Monday, December 29, 2008

Thoughts on schism & heresy

Via T-19 Rod Dreher has a very thoughtful piece up on the pain of schism and heresy with an eye to the Episcopal Church. Which is worse? For the record I tend to agree with his views. Be sure to check out the comments below his article. Many of them are well written and thoughtful in their own right.

Israel Reminding its Enemies "We Have Teeth"

A Palestinian Terrorist prepares to fire a rocket into Israel three days before Israel counter-attacked. Hamas has fired more than 1000 rockets and several hundred mortar rounds into Israel over the last year.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s military operation in Gaza is aimed primarily at forcing Hamas to end its rocket barrages and military buildup. But it has another goal as well: to expunge the ghost of its flawed 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon and re-establish Israeli deterrence.

On the second day of the offensive, which has already killed hundreds and is devastating Hamas’s resources, Israeli commanders on Sunday were lining up tanks and troops at the border. But they were also insisting that they did not intend to reoccupy the coastal strip of 1.5 million Palestinians or to overthrow the Hamas government there.

This is because whatever might replace Hamas — anarchy, for example — could in fact be worse for Israel’s security. So the goal, as stated by a senior military official, is “to stop the firing against our civilians in the south and shape a different and new security situation there.”

Read the whole story.

Dateline: San Francisco

Hundreds of thousands of cheering people crowded the streets and confetti floated down as the city by the bay rolled out an enthusiastic welcome for the Republican President of the United States on his way to the GOP convention being held in San Francisco...

OK... OK... so it was 1956
The GOP convention in the Cow Palace

Saturday, December 27, 2008

This Site Rated PG

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Andy Burnham says he believes that new standards of decency need to be applied to the web. He is planning to negotiate with Barack Obama’s incoming American administration to draw up new international rules for English language websites.

The Cabinet minister describes the internet as “quite a dangerous place” and says he wants internet-service providers (ISPs) to offer parents “child-safe” web services.

Giving film-style ratings to individual websites is one of the options being considered, he confirms. When asked directly whether age ratings could be introduced, Mr Burnham replies: “Yes, that would be an option. This is an area that is really now coming into full focus.”

ISPs, such as BT, Tiscali, AOL or Sky could also be forced to offer internet services where the only websites accessible are those deemed suitable for children.

Read the entire story.

Of course this is a concept in its early stages, and as the saying goes "the devil will be in the details." But based on first impressions I think this is a good idea as long as it does not actually restrict free access on the part of adults to any websites they wish to visit or give legal license to track their movements on the web (something the U. S. Government already does clandestinely). It seems a reasonable and balanced approach to a serious problem. I look forward to seeing what they actually wind up proposing.

P.S. When I wrote my initial post I had the title label this site as rated G. After some thought I concluded that occasionally subjects are addressed on A/O that might not be suitable for really young children. I felt kinda odd slapping a PG rating on my own blog.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thought for the day...

Back home after a rather trying day at work and I must confess that I am not feeling warm and fuzzy right now about the season. Given that I am not Roman Catholic purgatory is not on my theological hit parade. But on the off chance that I am wrong, there are some people who frequent malls during the last few days before Christmas who I think might be candidates for spending a few thousand years working Christmas in retail.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The dangers of deflation

Hundreds of thousands of people are being laid off. The nation’s leading banks and carmakers need bailouts. The stock market has had an ugly 2008.

Well, here’s something else to worry about: deflation. This week, the government announced that prices fell in November for the second month in a row.

It might seem hard to understand what the problem is with falling prices. If all they mean is that we can buy our Christmas presents for less this month than we could have a month ago, maybe we can get the decked out Mac after all. What’s there to worry about?

A lot. If prices persist in their decline, they could be devastating to the economy — not primarily because of their impact on consumers’ spending habits but because of their impact on consumers’ ability to service their debts.

Think of it this way: Say you earn $50,000 a year, and have a $200,000 mortgage. If there is heavy deflation, prices and salaries fall. Your salary might go down to $40,000, but your mortgage would remain the same. Suddenly, making those mortgage payments has gotten a lot tougher.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

An eye for an eye...

TEHRAN -- Ameneh Bahrami once enjoyed photography and mountain vistas. Her work for a medical equipment company gave her financial independence. Several men had asked for her hand in marriage, but the hazel-eyed electrical technician had refused them all. "I wanted to get married, but only to the man I really loved," she said.

Four years ago, a spurned suitor poured a bucket of sulfuric acid over her head, leaving her blind and disfigured.

Late last month, an Iranian court ordered that five drops of the same chemical be placed in each of her attacker's eyes, acceding to Bahrami's demand that he be punished according to a principle in Islamic jurisprudence that allows a victim to seek retribution for a crime. The sentence has not yet been carried out.

The implementation of corporal punishments allowed under Islamic law, including lashing, amputation and stoning, has often provoked controversy in Iran, where many people have decried such sentences as barbaric. This case is different.

Read the entire article. WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

8 really, really scary predictions

Nouriel Roubini
Nouriel Roubini
Known as Dr. Doom, the NYU economics professor saw the mortgage-related meltdown coming.

We are in the middle of a very severe recession that's going to continue through all of 2009 - the worst U.S. recession in the past 50 years. It's the bursting of a huge leveraged-up credit bubble. There's no going back, and there is no bottom to it. It was excessive in everything from subprime to prime, from credit cards to student loans, from corporate bonds to muni bonds. You name it. And it's all reversing right now in a very, very massive way. At this point it's not just a U.S. recession. All of the advanced economies are at the beginning of a hard landing. And emerging markets, beginning with China, are in a severe slowdown. So we're having a global recession and it's becoming worse.

Things are going to be awful for everyday people. U.S. GDP growth is going to be negative through the end of 2009. And the recovery in 2010 and 2011, if there is one, is going to be so weak - with a growth rate of 1% to 1.5% - that it's going to feel like a recession. I see the unemployment rate peaking at around 9% by 2010. The value of homes has already fallen 25%. In my view, home prices are going to fall by another 15% before bottoming out in 2010.

For the next 12 months I would stay away from risky assets. I would stay away from the stock market. I would stay away from commodities. I would stay away from credit, both high-yield and high-grade. I would stay in cash or cashlike instruments such as short-term or longer-term government bonds. It's better to stay in things with low returns rather than to lose 50% of your wealth. You should preserve capital. It'll be hard and challenging enough. I wish I could be more cheerful, but I was right a year ago, and I think I'll be right this year too.

Read the other seven predictions here.

Nouriel Roubini is a man I respect. I am not going to say he is infallible. But like Peter Schiff (see here & here) he has some credibility on this subject that is not exactly widespread these days. Thus when he speaks I pay attention. And very frankly what he is saying scares the &%!! out of me.

I really really hope that he is (finally) wrong.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Scenes from the Funeral of Alexii II

Part 1

Part 2

Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of Thy servant who has fallen asleep…
Memory Eternal! Memory Eternal! Memory Eternal!

In the Vatican times are a changin...

The Former Prefect: Cardinal Francis Arinze

The New Prefect: Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera

The new Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has been named by Pope Benedict XVI. To no one's particular surprise he has appointed Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera of Toledo (Spain). The new Prefect has a reputation for conservatism that has earned him the nickname "little Ratzinger." This would seem to be very much in line with the Pope's much rumored agenda for a "reform of the reform" of the liturgy.

Benedict has been sharply critical of various aspects of the liturgical reform that occurred in the wake of Vatican II. Since acending to the See of Peter he has suported a return to more traditional Catholic liturgical practices such as Mass celebrated Ad Orientem, kneeling for communion and an increased use of Latin in parts of the Mass with a special emphasis on Gregorian chant. In July of 2007 he issued a Motu Proprio lifting most restrictions on the use of the Roman Missal of 1962 (often referred to as the Tridentine rite).

Monday, December 08, 2008

Tis the Season...

My schedule is becoming increasing hectic. As of about an hour ago my two days off this week have been canceled and I expect to be working pretty much every day for the next couple of weeks. Since I am likely going to have entirely too much free time after Christmas I am taking the hours I can get now without complaint. I still expect to blog, but posting may be somewhat erratic depending on schedules and what else needs to be done.

Wishing all a joyous Advent (or tolerable Nativity Fast)...


P.S. I have received a number of emails from readers, and I am getting worse than usual about replying in a timely manner. Please forgive me.

The Passing of a Blog

The blogger known as Eirenikon (see the link in the sidebar) has announced that he is closing up shop. This is not terribly surprising as the blog has been inactive for sometime, but it is still sad. It was an excellent blog with some very thoughtful discussions there on issues relating to the relationship (or lack thereof) between Orthodoxy and the Roman Catholic Church. I will be leaving the link in the side bar for those interested in perusing the archives.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Erasing the "G" Word

God Bless America

Normally, I'm for keeping church and state out of each other's business as much as humanly possible, mostly to protect religion from government intrusion and idolatry, but also to protect us from zealots who think Jesus wears an American flag lapel pin.

Inserting "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance and adding "In God We Trust" to our money diminishes religious faith, which recognizes no national borders or economic systems. And it disrespects America's pluralistic promise.

But lately, I'm beginning to think that evangelical Christians who are complaining about the "War on God in America" have a point.

"There's a terrible movement to rewrite our history and obscure our faith," J. Randy Forbes, a Republican congressman from Virginia, told the National Review this week.

I don't know about a movement, but things are getting a bit suspicious.

Take the new $621 million capitol Visitor Center, which opened this week to mixed reviews. Among the critics were Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican who several weeks ago noticed that something was missing from a center's replica of the House Speaker's rostrum. The words "In God We Trust" -- engraved over the actual rostrum in 1962 -- were not included in the replica.

The center identified "E. Pluribus Unum" (rather than "In God We Trust") as the official national motto. Displays deleted these words from Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance; "Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind..."; and the words "in the Year of Our Lord" from Article 7 of the Constitution.

Read the rest here.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Some kind words from the Roman Bloggosphere

Rocco Palmo, a well known Catholic blogger, has posted the text of Pope Benedict XVI's unusually personal (and frankly moving) letter of condolence to the Holy Synod of the Russian Church on the death of Patriarch Alexei. He also has written a really nice article about the election of Metropolitan Jonah as the new Primate of the OCA. I reccomend both.

Memory Eternal: Alexii Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

His Holiness has reposed at the age of 79. May his memory be eternal!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Is the Worst Over? "No" says Peter Schiff

The man who was laughed at over the last 2-3 yrs for predicting the current economic crisis (see the previous post) made an appearance on CSNBC on November 20th. When asked if the worst was over he gave a frankly grim prediction for the future. This man has been dead on in his predictions thus far and his prognostications for the next couple years sound pretty well reasoned to me. I really hope that he is wrong this time. But I would not put money on it. Not even a dollar that might not be worth the paper it's printed on.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Something is rotten in Finland

I am not going to belabor this excessively since it has been addressed by Owen the Ochlophobist. However it appears that some really serious problems are cropping up in the small Finnish Orthodox Church. The most serious is what appears to be an openly pro-homosexualist cadre of clergy, some of whom are very close to Archbishop Leo (the primate), that is pushing all kinds of liberal heresy. As Owen's post makes clear, the Russian Church is taking official note of this and does not appear disposed to ignore the efforts of some to create an Orthodox equivalent to the Epsicopal Church.

I hope that the world's other Orthodox churches will send messages of support to the Russian Synod and Patriarch Alexei in this matter while also urging Archbishop Leo to firmly address the very serious problems that appear to be threatening the church given to his care. It would be nice if the Ecumenical Patriarch (who seems always to be looking for reasons to intrude into the canonical territory of other Orthodox churches), would lend his support to this as well. For the canonical Primus Inter Pares this would seem to be the kind of situation that the Fathers had in mind for the exercise of a true Orthodox primacy.

I encourage all to read Owen's post linked above. Also check out the comments there for some links to other related reports.