Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Memory Eternal: Margaret Truman Daniel

Margaret Truman Daniel, the only child of former President Harry S. Truman has reposed at age 83. She gained fame as an accomplished singer television personality and author in her own right. Her work on the life of her late father was the first biography I ever read and remains one of my personal favorites even now, nearly 30 years since I read it as a child.

May her memory be eternal.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Thoughts from New Hampshire on Hillary Clinton's Florida Victory

From the Manchester Union Leader's editorial page...
COURTING VOTERS in Iowa and New Hampshire, last August Sen. Hillary Clinton signed a pledge not to "campaign or participate" in the Michigan or Florida Democratic primaries. She participated in both primaries and is campaigning in Florida. Which proves, again, that Hillary Clinton is a liar.

Clinton kept her name on the Michigan ballot when others removed theirs, she campaigned this past weekend in Florida, and she is pushing to seat Michigan and Florida delegates at the Democratic National Convention. The party stripped those states of delegates as punishment for moving up their primary dates.

"I will try to persuade my delegates to seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida," Clinton said last week, after the New Hampshire primaries and Iowa caucuses were safely over.

Clinton coldly and knowingly lied to New Hampshire and Iowa. Her promise was not a vague statement. It was a signed pledge with a clear and unequivocal meaning.

She signed it thinking that keeping the other candidates out of Michigan and Florida was to her advantage, but knowing she would break it if that proved beneficial later on. It did, and she did.

New Hampshire voters, you were played for suckers.

75 Years Ago

January 30th 1933; Adolf Hitler becomes the last Chancellor of the German Weimar Republic and an entire generation of human beings is doomed to war and genocidal madness.

Lest we forget.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Memory Eternal: +Christodoulos Archbishop of Athens & All Greece

Archbishop +Christodoulos of Athens has reposed at the age of 69. As noted here previously His Beatitude had been gravely ill from the cancer that ultimately proved mortal for sometime. His death although not surprising, nonetheless leaves a hole in the Orthodox world. Under his administration the Greek Church moved to thaw the chilly relations with the Vatican that had existed seemingly forever. He also oversaw efforts to deal with several serious church scandals. +Christodoulos was generally seen as a conservative on moral and social issues and he resisted various efforts at modernization such as a suggestion to permit the use of modern Greek as opposed to the ancient in the celebration of the church liturgy. In public opinion polls for many years he almost invariably was ranked as the most popular man in Greece.

May his memory be eternal.

An update:The Greek government has declared four days of official mourning and ordered all schools and government offices to be closed on the day of the funeral. The funeral itself will be a state funeral with full honors. Long lines have begun forming in Athens for people to file by the funeral bier.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Trad Catholics & Orthodoxy

From time to time I get comments or questions concerning so called Traditionalist Roman Catholics and their feeling towards Orthodoxy. The general thrust is usually one of "we can talk with these people, they speak our language." My response is normally skeptical. Not because I disagree with their attachment to the ancient liturgy of the Western Church. I commend it strongly. Nor because I think they are evil people (although there are some whose moral compass is dangerously out of wack, but we have groups like that too). Indeed I used to be an SSPXer for the better part of two decades (mea culpa mea culpa...).

My reason for skepticism is because way too many of the Trads are hard core Unam Sanctum types. Their respect for Orthodoxy is limited to a grudging nod to our liturgy and that's about as far as it goes. Many, perhaps a majority, harbor a hostility towards Orthodoxy that is on par with or even greater than that which they harbor towards Protestants because they see us as being so close and they are infuriated by our obstinate refusal to kneel and kiss the Pope's ring.

Case in point: One of the web sites I periodically check out is Rorate Caeli. This is a solidly Trad web site which often gets really good scoops on news from Rome. You can get some remarkable insights into the various elements of the often sharply divided Trad movement by reading the com boxes there. From time to time the site owner will post a story that touches on Orthodoxy and this generally elicits some pretty frank expressions of their true feeling towards us. These comments make James Likoudis and Diane (well known to Orthodox and Catholic bloggers alike) appear the very embodiment of ecumenical moderation. In witness I will post two comments in their entirety in response to the most recent post by the site owner. The post was from a newspaper interview with Patriarch +Alexeii of Moscow in which +Alexeii spoke of Pope +Benedict XVI in highly complimentary terms.

Anonymous said...

Man...some of you folks are just plain mean spirited...nasty!

Peter has spoken the cause is finished...

For the crime of schism is worse than that which they commit who have offered sacrifice, who, nevertheless, have been disposed to penance for their sins prayed to God with the fullest satisfaction; in the other the Church is opposed. So in this case he who has fallen, has injured only himself; in the other, who attempts to cause a schism deceives many by dragging them with himself. In this case there is the loss of one soul; in the other their is danger to many. Certainly the one knows he has sinned and laments and bewails it; the other puffed up with pride in his sin is pluming himself on the sins themselves, separates sons from their mother, seduces sheep from their shepherds, disturbs the sacraments of God, and, whereas the former having stumbled sinned once, the latter sins daily. Lastly although the lapsed, if afterwards he acquired martyrdom, is able to secure the promises of the kingdom; if the other is slain outside of the Church, he cannot attain to the rewards of the Church.

-Pope Pelagius II c. 585 in a letter to the schismatic bishops of Istria regarding the necessity of union with the Church.

Nasty? I think not! The last time I checked the Patriarch of Moscow was not in union with Rome. We should ignore him. Why should Catholics need the "support" of a schismatic whose "tradition" of willful separation from the unity of the Church jeopardizes his everlasting salvation?

j hughes dunphy said...

The Council of Florence taught infallibly, "The Most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews, heretics (protestants), and schismatics can ever be partakers of eternal life, but that they are to go into the eternal fire 'which was prepared for the devil and his angels,' (Mat. 25:41) unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this Ecclesiastical Body, that only those remaining within this unity can profit from the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and that they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, alms deeds and other works of Christian piety and duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his alms giving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved unless they abide within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church."

Part of the "apostasy" that the Catholic Church is going through currently stems from the undermining of this infallible and unchangeable teaching of the Church.

Fr Pavone, you hinder the "salvation of souls" when you declare publicly that ecumenism is good and that Protestants are "real Christians". There is no "real" Church outside of the Catholic Church. All other so-called Christian churches are "false churches" under Satan. If you are going to talk about protestants, it would be more beneficial to the salvation of their souls and to the salvation of dissident Catholics to warn them that they must convert to or revert back to the Catholic Church for salvation before their time on earth is up.

This sort of vitriol is hardly unusual when Orthodoxy pops up as a topic of conversation over there. And it is why I remain profoundly skeptical when Orthodox think of Roman Catholic Traditionalists as a possible bridge to improved relations with Rome. They are really Rome's Old Calendarists. Sadly most of them didn't even recognize the humor when I once suggested their sede vecantists should do lunch with our Radical Old Calendarists, they have so much in common.

My general view is that we Orthodox should ignore the so called Traditionalists. Their disputes with Rome are fundamentally an internal matter for the Latin Church and there is no justification for sticking our nose into this conflict. With a few rare exceptions Trads are not our friends or simply Western Rite Orthodox who haven't gotten over the Pope yet. While it might be interesting to watch from a distance, we have no dog in this fight.

And now for a little levity...

I think there have been enough serious posts lately. It's time for a break. And so in the vain of don't take life or yourself too seriously I offer the below. Besides laughing until I couldn't breath it brought back a lot of great memories.

Thanks to Kendall.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fasten your seat belts please...

Wall Street October 1929

A wave of selling swept through most of the world's financial markets yesterday while the US markets were closed for the M L King holiday. Today the selling in Asia became something close to an outright panic. As of this writing the European markets after an initial wave of frantic selling have stabilized and seem to be holding their breath, waiting for an indication of what will happen when the US markets open in a couple of hours. Barring an emergency and very deep rate cut by the Federal Reserve be prepared for a blood bath. Dow Futures are down over 500 pts.

The sell off has been triggered by growing fears that the US economy is heading into (or may already be in) a nasty recession. Many foreign banks hold massive amounts of American debt (bonds), some of which are probably going to be bad. There is a growing fear that the U S Government may be limited in it's ability to respond to the growing economic crisis. Heavy debt at all levels of American society from private consumer debt (credit cards & high interest mortgages etc.) to corporate and national government are weighing heavily on the economy now. Ever since George Bush took office the United States has been living on the national credit card, with deep cuts in taxes and large increases in spending to finance a shocking amount of pork and two wars. The result is that the national treasury is depleted and we have been receiving warnings that our our country's bond rating could be reduced from the AAA status it has held since 1917 to AA.

In order to finance the wars and ensure that the wealthy are not inconvenienced by higher taxes the US has been borrowing money at record rates (most of those bonds are held by foreign banks) and we have been printing more money. If you or I decided to print money to solve our financial shortfalls we would go to jail. However the Treasury Department does not operate under the rules the rest of us have to follow.

The only problem with this is that money is not immune to the basic laws of economics. The more you have of something, the less it's worth. Case in point; our money (no longer backed by gold for very good reasons) is today backed by public confidence. For decades the dollar has been the store of value in the international financial markets and the de facto currency of international finance. In short term emergency situations you can (and should ) print more money to help give a boost to the economy or keep the lights on at the government. This is perfectly OK as a temporary measure to meet an immediate and urgent need. It is not an acceptable long term answer to a knee jerk aversion to raising taxes or making politically tough decisions to cut spending. If you print more money for a long period of time you will start to loose the short term advantages and run the risk of your currency loosing its value.

Herein lies the quandary we now find ourselves in. As a general rule of thumb it's a bad idea to raise taxes or deeply cut spending during a recession. These are things you want to do during the good times so your finances are in reasonably good shape for the not so good times when you will need to use the national credit card. Also there are some things which one does not finance (at least entirely) by debt. Wars being chief among them. Since the attacks of Sept 11 2001 we have been financing two wars almost entirely through debt. At no time in the history of this country have we ever had an administration that cut taxes during war time.... until G. W. Bush. Between war spending and out of control pork barrel spending by Congress (one of the few bipartisan undertakings in Washington over the last seven years) our debt has now reached proportions that are alarming to the international financial community. Add to this the recent decline in the value of the dollar and evidence of inflation and you have the makings of a perfect storm.

Here we sit, probably in the early stages of an economic recession and the question looms large. What can the government due to help out? Yes the Fed can cut interest rates and inject currency into the markets to help stabilize things. But this runs the not inconsiderable risk of adding to inflationary pressure and further reducing the value of the dollar. Normally this would be a good time for the government to cut taxes at least short term to promote consumption and investment and increase spending in some areas in order to provide relief to people who will need some help to get through the economic tough times. But the treasury is empty. There is no rainy day fund. That was handed over lock stock and barrel to people making over a million a year in the form of tax cuts for the wealthy. We have been borrowing money hand over fist to buy bullets and body armor for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Where are we gong to get the money for emergency economic relief without adding to what is already an ocean of red ink?

There is a limit to how long and how much you can borrow, as any one who has ever had to live in the real world and balance their budgets can attest to, before you go over the proverbial financial cliff. So what will the government do? I am not sure. But I do feel fairly confident that they will do something. This is an election year and the appearance of being unresponsive would be political suicide. The problem is that anything that they do might be very temporary in its benefits and something we are going to pay a steep price for down the road a ways. Cut interest rates and taxes and increase spending. Those are the traditional formulas for dealing with a recession. But they are predicated on your national finances being in sound order going into the crisis. Our's are not.

The bottom line... fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a very bumpy landing.

UPDATE: The Fed authorized an emergency interest rate cut of 3/4 percent.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Coming Soon... cigar smoke and back room deals?

With McCain's win in South Carolina and Romney's in Nevada the race for the GOP nomination continues to get more and more interesting. I am starting to think there is a chance... a small one but it's there... that we could witness something this summer not seen in a generation. A political convention where the presidential nominee is not clearly known before the convention meets. For decades now conventions have been little more than tightly scripted political infomercials for the predetermined candidates of each party.

However even if McCain wins in Florida on the 29th of Jan, twenty one(!) states will be voting a mere week after that with some of the biggest states among them. It is highly unlikely that any of the four credible Republican candidates (Giuliani, McCain, Romney, and Huckabee) will bow out before super Tuesday. None of them will have the time or money to effectively campaign in more than a few of the states voting on February 5th. All of them have a chance to win at least one state and potentially more on that day. None have the level of support likely to give them a clear victory. What this means is that there is a small but growing possibility the Republican convention could convene with no candidate holding enough delegates to secure the nomination.

This would translate into the nightmare of any modern political party and the dream come true of political talking heads, reporters and junkies (qui moi?)... an open or brokered convention. My memory is not perfect but I think one might have to go all the way back to 1952 for the last time the GOP held a convention where the nominee was not preordained (Eisenhower stunned the party establishment who had been banking on Bob Taft). Back in the day delegates were often beholden to party bosses who traded (or just plain sold) votes in the famous smoke filled back rooms.

Modern day anti-smoking laws may put a damper on reviving that aspect of political tradition but if four (five if you count Ron Paul) candidates show up in Minneapolis-St. Paul with no one holding enough delegates to secure the nomination we could see some good old fashioned wheeling and dealing on the convention floor or in not so smoky back rooms. In fact this might be more fun to watch than baseball. Imagine what promises might be extracted by delegate managers or lesser candidates with only a couple of states worth of delegates in exchange for their votes. The lesser candidates who know they have little hope of getting the nomination could play king makers. Another possibility would be that if deals are not made quickly to select a nominee delegates might revolt and pick their own favorite man (or woman). They would not in theory be restricted to declared candidates. They could draft one of their choice. In fact such a convention could produce almost any result.

All of which is terrifying to modern political managers. This is doubly so in the Republican Party, which has a not entirely undeserved reputation for being neurotic about order and party discipline. The mere thought of this potentially once in a lifetime spectacle is making my political mouth water. Whatever happens this has already turned into the most interesting political season since 1980.

Stay tuned.

P.S. One year from today we will have a new president. I for one am more than ready for this change in administration.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Le Roi est Mort

Bobby Fischer winning the 1958 United States Chess Championship at age 14

At age 13 he defeated Donald Byrne an International Grand Master of Chess.* He was the youngest US Champion (14), the youngest Grandmaster of Chess (15), and the first American World Champion of Chess beating the Russian Boris Spassky in what was by far the most dramatic duel since Burr-Hamilton. He was an iconic national hero, a genius (his IQ was estimated at 181), and he made chess cool. He was also an incredible egomaniac, later a bitterly reclusive anti-Semite and in the end almost certainly mad. His slow descent into mental illness, early signs of which could be seen as far back as the 60's, was profoundly painful for the world to watch.

Bobby Fischer has reposed at the age of 64. May his memory be eternal.

"Oh for God's sake let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings."
-William Shakespeare

A commenter corrects me in noting that Mr. Byrne was not yet rated as a grandmaster when he was defeated by Fischer. See comment # 1.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Yet another example of why...

capital punishment must be abolished.
For 10 years, Leslie P. Smith, a Virginia lawyer, reluctantly kept a secret because the authorities on legal ethics told him he had no choice, even though his information could save the life of a man on death row, one whose case had led to a landmark Supreme Court decision.

Mr. Smith believed that prosecutors had committed brazen misconduct by coaching a witness and hiding it from the defense, but the Virginia State Bar said he was bound by legal ethics rules not to bring up the matter. He shared his qualms and pangs of conscience with only one man, Timothy G. Clancy, who had worked on the case with him.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Staying Put

It is with interest that I note the decision of fellow Orthodox blogger Cathedra Unitatis to remain in The Church. Those familiar with his excellent blog might find his decision somewhat surprising (I did), given his various expressions of sympathy with the Roman Church. Indeed the raison d' etat of his blog was to explore the issues dividing the Latin Church from Orthodoxy (or vice versa depending on one's perspective). And this he has done with remarkable patience and charity. Some of the better Orthodox - Catholic discussions have occurred there. But the tenor of some of his posts and his own commentary lead many of us, I think on both sides of the debate, to expect him to shortly be swimming the Tiber.

In announcing his intentions to remain Orthodox he observed (perhaps tongue in cheek?) that it might be somewhat dismaying to both his Catholic and Orthodox readers. While I concede my surprise; I feel no dismay. Indeed as one who struggled with the choice between Rome and Orthodoxy for decades before reaching a decision, I sympathize with CU. Those who have never carried the burden of doubt can not know its weight on the soul. I do not know if CU has made the right decision or not. I am content to leave that to God. Others, as evidenced by a handful of less than irenic comments posted in response to his announcement, apparently entertain no doubts. I found their lack of charity somewhat sad though not terribly surprising. Most of the sharply negative comments were from a single individual with a well established and unfortunate reputation among both Orthodox bloggers and her fellow Catholics.

Beyond those handful of unpleasant comments though, this is a post that is well worth reading along with the comments. I particularly refer the reader to a magnificent comment posted by a Fr. Paul (I presume a Roman Catholic) which I found abundant in both charity and reason. Would that there were more people like that on both sides of the often heated discussions between East and West.

On the subject of those discussions I am also pleased to report that CU plans to keep up his blog. I look forward to reading many more interesting posts there.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Of Heretics & Their Supporters

The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) has posted an article on the movement by dissident Catholics to ordain women priests. Setting aside for the moment the fact that NCR has one of the most misleading titles of any publication currently in print, and also their well established love affair with every heretical idea that has popped up in the Latin Church over the last half century or so, this article still takes one's breath away. The very manner in which the issues are presented reeks of journalistic bias.

One sees repeated references to the prohibition against female ordination as a church law which flies directly in the face of the position of the Roman Church that it is not a matter of discipline but of doctrine. The barely concealed joy that permeates from every sentence of the author's essay (which does not quote a single orthodox voice) and heaps ridicule on the Roman Catholic hierarchy all combine to leave no doubt that NCR is a publication that has strayed not merely from orthodox Roman Catholicism but from anything even resembling orthodox (small 'o') Christianity.

Try as I might I am unable to top the line that Perry Robinson once used in reference to this crowd when he (not a man given to warm sentiments towards the Latin Church) once posted at Mike Liccione's blog "I have navel lint that is more Catholic than these women!" This would seem a pretty apt turn of phrase in reference to NCR. They revel in the violation of the prohibition against communication in sacris, the assistance of Protestants and Jews in the laying on hands of the of the make believe priestesses and the thumbing of their nose at the Roman bishops like Burke. All in all it is one of the more revolting pieces of alleged journalism that I have seen in a while.

“We are using the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house,” she said, playing on an aphorism of African-American feminist poet Audre Lorde, who said such was not possible. At the same time, Rue feels strongly that women in the movement should study not only theology, but also feminist theology, so they will understand how power systems work and avoid getting caught up in them. “I think everyone is in a wait-and-see mode, hoping that women in the Womenpriests movement don’t take on the trappings of hierarchy,” she said.

These women are no more Catholic than I am Napoleon Bonaparte. And NCR could take worthwhile instruction in doctrine from Perry Robinson's navel lint.

Read the article here (recommended on an empty stomach).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Thanks be to God!

I just received a report that the daughter of my parish priest was involved in a horrific car accident this last Sunday. Thanking God for all blessings and miracles, she appears to have sustained only the most minor of injuries in a collision that could easily have killed or gravely injured her. From the description of the wreck this really does sound like a case of divine intervention.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I think I may have blown my shot as a political talking head at CNN. Oh well. Looks like its gonna be a good ol' fashioned donnybrook for both parties. Time to pop some popcorn and watch the fireworks.

"Football is for pansies. Politics is a blood sport."

Monday, January 07, 2008

Merry Christmas from Ms. Schori

A Christmas card sent from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Hat tip to Alice Linsley

Politics in the air...

It's January in a year that will see the summer Olympics. This means it's also an election year. With this in mind I thought I would contribute my own two cents and see if I can land a job as a talking head on CNN.

The Democrats:
Barack's victory in Iowa was a small earthquake for a number of reasons. First he is NOT the choice of the party big shots. Hillary is. Secondly he does not have the money. Hillary does. And thirdly he is black. Hillary is not. The fact that he not only won but that Hillary came in third(!) adds even more weight to this remarkable upset. It was humiliating for her and it has shattered her creditability as the nominee presumptive. John Edwards is not going to get the nomination barring a major screw up on the part of Barack. Even then I think people would gravitate towards Clinton before Edwards. His support seems to mostly come from some of the institutional base of the party like big labor. Looking forward...

If Obama wins in New Hampshire tomorrow and Hillary does not come in at least a close second she is going to be in serious trouble. It may prove to be a fatal blow to her campaign. No, she won't be dropping out of the race. But South Carolina then becomes do or die for her. And there is something worth noting about South Carolina as opposed to Iowa and New Hampshire. South Carolina does have a significant African American population. Finally look for most of the also rans to drop out of the race after New Hampshire with the likely exception of Dennis Kucinich (the anti war lefty).

The Republicans:
If New Hampshire is likely to be the beginning of the end for the Democratic nominating process it will just as likely blow open the Republican race. Mike Huckabee won in Iowa but I don't see a repeat performance coming in New Hampshire. Two of the GOP's heavy weight candidates mostly skipped Iowa. John McCain and Rudy Giuliani were largely absent. McCain has been stumping hard in NH and I expect him to win there where Huckabee does not seem to be showing nearly as well. In short Huckabee's win in Iowa may well have been a fluke or an anti-Romney vote by a lot of Protestant Evangelicals who are very uncomfortable with Romney's religion (Mormonism). Looking forward...

A McCain win in New Hampshire would be even worse for Romney than Obama winning will be for Hillary. This is Romney's back yard and people there don't typically vote on religious lines. In South Carolina they (at least the Republicans) do. In this respect New Hampshire may prove decisive. It could knock out the one time front runner. But it will otherwise leave the race wide open. McCain and Huckabee will both have one victory and Giuliani is expected to make a major showing down the stretch in the super Tuesday primaries which will involve many of the larger states with more moderate Republican voters. Fred Thompson's place in the race will become tenuous if he does not place at least a respectable third in tomorrow's voting. As with the Democrats, look for the remaining also rans to start dropping out after New Hampshire with the possible exception of libertarian/isolationist Ron Paul who has a small but remarkably dedicated following. Paul has zero chance of winning the GOP nomination. But his stable support and the remarkable amount of money he has been able to raise could allow him to force the major candidates or even the eventual nominee presumptive (once we get one) to address his issues.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Enough of this 'New Age' church

From a Letter to the Editor of the Modesto Bee:

My ancestors were Church of England people from the colonial times. My maternal grandparents were married by a minister who later became head of the American Episcopal Church. I was baptized in an Episcopal cathedral in 1922. The writer of "One-sided reporting in Episcopal split" (Dec. 20, Letters) has not lived long enough to see what I have seen. She admires a ghost.

The parent Episcopal Church today has metamorphosed into a weird concoction of Catholic ceremonials and New Age thinking. People like the writer put the institution first, I suppose, because she loves the ceremonials, which are (or were) beautiful.

I do not put the institution first. Scripture is ignored when convenient. The motivating spirit of the organization is desire: whatever the extreme wing of the church wants is duly approved by the bishops and their purblind leader, all in the name of "love." Jesus is often seen as just another prophet, and Christianity only one road to salvation.

If that is the "mission" of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, everyone who belonged to it more than 30 years ago was sadly misled.



Hat tip to Kendall at T-19

Many Years!

My Godson, the newly illumined servant of God Basil (Bob) was received into the Holy Orthodox Church by Baptism and Holy Chrismation on this the feast day of his patron saint and namesake Basil the Great. Basil (Bob) is a convert from a Protestant background. May God grant him many many years!

Those who can spare a moment or two are kindly asked to mention him in your prayers.