Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Quote of the day...

What if you were the reason a person refused to come back to Christ? What if your self-righteous, judgemental, dogmatic, theologically correct attitude repelled a soul from accepting Church teaching, from reconciling with the Church, from faith itself? What if they were just on the edge of conversion and one of your contemptuous sneers, caustic remarks, or hostile snubs drove them away? That is one aspect of what Jesus is talking about when he warned against "scandalizing one of these little ones".
Hat Tip: The Crescat

Lord have mercy.

Alleged Russian spy jumps bail

File this under what a surprise...
An international hunt is under way after Christopher Metsos, the alleged paymaster of the deep cover Russian spy ring, skipped bail in Cyprus.

The Cypriot police issued an arrest warrant when Metsos failed to report to a police station in Larnaca, a condition of his bail after he was detained on an international arrest warrant issued by the FBI.

However, the Americans, who were astonished that Metsos was freed on bail in the first place, will be working on the assumption that he has been whisked out of the country by the Russian intelligence service. One potential route of escape is via the Turkish-run enclave in northern Cyprus which is not recognised by the US or most other countries.

Metsos, 56, is alleged to be the go-between for the 10 other alleged Russian agents in the spy ring. He is accused of receiving money from a Russian agent then burying it in a park in northern Virginia for the other spies to retrieve.

Last night Michalis Papathanasiou, his lawyer in Cyprus, said: "I haven't heard from him at all. He had agreed to call me between 3pm and 4pm this afternoon but failed to do so. How can I represent him if I have no instructions?"
Read the rest here.

World Governments Cut Spending

The world’s rich countries are now conducting a dangerous experiment. They are repeating an economic policy out of the 1930s — starting to cut spending and raise taxes before a recovery is assured — and hoping today’s situation is different enough to assure a different outcome.

In effect, policy makers are betting that the private sector can make up for the withdrawal of stimulus over the next couple of years. If they’re right, they will have made a head start on closing their enormous budget deficits. If they’re wrong, they may set off a vicious new cycle, in which public spending cuts weaken the world economy and beget new private spending cuts.

On Tuesday, pessimism seemed the better bet. Stocks fell around the world, over worries about economic growth.

Longer term, though, it’s still impossible to know which prediction will turn out to be right. You can find good evidence to support either one.

The private sector in many rich countries has continued to grow at a fairly good clip in recent months. In the United States, wages, total hours worked, industrial production and corporate profits have all risen significantly. And unlike in the 1930s, developing countries are now big enough that their growth can lift other countries’ economies.

On the other hand, the most recent economic numbers have offered some reason for worry, and the coming fiscal tightening in this country won’t be much smaller than the 1930s version. From 1936 to 1938, when the Roosevelt administration believed that the Great Depression was largely over, tax increases and spending declines combined to equal 5 percent of gross domestic product.

Back then, however, European governments were raising their spending in the run-up to World War II. This time, almost the entire world will be withdrawing its stimulus at once. From 2009 to 2011, the tightening in the United States will equal 4.6 percent of G.D.P., according to the International Monetary Fund. In Britain, even before taking into account the recently announced budget cuts, it was set to equal 2.5 percent. Worldwide, it will equal a little more than 2 percent of total output.
Read the rest here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Is there a Roman Catholic Church in Austria?

VIENNA — A survey of 500 Austrian parish priests indicates that 79 per cent think the Catholic church should allow married men to be ordained.

The telephone survey — commissioned by Austrian broadcaster ORF — also found that 51 per cent of those questioned say women should be allowed to become priests.

Austria, where an estimated 65 per cent of the population is Catholic, has in recent years become known as the centre of a movement to liberalize the church.

A summary of the survey released Monday also said 51 per cent of the respondents say the Vatican does a poor job handling sexual abuse cases.


From Owen the Ochlophobist.

Breaking News: US arrests 10 for spying for Russia

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ten people have been arrested for allegedly serving as secret agents of the Russian government with the goal of penetrating U.S. government policymaking circles.

The Justice Department announced the arrests Monday.

According to court papers in the case, the U.S. government intercepted a message from Russian intelligence headquarters in Moscow to two of the defendants. The message states that their main mission is ''to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US'' and send intelligence reports.

This is breaking news and more details will be reported by the major press and media shortly.

Schools Need Not Recognize Groups That Discriminate

WASHINGTON — A public law school did not violate the First Amendment by withdrawing recognition from a Christian student group that excluded gay and lesbian students, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in a 5-to-4 decision.

The case, involving a clash between religious freedom and anti-discrimination principles, divided along familiar ideological lines, with the court’s four more liberal members and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in the majority.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority, said that it was constitutionally permissible for public institutions of higher education to require recognized student groups to accept all students who wished to participate in them.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the four dissenters, said the decision represented a triumph for the principle that there is “no freedom for expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country’s institutions of higher learning.”
Read the rest here.

Parents appeal to European Court of Human Rights after Sweden seizes home-schooled child

STRASBOURG, France, June 28, 2010 ( — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights Friday asking it to hear the case of a seven-year-old boy seized by Swedish authorities because his parents homeschool.

“Parents have the right and authority to make decisions regarding their children’s education without government interference,” said ADF Legal Counsel Roger Kiska, who is based in Europe. “A government trying to create a cookie-cutter child in its own image should not be allowed to violate this basic and fundamental human right.

"The refusal of Swedish authorities to respect that right has left us no choice but to take this case to the European Court of Human Rights.”

Swedish authorities forcibly removed Dominic Johansson from his parents, Christer and Annie Johansson, in June 2009 from a plane they had boarded to move to Annie’s home country of India. The officials did not have a warrant nor have they charged the Johanssons with any crime. The officials, say ADF lawyers, seized the child because they believe homeschooling is an inappropriate way to raise a child and insist the government should raise Dominic instead.
Read the rest here.

Vatican Rebukes Austrian Cardinal

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The Vatican issued an unprecedented public rebuke Monday of a leading cardinal who had questioned the church's policy of celibacy and openly criticized the retired Vatican No. 2 for his handling of clerical sex abuse cases.

In a statement, the Vatican said only the pope can make such accusations against a cardinal, not another so-called prince of the church.

In April, Vienna's archbishop, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, accused the former Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, of blocking a probe into a sex abuse scandal that rocked Austria's church 15 years ago.

Schoenborn also accused Sodano of causing ''massive harm'' to victims when he dismissed claims of clerical abuse as ''petty gossip'' on Easter Sunday.

Schoenborn has been a leading figure in the abuse crisis, forcefully denouncing abuse, presiding over service of reparations for victims and openly calling for an honest examination of issues like celibacy.

Schoenborn's comments about Sodano were remarkable in that they were directed at Pope John Paul II's No. 2, who has already come under fire for his alleged stonewalling of a Vatican investigation into the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, who was found to have abused seminarians and fathered at least three children.

Sodano still wields enormous influence in Vatican circles as the dean of the College of Cardinals.
Read the rest here.

Paul Krugman: We are in the early stages of a major depression

Recessions are common; depressions are rare. As far as I can tell, there were only two eras in economic history that were widely described as “depressions” at the time: the years of deflation and instability that followed the Panic of 1873 and the years of mass unemployment that followed the financial crisis of 1929-31.

Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline — on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.

We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.
Read the rest here.

RBS warns of massive money printing

Entitled "Deflation: Making Sure It Doesn’t Happen Here", it is a warfare manual for defeating economic slumps by use of extreme monetary stimulus once interest rates have dropped to zero, and implicitly once governments have spent themselves to near bankruptcy.

The speech is best known for its irreverent one-liner: "The US government has a technology, called a printing press, that allows it to produce as many US dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost."

Bernanke began putting the script into action after the credit system seized up in 2008, purchasing $1.75 trillion of Treasuries, mortgage securities, and agency bonds to shore up the US credit system. He stopped far short of the $5 trillion balance sheet quietly pencilled in by the Fed Board as the upper limit for quantitative easing (QE).

Investors basking in Wall Street's V-shaped rally had assumed that this bizarre episode was over. So did the Fed, which has been shutting liquidity spigots one by one. But the latest batch of data is disturbing.

The ECRI leading indicator produced by the Economic Cycle Research Institute plummeted yet again last week to -6.9, pointing to contraction in the US by the end of the year. It is dropping faster that at any time in the post-War era.

The latest data from the CPB Netherlands Bureau shows that world trade slid 1.7pc in May, with the biggest fall in Asia. The Baltic Dry Index measuring freight rates on bulk goods has dropped 40pc in a month. This is a volatile index that can be distorted by the supply of new ships, but those who watch it as an early warning signal for China and commodities are nervous.

Andrew Roberts, credit chief at RBS, is advising clients to read the Bernanke text very closely (

because the Fed is soon going to have to the pull the lever on "monster" quantitative easing (QE)".
Read the rest here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A liturgical occurrence

I am visiting the family back in upstate New York for a little bit and today went off to the 9:30 AM divine liturgy at one of the eight(!) local Orthodox parishes that are within a convenient drive of my father's house. The liturgy was reasonably well attended for midsummer and was unremarkable until the time came for the last major censing by the deacon. The priest was at the altar with the doors open when suddenly a small boy, not more than four or five years old, broke loose from his parents and ran up towards the altar and... charged right through the doors and started tugging on the priests vestments.

I can now relate that the sudden and simultaneous intake of breath on the part of a hundred or more people creates a very distinctive sound. But the silence that followed was almost painful. The parents... visibly horrified seemed not sure of whether or not to rush up and add to the chaos in the sanctuary. This was coupled with a deep silence from everyone else frantically trying to avert their eyes from what was at the least surely going to prove a terrible embarrassment if not a major catastrophe.

Then in a few seconds the crisis was ended. The priest looked over his shoulder and after a moment of visible (and understandable) shock, smiled and I thought he was going to laugh. With a quick motion of his hand he called over the deacon who had been in the process of censing and calmly relieved the deacon of his censor. He then bent over and handed the censor to the little boy, showing him how to hold it and swing it, and then directed him to finish censing the iconostasis and assorted icon stands.

Off went the overjoyed little boy, with the deacon hot on his trail, happily censing everything that looked even remotely like an icon. OK OK he almost knocked over a candle stand but the deacon saved the day. After he was done the deacon relieved him of the censor and quietly guided the happiest child in the city back to his parents.

I have no idea how many church canons or liturgical rubrics were violated today. But I can tell you that there was not a dry eye in the church.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On the road again...

I am traveling over the next several days and there will be limited posting between now and Monday.

McChrystal sacked - Petraeus to take over

It's a rare day when I agree with anything this administration does. That said, President Obama acted correctly in relieving Gen. McChrystal of his commend. Any private who talked like that about his lieutenant would have been busted. Standards need to be upheld. Rank insubordination and disrespect directed at the President could not be allowed to go unanswered without calling into question Obama's authority.

General Petraeus is an excellent and highly qualified choice to assume command. Let us pray for his success and a swift end to this tragic war.


What a game! USA scores in overtime and wins an incredible game to advance to the next round. This was a huge nail biter.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The New York Times: Deep in the Carpathians, Painted Parables

The painted church at the Monastery of Voronet, in the Bucovina region of Romania, dates back to 1488, and the reign of Stephen the Great.
WHEN the Moldavian prince Stephen the Great won his first decisive victory against the Turks five and a quarter centuries ago, he decided to mark the occasion with a grand monastery and adorn its walls with the colorful work of artisans of the day. With his second victory came another monastery. With the third, yet another.

The result of his victories — 46 in all — was an unprecedented building spree within the densely forested terrain of the Bucovina region in modern Romania. The tradition was embraced by his son and successor, Petru Rares, and their vassals. Many of the mural-covered monasteries and churches survive, nestled in a valley, having withstood the withering summer sun and winter winds for centuries. What started out as Stephen the Great’s war trophies have become some of the world’s most stunning works of art.

They exist now as the present-day Monastery of Voronet, about three miles south of the Romanian village of Gura Humorului, and its sister sanctuaries, scattered within a radius of some 25 miles and collectively recognized as Unesco World Heritage sites.
Read the rest here.

The Function of the Unity of the Church and the Fallacious Theological Presuppositions of Papal Primacy

Hat tip: A Sinner
(A talk given by Mr. Dimitrios Tselengidis, Professor at the University of Thessaloniki, at the Metropolis of Piraeus' Conference on the Theme "‘Primacy,' Synodicality and the Unity of the Church" Peace and Friendship Stadium, 28 April 2010)...

...But also every other attempt at unity with the heterodox which skirts the above-mentioned theological presuppositions for the "faith once delivered (Jude 1:3)," is actually impossible. Nevertheless, the delegates of the local Orthodox Churches with their center of co-ordination (the Ecumenical Patriarchate) appear to have another opinion about the unity of the Church. This is why it is particularly typical that in the first paragraph of the submitted draft of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue with the Roman-Catholics in Cyprus, in October of 2009, it is cited that in the agreed upon Joint Statement of Ravenna (2007) Roman-Catholics and Orthodox refer to "the age of the undivided Church," (See Statement of Ravenna 41). It is clear that this phrasing presupposes for the members of the Joint International Commission that today the undivided Church does not exist. Therefore, today the Church is divided, despite the faith of the Church, which we confess verbally in the Symbol of our Faith. However, this means the falling away from the Church of all those who consciously support all that the Statement of Ravenna contains about the identity of the Church, since it indirectly but clearly does not accept a part of the dogmatic teaching of the Second Ecumenical Council.

However, already much earlier the Roman-Catholics had deviated from the dogmatic teaching of the Second Ecumenical Council with the addition of the Filioque. The Filioque was conceived and appeared in the West when the experience of the charismatic presence of the Holy Spirit in the ecclesiastical assembly of the Pope's see withdrew. Essentially, the Filioque was the crystallization of the estrangement from the living experience of the uncreated grace and energy of the Triune God, through which immediate and real communion with man is realized in the chief conveyor of the unity of God and man, that is, in the Church.

Consequently, due to our dogmatic disparity from the Roman-Catholics there cannot be - neither actual nor formal - union with them. Nonetheless, the strange thing (dogmatically and ecclesiologically) is that the Statement of Ravenna, consistent with the previous Joint Statements of Munich, Bari, Valaam and Balamand, refers to a common apostolic faith, the common mysteries (sacraments) and the ecclesiastical character of the heterodox. Thus, the false and blasphemous impression is given that with the joint Statement of Ravenna Christ is deceived, Who assured us that branches cut from the vine cannot bear fruit. The members of the Joint International Commission affirm in their statements, that in spite of the heretical divergences, the Roman-Catholics constitute a Church and that they possess genuine sacraments. It is theologically and logically odd that the representatives of the local Orthodox Churches do not realize the enormous dogmatic error of the Roman-Catholics concerning the created nature of their sacraments, an error which literally invalidates the aforementioned claim of the Roman-Catholics, which Orthodox representatives also endorse. The Roman-Catholics themselves assure us with their dogmatic teaching about created grace, that they are empirically devoid of the experience in the Holy Spirit of the Church and of the theanthropic nature of its unity in the Holy Spirit. Consequently, with the existing presuppositions it is completely theologically unwise and pointless for unity of an ecclesiastical nature to be attempted with them. In addition, such unity is practically and completely impossible, since it goes against the theological presuppositions of the Church and the ontological content of its nature...
Read the rest here.

A gentle reminder, please refrain from posting overheated comments.

Thought crimes and the perversion of the law

In the public’s imagination, the classic hate crime is an assault born of animus against a particular ethnicity or sexual orientation, like the case of the Long Island man convicted last month of killing an Ecuadorean immigrant after hunting for Hispanics to beat up.

But in Queens since 2005, at least five people have been convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, committing a very different kind of hate crime — singling out elderly victims for nonviolent crimes like mortgage fraud because they believed older people would be easy to deceive and might have substantial savings or home equity.

And this month, Queens prosecutors charged two women with stealing more than $31,000 from three elderly men they had befriended separately after noticing them walking alone on Woodhaven Boulevard, using their credit to pay for dental work and, in one case, asking for money to buy a kidney on the black market. The women, Gina L. Miller, 39, and Sylvia Johns, 23, of Flushing, were charged with grand larceny as a hate crime.

This approach, which is being closely watched by prosecutors around the state, has won Queens prosecutors stiffer sentences, including prison for criminals who could otherwise go free, even after draining an elderly person’s savings. Without a hate crime, theft of less than $1 million carries no mandatory prison time; with it, the thief must serve for a year and may face 25.

The legal thinking behind the novel method is that New York’s hate crimes statute does not require prosecutors to prove defendants “hate” the group the victim belongs to, merely that they commit the crime because of some belief, correct or not, they hold about the group.
Read the rest here.

Britain: An emergency budget is unveiled

LONDON — Britain’s top treasury official unveiled a sweeping emergency budget on Tuesday combining severe spending cuts and some tax increases in Britain’s deepest fiscal retrenchment since the early years of Margaret Thatcher’s rule.

“Yes, it’s tough but it’s also fair,” the official, George Osborne, told Parliament, promising that the budgetary measures would protect the least advantaged. “This is the unavoidable budget. I am not going to hide hard choices from the British people.”

He added: “The crisis in the euro zone shows that unless we deal with our debts there will be no growth,” forecasting that the British economy would grow over the next five years by a maximum annual rate of 2.9 percent in 2013, compared to 1.2 percent this year. He said the government would make spending cuts totaling £17 billion, about $25 billion, more than had been planned by the former Labour government over the next five years.

Mr. Osborne said Britain’s welfare costs had risen over the last 10 years to £192 billion from £132 billion (to $284 billion from $195.3 billion), an increase of 45 percent. He announced a three-year freeze on benefits received by parents for raising children, limits on subsidies for public housing and a new way of screening people receiving state benefits for disabilities. Promising accelerated efforts to raise the retirement age to 66, he said the measures would save £11 billion ($16.3 billion) in welfare spending by 2015.

To howls of protest from opposition legislators, Mr. Osborne also announced an increase in value-added tax on a wide range of goods and services to 20 percent from 17.5 percent beginning January, saying the measure would raise £13 billion ($19.2 billion) in revenue. The increase was seen by some British economists as the most sweeping since it increased basic costs for many people.

Mr. Osborne said his priority had been to “make sure that the measures are fair” so that the “richest pay more than the poor.” Mr. Osborne promised help for low-income families and for retirees living on state pensions whose monthly payments would henceforth rise in line with average wage increases.
Read the rest here.

A preview of coming attractions here unless we move quickly to get our house in order.

A General in Hot Water

KABUL, Afghanistan — An angry President Obama summoned his top commander in Afghanistan to Washington on Tuesday after a magazine article portrayed the general and his staff as openly contemptuous of some senior members of the Obama administration.

An administration official said the commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, would meet with President Obama and Vice President Biden at the White House on Wednesday “to explain to the Pentagon and the commander in chief his quotes in the piece,” which appears in the July 8-22 edition of Rolling Stone.

General McChrystal was scheduled to attend a monthly meeting on Afghanistan by teleconference, the official said, but was directed to return to Washington in light of the article. He apologized for his remarks, saying the article was “a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened.”

The article shows General McChrystal or his aides talking in sharply derisive terms about Mr. Biden; Ambassador Karl Eikenberry; Richard C. Holbrooke, the special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan; and an unnamed minister in the French government. One of General McChrystal’s aides is quoted as referring to the national security adviser, James L. Jones, as a “clown.”

A senior administration official said Mr. Obama was furious about the article, particularly with the suggestion that he was uninterested and unprepared to discuss the Afghanistan war after he took office.
Read the rest here.

Bottom Line: If you are in the military you don't have to like your boss, but you do have to show respect for his rank or office. If you can't do that then it's time to find another job. The general should consider retirement.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Egypt: Evangelicals demand Coptic Orthodox recognition of their marriages

The Evangelical Church yesterday stipulated two conditions for accepting the Unified Personal Status Law for non-Muslims currently being prepared by a committee of members from the Ministry of Justice and representatives from the different churches.

Safwat el-Bayadi, president of the Evangelical Organization, said the Evangelical Church will accept the new law only if it requires different churches recognize each other's marriage rituals, and if the section on adoption--which Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church wants removed--is kept intact.
Read the rest here.

I am not familiar with the background over the adoption dispute.

California on 'verge of system failure’

Arnella Sims has seen a lot in her 34 years as a Los Angeles County court reporter, but nothing like this.

Case files piling up by the thousands, phones ringing off the hook, forced midweek courthouse closings and occasional brawls as frustrated citizens queue for hours to pay parking fines.

“People think we’re becoming a Third World country,” said Ms. Sims, 55. “They don’t understand.”

It’s a story that’s being repeated all across California – and throughout the United States – as cash-strapped state and local governments grapple with collapsed tax revenues and swelling budget gaps. Mass layoffs, slashed health and welfare services, closed parks, crumbling superhighways and ever-larger public school class sizes are all part of the new normal.

California’s fiscal hole is now so large that the state would have to liberate 168,000 prison inmates and permanently shutter 240 university and community college campuses to balance its budget in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Think of California as Greece on the Pacific: bankrupt and desperately needing a bailout.
Read the rest here.

Steal 1 Fine 10

The A & N Food Market on Main Street in Flushing, Queens, has an almost entirely Chinese clientele. The inventory ranges from live eels, turtles and frogs, to frozen duck tongue and canned congee. These goods, like products sold in every store in every neighborhood of the city, attract their share of shoplifters. But A & N Food Market has its own way of dealing with the problem.

First, suspected shoplifters caught by the store’s security guards or staff members have their identification seized. Then, they are photographed holding up the items they are accused of trying to steal. Finally, workers at the store threaten to display the photographs to embarrass them and call the police — unless the accused thieves hand over money.

“We usually fine them $400,” said Tem Shieh, 60, the manager, who keeps track of customers on 30 video monitors in the store’s surveillance system. “If they don’t have the money, then we usually hold their identification and give them a chance to go get it.”

The practice of catching suspected shoplifters and demanding payment is an import from China, several experts in retail loss prevention said, where there is a traditional slogan that some storekeeper’s post: “Steal one, fine 10.” Whether this practice is legal in the United States is open to interpretation.

New York State law allows “shopkeepers’ privileges” that fall somewhere between the police and a citizen’s arrest. The law also details “civil recovery statutes,” by which retailers may use the threat of a civil lawsuit to legally recover substantial settlements for even minor thievery. But threatening to report that someone has committed a crime can be considered a form of extortion.
Read the rest here.

Obama and the far right

Barack Obama's campaign promise of change did not include a pledge to transform American conservatism. But one of his presidency's major legacies may be a revolution on the American right in which older, more secular forms of politics displace religious activism.

The reaction to Obama has also radicalized parts of the conservative movement, giving life to conspiracy theories long buried and strains of thinking similar to those espoused by the John Birch Society and other right-wing groups in the 1950s and '60s.

Critics often see conservatism as an undifferentiated mass animated by hostility toward "big government," support for social traditionalism and a deep animosity toward liberalism.

But conservatism is a diverse movement with many philosophical threads and tensions. Successful conservative politicians such as Ronald Reagan (and George W. Bush in his first term) kept the peace among economic, social and big-business conservatives while moderating the movement's public rhetoric. In opposition, conservatives often manage to bury their differences. But conservatism has flown apart when its components have come into conflict or when extreme rhetoric has come to the fore.

The rise of the Tea Party movement is a throwback to an old form of libertarianism that sees most of the domestic policies that government has undertaken since the New Deal as unconstitutional. It typically perceives the most dangerous threats to freedom as the design of well-educated elitists out of touch with "American values."
Read the rest here.

Cities drowing in debt

HARRISBURG, PA. -- This city has a $68 million bill coming due before year's end, an impossible sum that is larger than its annual budget. It's a predicament caused by extravagant borrowing and spending, and now there are only unpleasant fixes: steep tax increases, severe layoffs and crippling service cuts, even bankruptcy.

It's a story that could be repeated across the country as cities and towns deal with the lingering consequences of the economic downturn and mounting debt.

The obligations of state and local governments have doubled in the past decade, to $2.4 trillion, according to a recent Federal Reserve report, a figure that excludes more than $1 trillion in unfunded pension and retiree health-care liabilities.
Read the rest here.

Capitalism At Work: Post Rapture Pet Insurance

From the you can't make this up file..
Dear Fellow Christian:

As the Apostle Paul describes in Thessalonians as quoted above, at some point in the future Jesus will come in the air, catch up the Church from the earth, and then return to heaven with the Church. This is known as the Rapture and it will be glorious. But what of our pets? Who will take care of our pets when we're gone?

I'm Sharon Moss, and I'd like to help answer that question. First, let me tell you a story.
Read the rest here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A bitter fight looms in the Church of England over female bishops

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are to make a dramatic intervention in the long-running row over women bishops this week by demanding that opponents of female clergy are not driven out of the Church.

Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu are so concerned thousands of traditionalist churchgoers will quit when women become bishops that they are to risk the wrath of liberals by calling for major reforms in Church legislation.

Sources said their statement will spell out a legal formula that will give traditionalist clergy and parishes the right to reject the authority of a woman bishop.

The intervention comes before a critical, 15-hour debate at the General Synod in York next month, which insiders are predicting could become a ‘bloodbath’.

Traditionalists, who do not accept that women can be priests or bishops, have been calling for the creation of a ‘his and hers’ Church, in which they cannot be forced to serve under a woman bishop.

Liberals say, however, this would unacceptably diminish the status of women bishops because there would be parts of the Church over which they would have no sway.

So far the Synod has only agreed to give traditionalists minimal protection in the form of a code of conduct.

The Archbishops want the Church legislation radically amended so that opponents are fully protected in law. They are, however, running the risk that the liberal-dominated Synod, which is made up of nearly 500 bishops, clergy and lay people, will reject the proposals, leaving their authority in tatters.

An insider said: ‘This is a huge moment for the Church. It will determine the shape of things to come. The Archbishops are putting their integrity on the line, but are passionate about keeping the Church together.’

However, a leading supporter of female clergy said: ‘There is a good chance the Synod will reject the Archbishops.’
Hat Tip: Dr. Tighe

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cost of Seizing Fannie and Freddie Surges for Taxpayers

CASA GRANDE, Ariz. — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac took over a foreclosed home roughly every 90 seconds during the first three months of the year. They owned 163,828 houses at the end of March, a virtual city with more houses than Seattle. The mortgage finance companies, created by Congress to help Americans buy homes, have become two of the nation’s largest landlords.

Bill Bridwell, a real estate agent in the desert south of Phoenix, is among the thousands of agents hired nationwide by the companies to sell those foreclosures, recouping some of the money that borrowers failed to repay. In a good week, he sells 20 homes and Fannie sends another 20 listings his way.

“We’re all working for the government now,” said Mr. Bridwell on a recent sun-baked morning, steering a Hummer through subdivisions laid out like circuit boards on the desert floor.

For all the focus on the historic federal rescue of the banking industry, it is the government’s decision to seize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in September 2008 that is likely to cost taxpayers the most money. So far the tab stands at $145.9 billion, and it grows with every foreclosure of a three-bedroom home with a two-car garage one hour from Phoenix. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that the final bill could reach $389 billion.
Read the rest here.

News bulletins

The News for June 19th (1940)

Many Years

To H.R.H. Princess Victoria of Sweden and her new husband Mr. Daniel Westling, now styled H.R.H. Prince Daniel Duke of Vastergotland. The happy couple married today in a formal ceremony in Stockholm's main cathedral. Princess Victoria is the heir to the throne of Sweden and will in due course become Queen on the death or abdication of her father King Carl XVI Gustaf.

States move to trim pensions

Many states are acknowledging this year that they have promised pensions they cannot afford and are cutting once-sacrosanct benefits, to appease taxpayers and attack budget deficits.

Illinois raised its retirement age to 67, the highest of any state, and capped public pensions at $106,800 a year. Arizona, New York, Missouri and Mississippi will make people work more years to earn pensions. Virginia is requiring employees to pay into the state pension fund for the first time. New Jersey will not give anyone pension credit unless they work at least 32 hours a week.

“We can’t afford to deny reality or delay action any longer,” said Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois, adding that his state’s pension cuts, enacted in March, will save some $300 million in the first year alone.

But there is a catch: Nearly all of the cuts so far apply only to workers not yet hired. Though heralded as breakthrough reforms by state officials, the cuts phase in so slowly they are unlikely to save the weakest funds and keep them from running out of money. Some new rules may even hasten the demise of the funds they were meant to protect.
Reads the rest here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Quote of the day

"We are disappointed with the court's decisions, declining to hear Mr. Gardner's case. It's unfair that he will be executed without a full and fair review of his case."

-Megan Moriarty an attorney for Ronnie L. Gardner responding to the Supreme Court's decision not to grant a stay of execution for her client. Mr. Gardner was executed by firing squad in Utah last night after spending 25 years on death row for capital murder.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Slow Posting

Apologies dear readers as posting has been somewhat slow. This will continue today. Hopefully I will be back at the desk a bit more over the next couple of days.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Is God an art critic?

I don't know. But under the circumstances one might be forgiven for entertaining the idea.

A Challenging Vision For Orthodox Christians in America: An Interview With Father John Meyendorff

A.N.: At this time what does this new situation imply culturally and sociologically, in particular for those communities throughout the world, notably in the countries not traditionally Orthodox, and for their witness? What is the future for these young communities?

F.J.: Their future and their mission are to witness to Orthodoxy in an atmosphere of dialog, apart from wholly participating in the development of the life of the countries, of societies, in the intellectual world in which they are developing.

I would underline however that there exists a certain problem in the midst of Orthodoxy itself pertaining to the subject of these communities. There are, all the same, some people not here in the West, but in the traditional Orthodox countries, who, when it comes to the standard of ecclesiastical responsibilities, occasionally do not express total confidence in those Orthodox of Western formation. There are also those who identify Orthodox tradition with local cultures.

We in the West have, on this precise matter, to confront them in their dissent and to ask them if they truly believe that the Orthodox tradition – the tradition of the Church – is a universal and catholic tradition, not to be limited to some eras of human culture. At the same time, our witness obliges us to say the same thing to those in the West. Our Orthodox communities in the West are obliged to speak to both parties, they are obliged to speak to all those who would place fetters on the witness of Orthodoxy.

A.N.: The Orthodox Church is entering the final preparatory phase of its future council in which is found at its center the question of the canonical organization of all the new Orthodox Churches in Europe, America, Australia, Japan – what is called the “diaspora.”

F.J.: If the preparation continues as it has until now, it has no chance to succeed in so far as those who are primarily involved with this problem are not invited. I believe that everywhere this is beginning to be understood a little. Certainly, in practice, those primarily involved, i.e. the Orthodox of the “diaspora,” are participating in this preparatory work: they write, they speak, one recognizes that they exist; but their participation remains extremely limited. Certain traditional centers of Orthodoxy do not consider it acceptable to accord them a place. It is altogether deplorable.

I hope that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which is the first in being responsible for the preparation of this council, will find the means to unblock these impasses that are rather artificial and that preparations for the future council will be facilitated.
Read the rest here.

It’s Raining Lawyers in the Gulf

Depressing but probably unavoidable...
Turn on a radio or television in Louisiana these days, and out comes a gusher of news and commentary on BP’s unstoppable oil leak in the gulf. Even commercial breaks are no escape from the oil onslaught.

In New Orleans, for instance, the Lakers-Celtics N.B.A. finals game last week repeatedly featured a law firm’s ad urging viewers to visit or to call 1-800-BIG-SPILL if they had been harmed by the slick. Similar pitches flood the radio waves.

Some lawyers are taking a lower-budget approach. For the past month, Spencer Aronfeld, a Miami lawyer, has posted a half-dozen YouTube videos chronicling his travels through the gulf to view the oil’s devastation – and presumably to sign up a few clients.

In the first video in the series, shot in the New Orleans airport, Mr. Aronfeld describes a “very emotional experience” he had while flying over the oil spill from Miami.

“We’ve rented a car, we’re going to drive down the coast, we’re going to roll up our sleeves, take our briefcases out, and find out how we can help people who depend on this environment, and to hold those people responsible who have caused this horrible, horrible disaster,” he says. In another, viewable above, he visits a Vietnamese shrimper thwarted by the spill who is hoping for alternative employment.

That lawyers are homing in on what is shaping up into one of the worst environmental disasters in the nation’s history should surprise no one. Tens of billions of dollars are at stake, and with the much-vilified oil giant BP as a defendant, lawyers sense a major opportunity. One commentator quoted in Britain’s Globe and Mail newspaper recently described the BP blowout as “the trial lawyers’ Full Employment Act.”
Read the rest here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Following divorce flap Egypt considers new law for non-Muslims

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt will draft a law to govern marriage and divorce for non-Muslims, a state newspaper reported, a move analysts see as an attempt to contain anger after a court overruled the Coptic Orthodox Church last month.

Egypt's Coptic church has long called for changes to the country's personal status laws, which say Islamic rules on marriage and divorce prevail except in cases where both husband and wife are non-Muslims and from the same sect.

Under the current law, for instance, a Catholic husband with a Coptic wife could be subject to Islamic law.

"The Egyptian Minister of Justice Mamdouh Marie has decided to form a committee to prepare a personal draft law for Christians and non-Muslims, state-run al-Akhbar newspaper reported, adding it would take 30 days.

Analysts said the announcement was timed to calm anger after a court ruled that two Coptic men were allowed to remarry, challenging the church's efforts to hold sway over its flock in Muslim-majority Egypt.

The court's decision drew resistance from Pope Shenouda, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, who had appealed against the court's earlier ruling in March 2008.

Divorce is an accepted practice in Egypt's Muslim community but is prohibited by the Coptic Orthodox Church except in cases of adultery.

"The latest crisis is behind this statement," said Nabil Abdel Fattah, a political analyst at the Al-Ahram Centre for Strategic and Political Studies in Cairo. "The Egyptian state is trying to contain the current dispute."

Coptic lawyer and activist Mamdouh Ramzi said the church has proposed a unified personal law since the 1980s. "We don't need a new law, we need to put the old (proposed) one into practice," he said.

Relations between Muslims and Christians in Egypt are generally calm, but have occasionally turned violent over issues such as land and interfaith marriages.

Christians, mostly Orthodox Copts, make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 78 million people. Many Christians grumble about discrimination, although some have risen to ministerial rank or are top business executives.

UC Irvine Suspends Muslim Student Union for disrupting an address by the Israeli Ambassador

...A May 27 letter sent to the Muslim Student Union by Lisa Cornish, senior executive director of Student Housing, which was also copied to Dean of Students Rameen Talesh, details the violations that were believed to have been committed by the union and the disciplinary action taken against them. This document was obtained and provided to The Orange County Register by the Jewish Federation.

Cornish's letter says the university's decision to suspend the union was based on Google Group e-mails, personal observations by university officials including the police chief, observations by other students and "the fact that all of the disruptors retained the same attorney to represent them in the student conduct process."

Cornish's letter talks about how the Muslim Student Union held a meeting Feb. 3 prior to the ambassador's visit and methodically discussed how to disrupt the event. The students talked about sending "the speaker a message – our goal should be that he knows that he can't just go to a campus and say whatever he wants" and "pushing the envelope."

They even voted on one method of action and said, "We all go through with this together insha Allah ta'ala, together as one MSU."

Cornish's letter states that the students planned every detail of the disruption including scripting statements.

The letter also goes into detail about what each one of the disruptors yelled out during Oren's speech.

Cornish says in the letter that she has concluded based on her review that the Muslim Student Union and each of its authorized signers violated several university policies including "disorderly and lewd conduct, participation in a disturbance of peace or unlawful assembly, obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration, disciplinary procedures or other University activities and other forms of dishonesty including ... fabricating information, furnishing false information, or reporting a false emergency to the University."

The letter orders the Muslim student union to cease operations from Sept. 1, a suspension that will be active until Aug. 31, 2011. After that date, the group will be placed on "disciplinary probation" for one more year.
Read the rest here.

Most Philadelphians Not Fit For Military

PHILADELPHIA (AP) A nonprofit group says that up to 90 percent of young Philadelphians are ineligible for military service because of criminal records, obesity or lack of education.

Pennsylvania-based Mission: Readiness released its report Monday. It says 1 million Pennsylvanians are ineligible for the same reasons.

Mission: Readiness is made up of more than 150 retired generals and admirals. The group wants state and federal funding for pre-kindergarten programs that it says give children a solid foundation for academic and personal success.

The report says 145,000 Philadelphians ages 18 to 24 cannot meet the military's medical, moral and mental standards.

Nationally, the Department of Defense estimates that 75 percent of young adults are disqualified from military service.
Read the rest here.

Arizona Clemency Board declares a wrongful conviction but Governor refuses to act

This is highly disturbing...
WASHINGTON — Ronald Kempfert was a young boy in 1975 when his father was sent to prison for murder, and they had no contact for 28 years.

Then, in 2003, Mr. Kempfert heard from a lawyer who had been looking into the case. “Your father is innocent,” said the lawyer, Larry A. Hammond. “And we’re pretty sure your mother framed him.”

That would seem a lot to digest, but Mr. Kempfert, 42, said he felt no hesitation. “My reaction was that it didn’t surprise me,” he said. “She’s my mother, and I love her. But I think she’s capable of anything.”

Mr. Kempfert is now certain that his father, William Macumber, is innocent. Arizona’s clemency board, citing Mr. Kempfert’s “very moving testimony” and saying there had been “a miscarriage of justice,” unanimously recommended last year that Mr. Macumber be freed.

But Mr. Macumber remains in prison, and Gov. Jan Brewer has refused to explain why.
Read the rest here.

European Commission Head Warns of Nightmare Scenario Over Debt Crisis

Democracy could ‘collapse’ in Greece, Spain and Portugal unless urgent action is taken to tackle the debt crisis, the head of the European Commission has warned.

In an extraordinary briefing to trade union chiefs last week, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso set out an ‘apocalyptic’ vision in which crisis-hit countries in southern Europe could fall victim to military coups or popular uprisings as interest rates soar and public services collapse because their governments run out of money.

The stark warning came as it emerged that EU chiefs have begun work on an emergency bailout package for Spain which is likely to run into hundreds of billions of pounds.

A £650 billion bailout for Greece has already been agreed.

John Monks, former head of the TUC, said he had been ‘shocked’ by the severity of the warning from Mr Barroso, who is a former prime minister of Portugal.

Mr Monks, now head of the European TUC, said: ‘I had a discussion with Barroso last Friday about what can be done for Greece, Spain, Portugal and the rest and his message was blunt: “Look, if they do not carry out these austerity packages, these countries could virtually disappear in the way that we know them as democracies. They've got no choice, this is it.”

‘He's very, very worried. He shocked us with an apocalyptic vision of democracies in Europe collapsing because of the state of indebtedness.’
Read the rest here.

The Roman Catholic bishop of Cordoba forbids Muslims to use the Cathedral

The Bishop of Cordoba says that they will not share the cathedral, a former mosque, with Muslims.

The Bishop of Cordoba, Demetrio Fernandez, said today that "sharing" the Cathedral of Cordoba and former mosque that some Muslim groups want, "is a euphemism which means: get Catholics out of here". Faced with this and in an interview with Europa Press, Fernandez wanted to make clear that, "therefore, the answer to the question about sharing the Cathedral is that no, we're not, because this place has been a Catholic Church 16 centuries, while Muslims have been four and half centuries".

Consequently, the Catholic Church, which is the holder of the temple through the Cathedral Chapter of Córdoba, has "a good relationship with Muslims" and want to collaborate with those who profess Islam in constant search of "peace, justice and coexistence between peoples, but that is one thing and another, very different, you want to share the same temple for worship, which is not possible, either by Muslims or by Catholics".
Read the rest here.

Belgium moves closer to disunion

(Paris) Sunday's Belgian elections brought an unexpectedly big win for a Flemish separatist.

The result leaves the existence of Belgium as a nation – and its heavy debt load – hanging the balance.

Bart De Wever, a Flemish-speaking Belgian centrist politician who hopes his country will “gradually evaporate,” won an outright victory yesterday. Analysts say Europe could be witnessing a slow motion train collision for Belgium’s fragile political unity – and a broader lesson on the rise of extreme or fringe in European politics.
Read the rest here.
This is very sad.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A drunk, a grave, and a prayer

Go here for one of the best web posts I have read in a while. Please leave comments there.

New York: Still trying to make California look good

It's been a long time since I have been easily shocked. That said... Not even I would have given them credit for this.
ALBANY — Gov. David A. Paterson and legislative leaders have tentatively agreed to allow the state and municipalities to borrow nearly $6 billion to help them make their required annual payments to the state pension fund.

And, in classic budgetary sleight-of-hand, they will borrow the money to make the payments to the pension fund — from the same pension fund.

As word of the plan spread, some denounced it as a shell game and a blatant effort by state leaders to avoid making difficult decisions, like cutting government spending or reducing pension benefits.
Read the rest here.

World Cup: England vs USA

OK OK. Soccer is not really my game. But hey who isn't going to take notice of this little rematch. We stunned them back in 1950. And that was the biggest upset since... 1776.


Thinking the unthinkable: The NY Times notices gold

It is the resurgent passion of the doomsday crowd, a bet that everything will go wrong. No matter what has you worried, they say, the answer is gold.

Inflation, deflation, government borrowing or the plunging euro — you name it — the specter of these concerns has set off a dash to gold, driving the precious metal to new highs and illustrating how fears of economic turmoil have moved from the fringe to the mainstream.

And gold bugs, often dismissed as crackpots who hoard gold bars in the basement, are finally having their day.

“I just think you’re in a world where a lot of chickens are coming home to roost,” said John Hathaway, manager of the Tocqueville Gold fund. “Gold is an escape hatch.”

The most visible new gold enthusiasts range from the Fox News commentator Glenn Beck on the right to the financier George Soros on the left, with even some sober-minded Wall Street types developing a case of gold fever. While their language may differ, they share a fundamental view that the age-old refuge of gold is relevant again, especially as other assets like stocks and national currencies show signs of weakness.

Now, individual investors are following their example around the world. The United States Mint is running short of gold coins, and the South African mint increased Krugerrand production by 50 percent late last month, to its highest level in 25 years, on brisk European demand.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Russian Church calls for an end to Darwin's monopoly in schools

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Russian Orthodox Church called Wednesday for an end to the "monopoly of Darwinism" in Russian schools, saying religious explanations of creation should be taught alongside evolution.

Liberals said they would fight efforts to include religious teaching in schools. Russia's dominant church has experienced a revival in recent years, worrying rights groups who say its power is undermining the country's secular constitution.

"The time has come for the monopoly of Darwinism and the deceptive idea that science in general contradicts religion. These ideas should be left in the past," senior Russian Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion said at a lecture in Moscow.

"Darwin's theory remains a theory. This means it should be taught to children as one of several theories, but children should know of other theories too."

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution has proved divisive in the United States, where Protestant groups promote Creationism, the idea that God made the world as described in the Bible, and the "intelligent design" view positing an unnamed creator.
Read the rest here.

Born Today: James Francis Edward Stuart in 1688

H.R.H. James Francis Edward Stuart - Prince of Wales and the legitimist (Stuart) pretender to the throne of England and Scotland.
From the moment of his birth, on 10 June 1688, at St. James's Palace, the prince was the subject of controversy. He was born to the reigning king, James II of England (and VII of Scotland), and his Roman Catholic second wife, Mary of Modena, and as such was automatically Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay among other titles.

The Wars of Religion were fresh in the minds of the populace, and many British feared a revived Catholic dominance of the government. James II had two adult daughters from his first marriage who had been raised as Protestants. As long as there was a possibility of one of them succeeding him, his opponents saw his rule as only a temporary aberration. When people began to fear that James's second wife, Mary, would produce a son and heir, a movement grew to replace him with his elder daughter Princess Mary and his son-in-law/nephew, William of Orange.

When the young prince was born, a rumour immediately spread that a call for a warming pan had been the pretext for a substitution, implying that James and Mary's baby was allegedly stillborn.] On 10 December, within six months of his birth, Mary of Modena took baby James to France, worried about his safety, while his father continued to fight (unsuccessfully) to retain his crown. James and his sister Louisa Maria, were brought up in France. There, James was recognised by his cousin, King Louis XIV of France, as the rightful heir to the English and Scottish thrones and became the focus for the Jacobite movement.
Read the rest here.

Thumbing their nose at Rome the SSPX plans ordinations

BERLIN — The controversial Society of St. Pius X plans to consecrate three priests June 26 in Germany, a move the local bishop called a "provocation" that could upend a tentative peace with the Vatican.

The conservative society, which rejects many of the Catholic Church's modernizing reforms, has long had a difficult relationship with the Vatican. A decision to consecrate four bishops against the orders of Pope John Paul II in 1988 led to excommunications that were lifted in 2009.

The Vatican was deeply embarrassed after one of the rehabilitated bishops, Richard Williamson, turned out to be a vocal denier of the Holocaust.

Regensburg Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, in whose diocese the ordination for three deacons from Sweden, the Czech Republic and Italy is set to occur, said that until the group's status is clarified, any such ceremonies should "only be attempted with clear direction and permission from the pope."

Met. +Hilarion throws cold water on Moscow - Pope meeting

The heads of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches will meet only after there is agreement on the inter-confessional situation in western Ukraine, a senior Russian Orthodox cleric said on Wednesday.

"It is too early to speak about such a meeting. There are certain problems, stemming from the recent past. First of all, the inter-religious situation in western Ukraine," Metropolitan Hilarion said at a meeting with Russian Foreign Ministry officials.

Ties between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican have long been strained over accusations the Catholic Church has sought to spread its influence and convert believers in traditionally Orthodox former Soviet states. Tensions between Catholic and Russian Orthodox believers in western Ukraine are also quite acute.

Hopes for a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia have recently grown, but the Russian Orthodox Church's head of external church relations said although a meeting may be possible in the future, it was still difficult to discuss details.

"We are interested in a result. When the parties are ready to come to a conclusion that would mean a significant breakthrough in our relations, then as soon as such an understanding is reached, such a meeting will be held," Hilarion said.

As a result of the Great Schism of 1054, Christianity split into the eastern and western branches. They have a number of theological and political differences and the heads of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Church have never met.

Keyboards at twenty paces

Owen White, our favorite Ochlophobist, has thrown down the glove (electronically speaking) and called out she (he?) who must not be named. Names could be tricky here for a number of reasons which dignity (and Christian decency) forbids me from addressing in detail. Owen refers to her (we will go with that pronoun as it appears to be accurate in the present tense) as "The Voice." But lets be honest here. That's a bit like the euphemism "Old Scratch." I mean really. We all know who we are talking about.

Being a political and social reactionary who despises most of what the last century has produced in both of those fields, I really don't have a major problem with resolving serious differences in the manner once customary between gentlemen. Were the phrase "pistols for two and coffee for one" still in vogue I suspect we would live in a much more polite society. OK OK I am not altogether certain if that be can reconciled with my Orthodox faith. I'm still working on that one.

In any event though, we live in an age where for all of our incredible technological advancements we have devolved into a state of near social barbarism where the most breathtaking abuses of truth, honor and common decency are routinely flaunted. Case in point, the blog of she who must not be named.

This is a blog that may perhaps be charitably described as Orthoblogdom's equivalent to page six of the NY Post. Setting aside all of the magnificent imagery; it is a blog that seems to be grounded on three pillars, Russo-Slavic phyletism, a ferocious hostility to converts who are not prepared to embrace her brand of slavophilia, and malicious gossip (true in some cases and not in others) directed at all those who she has concluded are a threat to her version of Orthodoxy.

Long time readers of this blog will know that it is rare for me to post anything more than the most reserved criticisms or disagreements with other Orthodox bloggers. In no small measure this is due to the fact that in most cases they know a great deal more about whatever is being discussed than I do, and being a normal human being I don't enjoy making a fool out of myself. And of course common courtesy, good manners and all those things now lost in the modern world come into play as well.

Generally if I have serious disagreements with the content or editorial slant of a blog I simply ignore it and decline to link it or give any attention to it. With one rather notable exception, such has been the policy of Ad Orientem towards she who must not be named. And it is worth noting that, again with a few exceptions, most of what we call Orthoblogdom seems to have adopted a similar stance.

However, as I observed in the comment thread for the above cited "exception," there are circumstances where silence is not a moral option. There is a danger of scandal in permitting someone who, in one of those truly delicious ironies in life, has been suspended from the Holy Mysteries by the Russian Church to pass herself off on the web as a reputable source for anything relating to Orthodoxy. I can not imagine what any non-Orthodox inquirer would think if they stumbled on that site. Had I seen it in the early stages of my journey to Orthodoxy, I am fairly sure it would have stopped me cold in my tracks.

That a blogger, claiming to be Orthodox and an admirer of all things Russian nonetheless cannot make reference to the First Hierarch and many clergy of a canonical Orthodox jurisdiction, recognized (rightly or wrongly) by the Moscow Patriarchate as THE autocephalous Orthodox church in N. America, other than as laymen can only admit to one of three possible explanations. They being appalling ignorance, Donatism, or simple old fashioned malice. A blog which purports to be Orthodox but which in reality is nothing more than a malicious gossip column dedicated to the promotion of a twisted version of slavophile phyletism (with nice pictures) should not be permitted to go unchallenged.

With this in mind, I tip my hat to Owen for grabbing the bull (no pun intended) by the horns. It is time and indeed past time, that she who must not be named be called out for her ethno-centric heresy, slander and spiteful gossip. In a more civilized era were she a man and someone who could in any manner be accounted a gentleman, can there be any doubt but that her conduct would end with an early morning appointment in some remote field? Sadly however all of the above (mostly) do not apply. We do not live in a civilized age and the law courts take a dim view of the code of honor. And in any case she(?) would under no circumstances be accepted as a gentleman (a necessary prerequisite for a meeting). So our alternatives appear limited.

I suppose one might consider the lost art of the "social cut." But I simply can't think of an effective way to employ it on this medium. As unsatisfactory as it is, I fear our only recourse... is keyboards at twenty paces.

I wonder if Owen has a second?

In Dutch elections, division and a shift to the right

THE HAGUE — After the first election in a euro-zone country since the European economic crisis, Dutch voters found themselves divided politically on Thursday and surprised by the surge in popularity of an anti-immigrant party.

With no party winning a majority in the 150-seat Parliament, the result of Wednesday’s voting is likely to mean a long and difficult negotiation over a new governing coalition that could contain three or more parties.

The pro-business Dutch Liberal Party had 31 seats and the center-left Labor Party 30, with 98 percent of the votes counted. But the far-right Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders demanded a share of government after it came in third with 24 seats, more than doubling its representation in the 150-member Parliament.

“We want to be part of the new government,” declared Mr. Wilders, whose party wants to end immigration from Muslim countries and ban new mosques.

“The impossible has happened,” he told a party gathering. “The Netherlands chose more security, less crime, less immigration and less Islam.”

The front-page headline Thursday in the NRC Next newspaper declared “A divided Netherlands.”

“Never has the voters’ message been so mixed,” NRC Next said in an editorial. “A stable governing coalition with three parties does not seem possible.”
Read the rest here.

Taliban Execute "Spy" (a 7 yr old boy)

Suspected Taliban militants publicly hanged a 7-year-old boy for spying in the militant stronghold of Helmand province, an Afghan official told the Associated Press.

The child was placed on trial by the Islamic extremist group and later found guilty of working for Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government, the local official said.

Karzai on Thursday condemned the alleged act, calling it a "crime against humanity".
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

Who is better informed about the policy choices facing the country—liberals, conservatives or libertarians? According to a Zogby International survey that I write about in the May issue of Econ Journal Watch, the answer is unequivocal: The left flunks Econ 101.

Zogby researcher Zeljka Buturovic and I considered the 4,835 respondents' (all American adults) answers to eight survey questions about basic economics. We also asked the respondents about their political leanings: progressive/very liberal; liberal; moderate; conservative; very conservative; and libertarian.

Rather than focusing on whether respondents answered a question correctly, we instead looked at whether they answered incorrectly. A response was counted as incorrect only if it was flatly unenlightened.

Consider one of the economic propositions in the December 2008 poll: "Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable." People were asked if they: 1) strongly agree; 2) somewhat agree; 3) somewhat disagree; 4) strongly disagree; 5) are not sure.

Basic economics acknowledges that whatever redeeming features a restriction may have, it increases the cost of production and exchange, making goods and services less affordable. There may be exceptions to the general case, but they would be atypical.

Therefore, we counted as incorrect responses of "somewhat disagree" and "strongly disagree." This treatment gives leeway for those who think the question is ambiguous or half right and half wrong. They would likely answer "not sure," which we do not count as incorrect.

In this case, percentage of conservatives answering incorrectly was 22.3%, very conservatives 17.6% and libertarians 15.7%. But the percentage of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly was 67.6% and liberals 60.1%. The pattern was not an anomaly.
Read the rest here.

Dr. William Tighe: Divorce and Remarriage in Historical Anglicanism

Marital indiscipline seems to afflict all Western Christian churches and bodies to some degree or other, and even to an extent those in the East (the theory and practice of the Eastern Churches, which rested originally on a basis quite distinct form that of Western Catholics and Protestants, I will not discuss here) as well. Suffice it to say that, on a theoretical level at least, no Christian church or “denomination,” Eastern or Western ever accepted the practice of “divorce” in the modern sense of the term (that is, the dissolution of a valid marriage with one or both of the parties to that dissolved marriage being free to marry again), however much “pastoral compassion” (or “overlooking, deliberately or otherwise, irregular marital unions”) may, especially in the East, have allowed for the toleration of “marriages” of individuals whose spouses had disappeared some considerable time in the past. At the Reformation, however, all of the leading Protestant Reformers embraced the view of Erasmus that there were circumstances in which a valid marriage might be dissolved and the parties to it, or at least the “innocent” party, be allowed to remarry, which meant remarry in church, as in Catholic and Protestant countries alike there was no other form of marriage (beyond “common-law marriage” in a few countries such as Scotland — but this was a form of “marriage” of which the offspring were technically illegitimate, and so lacked clear inheritance rights). Moreover, Protestant church bodies, both Lutheran and Reformed, quickly came to permit divorce, and remarriage after divorce (hereafter termed DaR for short), in a variety of circumstances, among them, for instance, Scotland, where divorce in the modern sense became legally available in 1560, and has remained so ever since.

In England, however, the position was different, despite some initial irregularities, and the Church of England adopted what can be described as the most severe position on DaR of any Western Christian tradition whatsoever. The historic Anglican position on “divorce and remarriage” is clear enough — a resolute “no, never.”

King Henry VIII was firmly and explicitly opposed to DaR; he never in his life had a “divorce” in the modern sense as defined above (although in the 16th Century the term was used to denote any separation of the parties to a marriage during the lifetimes of them both) as all of his four “divorces” were “annulments” (granted by his complaisant Archbishop Cranmer). Cranmer himself, as a firm Protestant, came to favor DaR in a wide variety of circumstances, and shortly after Henry VIII’s death in 1547 he granted a divorce (in the modern sense) to William Parr, then Earl of Essex, later Marquess of Northampton, who subsequently “remarried.” (He also granted Sir Ralph Sadler permission to remain married to a woman whom he had married over a decade previously, some years after her husband had disappeared, when that first husband reappeared and tried to extort money from Sadler.) Provision for DaR was embodied in Cranmer’s proposed reformed Code of Canon Law, but that proposal was rejected by the House of Commons in 1553 (as it was again in 1571 when reform-minded MPs tried to pass it despite Elizabeth I’s objections). Under the Catholic Queen Mary, Parr was forced to separate from his wife under threat of excommunication and prosecution for bigamy — and while after Mary’s death in 1558 and the succession of her ambiguously Protestant half-sister Queen Elizabeth I he resumed living with his second wife, one of Elizabeth I’s “Ladies in Waiting,” the Queen more than once publicly reproached him for “bigamy” — and when he wished to marry again after his second wife died in 1565, she forbade the marriage and refused to permit it until after Parr’s original wife died in 1571 (Parr survived his third marriage by only a couple of months).
Read the rest here.

Please leave comments at the source. Thanks.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Heresies of Bad Liturgy and Ultramontaninism

I refer the reader to two posts on the heresies of bad liturgy and ultramontaninism from one of the more promising new blogs out there.

Russian Protestants and Muslims want their own holidays

Russia will celebrate a new holiday next month under a decision backed by the Kremlin and Russian Orthodox Church that is stirring up decidedly unholy feelings among non-Orthodox Russians.

Christianization of Rus Day on July 28 won’t be counted as a day off work, but it will be recognized on calendars as the country’s ninth so-called “memorial holiday,” which also includes Cosmonauts Day on April 12 and Constitution Day on Dec. 12.

The new holiday commemorates the baptism in 988 of Vladimir the Great, who accepted Christianity together with his family and the people of his state, Kievan Rus, the predecessor to the Russian Empire and whose capital was Kiev.

Now Protestant Christians and Muslims want their own holidays, too.

Konstantin Bendas, a senior official with the Russian Union of Christians of the Evangelical Faith, said Christianization of Rus Day has created tensions between the Orthodox church and others faiths, which believe that they also deserve memorial holidays.

“The Protestants have a plan to set their holiday on Oct. 31,” Bendas said, referring to the day in 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of a Roman Catholic church and started the Reformation.

Lawmakers in predominantly Muslim Tatarstan are calling for Russia to celebrate the Day Islam Came to Russia on May 16, the date in 922 that Islam was officially approved as a state religion in the Middle Volga region.
Read the rest here.

The commission to study deficits is broke

From the you can't make this up department...
President Obama’s bipartisan fiscal commission is operating on a shoestring budget and some panel members and lawmakers worry that it may run short of money.

The 18-member commission faces the daunting challenge of coming up with proposals by Dec. 1 to tame the federal government’s trillion-dollar budget deficit. But the panel’s own budget is only $500,000, barely enough to cover office rent and the salaries of four staff members.

And though the White House and Treasury have loaned the panel experts from their own payrolls, and several think tanks are helping as well, the total full-time staff currently is only about 15 people and not expected to exceed 20. Money is so tight that the commission recently abandoned hopes of holding field hearings around the country to gather views from outside of Washington.
Read the rest here.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

For BP investors a question: How bad can it get?

Former Labor secretary Robert Reich wants to place BP's U.S. operations in temporary receivership. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wants the oil giant to suspend its dividend payments. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is weighing criminal charges. And lawyers in more than a hundred lawsuits want BP to pay billions of dollars in damages for harm done to people's health, the environment and businesses.

"At this stage, it is impossible to predict the longer-term cost of environmental remediation, claims and litigation, but they will be sizable," BP chief executive Tony Hayward said in a conference call with investment analysts Friday.

So would anyone in his right mind buy shares in this company?

Yes. Despite the fatal explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that triggered the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, 10 of the 14 leading investment analysts tracking BP have "buy" ratings on the company, including one who has upgraded his recommendation.
Read the rest here.

Britain's new government prepares brutal budget cuts

The Chancellor will announce a "once-in-a-generation" revolution in public spending inspired by Canada in the mid-1990s, when the government turned a budget deficit of nine per cent of GDP into a surplus.

Canada brought public spending under control guided by the principle that people should ask "what needs to be done by government and what we can afford to do".

Mr Osborne and his Liberal Democrat deputy, Danny Alexander, will attempt to bring about a similar change of mindset in Britain.

The ambitious plan will be welcomed by those who believe swift and decisive action is necessary to bring Britain's budget deficit and spiralling national debt under control quickly.

However, it is likely to prove controversial with those who believe it could tip Britain back into recession and public sector workers who face losing their jobs.

David Cameron will warn today that the scale of the problem is worse than he thought and the potential consequences even more critical.

The Prime Minister will say that the "momentous" decisions he will take will have "enormous implications" that will affect everyone.
Read the rest here.


....for the slow posting yesterday and today as also slow responses to comments. I've been a bit under the weather.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

77 years ago today...

In the single greatest act of theft in American history Franklin D. Roosevelt abandons the Gold Standard and confiscates all privately owned coins and bullion...
On June 5, 1933, the United States went off the gold standard, a monetary system in which currency is backed by gold, when Congress enacted a joint resolution nullifying the right of creditors to demand payment in gold. The United States had been on a gold standard since 1879, except for an embargo on gold exports during World War I, but bank failures during the Great Depression of the 1930s frightened the public into hoarding gold, making the policy untenable.

Soon after taking office in March 1933, Roosevelt declared a nationwide bank moratorium in order to prevent a run on the banks by consumers lacking confidence in the economy. He also forbade banks to pay out gold or to export it. According to Keynesian economic theory, one of the best ways to fight off an economic downturn is to inflate the money supply. And increasing the amount of gold held by the Federal Reserve would in turn increase its power to inflate the money supply. Facing similar pressures, Britain had dropped the gold standard in 1931, and Roosevelt had taken note.

On April 5, 1933, Roosevelt ordered all gold coins and gold certificates in denominations of more than $100 turned in for other money. It required all persons to deliver all gold coin, gold bullion and gold certificates owned by them to the Federal Reserve by May 1 for the set price of $20.67 per ounce. By May 10, the government had taken in $300 million of gold coin and $470 million of gold certificates. Two months later, a joint resolution of Congress abrogated the gold clauses in many public and private obligations that required the debtor to repay the creditor in gold dollars of the same weight and fineness as those borrowed. In 1934, the government price of gold was increased to $35 per ounce, effectively increasing the gold on the Federal Reserve's balance sheets by 69 percent. This increase in assets allowed the Federal Reserve to further inflate the money supply.
Hat Tip: Wilson Unplugged

Number of the Week: U.S. Debt Nears Key Threshold

88%: Gross U.S. public debt as a share of annual economic output.

There’s little doubt that the U.S. needs to get its mounting debts under control. But at what point do they become a clear and present danger?

By some measures, we’re reaching that point about now. As of Friday, our total national debt – the sum of all outstanding IOUs issued by the U.S. Treasury – stood at a bit more than $13 trillion, or almost 90% of our projected gross domestic product for 2010.

The 90% level is significant, because recent research by economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff suggests that once a developed nation’s debt crosses it, its annual economic growth tends to be about one percentage point lower. At a time when economists are saying it could take years for the U.S. to bring unemployment back down to pre-recession levels, that percentage point could make a big difference.

To be sure, the concept of the 90% threshold isn’t without its critics. Princeton University economist Paul Krugman, for example, notes the U.S. last crossed the threshold after World War II and did experience slow growth, but the problem wasn’t so much the debt burden as millions of women leaving the paid workforce. And in many cases, such as Japan, slow growth could be the cause of the debt burdens, not the other way around.

Thresholds aside, there’s no reason to be sanguine. Back in the 1950s, we had a good excuse to be indebted: We’d just fought to save the world from fascism. And a large chunk of our debt was held by our own citizens, much like Japan now — one reason economists think that country has managed to survive with a gross-debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 200%.
Read the rest here.