Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The racist(s) in our spiritual home

Forget the LA Clippers and Donald Sterling. We have a brewing scandal involving an overt racist in the Orthodox Church here in the United States. And it is generating a firestorm on the internet. It appears that on Lazarus Saturday a young man with well known connections to the White Supremacist movement was received into the Church without first abjuring this serious sin. Making things even worse, he has been publicly promoting Orthodoxy as the logical home for his fellow wing nuts. Apparently others are claiming to have joined. I must say that I was not surprised to discover that he had come through the Roman Catholic ultra-traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, which has a long track record of tolerating extremists, especially anti-Semites. In my experience, a lot of these fringe types quickly get disillusioned with real Orthodoxy and start looking for the "pure faith," leading them into one or another of the Old Calendarist sects, which are often just as racist and anti-Semitic.

This is pretty much burning up the Orthodox blogosphere right now but the essentials can be found on Fr. Oliver Herbal's excellent blog.

Note: This post has been reviewed and slightly edited for tone after a comment suggested, I think fairly, that it was a bit too sensational.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Oklahoma Postpones Double Execution After First Is Botched

McALESTER, Okla. — What was supposed to be the first of two executions here Tuesday night was halted when the prisoner, Clayton D. Lockett, began to twitch and gasp after he had already been declared unconscious and called out “man” and “something’s wrong,” according to witnesses.

The administering doctor intervened and discovered that “the line had blown,” said the director of corrections, Robert Patton, meaning that drugs were no longer flowing into his vein.

At 7:06 p.m., Mr. Patton said, Mr. Lockett died of a heart attack.

Mr. Patton said he had requested a stay of 14 days in the second execution scheduled for Tuesday night, of Charles F. Warner.
It was a chaotic and disastrous step in Oklahoma’s long effort to execute the two men, overcoming their objections that the state would not disclose the source of the drugs being used in a newly tried combination. 
Read the rest here.

Sterling banned for life by the NBA

NEW YORK -- Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been banned for life by the NBA in response to racist comments the league says he made in a recorded conversation.

Commissioner Adam Silver said he would call on the owners to vote to force Sterling to sell the team, which would require approval of three-quarters of the current owners. Sterling has also been fined $2.5 million, and Silver made no effort to hide his outrage over the comments, calling them "deeply disturbing and harmful."

"I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him," Silver said.
Read the rest here.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Can war be a good thing?

...Thinkers have long grappled with the relationships among peace, war and strength. Thomas Hobbes wrote his case for strong government, “Leviathan,” as the English Civil War raged around him in the 1640s. German sociologist Norbert Elias’s two-volume treatise, “The Civilizing Process,” published on the eve of World War II, argued that Europe had become a more peaceful place in the five centuries leading to his own day. The difference is that now we have the evidence to prove their case.

Take the long view. The world of the Stone Age, for instance, was a rough place; 10,000 years ago, if someone used force to settle an argument, he or she faced few constraints. Killing was normally on a small scale, in homicides, vendettas and raids, but because populations were tiny, the steady drip of low-level killing took an appalling toll. By many estimates, 10 to 20 percent of all Stone Age humans died at the hands of other people.

This puts the past 100 years in perspective. Since 1914, we have endured world wars, genocides and government-sponsored famines, not to mention civil strife, riots and murders. Altogether, we have killed a staggering 100 million to 200 million of our own kind. But over the century, about 10 billion lives were lived — which means that just 1 to 2 percent of the world’s population died violently. Those lucky enough to be born in the 20th century were on average 10 times less likely to come to a grisly end than those born in the Stone Age. And since 2000, the United Nations tells us, the risk of violent death has fallen even further, to 0.7 percent.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

At a New York Gala, the Return of White Tie

As at most fancy dress parties, the role of men at the Costume Institute gala has traditionally been to serve as a neutral backdrop for their partners and dazzling displays of the dressmaker’s art. Somehow that seemed unfair. Why, the question seemed to ask itself, should women (and Marc Jacobs) get to wear all the fun stuff? Beginning this year, they won’t.

Never one to let sartorial injustice go uncorrected, Ms. Wintour instituted a radical change in the dress code for an event celebrating both the inauguration of a rebranded Anna Wintour Costume Center and an exhibition on the great designer Charles James. She stipulated full evening dress and decorations for the men. That, for the benefit of those who grew up under the dark cloud of Casual Friday, means a black tailcoat, a waistcoat, a wing-collared shirt and white bow tie. Let’s not forget the sheer silk socks, patent leather evening pumps, medals and rosettes.

True, the closest most American guys are likely to have come to this archaic get-up is playing Monopoly. That is probably just as well, since it turns out the new sartorial ideal for Costume Institute dandies comes fairly close to that of the game board’s icon, Uncle Milburn Pennybags.

...Go out on the street, Mr. Halevi advised a reporter, and ask a passer-by to describe white tie and tails. “They’ll have no idea,” he said.

His dismal view was shared by others in the business who had little trouble identifying the source of sartorial ignorance: decades of guys dressing as if they plan to mow the lawn. “Think back to a black-and-white photo of Yankee Stadium in 1960, and every man is wearing a suit and a hat,” said Glenn Eisenberg, president of Eisenberg & Eisenberg, providers of formal wear to New Yorkers for 116 years.
Read the rest here.

Friday, April 25, 2014

From Royal Tutor to Orthodox Missionary: The Life of Charles Sydney Gibbes

Charles Sydney Gibbes was an Englishman who served as English tutor to the children of Nicholas II. Inspired by the kindness and spirituality of the Imperial family, he followed them even after their capture by the Bolsheviks. He later underwent a religious conversion, becoming the first English Orthodox abbot, before returning to his homeland to set up an Orthodox church.
Read the rest here.

Archbishop of Wales: We ‘have evolved’ from the Bible’s teaching on divorce, why not gay ‘marriage’?

LLANDUDNO, Wales, ( – The Anglican Church’s “views have evolved and changed” on the nature of marriage “a subject which Jesus pronounced very clearly,” the head of the Anglican Church in Wales said this week; therefore, it can also change its teaching on homosexuality.

In an address to the governing body of the Church in Wales, Dr. Barry Morgan, the Anglican Archbishop of Wales warned of the danger of the Anglican Churches being “seen as homophobic.” Morgan said that the Church’s views “evolve and change” as it responds to the changes in the secular world.
Read the rest here.

A quick note about the blogroll

If you use the blogroll in the side bar please don't assume that the date shown for the last update of any given blog is accurate. For unknown reasons some just don't show recent updates or newly added posts. I have noticed that this is most common on blogs that have gone through a period of extended inactivity. I think the blog just sort of falls off the update radar after a while.

Bloody royal relic probably a fake

A sample of blood long thought to belong to French King Louis XVI is probably not authentic, scientists say.

An elaborately decorated gourd was thought to contain a handkerchief that had been dipped in the king's blood after he was killed by guillotine by French revolutionaries in 1793. 

But scientists have now sequenced the genome of the sample and say it is unlikely to belong to the monarch.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Americans still overrate homeownership

Some people never learn: Polls show that Americans still view their homes as the best and safest place to invest their hard-earned cash.

Gallup asked Americans this month to choose the best “long-term investment.” Real estate was the most common pick, ahead of mutual funds, bonds and other options. Similarly, Fannie Mae’s National Housing Survey asked Americans to assess whether various kinds of assets amounted to a “safe investment with a lot of potential.” As has been the case since before the financial crisis, “buying a home” beat out all the alternatives.

The fact that Americans still financially fetishize homeownership baffles me. Never mind that so many people lost their shirts (among other possessions) in the recent housing bust. Over an even longer horizon, owning a home has not proved to be a terribly lucrative investment either. Don’t take my word for it; ask Robert Shiller, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in economics who previously became a household name for identifying the housing bubble.
Read the rest here.

Slow Posting

Sorry about the lack of posting. I am bouncing back from a touch of the grippe that has turned into an unpleasant spring cold. Also I will be traveling over the next couple days. Normal blogging should resume Friday. Blessed feast to everyone...

Christ is risen!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bright Week

The icon for Bright Monday

Bright Week and the forty days of Pascha (Easter) are a period of celebration as we rejoice in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In recognition of this we observe certain customs, and relax various disciplines as an expression of this joy. To whit there is no fasting until the second Wednesday following Pascha.  Penitential disciplines of any kind are a no no during Bright Week as we are feasting with the Bridegroom. This is true even in monasteries. While monastics will keep their abstinence from meat, they too will be feasting on fish, cheeses and sweets.

In our church temples the royal doors will be open throughout Bright Week, even during liturgies.

And finally both kneeling and prostrations, whether at home or in church, are prohibited for forty days following Pascha.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

For the love of money

A powerful blog post by Fr. Stephen Freeman (OCA). If this doesn't make you a little uncomfortable you probably didn't read it.

Dramatic last minute pardon

It's a scene repeated in countless Hollywood B movies, only this time it actually happened, in Iran of all places. A terrified young man convicted of murdering a 17 year old boy (the killer was also 17 at the time) is lead from his cell to the public gallows in front of a large crowd. The noose is waiting, and a chair the condemned will be made to stand on, presumably to be kicked out from under him at the right moment. At the last moment an old woman steps forward and slaps him across the face, and then pardons him. The woman is the victim's mother. Under Islamic law only the closest living relation to a murder victim can grant a pardon.

Read the story here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Quote of the day...

"After fighting the sea and its terrors for thousands of years, man has at last succeeded in conquering the sea, this wildest and most unruly of nature's children. Against the modern iron or steel ship, which is equipped with every measure of protection that science and engineering can devise, the sea is almost powerless. Smaller vessels and sailing craft still feel its fury occasionally, it is true, but the enormous ships of the present day forge their way through the oceans at high speeds.

...The accounts of the dangers of ocean trips in former times, the primitive and unhealthy accommodations, and insufficient catering on board ships of earlier periods are very disquieting to intending travelers. This has now, however, all been done away with so that the modern steamers of today have so many safety devices, and the perfection of the instruments for the navigation of the ship, and the reliability of the charts, the number of light houses, have been brought to so perfect a standard that a voyage on a modern steamer entails less danger than a journey by train.
 -The Scientific American Handbook of Travel (1910 edition) pgs 2-3

Monday, April 14, 2014

Retired army general wants Egypt's St. Catherine's Monastery demolished

A retired army general says he has filed a court case pushing for Egypt's historic Saint Catherine's Monastery to be demolished and its Greek monks deported on the grounds that they pose a threat to national security.

In May 2012, Ahmed Ragai Attiya obtained 71 administrative orders regarding the demolition of the monastery's multiple churches, monk cells, gardens and other places of interest on the grounds, which he claims were all built in 2006 and thus not historic, according to Ihab Ramzy, the monastery's lawyer.

However, in an interview with private channel ONTV on Thursday, Attiya said that he has now used the 71 orders to file an official demolition suit with Ismailiya's Administrative Court against the monastery and 10 of the Egyptian authorities concerned, including the president, ministers of tourism and antiquities and the governor of South Sinai, where Saint Catherine's is located.

In the same ONTV interview, Attiya levelled a host of accusations against the monastery's monks, alleging that they have changed the names of landmarks in the surrounding area and tried to hide an underground water source known as Moses' Well (Oyun Moussa).

He also took issue with them supposedly raising the Greek flag on Egyptian land and turning the site into an area occupied by foreigners, both which he says are a breach of national security and Egyptian sovereignty.

Most of the Saint Catherine's 37 monks are Greek.
Read the rest here.

Lazarus Saturday

Commemoration of the dead at Optina.

Great and Holy Week

Blogging will be light over the next few days and probably nonexistent starting on Great and Holy Thursday.

Friday, April 11, 2014

From the "you can't make this up" file

In Louisiana a state legislator has proposed that the King James version of the Bible be declared the state's official book.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thousands losing tax refunds to parents’ old debt

A few weeks ago, with no notice, the U.S. government intercepted Mary Grice’s tax refunds from both the IRS and the state of Maryland. Grice had no idea that Uncle Sam had seized her money until some days later, when she got a letter saying that her refund had gone to satisfy an old debt to the government — a very old debt.

When Grice was 4, back in 1960, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them.
Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family — it’s not sure who — in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. Why the feds chose to take Mary’s money, rather than her surviving siblings’, is a mystery.
Read the rest here.

Pope Francis hints at relaxation of mandatory clerical celibacy

...“I told him that as bishop of Brazil’s largest diocese with 800 church communities and 700,000 faithful I only had 27 priests, which means that our communities can only celebrate the Eucharist twice or three times a year at the most,” Bishop Kräutler said. “The Pope explained that he could not take everything in hand personally from Rome. We local bishops, who are best acquainted with the needs of our faithful, should be corajudos, that is ‘courageous’ in Spanish, and make concrete suggestions,” he explained. A bishop should not act alone, the Pope told Kräutler. He indicated that “regional and national bishops’ conferences should seek and find consensus on reform and we should then bring up our suggestions for reform in Rome,” Kräutler said.

Asked whether he had raised the question of ordaining married men at the audience, Bishop Kräutler replied: “The ordination of viri probati, that is of proven married men who could be ordained to the priesthood, came up when we were discussing the plight of our communities. The Pope himself told me about a diocese in Mexico in which each community had a deacon but many had no priest. There were 300 deacons there who naturally could not celebrate the Eucharist. The question was how things could continue in such a situation.

"It was up to the bishops to make suggestions, the Pope said again.”
Read the rest here.

Note: The source is a publication with a well known liberal bias. Take it for what it's worth.

Report is harshly critical of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — From the 73-story skyscraper that just broke ground downtown (the tallest in the West), to the blizzard of office, shopping and apartment complexes rising from there to the Pacific, construction is bustling in Los Angeles. Home prices are up, and the foreclosure rate is declining. Crime is down. There is a new mayor in City Hall. In many ways, Los Angeles, like many once-beleaguered cities across the nation, seems on the upswing.

Yet at this presumed moment of promise and potential, Los Angeles is enduring a series of blows that have challenged its self-esteem and even its long-term stability. Some appear more symbolic, like the departure of “The Tonight Show” for New York, followed by the plaintive appeal by Mayor Eric M. Garcetti that CBS move “The Late Show” to Los Angeles when David Letterman retires next year. Others are beyond its control, such as the disconcerting wave of earthquakes that have rumbled the region in recent weeks, reminding residents of how unprepared Southern California is for a cataclysmic temblor.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Good news (so far)

Dad is out of surgery and resting under sedation in the critical care unit. Of course this is just the beginning. There will be at least a week in the hospital followed by another week in a cardiac rehab facility. As always I am deeply grateful for the many prayers and expressions of concern posted in comments and sent by email.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

It never rains but it pours

Only a month after the passing of my step-father, my dad is going under the knife tomorrow for urgent double bypass and heart valve replacement surgery. At 78 there are obviously significant risks. Yet again, I beg for your prayers.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Israel threatens Palestinians if they pursue appeals to the UN

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke his silence on the collapsing peace talks Sunday by blaming Palestinian leaders for the current crisis and threatening retaliatory steps to punish the Palestinians.

In remarks at his weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that just as the parties were nearing an agreement last week to extend the U.S.-brokered negotiations through the end of 2014, the Palestinian leaders announced their decision to sign on to 15 treaties and conventions under the auspices of the United Nations. 
Read the rest here.

Sad News

One of the most beautiful churches in Canada, St. Elias The Prophet (Ukrainian Greek Rite Catholic) was completely destroyed by fire yesterday. Please keep the parishioners in your prayers.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Patriarch Kirill condemns transgenderism

In a meeting with Russian business leaders, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church criticized transgenderism.

“The fact that marriage is considered to be between a man and a woman and that gender choice is not an intellectual choice, but God’s choice is being disputed,” said Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow, according to an Interfax news agency report. 

“Probably, some sick fantasy exists,” he added. “Of course, it can be said that this is a clinical case. And probably, this will be the most reasonable reaction. But this clinical case is protected by law in some countries. And children are taught this and are told: you should choose yourself whether you are a boy or a girl.” 

If the allegedly forthcoming Great and Holy Council wants to do something extremely useful, how about anathematizing the modern heresy of pansexualism from which all sorts of bizarre errors, like female ordination and homosexual marriage, flow.

Senate Panel Votes to Reveal CIA Torture and Abuse

WASHINGTON — The public will soon get its first look at a voluminous report on the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation practices during the George W. Bush administration, after the Senate Intelligence Committee voted on Thursday to declassify key sections of it.

“The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat of California and the chairwoman of the committee, said in a written statement after the vote.

It continued, “This is not what Americans do.”

The committee voted to declassify the report’s executive summary and conclusions — more than 480 of its 6,200 pages. The next step is President Obama’s approval. Mr. Obama, who opposed the C.I.A. program as a presidential candidate and discontinued it once he took office in 2009, has said he wants the findings of the report made public.
Read the rest here.

David Letterman announces plans to retire

He will be stepping down sometime in 2015.

Talk of Freeing Spy for Israel Divides Jews in U.S.

WASHINGTON — Each year, just before Passover, Malcolm Hoenlein writes a letter to President Obama, requesting that he grant clemency to Jonathan J. Pollard, the American sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for passing suitcases stuffed with classified documents to Israel.

This week, with his goal suddenly within reach, Mr. Hoenlein, the leader of an umbrella group of American Jewish organizations, has held off on sending the letter. He is waiting to see whether Mr. Obama will release Mr. Pollard as part of a prisoner exchange with Israel that would extend peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Even now, nearly three decades later, Mr. Pollard’s case bedevils American Jews. While more and more of them believe the time to release him is long past — he spied for an ally, not an enemy, they say, and has expressed remorse — they are deeply divided over whether he should be used as a chit in a diplomatic transaction with Israel.
Read the rest here.

Mozilla CEO is sacked for his opposition to homosexual marriage

A little over a week after becoming chief executive of Mozilla, Brendan Eich is stepping down after an intense debate over his belief that gays should not be allowed to marry.

After his appointment as the company’s new chief, Mr. Eich came under heavy fire from employees and the public for making a $1,000 contribution in 2008 to support a ban on gay marriage in California under Proposition 8.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

San Francisco on the Eve of the Great Earthquake and Fire

A drive down a major street in San Francisco April 16th 1906. Fantastic film footage. I am guessing the camera was mounted on the front of trolley car. Ignore the title claiming 1900. It's wrong.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Glenn Beck sued for defamation

On a mid-April day last year, Glenn Beck was in a full lather. Less than one week had passed since a pair of bombs had exploded at the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring hundreds more. The FBI had just identified the Tsarnaev brothers as primary suspects behind the attack. But to Beck, cloaked in a gray button-down and a sheen of indignance, this wasn’t enough.

In attendance at the marathon had been a 20-year-old Saudi Arabian student named Abdulrahman Alharbi. He was on a full ride to study at the nearby New England School of English. He’d been injured at the marathon, later questioned by police, and ultimately cleared of wrongdoing.

Beck, however, had suspicions. The radio host urged the U.S. government to release information on Alharbi or Beck would “expose” him. “Let me send this message very clear,” said Beck, who left Fox News in 2011. ”We know who this Saudi national is. … We know who this man is and, listen to me carefully, we know he is a very bad, bad, bad man.”

Beck continued days later: “While the media continues to look at what the causes were [behind] these two guys, there are, at this hour, three people involved,” he said, alleging the U.S. government had “tagged” Alharbi as a “proven terrorist.”

The broadcaster eventually called Alharbi an al Qaeda “control agent” and the “money man” behind the attacks. “You know who the Saudi is?” Beck asked. “He’s the money man. He’s the guy who paid for it.”

“Is this speculation or are you reporting something?” a co-host asked.

Beck ignored the question. “He’s the money man.”
Read the rest here.

GOP readies a tough election year budget

WASHINGTON — Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin on Tuesday will lay out a tough, election-year budget that purports to come into balance by 2024, in large part through steep cuts to Medicaid and food stamps and the full repeal of President Obama’s health care law, just as millions begin to see its benefits.

But even with those cuts, Mr. Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, is counting on a boost of economic growth to balance the budget, a boost he says will be gained by reducing the deficit. Many economists believe such dramatic spending cuts — especially those affecting the poor — would have the opposite effect, slowing the economy and lowering tax receipts.
Read the rest here.

Israel agrees to peace talks with Palestinians, if US releases spy

JERUSALEM — Officials involved in the fraught Israeli-Palestinian peace talks said on Tuesday that an agreement was near on extending the negotiations through 2015 in exchange for the release of Jonathan J. Pollard, an American serving a life sentence for spying for Israel. The agreement would also include the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including citizens of Israel, and a partial freeze on construction in West Bank settlements.
Read the rest here.

What exactly is a partial freeze on settlements? How does one partially stop stealing what does not belong to them?