Monday, August 30, 2010

Moscow and the OCA

Owen the Ochlophobist has some fairly remarkable news in line with two previous posts (here and here). Apparently Moscow has offered to take the OCA back under its jurisdiction, and the OCA has declined. See Owen's site for the story. For the moment I think I am gong to resist the urge to comment or leap to conclusions. I don't have enough details (i.e. what exactly did Moscow offer?). This strikes me as a case where the devil may have been in the details.

200 new churches for Moscow

200 new Orthodox churches will be built in Moscow in the next 30 years, says a project considered by Moscow's Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill.

They discussed changes in Moscow's architecture which also includes building new churches.

According to Kirill, 90 percent of Muscovites are Orthodox and altogether they need some 590 new churches.

Business Spectator: China to cease buying US Treasuries

...By far the most dramatic was the declaration that China did not plan to buy any more US treasury securities or bonds. The person who made the statement does not make that decision, but he is closely connected to the China hierarchy. He explained that the $US2.5 trillion of China’s foreign reserves held in US dollars was burdensome because it limited the flexibility of monetary policy and any appreciation of the Chinese currency would cause loss. China would therefore not be a buyer of US dollars but would not sell. China would look to diversify its holdings and was a buyer of European and Japanese government bonds as well as other currencies.

A statement along those lines in more normal times would have seen the Hayman phones running hot to sell US dollars.

But at the moment the US dollar, as the world currency, is gaining considerable support from the Middle East and other areas. In addition China is looking to increase imports and to reduce its surpluses. But longer-term when the main supporter of a particular asset says that they will withdraw their continued support, the value of the asset will fall. If China follows through on the Hayman declaration it is not good long-term news for the US currency...
Read the rest here.

Not sure how accurate this report is. But it pretty much is what I have been expecting for a while. China is not stupid. They know that we owe more money than we can pay back without recourse to the printing press. China figures (correctly IMO) that they will get paid back in debased currency and are probably moving to cut their losses.

Fr. Gabriel Bunge (OSB) has been received into Holy Orthodoxy

Fr. Gabriel Bunge (OSB), a renowned monastic and master of Patristics, was received into the Orthodox Church by Patriarch Kyril of Moscow and all Russia and Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk on the eve of the Dormition (Old Calendar). Fr. Gabriel has been living the life of a hermit in Switzerland for several decades and is the author of a number of books.

Two articles make reference to the event. The first is in Russian and the second is in Romanian. (I have a very rough translation of the Russian article but the relevant facts are summarized above.)

May God grant him many years!

(Via an email from Carlos Antonio Palad)

An Update: Below is an English translation of the Russian article linked above thanks to Fr. Yousuf Rassam.
30 August 2010.
Metropoltian Kallistos of Dioclea and Hieromonk Gabriel (Bunge) Concelebrate All-night Vigil with Metrpolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk in the Church of the Icon "Joy of All that Sorrow" on Bolshoy Ordinka Street.

On 27 August 2010, on the eve of the Feast of the Dormition of the most holy Theotokos, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk celebrated the all-night vigil in the church of the Icon, "Joy of All that Sorrow" on Bolshoy Ordinka Street.

Vladyka Hilarion concelebrated with Metropolitan Kallistos of Dioclea, vicar of the Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain of the Constantinople Patriarchate, chairman of the British benevolent society "Friends of Mount Athos"; the clergy of the church, and also the well known Swiss theologian and Hieromonk Gabriel (Bunge), who was received into holy Orthodoxy before the all-night vigil.

In the church were praying numerous parishioners, and also pilgrims from Great Britain, the USA, Greece, and other countries - members of the delegation of the benevolent society "Friends of Mount Athos". The aim of society is to disseminate knowledge of the Holy Mountain and the monastic tradition, helping to restore the monasteries of Mount Athos, and attracting pilgrims to Mount Athos. The delegation of the society is visiting Russia with the blessing of His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. During the journey, the pilgrims visited Uglich, Kostroma, Yaroslavl, Rostov, Nizhny Novgorod, Gorodets, Kalyazin, and theTrinity-Sergius Lavra and venerated the holy places of the Russian Orthodox Church.

After the service, Metropolitan Hilarion delivered this with arch-pastoral homily:

"Your Eminence, Venerable Father, dear brothers and sisters!

I heartily congratulate you on the occasion of the Dormition of the most holy Theotokos. On this day, before the grave of our moust holy Lady and Ever-Virgin Mary, we celebrate her Dormition and at the same time think about our own life and death. Man is called to live on this earth a full life, a life that is spiritual and divine. The end of such a life should not be a tragic event, but a natural transition to eternal life - not death but falling asleep (dormition).

The most holy Theotokos, by her grave, which exudes grace, peace, and love, bears witness that it is possible for the dead to pass from death to life, from sin - to grace, from human life - to life divine.

The Church believes that the Mother of God never sinned, not only in deed, but even in thought. We with you are shown to be sinful people, but for us the way to the Kingdom of Heaven is not closed. This path leads through death, which may be a falling asleep, if our life is accordant with the commandments of God, and if we pray to the Lord and His Most Pure Mother that we be granted a blameless and peaceful end, which will be for us a transition into life eternal. "

Metropoltian Hilarion of Volokolamsk , chairman of the Department of External Church Relations (of the Moscow Patriarchate, the OVTsS or DECR), addressed Metropolitan Kallistos of Dioclea in particular:

"I offer a hearty welcome the Vladyka Kallistos, who is a hierarch of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and for more than 40 years has been teaching at Oxford University in Britain. 15 years ago I had the good fortune to learn from him: Vladyka was supervisor for my work on a dissertation about Saint Symeon the New Theologian. Today, Metropolitan Kallistos is one of the most famous theologians of Ecumenical Patriarchate. In Moscow, he arrived at the head of the pilgrimage group, which includes clergy, professors, and ordinary laymen. For ten days this group has been traveling through the cities of Russia, venerating the holy places of our land, becoming acquainted with our spiritual culture. On the day of the feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, Bishop Kallistos will concelebrate with His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill in the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.

I welcome you not only as a hierarch and an outstanding theologian, but as my teacher and friend. It is my desire that your time in the Russian land was a blessing, and that the Lord will help you in both pastoral ministry and academic writing, and that He will preserve for many blessed years. "

In memory of the con-celebration, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk presented to Vladyka Kallistos the gift of a miter, made in the workshops of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Vladyka Hilarion also heartily welcomed hieromonk Gabriel (Bunge), who, for more than 30 years has lived a hermetical life in the mountains of Switzerland. "You were a Catholic, but in soul you were Orthodox" - Metropolitan Hilarion said to him - "Today, before the all-night vigil, you converted to Orthodoxy, which was a natural conclusion of a long spiritual journey. "

Metropolitan Hilarion warmly congratulated Father Gabriel on his reception into holy Orthodoxy, and gave him an icon of the Heavenly Queen, "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in memory of the fact that he was united to the Orthodox Church in this church, consecrated in honor of this icon.

In his response, referring to the chairman of the DECR, Metropolitan Kallistos of Dioclea said:

"Concelebrating with you on the eve of the feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is, for me, a great joy and honor. For many years, I have kept fond memories of your stay in Oxford. It is particularly gratifying that over the ensuing years, we are in constant contact, and often encounter one another ... I believe that thanks to the protection of the Most Holy Theotokos, the very significant ministry that you carry in this church, and in your labors for Universal Orthodoxy, will be aided by grace from the Lord.

I am also pleased to learn that today Father Gabriel is united to Orthodoxy in this church. We highly esteem his theological works, and I hope that the cross of the Orthodox Christian, which he has taken upon himself, will not be too heavy for him. I pray that the Most Holy Theotokos will fill your hearts with joy and consolation".

Israel's Settlements: A mortal threat to the Jewish State

...His son, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, later focused his father’s theological ideas around a single commandment: to settle all the land promised to the ancient Hebrews in the Bible. His disciples, energized by a burning messianic fervor, took Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War of 1967 as confirmation of this theology and set out to fulfill its commandment. Religious enthusiasm made the movement subversive in a deep sense — adherents believed they had a divine obligation to build settlements and considered the authority of Israel’s democratic government conditional on its acceptance of what they declared to be God’s politics.

Although religious settlers often describe themselves as heirs of the early Zionist pioneers, they are anything but. Herzl’s vision was about liberating people, while theirs is about achieving a mystical reunion between the people of Israel and the land of Israel. Herzl’s view stemmed from the ideals of the Enlightenment and the tradition of democratic national liberation movements, dating back to the American and French Revolutions; religious settlers are steeped in blood-and-soil nationalism. Herzl never doubted that Israeli Arabs should have full and equal rights. For religious settlers, Arabs are an alien element in the organic unity of Jews and their land.

The consequences of these differences are huge. If the settlers achieve their manifest goal — making Israel’s hold on the territories permanent — it will mean the de facto annexation of a huge Arab population and will force a decision about their status. In Israel proper, the Arab minority represents about a fifth of its 7.2 million citizens, and they have full legal equality. But between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, there are roughly equal numbers of Arabs and Jews today.

Even if Israel annexed only the West Bank, it would more than double its Arab population. With birthrates in the territories far exceeding those of Arabs and Jews within Israel, Jews would soon enough be a minority. This would void the very idea of a Jewish democratic state...
Read the rest here.

Burning the Quran

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If building an Islamic center near ground zero amounts to the epitome of Muslim insensitivity, as critics of the project have claimed, what should the world make of Terry Jones, the evangelical pastor here who plans to memorialize the Sept. 11 attacks with a bonfire of Korans?

Mr. Jones, 58, a former hotel manager with a red face and a white handlebar mustache, argues that as an American Christian he has a right to burn Islam’s sacred book because “it’s full of lies.” And in another era, he might have been easily ignored, as he was last year when he posted a sign at his church declaring “Islam is of the devil.”

But now the global spotlight has shifted. With the debate in New York putting religious tensions front and center, Mr. Jones has suddenly attracted thousands of fans and critics on Facebook, while around the world he is being presented as a symbol of American anti-Islamic sentiment.

Muslim leaders in several countries, including Egypt and Indonesia, have formally condemned him and his church, the Dove World Outreach Center.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The OCA: Is it time to rethink autocephaly?

Given the recent agreement (almost certain to be ratified at the anticipated Great & Holy Synod) by the representatives of the universally recognized autocephalous churches on standards for the granting and recognition of autocepahaly and further, given that these standards require recognition from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and further, that there is less chance of the EP granting the OCA said recognition than of your humble blogger being elected Pope...

Has the time come for the OCA to reconsider its claims to being an autocephalous church? And if so, what course of action should the OCA pursue?


The Dormition of our Most Holy Theotokos

Wishing the joy of the Feast to all our brothers and sisters on the Traditional Calendar.

Things that make you go HMMMM

SYOSSET, NY (OCA) - On Thursday and Friday, August 26-27, 2010, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, several members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, and advisers met at the Chancery here to begin a series of broader discussions and reflections within the Orthodox Church in America regarding our participation in the Episcopal Assembly process.
Read he rest here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Feast of St. Monica

Today is the feast of St. Monica and the name day of my paternal grandmother (1906-1992) whom I miss greatly. May her memory be eternal!

The Resurgence of Know Nothingism

Having shed much of his dignity, core convictions and reputation for straight talk, Senator John McCain won his primary on Tuesday against the flat-earth wing of his party. Now McCain can go search for his lost character, which was last on display late in his 2008 campaign for president.

Remember the moment: a woman with matted hair and a shaky voice rose to express her doubts about Barack Obama. “I have read about him,” she said, “and he’s not — he’s an Arab.”

McCain was quick to knock down the lie. “No, ma’am,” he said, “he’s a decent family man, a citizen.”

That ill-informed woman — her head stuffed with fabrications that could be disproved by a pre-schooler — now makes up a representative third or more of the Republican party. It’s not just that 46 percent of Republicans believe the lie that Obama is a Muslim, or that 27 percent in the party doubt that the president of the United States is a citizen. But fully half of them believe falsely that the big bailout of banks and insurance companies under TARP was enacted by Obama, and not by President Bush.

Take a look at Tuesday night’s box score in the baseball game between New York and Toronto. The Yankees won, 11-5. Now look at the weather summary, showing a high of 71 for New York. The score and temperature are not subject to debate.

Yet a president’s birthday or whether he was even in the White House on the day TARP was passed are apparently open questions. A growing segment of the party poised to take control of Congress has bought into denial of the basic truths of Barack Obama’s life. What’s more, this astonishing level of willful ignorance has come about largely by design, and has been aided by a press afraid to call out the primary architects of the lies.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

45 Years Ago: The birth of an iconic TV program

The opening scene from the pilot episode of Get Smart. Don Adams was one of the funniest men on TV at the time and his character produced a slew of one liners that became catch phrases for a generation such as... "Sorry about that chief." " Would you believe..." and "Missed by that much." The spy spoof series was an instant hit when it debuted in 1965 and it ran for five seasons.

Schema Nuns

Russian Nuns of the Great Schema. I have seen few photos of Schema Nuns and have no recollection of seeing this many in one picture. (Click on the pic for full size.)

From Byzantine Texas

Michael Gerson: Why the Tea Party is toxic for the GOP

Michael Gerson is a former speech writer for George Bush and a longtime conservative political columnist. This article is so good that I am going to break with my usual custom and post it in its entirety.
So the "summer of recovery" swelters on, with Democrats sun-blistered, pestered by bottle flies, sand in their swimsuits, water in their ears. Jobless claims increase, Republicans lead the generic congressional ballot, and George W. Bush is six points more popular than President Obama in "front-line" Democratic districts that are most vulnerable to a Republican takeover. Still, Democrats hug the hope that Obama is really the liberal Ronald Reagan -- but without wit, humor, an explainable ideology or an effective economic plan. Other than that, the resemblance is uncanny.

Yet the Republican Party suffers its own difficulty -- an untested ideology at the core of its appeal.

In the normal course of events, political movements begin as intellectual arguments, often conducted for years in serious books and journals. To study the Tea Party movement, future scholars will sift through the collected tweets of Sarah Palin. Without a history of clarifying, refining debates, Republicans need to ask three questions of candidates rising on the Tea Party wave:

First, do you believe that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional? This seems to be the unguarded view of Colorado Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck and other Tea Party advocates of "constitutionalism." It reflects a conviction that the federal government has only those powers specifically enumerated in the Constitution -- which doesn't mention retirement insurance or health care.

This view is logically consistent -- as well as historically uninformed, morally irresponsible and politically disastrous. The Constitution, in contrast to the Articles of Confederation, granted broad power to the federal government to impose taxes and spend funds to "provide for . . . the general welfare" -- at least if Alexander Hamilton and a number of Supreme Court rulings are to be believed. In practice, Social Security abolition would push perhaps 13 million elderly Americans into destitution, blurring the line between conservative idealism and Social Darwinism.

This approach undermines a large conservative achievement. Despite early misgivings about Social Security and the Civil Rights Act, Ronald Reagan moved Republicans past Alf Landon's resistance to the New Deal and Barry Goldwater's opposition to federal civil rights law, focusing instead on economic growth and national strength. A consistent "constitutionalism" would entangle Republicans in an endless, unfolding political gaffe -- opposing, in moments of candor, unemployment insurance, the minimum wage, the federal highway system and the desegregation of lunch counters.

A second question of Tea Party candidates: Do you believe that American identity is undermined by immigration? An internal debate has broken out on this issue among Tea Party favorites. Tom Tancredo, running for Colorado governor, raises the prospect of bombing Mecca, urges the president to return to his Kenyan "homeland" and calls Miami a "Third World country" -- managing to offend people on four continents. Dick Armey of FreedomWorks appropriately criticizes Tancredo's "harsh and uncharitable and mean-spirited attitude on the immigration issue." But the extremes of the movement, during recent debates on birthright citizenship and the Manhattan mosque, seem intent on depicting Hispanics and Muslims as a fifth column.

There is no method more likely to create ethnic resentment and separatism than unfair suspicion. The nativist impulse is the enemy of assimilation. In a nation where minorities now comprise two-fifths of children under 18, Republicans should also understand that tolerating nativism would bring slow political asphyxiation.

Question three: Do you believe that gun rights are relevant to the health-care debate? Nevada Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle raised this issue by asserting that, "If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies." Far from reflecting the spirit of the Founders (who knew how to deal with the Whiskey Rebellion), the implied resort to political violence is an affectation -- more foolish than frightening. But it is toxic for the GOP to be associated with the armed and juvenile.

Most Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement are understandably concerned about the size and reach of government. Their enthusiasm is a clear Republican advantage. But Tea Party populism is just as clearly incompatible with some conservative and Republican beliefs. It is at odds with Abraham Lincoln's inclusive tone and his conviction that government policies could empower individuals. It is inconsistent with religious teaching on government's responsibility to seek the common good and to care for the weak. It does not reflect a Burkean suspicion of radical social change.

The Democratic political nightmare is now obvious and overwhelming. The Republican challenge is different: building a majority on an unstable, slightly cracked foundation.
H/T Burke's Corner

An Orthodox (ex-Catholic) Reverts

Hat Tip: The Young Fogey

A convert with the online handle "Mexican" has returned to the Roman Church. First I think it important to say that conscience is an extremely important and personal matter. I do not fault him for obeying the dictates of his conscience provided it was not done precipitously and or without due prayer and spiritual discernment. Nor do I know to what extent he discussed his doubts with his spiritual father before taking this step. The bottom line is that it is not my place to judge him. I will however make a couple of quick observations about this from a somewhat broader perspective.

1. This is an ongoing problem within Orthodoxy. A significant percentage of converts wind up leaving, typically within the first three years. I think a great deal of this can be laid at the feet of a far too casual approach towards the catechumenate. Some (though by no means all) converts are being received into the Church too quickly. It is FAR FAR better for someone to stay out of the Church than enter only to leave later on. Apostasy is one of the most serious sins one can commit. Of course there will always be people who leave the Church. But the number of converts who apostatize is simply too high. We really need to tighten up on the manner in which we receive converts. A further reason why I believe baptism should be normative for converts. (Though I note in Mexican's case it did not stop him.)

2. I find it ironic that he is moving from Orthodoxy back into what he believes is the True Church via an organization that is not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church and which is de facto (if not perhaps de jure) schismatic. The priests of the SSPX have no faculties to hear confessions which means any absolution he received from them is considered invalid by Rome. Having come from the Roman Trad World myself I have some sympathy for how easy it is to get sucked into their world view. But it is a rather gloomy place full of dark conspiracy theories about Free Masons, Jews, Communists, invalid masses and the like. And like our Old Calendarists it is a movement that is forever fragmenting with ever crazier groups out there including sede vecantists and anti-pope's. One need only read some of the writings and statements of Bishop Williamson (SSPX) to get a flavor for what I am talking about. If you wander over to Rorate Caeli there are some posts up on Williamson's most recent musings. Far more interesting than the bishop's rather obvious attempt to torpedo the Rome - SSPX discussions are many of the comments posted by supporters of the bishop. The man is a well known anti-semite and Holocaust denier and yet he has a fairly loyal following in Trad World. That should say all that needs to be said.

The other conspiracy nuts (the lefties have theirs too)

I have occasionally, and with some justification, been accused of harping on the far right conspiracy wackos that infest the Tea Party movement and have a solid following in the Republican Party while ignoring the kooks who inhabit the far left. I can only plead as a defense that I am a bit more sensitive about those on the right, having been for most of my life a Republican (never to be confused with a small 'r' republican) who just took it for granted that a goodly number of those on the extreme left were several fries short of a Happy Meal. That said, I offer the following in reparation for my hitherto one sided focus on the reality challenged in the GOP.
A small gathering of 50 or 60 people; roughly 95 percent white, 90 percent male, a few blond-haired kids, average age 45, all nodding in assent as a series of speakers explains that our government is conspiring against us and fabricating massive lies in order to hide its own crimes and frighten us into giving up our constitutional rights and liberties.

The Tea Party? Minutemen? Birthers? No, “Truthers,” left-wing conspiracy theorists who believe (among other things) that 9/11 was an inside job, that no plane hit the Pentagon, that Ted Olson did not receive a call from his wife, Barbara, shortly before she perished in the crash of Flight 77, that the anthrax scare was also a government hoax (although the anthrax was real and deadly), and that hurricane Katrina was the result of weather manipulation by racists or profiteers or both.

Like many others, I was aware of these theories and aware too that a significant percentage of Americans (about the same percentage that believes President Obama is a Muslim who was born in Kenya) was at least partly persuaded by them. But on Aug. 15 I got an up-close look at the phenomenon when I attended a meeting of Truthers that just happened to be held in Livingston Manor, a small Catskill town about 20 miles from my house.
Read the rest here.

Ironically many of the leading exponents of the "9-11 Truther" movement were also early and leading figures in the "Birther" movement and have filed multiple court cases in an effort to prove their many bizarre beliefs. In every instance they have been laughed out of court. In at least a few instances they were fined for abusing the legal system with their frivolous suits. None of which has deterred them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Laurence Kotlikoff: Retiree Ponzi Scheme Is $16 Trillion Short

Social Security just celebrated its 75th birthday. Love it or hate it, it has done its job and should retire. We need a new system, the Personal Security System, which retains Social Security’s best features, scraps the rest, and covers its costs.

Social Security’s objective -- forcing people to save for retirement -- is legit. Otherwise millions of us would seek handouts in our old age.

But Social Security has also played a central role in the massive, six-decade Ponzi scheme known as U.S. fiscal policy, which transfers ever-larger sums from the young to the old.

In so doing, Uncle Sam has assured successive young contributors that they would have their turn, in retirement, to get back much more than they put in. But all chain letters end, and the U.S.’s is now collapsing.

The letter’s last purchasers -- today’s and tomorrow’s youngsters -- face enormous increases in taxes and cuts in benefits. This fiscal child abuse, which will turn the American dream into a nightmare, is best summarized by the $202 trillion fiscal gap discussed in my last column.

The gap is the present value difference between future federal spending and revenue. Closing this gap via taxes requires doubling every tax we pay, starting now. Such a policy would hurt younger people much more than older ones because wages constitute most of the tax base.

What about cutting defense instead? Sadly, there’s no room there. The defense budget’s 5 percent share of gross domestic product is historically low and is projected to decline to 3 percent by 2020. And the $202 trillion figure already incorporates this huge defense cut.

The 3-Year-Old Vote

Reducing current benefits, most of which go to the elderly, is another option. But such a policy is highly unlikely. The elderly vote and are well-organized, whereas 3-year-olds can neither vote, nor buy Congressmen.

In contrast, cutting future benefits is politically feasible because it hits the young. And that’s where Congress is heading, starting with Social Security. The president’s fiscal commission will probably recommend raising Social Security’s full retirement age to 70 from 67, for those who are now younger than 45. This won’t change the ages at which future retirees can start collecting benefits. It will simply cut by one-fifth what they get.
Read the rest here.

Feeling a bit whiggish?

Fed up with the two main political parties? I am. One party seems to be hell bent on driving off the leftward end of the political spectrum and bankrupting the country with insane programs that can not be afforded whilst telling everyone how to live their lives. The other seems to have fallen under the control of a cabal of neo-con Protestant Evangelical theocrats, and tin foil hat conspiracy kranks. Oh, and it seems they are just as determined to drive the country into bankruptcy in pursuit of their own agenda (endless tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% and empire building in places we have no business being). Both parties have no compunction about trampling constitutional liberties and doing whatever it takes to stay in power. And both have sold their souls to the various special interest lobbies.

So what is a self described (constitutional) monarchist with moderately libertarian sympathies living in a republic to do?

Well, this situation has existed before. In Britain when government was perceived to be getting out of control it was the Whigs who stood up for a sensible middle ground and who refuted absolutist rule. In the United States when Andrew Jackson sought to massively expand executive power, even going so far as to defy the Supreme Court, the Whigs once again stood firm for constitutionally restrained government and legislative superiority. Men like George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln were affiliated with the Whigs.

And then they died out, being effectively extinct by the end of the Civil War. Until now.

It appears that I am not the only one revolted by what is going on in our country's polity. A few years ago a number of US military veterans of our various recent wars got together and after expressing their shared disgust with the state of American politics, decided to revive the Whig Party. Although still small it is gaining traction and favorable press. In the two years since the Whig revival began it has become the fastest growing political third party in the country of whom several thousand members are current or former military. Unfortunately electoral laws in most states are designed to make it extremely difficult to register as a member of any political party other than Republican or Democrat (what a surprise). But around 30,000 have registered their support on the Modern Whig's official website.

So what do the Modern Whigs stand for? You may view many of their positions here.

Their policy proposals appear to stake out a position as the party of the radical center. They take what they see as the best ideas of the GOP and the Democrats (which they do not consider to be mutually exclusive) and build on them. While disdaining the hyper-partisanship of the last couple of decades they see nothing wrong or incoherent in a party that is fiscally conservative, socially libertarian, strong on national defense, but disinclined to meddle where we have no clearly defined interests. They support policies on the environment, taxes and business regulation, immigration, the 2nd amendment and many other issues that seem almost calculated to make hard core right wingers foam at the mouth and cause the radical left to start spinning their heads and regurgitating pea soup.

In short, I like them.

Do I agree with all of their positions? No. But I agree substantively with probably a majority of them. And even on the points where I don't agree; their positions are non-extremist with little I would call a deal breaker.

There are practical problems of course. Political centrists don't get excited the way the angry right or left tends to. That can create problems. Their very moderation and non-vitriolic approach to politics is likely to be a massive handicap in winning elections. Great and successful political campaigns are all about marshaling a visceral hatred for "the other." Successful political parties also need a hard core of "purists" that they can count on come election day. The GOP and the Dems have them in spades. The Libertarians are notorious for their armchair political theorists who disdain getting their hands dirty with the actual business of running for office and governing but who routinely look for the slightest hint of heresy among would be libertarian sympathizers. By contrast the Whigs are almost the anti-purist party.

Another problem is their size. However impressive their growth rate; they are still only the fastest growing party in the lower tier of third parties. OK OK. They have only been around for two years. And yes they are getting a lot of attention for a new (old) minor third party. But they are going to have to actually break through the legal barriers designed to obstruct and cripple third parties that have been erected by the Democrats and Republicans in most states. In short they need to start registering a lot of voters and getting their party on the ballot. They also need to get people to run for office.

And finally, they need money. Sad as it is, no political party can hope to compete without a serious pile of dead presidents.

For now, I am impressed with what they have accomplished in two years. But that was the easy part. I will be keeping an eye on the Whigs and may even lend my support where I can.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No new taxes? Not so fast

Mitch Daniels is not a communist, a socialist, or even a garden-variety liberal. On the contrary, he’s a conservative Republican who’s served at the pleasure of two Republican presidents (Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush) and now occupies the Indiana governor’s mansion. He’s even seen in some GOP circles as a potential 2012 presidential nominee. And yet when I asked Daniels earlier this month whether the federal government might have to raise taxes at some point in the future—regardless of which party was in power—his answer was yes.

“At some stage there could well be a tax increase,” he said. “If you believe our fiscal mess is republic-threatening, and if you have to take the third- or fourth-best approach, at the end of the day, I’d do it.”

Welcome to Grover Norquist’s worst nightmare. For the last 20 years, no one principle has united the Republican Party quite like its violent opposition to tax increases—except, perhaps, its equally ardent obsession with tax cuts. When liberal economist Paul Krugman described the GOP as a horde of “tax-cut zombies” just “shambling forward, always hungry for more,” he wasn’t far off; every election cycle, Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform forces candidates to sign a “no new tax” pledge, and holdouts risk being publicly ridiculed for not signing. But now there are indications that at least some Republicans, like Daniels, are awakening from their stupor. As the crippling recession and mounting long-term deficit projections inspire new calls for fiscal austerity, especially from the Tea Party types currently driving the GOP’s agenda, it’s worth asking whether we’re about to witness the biggest change in conservative politics since the rise of Reagan: the beginning of the end of the Tax Zombie Republican.

To get a sense of how such a staggering shift could be possible, let’s rev up our DeLoreans, restart our flux capacitors, and return to the roots of modern-day Republicanism. Among conservatives, Ronald Reagan is remembered as the tax-cutter in chief: the supply-side hero whose Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 slashed the top marginal tax rate by more than half. But the truth is that after his first year in office, Reagan was actually willing (if not always happy) to compensate for gaps in the government’s revenue stream by raising rates. In 1982, for example, he agreed to restore a third of the previous year’s massive cut. It was the largest tax increase in U.S. history. The Gipper also raised taxes in 1983. And 1984. And 1986. The party sainted him for his efforts.

That permissiveness ended with Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush. While campaigning for president in 1988, Bush made a solemn promise: “no new taxes.” But in 1991 he accepted a small tax hike as part of a major deficit-reduction package. Conservatives—who’d become militantly, monolithically antitax in the Gipper’s wake—were enraged. Never mind that the package paved the way for the booming economy and balanced budgets of the 1990s, much as Reagan’s apostasies coexisted peacefully with the steady growth of the previous decade. Bush lost the right, and then reelection. Ever since, only the rarest of Republicans has dared to deviate from GOP dogma on taxes—even as the party’s absolutism (see: Bush, George W.) spawned record deficits and squandered its reputation for fiscal responsibility.
Read the rest here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Russia: Opposition to legal abortion rises sharply

MOSCOW, August 23, 2010 ( - The number of Russians who support either a full or partial ban on abortion has doubled in the past twelve years, according to a recent poll.

The independent, non-governmental polling and sociological research agency, Levada Analytical Center, reported that a recent survey of 1,600 Russians found 41 percent of those polled support introducing nationwide restrictions on abortion.

The number of those in favor of a complete ban on abortions has grown from 8 percent in 1998 to 16 percent in 2010, the report said.

Another 25 percent only approved of therapeutic, non-elective abortions, up from 13 percent earlier.

Forty-eight percent disapprove of a ban, down from 59 percent, while 11 percent were undecided, compared with 20 percent earlier.

Current law in the Russian Federation allows abortion on demand up to 12 weeks gestation, up to 22 weeks for social reasons, and at any point during the pregnancy for “medical necessity” and upon the woman’s consent, and is offered free of charge at all state clinics.

Russian Health Ministry figures show 1.2 million abortions last year compared to 1.7 million live births, with upwards of a quarter million women per year left infertile from abortion complications.

A leader in the Russian Orthodox Church said in June this year that Russia must enact pro-life laws or face demographic collapse.

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin told Interfax news agency, "In Soviet times we got used to abortion and we got used to considering it an unavoidable part of our legal reality and that there is no way to the turn back the page. But we see today that it is possible to turn back a great deal.”

Between 1992 and 2008, Russia’s population dropped by more than 12 million.

An update on the Lutheran - Orthodox discussion

...over at Gottesdienst Online. The discussion has gotten fairly deep with lots of comments. Perry Robinson (Acolyte4236) has been responding, at great length, to the various Lutheran reservations. For those interested in a rather serious discussion I would encourage you to follow the link.

Disclaimer: I read all of the comments that were posted as of last night and wound up with glazed eyes and a mild headache. I dabble in theology, but Perry (as Chris Jones noted fairly early in the discussion) is a heavyweight who is way out of my league. Why he is not teaching at St. Vlads or somewhere comparable is beyond me. It does strike me as a waste of talent though.

P.S. Perry's own blog Energetic Processions is linked in the sidebar. It is the most serious Orthodox blog with theology as its focus that I am aware of. Though again, we are not talking Orthodoxy 101.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A miracle (sort of)

OK it's not on the same level as the parting of the Red Sea. But still it's impressive. Recall in my previous post I was mourning my ten year old (I'm not kidding) cell phone. This poor phone has endured more abuse in ten years than almost any modern electronic device, and yet it never died. I have kicked it, stepped on it, sat on it (multiple times) and dropped it more times than I can count. But like the rabbit in the battery commercial, it just kept going and going and going, battered but functional. It was so abused and resilient that I have refused to part with it despite the fact that I could easily have upgraded to a newer phone any time. Another reason I chose not to upgrade is because of the fragility of most newer phones where if you look at them wrong or speak too loudly into them, they break.

Then came yesterday. It was in the middle 90's and I was a tad on the warm side. So I decided to cool off with a nice relaxing swim. Off I went to the pool with keys, towel and phone which when fumbling everything in my hands, I decided to stuff into the pocket of my swim trunks. So I get to the pool, deposit the keys and towel on the lounge chair, walk to the edge of the pool and dive in.

AHHHH... it felt so good and pleasantly refreshing. I started swimming some laps and had been for at it for no more than 5 minutes when I suddenly felt a distinct vibration against my right leg that was alarmingly familiar...

OH NO!!!

This being a Christian blog, I will refrain from directly quoting what came out of my mouth next as I broke the olympic speed record in reaching the edge of the pool and pulled myself out. Quickly I whipped out my phone just in time to see the words "Good Bye" fading from its external screen (already cracked from being dropped). Frantically I hit the power button.


I started to shake the phone. Water came out of the hole used for head phones. I looked at the interior screen and could see water sloshing around and a sort of crystal white out forming on the screen. It rapidly expanded until it completely blotted the screen.

This I realized was very likely the end.

I removed the battery, opened the phone up and set it down in the blistering sun. Resigned that there was nothing more I could do, I went back into the pool, no longer enjoying it, and finished swimming laps for another twenty minutes or so. Then I gathered everything up and went home. I put the open phone on the ledge of the fence where it would get as much sun as possible in the rather dim hope it would dry out. After which I started considering what I would get for a replacement.

Fast forward to today. Late afternoon rolls around and I decide to try charging the battery by itself. To my surprise it seemed to take the charge. Then I went to took at my phone on the fence ledge. The screen was a giant sheet of white water crystal.


I start banging the phone in my hand and I can feel water dribbling out of cracks and some of the water crystals start to fade a bit. After a bit more banging I decided that it was time to get it over with, grabbed the battery, popped it in and hit the power button. And then...


The power came on and I could see the interior screen, albeit slightly obscured by water. The outside screen also illuminated, but nothing showed up. No welcome or time. So I tried checking my phone lists on the inside screen. They showed up. Then I called a friend. And the call went through. Still a blank on the outside screen. But the phone is functional. OK. So I am gonna have to buy a watch to tell time. Big deal. Unbelievably this, the most abused phone in N. America, has yet again survived.

When I die I am willing it to the Smithsonian.

Friday, August 20, 2010

An observation

My cell phone does not enjoy swimming as much as I do.

(Until further notice if anyone needs to get hold of me please use email. On a side note, I'm not sure what to put for a tag on this post. Stupidity and Moron come to mind though.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I knew we were missing something...

A new Lutheran denomination. Please welcome the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) which will join the ELCA, LCMC, LCMS, and the WELS in America's Lutheran universe. At least the Lutheran alphabet soup has some rational behind it. The name Lutheran notwithstanding, they all have serious doctrinal differences.

So what's our excuse again?

Memory Eternal: Metropolitan Christopher

Met. +Christopher of the Serbian Orthodox Church (Midwestern America) has reposed after a long illness. See Fr. Milovan's blog Again and Again for details and funeral arrangements.

May his memory be eternal!

Disturbing news from Damascus

Via Owen and Samn! comes the report that all of the bishops of the AOANA are to again be demoted to auxiliary bishops. See the linked sites for the details.

R.I.P. The McMansion

They’ve been called McMansions, Starter Castles, Garage Mahals and Faux Chateaus but here’s the latest thing you can call them — History.

In the past few years, there have been an increasing number of references made to the “McMansion glut” and the “McMansion backlash,” as more towns pass ordinances against garishly large homes, which are generally over 3,000 square feet and built very close together.

What sets a McMansion apart from a regular mansion, according to Wikipedia, are a few characteristics: They’re tacky, they lack a definitive style and they have a “displeasingly jumbled appearance.”

Well, count 2010 as the year the last nail was hammered into the McCoffin: In its latest report on home-buying trends, real-estate site Trulia declares: “The McMansion Era Is Over.”

Just 9 percent of the people surveyed by Trulia said their ideal home size was over 3,200 square feet. Meanwhile, more than one-third said their ideal size was under 2,000 feet.

“That’s something that would’ve been unbelievable just a few years back,” said Pete Flint, CEO and co-founder of Trulia. “Americans are moving away from McMansions.”
Read the rest here.

Lutheranism and Orthodoxy

Burnell F Eckardt Jr. discusses the temptations of Orthodoxy and his objections to it.

H/T Dr. Tighe

This is just wrong...

In 1969, John Wayne played Rooster Cogburn in "True Grit" -- a grizzled, drunken U.S. Marshal hired by a 14-year-old girl to track down her father's killer. The role ended up winning the aging Western star his first and only Oscar, prompting him to make a rare sequel -- "Rooster Cogburn" -- opposite Katherine Hepburn in 1975. The image of Wayne's craggy, eye-patched visage from "True Grit" has become a cinematic icon.

So film mavens everywhere were taken aback when it was announced last year that Joel and Ethan Coen would been making their own version of "True Grit." But don't expect a straight remake; this movie is based more closely on the Charles Portis novel. And Jeff Bridges, fresh off his Oscar win, was tapped to play Cogburn; that's right, the Duke has been replaced by the Dude.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Britain's David Cameron seeks smaller government, more citizen involvement

LONDON -- The Obama administration might be reasserting the government's place in American life. But on this side of the Atlantic, the so-called Big Society vision of Britain's new Conservative prime minister is of a nation with minimal state interference.

David Cameron's 100-day-old ruling coalition is launching an effort to reduce the role of government, seeking to vest communities and individuals with fresh powers and peddling a new era of volunteerism to replace the state in running museums, parks and other public facilities. Supporters and opponents describe the campaign as the biggest assault on government here since the wave of privatizations by Conservative firebrand Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

The idea, one with distant echoes of the "tea party" movement in the United States, is to pluck decision making out of the hands of bureaucrats. Groups of like-minded parents and teachers, for instance, are being invited to open their own taxpayer-funded schools. The groups -- not government school boards -- will be able to determine the curriculum at these "free schools," using their own discretion to make some subjects compulsory while omitting others they find objectionable or unnecessary, such as lessons on multiculturalism.

But the government's push is also about pinching pennies in an age of austerity in Britain, which, like many nations including the United States, is heavily indebted and increasingly broke. Through the toughest budget cuts in generations, the new coalition is moving quickly to shrink the size of the state, with some estimates indicating as many as 600,000 public-sector job losses -- or one in 10 -- by 2015. At the same time, Cameron is backing legislation that would allow communities to take over, for instance, post office branches, staffing them with volunteers instead of paid workers.

"The Big Society is about a huge culture change, where people, in their everyday lives, in their homes, in their neighborhoods, in their workplace, don't always turn to officials, local authorities or central government for answers to the problems they face," Cameron said last month in a keynote speech on the issue.

In what it calls a "radical extension of direct democracy," the new government is moving to give citizens the right to veto property-tax increases above certain limits. In an effort to hold the public sector more accountable, it is also pressing forward with plans to have communities directly elect police commissioners while forcing the publication of more-detailed crime statistics to give residents a better picture of how local forces are doing.

The new coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats is set to present legislation to dissolve the government health boards that once determined needs at public hospitals, which would allow doctors to become the ultimate deciders.

Cameron's critics say the proposed cuts risk fueling more unemployment and triggering another recession. And public outrage has already forced the government to backpedal on some attempts to trim public spending, including a plan to scrap a government-funded free milk program for needy children under 5.
Read the rest here.

A 1930's mystery in 2010

LOS ANGELES — Two infant skeletons wrapped in 1930s newspapers and placed in doctor's bags were found inside an unclaimed steamer trunk by a woman cleaning out the basement of a 1924 building that's being converted to condominiums, authorities said.

The skeletons, believed to be decades-old remains of fetuses or infants, were discovered late Tuesday in the 4-foot (1.2-meter) -tall green trunk inscribed with the initials JMB.

Other things found in the trunk included cigarettes, a green bowl, black and white photos, letters, a book club membership certificate inscribed Jean M. Barrie and ticket stubs from the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games.

The remains were found in the four-story brick building near MacArthur Park, just a few miles west of downtown Los Angeles. The larger skeleton, the size of a newborn, was wrapped in a Los Angeles Times newspaper dated 1934.

A smaller skeleton was wrapped in newspaper dated 1932, said Gloria Gomez, property manager of the co-op for the last 10 years. She and friend Yiming Xing, 35, who has lived there for six years, had to force open the trunk with a screwdriver, she said.

Coroner's officials will try to determine how the babies died, check missing children reports and try to find relatives and neighbors who might know what happened.

It was Gomez's job to clean out the basement. Everyone in the building was given until Aug. 14 to get their things out. The condo board told Gomez she could have anything that wasn't claimed.
Read the rest here.

Just me playing detective, but my first guess, is that this may be the aftermath of a couple of abortions, which were highly illegal in those days.

Last US combat forces are leaving Iraq

But a very large body of "military advisers" is remaining.
NEAR THE IRAQ-KUWAIT BORDER — The last U.S. combat troops were crossing the border into Kuwait on Thursday morning, bringing to a close the active combat phase of a 7½-year war that overthrew the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein, forever defined the presidency of George W. Bush and left more than 4,400 American service members and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead.

The final convoy of the Army’s 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., was about to enter Kuwait shortly after 1:30 a.m. (6:30 p.m. Wednesday ET), carrying the last of the 14,000 U.S. combat forces in Iraq, said NBC’s Richard Engel, who has been traveling with the brigade as it moved out this week.
Read he rest here.

Feds accuse New Jersey of fraud (state bonds)

Federal regulators accused the State of New Jersey of securities fraud on Wednesday for claiming it was properly funding public workers’ pensions when it was not.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said the action was its first ever against a state, and only its second against any government over the handling of a public pension fund. The city of San Diego was the first.

The S.E.C. settled its civil complaint with New Jersey by issuing a cease-and-desist order, which the state accepted without admitting or denying the findings.

The agency did not impose a financial penalty. The S.E.C.’s powers of enforcement against the states are tightly limited by states’-rights concerns and constitutional law, and it has standing to get involved only when there is a clear-cut case of fraud.

Nor did the S.E.C.’s order name the bond underwriters whose job it was to vouch for the state’s financial statements. That raised the possibility that investors might decide to file suit.

The action could also put pressure on other states and cities that have used various accounting maneuvers to portray their pension funds as healthier than they currently are. Actuaries have been raising questions, for example, about the plans Illinois has laid out for strengthening its pension funds.

The S.E.C. said in its cease-and-desist order that investors bought more than $26 billion worth of New Jersey’s bonds, without understanding the severity of the state’s financial troubles.
Read the rest here.

Quote of the day...

"The corporate donation has no impact on the reporting activities of our newsgathering organizations. There is a strict wall between business and editorial and the corporate office does not consult with our newsgathering organizations ... before making donations."
-Spokesman Jack Horner commenting on News Corp's decision to donate $1 million to the Republican Party. Rupert Murdoch is the principal owner of News Corp which is the parent company of FOX News.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sad news

John T. Steinbock, the Roman Catholic bishop of Fresno, has been diagnosed with lung cancer. Just how advanced is not yet known. But lung cancer is a really bad diagnosis under any circumstances. Bp. +Steinbock has been very kind and charitable to the mission parish that I belong to in Merced. He has given his blessing for us to use the beautiful (pre Vatican II) chapel at the old Mercy Hospital building for many years now. In your charity please pray for him.

News Source

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Time is running out for the West

"Genuinely adverse debt dynamics were only expected to materialise in 15 to 20 years. The crisis has 'fast-forwarded' history, eroding all the time available to adjust, " said the group's quarterly Sovereign Monitor.

Moody's fears that the US will crash through its safety buffer by 2013 if growth falters (adverse scenario), with interest payments topping 14pc of tax revenues. The debt-to-revenue ratio has already doubled in three years to 430pc.

The US, UK, Germany, France, and Spain are all at risk of an "interest rate shock", either because they must roll over a cluster of short-term debt (US, France, Spain) or because deficits are so large.

Countries that "fail to demonstrate the level of social cohesion required to stabilise debt" will lose their AAA rating. "Intra-generational" conflict between young and old requires careful handling. States that delay pension reform risk spiralling downwards.

Moody's said the world had changed since Europe's debt crisis. None of the large sovereign states can still assume it is credit-worthy. "The burden of proof now falls on governments," it added.

Britain has the safety cushion of long debt maturities, but the structural deficit is causing debt "to grow an unsustainable rate": the UK is clearly one of the weaker countries in the AAA peer group.

Moody's expects Britain's public debt to reach 90pc of GDP within three years. It warned that any slackening in fiscal tightening by the Government squeeze would lead to a "sharp rise" in funding costs if growth also slowed, with a nasty effect on debt dynamics.

The warning appears to vindicate the Coalition's claim that immediate belt-tightening is needed to restore confidence and head off a gilts crisis where markets would impose harsher measures.

The current crisis differs starkly from the "one-off" debt spikes after the Second World War, when young economies were able to outgrow the debt burden. This time the threat lies ahead as the aging crisis drives up pension and health costs on a static tax base. "While the current stock of debt is large, it is dwarfed by the accumulation of future liabilities if policies do not change."

None dare call it tyranny

If you want to know what tyranny is like, look around.

The national government — specifically the executive branch — can do pretty much what it wants. It could bomb Iran tomorrow without a declaration of war from Congress. It can — and does — conduct secret wars and covert operations against countries that have done nothing to us. Of course, they are secret only to the ignorant taxpayers who must finance them and perhaps suffer when the provoked retaliation occurs. It can have men behind PlayStation consoles in Nevada fire Hellfire missiles from aerial drones on people in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere.

This tyrannical government can send any foreigner picked up anywhere in the world to third countries known for torturing prisoners. It can hold people accused of nothing indefinitely in prisons in Cuba and Afghanistan and torture them into making false confessions. It can conduct a war crimes trial in a military kangaroo court for a man, Omar Khadr, held captive for eight years after he was picked up at the age of 15 during a U.S. assault on villagers near Kabul. His torture-induced “confessions” will be admissible. All this is in violation of commitments under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict not to treat children in war as though they were adults.

It can assassinate even American citizens abroad without a scent of due process.

It is a government that can write its own warrants without judicial review — and call them national security letters — in order to conduct fishing expeditions in anyone’s electronic records. But that isn’t enough power for the present Progressive administration, which wants the freedom to examine our browser histories and email correspondents’ names. The Bill of Rights, like the Geneva Convention, has become “quaint” and obsolete.
Read the rest here.
H/T The Young Fogey

The first half or so of the linked post is pretty good and I generally agree with its complaints. The second part seems divorced from reality to me. Reasonable people can disagree with the war in Iraq. I have come around 180 degrees on that subject myself. It was a war of choice against a nation that posed no danger to the United States. Afghanistan is a different matter altogether. Sometimes I think people need to be reminded that THEY CAME HERE AND ATTACKED US ON OUR SOIL. Sorry but no one gets a free pass on that.

Afghanistan in 2001 had become the Walt Disney World of terrorism. It was being used, with the full and active support of the de-facto government, as the main base for the world's most lethal terrorist organization. An organization dedicated to the restoration of the Islamic Caliphate and the establishment of Sharia worldwide. If you allow your country to be used as the launch pad for an attack on another country and provide material support for those carrying out the attack, that is customarily regarded as a casus belli.

Yes civilians have been killed during the war. And that is deeply regrettable. But there is an important distinction between us and those we are fighting there. We make every effort, often at the expense of our own military interests and even to the point of endangering our people, to avoid civilian casualties. The other side uses civilians as human shields and deliberately targets them as a matter of policy.

I think the author needs to climb down from his high horse and take a good stiff drink of reality.

As for Iran I have no clue where he is getting his information from. He claims our own intelligence says three is no nuclear weapons program. If so I missed that. Every report I have seen flatly states the exact opposite. Even Russia is now reluctantly turning on their long time business partner.

Still if Iran does go over the top and Israel decides it's not inclined to wait and see how nutty Iran's dictator is, that's their business. As for us, I see almost no chance we will become involved in another war. I have little use for Obama, but he is I think coming to terms with an unpleasant reality. We are broke and wars cost money. He won't do anything that might endanger his precious domestic agenda.

What's more is I suspect that his military people have told him the same thing they told George Bush. Iran is not a military midgit. And they posess the ability to inflict a cripling blow without ever using nukes. They control the land on the eastern side of the Straits of Hormuz. That means that they can very easily shut down the flow of about half of the world's oil supply and short of a full scale invasion there is damned little we could do about it.

The simple truth is that we have no real military option for dealing with Iran. And unfortunately, they know it.

Champion Athletes in Birmingham (in 1902)

An astonishingly high quality film of an athletic competition and the crowds from Birmingham England in July of 1902.

(Spoiler Alert: The Americans dominate.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why does a new mosque take precedence over an already existing church?

Rebuild St. Nicholas First!

Read the story here.

Note: The original image used in this post has been replaced by the two above.

Quote of the day...

From a comment at T-19...
How I wish that our diocese had this sae kind of spine to think through the implications of Neff Powell being our bishop and the President of Planned Parenthood, and lifting his hand to bless an abortion clinic in Virginia.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Zsa Zsa Gabor asks for last rites

SAN FRANCISCO — Actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, a fixture in Hollywood for six decades, asked that a priest read her the last rites on Sunday, following hospitalization two days earlier due to complications from hip surgery.

The 93-year-old Gabor, whose string of movies, television shows and wealthy husbands dates to the 1950s, was visited by a priest at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, her husband Frederick Prinz von Anhalt, told Reuters.

Gabor was able to speak "very little," though she was conscious, he said.

Gabor was admitted on Friday to the hospital to treat two blood clots, only two days after being released for hip replacement surgery. Gabor broke her hip on July 17 when she fell out of bed while watching the television game show "Jeopardy," said her publicist John Blanchette.

"Her health has been up and down ever since," he said.

The Hungarian-born Gabor has appeared in more than 30 movies, and her penchant for calling everyone "dah-ling" in her Hungarian accent made her a well-known Hollywood personality.

She, along with her two glamorous sisters Eva and Magda made several appearances on radio and television shows in the 1950s in the 1950s and 1960s. Zsa Zsa's first starring role in the movies was in "Moulin Rouge," followed by "Lili" and later "Touch of Evil."

Married nine times to a string of husbands that included a Turkish diplomat and the hotel magnate Conrad Hilton, Gabor celebrated her 24th wedding anniversary to Von Anhalt in the hospital on Saturday, said Blanchette.

For the dead in New York there is (almost) No Vacancy

THOSE of us among the living all know New York City can be maddeningly expensive, whether one is shopping for a $40 million mansion on Fifth Avenue or a $2,500 studio walk-up in a former tenement on the Lower East Side.

For the dead, however, virtually no amount of money will secure a final resting place in the heart of a city that is fast running out of graveyard space.

And in the parts of town where a burial plot is still available, the cost has in some cases more than tripled in less than a decade; aboveground mausoleums can fetch upward of $3 million. Cemeteries are scrambling to create more space, and as plot prices have soared, the number of cremations has also risen, with a quarter of New Yorkers choosing the less expensive alternative.

Trinity Church Cemetery in Washington Heights, the last operating graveyard in Manhattan, has stopped selling plots, offering burial only in the most “extraordinary circumstances,” or to people with long-held reservations.

The largest Jewish graveyard in Brooklyn, Washington Cemetery, ran out of land in the winter after tearing up roads and pathways to utilize every cubic inch of ground. Evergreens and Cypress Hills, also in Brooklyn, may sprawl, but not enough, and dozens of smaller cemeteries spread across the five boroughs are squeezed, too. The city’s largest Catholic cemetery, Calvary in Queens, is close to capacity. And even the most famous of them all, Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, has only about five more years before it will be forced to stop selling plots.
Read the rest here.

Generation Exile: Russia's new wave of expatriots fleeing official corruption

Yevgeny Chichvarkin once took London by storm. Bounding onto the stage at the Russian Economic Forum four years ago in red sneakers, graffiti-sprayed jeans, and a top that proclaimed that he was MADE IN MOSCOW, the 34-year-old Russian businessman told the elite gathering how he’d grown his Evroset mobile-phone company into a billion-dollar empire in just five years, and that a “new generation of young businesspeople” was “ready to integrate Russia into the world economy.”

Now Chichvarkin is back in London, no longer a poster boy for Russian investment but instead a fugitive. Two of his business partners are in jail, his company has been sold off after a series of raids by Russian police, and his mother died under mysterious circumstances in April. Chichvarkin himself is wanted on charges of kidnapping and extortion, which he insists were cooked up by a gang of “werewolves in uniform”—bureaucrats and police who use the law to shake down and steal businesses.

Chichvarkin has joined Russia’s Generation Exile, a tide of businessmen, lawyers, accountants, and bankers who have fled their country after being robbed and threatened by Russia’s corrupt law-enforcement officials. Transparency International, an NGO, estimates that fully one third of Russian businesses have been targeted in attempted corporate raids by police. An anti-raider hotline set up by the Moscow city hall reported a 10-fold jump in complaints, from 200 to more than 2,000, over the last year. And while it is hard to calculate exactly how many of the estimated 300,000 Russians living in London are the victims or beneficiaries of police-backed shakedowns, the number of business exiles afraid to return to their homeland for fear of arrest is certainly in the thousands. According to a survey last year by the Moscow-based Levada Center, many more may exit voluntarily: 13 percent of 1,600 respondents said they wanted to leave Russia, the same percentage as in 1992, a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Read the rest here.

The Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary

The Dormition of our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary: After the Ascension of the Lord, the Mother of God remained in the care of the Apostle John the Theologian, and during his journeys She lived at the home of his parents, near the Mount of Olives. She was a source of consolation and edification both for the Apostles and for all the believers. Conversing with them, She told them about miraculous events: the Annunciation, the seedless and undefiled Conception of Christ born of Her, about His early childhood, and about His earthly life. Like the Apostles, She helped plant and strengthen the Christian Church by Her presence, Her discourse and Her prayers.

The reverence of the Apostles for the Most Holy Virgin was extraordinary. After the receiving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the Apostles remained at Jerusalem for about ten years attending to the salvation of the Jews, and wanting moreover to see the Mother of God and hear Her holy discourse. Many of the newly-enlightened in the Faith even came from faraway lands to Jerusalem, to see and to hear the All-Pure Mother of God.

During the persecution initiated by King Herod against the young Church of Christ (Acts 12:1-3), the Most Holy Virgin and the Apostle John the Theologian withdrew to Ephesus in the year 43. The preaching of the Gospel there had fallen by lot to the Apostle John the Theologian. The Mother of God was on Cyprus with St Lazarus the Four-Days-Dead, where he was bishop. She was also on Holy Mount Athos. St Stephen of the Holy Mountain says that the Mother of God prophetically spoke of it: "Let this place be my lot, given to me by my Son and my God. I will be the Patroness of this place and intercede with God for it."

The respect of ancient Christians for the Mother of God was so great that they preserved what they could about Her life, what they could take note of concerning Her sayings and deeds, and they even passed down to us a description of Her outward appearance.

According to Tradition, based on the words of the Hieromartyrs Dionysius the Areopagite (October 3), Ignatius the God-Bearer (December 20), St Ambrose of Milan (December 7) had occasion to write in his work "On Virgins" concerning the Mother of God: "She was a Virgin not only in body, but also in soul, humble of heart, circumspect in word, wise in mind, not overly given to speaking, a lover of reading and of work, and prudent in speech. Her rule of life was to offend no one, to intend good for everyone, to respect the aged, not envy others, avoid bragging, be healthy of mind, and to love virtue."
Read the rest here.

A blessed feast to all of you.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Warren Buffet warns of inflation, shortens duration of bond holdings

Aug. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Warren Buffett shortened the duration of bonds held by his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. after warning that deficit spending could force inflation higher.

Twenty-one percent of holdings including Treasuries, municipal debt, foreign-government securities and corporate bonds were due in one year or less as of June 30, Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire said in a filing Aug. 6. That compares with 18 percent on March 31, and 16 percent at the end of last year’s second quarter.

“It may be a sign that Buffett expects interest rates to start rising, maybe sooner than the conventional wisdom,” Meyer Shields, an analyst in Baltimore at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. who has a “sell” rating on Berkshire, said in an interview.

Inflation has fallen to a 44-year low even as the Federal Reserve more than doubled its balance sheet in two years to $2.33 trillion to help draw the economy out of recession. A U.S. jobs report last week showing that companies hired fewer workers than forecast in July pushed the two-year Treasury yield to a record low. Bill Gross, founder of Pacific Investment Management Co., advised investors to buy longer-dated maturities.

Buffett, 79, urged Congress last year to guard against inflation as the U.S. economy returned to growth. In an August 2009 op-ed in the New York Times, the Berkshire chief executive officer said government must address the “monetary medicine” that was pumped into the financial system after the 2008 crisis.

“The United States is spewing a potentially damaging substance into our economy -- greenback emissions,” Buffett wrote. “Unchecked greenback emissions will certainly cause the purchasing power of currency to melt.”
Read the rest here.

Great Britain: Rising Inflation Threatens Savings

Historically low interest rates and the government’s preferred measure of inflation, the Consumer Prices Index, at 3.2 per cent means savers are already struggling to get an income.

There are currently no accounts available to higher rate taxpayers that provide a real rate of return after tax and inflation, and just a handful available to basic rate taxpayers. But even these could be nudged off the savings landscape, financial experts warned.

They suggested that if CPI rises to above 3.8 per cent, there will be no point any taxpayer using a savings account to produce an income.

In this situation, savers would actually end up losing money and could end up being more than £300 out of pocket in a year on a £10,000 investment.

Darren Cook, of personal finance website Moneyfacts, said: “If inflation rises to 3.8 per cent, all savings accounts will effectively be totally obsolete.
Read the rest here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Repent or you're fired

MOSCOW, August 13, 2010 ( - The head of a large dairy company near Moscow has informed his 6000 workers that company policy will require all employees to closely follow the teachings and precepts of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Vasily Boiko-Veliki, director of Russkoe Moloko (Russian Milk), told Ekho Moskvy radio that the company was established to promote the Orthodox revival of Russia, and the rules were meant "to prevent future sins by employees."

"We have about 6,000 employees, most of whom are Orthodox, and I expect them to be faithful and to repent," Boiko-Veliki said.

Answering the question if he employs only Orthodox believers, Boiko-Veliki said, "There is no limitation, but baptized people mostly come, whose goals in life coincide with ours, the Orthodox transfiguration of Russia."

The new rules require all Orthodox Christian employees who are civilly married or living together to be married in Russian Orthodox Church ceremonies by October 14, the feast of the Protection (Pokrov) of the Mother of God, or face the possibility of dismissal.

Newly-hired Orthodox employees who had been married in civil ceremonies would be given three months to have a religious wedding.

Boiko-Veliki explained that those who are not baptized do not have to marry in the church, but all employees will be able to take an educational course on basic Orthodox culture.

The new rules also state that anyone procuring or counseling for abortion would face dismissal from work.

“Abortion is the murder of someone. We do not want to work with murderers,” Boiko-Veliki told Ekho Moskvy.

Vladimir Vigilyansky, head of the Russian Orthodox Church's Patriarchal press service, told the media that the Patriarchate was critical of Boiko-Veliki's methods of spiritual transfiguration at a private company, but noted that the church in Russia has undergone a marked revival since the collapse of Communism.

The Russian businessman commented on the prolonged heat wave and resultant forest fires that are plaguing the western part of the country, and said that a return to the practices of the faith, such as sacramental marriages, could improve things.

"This summer of abnormal heat and drought is a judgment upon Russia’s godless ways," Boiko-Veliki told “Our prayers are probably too weak and there is no repentance in our hearts.”

Sacrilege at Ground Zero

A place is made sacred by a widespread belief that it was visited by the miraculous or the transcendent (Lourdes, the Temple Mount), by the presence there once of great nobility and sacrifice (Gettysburg), or by the blood of martyrs and the indescribable suffering of the innocent (Auschwitz).

When we speak of Ground Zero as hallowed ground, what we mean is that it belongs to those who suffered and died there -- and that such ownership obliges us, the living, to preserve the dignity and memory of the place, never allowing it to be forgotten, trivialized or misappropriated.

That's why Disney's 1993 proposal to build an American history theme park near Manassas Battlefield was defeated by a broad coalition that feared vulgarization of the Civil War (and that was wiser than me; at the time I obtusely saw little harm in the venture). It's why the commercial viewing tower built right on the border of Gettysburg was taken down by the Park Service. It's why, while no one objects to Japanese cultural centers, the idea of putting one up at Pearl Harbor would be offensive.

And why Pope John Paul II ordered the Carmelite nuns to leave the convent they had established at Auschwitz. He was in no way devaluing their heartfelt mission to pray for the souls of the dead. He was teaching them a lesson in respect: This is not your place; it belongs to others. However pure your voice, better to let silence reign.

Even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who denounced opponents of the proposed 15-story mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero as tramplers on religious freedom, asked the mosque organizers "to show some special sensitivity to the situation." Yet, as columnist Rich Lowry pointedly noted, the government has no business telling churches how to conduct their business, shape their message or show "special sensitivity" to anyone about anything. Bloomberg was thereby inadvertently conceding the claim of those he excoriates for opposing the mosque, namely that Ground Zero is indeed unlike any other place and therefore unique criteria govern what can be done there.

Bloomberg's implication is clear: If the proposed mosque were controlled by "insensitive" Islamist radicals either excusing or celebrating 9/11, he would not support its construction.

But then, why not? By the mayor's own expansive view of religious freedom, by what right do we dictate the message of any mosque? Moreover, as a practical matter, there's no guarantee that this couldn't happen in the future. Religious institutions in this country are autonomous. Who is to say that the mosque won't one day hire an Anwar al-Aulaqi -- spiritual mentor to the Fort Hood shooter and the Christmas Day bomber, and onetime imam at the Virginia mosque attended by two of the 9/11 terrorists?

An Aulaqi preaching in Virginia is a security problem. An Aulaqi preaching at Ground Zero is a sacrilege. Or would the mayor then step in -- violating the same First Amendment he grandiosely pretends to protect from mosque opponents -- and exercise a veto over the mosque's clergy?

Location matters. Especially this location. Ground Zero is the site of the greatest mass murder in American history -- perpetrated by Muslims of a particular Islamist orthodoxy in whose cause they died and in whose name they killed.

Of course that strain represents only a minority of Muslims. Islam is no more intrinsically Islamist than present-day Germany is Nazi -- yet despite contemporary Germany's innocence, no German of goodwill would even think of proposing a German cultural center at, say, Treblinka.

Which makes you wonder about the goodwill behind Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's proposal. This is a man who has called U.S. policy "an accessory to the crime" of 9/11 and, when recently asked whether Hamas is a terrorist organization, replied, "I'm not a politician. . . . The issue of terrorism is a very complex question."

America is a free country where you can build whatever you want -- but not anywhere. That's why we have zoning laws. No liquor store near a school, no strip malls where they offend local sensibilities, and, if your house doesn't meet community architectural codes, you cannot build at all.

These restrictions are for reasons of aesthetics. Others are for more profound reasons of common decency and respect for the sacred. No commercial tower over Gettysburg, no convent at Auschwitz -- and no mosque at Ground Zero.

Build it anywhere but there.

The governor of New York offered to help find land to build the mosque elsewhere. A mosque really seeking to build bridges, Rauf's ostensible hope for the structure, would accept the offer.
-Charles Krauthammer

I believe in religious freedom in this country, and that includes for Muslims. I don't think they should be told they can't build there. I DO think that they should be told, very frankly if necessary, that building a mosque at ground zero is insensitive (I really hate that term but it works in this case) and will be seen as offensive by many if not most Americans including me. There is a difference between "can" and "should." It is not our place to dictate. On the other hand we are perfectly within our rights to make it clear to someone or a group when they are behaving rudely or doing something that is in very bad taste.

Such is the case here.