Thursday, December 28, 2017

Movie Review: Darkest Hour

So I went and saw the new Churchill bio-pic and my overall reaction was good, but not great. Gary Oldman's is certainly the standout performance. He really does a good job at the acting, which IMO makes the film worth seeing. However he seems to overshadow some of the others to the point where I was left wondering what their function was other than as historical props. Which brings me to one of my pet peeves with historical dramas in general and this one is sadly no exception. I understand that in Hollywood when you are trying to recreate often deeply complex historical situations and cram them into around two hours, that some things are going to get left out, some are going to be condensed and for the sake of entertainment a few liberties with the sometimes dry historical record are to be expected and tolerated. Unfortunately Hollywood tends to leave out a great deal while taking extravagant liberties with historical reality. Those who are familiar with the actual events in this very critical moment in world history or who have read any decent Churchill biography will have no difficulty picking out the howlers. And if you are like me, they can become a distraction. My overall rating...


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Trouble in the Greek Archdiocese

This has been floating around for a while on the web and some news outlets. Can't say I am honestly shocked. There have been rumors for years of dodgy financial activity in the Greek Archdiocese. Back in the 2000's the OCA went through its own reckoning over shady bookkeeping and misappropriation of funds. Eventually the Holy Synod manned up and cleaned house. There was a lot of hurt and damaged trust. More than a few high ranking clergy wound up with egg on their face. The Metropolitan was packed off to a monastery in PA and the Chancellor was deposed from the clerical rank. The last I heard he had been excommunicated for refusing to accept the sanction.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

It's official

The United States no longer has a conservative political party. In case there was any doubt, the Republican Party is a prostitute for Wall Street and the uber wealthy. We are actually going to borrow $1.5 trillion in order to subsidize billionaires and big business. This is like handing your Visa or MasterCard to Jeff Bezos and telling him to have fun with it.

Who is going to pick up the tab for all of this? Well we know who isn't.

My advice, live for the moment and enjoy. But you don't want to live too long because one day the bill for all of this high living is going to come due, just like your credit card tab. And when it does... things are going to get ugly.

The National Debt Clock 
(Note this only counts the current debt outstanding. It does not include the tens of trillions in unfunded future liabilities, i.e. promises we have made without any clue where the money is coming from.)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Canada won’t fund student summer jobs unless employers support abortion LGBTBBQ rights

OTTAWA, December 14, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The Liberal government of Justin Trudeau will ban any employer from receiving summer job grants for students if the employer doesn't first sign an “attestation” that they agree with abortion and transgender "rights."
The new criteria were sent to all MPs and will be made public when the Canada Summer Jobs Program officially opens December 19, 2017.

In order to receive federal Canada job grants, employers must attest that:
  • both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. 
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The bells of all churches in Romania will toll for King Michael



The bells of all cathedrals, churches, and monasteries in Romania will toll at the same time for King Michael, the country’s last sovereign. This will happen on three occasions in the next days, during the events related to the king’s funeral, the Romanian Orthodox Church has announced.

The first time the bells will toll on Wednesday, December 13, at 11:00, when the plane bringing the king’s casket from Switzerland to Romania is supposed to land at the Henri Coanda International Airport in Otopeni.

The second bell toll will take place on Saturday, December 16, at 12:30, marking the beginning of the funeral service to take place at the Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest.

The third time all Church bells in Romania will toll for the king will be on Saturday at 18:30, when the burial ceremony will start at the new Curtea de Arges Royal Cathedral.

King Michael I of Romania died on December 5 at his private residence in Switzerland, at the age of 96.
Romania will hold three days of mourning in his honor, starting Thursday, December 14.

The king’s body will be brought to the country on December 13, and taken to the Peles Castle in Sinaia. The king’s coffin will lie in the castle’s Hall of Honour from 14:00 to 16:00. President Klaus Iohannis will go to Peles to pay his last respects to the late king. The public will not have access to the Hall of Honour, according to the program of the funeral announced by the Royal House of Romania.

In the evening of December 13, the king’s coffin will be taken to the Royal Palace in Bucharest, where it will remain until December 16. People can come to the Royal Palace to pay their respects in this period. However, the National Art Museum of Romania (MNAR), which is located in the Royal Palace, will be closed from December 14 to December 16.

On Saturday morning, December 16, the coffin will be taken to the Patriarchal Cathedral of Romania on a gun carriage. The funeral cortege will walk from the Royal Palace Square, along Calea Victoriei, then Unirii Square, to the Patriarchal Cathedral. The public and the press will not have access to the Cathedral during the funeral mass.
Then, the king’s coffin will be taken to Baneasa Royal Train Station, from where the Royal Train will take it to Curtea de Arges. At 5.50 p.m., His Late Majesty’s burial service will take place in Curtea de Argeș Cathedral. The ceremony will be attended only by the Custodian of the Crown, the Royal Family of Romania, and members of foreign royal families. The public will not be allowed past the front gates of the Park of the Curtea de Arges Monastery, the Royal House announced.

Also, the New Cathedral will be closed to visitors during the seven days following the funeral.

Books of condolence are open at Peles Castle, the Royal Palace, and Elisabeta Palace. The full program of King Michael’s funeral is available on the Royal Family’s official website.

Romanian Parliament meets in special joint sitting to commemorate King Michael

European royals come to Romania for King Michael’s funeral

Prince Charles will come to King Michael’s funeral in Romania

Source

Priest and wife, partners for 6 decades, die within hours of each other

ALBANY — The Rev. Alvian Smirensky, a Russian Orthodox priest recalled as accomplished, compassionate and wise, had his life’s final wish fulfilled, according to the Rev. Peter Olsen, who referred to the older priest as his spiritual mentor.

“He had said to his son in law, I don’t want to live without my wife,” said Olsen, archpriest of St. Basil’s Russian Orthodox Church in Watervliet.

In fact, Alvian and Helen Smirensky, married for 59 years, died Sunday within hours of each other, on adjoining beds at Albany Medical Center Hospital.

Their deaths on the same morning were not the result of an accident, crime or other shared tragic circumstance, but were the endings through unconnected natural causes of two lives intimately joined for six decades. That was fitting, according to another fellow clergyman who knew them well.

“They were very much a partnership,” said the Rev. Christopher Savage, prior at New Skete Monasteries in Cambridge.

Helen Smirensky went to Albany Med late last week for emergency surgery, Olsen said. (He did not say what her ailment was, and family could not be reached Thursday.

The surgery was not successful, however, and on Saturday night, Father Alvian, as he was called in the Russian Orthodox tradition, went to his wife to perform ministrations at her death bed.

As he was being driven home to the Beverwyck senior living community in Slingerlands, Alvian had a massive stroke, Olsen said. He was promptly transported back to Albany Med, where staff arranged for them to be together.

Helen, 84, whom Olsen called Matushka (for “priest’s wife”) died around 5 a.m. Alvian, 88, passed away about three hours later, Olsen said.

Read the rest here.

Memory eternal!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Alabama

There was no good outcome for last night's Senate election in Alabama. Predictably, the usual suspects are calling this a rejection of Trump when it is no such thing (though I wish it were). No the voters did not reject Trump who remains extremely popular in Alabama. No Alabama did not just become a swing state. All they did was reject a fringe candidate who has been credibly accused of acts involving what we used to refer to as moral turpitude. This was a political blip and unless Doug Jones votes primarily as a conservative on most issues and in particular flips on the issue of abortion, his chances of being re-elected in 2020 are pretty slim.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

States seeking new methods for capital punishment

Details here.

This is just idiotic. I'm not a big fan of capital punishment but our obsession with finding new and more scientific ways of killing people has gotten out of hand. Lethal injection is simply barbarous. Any method of execution that can take hours should be dismissed out of hand. If your going to have capital punishment, then just do it and don't be so damned squeamish. Low tech works surprisingly well. A bullet to the back of the head is pretty definitive, and cheap. If you feel the need for something more cutting edge, the French method is also fairly fast and decisive. It might be a tad disturbing to witnesses, but hey they are signing up to see someone killed. Hell, even hanging works surprisingly well. The only reason it got a bad rep here in the US is because we have never had a trained professional class of executioners. Hanging requires some skill and training. But the British had it down to a science. Generally their executions were over within a minute of the hangman entering the condemned man's cell. (The gallows was secretly right next door, literally only steps away.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Memory Eternal: King Michael of Romania

King Michael I of Romania, his forced abdication is not recognized in this corner of the blogosphere, has reposed.

Memorie veșnică!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Of Bitcoins and Dutch Tulips

December 1, 2017 Boston and Beijing—The digital currency called bitcoin has made speculators a fortune, drawn in drug dealers, technology optimists, and those who distrust traditional banks.

Now, it’s ever-more mainstream. From small investors in Japan to big institutional ones in the West, bitcoin is attracting new waves of people anxious to pour money into the latest craze.

It’s hard to resist the action. Worth 6 cents seven years ago, a bitcoin now sells for more than $10,000 – a mind-blowing rise of more than 16 million percent. This year alone, it’s value jumped from $998 to a record $11,155 on Wednesday morning. Seven hours later it had dropped 17 percent, then rose above the $10,000 mark, only to drop another 15 percent on Thursday. By Friday, it was up around $10,500.

“I talk to a lot of people and they say: ‘I have bitcoin’ – average households, many colleagues, friends,” says Daniel Heller, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and former official at the Bank for International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund. “It’s definitely very big.”

It also looks like a financial bubble, he and other financial experts say.

Read the rest here.

My take: Could someone show me a Bitcoin? Can I lock one in a safe deposit box at the bank? This sounds like the greatest racket since someone decided to market pet rocks. Of course when you paid for a pet rock, you actually got... a rock.

What's holding the Democrats back?

In the forthcoming special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions in Alabama it's likely (though not certain) that Roy Moore will win. How is this possible given the very credible allegations that he is a sexual predator? How could the Democrats not win an election against such a morally compromised man? The answer is that they have ceased to be a political party that even attempts to win elections in culturally conservative states like Alabama. For better or worse the party that once stood for the working man, the idea that he should be able to get an honest wage for an honest day's work, that he should be able to work in a safe place, that his kids should have a chance to go to a decent school and maybe even college, and that those who through no fault of their own found themselves in a jam should not be put out on the street or left to depend on charity but rather should be provided for... in short the party of FDR and Harry Truman, is dead.

It has been supplanted by a party dedicated to three main issues... support for unrestricted immigration including defense of illegal aliens. Support for the current wave of identity politics which seeks to balkanize the country along racial, ethnic and sexual lines.  All the while encouraging a belief in victimization among those favored groups and stoking racist hostility towards the hitherto majority group and its culture. And lastly it's unquestioning, almost religious support for abortion on demand with no questions or caveats being tolerated.

When you nominate someone who supports abortion on demand in a state like Alabama you are announcing loudly and clearly that you have no interest in winning a statewide election there and that the people of that state simply don't matter. Then again that has long been true for most of the benighted people who have the misfortune of inhabiting the vast swath of real estate between Manhattan and LA.

But given how far the GOP has gone off the rails, if the Democrats ever abandoned their demand for fealty to the three sacraments of the church of the left, and returned to being a party for the working and middle class while leaving abortion to the conscience of its candidates, they could again become a national party and pose a mortal threat to the party of Steve Bannon, Richard Spencer, Donald Trump and yes, Roy Moore.

Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky): Sermon against the pogroms

April 20, 1903

The joyous feast of reconciliation, the Resurrection of Christ, continues. We have completed the commemoration of St. Thomas, who was the first to confess that the risen Jesus is our true God, and we are now singing of the deeds of the myrrhbearers. We commemorate those women who did not grow weak in their faithfulness to Christ even during the terrible days when He was betrayed and put to death, and who were accounted worthy to announce His resurrection to the apostles. The apostles would enlighten the world by proclaiming the resurrection, but these holy women had first enlightened the apostles with it.

In extolling their faith, the Church calls all of us to imitate this struggle and to participate in the preaching of the resurrection. We are called upon to become so penetrated by joy in Him that we not only forget about the evil done against us by enemies, but to forgive from our hearts their hatred toward us and not only forgive them, but even love our enemies. We must now strive to embrace with love all mankind, inviting them to share with us the spiritual ecstasy of that new life revealed so clearly to us, that everlasting life filled with blessed communion with God. Now is fulfilled that prophecy of Isaiah; “And everlasting joy ... illness, sorrow and sighing have, fled away” (Is 35:10).

The grace of Christ’s resurrection shines brightly even in our corrupt age, and it shines not only on the pious but even on those who are unconcerned. During these sacred days, those who did not pray earlier now turn to prayer; even those whose hearts were hardened. We greet one another with the kiss of peace, and even the unmerciful and miserly find pleasure in showing love toward their neighbour. “Christ is risen and life springs forth” as the God-fearing voice of Chrysostom proclaims. But amidst such comforting circumstances in our Christian life, sorrowful, shameful news reaches us that in the city of Kishenev, on the very day of Christ’s resurrection, on the day of forgiveness and reconciliation, there occurred the cruel inhuman massacre of unfortunate Jews.

At the very time when in the holy temples there was being sung, “Let us embrace one another and say ‘brother’ even to those who hate us...” yes at that very time, outside the church walls, a drunken, beastly mob broke into Jewish homes, robbing the peaceful inhabitants and tearing human beings into pieces. They threw their bodies from windows into the streets and looted Jewish stores. A second crazed, greed filled mob rushed in to steal the clothing and jewelry from the bloodied corpses, seizing everything they could lay hand on. Like Judas, these robbers enriched themselves with silver drenched in blood—the blood of these hapless human sacrifices!

O God! How did Thy goodness endure such an insult and offence to the day of Thy saving passion and glorious resurrection! Thou didst endure Thy terrible struggle so that we would be dead to sin and live in Thee (Rm. 6:11), but here they cruelly and in a most beastly manner slaughtered those who are Thy relatives according to the flesh, who, though they did not recognize Thee are still dear to Thy heart as Thou Thyself didst say not long before Thou didst suffer in the flesh, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou who killest the prophets and stone those who are sent to thee; how often have I longed to gather your children as a hen gathers its chicks under its wing, and you desired it not” (Matt. 23:37).

O brethren, I wish to make you understand this so that you would comprehend that even today the Jewish tribe is dear to God’s heart, and realize that God is angered by anyone who would offend that people. Lest anyone suppose that we are selecting words from the sacred scripture with partiality, let me cite for you the words of that man whom the Jews hated above all men. This is the man whom a company of the Jews vowed neither to eat nor drink until they had killed him (Acts 23:12)—Apostle Paul.

Hearken to the words of God’s spirit speaking through him: “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing my witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen” (Rm. 9:1-5).

Startling and frightening word! Did you truly write them, Paul, you who came to love Christ, who began to live in Christ as Christ lived in you? For whose sake did you consent to be separated from Christ? Was it not you, Paul, who wrote the lines preceding this verse “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rm. 8:38-39). Even the angels could not have done that which you would voluntarily have done for the sake of the salvation of the Jews - those who were your enemies, your betrayers, they who beat you with whip, chained you in prison, exiled you and condemned you to death.

  Behold, brethren and marvel: these words of Apostle Paul are spoken concerning the Jews, even though they were opposed to Christ’s faith. Lest your perplexity i continue, that same apostle and martyr explaining in the following chapter, the reason for his love of the house of Israel! “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (10:1-2).

The words are confirmed in our own day by the life of the Jews. Observe for yourselves their dedication to their law, their preservation of the Sabbath, their faithfulness to their spouses, their love of work and their love toward their children, whom they encourage toward obedience. There was a time not so long ago when Christians excelled them in all these things, but in our present corrupt and degenerate age, we must look with regret upon all these qualities of the way of life of pious Jews. In our cities, the majority of Christians no longer distinguish between the ordinary day, feast days and fasts, but have fallen into negligence and a loose life.

It is true that there are also some like this among the Jews, but from whom did they learn such a disorderly path? Alas, from those whose forefathers confess Christ, from European and Russian nihilists who, like toads, swarm over our land, whose books and newspapers poison the air around us like the plague and cholera.

The Karaim and Talmud Jews must be respected, but woe to both those nihilists from among the Jews and from among us, who are corrupting both family and society, who sow the seed of their contagion among Russian and Polish youth, and who are the main cause of the hatred toward the descendants of the holy forefathers and prophets beloved by the Lord. I am not speaking about respect for these nihilists among the Jews.

Listen as the blessed apostle further explains the reason for his warm, self-denying love toward this people; hear how he explains their unbelief and obduracy toward Christ “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy” (11:11). If the Jews had all accepted Christ’s faith, then the heathens who despised the Jews would have rejected it. If the Jews had all believed, then we, brethren, would not have become Christians, but would still be worshipping Jupiter and Venus or Perun and Volass as our pagan ancestors did. Be cautious, therefore, about slandering the unbelief of the Jews; rather grieve over it and pray that the Lord may be revealed to them. Do not be at enmity with them, but respect the apostolic word about the Israelite root and the branches that broke from it “Because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. “ (11:20-21)

O Christians, fear to offend the sacred, even though rejected, tribe. God’s recompense will fall upon those evil people who have shed blood which is of the same race as the Theanthropos, His most pure mother, apostles and prophets. Do not suppose that this blood was sacred only in the past, but understand that even in the future reconciliation to the divine nature awaits them (2Pt.1:4), as Christ’s chosen vessel further testifies, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written. There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (11:25-27).

Let the savage know that they have slain future Christians who were yet in the loins of the present day Jews; let them know that they have shown themselves to be bankrupt opponents of God’s providence, persecutors of a people beloved by God, even after its rejection (11:28).

How sinful is enmity against Jews, based on an ignorance of God’s law, and how shall it be forgiven when it arises from abominable and disgraceful impulses. The robbers of the Jews did not do so as revenge for opposition to Christianity, rather they lusted for the property and possessions of others. Under the thin guise of zeal for the faith, they served the demon of covetousness. They resembled Judas who betrayed Christ with a kiss while blinded with the sickness of greed, but these murderers, hiding themselves behind Christ’s name, killed His kinsmen according to the flesh in order to rob them.

When have we beheld such fanaticism? In Western Europe during the middle ages, heretics and Jews were shamefully executed, but not by mobs intent on robbing them.1

How can one begin to teach people who stifle their own conscience and mercy, who snuff out all fear of God and, departing from the holy temple even on the bright day of Christ’s Resurrection, a day dedicated to forgiveness and love, but which they rededicate to robbery and murder?

O believers in God and His Christ! Fear the Lord’s judgment in behalf of His people. Fear to offend the inheritors of the promise, even though they have been renounced. We are not empowered to judge them for their unbelief; the Lord and not we will judge. We, looking upon their zeal even though it is “not according to knowledge” (Rm.10:2) would do better to contemplate their fathers: the righteous Abraham, Isaak, Jakob, Joseph and Moses, David and Samuel and Elijah, who rose to heaven still in the flesh. Look upon Isaiah who accepted voluntary death for the faith, Daniel who stopped the mouths of beasts in a lions’ den, and the Maccabbee martyrs who died with joy for the hope of resurrections. Let us not beat, slay and rob people, but soften their hardness toward Christ and Christians by means of our own fulfilment of the law of God. Let us multiply our prayer, love, fasting and alms and our concern for those who are suffering, let us be zealous about the true essence of the faith; let our light so shine before people that they may glorify our heavenly father and Christ. Let us overcome unbelief and impiousness among Christians first, and then concern ourselves with the Jews, “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:20-21).

Source.

God’s Un-American View of the Poor and Why It Matters

America has an odd view of the poor. It is a view that reveals much about the underlying theological assumptions that create and support our culture. I will quickly quell any protests about the mixing of theology and politics by saying, everything, even politics is rooted in theology. More about that later on…

In general terms, when Americans encounter the poor, our first thoughts go to the individual and his/her story. What happened to them? What decisions did they make? Why are they stuck in this situation? Our stories of success do the same thing. We see the rich and focus on their individual accounts of luck, entrepreneurship, and brilliance. It is an analysis and a cultural reflex that is of a piece with Adam Smith’s musings about economics and commerce. Classically, it is called Capitalism.

We have a hard time in American culture managing a critique of Capitalism. The word acquired almost deified valuation during the Cold War. In the American mind, Communism was bad and Capitalism was good, and there was little nuance in the sentiment. Adam Smith did not write in a vacuum. He was a major figure in the Scottish Enlightenment (1700’s), perhaps the most rigorous and thorough application of reason and individualism the world has ever known. One author has described it as the movement that gave birth to modernity.1

Reason and individualism, though rarely identified as such in contemporary parlance, are at the very heart of American consciousness. When we see the poor, our individualism draws our attention to each single instance. Our rationality asks questions regarding that individual’s choices, virtues and failings. Occasionally that same individualism and rationality turn their attention to God and wonder why He allows such problems to exist.

Adam Smith’s contribution to economic theory was rooted in “rational self-interest.” It was put forward that if markets are free, rational self-interest will be the engine of success and prosperity. It is an idea that is so current that it stalks the hallways of government to this day. It operates as a general assumption – something that need not be defended because it appears to be self-evident truth.

It is not God’s truth.

Read the rest here.
Also, please leave any comments there as well.