Monday, December 30, 2013

Why Have No High-Level Executives Been Prosecuted?

Five years have passed since the onset of what is sometimes called the Great Recession. While the economy has slowly improved, there are still millions of Americans leading lives of quiet desperation: without jobs, without resources, without hope.

Who was to blame? Was it simply a result of negligence, of the kind of inordinate risk-taking commonly called a “bubble,” of an imprudent but innocent failure to maintain adequate reserves for a rainy day? Or was it the result, at least in part, of fraudulent practices, of dubious mortgages portrayed as sound risks and packaged into ever more esoteric financial instruments, the fundamental weaknesses of which were intentionally obscured?

If it was the former—if the recession was due, at worst, to a lack of caution—then the criminal law has no role to play in the aftermath. For in all but a few circumstances (not here relevant), the fierce and fiery weapon called criminal prosecution is directed at intentional misconduct, and nothing less. If the Great Recession was in no part the handiwork of intentionally fraudulent practices by high-level executives, then to prosecute such executives criminally would be “scapegoating” of the most shallow and despicable kind.

But if, by contrast, the Great Recession was in material part the product of intentional fraud, the failure to prosecute those responsible must be judged one of the more egregious failures of the criminal justice system in many years. Indeed, it would stand in striking contrast to the increased success that federal prosecutors have had over the past fifty years or so in bringing to justice even the highest-level figures who orchestrated mammoth frauds. Thus, in the 1970s, in the aftermath of the “junk bond” bubble that, in many ways, was a precursor of the more recent bubble in mortgage-backed securities, the progenitors of the fraud were all successfully prosecuted, right up to Michael Milken.
Read the rest here.

See also this related story.

Too big to fail and too big to jail. Banks are the enemy.

Al Qaieda's plans for Syria's Christians

A sobering post over at Samn!'s excellent blog.

HT: Bill (aka The Godfather)

Forget football; It's the Army vs the Marines in the Pacific

ABOARD THE USS LAKE ERIE — Approaching from the Hawaii coast, the mosquito-shaped helicopter buzzed around this guided-missile cruiser twice before swooping toward the landing pad. The Navy crew on the deck crouched, the helmeted faces betraying more than routine concern as the aircraft, flown by a pilot who had never before alighted upon a ship, hovered a foot off the tarmac and then set down with a thud.

The sailors’ trepidation was prompted by three words painted in black block letters on the drab olive fuselage: United States Army. 
Read the rest here.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Church of England: Casual Sundays?

In a transparently obvious plot to undermine Christopher Johnson's other blog, the CofE is considering a measure that would end ALL requirements with regards clerical attire. Yes, that includes vestments of any kind. The new rule would be come as you are and wear what you like.

Skirmishes flare over WWI centennial plans

FOLKESTONE, England — The war that was supposed to end all wars didn't. But who knew it would still be causing skirmishes nearly a century later?

As Europe prepares to mark the 100th anniversary next year of the outbreak of World War I, clashes have erupted over how best to remember a dreadful conflict that claimed the lives of millions and radically changed the course of human history.

With commemorations set across the continent, some want to recognize it as an important victory for nations such as Britain and France, which won at a heavy price. Yet that risks upsetting current ally Germany, which lost.

Others warn that the real lesson –— the madness of war — is in danger of being ditched in a show of militaristic pride; the focus, they say, should be on peace. But then how to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice?
Read the rest here.

Feast of the Great Martyr Hilarion


December 28, 2013, the feast day of the Holy Martyr Hilarion, Archbishop of Verey, Patriarch Kirill visited Sretensky Monastery in Moscow. The Cathedral of the Presentation of Our Lady of Vladimir, where lie relics of the Holy Martyr Hilarion, the Primate of the Russian Church celebrated the Divine Liturgy.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Russian Church on Primacy

This is a new and important document that lays out the position of the Russian Orthodox Church on the subject of Primacy. I suspect (the cynic in me) that it was meant as much for Constantinople's eyes as Rome's.

HT: Byzantine Texas

Thursday, December 26, 2013

No blogging tomorrow

I'm finally on my way back to the left coast.

Radical feminist disrupts Christmas Day service in Germany

This is making the rounds in the blogosphere but for those who may have missed it...
One of Christendom’s most sacred days… in the main cathedral of Cologne, Germany: the High Cathedral of St. Peter. The setting is Gothic, dating from the 13th century. What can possibly go wrong?

Christmas mass is being aired live. Thousands of pious Catholics fill the pews. Then, shouting at the top of her lungs, naked from the waist up, 20-year-old philosophy student Josephine Witt shoots from the congregation and bounces up high onto the altar!

She is an activist with the feminist movement FEMEN.
Read the rest here.

I think Putin had the right idea for dealing with this sort of hooliganism.

Japanese prime minister’s visit to war shrine spurs new tension

SEOUL — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday visited a Shinto shrine that honors Japan’s war dead, including 14 war criminals, and is seen by Asian neighbors as a symbol of the nation’s unrepentant militarism.

The visit to Yasukuni Shrine, the first by a sitting Japanese leader in seven years, raises the prospect of even deeper hostility between an already isolated Tokyo and its neighbors. It also suggests that Abe, after a year of focusing on pragmatic, economic issues, is increasingly willing to play to his conservative base — a group that believes Japan has been unfairly vilified for its wartime past. 
Read the rest here.

The sledgehammer justice of mandatory minimum sentences

Federal Judge John Gleeson of the Eastern District of New York says documents called “statements of reasons” are an optional way for a judge to express “views that might be of interest.” The one he issued two months ago is still reverberating.

It expresses his dismay that although his vocation is the administration of justice, his function frequently is the infliction of injustice. The policy of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses has empowered the government to effectively nullify the constitutional right to a trial. As Lulzim Kupa learned.
Read the rest here.

This is as  much an indictment of our failed war on drugs as it is of the criminal statutes.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Senior Vatican Official: SSPX is Schismatic

The leaders of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) are in schism, and remain suspended from the sacraments, says the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Archbishop Gerhard Müller said that although Pope Benedict XVI lifted the canonical excommunication of SSPX prelates, they remain suspended from the sacraments because “by their schism they have broken away from communion with the Church.”

Archbishop Müller said that while talks with the SSPX have reach an impasse, the Vatican will not close the door to reconciliation. However, he said, a restoration of full communion would require the SSPX to accept the authority of the Church and of the Pope. 
From here.

Actually the cardinal said they were "de facto schismatic." The distinction is not unimportant among Roman Catholics. But yeah, he is basically affirming what I have been saying for years. I wonder if he reads the blog?

Russia Considers Banning Abortion

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning abortion advertising. Some members of the Duma (the Russian state assembly), are talking about going even further and banning the procedure itself.  The Russian Orthodox Church, whose numbers are swelling with converts and “reverts,” is weighing in as well.  One Orthodox prelate called abortion a “mutiny against God.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

This is an amazing turn about in a country which has long been known for its tragically high abortion rate.  Until recently, the average woman in Russia could expect to have seven abortions over her lifetime.  Even The New York Times, no bastion of pro-life sentiment, has been compelled to acknowledge that Russia’s high abortion rate was damaging the health and fertility of Russian women. As the paper noted in a 2003 editorial, “Now the Russian government is attempting to slow the abortion rate.  It is an admirable goal, given the toll that multiple abortions have taken on the health and fertility of Russia’s women.” Not to mention the toll that abortion has taken on the unborn, and on the population as a whole.
Read the rest here.

Now this would be an awesome Christmas present.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Two stories relating to Rome

Cardinal Kasper says Church will soon give Communion to divorced, remarried Catholics

My take; we will see. There are limits to what even the Pope can do and I can't see this happening without fundamentally weakening RC teachings concerning divorce and remarriage. Oddly, neither we Orthodox nor Roman Catholics seem to include this on the usual lists of major differences dividing us, but it's a pretty big issue. Absent a shift by Rome, how could communion be restored between our churches with millions of divorced and remarried Orthodox admitted to the chalice?

'Who am I to judge?': The pope's most powerful phrase in 2013

There are many things that I deeply admire about the new Pope. But dear God, I do wish he would be more careful with his off the cuff statements. The Episcopal wing of the Catholic Church and large numbers of equally hostile non-Catholics are using his words, sometimes unfairly, to undermine the Roman Church's authority. He needs to remember who he is and accept that everything he says and does will be dissected and parsed by people who are not friendly to his church.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Limited Posting

I'm going to be fairly busy with the family over the next week before returning (at last) to the left coast on Friday. Posting will be sporadic at best.

Merry Christmas!

You know you are in trouble when...

Even the NY Times has figured out your healthcare law is hurting one of the largest groups of Americans...
Ginger Chapman and her husband, Doug, are sitting on the health care cliff. 


The cheapest insurance plan they can find through the new federal marketplace in New Hampshire will cost their family of four about $1,000 a month, 12 percent of their annual income of around $100,000 and more than they have ever paid before. 


Even more striking, for the Chapmans, is this fact: If they made just a few thousand dollars less a year — below $94,200 — their costs would be cut in half, because a family like theirs could qualify for federal subsidies. 


The Chapmans acknowledge that they are better off than many people, but they represent a little-understood reality of the Affordable Care Act. While the act clearly benefits those at the low end of the income scale — and rich people can continue to afford even the most generous plans — people like the Chapmans are caught in the uncomfortable middle: not poor enough for help, but not rich enough to be indifferent to cost.


“We are just right over that line,” said Ms. Chapman, who is 54 and does administrative work for a small wealth management firm. Because their plan is being canceled, she is looking for new coverage for her family, which includes Mr. Chapman, 55, a retired fireman who works on a friend’s farm, and her two sons. “That’s an insane amount of money,” she said of their new premium. “How are you supposed to pay that?” 


An analysis by The New York Times shows the cost of premiums for people who just miss qualifying for subsidies varies widely across the country and rises rapidly for people in their 50s and 60s. In some places, prices can quickly approach 20 percent of a person’s income. 
Read the rest here.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Canada's Supreme Court Strikes Down Prostitution Laws

OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada started the clock ticking Friday for Parliament to reshape social policy dealing with the world's oldest profession, as political battle lines were drawn.

In a unanimous 9-0 ruling on Friday, the high court struck down the country's prostitution laws, giving Parliament a year to produce new legislation. That means prostitution-related offences will remain in the Criminal Code for one more year.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay said the government was "concerned" by the ruling, and is "exploring all possible options to ensure the criminal law continues to address the significant harms that flow from prostitution to communities, those engaged in prostitution, and vulnerable persons."

Meanwhile, Employment Minister Jason Kenney raised the spectre of judicial activism — saying legislators, not judges, should be making the law. It's a topic Prime Minister Stephen Harper has complained about as recently as this week.
Read the rest here.

US sailors claim cancer from helping at Fukushima

When the USS Ronald Reagan responded to the tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011, Navy sailors including Quartermaster Maurice Enis gladly pitched in with rescue efforts.

But months later, while still serving aboard the aircraft carrier, he began to notice strange lumps all over his body. Testing revealed he'd been poisoned with radiation, and his illness would get worse. And his fiance and fellow Reagan quartermaster, Jamie Plym, who also spent several months helping near the Fukushima nuclear power plant, also began to develop frightening symptoms, including chronic bronchitis and hemorrhaging.

They and 49 other U.S. Navy members who served aboard the Reagan and sister ship the USS Essex now trace illnesses including thyroid and testicular cancers, leukemia and brain tumors to the time spent aboard the massive ship, whose desalination system pulled in seawater that was used for drinking, cooking and bathing. In a lawsuit filed against Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plaintiffs claim the power company delayed telling the U.S. Navy the tsunami had caused a nuclear meltdown, sending huge amounts of contaminated water into the sea and, ultimately, into the ship's water system.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Archdiocese of Vienna on handover of churches to Orthodox

(Catholic Sentinel) - Austria's Vienna Archdiocese has defended its gifts of Catholic churches to Orthodox communities, as part of a current reorganization.

"Our own church is receding in Vienna, whereas other Christian confessions are on the rise because of immigration," Michael Pruller, the archdiocese spokesman, told Catholic News Service Dec. 19.

"Many large churches were built in the 19th century for parishes numbering tens of thousands. As in other countries, we're now having to get rid of churches, which can't be maintained by their small congregations."
Read the rest here.

I empathize. Here in the US, as families migrate from traditionally immigrant communities, a lot of Orthodox churches have suffered membership troubles and some have had to be closed. In any event I applaud the Catholics for handing the church buildings over to other Christians instead of allowing them to be used for secular purposes, or turned into mosques.

The Prince of Wales Speaks on the Persecution of Middle Eastern Christians

For myself, I have for some time now been deeply troubled by the growing difficulties faced by Christian communities in various parts of the Middle East. It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are, increasingly, being deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants. Christianity was, literally, born in the Middle East and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in Christ. Their church communities link us straight back to the early Church, as I was reminded by hearing Aramaic, Our Lord's own language, spoken and sung a few hours ago.

Yet, today, the Middle East and North Africa has the lowest concentration of Christians in the world – just four per cent of the population and it is clear that the Christian population of the Middle East has dropped dramatically over the last century and is falling still further.
Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

Duck Dynasty Star Suspended for Calling Homosexuality a Sin

“Duck Dynasty’s” Phil Robertson has been benched from his family’s reality show following homophobic comments he made in a GQ interview, A&E confirmed late Wednesday.

The patriarch of the network’s hit show and self-proclaimed “Bible-thumper” called “homosexual behavior” a sin, equating it with other sins like bestiality and promiscuity.

“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series ‘Duck Dynasty,’” A&E said in a statement. “His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been supporters and champions of the LGBT community.”

The end result: “The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”
Read the rest here.

I very rarely watch television anymore so I have no idea what the program is about. But I do know that they seem to be some sort of cultural phenomenon. In any event, this is outrageous. Have we reached the point where a person can be sacked or penalized by their employer for expressing their religious beliefs outside of the workplace?

If so, then we are in DEEP trouble as a country. Mr. Robertson might want to secure legal counsel. I don't know what the terms of his contract are, but he may have an actionable claim for religious discrimination.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Obama Biden to skip Winter Olympics

The White House announced Tuesday that President Obama, Vice President Biden and the first lady will not attend the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February, a pointed snub by an administration that is feuding with Russian leaders on a range of foreign policy and human rights issues.

The U.S. delegation will be led by a former cabinet secretary and a deputy secretary of state, and will include two openly gay athletes — tennis legend Billie Jean King and ice hockey player Caitlin Cahow — in an apparent bid to highlight opposition to Russia’s anti-gay laws.
Read the rest here.

Long Missing Diary of Arch-Nazi Alfred Rosenberg is Found

Alfred Rosenberg joined the Nazis before Adolph Hitler did. He later served as the party’s interim leader. He wrote a virulent, best-selling book about the “Aryan” struggle against Jews.

He formed a Nazi task force, named for himself, that looted European art treasures by the train load. And in July 1941, Hitler put him in charge of territories falling to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
Read the rest here.

Arrest of Indian diplomat in New York sparks U.S.-India tiff

NEW DELHI — The Indian government, furious about the rough treatment of a female diplomat arrested in New York last week, moved Tuesday to sharply rein in privileges of U.S. diplomats working in India, escalating a rare dispute between the two normally friendly nations.

India took what a senior government official termed “reciprocal measures,” revoking the ID cards of U.S. Embassy personnel and their families, rescinding airport passes, freezing embassy imports and investigating salaries paid to Indian staff members at U.S. consulates and as domestic help, as well as those teaching at U.S. schools in the country. As a final slap, Indian authorities removed concrete security barricades from outside the embassy complex in New Delhi.
Read the rest here.

Foundation of Chapel of Tsarevich Alexei Laid in Peterhof

The foundation of the Chapel of Holy Royal Martyr Tsarevich Alexei was laid on December 12 in the Znamenka estate in Peterhof. Rector of the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul the Apostles Archpriest Alexy Koltsov placed the foundation stone, reports the Voda Zhivaya (Living Water) information agency.

"We see how through your prayers—all of you organizers, donors and workers of this church—this chapel is being erected. With our common prayer construction work is beginning—the pouring of concrete into the chapel's foundation. We are laying the stones, which were brought by you from pilgrimages to Holy places: Holy Mount Athos, the bottom of the Jordan river, Mount Sinai. They are a symbol of our prayers to God," said Fr. Alexy to those gathered.
Read the rest here.

Pope Francis removes conservative from key Vatican post

This is getting a lot of attention in the Catholic blogosphere. See here and here for background.

A Powerful Rebuke of Mass Surveillance

For the first time since the revelation of the National Security Agency’s vast dragnet of all Americans’ telephone records, a federal court has ruled that such surveillance is “significantly likely” to be unconstitutional.

In a scathing 68-page opinion peppered with exclamations of incredulity, United States District Judge Richard Leon, of the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia, found that the seven-year-old phone-data collection program — which was established under the Patriot Act and has been repeatedly reauthorized by a secret intelligence court — “almost certainly” violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches.

Reaching into the 18th century from the 21st, the judge wrote that James Madison “would be aghast” at the degree of privacy invasion the data sweep represents.
Read the rest here.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Traveling

No blogging until Tuesday.

A 9-11 conspiracy story that may have an element of truth

After the 9/11 attacks, the public was told al Qaeda acted alone, with no state sponsors.

But the White House never let it see an entire section of Congress’ investigative report on 9/11 dealing with “specific sources of foreign support” for the 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudi nationals.

It was kept secret and remains so today.

President Bush inexplicably censored 28 full pages of the 800-page report. Text isn’t just blacked-out here and there in this critical-yet-missing middle section. The pages are completely blank, except for dotted lines where an estimated 7,200 words once stood (this story by comparison is about 1,000 words).

A pair of lawmakers who recently read the redacted portion say they are “absolutely shocked” at the level of foreign state involvement in the attacks.
Read the rest here.
HT: Bill (aka The Godfather)

Longtime readers will know of my general disdain for the modern fetish for conspiracy theories. That said, this one has a ring of truth to it. War is a dirty business. It seems perfectly plausible that at a time when we urgently needed allies in the Arab world to help prosecute our War on Terror, that Bush may have told the Saudis we would allow them to deal with some embarrassing issues quietly and internally provided we got full support from the Kingdom.

Does that mean it's true? Not at all. But it does mean that unlike 9-11 trutherism, birtherism and the gazzilion +1 Kennedy conspiracy theories, this one cannot be quickly dismissed as patently silly and or flying in the face of clear facts. For my part I will remain agnostic pending further evidence.

McCaine warns US could act if Ukraine signs deal with Russia

From here.

I am embarrassed to admit that I voted for this man in 2008. But then again I voted for Bush in 2000. Good grief, I really need to just stop voting.

Oh wait. I mostly have.

RIP: Peter O'Toole

The inimitable Peter O'Toole... memory eternal!

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Mandela Security Scandal: It was worse than we thought

It's becoming increasingly clear that when President Obama arrived at the Nelson Mandela memorial service in Johannesburg, South Africa Tuesday, he stepped into an atmosphere so chaotic, disorganized, and unsafe that under any other circumstances the White House and Secret Service might well have insisted the president not appear.

FNB Stadium, where the memorial was held, seats 95,000 people. Even with a steady rain and thousands of empty seats in uncovered areas, there were tens of thousands of people in the area with the president. It appears most of them got in without going through any security.

"There were no security checks upon entry to the stadium," a local South African activist wrote Friday in a letter to the Johannesburg Star newspaper. "I walked freely to my seat without passing through metal detectors, being searched or any other check."

The stadium's main entrance was "completely unattended," a reporter for a Washington, D.C., television station told Politico. "There were no workers performing bag checks or pat-downs — there were no magnetometers to walk through, no metal detector wands being used — anywhere."
Read the rest here.

In the Navy we had a term for this sort of thing... FUBAR.

No, I'm not going to break that down.

Pope Francis cracks down on a traditionalist order

— Pope Francis may have been named Time magazine's Person of the Year, but he has come under scathing criticism from a growing number of traditionalist Catholics for cracking down on a religious order that celebrates the old Latin Mass. The case has become a flashpoint in the ideological tug-of-war going on in the Catholic Church over Francis' revolutionary agenda, which has thrilled progressives and alarmed some conservatives.

The matter concerns the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, a small but growing order of several hundred priests, seminarians and nuns that was founded in Italy in 1990 as an offshoot of the larger Franciscan order of the pope's namesake, St. Francis of Assisi.
Read the rest here.
HT: Rorate Caeli

This strikes me as an unusually fair article devoid of the usual cultish fawning from the MSM for the new Pope.

California is a failed state

They are literally freezing to death in California. Below-freezing temperatures the past couple of weeks have spelled doom for many who live on Bay Area streets. As many as seven people have died of hypothermia.

There are an estimated 6,000 homeless in San Francisco on any given night, with only 1,339 shelter beds. It’s impossible to walk anywhere in the downtown core without encountering these poor souls, their mangled, damaged feet peeking out from beneath filthy blankets. Meantime, blocks away, the rich fill the lobby of the Westin St. Francis and pack the aisles of Macy’s, one-percenters seemingly oblivious to the grinding poverty around them.

California may still possess enviable temperatures most of the year, but beyond the palm trees and warm breezes lurks a world of trouble. Jerry Brown has returned as governor to clean up the mess left behind by his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose tenure in office was volatile. Many have called California a failed state, and with some reason.

The decay that has set in after years of neglect is unmistakable. Roads have suffered as a result of years of deferred maintenance. According to Forbes magazine, California leads the United States in many categories, none of them good: highest taxes, lowest bond rating, highest poverty rate, tied for highest unemployment rate, poorest state in which to do business, most cities to have gone bankrupt. The state prison system is so badly managed it had to be taken over by a federal judge. The traffic congestion is probably the country’s worst.
Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

Enough Already (Updated)

The Orthodox Church needs to end its involvement with the WCC, NCC and similar far left groups operating under the ruse of ecumenical dialogue. The membership of some Orthodox jurisdictions in these anti-Christian organizations is a scandal.

Update: In response to several requests about what prompted this little rant, my answer is that nothing earth shattering. I stumbled on this piece via T-19 and it reminded me of the OCA's continued participation in these groups. But I have read enough of what they have produced in the past to know that there is nothing orthodox, much less Orthodox, about them. Both organizations are so far to the left that if the world were flat they would be in imminent danger of falling off the edge.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Bizarre

JOHANNESBURG — The sign language interpreter who gestured meaninglessly at the Nelson Mandela memorial in South Africa on Tuesday has faced charges of murder, rape, theft, breaking and entering, malicious damage to property and kidnapping, according to eNCA.com.

The South African news site said the outcome of the murder charge against Thamsanqa Jantjie, brought in 2003, was unknown because the court case file is “mysteriously empty.”
Read the rest here.

I imagine that the Secret Service must be flipping out over this.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple


From the Dormition Cathedral in the Kremlin

More from the worker's paradise

 Following up on this post, North Korea has gone beyond erasing Kim Jong Un's uncle from photos and video following his arrest at a meeting of the Communist Party leadership. Now they have erased him permanently.

What Ever Became of Advent Fasting And Penance?

I was explaining to a new Catholic recently that the color purple (violet) used in advent is akin to its use in Lent, in that both are considered penitential seasons. Hence we are to give special attention to our sins and our need for salvation. Traditionally Advent was a time we would, like Lent take part in penitential practices such as fasting and abstinence.

Of course, in recent decades Advent has almost wholly lost any real penitential practices. There is no fasting or abstinence required, they are not really even mentioned. Confession is encouraged and the readings still retain a kind of focus on repentance and a focus on the Last Judgment.

But long gone are the days of a forty day fast beginning on Nov 12. The observances in the period of the Middle Ages were every bit as strict as Lent. St. Martin’s Feast Day was a day of carnival (which means literally “farewell to meat” (carnis + vale)). In those days the rose vestments of Gaudete (Rejoice Sunday) were really something to rejoice about, since the fast was relaxed for a day. Then back into the fast until Christmas. Lent too began with Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), as the last of the fat was used used up and the fast was enjoined beginning the next day.
Read the rest here.

An interesting and thoughtful piece. Please, let's skip the "we Orthodox still fast" commentary.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Iraqi Jewish archive: Should the U.S. send it back?

WASHINGTON (RNS) Acting on a tip, 16 U.S. troops stormed the flooded basement of Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad intelligence headquarters in 2003 and found a stash of Torah scrolls, prayer books and Hebrew calendars.

The trove was moldy and ripped, some of it of little value, much of it priceless — 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents, all stolen from the Jews of Iraq.

Ten years later, 24 of the artifacts form a rare exhibit at the National Archives on the Mall, just steps away from rooms where tourists stand in line to see the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The exhibit has raised thorny questions about the ultimate disposition of the artifacts.
Read the rest here.

Congress holds hearings on the plight of Egypt's Copts

Video here.

Time Magazine's Person of the Year


From here.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Belzec: The Forgotten Camp

Of all the camps in the Holocaust, Belzec was the most deadly. If a person went there, he was not coming back. There are Auschwitz survivors, Mathausen survivors, even Treblinka and Sobibor survivors. One will never meet a Belzec survivor. As such, relatively little is known of what went on inside the camp. Mike, though, with extensive research, can piece together a picture.
The turnover time for getting 3,000 human beings to ashes was about 2-3 hours. It took a little more time to sort the clothes and valuables, clean the trains and send them back loaded with goodies. Six thousand a day was probably its maximum capacity.

As Mike explained, once a person arrived in Belzec, he would have wished he was in Dante's inferno. Guns and dogs, undress, run naked up a steep hill flanked by Ukranians with whips, sticks and swords, pushed into a small chamber by the weight of people behind, doors closed, gas...

That was if he was lucky.
Read the rest here.

18 Los Angeles sheriff's officials indicted, accused of abuse, obstruction

Eighteen current or former Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officials have been indicted in five separate criminal cases in connection with a wide-ranging investigation into allegations of abuse and misconduct inside L.A. County jails.

The four grand jury indictments unsealed Monday and one criminal complaint allege that deputies beat jail inmates and visitors without justification, unjustly detained people and conspired to obstruct a federal investigation into misconduct at the Men's Central Jail. 

Sixteen of the defendants were arrested Monday and are expected to be arraigned this afternoon in federal court.
Read the rest here.

Feds prepare tougher rules for banks

Federal regulators are poised to approve a tougher-than-expected version of the so-called Volcker Rule, adopting a harder line in recent weeks against Wall Street risk-taking, according to a copy of the rule reviewed by The New York Times.

The rule, which comes to a vote on Tuesday, is a symbol of the Obama administration’s post-financial-crisis crackdown on Wall Street. In particular, it bans banks from trading for their own gain, a practice known as proprietary trading.

In doing so, the Volcker Rule takes aim at the sort of risk-taking responsible for a $6 billion trading blowup last year at JPMorgan Chase. The bank claimed it was trading to hedge its broader risks, but instead built a position that racked up large profits before spinning out of control.

To prevent such blowups, the rule will require banks to deploy “independent testing designed to ensure that the positions, techniques and strategies that may be used for hedging may reasonably be expected to demonstrably reduce” the risks, according to the version reviewed by The Times. And the risks, the rule says, must be “specific, identifiable” rather than theoretical and broad.
Read the rest here.

Stalin's Ghost Rules in North Korea

The latest news from the worker's paradise.
This is the dramatic moment showing the once-powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un being hauled away by police from a political meeting.

The stunning purge of Jang Song Thaek, 67, once considered the force behind the young leader, delivered a chilling message: No one is beyond Kim's reach, not even family.

North Korean state-run news agency KCNA announced Monday that he had “led a dissolute and depraved life” and said he had been dismissed for a string of criminal acts including corruption, womanizing and drug-taking.

"Jang and his followers committed criminal acts baffling imagination and they did tremendous harm to our party and revolution," the agency said in a report following a meeting of the ruling Workers' Party politburo on Sunday.

Kim Jong Un attended and "guided" the meeting which decided to dismiss Jang from all his posts and expel him from the Workers' Party, KCNA said.
Read the rest here.

Congress resumes business as usual on debt

House and Senate negotiators were putting the finishing touches Sunday on what would be the first successful budget accord since 2011, when the battle over a soaring national debt first paralyzed Washington.

The deal expected to be sealed this week on Capitol Hill would not significantly reduce the debt, now $17.3 trillion and rising. It would not close corporate tax loopholes or reform expensive health-care and retirement programs. It would not even fully replace sharp spending cuts known as the sequester, the negotiators’ primary target.

After more than two years of constant crisis, the emerging agreement amounts to little more than a cease-fire. Republicans and Democrats are abandoning their debt-reduction goals, laying down arms and, for the moment, trying to avoid another economy-damaging standoff.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Darwin Award Contenders


The two most abundent things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.
MEXICO CITY — The carjackers who set off international alarm bells by absconding with a truckload of highly radioactive material most likely had no idea what they were stealing and will probably die soon from exposure, Mexican authorities said at the end of a brief national scare.
From here.

I am really struggling to find some sympathy for these guys. They didn't just steal the truck, they jumped and beat the drivers. There is a really good chance they are members of an organized crime ring. That said there is nothing I own that is worth my life or that of anybody else.

But then again, I don't own anything that could be used to make a poor man's nuke.

Exit Stage Left

Notorious left-wing demagogue Martin Bashir has resigned from MSNBC over his crude attack on Sarah Palin a few weeks back. I am no  fan of Palin. But Bashir, an obnoxious liberal talking head, was so over the line in his truly disgusting attack that he should have been sacked on the spot. Shame on MSNBC for its gutless response.

In other news, the Senate's darling of the political left, Elizabeth Warren announced today that she will not be running for President in 2016. She said that she intends to serve out her elected term of office in the Senate. The wailing from the anybody but Hillary wing of the progressive movement can be heard loud and clear. But FWIW I rather applaud Warren for resisting the temptation that every Washington Pol must at some point come under. I strongly suspect that at least half the Senate goes to bed every night humming Hail to the Chief.

That aside, she is wrong on about 90% of the issues.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


Is the Government Tampering With Witnesses in No-Fly Trial?

That's what Judge William Alsup wants to know, according to this post by Mike Masnick at Techdirt (based on coverage by the identity project).

The trial, going on right now in federal court in San Francisco, involves claims by a former Stanford Ph.D. student that she was not allowed to fly in 2005 (except to go home to Malaysia) for reasons that the government won't explain. As explained in this NYT article (via TYWKIWDBI), the main "terrorist watch list," from which the "no-fly list" is derived, is believed to include at least 700,000 people. We don't know for sure, because the government won't say. Nor do we know the criteria for getting on it, and as many people have found, it is extremely difficult to get off it.
Read the rest here.

Greek Orthodox Bishop Threatens to Excommunicate Politicians Voting for Gay Unions

A leading Greek bishop has warned lawmakers that they risk incurring the wrath of God – and will be excommunicated – if they vote in favour of legalising same-sex partnerships.

In a letter lambasting homosexuality as "an insult to God and man", the Metropolitan of Piraeus, Seraphim, pleaded with the country's deputy prime minister, Evangelos Venizelos, not to condone gay unions.

"I beseech you from the heart not to proceed," he wrote.

"You will deny yourself the blessing of the most just Lord whose help and protection we daily need as much personally as nationally … during these critical times for our country."

Last week, the 57-year-old former monk, a prominent personality in Greece's powerful Orthodox church, threatened to excommunicate any MP who endorsed civil unions among gay couples following condemnation of Athens's failure to do so by the European court of human rights.
Read the rest here.
HT: Byzantine Texas

Axios!

NSA Collects Data From 5 Billion Phones Every Day


The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Roman Catholic Church may reconsider sacraments for divorced and remarried

Just a few days after the publication of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”, Archbishop Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, has confirmed the issue remains open: “We will discuss it without any taboos. The Orthodox experience could be of help to us”

“A new approach needs to be taken with respect to the administration of the sacraments to remarried divorcees.” Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri is the prelate the Pope nominated Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops. Born in 1940, the Tuscan prelate has four decades of experience as a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps and as of the end of September he has had the task of renewing the Synod institute that will meet twice – in 2014 and 2015 – to discuss the family, after a questionnaire or consultation containing 39 questions on family issues.

In the “Evangelii Gaudium” Francis does not explicitly mention the issue of the administration of sacraments to remarried divorcees. However, he does write that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.” How should these words be read?

“We should pay attention to the phrase that follows immediately after this: These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness.” The Pope presents these two elements together. This means he wants these issues to be examined with prudence and therefore with attention to the Church’s doctrine. But he also wants them to be examined with boldness, which for me means “without fear”, taking individual circumstances into account.”
Read the rest here.

Judge declares Detroit eligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy

Detroit will become the largest city in U.S. history to declare bankruptcy after a federal judge ruled Tuesday the city had met the legal criteria to win protection from its creditors.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes delivered the 140-page ruling after four months of legal wrangling between a state-appointed emergency manager and unions worried about the bankruptcy’s impact on pensions. Rhodes presided over a nine-day trial to determine whether the city met the requirements for bankruptcy protection.

“This once proud and prosperous city can’t pay its debts. It’s insolvent. It’s eligible for bankruptcy,” Rhodes said from the bench. “At the same time, it also has an opportunity for a fresh start.”

Detroit, once a city of 1.8 million and the home of the American auto industry, has suffered a long descent into financial crisis. The city was home to just 713,000 people, according to the 2010 Census, a mere shadow of its post-war apex. Huge pension costs and a recession that sent American automakers into their own financial tailspins exacerbated Detroit’s budget gaps.
Read the rest here.

ACLU Sues US Catholic Bishops Over Abortion Ban

 The American Civil Liberties Union announced on Monday that it had filed a lawsuit against the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops, arguing that their anti-abortion directives to Catholic hospitals hamper proper care of pregnant women in medical distress, leading to medical negligence.

The suit was filed in federal court in Michigan on Friday on behalf of a woman who says she did not receive accurate information or care at a Catholic hospital there, exposing her to dangerous infections after her water broke at 18 weeks of pregnancy.

In an unusual step, she is not suing the hospital, Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon, but rather the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Its ethical and religious directives, the suit alleges, require Catholic hospitals to avoid abortion or referrals, “even when doing so places a woman’s health or life at risk.”

The suit opens a new front in the clash over religious rights and medical care. The Catholic Church has fought against requiring all health plans to include coverage of contraception and is likely to call the new lawsuit an attack on its core religious principles.
Read the rest here.

This is a fairly naked attack on freedom of religion and deserves the strongest possible push back.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Alarming Reports from Syria (Updated)

Via the Levant Report...
Including unconfirmed reports that Islamists may have sacked St. Thekla's monastery and abducted the nuns. News reports are fragmentary and in the fog of war, sometimes erroneous. But this could be serious.

Update: Samn! has multiple reports that seem to confirm the abduction of the nuns. Please pray for the holy sisters and the persecuted Church in Syria. We still live in the age of martyrs.

In East China Sea a tense power struggle is brewing

 WASHINGTON — In an era when the Obama administration has been focused on new forms of conflict — as countries use cyberweapons and drones to extend their power — the dangerous contest suddenly erupting over a pile of rocks in the East China Sea seems almost a throwback to the Cold War.

Suddenly, naval assets and air patrols are the currency of a shadow conflict between Washington and Beijing that the Obama administration increasingly fears could escalate and that American officials have said could derail their complex plan to manage China’s rise without overtly trying to contain it. As in the Cold War, the immediate territorial dispute seems to be an excuse for a far larger question of who will exercise influence over a vast region.

The result is that, as the Chinese grow more determined to assert their territorial claims over a string of islands once important mainly to fishermen, America’s allies are also pouring military assets into the region — potentially escalating the once obscure dispute into a broader test of power in the Pacific.
Read the rest here.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

LA Times Investigative Report into Handling of Sex Abuse by Archdiocese

There is a fairly long article on Cardinal Mahony's handling of the sex abuse crisis in the Los Angeles Archdiocese that you may read here. It does not paint a pretty picture.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ocean Liners


For those who share my interest in archaic forms of transportation you may wish to check out Georg Link's YouTube channel. He has uploaded scores of short videos dedicated to passenger ships, both old and new, that are filled with photographs presumably from his private collection.

A liberal decries heresy

The time has come for a schism regarding the issue of women in the church. Those of us who know that women should be accorded full participation in every aspect of church life need to visibly and forcefully separate ourselves from those who do not. Their subjugation of women is anti-Christian, and it should be tolerated no longer.
Read the rest here.
HT: MCJ 

A foreshadowing of things to come.

Friday, November 29, 2013

More on Neo-Reaction

There has been some considerable response to the Geeks for Monarchy post which I had linked on A/O (here). See this longish post over at Unqualified Reservations and another post by the Anti-Gnostic. Both are worth a read and contain a number of related links.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Illinois: Lawmakers announce plan to save state pensions - but no details

CHICAGO — Leaders of the Illinois legislature on Wednesday announced that they had found, at long last, a way to repair the state’s deeply troubled pension system, which has been deemed among the most underfunded public systems in the nation, has jeopardized the state’s financial stability and has become a political risk for state leaders. 


The leaders declined to make details of their plan public as they privately sought support from rank-and-file lawmakers before a special session called for Tuesday. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, praised the leaders — a group of top Democrats and Republicans — for what he described as a “critical agreement.” He said, without providing more details, that the deal met a crucial standard of eliminating the unfunded debt and fully stabilizing the system, which has an estimated $100 billion in unfunded liability. 
Read the rest here.

Churches should perform gay blessings, CofE says

The Church of England is poised to offer public blessing services for same-sex couples in a historic shift in teaching.
A long-awaited review of church teaching by a panel of bishops recommends lifting the ban on special services which will amount to weddings in all but name. 
Although the Church will continue to opt out of carrying out gay marriages, when they become legal next year the landmark report recommends allowing priests to conduct public services "to mark the formation of permanent same sex relationships". 
The report repeatedly speaks of the need for the Church to "repent" for the way gay and lesbian people have been treated in the past. 
Read the rest here.

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you all the joy of the feast!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Reflections on the Birth Control Mandate

Anti-Gnostic has some reflections up in response to this post. Among his observations...
Insurance is the pooling of risk of unanticipated casualties. Outside the rare event of rape, coitus is entirely voluntary. Thus, there is no way to "insure" birth control. The mandate is equivalent to requiring your homeowner's insurer to cover your gambling losses in Vegas. The only way to avoid moral hazard would be to charge you for the entire amount of your own money you're prepared to risk. So, premiums must rise to cover the cost of these purely voluntary outlays, er, expenses.
Read the rest here.

Microsoft, suspecting NSA spying, to ramp up efforts to encrypt its Internet traffic

Microsoft is moving toward a major new effort to encrypt its Internet traffic amid fears that the National Security Agency may have broken into its global communications links, said people familiar with the emerging plans. 

Suspicions at Microsoft, while building for several months, sharpened in October when it was reported that the NSA was intercepting traffic inside the private networks of Google and Yahoo, two industry rivals with similar global infrastructures, said people with direct knowledge of the company’s deliberations. They said top Microsoft executives are meeting this week to decide what encryption initiatives to deploy and how quickly.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Supreme Court to Rule on Birth Control Mandate

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has agreed to referee another dispute over President Barack Obama’s health care law, whether businesses can use religious objections to escape a requirement to cover birth control for employees.

The justices said Tuesday they will take up an issue that has divided the lower courts in the face of roughly 40 lawsuits from for-profit companies asking to be spared from having to cover some or all forms of contraception.
Read the rest here.

Karzai moves to scuttle Afghan troop agreement

The man is a complete flake thank God. He has issued new demands that are unacceptable to Obama and may force a complete withdrawal of US forces by the end of next year.

Monday, November 25, 2013

For those still harboring doubts...

MCJ has still more evidence.

Consecration of a Village Church Near Moscow


24 November 2013

Geeks for Monarchy: The Rise of the Neoreactionaries

Many of us yearn for a return to one golden age or another. But there’s a community of bloggers taking the idea to an extreme: they want to turn the dial way back to the days before the French Revolution.

Neoreactionaries believe that while technology and capitalism have advanced humanity over the past couple centuries, democracy has actually done more harm than good. They propose a return to old-fashioned gender roles, social order and monarchy.

You may have seen them crop-up on tech hangouts like Hacker News and Less Wrong, having cryptic conversations about “Moldbug” and “the Cathedral.” And though neoreactionaries aren’t exactly rampant in the tech industry, PayPal founder Peter Thiel has voiced similar ideas, and Pax Dickinson, the former CTO of Business Insider, says he’s been influenced by neoreactionary thought. It may be a small, minority world view, but it’s one that I think shines some light on the psyche of contemporary tech culture.

Enough has been written on neoreaction already to fill at least a couple of books, so if you prefer to go straight to the source, just pop a Modafinil and skip to the “Neoreaction Reading List” at the end of this post. For everyone else, I’ll do my best to summarize neoreactionary thought and why it might matter.
Read the rest here.
HT: The Anracho-Monarchist

Orthodox Constructions of the West

Dr. Adam deVille really likes this book.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Major Nuclear Agreement Reached With Iran

GENEVA — Iran and six major powers agreed early Sunday on a historic deal that freezes key parts of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for temporary relief on some economic sanctions, diplomats confirmed.

The deal was reached after four days of marathon bargaining and an eleventh-hour intervention by Secretary of State John F. Kerry and foreign ministers from Europe, Russia and China, the sources said.
Read the rest here.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Liturgy on the Birthday of Patriarch Kirill


From Christ the Savior Cathedral 11-20-2013

Ukraine's hard line president rejects EU membership - will persue closer ties with Russia

MOSCOW — Prime Minister Mykola Azarov of Ukraine told enraged opposition lawmakers on Friday that the government’s decision to walk away from far-reaching political and free trade agreements with the European Union was prompted by excessively harsh terms demanded by the International Monetary Fund in a debt refinancing plan. 

In response to the decision to abandon the accords with Europe, which were due to be signed next week at a major conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, opposition leaders called for the resignation of the Ukrainian government and for the impeachment of President Viktor F. Yanukovich. 
 
Kiev was pulsing with emotion that officials and commentators said they had not experienced since the Orange Revolution of 2004. On Thursday night, more than 1,000 people demonstrated against the government’s decision, waving European Union flags, and chanting “Ukraine is Europe!” 
Read the rest here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Venezuela’s Maduro resorts to state-sponsored looting

LIKE A slow-motion car crash, the unraveling of Venezuela’s economy and political system is a fascinating, as well as sickening, spectacle. Last month we noted the attempt of Nicolás Maduro, the would-be caudillo who succeeded Hugo Chávez as president, to distract public attention from world-beating inflation, shortages, power outages and crime by expelling several U.S. diplomats who he claimed were engaged in nefarious sabotage. Now, with prices still rising as fast as his popularity is dropping, Mr. Maduro has adopted a drastic tactic: state-sponsored looting.

This month, Mr. Maduro, a former bus driver whose ignorance of economics is shockingly obvious, ordered the national guard to invade electronics stores and drastically lower the prices of goods. Mobs soon besieged the outlets, carrying away televisions and other appliances, sometimes without paying; even some of the soldiers helped themselves. More than 100 shop owners and other small businessmen were rounded up and jailed.
Read the rest here.

A leftist paradise on the rise.

The NY Times flip flops on the filbuster... again

Back when Mr. Clinton was President the New York Times fumed about the threat of a filibuster to some of his appointments and argued on its editorial page for the abolition or at least severe curtailment of the weapon of last resort for a minority party. Later (coincidentally after Mr. Bush took office) they reflected and in yet another op-ed admitted that they had been wrong. The filibuster, they said, should be preserved to prevent a president from appointing judges who were "outside the mainstream" of American jurisprudence and political thought. Now they are again flipping. As of tonight the filibuster is undemocratic and being abused by the minority party to advance its political agenda.

And in the latter case they are to some degree right. Although I think it could have near term negative consequences, limiting the filibuster was the right thing to do, even if it is being done for all the wrong reasons. Both parties have abused it, especially over the last ten years or so. And yes, the minority GOP was way over the line in their attempt to unilaterally reduce the size of the most important Federal Appeals Court just to prevent the president from appointing judges.

Memo to the GOP: That's his constitutional right. Elections have consequences.

But Democrats take note... One day, maybe sooner than you'd like, you will be in the minority and a Republican will be in the White House. And on that day, you had best fasten their seat belts. Because what comes around goes around.

The End of Roe v Wade?

Could the Democrats have just signed the death warrant for the worst Supreme Court decision since Dred Scott? Quite possibly. Although the Democrats exempted Supreme Court nominations from today's sweeping curtailment of the Senate Filibuster, the Republicans have understandably made it crystal clear that they will not respect that limitation once they regain the majority. The threat of a Filibuster is the only thing that kept Republican presidents from nominating openly anti-Roe judges to the high court.

Of course we have to get through three more years of Zero's presidency. But I don't see any voluntary retirements from the more conservative members of the Supreme Court in that time frame. In any event me thinks things are about to get interesting in the courts.

Senate Democrats Restrict Filibusters on Party-line Vote

The Democratic-controlled Senate on Thursday struck down the long-standing filibuster rules for most presidential nominations, voting mostly along party lines to alter nearly 225 years of precedent.

The rule change would allow federal judge nominees and executive-office appointments to be confirmed by a simple majority of senators, rather than the 60-vote super majority that has been required for more than two centuries. The change would not apply to Supreme Court nominations. It would dramatically alter the landscape for both Democratic and Republican presidents, especially if their own political party holds a majority of, but fewer than 60, Senate seats.
Read the rest here.

Beyond Conspiracy


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Politics of the Cup

Fr. Stephen Freeman writes in defense of closed communion. This a weighty piece that deserves to be read carefully and then shared far and wide.

Reid Preparing to Move for Limits on Filibuster

WASHINGTON — Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, is prepared to move forward with a vote that could severely limit the minority party’s ability to filibuster presidential nominees, possibly as early as this week, Democrats said Tuesday.

Exasperated with the refusal of Senate Republicans to confirm many of President Obama’s nominees, Mr. Reid has been speaking individually with members of his caucus to gauge whether there is enough support to change filibuster rules.

Given how much deference senators have traditionally shown to the rules and procedures of the institution — many of them in place since the 18th century — any modifications are a serious undertaking.

But among Democrats there is a strong consensus that Republicans have gone too far in their latest attempt to block White House appointments, by denying Mr. Obama any more judges for what is considered the most important appeals court in the country despite three vacancies.

On Monday, they denied him his third pick in less than a month to the court, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. If Mr. Reid determines he has the support, he could schedule a vote before Friday, an aide who has spoken with him directly said Tuesday.
Read the rest here.

Quote of the day...

“….Even if the parish had a billion dollar endowment that paid all the bills and funded every ministry, I would still need to give. Even if the parish had a staff of multiple clergy ready to serve everyone’s needs, I would still need to serve. Even if this church was completely full to the walls every time we held a church service, I would still need to attend. That’s because giving is a spiritual act and I am the only one who could become rich toward God for me…”
From a homily given by Fr. Andrew S. Damick
HT: Fr. Milovan Katanic

Wisconsin's Political Speech Raid

Americans learned in the IRS political targeting scandal that government enforcement power can be used to stifle political speech. Something similar may be unfolding in Wisconsin, where a special prosecutor is targeting conservative groups that participated in the battle over Governor Scott Walker's union reforms.

In recent weeks, special prosecutor Francis Schmitz has hit dozens of conservative groups with subpoenas demanding documents related to the 2011 and 2012 campaigns to recall Governor Walker and state legislative leaders.

Copies of two subpoenas we've seen demand "all memoranda, email . . . correspondence, and communications" both internally and between the subpoena target and some 29 conservative groups, including Wisconsin and national nonprofits, political vendors and party committees. The groups include the League of American Voters, Wisconsin Family Action, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Americans for Prosperity—Wisconsin, American Crossroads, the Republican Governors Association, Friends of Scott Walker and the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

One subpoena also demands "all records of income received, including fundraising information and the identity of persons contributing to the corporation." In other words, tell us who your donors are.
Read the rest here.

Endless Afghanistan?

KABUL – While many Americans have been led to believe the war in Afghanistan will soon be over, a draft of a key US-Afghan security deal obtained by NBC News shows the United States is prepared to maintain military outposts in Afghanistan for many years to come, and pay to support hundreds of thousands of Afghan security forces.

The wide-ranging document, still unsigned by the United States and Afghanistan, has the potential to commit thousands of American troops to Afghanistan and spend billions of US taxpayer dollars.

The document outlines what appears to be the start of a new, open-ended military commitment in Afghanistan in the name of training and continuing to fight al-Qaeda. The war in Afghanistan doesn’t seem to be ending, but renewed under new, scaled-down US-Afghan terms.
Read the rest here.

NOOOOOO!!!

Hollyweird's worst idea in a long time.

Britain: Internet providers to begin restricting access to porn

All 20million families with internet connections are to be forced within months to say whether they want access to online pornography. Hundreds of thousands are already signing up to have it blocked.

A scheme to combat the tide of web sleaze that is corroding childhood has been dramatically accelerated, David Cameron told the Daily Mail last night. Speaking ahead of a Downing Street summit with online giants next week, the Prime Minister revealed that huge numbers of households have already opted for family-friendly filters.
Read the rest here.

The World's First Church Dedicated to the Thief Confessor of Golgotha

From here where you may also read the story of the holy priest who inspired its construction.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Republicans Block Another Obama Nominee for Key Judgeship

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Monday denied President Obama his third nominee in recent weeks to the nation’s most powerful and prestigious appeals court and insisted they would not back down, inflaming a bitter debate over a president’s right to shape the judiciary.

By a vote of 53 to 38, the Senate failed to break a filibuster of a federal judge, Robert L. Wilkins, who was nominated to fill one of three vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, falling short of the 60 votes needed.

Unlike previous fights over judicial nominees, this one is not driven by ideology or divisive social issues like abortion. Republicans have raised few objections to any of the candidates’ qualifications or political leanings.

Rather, Republicans are trying to prevent Mr. Obama from filling any slots on the court, fearing that he will alter its conservative tilt.

Democrats accused Republicans of exercising a nakedly political double standard for confirming presidential nominees.

“Appointing judges to fill vacant judicial seats is not court-packing,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader. “It’s a president’s right as well as his duty.”

Republicans have argued that the court does not have the caseload to merit filling the vacancies, and they have proposed legislation to shrink it by three seats. But that legislation has no chance of becoming law in a Democratic-controlled Senate, so instead Republicans have vowed to block any nominees for that court.
Read the rest here.

Paul Krugman: We are in a depression, and it could be a long one

Spend any time around monetary officials and one word you’ll hear a lot is “normalization.” Most though not all such officials accept that now is no time to be tightfisted, that for the time being credit must be easy and interest rates low. Still, the men in dark suits look forward eagerly to the day when they can go back to their usual job, snatching away the punch bowl whenever the party gets going. 

But what if the world we’ve been living in for the past five years is the new normal? What if depression-like conditions are on track to persist, not for another year or two, but for decades? 
Read the rest here.

Women bishops: Anglo-Catholics run up the white flag

"Traditionalists ready to allow women bishops," says the headline in The Times today. Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England won't have to encounter lady bishops in their own parishes, but they are decisively throwing in their lot with a liberal Protestant denomination that consecrates them. Come on, guys, admit it! There will be some sort of fig-leaf "safeguard" to stop the women bishops… um, do you know, after 20 years of watching Anglo-Catholics slowly accommodating themselves to female ordination I've lost track and I'm not sure exactly what this will stop (apart from having the women bishops in their sanctuaries, for the time being).

Put it this way: the white flag is very near the top of the mast.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fred Reed Reflects on Veteran's Day

As I write, it is Veterans Day. Coincidentally last night, November tenth, the annual Marine Corps birthday party took place  at the Tratoria, a local Italian restaurant. I hadn´t gone before, not being much of a joiner, but went this time with Vi and Natalia. The assembled were nice people, well along in years, as am I. There were good food, patriotic speeches, and a birthday cake. We sang the Marine Corps Hymn, though “from the halls of Montezuma” was perhaps not a high point of diplomatic appropriateness in Mexico.

A camaraderie exists among Marines, into which I fit oddly. It starts with boot camp at Parris Island or, for the Hollywood Marines, at the recruit depot in San Diego. Men remember it because it was hard, demanding, a rite of passage to manhood. I understand that boot has been watered down as the country moves toward the goal of a non-violent Marine Corps, but in the Sixties it hadn´t been. If you got through it, you had done something, and you knew it. Those who hadn´t were an inferior species. We remember it with fondness, and a bond.

And then for Marines there are the wars, which we always have. I don´t know why. For most at the Tratoria, it was I suppose Southeast Asia. We had talk of sacrifice and duty. There is a romance to war that has called to men since well before the days of Marcus Aurelius wintering on the Rhine-Danube line, when Rome, not America, was Rome. War is another bond.
Read the rest here.

Students Ban 'R-word,' Get Sent to Principal

Classic court cases involving students and free speech usually involve teens trying to push the limits of provocative, political or even profane language.

But a looming clash of cultures at a suburban Philadelphia football powerhouse presents a new twist on the usual First Amendment fight.

Editors of a student newspaper are getting heat from school officials after banning the word "Redskins'' - their mascot at Neshaminy, a high school named for the creek where the Lenape Indians once lived.
Read the rest here.

Voter Suppression’s New Pretext

IRVINE, Calif. — IT’S the latest fad among state officials looking to make voting harder: We’re not racist, we’re just partisan.

Some background: In June, the Supreme Court struck down a core provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, under which nine states and portions of others had to get federal approval before changing their election laws.

One of those states, Texas, is again in court, facing a Justice Department suit seeking to get the state under federal oversight again. To do so, the Justice Department must prove intentional racial discrimination.

Texas’ defense? It’s discrimination, all right — but it’s on the basis of party, not race, and therefore it’s O.K.

Says Texas: “It is perfectly constitutional for a Republican-controlled legislature to make partisan districting decisions, even if there are incidental effects on minority voters who support Democratic candidates.”
Read the rest here.

A war story from Greece

Thus when Greek Orthodox Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens ordered his people to hide persecuted Jews, SS commander Jürgen Stroop threatened to shoot the archbishop. Rutler finishes the tale by recounting a striking example of episcopal sangfroid: “The archbishop replied by recalling the lynching of Patriarch Gregory of Constantinople by the Turks in 1821: ‘According to the tradition of the Greek Orthodox Church, our prelates are hanged, not shot. Please respect our tradition.’” The archbishop, happily, lived until 1949; Stroop was hanged after the war for his role in liquidating the Warsaw Ghetto.
From an article by George Weigel
HT: A blog reader

I had not heard this story before and found it uplifting.

“A Sign of Contradiction”: A Forgotten Reflection by Florovsky on the Pope and the Patriarch

Read it here.