whose wife, Vera, teaches religious school. The Volovetskiys serve in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which believes that celibate priests are not necessarily better priests.

Ukrainian Greek Catholics represent a branch of Catholicism that is distinct from the far more prevalent Roman Catholic one. The Ukrainian church is loyal to the pope in Rome, and its leader is a cardinal and major archbishop.

But it conducts services that resemble those in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. In religious terms, it follows the Eastern Rite, not the Latin one that is customary in Roman Catholicism.
.
Historically, the Vatican appears to have tolerated the traditions and attitude toward celibacy of the so-called Eastern Rite Catholics in order to retain a foothold in regions where Orthodox Christianity has dominated. But this exception suggests that the Vatican view on celibacy is not as rigid or monolithic as it might otherwise appear.
Read the rest here.

A Radical's Platform

There has been much hysteria of late over the recent health care reform bill. Cries of socialism and communism and freedom lost, the end of the Republic etc. This of course is hardly new. It is in fact as old as the Republic. Every major reform has faced virulent and often hysterical opposition.

A case in point...

He was denounced as a socialist and a radical. He was despised as a traitor to his class. In 1912 then former President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt ran for president against Woodrow Wilson and his own handpicked successor William H. Taft. He lost (badly). What follows are a few highlights from the platform of an arch-radical.

  • Presidential candidates of parties to be determined by popular primary election and not back room deals.

  • Election of U.S. Senators by popular vote instead of by state legislatures.

  • Universal suffrage for women.

  • A short ballot limiting the number of offices up for election.

  • A stringent corrupt practices act applied to primaries as well as general elections.

  • Publication of campaign contributors.

  • Availability of public initiatives, referendums and recall.

  • Recall of judicial decisions.

  • Simplifying the process for amending the Federal Constitution.

  • Strengthening the Pure Food Act.

  • Establishment of a National Health Department.

  • The establishment of a minimum wage.

  • The right to organize unions and collective bargaining.

  • Establishment of an eight hour work day.

  • Strict work place safety laws.

  • Prohibition of child labor.

  • Outlawing night work for women.

  • At least one day of rest per week for all wage earners.

  • The protection of home life against the hazards of sickness, irregular employment and old age through the adoption of a system of universal social insurance adapted to American use.

  • Prison reform and strict regulation of convict labor.
  • A non-partisan tariff commission.

  • Development and control of the Mississippi River.

  • Conservation of forests, water and natural resources.

  • Federal regulation of banks, the stock market and financial exchanges.

  • Outlawing of insider trading.

  • Financial transparency for all publicly traded corporations.

  • Nationalization of Alaskan railroads.

  • A larger navy

  • Fortification of the Panama Canal.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Is health-care reform constitutional?

With the House set to vote on health-care legislation, the congressional debate on the issue seems to be nearing its conclusion. But if the bill does become law, the battle over federal control of health care will inevitably shift to the courts. Virginia's attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli II, has said he will file a legal challenge to the bill, arguing in a column this month that reform legislation "violate[s] the plain text of both the Ninth and Tenth Amendments." On Friday, South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announced that they will file a federal lawsuit if health-care reform legislation passes.

Will these cases get anywhere? Here is a guide to the possible legal challenges to a comprehensive health-care bill.
The individual mandate.

Can Congress really require that every person purchase health insurance from a private company or face a penalty? The answer lies in the commerce clause of the Constitution, which grants Congress the power "to regulate commerce . . . among the several states." Historically, insurance contracts were not considered commerce, which referred to trade and carriage of merchandise. That's why insurance has traditionally been regulated by states. But the Supreme Court has long allowed Congress to regulate and prohibit all sorts of "economic" activities that are not, strictly speaking, commerce. The key is that those activities substantially affect interstate commerce, and that's how the court would probably view the regulation of health insurance.

But the individual mandate extends the commerce clause's power beyond economic activity, to economic inactivity. That is unprecedented. While Congress has used its taxing power to fund Social Security and Medicare, never before has it used its commerce power to mandate that an individual person engage in an economic transaction with a private company. Regulating the auto industry or paying "cash for clunkers" is one thing; making everyone buy a Chevy is quite another. Even during World War II, the federal government did not mandate that individual citizens purchase war bonds.

If you choose to drive a car, then maybe you can be made to buy insurance against the possibility of inflicting harm on others. But making you buy insurance merely because you are alive is a claim of power from which many Americans instinctively shrink. Senate Republicans made this objection, and it was defeated on a party-line vote, but it will return.
Read the rest here.

Watch Bond Market, Not Bank Lending or Velocity

A few weeks ago we wrote about the true cause of hyperinflation, which is a major break or failure in the bond market. It has nothing to do with demand, bank lending or the velocity of money as many have suggested. It is a confidence issue. It is not a rise in inflationary expectations but a loss of confidence in a country being able to repay its debts. As confidence is lost, interest rates rise. Monetization occurs when the cost of servicing the debt consumes too much of the overall budget, so that the government can’t provide basic services or loses its ability to function on a day-to-day basis.

The important point to note is that deflationary forces lead to hyperinflation. Once again, it is not demand, bank lending or increased velocity. Those things do not trigger severe inflation; they merely can be a symptom after the trigger. And by the way, increased velocity is basically another form of increased demand. Fundamentally, they are no different.

Is anyone paying attention to the first domino in the sovereign debt crisis? Take a look at this Bloomberg story - Iceland’s Economy Shrinks 8% as Prices rise by 11%.

Deflationary forces are causing severe inflation, as Iceland’s government is bankrupt. Moreover, bank lending in both the US and the UK has been sliding, yet we see price inflation increasing in the UK and starting to pickup in the US. Even amidst deflation in the private sector, Gold has risen to an all time high against both the Dollar and the Pound and also the Euro.
Read the rest here.

Romanian Orthodox Church to depose priests who divorce

The Romanian Orthodox has decided to strip clergymen who divorce of their priestly duties.

Church spokesman Constantin Stoica says the decision to defrock priests who divorce will apply to all. But he says that those whose marriages broke up because their wives committed adultery will find other employment within the church.

Stoica said Friday that the decision was triggered after the number of divorced priests reached 500 out of a total of 16,000.

Those already divorced or remarried will not be defrocked. But they will not be promoted to high positions and will not be able to teach at theological schools and universities.

More than 85 percent of Romania's 22 million population are Orthodox believers.
Source

Japan's Debt May Lead to Default or Hyperinflation

Via the Japan Times:
Prominent economist Yukio Noguchi is one of the few who correctly predicted the collapse of Japan's bubble economy in 1987, warning the preceding euphoria was based on a major distortion in land prices. Now the doomsday prophet is making another terrifying prediction: Japan is likely to be devastated by a snowballing public debt that will bankrupt its government and trigger catastrophic hyperinflation.

"There is little hope," Noguchi said in an interview with The Japan Times at Waseda University's Graduate School of Finance in Tokyo. "Japan's fiscal conditions are so bad, it can no longer be fixed without causing inflation. I'm very pessimistic." Noguchi is not the only one deeply fretting the debt.

They may still be a minority, but an increasing number of economists and market players are voicing deep concerns about Japan's fiscal sustainability and fear catastrophe may strike in the near future. Compared with Greece, Japan's gross government debt is far worse, at 181 percent of gross domestic product — the highest among the developed countries. Greece's debt-to-GDP ratio is 115 percent.

Japan's present debt-to-GDP ratio is only comparable with what it was at the end of World War II. At that time, the only way the government could reduce the debt was through hyperinflation, which wiped out much of the people's wealth with skyrocketing prices. "I can't tell exactly what will happen (this time), but what actually happened after the war was that the price level surged 60 times in just over four years," Noguchi said. "If the same thing happens again, a ¥10 million bank account will have the same net value of just ¥100,000 today. It's actually possible," he warned.

The alarmists even include Ikuo Hirata, chief editorial writer of the Nikkei business daily.

Hirata predicts the huge debt will eventually force the Bank of Japan to purchase Japanese government bonds on a massive scale, eroding market confidence and pushing up long-term interest rates. A rise in long-term interest rates of even a few percentage points would sharply increase debt-servicing costs on the bonds and critically damage the government's already precarious finances.

"The curtain of the tragedy will be raised next year," Hirata warned in a Nikkei article on Dec. 21.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Anathema!

Given recent events I had considered posting some commentary on the latest insanity from the Episcopal Organization. However, on reflection I realized I had nothing new to say on the matter. I wrote a piece that I am going to copy below back on November 17 2006 and after looking it over have concluded that it remains my opinion today. Some of the names and numbers are a bit dated, but broadly speaking I have been given no reason to alter my position.

Some thoughts on losing a war...

One of the few programs on television I watch religiously is on the Sci Fi channel. It’s called Battlestar Galactica. This is a remake of the campy late 1970’s series of the same name. But while the older series was a cross between space opera and silly comedy the new series is incredibly gritty, well written and blessed with superb acting. It is also dark. When I say dark, I mean midnight black. The motto of this program could be “remember it’s always darkest just before it gets even more hopeless.” Most television programs tend to end on a happy note. If that’s what you’re looking for DO NOT watch this program. Allow me a small example from the pilot miniseries.

(WARNING!!! PLOT SPOILER AHEAD FOR THOSE WHO MAY WANT TO GO OUT AND RENT THE DVD)

The pilot is set in an unknown time and corner of the universe with humans living on twelve planets in a solar system called “The Colonies.” A long time ago we are told in the written prologue, they made a race of machines called Cylons to serve them. But the machines rebelled and there was a war that eventually ended in a draw. The Cylons left and had not been heard from in a generation. Meanwhile The Colonies are seen as an advanced society that is relatively democratic, peaceful and prosperous. Then the Cylons came back.

In the space of roughly 24 hours in their time (about 3 1/2 hrs on DVD) the twelve colonies are annihilated. I mean gone, as in wiped out. Genocide is an often overused term. This program shows what a real genocide might look like. The home worlds are obliterated in a massive surprise attack with nuclear weapons raining down on cities. The Colonial Fleet is also destroyed except for a lone ship called the Galactica, a sort of space age aircraft carrier/battleship.

The Galactica survives the initial massacre by a stroke of luck and retreats to the far corner of the solar system to rearm. While there a handful of civilian space ships arrive lead by the erstwhile Secretary of Education, now President of The Colonies, Laura Roselyn with perhaps 50,000 survivors left from a civilization of probably tens of billions of people.

There she meets the commanding officer of the Galactica, Bill Adama who quickly makes it clear he has only one interest. He wants to get back into the fight as quickly as possible. A stunned President Rosalyn asks him if he is serious. To which Adama replies with his own question. “What do you suggest we do? Run?” And that’s when Rosalyn gives the money quote that is at the heart of my post.

“Yes. We run. I respectfully suggest it’s the only sane thing to do. We leave and we don’t come back. I am not sure if you realize this, but the war is over. And we lost.”

(SPOILER OVER… SAFE TO RESUME READING)

There are today in the Episcopal Church (TEC) 110 dioceses and a significant number of retired bishops. Of those perhaps a dozen are at least somewhat orthodox (small “o”). Five are in open resistance to their own church, with one (San Joaquin) contemplating secession from TEC. The rest are to varying degree heretics or even apostates. The number of orthodox Christians left in TEC is not known but it’s unlikely that they comprise more than 10% of the clergy in most dioceses. There are exceptions to be sure. But in the big picture they are an extreme and dwindling minority in a denomination which has elected an apostate as its presiding bishop. How many times have we all heard of the few clergy and laymen who courageously soldier on against all odds, dreaming of a restoration?

My question is at what point does one step back and say the cause is lost? The few bishops who have not become formal heretics in TEC must at some point retire or die. Do you think the people running the show will tolerate many more Bishop Schofields? They came very close to taking steps to remove him as Bp of San Joaquin, and may yet do so. How long can one remain in communion with heretical or apostate bishops knowing them to be such? Even if your own bishop is one of the few, he (and by extension you) is in communion with heretics. Leaving is painful. But fighting for a cause that is lost can be more painful. It can warp one’s faith and allow bitterness and anger to intrude itself into the soul. Better to accept this defeat and focus on where to go for spiritual nourishment. For the Protestant minded there is no shortage of denominations available. Pick one.

For the catholic minded, that is to say those seeking The Church and not a denomination there are logically two choices, Orthodoxy or Rome. But wherever you go one thing needs to be said plainly though with love and empathy for the pain of this fact. Staying in TEC is no longer a moral option for an orthodox Christian. There is no longer any reasonable hope of reversing the fortunes of this fight. To believe otherwise is to be willfully blind to the truth. “The war is over. And we lost.”

Matthew 10: 14-15
14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.
15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Feast of St. Patrick Enlightener of Ireland

Happy St. Patrick's day to all my fellow Irish both in blood and spirit.

No more posting today. And remember Guinness is not wine. :-)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Peter Schiff dismantles Paul Krugman on China and the dollar

Russian police claim priest's murderer is dead

(Reuters) - Prosecutors claimed on Tuesday to have solved the high-profile slaying of a Russian Orthodox priest in Moscow, saying a man shot dead by police in the Dagestan province was carrying the gun used to kill the priest.

The November killing of Daniil Sysoyev, who had reported receiving death threats for preaching to Muslims, threatened the delicate relations between Russia's dominant Orthodox Church and its large Muslim minority.

A masked man shot Sysoyev in his church in an attack prosecutors said at the time was likely motivated by religion. Sysoyev had converted Muslims to Christianity and criticized Islam.

After Sysoyev's death, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill praised his missionary activity and "zealous works in the field of preaching the word of God." Law enforcement authorities had been under pressure to find his killer.

On Tuesday, the investigative branch of the Prosecutor General's office said a man killed by police in an exchange of gunfire in Dagestan, a violence-plagued province in Russia's North Caucasus, was carrying the gun that killed Sysoyev.
Read the rest here.

FED to keep interest rates exceptionally low for "extended" period

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) issued its policy statement today. They reaffirmed the Federal Reserve's intention to keep interest rates extremely low for what they termed an "extended" period. Most economists interpret that term to mean at least six months. This means that FED which has kept interest rates at near zero since the early stages of the economic crisis has no plans to tighten up on the nations money supply anytime soon. The supply of money is already at an all time high.

In response to this news Wall Street was up modestly, while the US Dollar Index fell below $80. Gold and silver were both up by more than 1.5% on the COMEX as concerns over potential inflation were revived among investors.

Google defies Chinese censorship

BEIJING - Web sites dealing with subjects such as the Tiananmen Square democracy protests, Tibet and regional independence movements could all be accessed through Google's Chinese search engine Tuesday, after the company said it would no longer abide by Beijing's censorship rules.

Despite a report in the China Daily that Google China was still filtering content on its search engine and the firm's own insistence that its policies had not changed, people in Beijing found that it wasn't necessarily the case.

NBC News, using the publicly accessible Internet, tried searching for three sensitive topics normally blocked in China.
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The first phrase typed into Google.cn was "Xinjiang independence," and the top result was a Wikipedia entry about the East Turkestan independence movement.

The second search attempted was the "Tibet Information Network," a former non-profit group that was critical of China's policies in the region.

When NBC News in Beijing did a search for the words “Tank Man” in Chinese characters, the iconic image did appear. But it was only one image came back as a result, not several like you likely find on U.S. based Internet search.

And when “June 4,” the term used for the Tiananmen protests in China, was searched with Chinese characters, again just one image of the Tank Man appeared.”

For the final search, "Tiananmen Square massacre" was typed in, deliberately choosing the more controversial phrase instead of "Tiananmen Square incident."

Once again, a long list of results appeared, detailing the military crackdown on protesters on 4 June 1989. The famous picture of a lone man blocking a line of tanks was among them.
Read the rest here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Health Care Battle: Has the GOP made a serious tactical error?

Last week the GOP was confronted by a plan on the part of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to pull a political fast one on health reform. Her plan was to pass the reconciliation bill before passing the Senate version of the bill. This would have made garnering the votes from her sharply divided caucus much easier. In order to block this the Republicans appealed to the Senate's Parliamentarian for a ruling on whether one can present for a vote a bill on reconciliation for another bill not yet passed. The GOP won that battle when the parliamentarian ruled that before amendments can be presented for the process known as reconciliation (to avoid a GOP sponsored filibuster) the original bill MUST first be both passed by the House and signed by the President into law.

The GOP was ecstatic. They had just stopped a political flanking attack, and they felt sure made it much harder for House members to vote for a bill that nearly everyone agrees is horribly flawed. I believe they may have been mistaken.

Recall that the Senate bill contains provisions for special kickbacks and sweetheart deals for a few states like Louisiana and Nebraska as well as provisions that are deeply unpopular with most mainstream Americans. IF the House does pass the original Senate bill which is now their intention, and the president then signs said bill it will become the law of the land with all its warts. Then will come the various amendments to this bill which the Democrats want passed by reconcilaition since the GOP has vowed massive resistance to any meaningful health care reform. The GOP intends to challenge every letter of every word in the amendments invoking what is called the "Byrd Rule" (so named for Senator Robert Byrd D-WV who devised the system to prevent an end run around the Senate filibuster for anything other than purely fiscal matters). If they are successful they will effectively kill many, possibly most, of the amendments to the Senate bill.

But wait.

Recall that the Senate's bill will have already been passed by the House and signed by the President. The GOP will now be in a different situation. National universal health insurance (however deeply flawed) will now be the law. What the GOP will be fighting are amendments to fix universally recognized problems with the legislation. Do they want to go on record trying to preserve the "Louisiana Purchase" or the "Corn Husker Kickback" that they so justly lampooned last summer and fall?

I think the Republicans miscalculated and will find themselves in a situation where they are going to have to accept at least some of the amendments presented by the House. Otherwise they will be raked over the coals for their hypocrisy in November. Also confronted with the reality of universal health insurance being law and the extreme unlikelihood of ever being able to repeal it, I suspect they may moderate their position and offer to let some of the amendments go through, perhaps in exchange for some of their own being added. We will see.

One thing however seems clear. If the Democrats can get the votes to pass the Senate's bill as is, the GOP will find it politically challenging to continue their policy of just say "NO."

Junk Bond Avalanche Looms for Credit Markets

When the Mayans envisioned the world coming to an end in 2012 — at least in the Hollywood telling — they didn’t count junk bonds among the disasters that would lead to worldwide disaster.

Maybe they should have, because 2012 also is the beginning of a three-year period in which more than $700 billion in risky, high-yield corporate debt begins to come due, an extraordinary surge that some analysts fear could create a glut in the debt markets.

With huge bills about to hit corporations and the federal government around the same time, the worry is that some companies will have trouble getting new loans, spurring defaults and a wave of bankruptcies.

The United States government alone will need to borrow nearly $2 trillion in 2012, to bridge the projected budget deficit for that year and to refinance existing debt.

Indeed, worries about the growth of national, or sovereign, debt prompted Moody’s Investors Service to warn on Monday that the United States and other Western nations were moving “substantially” closer to losing their top-notch Aaa credit ratings.

Sovereign debt aside, the approaching scramble for corporate financing could strain the broader economy as jobs are cut, consumer spending is scaled back and credit is tightened for both consumers and businesses.

The apocalyptic talk is not limited to perpetual bears and the rest of the doom-and-gloom crowd. Even Moody’s, which is known for its sober public statements, is sounding the alarm.

“An avalanche is brewing in 2012 and beyond if companies don’t get out in front of this,” said Kevin Cassidy, a senior credit officer at Moody’s.
Read the rest here.

Social Security to start cashing Uncle Sam's IOUs

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — The retirement nest egg of an entire generation is stashed away in this small town along the Ohio River: $2.5 trillion in IOUs from the federal government, payable to the Social Security Administration.

It's time to start cashing them in.

For more than two decades, Social Security collected more money in payroll taxes than it paid out in benefits — billions more each year.

Not anymore. This year, for the first time since the 1980s, when Congress last overhauled Social Security, the retirement program is projected to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes — nearly $29 billion more.

Sounds like a good time to start tapping the nest egg. Too bad the federal government already spent that money over the years on other programs, preferring to borrow from Social Security rather than foreign creditors. In return, the Treasury Department issued a stack of IOUs — in the form of Treasury bonds — which are kept in a nondescript office building just down the street from Parkersburg's municipal offices.

Now the government will have to borrow even more money, much of it abroad, to start paying back the IOUs, and the timing couldn't be worse. The government is projected to post a record $1.5 trillion budget deficit this year, followed by trillion dollar deficits for years to come.
Read the rest here.
Hat tip The Young Fogey.

Credit Agency Warns U.S. and Others of Risk to Top Rating

PARIS — Major Western economies have moved “substantially” closer to losing their top-notch credit ratings, with the United States and Britain under the most pressure, Moody’s Investors Service said Monday in a reminder that the global debt crisis is not limited to the small or weak.

The ratings of the Aaa governments — which also include Germany, France, Spain and the Nordic countries — are currently “stable,” Moody’s analysts wrote in the report. But, it added, “their ‘distance-to-downgrade’ has in all cases substantially diminished.”

“Growth alone will not resolve an increasingly complicated debt equation,” Moody’s said. “Preserving debt affordability” — the ratio of interest payments to government revenue — “at levels consistent with Aaa ratings will invariably require fiscal adjustments of a magnitude that, in some cases, will test social cohesion.”
Read the rest here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rush issues an ultimatum

I am a little behind on this story because I religiously avoid anything connected to the obnoxious windbag. But I have heard from multiple sources now that Rush Limbaugh has vowed to leave the United States if Health Care Reform passes. Where will he go?

Costa Rica.

Yep. Limbaugh will protest America's slow slide into socialist communism by emigrating to one of the most progressive countries on the planet. Costa Rica already has Universal National Health Insurance and has for decades been ranked higher than the United States by The World Health Organization in terms of both its health care system and the overall health of its population. Costa Rica abolished its armed forces concluding it was a waste of money that could be better expended on other things like education and... universal national health insurance. Costa Rica is one of the most environmentally friendly countries on Earth with large tracks of the country set aside as wildlife refuges and parks.

Of course with this new threat to their nation they may have to rethink their decision to disband the armed forces.

On a side note; why is it that everytime I hear Rush Limbaugh's name I keep recalling that old quote from the infamous Hollywood diva Tallulah Bankhead? (Que the deep southern drawl with the floor length mink coat, dark glasses and long cigarette holder...)

"Well you know dahling, my daddy warned me about men and alcohol. But he forgot to mention cocaine."

Bob Hope on Health Care Reform

In Defense of Ulysses S. Grant

RONALD REAGAN deserves posterity’s honor, and so it makes sense that the capital’s airport and a major building there are named for him. But the proposal to substitute his image for that of Ulysses S. Grant on the $50 bill is a travesty that would dishonor the nation’s bedrock principles of union, freedom and equality — and damage its historical identity. Although slandered since his death, Grant, as general and as president, stood second only to Abraham Lincoln as the vindicator of those principles in the Civil War era.

Born to humble circumstances, Grant endured personal setbacks and terrible poverty to become the indispensable general of the Union Army. Although not himself an abolitionist, he recognized from the very start that the Civil War would cause, as he wrote, “the doom of slavery.” Above all, he despised the Southern secessionists as traitors who would destroy democratic republican government, of which, Lincoln said in his first inaugural, there was no “better or equal hope in the world.”
Read the rest here.

The author makes some interesting points. But it seems he also downplays the rampant corruption in the Grant Administration. I have hitherto ranked Grant higher than many historians. (See my rankings here.) However I am not sold on his belonging in the same pantheon as the truly "Great" presidents.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Notice to customers: We reserve the right rip you off. Thank you for banking with us.

Jacksonville, FL based EverBank – a bank with approximately $8 billion in assets and 1800 employees according to the company website – recently sent this notice to customers (courtesy of Warren Bevan):

"Non-FDIC Insured Metals Select Changes" -
Section 6.3.7. General Terms: We have added language clarifying our right to close your account. We may close your Metals Select Account at anytime upon reasonable notice to you. If we believe that it is necessary to close your account immediately in order to limit losses by you or us [GG: We really don’t give a s**t about you; it’s us that we care about], we may close your account prior to providing notice to you. Notice from us to one of you is notice to all of you [GG: the nerve of these people!]. If we close your account, we reserve the right to convert your Precious Metals to U.S. dollars and tender the balance to you by mail [GG: I am willing to bet my entire Gold stash that when you receive these "converted" dollars, they will be nowhere near the market price of physical. What did you think that whole "limit losses" thing meant?] .
Source

Addendum: I link the source of the report out of respect for the usual courtesies online. However I do not necessarily endorse the commentary at that website.

Georgian Orthodox Church offers to permit some minor criminals serve part of their sentence in monasteries

Officials in the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia have announced a scheme to let prisoners shorten their jail terms by spending time in a monastery instead.

The scheme for petty criminals has been proposed by the country's Orthodox Church and government officials.

It comes as prisoner numbers in Georgia continue to rise and so too does the popularity of the Church.
Read the rest here.

Russian Church plans a church and cemetery for the site where the Royal Martyrs were first buried

MOSCOW — Visitors from around the world have turned an isolated ravine in central Russia into a pilgrimage site in recent years. They arrive to gaze at the unadorned earth where the Bolsheviks, in one final act to defile the dynasty that they toppled, are believed to have dumped the remains of Czar Nicholas II and his family in July 1918.

But now the site is being threatened by an unlikely opponent: the powerful Russian Orthodox Church, which to this day has not acknowledged that the bones retrieved there over the last two decades are those of the royals.

The church wants to build a large Russian Orthodox cemetery and cathedral at the site, effectively obliterating its historic and archaeological value, according to professionals who have worked at the site and experts on the royal family. The church hopes to begin construction in April, when its leader, Patriarch Kirill I, visits for a groundbreaking for the project, in Yekaterinburg, in the foothills of the Ural Mountains.

The project will not include memorials or other references to the remains because the church does not believe they are genuine, a position that flies in the face of an overwhelming scientific consensus based on extensive DNA testing by major laboratories in Russia, Europe and North America.
Read the rest here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Well, somebody needed to say it.

FOX News is a disgrace and embarrassment to serious journalism. That said lets not ignore the offenses of the other networks most notably CBS during the Rather years, PBS and MSNBC. I will grant that FOX is far more glaring in its complete abandonment of even the veneer of journalistic integrity and neutrality. But the political left slanted the news for so long it seems a bit disingenuous to suddenly find one's voice and express indignation here.

But yea, the author is correct. FOX has sold its soul to the GOP and is little more than a propaganda machine for the far right and the neo-cons.

Turkish Authorities to Open Orthodox Seminary on Halki Island

File this under "we will see."
Moscow, March 12, Interfax - Turkish government plans to resume work of an Orthodox Theological seminary on the Island of Halki as it was closed several dozens years ago.

"Me personally and the government are determined to restart education in seminar," the Sedmitza.ru website has cited Turkish Vice Prime Minister Bülent Arınç I as saying.

As was reported in February, PACE deputies urged Turkish authorities to let Constantinople Patriarch reopen a theological school on Halki and register it as a branch of theological faculty of the Galatasaray University.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia after his meeting with Turkey's head for Religious Affairs Ali Bardakoglu in Ankara in 2009 said that "to reopen the Halki theological school would be a right step to take."

Turkish government closed the Halki theological school in the 1970-s, then it was the only seminary of the Constantinople Orthodox Church. It has not opened ever since.
Source

Supreme Court to rule on anti-gay protests at military funerals

The Supreme Court will review whether anti-gay protests at funerals of American soldiers are protected by the First Amendment, taking up the appeal of a Maryland man who won and then had reversed a $10 million verdict against the small Kansas church that conducts the demonstrations.

The case will seek to balance a group's free speech rights with the rights of private individuals to be protected from unwanted demonstrations and defamatory remarks. A federal appeals court said the church's protests were "utterly distasteful" but protected because they were related to "matters of public concern."

The case was one of three the court announced it would be considering in its new term that begins in October. It will review restrictions on those who want to sue drugmakers with claims that their vaccines are faulty, and it will examine whether the questions that the federal government asks about potential employees violate their constitutional rights.

The funeral protest case is brought by a Maryland father whose son's 2006 funeral in Westminster was picketed by members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. Westboro pastor Fred W. Phelps Sr. contends that the deaths of American soldiers are punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality and has organized nearly 43,000 protests since 1991, according to the church's Web site.

Phelps and members of his church -- which consists primarily of him and members of his extended family -- say they were not targeting Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in action in Iraq. But they say they have learned that demonstrating at funerals gets the most public and media attention for their message that the nation's tolerance for gays has resulted in punishment, especially the deaths of American soldiers.

The signs they carried at Snyder's funeral at St. John's Catholic Church, made in the Kansas church's on-site sign shop, included, "God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11," "Semper Fi Fags," "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "Priests Rape Boys."
Read the rest here.

I am deeply conflicted on this one. The libertarian in me says that even deeply offensive speech must be protected. And let's be honest. These flakes masquerading as Christians are about as offensive as one can get. Which brings up the other side of the argument or rather two.

First is the libertarian principle that your rights end when they intrude on someone else's. Do you have a "right" do bury your son in peace and free from harassment? I don't think that would be a huge legal reach. If in fact you do have that right then the government is well within its rights to severely restrict this sort of activity.

The second is the age old and universally accepted exception to free speech known as "fighting words." The courts have long held that words or gestures which are calculated to, or almost certain to, incite violence are not protected speech.

Now I don't have a clue what these families have had to go through buring a loved one, usually way too young, killed in war. And I pray God I never get the chance to find out. However I can imagine that if I were in that position and someone showed up at my son's funeral waving signs of this nature, that it might provoke a response from me. As a Christian I would hope that I might limit that response to the "Bronx salute." But I also know that I am human and would likely be under extreme emotional strain at such a moment. In short, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that I might in the heat of the moment conclude that it was worth spending thirty days in the clink for the pleasure of busting one of these clowns in the chops.

Food for thought in case any Supreme Court Justices wander onto this page.

Democrats plan final (party line) votes on health care reform as soon as next week

Democratic leaders on Friday stoked expectations that the year-long debate in Congress over health care may be coming to an end, after President Obama delayed his upcoming trip to the South Pacific and House leaders indicated they could deliver a final bill for his signature by the end of next week.

The House is preparing to vote, perhaps Friday or next Saturday, on the legislation that passed the Senate on Christmas Eve, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she was "delighted that the president will be here for the passage of the bill. It's going to be historic."

Obama was scheduled to depart Washington on Thursday for Indonesia, Guam and Australia. Instead, he condensed the visit and will now leave March 21, planning to spend the extra days helping to lock down House votes for the bill, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.
Read the rest here.

Texas (GOP) re-writes history and a few other things

AUSTIN, Tex. — After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas Board of Education on Friday approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.

The vote was 10 to 5 along party lines, with all the Republicans on the board voting for it.

The board, whose members are elected, has influence beyond Texas because the state is one of the largest buyers of textbooks. In the digital age, however, that influence has diminished as technological advances have made it possible for publishers to tailor books to individual states.

In recent years, board members have been locked in an ideological battle between a bloc of conservatives who question Darwin’s theory of evolution and believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles, and a handful of Democrats and moderate Republicans who have fought to preserve the teaching of Darwinism and the separation of church and state.

Since January, Republicans on the board have passed more than 100 amendments to the 120-page curriculum standards affecting history, sociology and economics courses from elementary to high school. The standards were proposed by a panel of teachers.
Read the rest here.

Israeli American relations are strained

WASHINGTON — In a tense, 43-minute phone call on Friday morning, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel’s plan for new housing units for Jews in East Jerusalem sent a “deeply negative signal” about Israeli-American relations, and not just because it spoiled a visit by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Biden, in Israel this week to declare American support for its security, had already condemned the move as undermining the peace process. But Mrs. Clinton went a good deal further in her conversation with Mr. Netanyahu, saying it had harmed “the bilateral relationship,” according to the State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley.

Such blunt language toward Israel is very rare from an American administration, and several officials said Mrs. Clinton was relaying the anger of President Obama at the announcement, which was made by Israel’s Interior Ministry and which Mr. Netanyahu said had caught him off guard.
Read the rest here.

Scandal in German Catholic Church is causing angst in Rome

BERLIN — A widening child sexual abuse inquiry in Europe has landed at the doorstep of Pope Benedict XVI, as a senior church official acknowledged Friday that a German archdiocese made “serious mistakes” in handling an abuse case while the pope served as its archbishop.

The archdiocese said that a priest accused of molesting boys was given therapy in 1980 and later allowed to resume pastoral duties, before committing further abuses and being prosecuted. Pope Benedict, who at the time headed the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, approved the priest’s transfer for therapy. A subordinate took full responsibility for allowing the priest to later resume pastoral work, the archdiocese said in a statement.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said he had no comment beyond the statement by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, which he said showed the “nonresponsibility” of the pope in the matter.
Read the rest here.

Tea party shuns social conservative agenda for fiscal conservatism

For decades, faith and family have been at the center of the conservative movement. But as the Tea Party infuses conservatism with new energy, its leaders deliberately avoid discussion of issues like gay marriage or abortion.

God, life and family get little if any mention in statements or manifestos. The motto of the Tea Party Patriots, a large coalition of groups, is “fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets.” The Independence Caucus questionnaire, which many Tea Party groups use to evaluate candidates, poses 80 questions, most on the proper role of government, tax policy and the federal budgeting process, and virtually none on social issues.

The Contract From America, which is being created Wiki-style by Internet contributors as a manifesto of what “the people” want government to do, also mentions little in the way of social issues, beyond a declaration that parents should be given choice in how to educate their children. By contrast, the document it aims to improve upon — the Contract With America, which Republicans used to market their successful campaign to win a majority in Congress in 1994 — was prefaced with the promise that the party would lead a Congress that “respects the values and shares the faith of the American family.”

Tea Party leaders argue that the country can ill afford the discussion about social issues when it is passing on enormous debts to future generations. But the focus is also strategic: leaders think they can attract independent voters if they stay away from divisive issues.

“We should be creating the biggest tent possible around the economic conservative issue,” said Ryan Hecker, the organizer behind the Contract From America. “I think social issues may matter to particular individuals, but at the end of the day, the movement should be agnostic about it. This is a movement that rose largely because of the Republican Party failing to deliver on being representative of the economic conservative ideology. To include social issues would be beside the point.”
Read the rest here.

Meet the new candidate

Murray Hill might be the perfect candidate for this political moment: young, bold, media-savvy, a Washington outsider eager to reshape the way things are done in the nation's capital. And if these are cynical times, well, then, it's safe to say Murray Hill is by far the most cynical.

That's because this little upstart is, in fact, a start-up. Murray Hill is actually Murray Hill Inc., a small, five-year-old Silver Spring public relations company that is seeking office to prove a point (and perhaps get a little attention.)

After the Supreme Court declared that corporations have the same rights as individuals when it comes to funding political campaigns, the self-described progressive firm took what it considers the next logical step: declaring for office.

"Until now, corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence-peddling to achieve their goals in Washington," the candidate, who was unavailable for an interview, said in a statement. "But thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves."
Read the rest here.

Posting a little early

I normally don't post on Friday's during Lent but tomorrow is gong to be kind of busy and I'm not sure how much time I will have to get online. There is quite a bit of stuff worthy of attention that has crossed my computer screen today.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I think Romania just made it onto my must visit list...

Romanian Orthodox Church in Sibiu, Romania
(click to see full size)

Image shamelessly stolen from here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Rome: Clerical celibacy to remain normative and extended to the entire church including the East

From an interview with Father Laurent Touze (emphasis mine).
ZENIT: With this measure, do you think that one day, celibacy might become voluntary also for priests of the Latin rite?

Father Touze: No, because the Church is understanding more and more the relation between priesthood, episcopate and celibacy. It is something that could be likened to the revelation of a dogma, though it isn't so at this time; one tends increasingly to understand that a practice must be promoted among all priests and also among Eastern Catholic priests which is truly similar to the one lived in the first centuries.
Read the rest here.

The commies in our computers

Back in the 1950's we were warned about the Red infiltration. Now it appears that they don't even have to come here.
Urgent warnings have been circulated throughout Nato and the European Union for secret intelligence material to be protected from a recent surge in cyberwar attacks originating in China.

The attacks have also hit government and military institutions in the United States, where analysts said that the West had no effective response and that EU systems were especially vulnerable because most cyber security efforts were left to member states.

Nato diplomatic sources told The Times: “Everyone has been made aware that the Chinese have become very active with cyber-attacks and we’re now getting regular warnings from the office for internal security.” The sources said that the number of attacks had increased significantly over the past 12 months, with China among the most active players.

In the US, an official report released on Friday said the number of attacks on Congress and other government agencies had risen exponentially in the past year to an estimated 1.6 billion every month.
Read the rest here.

Hat tip to Bill (AKA the Godfather)

Monday, March 08, 2010

Muslims massacre hundreds of Christians in Nigeria

Machete wielding Muslims attacked several predominantly Christian villages in Nigeria on Sunday. Estimates of the number of victims vary with the more conservative figures being around 300 and some suggesting well over 500 dead. Large numbers of dead bodies including a disproportionate number of women and children have been reported in the affected area. Newborns and infants were among the confirmed martyrs. Eyewitness reports suggest that Christians were hunted down by mobs of armed Muslims and slaughtered wherever they were found. Some homes were set afire with the occupants burned alive.

Reports of the massacres are receiving an unusual degree of attention from the mainstream press and media which has typically downplayed or ignored similar anti-Christian pogroms in the past.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Breaking With Scientology

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Raised as Scientologists, Christie King Collbran and her husband, Chris, were recruited as teenagers to work for the elite corps of staff members who keep the Church of Scientology running, known as the Sea Organization, or Sea Org.

They signed a contract for a billion years — in keeping with the church’s belief that Scientologists are immortal. They worked seven days a week, often on little sleep, for sporadic paychecks of $50 a week, at most.

But after 13 years and growing disillusionment, the Collbrans decided to leave the Sea Org, setting off on a Kafkaesque journey that they said required them to sign false confessions about their personal lives and their work, pay the church thousands of dollars it said they owed for courses and counseling, and accept the consequences as their parents, siblings and friends who are church members cut off all communication with them.

“Why did we work so hard for this organization,” Ms. Collbran said, “and why did it feel so wrong in the end? We just didn’t understand.”

They soon discovered others who felt the same. Searching for Web sites about Scientology that are not sponsored by the church (an activity prohibited when they were in the Sea Org), they discovered that hundreds of other Scientologists were also defecting — including high-ranking executives who had served for decades.
Read the rest here.

I have just one question. Why are the leaders of this cult/scam not in jail?

A study on the etiquette of drowning

The Titanic in Southampton Harbor April 1912 (Click to view any photo full size)

The Titanic depicted on the night of 14-15 April 1912

A post card of the RMS Lusitania in happier days.

Murder on the high seas. The Lusitania sinks in less then 20 minutes after being torpedoed.
It's hard to remember your manners when you think you're about to die. The human species may have developed an elaborate social and behavioral code, but we drop it fast when we're scared enough — as any stampeding mob reveals.

That primal push-pull is at work during wars, natural disasters and any other time our hides are on the line. It was perhaps never more poignantly played out than during the two greatest maritime disasters in history: the sinking of the Titanic and the Lusitania. A team of behavioral economists from Switzerland and Australia have published a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that takes an imaginative new look at who survived and who perished aboard the two ships, and what the demographics of death say about how well social norms hold up in a crisis.

The Lusitania and the Titanic are often thought of as sister vessels; they in fact belonged to two separate owners, but the error is understandable. Both ships were huge: the Titanic was carrying 2,207 passengers and crew on the night it went down; the Lusitania had 1,949. The mortality figures were even closer, with a 68.7% death rate aboard the Titanic and 67.3% for the Lusitania. What's more, the ships sank just three years apart — the Titanic was claimed by an iceberg on April 14, 1912, and the Lusitania by a German U-Boat on May 7, 1915. But on the decks and in the passageways and all the other places where people fought for their lives, the vessels' respective ends played out very differently.
Read the rest here.

I'm not sure a vast study was required of this. As a hobby I have had more than a passing interest in the history of the great ocean liners. And I am familiar with the tragic stories of both ships. One being the victim of a tragic accident compounded by hubris, and the other the victim of one of the more shocking war crimes in history. (Yes, I am well aware of allegations that the Lusitania was carrying war contraband. But even if true that does not justify sinking an unarmed ship known to be carrying thousands of passengers including women and children.)

The two ships were indeed remarkably similar in many respects including appearance. But really... was a detailed study required to tell them what they found? People in a traumatic emergency situation will panic and some will act badly. Others with time to think and collect themselves tend to behave better. Anyone with a modicum of common sense would know that. And anyone with a working knowledge of the demise of the two steamers could have told them that they went down under very different circumstances.

I guess I am just wondering at the big deal over something that I already knew when I was in High School. Still for those not familiar with basic psychology and or the history of these two tragic ships, the article makes for a good read.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Rise and Fall of a Female Captain Bligh

Women are so common in the upper ranks of the U.S. military these days that it's no longer news when they break through another barrier. Unfortunately, the latest benchmark isn't one to brag about: being booted as captain of a billion-dollar warship for "cruelty and maltreatment" of her 400-member crew. According to the Navy inspector general's report that triggered her removal — and the accounts of officers who served with her — Captain Holly Graf was the closest thing the U.S. Navy had to a female Captain Bligh.

A Navy admiral stripped Graf of her command of the Japan-based guided missile cruiser U.S.S. Cowpens in January. The just-released IG report concludes that Graf "repeatedly verbally abused her crew and committed assault" and accuses her of using her position as commander of the Cowpens "for personal gain." But old Navy hands tell TIME that those charges, substantiated in the IG report, came about because of the poisonous atmosphere she created aboard her ship.
Read the rest here.

As a former sailor I am appalled that any officer could behave so unprofessionally and get promoted to her rank (the naval equal to a full bird colonel in the other branches). I was very fortunate in my time in the Navy. With one exception my assigned duty stations were generally well run with at least tolerably good morale. In a few cases moral was outstanding. Only on one ship did we have a petty tyrant for a skipper. Commander Oliver Hazzard Perry III (a direct descendant of the War of 1812 hero) was the CO of the USS Mahlon S Tisdale FFG 27. While not in the same league as Capt. Graf; he was highly abusive with a notoriously short fuse. It did not help that the ship was assigned to the Naval Reserve Fleet and was thus chronically undermanned. Life on that ship was highly unpleasant. I can not even imagine working for someone like Capt. Graf.

It would be interesting to see what the retention rate was on her ship, as also the records for how many of her crew took "weather leave." (A naval phrase for going over the hill or "I am leaving whether you like it or not.")

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Clarity on Ecumenism

Those of my readers who are Orthodox have probably at times heard the usual line from many of our Roman Catholic interlocutors about how so many Orthodox tend to be rude or worse in their attitudes towards Rome. And in fairness I have run into some of that on our side of the fence (though certainly not routinely). I am not a fan of the kumbaya approach to ecumenism. But yes, I have at times been embarrassed by some of the more strident commentary one occasionally runs into. I guess my main complaint is that far too often Catholics act like we Orthodox have a monopoly on polemical commentary. That of course is nonsense.

But even in snarky commentary I often find redeeming elements. In the case below the redemption comes in the form of clarity. The tone is obviously polemical and intentionally insulting. But if you can move past that the message is important. However sneering the language, the points made are fundamentally an accurate reflection of Roman Catholicism's historic attitude towards us. And that is something we should never forget.

Rome is not interested in restoration of communion as equal parts of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Rome wants submission. To restore communion with Rome is to concede that Innocent III was within his rights to appoint the Patriarch of Constantinople. It is to concede each and every addition to the Deposit of the Faith by the Latin Church including those promulgated by Lyons, Florence, Trent and yes... Vatican I without reservation or equivocation. It is to concede that we are and have been for a thousand years, schismatics and yes, heretics.

Every Orthodox Christian should read this essay.
L’Osservatore Romano recently published Pope Benedict’s birthday greetings to the schismatic Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. The successor of Peter prays in his letter that the Lord will sustain the Patriarch with his strength and grace as he carries out his exalted ministry of Pastor, Preacher of the Gospel and Teacher of spiritual life.
The Pope’s words presuppose that the sacrament of Order has perdured in Constantinople. Through his sacramental consecration as a bishop, Bartholomew has received the high priestly character whereby a bishop is rendered an apt subject to receive a canonical mission in teaching, ruling and sanctifying the Church. Not only that, the Pope also addresses him as Archbishop of Constantinople and Patriarch, just as Pope Eugene IV in the fifteenth century treated the holder of the See as Patriarch when he invited him and all the schismatic bishops to sit at the Council of Ferrara-Florence, where the Greeks would come to agreement with the Latins and co-define the Filioque and papal primacy. In other words, even though the de facto Greek Patriarchs of Constantinople since Cerularius’s schism have not been in communion with the successor of Peter, the successors of Peter have generally been willing to accept their elections, even as they hoped for their return to the unity of the Church. Thus the schismatic Patriarchs accepted to a certain extent by the Pope can be considered as having a “colored” but true title to the See of Constantinople.
However Leo XIII taught in the Encyclical Satis Cognitum, “[b]ishops are deprived of the right and power of ruling, if they deliberately secede from Peter and his successors; because, by this secession, they are separated from the foundation on which the whole edifice must rest. They are therefore outside the edifice itself; and for this very reason they are separated from the fold, whose leader is the Chief Pastor; they are exiled from the Kingdom, the keys of which were given by Christ to Peter alone.” Bartholomew is no different from his Greek predecessors since the Middle Ages in rejecting the authority of the successor of Peter over the whole Church. That is to say, he adheres to the schism of his predecessors and has been known over the years to come out with particularly strong statements of his positions against Catholic doctrine...
Read he rest here.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

How not to run a Parish Council meeting

It's Lent and I don't want to be talking about scandals. But sometimes things happen that need to be addressed in a timely manner. Such is the case with the recent Parish Council meeting at the much troubled St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church. I am not going to post the details of that shocking affair. Follow the link and you will get a detailed report from Owen the Ochlophobist.

I will instead confine myself to asking how anyone can in conscience serve on such a body? I am a member of my parish's PC and it is so beyond my ability to imagine something like that happening, that had such a report come from almost any other source I would be strongly disposed to question its veracity. The only thing I might ever consider donating to that parish is a copy of Roberts Rules of Order as I walked out the door.

Please leave comments at Owen's site.

ANAXIOS!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Why are some liberals backing the NRA on gun rights?

When the constitutional accountability Center launched in 2008, it looked like just another liberal legal-advocacy group, dedicated to "fulfilling the progressive promise of our Constitution's text and history." The causes it has backed run the standard liberal gamut: among other things, the group supports California's efforts to regulate carbon emissions and pushes for "robust due-process protections for immigrant criminal defendants." So if you were told that the CAC had filed an amicus brief in McDonald v. Chicago, a case about gun control to be argued before the Supreme Court this week, you might think it was siding with Chicago, whose restrictions on gun ownership are being challenged.

You would be wrong. For decades, liberals have opposed gun rights on the grounds that the Second Amendment is limited to the establishment of state militias. But some liberal dissenters from this view now say that is too narrow a reading of the Constitution. They contend that it fails to take into account the historical record and contradicts liberals' own reading of the Constitution's protection of individual rights.

The CAC has joined forces with staunch conservatives, including Steven G. Calabresi, cofounder of the Federalist Society, to support expanding individual rights, including gun rights, in the states—inviting the possibility that Chicago's virtual ban on handguns might be overturned. "There is a deeply progressive historical basis for some individual right to bear arms," says Douglas Kendall, the CAC's founder.
Read the rest here.

Follow up: There is more than slightly shocking op-ed piece in the NY Times which lends a lot of weight to the above article. When the Times is endorsing gun rights it makes me question if just maybe I could be wrong on this subject.