Tuesday, September 10, 2019

What the Hapsburg Empire Got Right

...While few people were willing to stand up for the old empire after four years of world war, a century later scholars are rethinking its legacy, eager to assert its multifaceted attributes and surprisingly progressive institutions. Stretching from today’s western Ukraine to Switzerland and from the Czech Republic’s northern border with Germany down Croatia’s Adriatic coast, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy had no internal borders, one currency, two parliaments (in Vienna and Budapest), 11 officially recognized peoples/languages and almost as many religions, including Yiddish-speaking Jews, Bosnian Muslims and a variety of Orthodox Christians and Protestants to complement its Catholic majority. Formed and reformed through six centuries of feudal alliances, dynastic marriages, wars and Great Power bargains, the Hapsburg Empire was on its way to becoming a modern multinational state by the late 19th century. The army accommodated linguistic diversity in its regiments, schooling was available in different languages, and the bureaucracy was multilingual.

Although institutional changes for more political inclusivity and democracy moved slowly in the conservative monarchy, by 1907 the Austrian Parliament was elected by universal male suffrage, and a participatory public sphere was thriving. Hapsburg citizens were hardly living and working in isolated ethno-national enclaves. To this day, the turn-of-the-century architecture of train stations and other public buildings attests both to the population’s mobility and to the vast empire’s economic vitality. The similar layout of Central European cities is another visual reminder of a shared past.

The “outdated” old monarchy also produced a remarkably rich and innovative cultural life. In 1900, its multiethnic capital, Vienna, the world’s sixth-largest city, was home to such international luminaries as the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, the composer Gustav Mahler, the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, the painter Gustav Klimt, the Nobel Prize-winning peace activist Bertha von Suttner, the Zionist leader Theodor Herzl, the architect Otto Wagner, the feminist/freethinker Rosa Mayreder and the writers Stefan Zweig and Arthur Schnitzler.

Read the rest here

Monday, September 09, 2019

Dr. A.B. Mohler: Can Christians Use Birth Control?

The effective separation of sex from procreation may be one of the most important defining marks of our age–and one of the most ominous. This awareness is spreading among American evangelicals, and it threatens to set loose a firestorm.

Most evangelical Protestants greeted the advent of modern birth control technologies with applause and relief. Lacking any substantial theology of marriage, sex, or the family, evangelicals welcomed the development of “The Pill” much as the world celebrated the discovery of penicillin — as one more milestone in the inevitable march of human progress, and the conquest of nature.

At the same time, evangelicals overcame their traditional reticence in matters of sexuality, and produced a growth industry in books, seminars, and even sermon series celebrating sexual ecstasy as one of God’s blessings to married Christians. Once reluctant to admit the very existence of sexuality, evangelicals emerged from the 1960s ready to dish out the latest sexual advice without blushing. As one of the best-selling evangelical sex manuals proclaims, marital sex is Intended for Pleasure. Many evangelicals seem to have forgotten that it was intended for something else as well.

For many evangelical Christians, birth control has been an issue of concern only for Catholics. When Pope Paul VI released his famous encyclical outlawing artificial birth control, Humanae Vitae, most evangelicals responded with disregard — perhaps thankful that evangelicals had no pope who could hand down a similar edict. Evangelical couples became devoted users of birth control technologies ranging from the Pill to barrier methods and Intrauterine Devices [IUDs]. That is all changing, and a new generation of evangelical couples is asking new questions.

A growing number of evangelicals are rethinking the issue of birth control–and facing the hard questions posed by reproductive technologies. Several developments contributed to this reconsideration, but the most important of these is the abortion revolution. The early evangelical response to legalized abortion was woefully inadequate. Some of the largest evangelical denominations at first accepted at least some version of abortion on demand.

Read the rest here.

[Dr. Mohler is an ordained minister and President of the Southern Baptist Convention.]

The traditional teaching of the Orthodox  Church on ABC is... no. In fact the Church generally will not marry those who do not want, or who are not ready for a family. In recent years there has been some movement towards a very limited tolerance based on economy (oikonomia) for specific situations such as when a family already has as many children as they can support and/or take care of or where serious health risks may attend pregnancy. Though even then the Church teaches that the ideal response is sexual abstinence. But acknowledging the reality that not all couples can live a life of complete continence this concession is sometimes made. Usually it must be discussed with your spiritual father in confession. When ABC is used it must never be abortificiant or involve self mutilation. This generally places the burden on the husband.

Unfortunately, and especially in the West, some of the Orthodox jurisdictions have in practice become quite lax on this point. And it must be admitted that among the laity, respect for the traditional moral teaching of the Church is generally no better than among other Christian denominations including Roman Catholicism which is even stricter and admits no exception at all. Which is to say that it is widely ignored.

Real US debt levels could be a shocking 2,000% of GDP

  • Total US debt including all forms of government, state, local, financial and entitlement liabilities comes close to 2,000% of GDP, according to AB Bernstein.
  • The biggest potential load comes from entitlements, but is being pressured from rising levels of federal government debt as well.
  • The warnings about potential debt hazards come as the total federal debt outstanding has surged to $22.5 trillion.
  • A debt reform advocate says now is the time for the U.S. to tackle the issue, before recession hits.
Read the details here.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Brexit and Boris Johnson

For those not keeping up on the news from the UK, here is the latest. Three years after the British people voted to leave the EU, Brexit is on life support. After Theresa May finally resigned and Boris Johnson won the Conservative leadership contest it looked like Britain was at along last going to exit the EU at the end of October. But the opponents of Brexit who have been plotting to obstruct, and ultimately kill it, have finally won what looks like the decisive battle. With the aid of about twenty Tory MP's who defied a three line whip, the remainers were able to strip the government of power over Brexit and then passed a law over the government's objection ordering it to seek yet another delay in Brexit. At this point that may require revoking article 50. 

In response, Johnson quite rightly stripped the rebel MPs of the whip, effectively expelling them from the party. But he now finds himself the head of a minority government, humiliated by the Commons and deprived of all authority to carry out the mandate of the British people. Indeed, the government stands compelled by law to act in a manner completely contrary to its stated policy and the democratically expressed will of the nation.

This, it must not do.

The only honorable course is for the government to resign. He should announce his refusal to accede and lead the Conservative party into opposition. On Monday morning he should go to the Queen and surrender his seals office advising Her Majesty to invite Mr. Corbyn to form a government.

Those individuals and political parties who have orchestrated this premeditated and calculated attack on British democracy should be required to bear full responsibility for it. And in the next general election this should be the sole issue placed before the people. 

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

An Orthodox Monk on the Modern Catholic Church: “Busy Dissolving All Memory of the Past”

Read it here.
HT: Dr. Tighe

This is not intended as a polemical post and I would encourage readers to approach it as a reflection on how the Orthodox East views the current crisis in the Western Church. Some of what is written may cause some discomfort, but setting aside the very real doctrinal differences between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, I suspect that many Catholics will find themselves in agreement (perhaps reluctantly) with some of the observations made.

I think the comments at the linked website are worth reading. A few are unfortunate, but many make good points.

Saturday, August 31, 2019


It's a little past 2AM and I made some phone calls and found a Shell station that just got an emergency shipment in. I now have enough to get me to the Georgia state line or very close.

Dorian... boo hiss. 

(Update) Well that looks like a waste of a good night's sleep. Prayers for those up north now in the cross hairs.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Ray Dalio: The Three Big Issues and the 1930s Analogue

Not going to try and excerpt this one. For those with an interest in economics, it is an interesting read.

Read it here.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Sultan of Pranks and 'Bunga Bunga'

And now for something a little lighter...

Julia Yost: Catholic-haters have just convicted an innocent man

By a 2-to-1 vote, an Australian appellate court this week dismissed George Cardinal Pell’s appeal of his conviction on five counts of “historic” child sexual abuse. For Pell’s supporters, the decision can hardly be surprising. Given the way things had gone, a just outcome would have come as a shock.

Prosecutors accused Pell of surprising two choirboys who were guzzling communion wine in the sacristy of the Melbourne cathedral immediately after Mass one Sunday in 1996. The cardinal was charged with forcing the boys to fellate him while he was still vested in archbishop’s robes.

The allegations were utterly implausible — for several reasons well-established by the defense at trial.

The cathedral’s communion wine was kept locked in a safe, for starters, and Pell couldn’t have left the post-Mass proceedings without his absence being noticed; witnesses attested this never happened. Likewise, the choirboys couldn’t have left the post-Mass proceedings without their absence being noticed; witnesses attested this never happened, either.

Plus, the sacristy would have been bustling with activity. As witnesses testified, Pell was never alone in the cathedral while vested for Mass but always accompanied by at least one assistant. The security arrangements and layout of the cathedral, and the respective locations of the cardinal and the choir, would have made it impossible for the abuse to occur as alleged. Nor is it physically possible to expose one’s genitals while vested in an archbishop’s robes.

Before he died in 2014, one of the two boys denied that he had “ever been interfered with or touched up” — by anyone. All this led 10 out of 12 jurors at Pell’s first trial to vote to acquit. Yet at the retrial, the jurors ignored the enormous weight of exculpatory evidence and voted in December to convict him amid a climate of media-driven anti-Catholic hysteria.

As the dissenting appellate judge was to conclude, the sole accuser’s wholly uncorroborated testimony “contained discrepancies, displayed inadequacies and otherwise lacked probative value.” Oh, well.

Read the rest here.

As I stated in my earlier post on this subject, I'm not sufficiently familiar with all of the evidence to express an informed opinion. But an awful lot of people whose judgement I respect have come down hard on this case.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Comment moderation is on

Sorry for any inconvenience, but while I am truly sympathetic to the unique trials of his existence, the wave of comments from Jerome the Vampire were not germane to the topics of the various threads he posted on. Hopefully this will just be a temporary speed bump. However, if you should notice that I am suddenly only posting at night...

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

For the record...

Cardinal Pell's conviction has been upheld on appeal. I am not sufficiently familiar with the details of the case to express an informed opinion. However, a number of people that I respect have grave misgivings about the matter.

Brexit Secretary signs order to scrap 1972 Brussels Act - ending all EU law in the UK

The 1972 Act is the vehicle that sees regulations flow into UK law directly from the EU’s lawmaking bodies in Brussels.
The announcement of the Act’s repeal marks a historic step in returning lawmaking powers from Brussels to the UK. We are taking back control of our laws, as the public voted for in 2016.
The repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 will take effect when Britain formally leaves the EU on October 31.
Speaking after signing the legislation that will crystallise in law the upcoming repeal of the ECA, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU Steve Barclay said:
This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back - we are leaving the EU as promised on October 31, whatever the circumstances - delivering on the instructions given to us in 2016.
The votes of 17.4 million people deciding to leave the EU is the greatest democratic mandate ever given to any UK Government. Politicians cannot choose which public votes they wish to respect. Parliament has already voted to leave on 31 October. The signing of this legislation ensures that the EU Withdrawal Act will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 on exit day.
The ECA saw countless EU regulations flowing directly into UK law for decades, and any government serious about leaving on October 31 should show their commitment to repealing it.
That is what we are doing by setting in motion that repeal. This is a landmark moment in taking back control of our laws from Brussels."

Monday, August 19, 2019

Kamala Harris Promises To 'Disarm Violent Hate' by Seizing Guns From Bigots

Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.), who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, says that if elected she will push legislation that would authorize federal courts to issue gun confiscation orders against people who express opinions that may indicate an intent to commit a hate crime. These "domestic terrorism prevention orders" would "temporarily restrict a person's access to guns if they exhibit clear evidence of dangerousness," including "violent racist threats or anti-immigrant manifestos."

Harris' plan to "disarm violent hate" is pretty vague, so it's hard to say whether it would be consistent with the First Amendment. If the bill she imagines would merely create a federal "red flag" law focused on a subset of people deemed a threat to others, that would be bad enough, since these laws generally give short shrift to due process. But her description of the problem she is trying to address suggests that constitutionally protected speech might by itself be enough to suspend someone's Second Amendment rights.

"From El Paso to the Tree of Life Synagogue, and from Poway to Mother Emanuel Church," her campaign website says, "one thing is clear: Guns are the weapon of choice for domestic terrorists and perpetrators of hate crimes….Whether it's violent racist threats or anti-immigrant manifestos, signs of impending violence are often evident before tragedy strikes." While that may be true in retrospect, it does not mean that all racists, nativists, white supremacists, or anti-Semites who express their views online, or even a significant percentage of them, are bent on mass murder.

Read the rest here.