Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Solzhenitsyn and the Russian Renaissance

Alexander Yakovlev, a Communist who became disillusioned following Khrushchev’s 1956 speech denouncing Stalin, documented the terror perpetrated against Russia’s Orthodox Christians in his book A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia. Almost immediately upon the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1918, the clergy were purged. The Metropolitan of Kiev was mutilated and castrated, his naked corpse left to be desecrated in the street. The Metropolitan of St. Petersburg, in line to succeed the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, was doused with water and left to freeze to death, “a pillar of ice.” A bishop was strapped alive to the paddlewheel of a steamboat and mangled by the rotating blades. One archbishop was buried alive; another was crucified and burned to death. Three thousand members of the clergy were shot in the first year of the Russian Revolution. “All these Christian martyrs went unswervingly to their deaths for the faith,” Solzhenitsyn noted. Tens of thousands of religious would be sent to concentration camps; few returned. And the worst was yet to come in the 1920s under Stalin.

Yet the faith of the Russian people was not extinguished by three generations of official atheism. Solzhenitsyn would note that, to the astonishment of the Soviet leadership, “the awareness of God in my country has attained great acuteness and profundity.” During the reign of Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov, among the more ominous days of the Cold War, Solzhenitsyn declared, “It is here that we see the dawn of hope: For no matter how formidably Communism bristles with tanks and rockets . . . it is doomed never to vanquish Christianity.”

Today there is a revitalization taking place in Russian culture and, as with the Renaissance in Western Europe, it is being spearheaded by institutional Christianity. This renaissance is perhaps best captured in the work of Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, a celebrated historian, philosopher, theologian, and composer who is only forty-seven. Like Solzhenitsyn, Alfeyev strives to fill the cultural void of Russia’s lost century, and does so with indefatigable energy. This can be heard in his St. Matthew Passion, a sublime orchestral and choral piece that seems to hasten with desperation to recapture time lost. Like the martyred Metropolitan Veniamin of St. Petersburg, Alfeyev is a leading candidate to become Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. While he is, like Solzhenitsyn, unapologetically Russian, Alfeyev’s worldview has been shaped significantly by his exposure to the West, where he has lived and traveled widely. He also has close ties to the Vatican, and represented the Russian Orthodox Church at the installation of Pope Francis. His worldview is not limited to Russia, nor indeed to Orthodox Christianity.
Read the rest here.

Scapegoating the Copts

On July 3, Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), was ousted from power. His detractors came from many segments of Egyptian society, but it is the Coptic Christian community that the MB is scapegoating as the principal actor behind his removal. The Middle East Media Research Institute reports that, in a recent article on the MB website entitled “The Military Republic of Tawadros” (Tawadros being the Coptic Orthodox pope), the MB urges its followers to believe that the Copts “openly and secretly led the process of opposition to the Islamic stream and this stream’s rise to power.” 

Attacking the Copts will prove to be as destructive to Egypt as to the religious minority itself.
Read the rest here.

Libertarians flex their muscle in the GOP

Way back in 1975, a Republican agitator named Ronald Reagan had this to say about an esoteric young movement that was roiling politics: “If you analyze it, I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.”

Neither the GOP old guard nor the rowdy libertarians ever quite bought that argument.

They both lay claim to the same conservative economic philosophy. But libertarians are more isolationist and antiwar than Republican orthodoxy allows on foreign policy and more permissive on social issues.

Still, in the nearly four decades since Reagan made those comments, the two have managed — at least most of the time — to maintain an uneasy marriage of expedience.

Libertarianism once again appears to be on the rise, particularly among the young. However, its alliance with the Republican establishment is fraying, as demonstrated by the increasingly personal war of words between two leading potential 2016 presidential contenders.
Read the rest here.

Detroit's Death by Democracy

In 1860, an uneasy Charles Darwin confided in a letter to a friend: “I had no intention to write atheistically” but “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars.” What appalled him had fascinated entomologist William Kirby (1759-1850): The ichneumon fly inserts an egg in a caterpillar, and the larva hatched from the egg, he said, “gnaws the inside of the caterpillar, and though at last it has devoured almost every part of it except the skin and intestines, carefully all this time avoids injuring the vital organs, as if aware that its own existence depends on that of the insect on which it preys!”

Government employees’ unions living parasitically on Detroit have been less aware than ichneumon larvae. About them, and their collaborators in the political class, the question is: What. Were. They. Thinking? Well, how did Bernie Madoff or the Enron executives convince themselves their houses of cards would never collapse?
Read the rest here.

Prayers Please

I am saddened to report that the mother of blogger New Catholic (proprietor of Rorate Caeli) has reposed after a long and painful illness. In your charity please keep him and his mother in your prayers. Memory eternal.

MLB Prepares to Suspend 9 Players

Major League Baseball officials told union leaders during a meeting at the Players Association’s midtown Manhattan offices on Tuesday that they plan to suspend Alex Rodriguez and eight other players who allegedly obtained performance-enhancing drugs from a South Florida anti-aging clinic.

Most of the players will be suspended for 50 games, but some – including the Yankees’ embattled superstar — face stiffer penalties for lying to MLB investigators or interfering in baseball’s year-long Biogenesis investigation.

Not all of the players linked to Biogenesis in media reports face discipline, sources have told The News. Two former Yankees — Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera and Oakland A’s pitcher Bartolo Colon — will not be punished because they already have been suspended as a result of their links to Biogenesis and its owner, self-styled “biochemist” Anthony Bosch.
Read the rest here.

This doping has to be curtailed. It's reaching the point where no one trusts player's stats and sportswriters are refusing to induct people into the Hall of Fame because of the (frequently justified) suspicion that they are frauds. In short the epidemic of chemical cheating poses the most direct threat to the integrity of major league baseball since the days of gambling and fixing the World Series. My view is that it should be dealt with in a similar manner, a zero tolerance policy. And no this is not an ant-libertarian position. MLB is not the government and we are not talking about prison. Employers have a right to hold employees to standards relevant to their job.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

JPMorgan Looks to Pay to Settle U.S. Inquiries

JPMorgan Chase is pulling out its checkbook to help mend frayed relationships with the government.

But its new and conciliatory approach — a departure for the bank and its leader, Jamie Dimon, who generally has taken a hard line with the authorities — is yielding mixed results. Government officials, stung by the bank’s past displays of hubris, may drive up the price of settlements or resist the overtures altogether.

The hefty payouts started on Tuesday when JPMorgan struck a $410 million settlement with the nation’s top energy regulator, which had accused the bank of devising “manipulative schemes” to transform “money-losing power plants into powerful profit centers.” The agreement was a record fine for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, whose most recent settlement with a big bank totaled only $1.6 million.
Read the rest here.

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

New York: Bad News For The Food Fascists

(Reuters) - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's controversial plan to keep large sugary drinks out of restaurants and other eateries was rejected by a state appeals court on Tuesday, which said he had overstepped his authority in trying to impose the ban.

The law, which would have prohibited those businesses from selling sodas and other sugary beverages larger than 16 ounces (473 ml), "violated the state principle of separation of powers," the First Department of the state Supreme Court's Appellate Division said.

The decision, upholding a lower court ruling in March that struck down the law, dealt a blow to Bloomberg's attempt to advance the pioneering regulation as a way to combat obesity. Beverage makers and business groups, however, challenged it in court, arguing that the mayoral-appointed health board had gone too far when it approved the law.

A unanimous four-judge panel at the appeals court agreed, finding that the board had stepped beyond its power to regulate public health and usurped the policy-making role of the legislature.
Read the rest here.

For the record, I don't encourage people to drink soda. It really is just horrible stuff and a major contributing factor to all kinds of health problems. But it's a semi-free country, even in New York for the moment. So if you've got a craving for a super sized container of liquid sugar, knock yourself out.

Fast Food Workers Strike For Better Pay And Rights

NEW YORK (AP) — Workers at McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's restaurants across New York walked out Monday in a one-day strike to demand better pay and the right to unionize, calling for minimum wage to more than double from $7.25 to $15 an hour and the end to what activists called "abusive labor practices."

"It's noisy, it's really hot, fast, they rush you. Sometimes you don't even get breaks. All for $7.25? It's crazy," said Nathalia Sepulveda, who works at a McDonald's opposite Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, where one protest took place.

Outside the McDonald's as well as a Wendy's in lower Manhattan, workers chanted "we can't survive on $7.25" and "supersize our wages." At the Wendy's, the crowd shouted at customers not to go in and two police officers were stationed inside.
Read the rest here.

Not a huge fan of unions here, but this is clearly a case of abusive labor practices. $7.25 an hour in New York City? That's scandalous. I am not sure about a $15 hr wage, but they are absolutely right to call out their greedy employers on this issue. And frankly they are doing it the right way. Instead of asking the government to interfere they are exercising their individual rights to band together and demand better wages and working conditions. This is the libertarian approach.

I wish them luck.

Manning: Guilty of Espionage Act - Not Guilty of Aiding the Enemy

An Army judge on Tuesday acquitted Pfc. Bradley Manning of aiding the enemy by disclosing a trove of secret U.S. government documents, a striking rebuke to military prosecutors who argued that the largest leak in U.S. history had assisted al-Qaeda.

The judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, found Manning guilty of most of the more than 20 crimes he was charged with, including several counts of violating the Espionage Act. She also acquitted him of one count of violating the Espionage Act that stemmed from his leak of a video that depicted a fatal U.S. military airstrike in Farah, Afghanistan.
Read the rest here.

While I empathize with his motives the problem is that he is a soldier and he raised his right and and took the oath. The military by its very nature can't have people deciding when they will and will not obey orders. You might just as well disband the armed forces. As for the law, the press is (what a surprise!) wrong when they characterize this as a government defeat. They won big time. While the media is focusing on the "Aiding the Enemy" charge," they are missing a huge legal point. He was convicted of violating the Espionage Act. That's going to carry a lot of weight in prosecuting other leakers.

Manning may not be looking at the proverbial blindfold and cigarette, or a mandatory life without parole, but he is going down hard. I would be stunned if he gets less than 20 years in prison.

Important: More things the Pope said that the media missed

I received an email from blog reader John L. with some extremely significant quotes from the Pope's impromptu flying press conference. Some of them deal with touchy issues dividing Rome from Orthodoxy including the question of the sacraments for the divorced and remarried while others speak rather kindly of our liturgical praxis. Rather than paraphrasing I am going to append the entire email below. On a side note I deeply appreciate the tips I get from blog readers. Obviously I can't spend the entire day wandering the web and even if I could I would not be able to touch even a fraction of the often blogworthy stuff that's out there.

Emphasis is mine...

Trad blogs are obsessed with either the gay comments or the Latin Mass, but there was more. The way Francis' presents himself on issues... it's a bit like grasping jello, or picking up tofu with chopsticks. But sedecvacantist priest Fr. Cekeda noticed all of these things at Rorate Caeli's comments...

Check out this bit on divorce and remarriage. This is a huge issue that affects far more Catholics and ex-Catholics than the media fixation on gays. Cekada calls divorced/married Catholics "adulterers", but Pope Francis described this attitude as "clericalism".

>>The Church is a mother and in the Church we need to be merciful towards everyone. We shouldn’t just wait for the wounded to come to us, we need to go out and search for them. I think the time for mercy has come as John Paul II predicted by introducing the Feast of Divine Mercy. Divorced people can take communion, it is those who have divorced and remarried that cannot. Here I must add that the orthodox follow the theology of economics and allow second marriages. When the commission of eight cardinals meets at the beginning of October we will discuss how to proceed. The Church is taking a very close look at pastoral initiatives for marriage. My predecessor in Buenos Aires, Cardinal Quarracino always used to say: “I consider half of today’s marriages to be invalid because people get married without realising it means forever. They do it out of social convenience, etc...” The issue of invalidity needs to be looked into as well.”

“The Orthodox Churches have preserved the liturgy which is so beautiful. We’ve lost sight slightly of the meaning of worship. They worship God and they sing about it; time is immaterial to them. One day we were speaking about Western Europe and they said that “ex Oriente lux” “ex Oriente luxus”, meaning that light comes from the East and consumerism and wealth which do a lot of harm, come from the West. The Orthodox Church preserves the beauty of God being at the centre of everything. When you read Dostoevsky you can really feel the Russian and Oriental spirit. We are deeply in need of this breath of fresh air, this light from the East.”

Do check out the linked article.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Limits of Home Schooling Rights

Josh Powell wanted to go to school so badly that he pleaded with local officials to let him enroll. He didn’t know exactly what students were learning at Buckingham County High School, in rural central Virginia, but he had the sense that he was missing something fundamental.

By the time he was 16, he had never written an essay. He didn’t know South Africa was a country. He couldn’t solve basic algebra problems.

“There were all these things that are part of this common collective of knowledge that 99 percent of people have that I didn’t have,” Powell said.

Powell was taught at home, his parents using a religious exemption that allows families to entirely opt out of public education, a Virginia law that is unlike any other in the country. That means that not only are their children excused from attending school — as those educated under the state’s home-school statute are — but they also are exempt from all government oversight.

School officials don’t ever ask them for transcripts, test scores or proof of education of any kind: Parents have total control.
Read the rest here.

Outdoor Liturgy on the Feast of St. Vladimir

Part I

Part II

Part of the commemoration of 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus.

Pope Francis Again: He restricts use of the Old Mass by some clergy

This is getting even more attention in parts of the Catholic blogosphere than his comments suggesting a greater tolerance for gay clergy. Trad Catholics have been suspicious of, if not downright hostile to, the new Pope from the announcement of his election. Thus the announcement that the Vatican has issued a directive which among other things, restricts the use of the Old Mass by clergy of a conservative Franciscan order has trad Catholics throwing a fit.

Fr. Z however has some very interesting background that adds a lot of perspective to this situation. Valid and fair points to be sure. But I am still left with the uncomfortable feeling that Summorum Pontificum has been weakened by this. It seems like Rome has used a sledgehammer to kill a fly. And other recent comments by the Pope have not helped to alleviate concerns that he is cool towards those Catholics attached to the historic rites of the Roman Church.

Yahoo Mail

So I was forcibly migrated into the new version of Yahoo Mail, which is so manifestly inferior to the old version that it's driving me crazy. I am seriously looking at the possibility of abandoning it and using another email service. Anyone else have similar complaints or suggestions for a good replacement?

News from Mt. Athos

Two stories, both of which are disturbing.

First schismatic monks (radical old calendarists) violently attacked police who were sent to evict them. And secondly, European leftists are continuing to press (with some success) court cases against the monks for their thousand year tradition of excluding women from the Holy Mountain.

Pope Francis On Gay Clergy:"'Who am I to judge?"

ABOARD THE PAPAL AIRCRAFT — Pope Francis reached out to gays, saying he won’t judge priests for their sexual orientation in a remarkably open and wide-ranging news conference Monday as he returned from his first foreign trip.

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis asked. “We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society.”

Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, signed a document in 2005 that said men who had deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests. Francis was much more conciliatory in his first news conference as pope, saying gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten.

The comments did not signal any change in church policy. Catholic teaching still holds that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” But they indicated a shift in tone under Francis’ young papacy and an emphasis on a church that is more inclusive and merciful rather than critical and disciplinary.
Read the rest here.

Emphasis mine. And the correct word is "doctrine" not "policy." All of which said this is certain to be seen as a retreat from the more traditional Catholic discipline regarding eligibility for Holy Orders recently reiterated by Benedict XVI. I suspect people are flipping out all over the blogosphere.

Momentum Builds Against N.S.A. Surveillance

WASHINGTON — The movement to crack down on government surveillance started with an odd couple from Michigan, Representatives Justin Amash, a young libertarian Republican known even to his friends as “chief wing nut,” and John Conyers Jr., an elder of the liberal left in his 25th House term.

But what began on the political fringes only a week ago has built a momentum that even critics say may be unstoppable, drawing support from Republican and Democratic leaders, attracting moderates in both parties and pulling in some of the most respected voices on national security in the House.

The rapidly shifting politics were reflected clearly in the House on Wednesday, when a plan to defund the National Security Agency’s telephone data collection program fell just seven votes short of passage. Now, after initially signaling that they were comfortable with the scope of the N.S.A.’s collection of Americans’ phone and Internet activities, but not their content, revealed last month by Edward J. Snowden, lawmakers are showing an increasing willingness to use legislation to curb those actions.
Read the rest here.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

How libertarian will Republicans be in 2016?

Two things happened last week that revealed the basic dynamic of the fight for control of the Republican Party in 2016.

The first was a vote on the House floor that would have significantly curtailed the NSA’s phone-surveillance program as outlined in the Patriot Act. A vote that was widely regarded by congressional sharps as an opportunity for civil libertarians to “blow off steam” nearly passed the House. In total, 94 House Republicans (41 percent of the GOP conference) voted for it.

The second were comments made by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a panel at the Aspen Institute on Thursday. “As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought,” Christie said.

Taken together, it’s quite clear that the choice in 2016 will be heavily defined by just how much libertarianism Republicans want in their party. The answer isn’t clear yet. But it is telling that more than 40 percent of the Republican conference voted for legislation that would significantly curtail the reach of a government agency designed, at least in part, to prevent future terrorist attacks. So, too, is the fact that Christie, widely expected to run in 2016, picked a fight with libertarians — and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, in particular — in the summer of 2013.
Read the rest here.

3 Million Greet Pope Francis on Brazilian Beach

RIO DE JANIERO — Pope Francis celebrated the last Mass of his trip to Brazil on Sunday before an estimated three million people gathered on the beach in this city, the national flags of Catholics from around the world hoisted in the air as a chorus of Brazilian priests belted out songs before the multitude. It was a vibrant display of the Vatican’s ambition of halting the losses of worshipers to evangelical churches and the rising appeal of secularism.

By various measures, Francis’s first international trip since he was named pope this year was a success. The 76-year-old Argentine, a Jesuit who is the first pope from the Americas, was greeted like a rock star by attendees to a conference of Catholic youth. He urged people to combat corruption, a top grievance in the protests shaking Brazil, and called on bishops to focus on the pragmatic needs of congregants, shifting emphasis from the abuse scandals which have plagued the Vatican for years.

“If this trip is any indication, he’s off to a strong start at revitalizing the church,” said Andrew Chesnut, an expert on Latin American religions at Virginia Commonwealth University who came here to see the pope’s visit up close. “He’s been very astute on focusing on the everyday afflictions of the poor, taking a page from the evangelicals themselves.”
Read the rest here.

Central Bankers Likely to Keep Rates Low

(Reuters) - Three of the world's leading central banks are likely to reaffirm their determination this week to keep a lid on interest rates for a long time to come, despite signs that their economies are slowly on the mend.

The Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of England are all expected to repeat or refine their "forward guidance" that borrowing costs will remain extraordinarily low as long as growth is sub-par and inflation is not a threat.
Read the rest here.

For Lovers of History

I am very happy to report that one of my favorite blogs has come back to life after having gone silent for a long period. Georgian London is a treasure trove of great articles dealing with life in 18th and early 19th century London. And for those partial to military history someone has kindly uploaded the entire series "Soviet Storm" onto YouTube. This 18 part TV series was produced in modern Russia and deals with the Eastern Front of the Second World War. This theater of the war has often been given short shrift by American historians especially during the Cold War period.

The series is extremely detailed, well narrated (in English though the maps are mostly in Cyrillic) and remarkably frank in its discussion of the shortcomings and failures of the Soviet Army especially early in the war. It also does not shrink from noting Stalin's ruthlessness and his habit of shooting underperforming generals. Though it does gloss over some of the more embarrassing details like Stalin's near breakdown in the first days of the war and the fact that on at least two occasions he sent feelers to Germany suggesting peace on terms that would have been very advantageous to the Nazis had  Hitler possessed more sense than a houseplant. Likewise Soviet war crimes are barely mentioned. But moving beyond these details the series has so far (I am about half way through it) really impressed me.

Those with a decent command of history will of course know that unlike in the Pacific, in the European theater of the war the principal actors were Germany and the USSR. The United States and Britain were mainly supporting actors in that part of the great drama. Considering the losses suffered by the Red Army one would be more than justified in asking if we could have won the war had Hitler not made the fatal mistake of invading Russia, and brutalizing its population as he rolled towards Moscow.

My own view is that it's exceedingly unlikely we could have dislodged the German Army from Europe on our own. The Soviets suffered no less than 20 million killed in their Great Patriotic War, and the actual number is likely closer to 25 million. Would America have been willing to suffer such losses on behalf of people on another continent, fighting against an enemy who had not actually invaded us? I seriously doubt it.

Of course based on what we know of Hitler's character and his megalomania it seems likely that even had we stayed out and let Britain go down, we would have ended up fighting Hitler at some point. He just wasn't the sort of guy who handled the stress of peace well.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Note From Diane Kamer (and my response)

Re: This post
Shut down comments...and then post a screed from a disgruntled trad in the process of doxing.
Don't you guys ever play fair? Apparently not...because that would put you at a disadvantage.
I shut down the comments because I have a low tolerance for the kind of internet bomb throwers and professional polemicists who had hijacked the discussion. If you think Ex Trad Cath's comment was a "screed" you really need to go back and take a look at your own commentary history of at least five years. And I note that you didn't refer to Owen White's blistering attack on American Orthodoxy as a screed. Of course not. It is not possible in your world view to post an anti-Orthodox screed. John B (whom I like and respect, current differences notwithstanding) and Modestinus are IMO both suffering from an unfortunate case of convertitus. It happens. Hopefully they will get over it. And yes I have seen it on our side of the fence too, and I find it just as distasteful.

But what's your excuse? From what I can gather you are just an Orthophobe who loathes us because... well we exist and we aren't Catholic. I have never once seen you show up in a Ortho-Cath discussion where you did not do your utmost to turn it into an inter-confessional food fight. It seems to me that you need a nasty religious argument the way most people need oxygen. And I'm sorry, but I just don't have the time or patience for that kind of crap.

Honestly, I think you are an anti-Orthodox bigot and a thoroughly obnoxious internet troll of the worst description. Further, to the best of my knowledge that view is shared by every Orthodox blogger who I can recall mentioning your name. So go peddle your "woes me!" always the martyr in defense of the True Faith BS elsewhere. Because sister, what you're selling, I'm not buying.

To my readers, I apologize for the extreme lack of charity in this post.

Comments are closed.

Note: I accidentally misspelled Diane's last name in the post title. I regret the error and have corrected it.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Must Read....

Fr. Stephen Freeman's excellent blog post on the theology of Orthodox Marriage. Among the many excellent points made is that marriage is NOT a contract and therefor claims by certain groups to equal rights under contract law do not apply.

Time Spent Discussing Congressman King's Racist Remarks

From here.

Chris Christie takes a shot at Libertarians

ASPEN, Colo. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Thursday offered a clear broadside against Republicans drifting toward a more libertarian view of foreign policy, lumping Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in with them and suggesting they explain their position to victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The House earlier this week narrowly voted against a reduction in funding for the National Security Agency’s program collecting Americans’ phone records, as libertarian-leaning members from both sides joined together to vote for the amendment.

“As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought,” Christie said.
Read the rest here. Under Surveillance

The FBI doesn't suspect any crime but monitors the site anyway—and this fits a pattern of targeting journalists who probe state secrets.

Irreverent and unyielding in its opposition to U.S. foreign policy, has been called many things. But that Washington might consider the 17-year-old news and opinion website a threat to national security should be cause for alarm—especially today.

The Obama administration has come under scrutiny this summer following revelations that it’s been snooping on journalists in connection with the unprecedented number of federal leak prosecutions in recent years. Meanwhile, thanks to revelations by Edward Snowden, the American public now knows the government has more access than ever to our Internet browsing habits, e-mails, Facebook accounts, and phone and Skype records.

The all-seeing eye may be putting the chill not only on privacy and free speech but also on investigative national-security journalism and the public’s right to know. And this is not limited to the high-profile cases affecting big mainstream players like Fox News, the Associated Press or the New York Times, which have received most of the attention.

In May, with considerably less fanfare, announced it was suing the FBI, demanding the release of records the editors believe the agency has been keeping on founder and managing editor Eric Garris and editorial editor Justin Raimondo. The suit stems from a 2004 memo a reader found through an unconnected FOIA request and passed along to in 2011. The heavily redacted 94-page document clearly states the FBI had secretly investigated and monitored the website and declared—despite acknowledging there was no evidence of any crime—that further surveillance of was necessary to determine if “[redaction] are engaging in, or have engaged in, activities which constitute a threat to national security on behalf of a foreign power.”

When contacted by this writer—who is also a regular contributor to—the FBI press office declined comment, citing pending litigation.
Read the rest here.

Halliburton to plead guilty to destroying evidence in BP spill

The oil services giant Halliburton agreed Thursday to plead guilty to destroying evidence during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in 2010, admitting to one count of criminal conduct and agreeing to pay the $200,000 maximum statutory fine, according to the Justice Department.

In a startling turn in the three-year-old criminal investigation, Halliburton said that on two occasions during the oil spill, it directed employees to destroy or “get rid of” simulations that would have helped clarify how to assign blame for the blowout — and possibly focused more attention on Halliburton’s role.
Read the rest here.

Too big to fail and too big to jail.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Concelebrated Liturgy Celebrating the 1025th Anniversary of the Baptism of Kiev & Russia

A concelebrated liturgy with the primates and or representative bishops of all the Orthodox Churches in Christ the Savior Cathedral. The relics of the Cross of St. Andrew are prominent in the Cathedral.

Dear New York

I know I have said and written unkind things about you. Sometimes, they were downright mean. I may have left you and shaken the dust from my sandals while making snarky comments about the suckers still living in your borders, but alas you are still my native state. So I implore you not to make yourself the laughingstock of the country. PLEASE PLEASE don't elect either of those men.

Poll: Most Americans Want Abortion Limited After 20 Weeks

By a margin of 56 to 27 percent, more Americans say they’d prefer to impose limits on abortions after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy rather than the 24-week mark established under current law, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Another 10 percent surveyed in the poll volunteered they would prefer to outlaw abortion in the United States altogether or limit it earlier than 20 weeks after fertilization. At the same time, however, 54 percent say they oppose state laws that make it more difficult for abortion clinics to operate; compared to 45 percent who support such legislation. (See graphic below for a breakdown of results, and here for interactive polling data).

The findings come as lawmakers on Capitol Hill and in states across the country are pushing to ban abortions earlier and impose new requirements that make it harder for abortion clinics to operate. Under the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, abortions can be performed until the point when an individual doctor determines a fetus’s viability, which is generally defined as up to 24 weeks of gestation. After that point, the government can prohibit the procedure so long as it provides safeguards for the mother’s health and well-being.

The poll suggests that significant support exists for banning abortions earlier in a woman’s pregnancy, but far less for instituting onerous restrictions for abortion providers.
Read the rest here.

Progress is often measured not in leaps, but steps. This is progress, if painfully slow.

A Quick Note on Anonymous Comments

I have in the past allowed anonymous comments, though I really don't care for them. But lately they have become problematic. On longer discussion threads they create confusion and at least one blog troll has been abusing anonymity for some time. For these reasons I have decided to no longer allow anonymous comments on Ad Orientem. You don't have to sign up with Blogger but you do have to at a minimum enter a name using open ID when posting comments. This change is effective immediately.

Thank you for your understanding.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Congress Repeals the 4th Amendment

A controversial proposal to restrict how the National Security Agency collects Americans’ telephone records failed to advance in the House by a narrow margin Wednesday, a victory for the Obama administration, which has spent weeks defending the program.

Lawmakers voted 217 to 205 to defeat the proposal from an unlikely coalition of liberal and conservative members. Those lawmakers had joined forces in response to revelations by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, that the agency has collected the phone records of millions of Americans — a practice that critics say goes beyond the kind of collection that has been authorized by Congress.
Read the rest here.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

A Class Act

Former President George H.W. Bush (41) shaved his head as a sign of support for the son of one of his Secret Service guards who has been stricken with cancer.

Read the story here.

Prayers for the boys recovery.

OK, maybe it's just me....

Maybe I am being overly sensitive or just visiting the wrong blogs. But am I the only one noticing an uptick in anti-Orthodox snark or outright attacks on the Church in the blogosphere of late? A lot of it seems to be coming from the Catholic corner.

Granted there have always been bomb throwers in both churches. But it just seems like it's spreading to what are, or were, more mainstream blogs lately. What gives?

Comments are now closed. If you have a comment you think adds to the discussion please email me. Thanks to everyone for your input.

Snowden likely to be granted asylum in Russia

They gave him a ton a paperwork to fill out and some new clothes (he's been wearing the same clothes for about a month). Once the approval is given he will be given temporary papers permitting him to leave the airport and live in Russia. At least initially he will be obliged to remain in areas designated by the Russian police. If and when permanent residency or citizenship is granted he would presumably have the freedom of the country. It is unlikely that Snowden will ever be able to leave Russia given his fugitive status.

Oh, and they gave him something else, a book... Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment." Who said Vlady doesn't have a sense of humor?

US Judge halts lawsuits challenging Detroit bankruptcy

Detroit can proceed with its bankruptcy filing unencumbered by lawsuits that sought to block the largest municipal Chapter 9 in U.S. history, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The decision by U.S. bankruptcy court judge Steven Rhodes halts lawsuits by pension funds and creditors, who argue that the bankruptcy violates provisions in Michigan’s constitution that protect public pensions. The judge also ruled that the federal court will decide if Detroit is eligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

The Chapter 9 filing, which is expected to be a long, drawn-out process, will be closely watched by other cities and public pension funds around the country that are also tight on funding amid a weak recovery and a growing number of retiring baby boomers.
Read the rest here.

Prince George

Many years to the future King George VII!

Washington approval ratings slip to record lows

The American public's dissatisfaction with Washington has reached new heights, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, as the political world continues to fight the same intractable battles over the budget, health care and immigration.

A whopping 83 percent of Americans disapprove of Congress' job, which is an all-time high in the survey. What's more, President Barack Obama has seen his job-approval rating dip to its lowest level since August 2011, when the debt-ceiling showdown wounded almost every Washington politician.

And nearly six-in-10 voters say they would vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress if they had such an option on their ballot ­ another all-time high.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Yankees Superstar A-Rod May Face Severe Sanctions For Doping

(CBS News) Milwaukee Brewers' outfielder Ryan Braun was one of at least 15 Major League Baseball players under investigation for taking performance-enhancing drugs. He was suspended Monday for the rest of the season, and an even bigger name could be next.

The game's highest-paid player, New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez is also under investigation. A Major League Baseball team executive told CBS News Braun's 65-game suspension could be nothing compared to what Rodriguez faces.

The executive said it's not a matter of "if" Rodriguez will be suspended for using performance enhancing drugs, but "when."

"They have an overwhelming amount of evidence on this guy showing multiple years of usage," the executive said. "He's met with Major League Baseball. He's seen the evidence. He is staring down a penalty much, much harsher than Braun's. It could be years... or even a lifetime suspension."
Read the rest here.

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's a boy!

Britain has a new heir. The Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a baby boy (8lbs 6 oz.) who will likely be the first monarch of the 22nd century. Many years to the happy couple and the as yet unnamed Prince!

Delegations of Orthodox Churches arriving in Moscow for 1,025 years since baptizing of Kievan Rus

Delegations of the Eastern Orthodox Churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Romania, and Cyprus arrive in Moscow later Monday to take part in the festivities marking the 1,025 years since the adoption of Eastern Orthodox Christian faith by Kievan Rus.

The Jerusalem and Cyprian delegations are led by the supreme hierarchs of these Churches - Patriarch Theophilos III and Archbishop Chrysostom, Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations said.

According to the department spokesman, the Reverend Igor Yakimchuk, the top-rank clerics and the accompanying delegations will take part in the festivities that will be held from July 24 through to July 29 in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus at the level of both governments of the three countries and the Church.

The delegations of the Romanian Orthodox Church and the supreme hierarch of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America, Metropolitan Tikhon, who arrived in Moscow Sunday, are expected to have meetings with the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill I Monday.

Delegations of all the fifteen national Orthodox Churches will take part in the jubilee festivities and eight delegations will be led by the ruling hierarchs of the respective Churches.
Read the rest here.

Pariarch Kirill Condemns Rise of Gay Marriage in the West

MOSCOW, July 21 (RIA Novosti) – Head of the Russian Orthodox Church warned Western governments on Sunday against legalization of same-sex marriages what he called a sign of approaching end of the world.

Patriarch Kirill said during a service at Moscow’s major cathedral that the recent initiatives in a range of countries to legalize same-sex marriages “is a dangerous and apocalyptic symptom” that should not spread over to Russia, according to Russian media reports.

While those who “fight the laws imposed by the minority are subject to repressions,” Kirill, who leads the Church known for its conservative views, was quoted as saying during his speech at Kazan Cathedral near Red Square on Sunday.

Russian authorities have been repeatedly criticized by human rights groups and Western officials over a recently passed law introducing punishment for “the promotion of nontraditional sexual relationships” among minors.

Security on alert as Pope Francis heads to Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – When Pope Francis greets his flock on Rio’s white-sand Copacabana beach this week during his first international trip, he’ll do so in the same open-topped jeep “popemobile” he uses at the Vatican, breaking down the bulletproof barrier between the pontiff and the people.

But while he'll be traveling with only two Swiss Guards dressed in discreet civilian clothes, the "people's pope" may still have a hard time connecting with the 2 million people expected to greet him. More than 10,000 army, air force and navy officers, as well as 12,000 regular police and 1,700 elite security forces, will guard him during his 18 public appearances during his weeklong visit, starting Monday, to Brazil for World Youth Day. 
Read the rest here.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Feast of the Icon of The Virgin Mary of Kazan

From the Cathedral of Kazan in Red Square

ROCOR Continues It's House Cleaning

It appears that the Holy Synod of the Russian Church Abroad is continuing its program of corrective measures in response to some serious disciplinary problems. The Synod has condemned the actions of  a "Brother" Nathanael Kapner. My knowledge of this man is limited but John Sanidopoulos has a more detailed post up on him. He sounds like a nut job who may at one time have been under ROCOR. The last word I had heard on this sorry individual was that he had entered into schism and had been barred from the chalice. John S. seems to confirm this.

HT: Blog reader Michael M.

Mormons on the Web Grapple With Doubt

In the small but cohesive Mormon community where he grew up, Hans Mattsson was a solid believer and a pillar of the church. He followed his father and grandfather into church leadership and finally became an “area authority” overseeing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout Europe.

When fellow believers in Sweden first began coming to him with information from the Internet that contradicted the church’s history and teachings, he dismissed it as “anti-Mormon propaganda,” the whisperings of Lucifer. He asked his superiors for help in responding to the members’ doubts, and when they seemed to only sidestep the questions, Mr. Mattsson began his own investigation.

But when he discovered credible evidence that the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, was a polygamist and that the Book of Mormon and other scriptures were rife with historical anomalies, Mr. Mattsson said he felt that the foundation on which he had built his life began to crumble.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pope Francis to Focus on Social Justice in Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO — A month ago, hundreds of thousands of young people took to the streets of Brazil to protest corruption, wasteful government spending, bad schools and hospitals, police brutality, and other abuses of power. On Monday, Pope Francis, in his first venture abroad, will dive into the middle of that ferment when he begins a weeklong visit to the world’s largest Roman Catholic country.

“This is a crucial moment for the church, the nation, society and the people, heightened by the fact this is Francis’ first trip,” said Fernando Altemeyer Jr., a theologian and philosopher at the Pontifical Catholic University in São Paulo. “Brazil has changed and things are bubbling, but there is no clarity. Everything is new and unknown, in the country and the church, even for the bishops.”

Francis has endorsed the protests in general terms, and, according to European news reports, will do so again more emphatically and specifically this week. Church officials here declined to confirm those reports, but they said that two Brazilian cardinals, Cláudio Hummes and Raymundo Damasceno Assis, have been working closely with the Vatican to assure that Francis’ declarations on social justice here will convey sympathy both for the protest demands and those involved in the movement.
Read the rest here.

There is a great deal that I admire about this Pope including his very real modesty and concern for the poor. I also like (no surprise) his deemphasizing of the imperial papacy in favor of his role as Bishop of Rome. That said, he does seem to be rather narrowly focused on the social justice issue and some of his views put him way to the left in political and economic terms. Also there has been scant emphasis on church doctrine, discipline and morals since his accession to the papal throne. Has he even addressed the issue of abortion once since then? One also notes the Vatican seems to have gone largely silent on the subject of gay marriage. And while his personal lifestyle is commendable, his extremely "low church" approach to liturgy is disquieting. It seems to hint at the end of the liturgical counterrevolution that followed decades of horrific abuses in the name of Vatican II.

Still, it's early days. I suspect we will have a clearer picture of things next summer.

Honor and Money or When a Deal Isn't Necessarily a Deal

It’s a deal. Or is it?

After apartment-hunting in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for months this spring, Dr. Ronald Nath finally lucked out with a two-bedroom duplex at the top of a condominium, listed at $800,000.

A day after a crowded open house, Dr. Nath, a Massachusetts surgeon, offered $803,000 for the unit, which was to be a home for his son David, a television news producer. But because of its location and the outdoor spaces on both floors, the unit attracted more than a dozen offers, which prompted the seller to request higher bids.

For his “best and final” offer, which usually signals the end of the haggling process, Dr. Nath promised $912,000, which seemed to do the trick. The seller congratulated Dr. Nath and told him the unit was his; a contract was drawn up.

Not so fast. A few days later, like a kite in a gust of wind, the price soared again, to $995,000. Insulted by what he described as being “played,” Dr. Nath refused to raise his offer and ultimately lost the unit to a buyer who plunked down $1.1 million. “I was absolutely outraged,” he said. “When you give your word that a deal is done, you’re supposed to fulfill your agreement.”

A real estate deal, like any other business transaction, isn’t ironclad until signatures wind up on a contract, said Tom Le of the Corcoran Group, the seller’s broker, who defended his clients’ right to get the highest possible price for their unit, even if it left some raw feelings.
Read the rest here.

Unfortunately I have had some experiences of a similar nature. It's a long story but the executive summary is that back when I was on the parish council of the church that I was received into Orthodoxy through, money was tight. We were experiencing some real financial hardships and the decision was taken, albeit reluctantly to part with some land we had hoped to build a permanent church on.

Twice we entered negotiations with a certain individual, and twice that individual stiffed us and reneged on his word trying to drive the price down Of course he knew our backs were against the wall. In the latter case he did so after contracts had actually been signed. Because of the way real estate law works in California, and the fact that he had "accidentally forgot" to deposit the security deposit check into escrow we were left with no practical recourse other than to just accept the fact that we had been cheated.

It happens. Sadly not everyone in the world is on the up and up and some people are highly unethical.

FWIW here is my take on the ethics (which is not the law) on real estate and business negotiations in general.

An asking price is just that. Nothing is firm. Offers and asking prices can go up or down UNTIL everyone says "we have a deal" and shakes hands. After that, it is grossly unethical and dishonorable for either the buyer or seller to withdraw from that deal for anything other than the most extraordinary reasons. And in the case where one or another party does break their word without good cause, the other party should immediately withdraw their offer or consent to any deal and have no further dealings with them. By continuing to deal with someone who has demonstrated an  unscrupulous character you are enabling this sort of knavery.

I may be the last man on Earth who still holds to the view that a man's word is his bond, but that's my take on things. If I can't trust your word and a handshake then your signature isn't worth the paper it's written on. How can you trust anything they say about anything? A man who negotiates in bad faith is a liar. He can, and will, lie about any number of other things.

Such persons should be shunned both personally and professionally.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Churches grapple with appropriate dress as summer heats up

As Ann Cabiness stood in the Communion line at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church on Sunday morning, two things were on her mind: connecting with God and getting out of the humid sanctuary before someone mentioned her skimpy tank top and tight, knee-length running pants.

“I know I’m inappropriate, but I’m trying to save time. I know I’m in the wrong. My mother would not approve,” the 30-year-old said sheepishly as she made a beeline from Mass at the Bethesda church to the gym. “But would it be better that I not come?”
Read the rest here.

Vigil for St. Sergius, of Radonezh

British Court: OK for Roman Catholic Child to be Forcibly Converted to Islam

In SS (Malaysia) v. Secretary of State, (EWCA, July 18, 2013), Britain's Court of Appeal, upheld the denial of asylum to a Roman Catholic woman from Malaysia visiting England and to her 6 year old son. The woman, whose husband (still in Malaysia) had recently converted to Islam, objected to the fact that if she returned her husband would insist their son be raised as a Muslim and circumcised. The court concluded that returning the mother and her son to Malaysia would not violate their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Read the rest here.

P.S. Fixed the link.

Stolen Art Masterpieces Likely Destroyed

PARIS — To Olga Dogaru, a lifelong resident of the tiny Romanian village of Carcaliu, the strangely beautiful artworks her son had brought home in a suitcase four months earlier had become a curse.

No matter, she said, that the works — seven in all — were signed by Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Gauguin, Lucian Freud and Meyer de Haan. Her son had just been arrested on suspicion of orchestrating the art robbery of the century: stealing masterpieces in a brazen October-night theft from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

But if the paintings and drawings no longer existed, Radu Dogaru, her son, could be free from prosecution, she reasoned. So Mrs. Dogaru told the police that on a freezing night in February, she placed all seven works — which included Monet’s 1901 “Waterloo Bridge, London”; Gauguin’s 1898 “Girl in Front of Open Window”; and Picasso’s 1971 “Harlequin Head” — in a wood-burning stove used to heat saunas and incinerated them.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Detroit Files Bankruptcy

Well they did it. Not surprising, but sad. There are going to be serious ramifications even for people who don't own municipal bonds.

Feds Reviewing Dozens of Death Sentences for FBI Errors

An unprecedented federal review of old criminal cases has uncovered as many as 27 death penalty convictions in which FBI forensic experts may have mistakenly linked defendants to crimes with exaggerated scientific testimony, U.S. officials said.

The review led to an 11th-hour stay of execution in Mississippi in May.

It is not known how many of the cases involve errors, how many led to wrongful convictions or how many mistakes may now jeopardize valid convictions. Those questions will be explored as the review continues.
Read the rest here.

Words fail me.

Russian Investigative Committee doesn't doubt authenticity of Romanov remains

Moscow, July 17, Interfax - The Russian Investigative Committee does not doubt the authenticity of the royal family remains found near Yekaterinburg and it is ready to answer every question of the Russian Orthodox Church.

"No new data, which might have called our research into question, has been uncovered," senior investigator of the Russian Investigative Committee's Main Forensic Department Vladimir Solovyov, who investigated the murder of the royal family, told Interfax on Wednesday.

The family of the last Russian emperor, Nicholas II, was executed in the Urals 95 years ago, in the early morning hours of July 17, 1918.

"Numerous conferences have been held since 2008 when our report was published but no one has ever questioned the scientific integrity of our inquiry," Solovyov said.

"It is our opinion, based on scientific methods, that the remains actually belong to members of the royal family," the Investigative Committee representative said.

He added that the royal family murder case would not be completely closed until the burial of the remains of Prince Alexey and his sister Maria.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

More on the ROCOR Western Rite

For the record H.B. Metropolitan Hilarion has issued a brief memo to the Western Rite community regarding the Holy Synod's recent and somewhat controversial decree. The memo offers little in the form of details but does seem to suggest that ROCOR is not abandoning the idea of the W/R.

It may be read here.

Update: Fr. John Whiteford has a post up on one of the major problems with ROCOR's W/R. This is not a blanket endorsement of his post. Frankly, some of it has the unfortunate tone of that knee jerk anti-Westernism which exists in certain quarters of the Church. Having said that, he raises some really important points.

Setting aside for the moment the arguments about whether or not the W/R is a good idea, I think it is now pretty clear that ROCOR's W/R had some very serious disciplinary problems, some of which were causing scandal, even rising to the point of calling into question the validity of sacraments. When you have that kind of situation, decisive action becomes imperative. We are not Episcopalians.

Based on what I've heard so far, I believe the Holy Synod needed to move quickly, and they did. Beyond that I am content to wait and see what develops before forming any definitive opinions on the matter.

Attention All Preppers

On a cool September night in 1859, campers out in Colorado were roused from sleep by a “light so bright that one could easily read common print,” as one newspaper described it. Some of them, confused, got up and began making breakfast.

Farther east, thousands of New Yorkers ran out onto their sidewalks to watch the sky glow, ribboned in yellow, white and crimson. Few people had ever seen an aurora that far south — and this one lit up the whole city.

At the time, it was a dazzling display of nature. Yet if the same thing happened today, it would be an utter catastrophe.

The auroras of 1859, known as the “Carrington Event,” came after the sun unleashed a large coronal mass ejection, a burst of charged plasma aimed directly at the Earth. When the particles hit our magnetosphere, they triggered an especially fierce geomagnetic storm that lit up the sky and frazzled communication wires around the world. Telegraphs in Philadelphia were spitting out “fantastical and unreadable messages,” one paper reported, with some systems unusable for hours.

Today, electric utilities and the insurance industry are grappling with a scary possibility. A solar storm on the scale of that in 1859 would wreak havoc on power grids, pipelines and satellites. In the worst case, it could leave 20 million to 40 million people in the Northeast without power — possibly for years — as utilities struggled to replace thousands of fried transformers stretching from Washington to Boston. Chaos and riots might ensue.

That’s not a lurid sci-fi fantasy. It’s a sober new assessment by Lloyd’s of London, the world’s oldest insurance market. The report notes that even a much smaller solar-induced geomagnetic storm in 1989 left 6 million people in Quebec without power for nine hours.
Read the rest here.

New York Claims Sharp Drop in Health Insurance Costs

Individuals buying health insurance on their own will see their premiums tumble next year in New York State as changes under the federal health care law take effect, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Wednesday.

State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower.

Supporters of the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, credited the drop in rates to the online purchasing exchanges the law created, which they say are spurring competition among insurers that are anticipating an influx of new customers. The law requires that an exchange be started in every state. 
Read the rest here.

95 Years Ago

Communists butchered Czar Nicholas II, the Empress, and their five children along with the handful of loyal retainers and servants who had remained with them.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Orthodoxy and Gay Marriage

An interesting article with a lot of supporting links can be read here. Please leave your comments there.

Senate Braces for Filibuster Showdown

The Senate inched closer to an eleventh-hour deal late Monday night in a bid to avert an unprecedented maneuver to change the chamber’s rules governing presidential appointees, with nearly all 100 senators spending more than three hours huddled in a rare bipartisan, closed-door caucus.

Rank-and-file senators came out of the meeting reporting progress on the confirmation prospects of President Obama’s selections to head low-profile but influential agencies. Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) echoed that sentiment but said no resolution had been reached, leaving in place a critical 10 a.m. Tuesday vote that would set up the historic clash over changing the Senate rules on a raw party-line vote so that Cabinet- and agency-level nominees could be confirmed without having to overcome a filibuster.
Read the rest here.

Places I don't see myself moving to...

Thailand has just been removed from my list of possible expatriation destinations. I couldn't even watch the whole thing. I stopped after they got to the bed.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Resigns in Spy Scandal

BRUSSELS — The longest-serving government leader in the European Union, Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, resigned as prime minister on Thursday amid a ballooning intelligence service scandal that began with revelations that the duchy’s former spy chief taped official meetings with a recorder disguised as a wristwatch. 
Read the rest here.

OK. I normally don't regard minor political news from the EU's smallest member state as blog worthy. (No offense to any readers from the Grand Duchy.) But... Luxembourg has a secret spy service? Really? This sounds like the plot of a Peter Sellers comedy.

Maybe we need to keep a closer eye on Rhode Island.

Egypt: Why Political Islam is Incompatible With Democracy

Painful as it was to see the democratic process interrupted so soon after the revolution that overthrew the longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the military’s action was necessary. At its most blatant level, there was no way that Mr. Morsi and his affiliates in the Muslim Brotherhood were going to leave power willingly, no matter the severity of the civil discontent over the president’s efforts to consolidate his power while mismanaging major problems from fuel shortages to rising inflation.

When has an Islamist government, however democratically elected, ever ceded power to non-Islamists through a functional political process? Is democracy about periodically displacing absolute power by force or about laying the foundations for its peaceful rotation, including mechanisms not only for transparency in governance but also for the protection of women and religious minorities?
Read the rest here.

Fred Reed on the Zimmerman Trial

Caution: For those afflicted with politically correct sensibilities, this is likely to be offensive.
Has there ever been such focused inattention as the case has produced? Nothing of importance is noticed, and everything lacking it is. The crucial fact to come out of the whole adventure—crucial, and therefore utterly overlooked--was that  Rachel Jeantel, a prosecution witness and black girl aged nineteen years, can´t read. The grim implication of this fact is confirmed by the illiteracy of tweets from blacks regarding the case. “Ima kill dat dumass cracker be racis.” Here we see as neatly displayed as if in a jewelry box why so many young blacks will go nowhere in the remaining fifty years of their lives. They can´t read, or barely can. In a fading techno-industrial civilization—I use the latter word frivolously—this consigns them to a life on charity. Is this not of more note than who started what?
Read the rest here.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Liturgy for the Feast of the Holy Apostles and 400th Anniversary of the Imperial Dynasty

Full Patriarchal Liturgy from the Fortress of Sts. Peter and Paul (St. Petersburg) that also commemorated 400 years of service from the Romanov family. H.I.H. the Grand Duchess Maria was present at the invitation of His Holiness as the head of the Family and heir presumptive to the Imperial Throne. Regrettably there is almost nonstop chatter from commentators.

Part I

Part II

Friday, July 12, 2013

N. Ireland: Dozens Injured in Anti-Catholic Riots

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) — Protestant hardliners attacked lines of Belfast riot police Friday as Northern Ireland's annual mass marches by the Orange Order brotherhood reached a furious, chaotic end with running street battles at several conflict zones.

In north Belfast, police in flame-retardant suits and helmets deployed a half-dozen armored cars to block a road so that Protestant Orangemen could not march past the edge of Ardoyne, a militant Catholic district that has become the most bitterly contested spot on the city map.

Men jumped on top of the armored barricade and, as hundreds of marchers and supporters formed a sea of often alcohol-fueled fury behind them, wielded pipes, golf clubs, wood planks and even ceremonial swords to vandalize the police vans.

Emboldened, some threw bottles and bricks point-blank into police lines. Many in the mob cheered as one policeman, struck and knocked semiconscious, was dragged to safety by colleagues.
Read the rest here.

ROCOR Closes Down its Western Rite; Bishop Jerome Retired

NEW YORK: July 12, 2013
An Extraordinary Session of the Synod of Bishops is Held

On Wednesday, July 10, 2013, an extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was held, presided over by its First Hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York. Participating in the meeting were permanent members of the Synod of Bishops: His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany; His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America; His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada, and His Grace Bishop Peter of Cleveland, Administrator of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America. 

Deliberating on the matter of Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, the Synod of Bishops made a decision as follows:

“During a meeting of the Synod of Bishops on Wednesday, July 10, 2013, presided over by the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, A DECISION WAS MADE: on the activities of Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, Vicar of the President for the Administration of Western Rite Parishes. 

After exhaustive deliberation, IT WAS DECREED: 

1) To halt the ordination of new clergymen for parishes adhering to the Western Rite. 

2) To censure Bishop Jerome for his willfulness in administering the parishes adhering to the Western Rite, and in performing various ecclesial services not approved by the Synod of Bishops, and for criticizing his brethren in letters to clergy and laity. 

3) To deny recognition of the ordination of a group of individuals by Bishop Jerome during a single divine service, and to regularize them following a thorough examination of the candidates.

4) To release Bishop Jerome from all duties, including those of Vicar of the President in administering Western Rite parishes, designating him as retired without the right to serve in the Synodal Cathedral “of the Sign” in New York, or to perform ordinations or award clergymen, and designating his place of residence at St Vladimir Memorial Church of the 1000th Anniversary of the Baptism of Russia in Jackson, NJ.

5) To bless Bishop Jerome to perform divine services within the confines of the Eastern American Diocese with the consent of its Ruling Bishop. 

6) To release Monk Anthony (Bondi) from all of his administrative duties and from the spiritual ministry to the Vicariate of Western Rite Parishes. 

7) To establish a commission to examine the means of integrating clergymen and communities of the Western Rite into the liturgical life of the Russian Orthodox Church, consisting of: Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, President; Bishop George of Mayfield, Vicar of the Eastern American Diocese; Protopriest David Straut of the Eastern American Diocese, and Protopriest Anthony Nelson of the Mid-American Diocese. 

8) To address an epistle to the clergymen and communities of the Western Rite regarding the need for them to adopt the order of divine services of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church, while preserving, when necessary, certain particularities of the Western Rite. 

9) To emphasize our adherence to the rules and traditions of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church in general and of the Russian Orthodox Church in particular. 

10) To deem this decree immediately valid and to submit it to the members of the Council of Bishops in the form of a questionnaire for confirmation.” 

The meeting concluded with the singing of “It is Truly Meet.”

HT: Dr. Tighe

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Christians Targeted for Retribution in Egypt

CAIRO — The military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi has unleashed a new wave of violence by extremist Muslims against Christians whom they blame for having supported the calls to overthrow Mr. Morsi, Egypt’s first Islamist elected leader, according to rights activists.

Since Mr. Morsi’s ouster on July 3, the activists say, a priest has been shot dead in the street, Islamists have painted black X’s on Christian shops to mark them for arson and angry mobs have attacked churches and besieged Christians in their homes. Four Christians were reported slaughtered with knives and machetes in one village last week. 
Read the rest here.

Quote of the day

"It's a racket. Those guys are all crooked."
-Al Capone explaining why he stayed away from Wall Street and the stock market

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Making Satire Redundant

Responding to...
Could someone please explain why our [Episcopal] church is openly promoting, supporting and celebrating sin?

Bruce responds...
Yes, I will explain it to you. Sin is in the eye of the beholder. What you view as sin, others view as beauty. I am not a homosexual, but I believe that the same God that made me and others heterosexual made other people homosexual. I think it is counter-intuitive to think that ideas of 3,500 years ago should still be followed today. The fact that a tribe of Hebrews wrote a book 3,500 years ago encapsulating their history and philosophy does not compel us to follow all their ideas as though they were cast in concret for all time. Hopefully we have learned something in the passage of time. We have learned that slavery is ignoble. We have learned that women need not be subservient to men. We have learned that black people are equal to and indeed no different from white people. At leat many of us have learned this. Now we have learned that certain people, about 5%, are born with same-sex orientation. It is not a life style they choose, any more than a person chooses to be born black or hispanic or asian. If Jesus stands for anything, he stands for the proposition that we should love one another, and “by this all men shall know that you are my disciples, by the love you have for one another.” So I suggest that you quit casting stones unless you are that rara avis the person without sin. Homosexuals are not committing sin. They are doing what is natural for them to do by reason of the way God made them. Okay?

From here.

“Why did you shoot me? I was reading a book”: The new warrior cop is out of control

Sal Culosi is dead because he bet on a football game — but it wasn’t a bookie or a loan shark who killed him. His local government killed him, ostensibly to protect him from his gambling habit.

Several months earlier at a local bar, Fairfax County, Virginia, detective David Baucum overheard the thirty-eight-year-old optometrist and some friends wagering on a college football game. “To Sal, betting a few bills on the Redskins was a stress reliever, done among friends,” a friend of Culosi’s told me shortly after his death. “None of us single, successful professionals ever thought that betting fifty bucks or so on the Virginia–Virginia Tech football game was a crime worthy of investigation.” Baucum apparently did. After overhearing the men wagering, Baucum befriended Culosi as a cover to begin investigating him. During the next several months, he talked Culosi into raising the stakes of what Culosi thought were just more fun wagers between friends to make watching sports more interesting. Eventually Culosi and Baucum bet more than $2,000 in a single day. Under Virginia law, that was enough for police to charge Culosi with running a gambling operation. And that’s when they brought in the SWAT team.

On the night of January 24, 2006, Baucum called Culosi and arranged a time to drop by to collect his winnings. When Culosi, barefoot and clad in a T-shirt and jeans, stepped out of his house to meet the man he thought was a friend, the SWAT team began to move in. Seconds later, Det. Deval Bullock, who had been on duty since 4:00 AM and hadn’t slept in seventeen hours, fired a bullet that pierced Culosi’s heart.

Sal Culosi’s last words were to Baucum, the cop he thought was a friend: “Dude, what are you doing?”

In March 2006, just two months after its ridiculous gambling investigation resulted in the death of an unarmed man, the Fairfax County Police Department issued a press release warning residents not to participate in office betting pools tied to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The title: “Illegal Gambling Not Worth the Risk.” Given the proximity to Culosi’s death, residents could be forgiven for thinking the police department believed wagering on sports was a crime punishable by execution.

In January 2011, the Culosi family accepted a $2 million settlement offer from Fairfax County. That same year, Virginia’s government spent $20 million promoting the state lottery.
Read the rest here.
HT: Pointedstick

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Rand Paul staffer has disturbing record

An aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has a history of  inflammatory comments about race and the Civil War.

As first reported by the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative online publication, Paul new media staffer Jack Hunter has for years been a provocative talk radio host who called himself the “Southern Avenger.” Before that, he was a member of the League of the South, a group that advocates Southern secession.

“Sen. Paul holds his staff to a standard that includes treating every individual with equal protection and respect, without exception,” spokeswoman Moira Bagley said in a statement.
Read the rest here.

'Blasphemy' teen flees Pakistan amid persecution of Christians

A Pakistani teen who provoked an international outcry when she was falsely accused of burning Islam’s holy book is finally out of danger and settling into a new life in Canada.

But while Rimsha Masih and her family have been granted asylum and were quietly relocated to southern Ontario, life for much of the Christian community they left behind in Islamabad remains bleak.

Fearing vigilante justice in the wake of her case, many fled their homes in the city’s Mehrabadi district, according to lawyer Joseph Francis from the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS).
Read the rest here.

RIP: Ike Godsey

Joe Conley who earned fame for his portrayal of Ike Godsey, the genial proprietor of a country store on the 1970's TV show The Waltons, has reposed at 85. I did not know he was still alive.

Memory eternal.

Monday, July 08, 2013

The dangers of one party government; or how Detroit became America's municipal train wreck

Liberal economists have a ready response to conservatives who fret that U.S. debt might spiral out of control, a la Southern Europe: “America is not Greece.”

It’s true. Greece has much more public debt than does the United States, relative to economic output. Unlike Greece’s euro-denominated obligations, U.S. debt is in U.S. dollars. The U.S. economy is far more competitive than Greece’s tourism-and-tomatoes operation.

Certain parts of the United States, however, are like Greece. Just read emergency manager Kevyn Orr’s134-page report on Detroit, which has $20 billion in unpayable debt.

Couched in the workmanlike prose of a bankruptcy lawyer — which is what Orr is — the document nevertheless tells a harrowing story of institutional rot and social collapse, brought on by decades of government of, by and for special-interest groups. 
Read the rest here.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Andy Murray Becomes First British Wimbledon Champion in 77 Years

WIMBLEDON, England — The final game felt as long as the three-hour slugfest that preceded it.

With history on his racket, Andy Murray let three chances to clinch the match slip away. His mind, which had been so clear despite the sweltering heat, turned hazy. His girlfriend, looking on from a guest box at Centre Court of the All England club, couldn’t clasp her hands, they trembled so much.

But in the context of British sporting history, the interminable final game of Sunday’s Wimbledon tennis championship was an eye-blink.

After fending off three break points, Murray cracked a huge serve that yanked world No. 1 Novak Djokovic wide, then followed with a forehand blast that the Serb plowed into the net. With it, Murray’s lifelong ambition was realized. And Britain’s 77-year wait for a homegrown men’s Wimbledon champion was over.

Camera shutters snapped, tears flowed, and Union Jack and Scottish saltire flags were raised in jubilation upon Murray’s 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 victory.
Read the rest here.

Not a big tennis fan here, but that was something to see. I'm going to guess that this young man will have a hard time tonight finding a pub anywhere in the UK where he can buy a beer with his own money.

Wife of Secretary of State Kerry Seriously Ill

Multiple sources are reporting that Teresa Heinz (Kerry), wife of U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, has been hospitalized in critical condition. No details as to the nature of the illness were immediately reported.


And finally, here is the best way to discourage ballot abuse: If someone can prove you voted 1,000 times for David Wright or any other player, then the NSA will hunt you down and make you take free tickets to TWO Mets games.

From my former friend Brian.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

What a surprise!

Soon after Congress approved the largest overhaul of financial regulation in generations, the Securities and Exchange Commission moved to enforce what it considered one of the simpler parts of a mammoth and complicated law.

The provision required companies to disclose how much more their chief executives made than other employees. All the agency had to do was write a rule telling firms how to comply.

Nearly three years later, the rule remains unfinished, with no sign of when it will be done.
Read the rest here.

Air Disaster in San Francisco

At least two killed and 100 injured or missing. Prayers for all concerned.

Missouri may bring back gas chamber due to dwindling lethal injection supplies

ST. LOUIS — With drugs needed for lethal injection in short supply and courts wrangling over how to execute prisoners without them, Missouri's attorney general is floating one possible solution: Bring back the gas chamber.

In court filings and interviews this week, Attorney General Chris Koster noted that Missouri statutes allow two options for executions: lethal injection and death by gas. Koster's comments come amid his growing frustration over the Missouri Supreme Court's refusal to set execution dates until lethal injection issues are resolved.

"The Missouri death penalty statute has been, in my opinion, unnecessarily entangled in the courts for over a decade," Koster said Wednesday in an email exchange with The Associated Press.

Asked about concerns by some who say using lethal gas could violate condemned inmates' constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment, Koster responded: "The premeditated murder of an innocent Missourian is cruel and unusual punishment. The lawful implementation of the death penalty, following a fair and reasoned jury trial, is not."
Read the rest here.