Saturday, February 28, 2009

On the threshold of the Great Fast

A few quick items as we start gearing up for Lent...

First I would like to bump an outstanding article over at Mike Liccione's blog on the danger posed by Jihadists. If you haven't read it, you need to. His preceding article on confession isn't bad either. And I particularly like the picture.

Secondly for any who are or may be in the Central Valley of California during the first weekend of Lent I would like to invite you to a Lenten retreat to be held at St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church in Merced on Friday March 6th at 7 PM and Saturday the 7th at 8:30 AM. The guest speaker will be Fr.Meletios Webber, the Abbot of St. John's Monastery. He is by all accounts an excellent speaker. Later on Saturday Fr. Meletios will also be the principal speaker at a Conference on Orthodox Christian Faith and Life to be held at St. Peter the Apostle Serbian Orthodox Church in Fresno from 1 - 6 PM. Q&A to follow all of the conferences. Fast friendly refreshments will be served following the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon events. Additionally St. Peter's is hosting the Central Valley's annual Pan Orthodox Vesper service for the Sunday of Orthodoxy. These events are free and open to the public.

Finally, as has been my custom since since I started blogging, I will be scaling back on the internet during Lent. I do not however expect to go completely offline as I more or less did last year. Still readers should expect reduced posting and delays (worse than usual) in replying to private emails. Barring something really significant that is also time sensitive there will be no new posts after tomorrow until Thursday at the earliest. In addition I expect that I will be traveling a great deal during Lent this year which will further impact my blogging and correspondence. Your prayers are coveted and appreciated.

"All bishops are Auxiliary bishops..." ???

From the recent single issue meeting of the Holy Synod of Antioch...



Article 75: The Patriarch is the reference point of all bishops in Damascus, Patriarchal Monasteries and Vicariates; and they are under his authority[.]

Article 76: The Metropolitan is the point of reference of all bishops in his Archdiocese and they are under his authority.

Article 77: All bishops within the Antiochian See are auxiliary bishops and are directly under their spiritual authority.

Article 78: The Metropolitan defines the responsibilities of the bishops and the place where they should serve. The bishop does not do anything contrary to the will of the Metropolitan.

Article 79: The aforementioned articles 75, 76, 77 and 78 are applicable in all Antiochian Archdioceses and whatever contradicts these articles is null and void.

Issued by the Holy Synod of Antioch, Damascus, February 24, 2009

Signed by:

His Beatitude, IGNATIUS IV, Patriarch

His Eminence, ILYAS, Tripoli

His Eminence, ELIA, Hama

His Eminence, ELIAS, Tyre and Sidon

His Eminence, GEORGE, Homs

His Eminence, PAUL, Australia

His Eminence, DAMASKINOS, Brazil

His Eminence, ESPER, Houran

His Eminence, BASILIOS, Akkar


Does anyone have any idea what is going on here? My warning radar is flashing red right now. Maybe it is a false alarm.

Hat tip to Bill (aka The Godfather)

Friday, February 27, 2009

And now for something a little different...

Modern day Krakatoa

OK. This article has absolutely nothing to do with anything I normally blog about. No politics, religion or social issues and the history is incidental. To be honest it's something I have a hard time imagining I would go looking up barring a bad case of insomnia. But the article was featured on refdesk, my favorite omnibus website and the home page for my browser. And somehow I got sucked into it. My interest in geology ranks right up there with my interest in periodic tables and other things I was forced to memorize in High School. I did take a geology course in college which thanks to a remarkable professor was actually somewhat interesting. But again it's not really my cup of tea. So don't ask me why this particular article grabbed my attention. But it did.

Krakatoa (Indonesian: Krakatau), also spelled Krakatao, is a volcanic island in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra in Indonesia. The name is used for the island group, the main island (also called Rakata), and the volcano as a whole.


Further information: 1883 eruption of Krakatoa

Its best known eruption culminated in a series of massive explosions on August 26–27, 1883, which was among the most violent volcanic events in modern times. With a Volcanic Explosivity Index of 6,[2] it was equivalent to 200 megatons of TNT — about 13,000 times the yield of the Little Boy bomb (13 to 16 KT) that devastated Hiroshima, Japan, and four times the yield of the Tsar Bomba (50 MT), the largest nuclear weapon ever built. The 1883 eruption ejected approximately 21 cubic kilometres (5.0 cu mi) of rock, ash, and pumice,[3] and generated the loudest sound historically reported: the cataclysmic explosion was distinctly heard as far away as Perth in Australia approx. 1,930 miles (3,110 km), and the island of Rodrigues near Mauritius approx. 3,000 miles (5,000 km) distant. Near Krakatoa, according to official records, 165 villages and towns were destroyed and 132 seriously damaged, at least 36,417 (official toll) people died, and many thousands were injured by the eruption, mostly from the tsunamis that followed the explosion. The eruption destroyed two-thirds of the island of Krakatoa.

Eruptions at the volcano since 1927 have built a new island in the same location, named Anak Krakatau (Indonesian: "Child of Krakatoa"). This island currently has a radius of roughly 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) and a high point around 300 metres (980 ft) above sea level, growing 5 metres (16 ft) each year. [1]

Read the whole article.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Remember, thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return...

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Wishing all of my western brothers and sisters a blessed Lent.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A different kind of war movie

I watch such a minimal amount of TV that if the tube were liquor I'd probably be called a teetotaler. And if I get to the movies more than twice a year it’s kind of unusual. That said last night I got to see, courtesy of a friend who has HBO and a recorder, a war movie. One thing which I will say upfront is "Taking Chance" is not your typical war flick.

This is a movie that has no political axe to grind. It is neither pro nor anti war. There is no violence (other than to one's emotions), no sex, and no over the top language. The plot is simple and you know how the film is going to end within the first few minutes. It is the story of the last journey home of PFC Chance Phelps USMC to the small town from whence he hailed, to be buried at the gut wrenching age of 19.

Taking Chance is based almost entirely on the written journal of Lt. Colonel Mike Strobl USMC who, for reasons explained in the film, volunteered to serve as the military escort that accompanied Chance home to his family and the soil of his native Wyoming. This is a movie that is about sacrifice and honor, but perhaps most importantly the respect shown by our country from the military to ordinary people all across the land for those who have given everything so that we don't have to. It is one of the most sobering movies I have seen in years. I was warned in advance that the film was likely to be emotional. But being most decidedly not the touchy feely type I was unconcerned. (It was purely coincidence that my allergies chose that period of time to shift into high gear and irritate my eyes to the point where I found it necessary to keep a box of tissues next to me throughout the film.)

I can not recommend this movie too highly and I respectfully ask fellow bloggers to bump it. Chance Phelps was killed in action on Good Friday (western calendar) 2004. He was posthumously promoted to Lance Corporal and awarded the Bronze Star for heroism in battle. May his memory and that of all those who have given their lives for our country be eternal!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

California: The land of narcissism

For decades, California has epitomized America's economic strengths: technological excellence, artistic creativity, agricultural fecundity and an intrepid entrepreneurial spirit. Yet lately California has projected a grimmer vision of a politically divided, economically stagnant state. Last week its legislature cut a deal to close its $42 billion budget deficit, but its larger problems remain.

California has returned from the dead before, most recently in the mid-1990s. But the odds that the Golden State can reinvent itself again seem long. The buffoonish current governor and a legislature divided between hysterical greens, public-employee lackeys and Neanderthal Republicans have turned the state into a fiscal laughingstock. Meanwhile, more of its middle class migrates out while a large and undereducated underclass (much of it Latino) faces dim prospects. It sometimes seems the people running the state have little feel for the very things that constitute its essence—and could allow California to reinvent itself, and the American future, once again.

The facts at hand are pretty dreary. California entered the recession early last year, according to the Forecast Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is expected to lag behind the nation well into 2011. Unemployment stands at roughly 10 percent, ahead only of Rust Belt basket cases like Michigan and East Coast calamity Rhode Island. Not surprisingly, people are fleeing this mounting disaster. Net outmigration has been growing every year since about 2003 and should reach well over 200,000 by 2011. This outflow would be far greater, notes demographer Wendell Cox, if not for the fact that many residents can't sell their homes and are essentially held prisoner by their mortgages...

For those of us on the left coast this is a pretty good read. I could and do quibble with some of the author's points. I happen to think the Governor is one of the few rational people in Sacramento (though he has an ego that is bigger than the state). But broadly speaking I think he nails it on the head.

Read it all here.

An Apology

Back on December 21st 2007 I posted a couple of photos from a newspaper article in Kentucky, one of an Orthodox icon corner and the other of some Wiccan religious paraphernalia with both being in the same house. In the rather short post I questioned the circumstances that would permit these two things, which seemed rather mutually exclusive, to coexist in an Orthodox home. Recently I received via Fr. David an email from the lady whose home was the subject of the photos.

In her email she explained (which she should not have had to) that her marriage predated her conversion and the Church accepted her reception into Orthodoxy without blessing the marriage as an act of economy in the same way things were done in the early days of the Church when there were religiously mixed marriages with pagans. After reviewing the post it is clear that the judgmental tone in my wording was frankly inappropriate. To be blunt, the domestic arrangements of others is not and should not be my or anyone else's concern outside of their confessor / spiritual father. I am deeply embarrassed by my lack of consideration and I repent of my presumptuous commentary. The offending post has been deleted from the blog. In closing I ask the forgiveness of the lady who was understandably offended as also any others whom I may have offended at any time in my posts or comments.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ultramontanism lives

With the caveat that I am (really) an admirer of Benedict XVI; if you want an example (albeit extreme) of why Orthodox sometimes say that the Roman Catholic Church has only one bishop and a large number of mitred papal legates take a look at this essay over at Rorate Caeli and then glance at the comments. That said the RCC, especially in much of Western Europe has gone so far off the rails that they desperately need someone with the authority to crack the proverbial whip. I think the Roman Church has gone for so long as a one man show that if the papacy ever reverted to its proper role there would be complete anarchy. What a mess.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Times (of London) Ranks America's Presidents

The Times of London recently ranked all 42 U.S. Presidents. Many of their choices were not surprising. A few were (and a couple I actually agreed with). You can read their list here. My rankings* are below. Feel free to share your own rankings or comment on theirs (or mine). One note I will make is that it appears some of the Times' historians ranked the presidents in part on activities that occurred outside of their terms as president. I confine my judgments of their administrations to what they did while in office.

1. Abraham Lincoln: OK. He came uncomfortably close to being a dictator, but he saved the Union. And he had the good fortune of being assassinated at the moment of his supreme triumph. Had he lived and had to deal with the messy issues of Reconstruction I have my doubts as to whether he would still occupy the # 1 slot.

2. George Washington: Father of the country and a man who’s near every action has become the guidepost for the conduct of presidents since. He was one of the most honorable men to walk God's Earth.

3. Franklin Roosevelt: He may have saved the country from revolution or worse in the height of the Great Depression. He gave hope in one of our nation's darkest hours and had the foresight to prepare the country for its involvement in the Second World War. He may have been the most gifted politician to occupy the White House.

4. Ronald Reagan: Few presidents can claim to have fundamentally shifted the political culture of the nation. Reagan is one of them. He said government was not the solution it was the problem and the era of big government liberalism effectively came to an end for 28 years.

5. Theodore Roosevelt: Or as some refer to him… the good Roosevelt. Teddy was our nation’s first modern president and he pushed through urgently needed social and economic reforms.

6. Dwight D. Eisenhower: He played nuclear poker with the Reds and beat em every time. He also was a great centrist president who got along well with people from both parties and provided a very badly needed period of normalcy after the war and depression years.

7. James K. Polk. He stole Texas and large parts of California and the south-west from Mexico and made em like it. Not really something I am too proud of, but hey he got away with it.

8. Harry Truman: One of the few true “ordinary Joes” to become president. He made his share of mistakes but his decision to revive the issue of civil rights in the teeth of bitter opposition from his own party’s southern wing scores big points with me. I am inclined to call Truman the last good Democrat.

9. John Adams: A bit of an authoritarian, but unlike Jefferson he knew how to make other countries respect American sovereignty.

10. William McKinley: I am not a fan of imperialism. But if you’re gonna build an empire you could do a lot worse than what Bill McKinley pulled off. His domestic politics were moderately progressive for the time. But he had the misfortune of being succeeded (and eclipsed) by Theodore Roosevelt, so no one noticed.

11. William Howard Taft: He never wanted to be president but let Teddy and his wife talk him into it. That said I think he is one of our more underrated presidents who actually signed more progressive legislation and prosecuted more anti-trust cases than T.R.

12. Lyndon Johnson: It has been said of LBJ that he got us into two wars (the war on poverty and Vietnam) and he lost both of them. But his record on civil rights makes up for a lot of that. I am no fan of big government liberalism, but Johnson finally completed the too long unfinished business of Reconstruction and made it forever clear that racism has no place in a civilized society.

13. James Monroe: There is a lot to be said for a president who knows how to get along with people and avoid a lot of partisan bickering. I think we could use a little more "era of good feelings."

14. Ulysses S. Grant: A relatively honest man who had the misfortune of presiding over one of the most breathtakingly corrupt (even by the fairly low standards of the late 19th century) administrations in history. His redemption comes from his aggressive efforts to protect minority rights in the southern states during Reconstruction.

15. John Q Adams: Noble ideas which mostly did not come to fruition. Though I do not count it in his ranking it must be noted he had a long and very distinguished career in Congress after the presidency.

16. James Madison: He tried to stand up to Britain for its policy of kidnapping American sailors on the high seas and impressing them into the Royal Navy. But he did so with no thought to what war would mean and no real preparation. The nation was left largely unarmed and defenseless by the Jefferson Administration and Madison did little to repair that deficiency in the roughly four years he was president before declaring war on England. It is a good thing the British were distracted by that short French fellow during most of the war or we would all be singing God Save the Queen at the start of the Super Bowl every year.

17. Thomas Jefferson: He doubled the size of the country and reduced the debt. He also let England kidnap thousands of American citizens with impunity and virtually disarmed the country while demanding foreign powers respect us. His neutrality and non-intercourse acts only serve to highlight his ignorance of economics and his naivete in foreign affairs. If someone wants to argue my ranking is generous I would have a hard time refuting it.

18. John F. Kennedy: A promising figure who never measured up to his soaring rhetoric. I feel uncomfortable passing judgment on him given the brief tenure of his administration, but his domestic program was mostly stalled in Congress and his sole foreign affairs triumph was the Test Ban Treaty. Unlike many historians I do not count the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 as a triumph but rather as evidence of a certain streak of recklessness. There is no possible way to justify bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war over the Russians doing what we had just done in Turkey. There were many ways that could have been handled differently with the same end result. Also certain aspects of his personal life including his notorious womanizing and his uncomfortably close connections to high ranking members of the Mafia would certainly have created a major political crisis and brought down his administration had they become publicly known at the time.

19. Chester Arthur: A surprisingly honest and independent president in an era not famous for producing such. He was the product of a notoriously corrupt political machine which he promptly ignored after becoming president and signed the first ever civil service reform legislation. He also is credited with founding the modern American Navy which had been allowed to deteriorate to the point of becoming a joke after the Civil War. Beyond which Arthur was a man who really knew how to enjoy life. He had a reputation as something of a Bon Vivante in Washington society with a taste for good food, wine and dancing with the ladies (he was a widower).

20. Calvin Coolidge: Probably the only true Jeffersonian to ever occupy the White House (including Jefferson). "Silent Cal" was the butt of scores of jokes and had a very dry New England Yankee wit of his own. He understood government's role was to leave people alone as much as possible and he was highly successful at it. He restored trust in honest government after the Harding scandals and enforced rigorous economy on the Federal Government. He was the last president to balance the budget every year he was in office, to never learn how to drive a car, to write all of his own speeches, and to refuse to allow a telephone in the oval office (he believed it was beneath the dignity of the President to talk on the contraption). While vacationing in the Dakotas in 1927 Coolidge came out one day and wordlessly handed out small pieces of paper to the press. On each piece of paper was the typewritten sentence "I do not choose to run for president in 1928." He never addressed the matter again.

21. Grover Cleveland: An honest man who did his best to curb corruption in a government where corruption was the norm.

22. Gerald R. Ford: An extremely decent man who had the misfortune of following a man who was much less so, Ford restored much trust and dignity to the office that he had never aspired to. His pardon of Richard Nixon unjustly cost him the election of 1976. He remains the only man never to be elected either president or vice-president to hold the office.

23. George H. W. Bush: Another decent man and an above average statesman, he was too often bored by ordinary politics and domestic issues. He disliked the partisan nastiness in Washington and never seemed to relate well with ordinary Americans.

24. Bill Clinton: “Slick Willy” was an average president who could have been much more. He was certainly one of the more gifted politicians to occupy the White House. But he never seemed able to think big. And the reckless nature of his personal life ultimately crippled his presidency.

25. Warren Harding: Often listed near the bottom of presidents I think he has been treated a bit more roughly than he deserves. Harding was a moderate Republican who fit in well with the expectations of the American public. He was the first president to promote arms limitations by hosting the Washington Navy Treaty talks which resulted in the treaty of the same name in 1923. Sadly, like Grant he was not a good judge of character when filling government offices.

26. Zachary Taylor: A very short presidency but one that might have taken a decisive step towards a constitutional abolition of slavery had he lived.

27: Andrew Johnson: A mean spirited drunk and bigot he nevertheless tried to let the South up easy after the Civil War. But he had no interest at all in protecting the freed slaves.

28. Rutherford B. Hayes: His election signaled the end of Reconstruction and the death knell of civil rights for blacks until the Truman Administration revived the issue.

29. Benjamin Harrison: An administration marked by four years of mismanagement and cronyism, he left the Treasury in rough shape.

30. John Tyler: The first vice president to succeed after the death of his predecessor. His actions set the precedent which has been followed since.

31. Herbert Hoover: The “great humanitarian” as he was ironically known before becoming president meant well, but his incompetence helped turn what would have been a nasty recession into the greatest economic catastrophe of modern history. To his credit Hoover was the first president to affirm the responsibility of the Federal Government to help people in distress through no fault of their own. But his mismanagement of the depression condemns him to the bottom ten list.

32. Franklin Pierce: Jefferson Davis thought well of him.

33. Martin Van Buren: A nonentity who played the role of a nonentity well.

34. Millard Fillmore: His birthday is a popular occasion for parties each year on the campus of the State University of New York at Buffalo (Fillmore’s hometown).

35. Andrew Jackson: Putting the president “of the common man” in the bottom 10 is going to be controversial. Oh well, that’s what I live for. The only way Jackson could be called an advocate of the common man is if you were not female, black, Indian, Catholic, Jewish or a foreign immigrant. Jackson was a mean bigot whose only use for blacks was as slaves. And that’s more than can be said for Indians for whom he had no use at all. His mass deportation of the Cherokee Indians in violation of a ruling by the Supreme Court was one of the most ignominious and despicable acts in our country’s history. Twice he vetoed bank bills which helped lay the groundwork for the economic disaster that would befall the nation under his successor. Though admirable, his stand against threats of secession does not make up for his many shortcomings.

36. Jimmy Carter: One of the finest ex-presidents we have had and one of the most incompetent presidents. Carter’s foreign policy was one of unadulterated liberal idealism which had no connection at all with the real world. During his administration the United States were repeatedly subject to humiliations by foreign powers and our armed forces sank into the most appalling state of disrepair and low moral since before the Second World War. His economic policies left the nation suffering from the worst recession in the post war era (up until the present depression).

37. Richard Nixon: This was a tough call given who I decided to rank just under him. But in the end I concluded that Nixon’s administration was only incompetent when it came to breaking the law and public corruption, unlike…

38. George W. Bush: Whose administration was breathtakingly incompetent in so many areas it’s hard to know where to begin. The total disregard for the rule of law by this administration though is what ultimately lands it near the bottom of my rankings.

39. James Buchanan: Again, this was a tough call. Buchanan almost always ranks at the bottom of every historian’s list of presidents. And there will no doubt be cries of heresy over who I have put in his place. Buchanan nearly lost the country in the last few months of his presidency and did nothing to prevent the crisis. Other than that one could argue he was not a horrible president. He also has the distinction of being our only bachelor president and quite probably the only homosexual to hold the office.

40. Woodrow Wilson: I detest Wilson for most of the reasons that the Times and all the liberal weenies love him (and a few others on the side). Woodrow Wilson was a self absorbed man with a messianic complex that in any ordinary person would have caused others to question his mental faculties. He was so absolutely convinced that he knew what the world needed that he dragged the United States into a war we had no business being in and got a quarter of a million Americans killed. In the process of arbitrarily creating the new world order according to his own judgments after the war, he was the prime instigator in dismantling most of Europe’s old order and replacing it with a hodge podge of states that had little cohesion and no real foundation. As just one example, the perpetual crisis in the Balkans in the 90’s is a direct consequence of the dismantling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which had maintained a semblance of order among its vast and diverse populace. The Second World War is something which must at least in part be laid at Wilson’s feet. Had we stayed out of the First World War it would have ended with a German victory (distasteful, but again none of our business) and the complete catastrophe of the treaty of Versailles would most likely have been avoided.

Wilson was a bigot who quickly broke his campaign pledge on taking office and issued an executive order segregating the civil service on racial lines. During the war he exercised powers that Lincoln could only have dreamed of and sharply curtailed freedom of speech and the press. He jailed any who dared to criticize his administration or the war. Wilson’s obsessions with the war also lead directly to the suppression of most serious efforts to deal with the crisis of the influenza pandemic in the Fall of 1918. This lead to the deaths of more than 700,000 Americans, almost three times as many as were killed by the Kaisers army.

And finally on a very petty point of peevishness I note that it was Wilson’s Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, an outspoken white supremacist and puritanical Methodist (yes there were such things at one time), who on taking office in 1913 swiftly moved to abolish the immemorial custom of the daily ration of rum for all enlisted men in the Navy. Mr. Daniels was one of the movers and shakers behind what would eventually become Prohibition. To this day all Navy ships are dry and remain the last vestige of Federally enforced prohibition.

*Note: William Henry Harrison and James A Garfield both were in office for less than six months and I believe can not be fairly ranked.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rise in Jobless Poses Threat to Stability Worldwide

PARIS — From lawyers in Paris to factory workers in China and bodyguards in Colombia, the ranks of the jobless are swelling rapidly across the globe.

Worldwide job losses from the recession that started in the United States in December 2007 could hit a staggering 50 million by the end of 2009, according to the International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency. The slowdown has already claimed 3.6 million American jobs.

High unemployment rates, especially among young workers, have led to protests in countries as varied as Latvia, Chile, Greece, Bulgaria and Iceland and contributed to strikes in Britain and France.

Last month, the government of Iceland, whose economy is expected to contract 10 percent this year, collapsed and the prime minister moved up national elections after weeks of protests by Icelanders angered by soaring unemployment and rising prices.

Just last week, the new United States director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, told Congress that instability caused by the global economic crisis had become the biggest security threat facing the United States, outpacing terrorism.

“Nearly everybody has been caught by surprise at the speed in which unemployment is increasing, and are groping for a response,” said Nicolas Véron, a fellow at Bruegel, a research center in Brussels that focuses on Europe’s role in the global economy.

Read the rest here.

Peter Schiff: "People did not want to hear that there is no Santa Claus"

I can't imagine why anyone would call him Dr. Doom.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bush is gone and Venezuela's dictator needs a new scapegoat

Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez

VENEZUELAN President Hugo Chávez, who says he intends to remain in office for decades to come, lost a referendum 14 months ago that would have removed the constitutional limit on his tenure. When he announced another referendum in December, the first polls showed him losing again by a wide margin. Yet, as Sunday's vote approaches, his government is predicting victory -- and some polls show him with a narrow advantage.

How did Latin America's self-styled "Bolivarian revolutionary" turn his fortunes around? Not through rational argument, it is fair to say. Mr. Chávez's regime has mounted a propaganda and intimidation campaign of a ferocity rarely seen in Latin America since the region returned to democracy 25 years ago. Pro-Chávez rhetoric dominates the national airwaves, from which opposition voices have been almost entirely excluded. Pro-government thugs have targeted student demonstrations, the home of an opposition journalist and the Vatican's embassy, which gave shelter to one student leader.

Then there is the assault on Venezuela's Jewish community -- which seems to have replaced George W. Bush as Mr. Chávez's favorite foil. After Israel's offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip last month, the caudillo expelled Israel's ambassador and described Israel's actions in Gaza as "genocide." Then Mr. Chávez turned on Venezuela's Jews. "Let's hope that the Venezuelan Jewish community will declare itself against this barbarity," Mr. Chávez bellowed on a government-controlled television channel. "Don't Jews repudiate the Holocaust? And this is precisely what we're witnessing."

Government media quickly took up the chorus. One television host close to Mr. Chávez blamed opposition demonstrations on two students he said had Jewish last names. On a pro-government Web site, another commentator demanded that citizens "publicly challenge every Jew that you find in the street, shopping center or park" and called for a boycott of Jewish-owned businesses, seizures of Jewish-owned property and a demonstration at Caracas's largest synagogue. On Jan. 30 the synagogue was duly attacked by a group of thugs, who spray-painted "Jews get out" on the walls and confiscated a registry of members. Mr. Chávez denied responsibility; days later, the attorney general's office said that 11 people detained in connection with the attack included five police officers and a police intelligence operative.

It is fair to infer that Mr. Chávez doesn't care to dwell on more mundane domestic issues in Venezuela. The oil-based economy is crashing; inflation, at over 30 percent, is the highest in Latin America, and shortages of basic goods are common. Venezuela ranks 158th out of 180 countries in a global corruption index, and its murder rate has tripled under Mr. Chávez, making Caracas one of the most dangerous cities in the world. If Mr. Chávez loses the referendum, he could very well join the country's eclipse, which appears likely to accelerate in the next year or two. Apparently, he's already decided whom to blame.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

200 Years Ago Today

Abraham Lincoln born February 12, 1809

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

-A. Lincoln at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
November 19, 1863

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Religious Blog Awards competition heats up

I think Caroline Cannonball has hired Karl Rove as her campaign manager. No response yet from the Fr. Z campaign.

Sad News

I have been informed that Roman Catholic blogger Michael Dubruiel the husband of Amy Welborn (a well known blogger in her own right) reposed suddenly this morning. Please keep Amy and the children in your prayers as they cope with this terrible loss.

May his memory be eternal.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Black And Whistling Dixie

Nelson W. Winbush of Kissimmee FL, whose grandfather fought for the Confederacy.

This from the AP today.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A black state senator is pushing a bill that would require South Carolina cities and counties to give their workers a paid day off for Confederate Memorial Day or lose millions in state funds.

Democratic Sen. Robert Ford's bill won initial approval from a Senate subcommittee Tuesday. It would force county and municipal governments to follow the schedule of holidays used by the state, which gives workers 12 paid days off, including May 10 to honor Confederate war dead. Mississippi and Alabama also recognize Confederate Memorial Day.

Years ago, Ford said, he pushed a bill to make both that day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day paid holidays. He considered it an effort to help people understand the history of both the civil rights movement and the Confederacy in a state where the Orders of Secession are engraved in marble in the Statehouse lobby, portraits of Confederate generals look down on legislators in their chambers and the Confederate flag flies outside.

"Every municipality and every citizen of South Carolina, should be, well, forced to respect these two days and learn what they can about those two particular parts of our history," Ford said Tuesday.

Read the rest here.

Although certainly rare, this sort of thing is not completely unknown.

From the St. Petersburg Times October 7th 2007...

KISSIMMEE -- Nelson Winbush rotates a miniature flag holder he keeps on his mantel, imagining how the banners would appear in a Civil War battle.

The Stars and Bars, he explains, looked too much like the Union flag to prevent friendly fire. The Confederacy responded by fashioning the distinctive Southern Cross -- better known as the rebel flag.

Winbush, 78, is a retired assistant principal with a master's degree, a thoughtful man whose world view developed from listening to his grandfather's stories about serving the South in the "War Between the States."

His grandfather's casket was draped with a Confederate flag. His mother pounded out her Confederate heritage on a typewriter. He wears a rebel flag pinned to the collar of his polo shirt.

Winbush is also black.

"You've never seen nothing like me, have you?"

Read the whole story.

First, I'm a Yankee born and bread whose ancestors wore the blue uniform (one gave an arm for the Union at Gettysburg). And yea I do find the idea of African-Americans standing up for the Confederacy more than a little odd. But as they say, it's a free country. And while, I have read some Neo-Confederate apologetics, and concede that a strict construction of the Constitution may have given states a right to secede; I find the argument that the defense of slavery was not the primary motive behind the South's decision to exercise that right, to be spurious at best.

All of this said, I respect the efforts by (most) Southerners to preserve their heritage as long as they present it honestly. I think it unreasonable of some to demand that an entire group of people go forth and collectively spit on the graves of their ancestors. Most soldiers in the Confederate Army did not own slaves and were not fighting for or against the institution. In their minds they were mainly fighting for the right to be left alone. Those seeking to vilify the soldiers of the Confederacy would do well to consider the complexity of Southern society in that day and age. It was not nearly as monolithic as some would have us believe. And then of course we must also bear in mind the caution about attempting to pass moral judgments on persons of another era according to our modern societal norms. That is a dangerous and slippery slope.

Church or Correctional Facility?

Ahh the ugly church contest. Head over to Crescat and take your best guess. I am wondering what the answers are. Frankly I think they all have the aesthetic charm of a Greyhound Bus Station.