Thursday, November 30, 2017

If you ever wondered where is the best place to get away with murder...

It's San Francisco. But only if your an illegal alien with a lengthy criminal record who has been previously deported five times. Excuse me while I go throw up.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Mass shootings and the harassment of victims by conspiracy nut jobs


Mike Cronk was sitting half-naked on a street corner, hands covered in blood, when the TV news reporter approached. The 48-year-old, who had used his shirt to try to plug a bullet wound in his friend’s chest, recounted in a live interview how a young man he did not know had just died in his arms
.
Cronk’s story of surviving the worst mass shooting in modern US history went viral, but many people online weren’t calling him a hero. On YouTube, dozens of videos, viewed by hundreds of thousands of people, claimed Cronk was an actor hired to play the part of a victim in the Las Vegas mass shooting on 1 October.

Conspiracy theorists harassed him on Facebook, sending messages like “How much did they pay you?” and “How does it feel to be part of a hoax?” The claims multiplied and soon YouTube’s algorithm began actively promoting the conspiracy theory.

Two months later, Cronk’s online reputation appears damaged beyond repair. Type “Mike Cronk” into Google and YouTube, and the sites automatically suggest searches for “actor” and “fake”, leading to popular videos claiming he and his wounded friend were performers and that the Mandalay Bay tragedy that killed 58 people never happened.
 
“It’s awful that we have to go through what we did and then you have a whole new level of attacks on you and who you are,” said Cronk, a retired teacher. “I don’t want negative stuff associated with my name, but how do we stop that?”

As record-breaking mass shootings have become a ritual of life in the US, survivors and victims’ families across the country have increasingly faced an onslaught of social media abuse and viral slander. Bullying from the ugliest corners of the internet overwhelms the grief-stricken as they struggle to cope with the greatest horror they’ve ever experienced.

The cycles of hoaxer harassment are now as predictable as mass shootings. And yet those with the most power to stop the spread of conspiracy theories have done little to address victims’ cries for help.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Ross Douthat: Is There an Evangelical Crisis?

About 20 years ago, the eminent sociologist of religion Christian Smith coined a useful and resonant phrase, describing evangelical Christianity in the post-1960s United States as both “embattled and thriving.”

By this Smith meant that evangelicals had maintained an identity in a secularizing country that was neither separatist nor assimilated, but somehow mainstream and countercultural at once. Evangelicals were both fully part of American modernity (often educated suburbanites, rather than the backwoods yokels of caricature) and also living lives in tension with pluralistic and permissive values. And this combination, far from undercutting their communities, was actually a source of religious vitality and demographic strength.

Smith’s description still holds up pretty well. The story of American religion lately has been one of institutional decline, of Mainline Protestantism’s aging and Catholicism’s weakening and the rise of the so-called “nones.”
But there has been an evangelical exception. The evangelical market share has held steady while other traditions have declined, evangelical churches have continued to win more converts than they lose, and evangelical resilience is the main reason why religious conservatism retains an intense and active core.

The question is whether this resilience will survive the age of Trump. Some evangelical voices think not: Whether the subject is the debauched pagan in the White House, the mall-haunted candidacy of Roy Moore or the larger question of how to engage with secular culture, there is talk of an intergenerational crisis within evangelical churches, a widening disillusionment with a Trump-endorsing old guard, a feeling that a crackup must loom ahead.

Read the rest here.

Britain's Great North Road in 1939



A glimpse of a world now long gone. The Great North Road on the eve of World War II filmed in color.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

How to Think About Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin is a powerful ideological symbol and a highly effective ideological litmus test. He is a hero to populist conservatives around the world and anathema to progressives. I don’t want to compare him to our own president, but if you know enough about what a given American thinks of Putin, you can probably tell what he thinks of Donald Trump.

Let me stress at the outset that this is not going to be a talk about what to think about Putin, which is something you are all capable of making up your minds on, but rather how to think about him. And on this, there is one basic truth to remember, although it is often forgotten. Our globalist leaders may have deprecated sovereignty since the end of the Cold War, but that does not mean it has ceased for an instant to be the primary subject of politics.

Vladimir Vladimirovich is not the president of a feminist NGO. He is not a transgender-rights activist. He is not an ombudsman appointed by the United Nations to make and deliver slide shows about green energy. He is the elected leader of Russia—a rugged, relatively poor, militarily powerful country that in recent years has been frequently humiliated, robbed, and misled. His job has been to protect his country’s prerogatives and its sovereignty in an international system that seeks to erode sovereignty in general and views Russia’s sovereignty in particular as a threat.

By American standards, Putin’s respect for the democratic process has been fitful at best. He has cracked down on peaceful demonstrations. Political opponents have been arrested and jailed throughout his rule. Some have even been murdered—Anna Politkovskaya, the crusading Chechnya correspondent shot in her apartment building in Moscow in 2006; Alexander Litvinenko, the spy poisoned with polonium-210 in London months later; the activist Boris Nemtsov, shot on a bridge in Moscow in early 2015. While the evidence connecting Putin’s own circle to the killings is circumstantial, it merits scrutiny.

Yet if we were to use traditional measures for understanding leaders, which involve the defense of borders and national flourishing, Putin would count as the pre-eminent statesman of our time. On the world stage, who can vie with him? Only perhaps Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey.

When Putin took power in the winter of 1999-2000, his country was defenseless. It was bankrupt. It was being carved up by its new kleptocratic elites, in collusion with its old imperial rivals, the Americans. Putin changed that. In the first decade of this century, he did what Kemal Atatürk had done in Turkey in the 1920s. Out of a crumbling empire, he rescued a nation-state, and gave it coherence and purpose. He disciplined his country’s plutocrats. He restored its military strength. And he refused, with ever blunter rhetoric, to accept for Russia a subservient role in an American-run world system drawn up by foreign politicians and business leaders. His voters credit him with having saved his country.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Gerald McDermott: Is Pope Francis a Liberal Protestant?

Is the pope Catholic?” For at least a century, this was the way we Anglicans joked about anything that seemed too obvious to state. Now we must ask in seriousness whether the pope is a liberal Protestant.

Early this month, an American theologian resigned under pressure from his post as theological advisor to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. What had Fr. Thomas Weinandy done to deserve this public rebuke? He had made public a July letter to the pope, in which he charged that the Holy Father was causing “chronic confusion.” The pope’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia is “intentionally ambiguous” on grave moral and doctrinal matters. It “risks sinning against the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth,” and “demean[s] the importance of Christian doctrine” by inviting changes to traditional Catholic teaching on marriage and divorce. The pope “resents” criticism and “mock[s]” those who have challenged Amoris Laetitia “as Pharisaic stone-throwers.”
As an outsider, I can’t help but wonder whether the pope and the USCCB were particularly provoked by Weinandy’s suggestion that Jesus had allowed this controversy in order “to manifest just how weak is the faith of many within the Church, even among too many of her bishops.” Catholics will have to make up their own minds—but I’ll admit I have questions about the faith of Pope Francis, which seems, if not weak, at least different from that of the Catholic tradition.

Even before the release of Amoris Laetitia in March 2016, Francis had caused many to question his fidelity to that tradition. In 2014, the midterm report of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family recommended that pastors emphasize the “positive aspects” of cohabitation and civil remarriage after divorce. He said that Jesus’s multiplication of bread and fish was really a miracle of sharing, not of multiplying (2013); told a woman in an invalid marriage that she could take Holy Communion (2014); claimed that lost souls do not go to hell (2015); and said that Jesus had begged his parents for forgiveness (2015). In 2016, he said that God had been “unjust with his son,” announced his prayer intention to build a society “that places the human person at the center,” and declared that inequality is “the greatest evil that exists.” In 2017, he joked that “inside the Holy Trinity they’re all arguing behind closed doors, but on the outside they give the picture of unity.” Jesus Christ, he said, “made himself the devil.” “No war is just,” he pronounced. At the end of history, “everything will be saved. Everything.”

Read the rest here.

A Republic of Lies

Rod Dreher on the willingness to accept patent lies and reject facts based on political convenience.

"A democratic nation where ‘truth’ is what feels good will not be democratic for long."

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

$450 Million

I really hope that whoever just dropped all that bank on a painting gets their big tax cut for Christmas. After all, society has a duty to support billionaire art collectors.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Rod Drehere's thoughts on the Roy Moore debacle

An interesting and wide ranging take on the political nightmare in Alabama where the choice for the US Senate appears to be between a fundamentalist theocratic wingnut who is also very probably (though not definitely) a child sex predator on the one hand and a man who is comfortable killing children who are inconvenient, provided they haven't been born yet on the other.

My take: Hold your nose and vote for the theocratic wingnut molester. I think it unlikely he will spend much time in the Senate. He is too much of a political liability, and it seems that there are actually some lines that even Republicans won't let one of their own cross. I think if he is elected that the Senate will either refuse to seat him or they will expel him immediately after he takes the oath of office. Like Mitch McConnell I believe the women. But I also believe that the Washington Post had this story in the can for a while and deliberately held it back until after the loon won the GOP primary and the last date where he could be replaced on the ballot was safely past.  If Moore gets elected and subsequently barred from the Senate (or expelled) then the governor gets to name his replacement pending a new election.

All of which said, this is one of those situations where the overused expression, "the lesser of two evils" is definitely apropos.

Monday, November 13, 2017

California: How did CalPERS dig a $153 billion pension hole?

During the next five weeks, the CalPERS board, custodian of $326 billion in assets needed to fulfill retirement promises for 1.8 million California public employees and beneficiaries, will make decisions affecting government budgets for decades to come.

 The problem is, despite their fiduciary duty under the state Constitution to “protect the competency of the assets” under their absolute control, CalPERS is roughly $153 billion short of fully funding the retirement promises earned to date.

How did CalPERS dig this huge hole?  During the last decade, they manipulated actuarial assumptions and methods to keep employer and employee contribution rates low in the short term.

Besides over-estimating investment returns, CalPERS uses very long amortization schedules to push debts onto future generations, greatly increasing the pension system’s long-term cost.  As a result, CalPERS is just 68 percent funded, barely above what would be “critical” status for private-sector pension plans.

Just like a family that assumes it will receive healthy raises every year and only makes minimum payments on its credit card debts, there must be a day of reckoning. Yet it is not clear the CalPERS board recognizes this important momentis now.

This week, CalPERS will discuss its quadrennial Asset Liability Management process, one that assesses its financial position and proposes course corrections.  The results are pretty bleak.

Read the rest here.

Civil service employees in California should be really worried. Just like in Illinois and other liberal fantasy lands they have been promised this, that and the other thing, with no realistic idea of how it's all going to be paid for.  The basic idea at the moment is to not worry; someone thirty years down the road will figure it all out or just send the bill to the tax payers. The problem is that the tax payers are not going to pay. All they will do is flip Sacramento what those of us from New York used to call the Bronx salute as they pack up and move out of that insane asylum masquerading as a state.

Can anyone figure out what this is about?

This article is so riddled with confusing, and in some cases obviously erroneous claims that I can't grasp who this so called bishop is or what church they claim to be a part of. I seriously doubt he was consecrated a bishop of the Eastern Orthodox Church based on his wearing western vestments.

Never mind: It's as I suspected. This man is a member of some silly vegante church that has no relationship with either Rome or Orthodoxy. This article may make my list for one of the worst attempts at journalism I have ever come across where the subject is religion. 

Let little boys wear tiaras: Church of England's new guidance to schools

Boys as young as five should be able to wear tiaras at school without criticism, teachers in Church of England schools are to be told.

Male pupils should also be free to dress up in a tutu or high heels without attracting any comment or observation, according to anti-bullying rules sent out by the Church yesterday.

The instructions for the CofE’s 4,700 schools said they should not require children to wear uniforms that ‘create difficulty for trans pupils’.

This appears to give official backing to schools that ban skirts to avoid discrimination against transgender children.

Schools are also told they cannot use the Christian faith or Bible teachings to justify behaviour that is considered to amount to bullying – for example, identifying a transgender pupil by a sex other than the one they have chosen. The advice contains instructions on how to report bullying, including sample forms on which teachers are encouraged to name the alleged bully and their target, and use tick boxes to describe what happened.

Examples include name-calling, social media trolling, or insulting gestures.

Read the rest here.
HT: Blog reader TD

Friday, November 10, 2017

Marc A. Thiessen: The New York Times keeps whitewashing communism’s crimes

The Trump administration marked this week’s 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution by declaring a National Day for the Victims of Communism. The New York Times marked the same anniversary in a different way: by running a series of articles extolling the virtues of communism.

The irony of the series’ title, “Red Century,” seems lost on the Times’s editors. The 20th century was “red” indeed — red with the blood of communism’s victims. The death toll of communism, cited in “The Black Book of Communism,” is simply staggering: In the USSR, nearly 20 million dead; China, 65 million; Vietnam, 1 million; Cambodia, 2 million; Eastern Europe, 1 million; Africa, 1.7 million; Afghanistan, 1.5 million; North Korea: 2 million (and counting). In all, Communist regimes killed some 100 million people — roughly four times the number killed by the Nazis — making communism the most murderous ideology in human history.

Never mind all that. University of Pennsylvania professor Kristen R. Ghodsee writes that Communists had better sex: “Eastern women had twice as many orgasms as Western women . . . [who] had less sex, and less satisfying sex, than women who had to line up for toilet paper.” She has tough words for Joseph Stalin because he “reversed much of the Soviet Union’s early progress in women’s rights — outlawing abortion and promoting the nuclear family.” Yes, that was Stalin’s crime. Not the purges, not the gulag, but promoting the nuclear family.

In “How Did Women Fare in China’s Communist Revolution?” Helen Gao recalls her grandmother “talking with joyous peasants from the newly collectivized countryside” and writes that “for all its flaws, the Communist revolution taught Chinese women to dream big.” Mao’s revolution killed tens of millions of Chinese — not counting the millions killed under China’s brutal “One Child” policy, which led to widespread female infanticide. Those Chinese girls never got a chance to dream at all.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Memorial Service for the Victims of Communism



Solemn Panikhida for the victims of Communism, on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Revolution of 1917 (in English and Church Slavonic). From the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Washington, DC.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Quote of the day...

Stanley Hauerwas’ Dictum: “As soon as we agree to take charge of the outcome of history, we agree to do violence.”

I would add to that the observation that from that point on, every discussion will ultimately come down to figuring out who should be killed and when. That the devil was a “murderer from the beginning” should be born in mind as we think such a thing through.

-Fr. Stephen (Freeman) from the comment thread under this excellent reflection.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Why the far right believes a US civil war will start on Saturday

Since late September, ‘alt-right’ members have advanced the idea that anti-fascist groups will begin a violent insurrection on 4 November. But no antifa groups are planning to protest – so what gives?

Some websites are telling their readers that antifa groups are “planning to kill every single Trump voter, Conservative and gun owner” this weekend. Hundreds of Facebook posts show how seriously consumers of such media are taking the news, and comments like “One more threat against white people and I swear to God I’m going to take a goddamn car and run over every fucking one of them” are not unrepresentative of the response.

But antifa groups have no plans to protest that day, and the small leftist groups who are planning protests have only dubious connections to the antifa movement. So what gives?

The whole thing rests on some very slender reeds, according to Spencer Sunshine, who recently wrote a report on the theories for the far right-monitoring group Political Research Associates. In the conspiracy underground on YouTube, he explains, there has been talk that “there was going to be a civil war” starting in November for some months.

Read the rest here.