Saturday, April 30, 2011

Royal wedding: Archbishop backs William and Kate's decision to live together before marriage

Just when I was starting to have a few nice thoughts about the CofE (it really was a beautiful service) they go and remind me that the Anglican Communion has indeed jumped off a cliff and it is still in free-fall.
The Archbishop of York backed Prince William and Kate Middleton’s decision to live together before marriage, saying that many modern couples want to “test the milk before they buy the cow”.

Dr John Sentamu argued that the royal couple’s public commitment to live their lives together today would be more important than their past.

But Anglican traditionalists criticised the Archbishop, the second most senior cleric in the Church of England, for failing to reinforce Christian teaching which prohibits sex outside marriage.
Read the rest here.

I am not sure if I am more shocked by the overt repudiation of elementary Christian morality or the  breathtaking insult to the future King and Queen by referring to the Duchess of Cambridge as a "cow."  Is there no room at all in the Tower?

SSPX: Bishop Williamson hints at sedevacantism

Rorate Caeli has the story here.

Yes, Williamson is a flake and a schismatic.  That is hardly news.  This however raises the rather interesting question (from the Roman POV) of heresy.  Does sedevacantism imply a rejection of what Roman Catholics refer to as the "indefectibility" of the church? I think a good Catholic could make a plausible argument to that effect.

Farewell the Ochlophobist as he closes his blog and returns to Rome

As I noted in a recent post Owen White is shutting down his blog of many years.  In a farewell post he answers a number of questions which I know people (including me) have been asking, either aloud or to themselves.  Most were more or less in line with expectations.  Although his decision to return to Rome took me by surprise.  But these things are always deeply personal and while I know some will criticize him, I cannot.  None of us are infallible in our judgments.  All we can do is try to discern right from wrong as best we can according to such lights as God grants us, and then act accordingly.  In the end we are all (or should be) slaves to our conscience. 

Farewell my friend, and may God grant you many years!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Massive crowds gather for Royal Wedding; The Queen grants new titles to William and Catherine

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and a few others.  A nice wedding present.  They are reporting the The Queen plans to cut out of the reception at the palace as soon as she decently can so the younger crowd can "let their hair down."   Hmmm

Party at the palace!

Cheap Dollar Fuels One-Way Bets in Everything Else

Americans' cheap money spigot remains open and the flow is as fast as ever, meaning the world had better brace for even higher oil, metals and food prices and a weaker dollar.

The clear message from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday was that the U.S. central bank intends to keep interest rates exceptionally low and monetary policy very easy as it continues to try to inflate the U.S. economy back to health.

For investors, he offered further encouragement to keep borrowing in dollars, paying virtually nothing and then swapping those dollars into higher-yielding currencies or using them to buy oil, metals and food futures and options.

This so-called "carry trade" has become the trade du jour, particularly with the dollar's precipitous drop of around 10 percent from its peak in January.
Read the rest here.

BBC website is down

Wow  The BBC website seems to have crashed.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

In Praise of Monarchy

I appreciate the small-r republican ardor with which Mark Oppenheimer assails America’s royal wedding obsessives, but he’s fighting a losing battle. “Americans are supposed to loathe and reject monarchs,” he writes, but it’s telling that all his examples of that loathing (“In the earliest years of English settlement, this land was a proud haven for king killers … [we] fought a bloody war for the privilege to ignore the king of England … Anti-monarchism was then written into our Constitution …”) are centuries old, dating from a time when republicanism was an exciting cause rather than a somewhat-ossified assumption. Since those days, we’ve regressed to the (very human) mean: We’re fascinated by the royal family that we once overthrew, we have our own hereditary dynasties (and the slobbering coverage to match), and we’ve gradually turned our presidency into a quasi-imperial office, complete with coronations and cultic devotions and all the rest. True, by the standards of modern history, with its parade of strongmen and caudillos and presidents-for-life, our republican institutions have been impressively resilient. But even the American experience suggests that the anti-monarchical temper Oppenheimer invokes is ultimately artificial and unnatural, a triumph of theory over instinct and idealism over human nature. In their hearts, most people want a king and queen.

The resilience of this impulse, even in a democratic age, is probably the best case for the constitutional monarchies of Europe, their silliness and stuffiness and frequent tackiness notwithstanding. Toasting Prince William and his soon-to-be princess this week, the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens made a fine Burkean case for the British crown: “Royalty is the most venerable embodiment of British tradition, tradition is the lifeblood of identity, identity generates social cohesion without resort to force, and social cohesion is the sine qua non of a viable polity.” But I think it’s that “without resort to force” that’s the most important part of the argument. Whatever their customs and traditions, even the most modern polities often find themselves yearning, like the Israelites of old, for a kinglike authority. And the existence of a largely-powerless royal family can be a useful hedge against the perpetual temptation to invest ordinary politicians with quasi-royal powers, and then (almost inevitably) watch them run amok. (The experience of post-Franco Spain suggests that the restoration of a hereditary monarchy after a long period of dictatorship can play a similar stabilizing role.) Having a monarch as the symbolic head of state keeps elected officials in their place, provides an apolitical outlet for popular hero worship and the cults of celebrity, and satisfies the human hunger for ceremonial authority. If it’s an affront to democratic sensibilities, it’s also a safeguard for democratic institutions. Better a real king, crowned and powerless, than the many pseudo-kings who have strutted (and still strut) so destructively across the modern stage.

There has been a great deal of online monarchist bashing of late. Thought I'd throw this out.

Anyone who favors an elected politician as a head of state over an hereditary monarch hasn't met very many politicians.

- Margaret Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven

Hundreds feared dead in worst tornado disaster in a generation

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Survivors and rescuers combed through destroyed towns and neighborhoods on Thursday, looking for belongings and victims after dozens of tornadoes ripped through the South overnight. The death toll continued to climb in Alabama, and at least 280 people in six states perished in the deadliest outbreak in nearly 40 years.

People in hard-hit Alabama surveyed flattened, debris-strewn neighborhoods and told of pulling bodies from rubble after the storms passed.

"We have neighborhoods that have been basically removed from the map," Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox said after surveying his city.

"It happened so fast it was unbelievable," said Jerry Stewart, a 63-year-old retired firefighter who was picking through the remains of his son's home in Pleasant Grove, a suburb of Birmingham. "They said the storm was in Tuscaloosa and it would be here in 15 minutes. And before I knew it, it was here."

He and his wife, along with their daughter and two grandchildren, survived by hiding under their front porch. Friends who did the same weren't so lucky — Stewart said he pulled out the bodies of two neighbors whose home was ripped off its foundation.

Samantha Nail surveyed the damage in the blue-collar subdivision of Pleasant Grove where hers was the only home still intact. The storm slammed heavy pickup trucks into ditches and obliterated tidy brick houses, leaving behind a mess of mattresses, electronics and children's toys scattered across a grassy plain where dozens used to live.
Read the rest here.

Panel blacklists Egypt for religious oppression

Egypt systematically oppresses Christians and minority Muslim sects, according to a congressional commission that placed a key U.S. ally in the Arab world on a blacklist of nations that routinely abuse religious liberties.

Egypt, for the first time, was designated a “country of particular concern” for the “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom,” the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in its annual report released Thursday.

The independent, bipartisan commission also noted that President Obama has failed to add any country it cited for religious intolerance to a separate blacklist maintained by the State Department.

Countries on the State Department list face some level of economic sanctions.

“There is a problem with the failure to cite countries, and then a failure to take action when countries are cited,” commission Chairman Leonard Leo told The Washington Times.

The commission reported on 28 countries with severe religious strife, citing 14 as the most serious abusers. The commission included 11 on a lower-level “watch list” of nations with lesser degrees of religious persecution and three others where conditions are closely monitored.

Some countries were cited for official persecution of religious minorities or a failure to prosecute suspects arrested for religiously motivated crimes. The commission blamed blasphemy laws in some Muslim countries for religious violence.
Read the rest here.

U.S. High Debt Rating 'Unfair': Weiss

JUPITER, Fla. (TheStreet) -- Weiss Ratings on Thursday released its initial sovereign debt ratings for 47 countries, rating the United States a C (Fair), and ranking the U.S. 33rd on the list.

Saying that "the AAA/Aaa assigned to U.S. sovereign debt by Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch is unfair to investors and savers, who are undercompensated for the risks they are taking," Weiss Ratings president Martin D. Weiss added that an "honest rating" was needed to "help support the political compromises and collective sacrifices the U.S. must make in order to restore its finances."

Weiss Ratings explained that under its sovereign debt ratings scale from A (Excellent) to E (Very Weak), only sovereign countries with "stellar scores" in for major areas - including debt burden, international stability, economic health and market acceptance - would "merit a grade of A-minus or better."

Weiss said that the U.S. government didn't fall into either the excellent or very weak categories, as it ranks 44th for debt burden "primarily because of its large deficits," 32nd for international stability, "due mostly to low reserves," and 27th for economic health "because of recent boom-and-bust cycles." These low rankings were partially offset, as the U.S. ranked 6th " for its ability to borrow in the global marketplace."
Read the rest here.

Dollar plunges as gold and silver break records

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Silver soared to an all-time high on Thursday and gold rose to another record, as a falling dollar and signs that the Federal Reserve would maintain a loose monetary policy boosted precious metals' appeal as a hedge against inflation and economic uncertainty.

Silver briefly climbed to within a whisker of $50 an ounce, eclipsing the peak hit when Texan brothers William Hebert and Nelson Bunker Hunt sought to corner the silver market three decades ago. The metal later pulled back on technical selling.

"Yesterday's speech from the Fed was an acknowledgment of the continuing of the strategy by the Fed and Washington ... to monetize our debt, and basically to devalue the dollar," said Robert Lutts, chief investment officer of Cabot Money Management, which oversees more than $500 million in client assets.

"The metal markets are recognizing that and it is being priced in. What monetization means is that, down the road, we will have more inflation," he said.
Read the rest here.

Former Official Reveals the Fed’s “Dirty Little Secret”

The dollar hit its lowest level since July 2008 Thursday, putting more pressure on savers, people living on a fixed-income and all consumers facing soaring commodity prices, most notably in energy.

Somewhere, Ben Bernanke is probably smiling.

Yes, Bernanke — and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner — talked tough about the dollar this week but "currency depreciation is always a central bankers dirty little secret," says Vincent Reinhart, a former director of the Fed's Division of Monetary Affairs. "They don't mind some depreciation at time…The trick is to generate some depreciation but not a lot."

It depends on your definition of "a lot"…
Read the rest and or watch the video interview here.

Cardinal George Suspends Fr. Pfleger (Ultra-Lefty)

The tension that has simmered for decades between the Rev. Michael Pfleger and the Archdiocese of Chicago came to a head Wednesday when Cardinal Francis George suspended the outspoken priest from St. Sabina Catholic Church, the South Side parish he has led for nearly 30 years.

In a sternly written letter to Pfleger, the cardinal said the priest's recent remarks in the media that he would leave the Catholic Church if he were removed from St. Sabina had "short-circuited" efforts that have been under way for weeks to reach an agreement on his transition.

"If that is your attitude, you have already left the Catholic Church and are therefore not able to pastor a Catholic parish," the cardinal wrote.

The cardinal named the Rev. Thulani Magwaza, the associate pastor at St. Sabina, as administrator during the suspension and the Rev. Andrew Smith, a priest at St. Ailbe Parish, as his assistant.
Read the rest here.

On a side note... what is an Associate Minister?  I was RC for the better part of four decades and I don't remember that title, nor female clergy, if that is what Ms. Lymore is claiming to be...

Huge twisters slash through Alabama cities

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Tornadoes killed dozens of people in Alabama on Wednesday afternoon and evening, part of a violent storm system that left destruction and death across a large swath of the South.

Two major cities, Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, were hit hard by one huge tornado. President Barack Obama declared an emergency in Alabama, and Gov. Robert Bentley mobilized 1,400 National Guardsmen to help in rescue operations.

The system of heavy winds, rain and tornadoes began late Tuesday and by Wednesday morning had left at least 17 dead in Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Then the latest round of storms hit Alabama on Wednesday afternoon and evening, pushing the death toll much higher. The Associated Press said the toll in Alabama was at least 58. A count by that included county-by-county numbers from The Weather Channel and NBC station WAFF of Huntsville showed at least 62 dead.

The storm system was predicted to move on through the Carolinas.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Obama Slams "Carnival Barkers" and Releases Long Form Birth Certificate

I don't blame him for doing it, but it was a political mistake.  The "birthers" were tearing apart the GOP and making conservatives look like escapees from the state asylum.  Of course a lot of them won't accept it.  I can already here the cries of "forgery" from the wingnuts.

Read the story here or pretty much on any news site.

A sad note

For those not already aware, Owen White our favorite Ochlophobist, is ending his blog on May 1st.  My understanding is that he plans to delete the blog including its archives, which I find most regrettable.  There is a wealth of great material over there.  If you want to save any of it I suggest doing so soon.

Picture of the day

I have no background on this.  Anyone care to caption the photo?

From Fr. Z's blog.

S&P lowers outloook for Japanese debt

TOKYO — Uncertainty over Japan’s fiscal situation as it rebuilds after last month’s earthquake and tsunami prompted Standard & Poor’s to change its outlook on the country’s long-term debt rating from stable to negative, the ratings agency said Wednesday.

Standard & Poor’s stressed that its sovereign credit ratings on the world’s No.2 economy remained unchanged, but said the March 11 disasters cast some doubt over the country’s economic performance and future debt load.

“Much will depend on Japan’s political leadership and its ability to forge a political consensus on how to offset fiscal measures in the future,” the agency said.
Read the rest here.

Detainees’ Lawyers Can’t Click on Leaked Documents

WASHINGTON — Anyone surfing the Internet this week is free to read leaked documents about the prisoners held by the American military at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to print them out or e-mail them to friends.

Except, that is, for the lawyers who represent the prisoners.

On Monday, hours after WikiLeaks, The New York Times and other news organizations began publishing the documents online, the Justice Department informed Guantánamo defense lawyers that the documents remained legally classified even after they were made public.

Because the lawyers have security clearances, they are obligated to treat the readily available files “in accordance with all relevant security precautions and safeguards” — handling them, for example, only in secure government facilities, said the notice from the department’s Court Security Office.
Read the rest here.

Did Obama taint WikiLeaks suspect's right to fair trial?

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has unwittingly waded into a military legal tangle by declaring that WikiLeaks suspect Pfc. Bradley Manning "broke the law." Manning's supporters claim the president's statement amounts to "unlawful command influence" and has jeopardized Manning's chance for a fair trial.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits "Command Influence," in which a superior officer up the chain of command says or does something that could influence any decisions by a military judge or jury in a criminal case. As commander in chief, there's no one higher up that chain than the president.

The tangle started last week after a political fundraiser in San Francisco. Logan Price, a supporter of Manning, got close enough to the president to shake his hand and then plead Manning's case. In an exchange that was caught on a cell phone video, Price claimed that Manning, charged with leaking hundreds of thousands of military and State Department documents to WikiLeaks, is a whistle-blower not a criminal. Price asked, "Why is he being prosecuted?"

Obama responded that what Manning allegedly did was "irresponsible, risked the lives of service members and did a lot of damage." But when Price persisted Obama shot back, "He broke the law."

A military legal expert says the president himself crossed a legal line with that statement.
Read the rest here.

All eyes on 'Gang of Six' as deficit deal nears

WASHINGTON — They have met in almost total secrecy for months, holed up in an office on Capitol Hill: three Republican and three Democratic senators trying to hammer out a deal to reduce America's vast deficit.

Now, with the "Gang of Six" senators widely anticipated to deliver their proposal in early May, the air of expectation in Washington is acute.

Many believe their efforts represent the only real chance — and a slim one at that — of the U.S. Congress reaching a deficit-reduction deal before next year's elections. A sense of crisis over the $1.4 trillion deficit is gripping Wall Street and Washington, and it's weighing heavily on voters.

"It's the only bipartisan plan around," one Republican political strategist told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be seen endorsing the proposal before it is released.
Read the rest here.

House Republicans on defensive over budget

ORLANDO, Fla. — Freshman Rep. Daniel Webster was armed with a rainbow of graphs and pie charts, ready to make the GOP's case for budget cuts before his own constituents. He was barely a minute into his prepared remarks Tuesday when the yelling started.

The first heckler shouted his doubts about the Florida congressman's promise to do what is right in Washington. From there, the hour-long meeting in Orlando was filled with a constant stream of boos and questioners in the crowd of 300 shouting over each other.

Twelve minutes into his remarks, Webster couldn't be heard over the shouting on both sides. He tried to continue but then stood quietly for a minute smiling, his hands clasped together in front.

The Republican plan to fundamentally restructure Medicare and cut social safety net programs like food stamps and Medicaid has at times been a raucously tough sell as its supporters head home and meet with their constituents, including Democrats organized against them. Even the architect of the plan, Rep. Paul Ryan, has been booed, though many of those attending four meetings Tuesday in his home state of Wisconsin were supportive.

The GOP plan passed by the House this month envisions cutting government deficits by a total $6.2 trillion over the next decade. One of its most contentious provisions calls for eventually transforming Medicare into a voucher-like system in which private insurance plans, not the government, pay medical bills. The plan has drawn scorn from Democrats, including President Barack Obama, who want wealthier Americans to pay higher taxes to help reduce the deficit.
Read the rest here.

Tight security planned for Royal Wedding

(CBS News) LONDON - For weeks, Sgt. Richard Brandon's prying eyes have been scanning the royal wedding route. On Friday, the route will be sealed off to the public with snipers on rooftops. But in the run-up to the prince's big day, CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports Brandon's job is to zoom in and check out anything unusual, from workers and vehicles to tourist traffic.

"What we've been able to do is look into those difficult to search areas: roofs of buildings, canyons between buildings," Brandon said. "We're like an early warning system."

A system in place from the top down and the ground up.

On Friday, 5,000 police officers will be on duty - most of them unarmed.

"Policing an event like this is particularly difficult because the balance has to be struck between security and allowing the public to enjoy the event, which is what everybody - and especially the royal family - want the public to be able to do," said Peter Clarke, CBS royal wedding security correspondent.

But the terrorists are plotting. Police say the biggest threats of an attack come from radical Irish Republicans or al Qaeda. And there are the anarchists, who have vowed to make trouble and have been practicing. Last December, they surrounded Prince Charles and Camilla's car in Central London, shouting, "Off with their heads!"

There's also a huge police effort dedicated to tracking unstable people, from lovesick stalkers to political zealots. Really anyone who would find the idea of disrupting the royal wedding irresistible - especially with 2 billion people watching worldwide.
Read the rest here.

Ford posts best first-quarter profit in 13 years

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co reported its best first-quarter profit since 1998 as higher prices for redesigned vehicles including its small Fiesta offset pressure from spiking commodity and oil prices.

Ford's better-than-expected profit, and strongest first-quarter since the peak of the SUV boom, reassured investors after a disappointing fourth quarter.

It also showed the success the No. 2 U.S. automaker has had in getting consumers to pay more for improved quality and technology in vehicles like the Focus compact.

Ford also said on Tuesday that it expected to ride out the disruption in parts supplies from Japan with a minimal effect on its production in Asia, setting the automaker up to take market share from Japanese rivals.
Read the rest here.

Public pensions, once off limits, face the axe

When an arbitrator ruled this month that Detroit could reduce the pensions being earned by its police sergeants and lieutenants, it put the struggling city at the forefront of a growing national debate over whether the pensions of current public workers can or should be reduced.

Conventional wisdom and the laws and constitutions of many states have long held that the pensions being earned by current government workers are untouchable. But as the fiscal crisis has lingered, officials in strapped states from California to Illinois have begun to take a second look, to see whether there might be loopholes allowing them to cut the pension benefits of current employees. Now the move in Detroit — made possible, lawyers said, because Michigan’s constitutional protections are weaker — could spur other places to try to follow suit.

“These things do tend to be herd-oriented,” said Sylvester J. Schieber, an economist and consultant who studies pensions.

The mayors of some hard-hit cities have said that the high costs of pensions have forced them to lay off workers: Oakland, Calif., laid off one-tenth of its police force last year after failing to win concessions on pension costs.

Elsewhere there is pension envy: some private sector workers, who have learned the hard way that their companies can freeze or reduce their pensions, resent that the pensions of public workers enjoy stronger legal protections. But government workers, many of whom were recruited with the promise of good benefits and pensions, say that it would be unfair — and in many cases, very likely illegal — to change the rules in the middle of the game.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ron Paul takes step toward presidential run

Texas Congressman Ron Paul plans to announce on Tuesday in Iowa that he is forming a presidential exploratory committee.

Drew Ivers, Paul's 2008 Iowa caucus campaign manager, said the Republican congressman will announce his plans Tuesday afternoon at Des Moines hotel.

Paul also will name an Iowa campaign team at the event, Ivers said.

Paul, 75, finished fifth in the 2008 caucuses and has visited Iowa seven times since. He headlined an event in Sioux Center two weeks ago for a social conservative group, and he spoke at a rally for Christian home-school advocates at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines last month.

Paul is a favorite among libertarians and enjoys strong backing by many tea party supporters.
Read the rest here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hooray! Gas for 10 cents a gallon

Great news!

Gas is close to the cheapest it has ever been.  Historically, the price of gas between 1920-1970 was generally between 25-35 cents a gallon.  There were of course fluctuations.  The price rose sharply during and immediately after World War II and it fell as low as 17 cents a gallon during the Great Depression.  But the serious and prolonged rise in gas prices which most of us have perceived, and come to accept as normal, did not begin until the early 1970's when two things occurred.  First the Arabs briefly embargoed oil sales which would have driven up the price of gas in any circumstance, albeit temporarily.  The second was that the United States (quickly followed by everyone else) abandoned real money for paper.  Since then gas has been going up in nominal dollars with no end in sight.

But in real money... gas is actually cheaper now then even during the darkest days of the Depression.  How's that?

Silver topped $47 oz. today and briefly flirted with $50.00 oz.  Which means that a gallon of gas is actually about 10 cents a gallon right now, if you can find a dime minted before 1965.  That's because 1964 was the last year the US Government used real silver in its coinage.

I'd start checking the old change jar.

Sleepwalking into the Imperial Dark; What It Feels Like When a Superpower Runs Off the Tracks

This can’t end well.

But then, how often do empires end well, really? They live vampirically by feeding off others until, sooner or later, they begin to feed on themselves, to suck their own blood, to hollow themselves out. Sooner or later, they find themselves, as in our case, economically stressed and militarily extended in wars they can’t afford to win or lose.

Historians have certainly written about the dangers of overextended empires and of endless war as a way of life, but there’s something distant and abstract about the patterns of history. It’s quite another thing to take it in when you’re part of it; when, as they used to say in the overheated 1960s, you’re in the belly of the beast.

I don’t know what it felt like to be inside the Roman Empire in the long decades, even centuries, before it collapsed, or to experience the waning years of the Spanish empire, or the twilight of the Qing dynasty, or of Imperial Britain as the sun first began to set, or even of the Soviet Empire before the troops came slinking home from Afghanistan, but at some point it must have seemed at least a little like this -- truly strange, like watching a machine losing its parts. It must have seemed as odd and unnerving as it does now to see a formerly mighty power enter a state of semi-paralysis at home even as it staggers on blindly with its war-making abroad.

The United States is, of course, an imperial power, however much we might prefer not to utter the word. We still have our globe-spanning array of semi-client states; our military continues to garrison much of the planet; and we are waging war abroad more continuously than at any time in memory. Yet who doesn’t sense that the sun is now setting on us?

Not so many years ago, we were proud enough of our global strength to regularly refer to ourselves as the Earth’s “sole superpower.” In those years, our president and his top officials dreamed of establishing a worldwide Pax Americana, while making speeches and issuing official documents proclaiming that the United States would be militarily “beyond challenge” by any and all powers for eons to come. So little time has passed and yet who speaks like that today? Who could?
Read the rest here.

The Bipartisan March to Fiscal Madness

IT is obvious that the nation’s desperate fiscal condition requires higher taxes on the middle class, not just the richest 2 percent. Likewise, entitlement reform requires means-testing the giant Social Security and Medicare programs, not merely squeezing the far smaller safety net in areas like Medicaid and food stamps.

Unfortunately, in proposing tax increases only for the very rich, President Obama has denied the first of these fiscal truths, while Representative Paul D. Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, has contradicted the second by putting the entire burden of entitlement reform on the poor. The resulting squabble is not only deepening the fiscal stalemate, but also bringing us dangerously close to class war.

This lamentable prospect is deeply grounded in the policy-driven transformation of the economy during recent decades that has shifted income and wealth to the top of the economic ladder. While not the stated objective of policy, this reverse Robin Hood outcome cannot be gainsaid: the share of wealth held by the top 1 percent of households has risen to 35 percent from 21 percent since 1979, while their share of income has more than doubled to around 20 percent.

The culprit here was the combination of ultralow rates of interest at the Federal Reserve and ultralow rates of taxation on capital gains. The former destroyed the nation’s capital markets, fueling huge growth in household and business debt, serial asset bubbles and endless leveraged speculation in equities, commodities, currencies and other assets.

At the same time, the nearly untaxed windfall gains accrued to pure financial speculators, not the backyard inventors envisioned by the Republican-inspired capital-gains tax revolution of 1978. And they happened in an environment of essentially zero inflation, the opposite of the double-digit inflation that justified a lower tax rate on capital gains back then — but which is now simply an obsolete tax subsidy to the rich.

In attacking the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent of taxpayers, the president is only incidentally addressing the deficit. The larger purpose is to assure the vast bulk of Americans left behind that they will be spared higher taxes — even though entitlements make a tax increase unavoidable. Mr. Obama is thus playing the class-war card more aggressively than any Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt — surpassing Harry S. Truman or John F. Kennedy when they attacked big business or Lyndon B. Johnson or Jimmy Carter when they posed as champions of the little guy.

On the other side, Representative Ryan fails to recognize that we are not in an era of old-time enterprise capitalism in which the gospel of low tax rates and incentives to create wealth might have had relevance. A quasi-bankrupt nation saddled with rampant casino capitalism on Wall Street and a disemboweled, offshored economy on Main Street requires practical and equitable ways to pay its bills.

Ingratiating himself with the neo-cons, Mr. Ryan has put the $700 billion defense and security budget off limits; and caving to pusillanimous Republican politicians, he also exempts $17 trillion of Social Security and Medicare spending over the next decade. What is left, then, is $7 trillion in baseline spending for Medicaid and the social safety net — to which Mr. Ryan applies a meat cleaver, reducing outlays by $1.5 trillion, or 20 percent.

Trapped between the religion of low taxes and the reality of huge deficits, the Ryan plan appears to be an attack on the poor in order to coddle the rich. To the Democrats’ invitation to class war, the Republicans have seemingly sent an R.S.V.P.

Washington’s feckless drift into class war is based on the illusion that we have endless time to put our fiscal house in order. This has instilled a terrible budgetary habit whereby politicians continuously duck concrete but politically painful near-term savings in favor of gimmicks like freezes, caps and block grants that push purely paper cuts into the distant, foggy future. Mr. Ryan’s plan gets to a balanced budget in the fiscal afterlife (i.e., the 2030s); the White House’s tactic of accumulating small-fry deficit cuts over the enormous span of 12 years amounts to the same dodge.

Such fiscal jabberwocky ignores the fact that we have experienced a recession every five years or so for the last six decades; that the budget is now exposed to even more frequent and amplified cyclical turbulence amid the aftershocks of the financial crisis; and that the United States does not have a divine right to issue any amount of interim debt that suits the ideological convenience of the two parties.

Nevertheless, the Democrats are immobilized because Keynesians insist on kicking the budgetary can down the road until cyclical “demand” has in their estimation fully recovered, while Republicans sit on their hands because supply-siders insist on letting the deficit fester until tax cuts work their alleged revenue magic.
Read the rest here.

Bright Week

There is no fasting until the Wednesday following Bright Week. This includes Bright Wednesday and Friday. While monastics will continue to abstain from meat, penitential disciplines of any kind during Bright Week are discouraged as we are feasting with the Bridegroom. In the Western tradition fasting during this period was actually forbidden.

During Bright Week the Holy Doors in the church are kept open, including throughout the Divine Liturgy.

Finally, for forty days following Pascha there is no kneeling or prostrations either at home or in church.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

60 Minutes on Mt. Athos

Blogger hates my blog and routinely screws up any embedded videos.   You can just go here to watch both segments at the CBS website.

Pascha/Easter Liturgy In Christ The Savior Cathedral


 Wishing the joy of the Feast to all.

Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Holy Week Recess

We have now reached the mid-point for Great and Holy Week and as I prepare to celebrate the Great Feast (and the 5th anniversary of my reception into the Church) it is time to sign off.  Barring something urgent there will be no posting between now and Bright Monday.  I wish each of you a blessed Holy Week and the joy of the Resurrection.

The 15th Antiphon for Great & Holy Friday Matins

Archbishop Job of blessed memory chants the 15th antiphon for Great Friday Matins.

The Tears of Holy Mary

Most Holy Mother, through your sorrowful tears we have been interceded. Grant us the same sorrow that when you saw your Son we may also weep for Him who is pure Love.

Great & Holy Thursday Friday & Saturday

Holy and Great Thursday

THE GOSPELS OF HOLY and Great Thursday tell how our Savior and His disciples came to Jerusalem to celebrate His last feast of the Passover, how He washed their feet. They tell the account of that Mystical Supper when our Lord ordained the Mystery of His Most Holy Body and Blood "for the remission of sins and life everlasting." They speak of Christ's instruction to the Apostles, and how He told them that they would all forsake Him that night; they speak of Peter's rash promise that he would always remain faithful; of Christ's vigil in the garden; of how He was seized and led away to the high priest's court; of the scene in the courtyard; of Peter's three-fold denial and his grief; of the high priest's mocking questions; and of how our Savior Christ God, wearing the crown of thorns, beaten and insulted by the soldiers, was led before Pilate.

The readings and hymns of Matins dwell on Judas' betrayal, on "the dark night" which settled in his soul. We pray that we may keep ourselves from greed and deceit, and be made pure by partaking of the holy Mysteries of Christ's Body and Blood. The Dismissal Hymn after the "Alleluia" at Matins speaks of this:

The Dismissal Hymn (Eighth Tone)
When the glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of the feet, then Judas the ungodly one was stricken and darkened with the love of silver. And unto the lawless judges did he deliver Thee, the righteous Judge. O thou lover of money, behold thou him that for the sake thereof did hang himself, flee from that insatiable soul that dared such things against the Master. O Thou Who art good unto all, Lord, glory be to Thee.
The Synaxarion and the Kontakion also reiterate the themes of Christ God's betrayal at the hands of "an incorrigible disciple:"

On the evening of this day, which was the eve of the feast of unleavened bread (that is, the Passover), Jesus supped with His twelve disciples in the city. He blessed the bread and the wine, and gave us the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist. He washed the feet of the disciples as an example of humility. He said openly that one of them was about to betray Him, and He pointed out the betrayer by revealing that it was he "that dippeth his hand with Me in the dish." And after Judas had straightway gone forth, Jesus gave the disciples His final and sublime instructions, which are contained in the first Gospel reading of the Holy Passion. After this the God-man went forth to the Mount of Olives, and there He began to be sorrowful and in anguish. He went off alone, and bending the knees He prayed fervently. From His great anguish, His sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground. As soon as He had completed that anguished prayer, lo Judas came with a multitude of soldiers and a great crowd, on greeting the Teacher guilefully with a kiss, he betrayed Him.

Jesus was then apprehended and taken prisoner to the high priests Annas and Caiaphas. The disciples dispersed, but Peter, who was more fervent than the others, followed Him even into the court of the high priest, but in the end denied that he was His disciple.

Then our divine Teacher was brought before the lawless Sanhedrin and was interrogated concerning His disciples and His teaching. The high priest adjured Him before God that He tell them whether He was truly the Christ. And having spoken the truth, He was judged guilty of death, supposedly as one who had blasphemed. Then they spat in His face, beat Him, smote Him with the palms of their hands, and mocked Him in every way, throughout the whole night until the morning.

The Kontakion (Second Tone)
Taking the bread into his hands, the betrayer stretcheth them forth secretly and receiveth the price of Him That with His own hands, fashioned man. And Judas, the servant and deceiver, remained incorrigible.
On this day the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great is celebrated together with Vespers. Before the Great Entrance, instead of the Cherubic Hymn, the special hymn of Great Thursday is chanted:
Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, receive me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of the Mystery to Thine enemies; nor will I give Thee a kiss as did Judas; but like the thief do I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord, when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom.
This hymn is also chanted before and during Communion.

The whole narration of our Lord's Passion is given at the Matins of Great Friday, sung on Thursday evening. It is commonly called "the Service of the Twelve Gospels." A tall Crucifix usually stands in the middle of the church with many candles lighted round it. After the Six Psalms and the Great Litany, the choir chants, "Alleluia" and the Troparion of Holy and Great Thursday. The priest and deacon come out of the Sanctuary carrying the Book of Gospels. It is placed on a podium and the priest begins the reading. The whole story of the Passion is read from the four evangelists and is divided into twelve parts. It begins with the "Gospel of the Testament" and the prayer at the Mystical Supper, from Saint John's Gospel, and continues through the four Gospels to the burial of Christ by Joseph of Arimathea. After each reading the choir chants, "Glory to Thy forbearance, O Lord, glory to Thee." Between the readings special antiphons and hymns are chanted. They speak of Judas' betrayal; of the cruelty of the Jews; of our Savior's infinite patience and meekness; of the awe of all creation when the Lord of all was nailed to the Cross between two thieves. The canon has only three odes. All recount the Passion and foretell the glory of the Resurrection. Matins ends shortly after the twelfth Gospel.

Holy and Great Friday

GREAT FRIDAY is the most solemn day of Holy Week. In awe and trembling, we stand before the Cross on which our Savior died and we see the image of Him dead, lying in our midst, on the Epitaphios (the Winding Sheet).

During the Service of Matins, which by anticipation is chanted on Thursday evening, we will hear some of the most compunctionate hymns of the ecclesiastical year. The following are but a few examples:

(Fourth Tone)
Thou didst ransom us from the curse of the Law by Thy precious Blood. Nailed to the Cross and pierced with the lance, Thou didst pour forth immortality for men. O our Savior, glory be to Thee.
(Second Tone)
Today there is hung upon the Tree, He that suspended the earth upon the waters. A crown of thorns is placed upon Him Who is the King of the Angels. With false purple is He wrapped about, He that wrappeth the Heavens with clouds. Buffetings did He receive, Who freed Adam in the Jordan. With nails was He affixed, He that is the Bridegroom of the Church. With a lance was He pierced, He that is the Son of the Virgin. We worship Thy Passion, O Christ. Show also unto us Thy glorious Resurrection.
(Third Tone)
Two evils hath Israel, my first-born son, committed: He forsook Me, the Source of the water of life, and he dug for himself a broken well; he crucified Me upon the Tree, and asked for Barabbas and released him. Heaven was astonished at this, and the sun hid its rays; but thou, O Israel, wast not ashamed, but didst deliver Me up to death. Forgive them, O holy Father, for they know not what they have done.

Every member of Thy holy Flesh endured dishonor for us; Thy head, the thorns; Thy face, the spittings; Thy cheeks, the smitings; Thy mouth, the taste of vinegar mingled with gall; Thine ears' the impious blasphemies; Thy back the lash; Thy hand, the reed; the whole length of Thy body, the stretching upon the Cross; Thy joints, the nails; and Thy side, the spear. O Thou Who didst endure the Passion for us, and from the passions didst set us free, and didst condescend to us in Thy love for men and raise us up, O Almighty Savior, have mercy on us.
The Synaxarion and the Kontakion of this day sum up the history and the significance of the sacred events that came to pass for our eternal salvation:

When Friday dawned, Jesus was sent bound from Caiaphas to Pontius Pilate, who was then Governor of Judea. Pilate interrogated Him in many ways, and once and again acknowledged that He was innocent, but, to please the Jews, he later passed the sentence of death against Him. After scourging the Lord of all as though He were a runaway slave, he surrendered Him to be crucified.

Thus Jesus was handed over to the soldiers, was stripped of His garments, was clothed in a purple robe, was crowned with a wreath of thorns, had a reed placed in His hand as though it were a scepter, was bowed before in mockery, was spat upon, and was buffeted in the face and on the head. Then they again clothed Him in His own garments, and bearing the cross, He came to Golgotha, a place of condemnation, and there, about the third hour, He was crucified between two thieves. He was blasphemed by those who were passing by, was mocked by the high priests, and by the soldiers was given vinegar to drink mixed with gall. About the ninth hour, He cried out with a loud voice, saying, "It is finished." And the Lamb of God "which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29) expired on the day when the moon was full, and at the hour when, according to the Law, there was slain the Passover lamb, which was established as a type of Him in the time of Moses.

Even lifeless creation mourned the death of the Master, and it trembled and was altered out of fear. Yet, even though the Maker of creation was already dead, they pierced Him in His immaculate side, and forthwith came there out Blood and Water. Finally, at about the setting of the sun, Joseph of Arimathea came with Nicodemus (both of them had been secret disciples of Jesus), and they took down the all-holy Body of the Teacher from the Cross and anointed it with aromatic spices, and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. When they had buried Him in a new tomb, they rolled a great stone over its entrance.

Such are the dread and saving sufferings of Jesus Christ commemorated today, and in remembrance of them, we have received the Apostolic commandment that a fast be observed on every Friday.

Kontakion (Fourth Tone)
Come, let us all praise Him Who was crucified for us; for Mary beheld Him on the Tree, and said: Though Thou dost endure the Cross, yet Thou art my Son and my God.
On this day, a day of mourning and strict fasting, the service of the "Royal Hours" is celebrated. At each Hour, beside the psalms, prophecies from the Old Testament, an Epistle and a Gospel are read about Holy and Great Friday.

The solemn Vespers of Great Friday is chanted in the afternoon at the time of our Lord Jesus' death. Again all the readings remind us of the suffering Christ and His glory. After the Entrance, lections are read in which the Prophet Isaiah speaks of "the Lamb led to the slaughter," and an Epistle of Saint Paul on the power and wisdom of the Cross; again a Gospel is read describing our Lord's trial before Pilate, His Crucifixion and burial. Near the end of this reading, the Body of our Savior is taken down from the Cross and placed in the Sanctuary, just as the noble Joseph took our Lord's body from the Cross and placed it in the grave.

After the usual petitions, "Let us all say…," "Vouchsafe…," "Let us complete…," etc., the choir slowly chants the Aposticha, during which a procession exits from the Sanctuary, with the priest and deacon bearing the Shroud, their heads uncovered, proceeded by candles and censer. All kneel with head bowed low before the image of our dead Savior. A bier stands in the middle of the church, with candles lit round it. On it the Epitaphios is laid reverently and censed all round by the priest. The people come up to make a prostration before it and kiss it, while the Aposticha are completed and the following hymn is chanted:
O Thou Who puttest on light like a garment, when Joseph with Nicodemus, took Thee down from the Tree and beheld Thee dead, naked, and unburied, he struck up a compassionate dirge, and with mourning he said: Woe is me, O sweetest Jesus! When but a short while ago the sun beheld Thee hanging upon the Cross, it shrouded itself in darkness, and the earth quaked with fear, and the veil of the Temple was rent asunder. But, behold, now I see Thee willingly submitting to death for my sake. How shall I bury Thee, O my God? Or how shall I wrap Thee with winding sheets? With what hands shall I touch Thine undefiled Body? Or what dirges shall I sing at Thy departure, O Compassionate One? I magnify Thy Passion; I praise Thy Burial and Resurrection, and I cry out: O Lord, glory be to Thee.
Then, after the Lord's Prayer, the dismissal hymns are chanted: "The noble Joseph…" and "Unto the myrrh-bearing women…" (see below), followed by the prayers of dismissal.

On this day there is no Liturgy or Communion.

Holy and Great Saturday

Holy and Great Saturday is a reverent vigil at the tomb of the Son of God, slain for our sins. By anticipation, the Saturday Matins is held on Friday evening. The Synaxarion for this day, which is called the "First Resurrection," narrates the following:

The Synaxarion:

On Saturday, the high priests and Pharisees gathered together before Pilate and asked him to have Jesus' tomb sealed until the third day; because, as those enemies of God said, "We suspect that His disciples will come and steal His buried body by night, and then proclaim to the people that His resurrection is true, as that deceiver Himself foretold while He was yet alive; and then the last deception shall be worse than the first " After they had said these things to Pilate and received his permission, they went and sealed the tomb, and assigned a watch for security, that is, guards from among the soldiers who were appointed to guard the city (Matt. 27:62-66). While commemorating the entombment of the holy Body of our Lord today, we also celebrate His dread descent with His soul, whereby He destroyed the gates and bars of Hades, and made His light to shine where only darkness had reigned; death was put to death, Hades was stripped of all its captives, our first parents and all the righteous who died from the beginning of time ran to Him Whom they had awaited, and the holy angelic orders glorified God for the restoration of our fallen race.

After the Six Psalms and the Great Litany, the Royal Doors are opened; the priest and deacon come out with candles and censer. The choir chants "God is the Lord and hath appeared unto us," and then the following dismissal hymns:
The noble Joseph, taking Thine immaculate Body down from the Tree, and having wrapped It in pure linen and spices, laid It for burial in a new tomb.

When Thou didst descend unto death, O Life Immortal, then didst Thou slay Hades with the lightning of Thy Divinity. And when Thou didst also raise the dead out of the nethermost depths, all the powers in the Heavens cried out: O Life-Giver, Christ our God, glory be to Thee.

Unto the myrrh-bearing women did the Angel cry out as he stood by the grave: Myrrh-oils are meet for the dead, but Christ hath proved to be a stranger to corruption.
In the meantime, the priest and deacon cense the Epitaphios, then stand in front of it. The priest and the choir then chant the "Lamentations" with the verses of the 118th Psalm: "Blessed are the blameless in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord." Each verse of the Psalm is followed by a verse of the Lamentations. It is like a long poem depicting the Angels in Heaven and all creatures on earth overwhelmed by the death of their Creator, and their gratitude at being freed from death's power by Christ. The following are examples of these most compunctionate hymns:
In a grave they laid Thee, O my Life and my Christ; and the armies of the angels were sore amazed, as they sang the praise of Thy submissive love.

Lo, how fair His beauty! Never man was so fair! Yet how doth He seem a dead man bereft of form, though all nature's beauty had Him as its source.

Right it is indeed, Life-bestowing Lord, to magnify Thee; for upon the Cross were Thy most pure hands outspread, and the strength of our dread foe hast Thou destroyed.

Every generation chanteth hymns of praise at Thy burial, O Christ God.

Lo, myrrh-bearing women to Thy tomb, O Savior, are come, their myrrh to offer.

Grant that we who serve Thee may see the Resurrection of Thy Son, O blest Virgin.
After the Lamentations, the Resurrection Evlogitaria are chanted. Then, following the customary litanies, the choir chants the canon, where the note of joy and triumph is heard more and more clearly. At the end of the Doxology of Matins, the priest raises the Epitaphios, which is then taken by four pall-bearers, the deacon waking in front, the people following, all carrying candles. The procession walks out of, and around, the church, with the bells tolling and the choir chanting, "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us." This represents the burial of Christ. Then, when the procession re-enters the church, the priest and deacon carry the Epitaphios into the sanctuary and lay it on the Holy Table. It will lie there until Ascension Eve, as a symbol that Christ appeared among His disciples for forty days after His Resurrection. Then, the Prokeimenon is chanted, and the glorious prophecy of Ezekiel is read about the dry bones of Israel, out of which arose "an exceeding great host" quickened to life by the breath of God. Then follows Saint Paul's Epistle about Christ our Passover, and the Gospel about the sealing of Jesus' tomb. Matins then ends as usual. In many places, especially in the monasteries and convents, a very moving homily on the burial of Christ is read after the completion of the service. This homily was written by Saint Epiphanios of Cyprus, a Jewish convert to Christianity.

The Liturgy of Holy and Great Saturday is that of Saint Basil the Great. It begins with Vespers. After the entrance, the evening hymn "O Joyous Light" is chanted as usual. Then fifteen Old Testament readings are recited. They tell of the most striking events and prophecies of the salvation of mankind by the death of the Son of God. The account of creation in Genesis is the first reading. The sixth reading is the story of Israel's crossing of the Red Sea and Moses' song of victory over Pharaoh, with its refrain: "For gloriously is He glorified". The last reading is about the Three Children in the fiery furnace of Babylon, and their song of praise with its repeated refrain: "O praise ye the Lord and supremely exalt Him unto the ages." In the ancient church the catechumens were baptized during the time of these readings. The Epistle which follows speaks of how, through the death of Christ, we too shall rise to a new life. After the Epistle, the choir chants, like a call to the sleeping Christ: "Arise, O Lord, judge the earth, for Thou shalt have an inheritance among all the nations...." While this is being chanted the priest scatters bay leaves and flower petals throughout the entire church, symbolizing the fragrance of life coming forth from the grave.

In ancient times it was the custom to scatter flowers in the path of a victorious ruler when he returned in triumph to his city, even as our Savior will return triumphant from Hades. The deacon carries out the Book of the Gospels, and reads the first message of the resurrection from Saint Matthew. Because the Vespers portion of the service belongs to the next day (Pascha) the burial hymns of Saturday are mingled with those of the resurrection, so that this service is already full of the coming Paschal joy.

After the Gospel the Liturgy proceeds as usual. Instead of the Cherubic Hymn, a special Great Entrance Hymn is chanted:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence and stand with fear and trembling, and take no thought for any earthly thing, for the King of kings and Lord of lords cometh to be slain and given as food for the faithful. Before Him go the choirs of the angels with all sovereignty and power: the many-eyed Cherubim and six-winged Seraphim, covering their faces and crying out the hymn: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Later in the Liturgy of Holy and Great Saturday, the beautiful and compunctionate Communion Hymn, based on Psalm 77, is chanted: "The Lord awoke as one that sleepeth, and is risen, saving us. Alleluia."

After the Liturgy the faithful take their one meal of the day, and that strict fast food, to strengthen them to keep watch the rest of the day and evening. In church the Acts of the Apostles are read aloud. This is the only Saturday of the year on which a strict fast is kept. In the monasteries and convents, the refectory meal is taken in complete silence, out of reverence for the burial of Christ.

The Kontakion of Matins sums up the significance of this solemn day:
He that shut up the abyss is seen to be dead, and like a mortal, the Immortal One is wrapped in linen and myrrh, and placed in a grave. And women came to anoint Him weeping bitterly and crying out: This is the most blessed Sabbath whereon Christ, having slept, shall arise on the third day.

Great & Holy Wednesday

ON GREAT WEDNESDAY the Church commemorates the act of contrition and love of the sinful woman who poured precious myrrh-oil on our Savior's head, and, though she did not know it, "prepared Him for burial." And in contrast we hear of the dark act of Judas, whose greed led him to betray his Master. All the readings and hymns of the day warn us to beware of greed and love of money, which even tempted a disciple of Christ. We too can betray Him, if we let greed and selfishness get hold of us, while every deed of humility and love at once brings us near to Him.

Concerning these incidents recorded in the Holy Gospels, the Synaxarion has the following account:
Two women — say the more discerning interpreters of the Gospel — anointed the Lord with myrrh; the one, a long time before His Passion; the other, a few days before. The one was a harlot and sinner; the other, chaste and virtuous. The Church commemorates this reverent act today. While mentioning herein the person of the harlot, it also mentions Judas' betrayal; for, according to the account in Matthew, both of these deeds took place two days before the Passover, on Wednesday.
That woman, then, anointed Jesus' head and feet with very precious myrrh, and wiped them with the tresses of her hair. The disciples, especially the avaricious Judas, were scandalized, supposedly because of the waste of the myrrh. Jesus reproved them and told them not to trouble the woman. Indignant, Judas went to the high priests, who were gathered in the court of Caiaphas and were already taking counsel against Jesus. On agreeing with them to betray his Teacher for thirty pieces of silver, Judas sought from that time opportunity to betray Him (Matt. 26:14-16). Because the betrayal took place on Wednesday, we have received the tradition from Apostolic times to fast on Wednesday throughout the year.

It is on this day also that one of the most beautiful and compunctionate hymns ever composed is chanted in the Holy Church. This hymn, composed in the early part of the ninth century by the nun Cassiane, has as its theme the anointing of our Savior's feet by the harlot:

The Troparion of Cassiane
O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins perceived Thy divinity, and taking upon herself the duty of a myrrh-bearer, with lamentation she bringeth Thee myrrh-oils before Thine entombment. Woe unto me! saith she, for night is become for me a frenzy of licentiousness, a dark and moonless love of sin. Receive the fountain of my tears, O Thou Who gatherest into clouds the water of the sea. Incline unto me, unto the sighings of my heart, O Thou Who didst bow the Heavens by Thine ineffable condescension. I will kiss Thine immaculate feet and wipe them again with the tresses of my head; those feet, at whose sound Eve hid herself for fear when she heard Thee walking in Paradise in the cool of the day. As for the multitude of my sins and the depths of Thy judgments, who can search them out, O Savior of souls, my Savior? Do not disdain me, Thy handmaiden, O Thou Who art boundless in mercy.
The Kontakion for this day continues the theme of contrition and remorse, and confronts us with our unworthiness before God:

The Kontakion (Fourth Tone)
Though I have transgressed more than the harlot, O Good One, I have in no wise brought forth streams of tears for Thee; but in silence I supplicate Thee and fall down before Thee, kissing Thine immaculate feet with love, so that, as Master that Thou art, Thou mayest grant me the forgiveness of debts, as I cry to Thee, O Savior: From the mire of my deeds do Thou deliver me.
On Holy Wednesday night the Orthodox Church administers the Mystery of the Holy Unction for the bodily and spiritual health of the participants. At this Mystery, the oil is consecrated by prayer and the clergy anoint the people. When this is done, the priest recites the prayers for the remission of sins, while the clergy hold the open Gospel over the heads of the people.

The Psalter is not used after Holy Wednesday until Thomas Sunday.


Romanian Monks During Holy Week

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

150 Years Ago

April 14 – 20, 1861

Fort Sumter has capitulated. Major Anderson’s gallant band of troops have arrived in New York, where a crowd counted in the tens of thousands jammed the never more determinedly named Union Square to salute his bullet-torn flag. Now the Stars and Bars, the newfangled flag of the Confederacy, ripples in the breezes over Charleston Harbor. But the battle that ended that crisis has resolved only a minor issue, clearing the stage for a conflict that promises to be ever so much more lethal.

The battle has galvanized both sides. Southerners, who are seldom reluctant to boast about their fighting skills or to invent occasions to demonstrate them, have been crowing like a rooster who has made a thousand suns arise. The Atlanta Confederacy wrote, “If the fanatical Nigger Republican North is resolved to force [war] upon us, we are ready to meet it.” Governor Francis Pickens of South Carolina — a man whose ridiculous wig and ham-handed leadership were much mocked by Charleston’s elites during the Sumter crisis, but who is now lauded as one of the many fathers of this glorious victory — thumped his chest and boasted, “Let it lead to what it might, even if it leads to blood and ruin. … We have defeated their twenty millions, we have met them and conquered them. We have humbled the flag of the United States before the Palmetto and the Confederate.”

But Major Anderson’s steely defense of Sumter and the insult inflicted on Old Glory have inspired the North as well. “All squeamish sentimentality should be discarded, and bloody vengeance wreaked upon the heads of the contemptible traitors,” said the Columbus (Ohio) Daily Capital City Fact. Said Senator Stephen Douglas, the president’s erstwhile electoral rival, “There can be no neutrals in this war, only patriots or traitors.” Everywhere in the North, flags and bunting were hung from every window and porch rail; in Pittsburgh, lampposts sported nooses, sashed with the slogan “Death to Traitors!” The word seldom spoken as states seceded is now on every lip.
Read the rest here.

Before Kennedy International Airport there was...

New York's Lower West Side seen in the 1930's (click to enlarge).

Shown starting at the bottom are the liners Hamburg, the Bremen, the Columbus, the De Grasse, the Normandie, the Britannic, the Aquitania, the Conte de Savoia, the Fort Townsend and the Monarch of Bermuda.

I think I will weep the next time I have to get on one of those overcrowded flying aluminum tubes and pay $5 for a can of soda and a small bag of peanuts.  On a side note I am quite certain that Orville and Wilbur were Protestants.  Their approach to travel bears the same attributes as Protestant worship... short and bland, (tending towards ugly).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Presanctified Liturgy in a monastery & Bridegroom Matins in a convent

Inflation Actually Near 10% Using Older Measure

After former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker was appointed in 1979, the consumer price index surged into the double digits, causing the now revered Fed Chief to double the benchmark interest rate in order to break the back of inflation. Using the methodology in place at that time puts the CPI back near those levels.

Inflation, using the reporting methodologies in place before 1980, hit an annual rate of 9.6 percent in February, according to the Shadow Government Statistics newsletter.

Since 1980, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has changed the way it calculates the CPI in order to account for the substitution of products, improvements in quality (i.e. iPad 2 costing the same as original iPad) and other things. Backing out more methods implemented in 1990 by the BLS still puts inflation at a 5.5 percent rate and getting worse, according to the calculations by the newsletter's web site,

"Near-term circumstances generally have continued to deteriorate," said John Williams, creator of the site, in a new note out Tuesday. "Though not yet commonly recognized, there is both an intensifying double-dip recession and a rapidly escalating inflation problem. Until such time as financial-market expectations catch up with underlying reality, reporting generally will continue to show higher-than-expected inflation and weaker-than-expected economic results in the month and months ahead."
Read the rest here.

Even the mainstream media is starting to question the BS statistics being put out by the government.

Quote of the day...

“I’ll tell you one thing, if things keep going the way they are, it’s going to be impossible to buy a week’s groceries for $10.00.”

-From 1955 


What is past is prologue

History may not always repeat itself but it does tend to move in predictable cycles.  Great nations rise and eventually peak.  Then they get overconfident and too comfortable riding the wave and they over extend themselves.  After that they often get brought back down to Earth with startling swiftness.

The United States is I fear at the tipping point. If you want an idea of where we might be fifty years from now consider the case of the last nation to go through the rise-peak-collapse cycle, Great Britain.  Watch the video and ponder where Britain was in the early 1930's and consider where she was fifty years later.
Empire Day 1930's

S&P lowers outlook on US debt; financial markets plunge

The United States on Monday was warned that it could lose its coveted status as the world’s most secure economy if lawmakers don’t rein in the nation’s debt, pushing U.S. financial markets down.

The ratings agency Standard & Poor’s issued a “negative” outlook on the United States, sending a shot across the bow of Washington politicians in the midst of a contentious debate over how to curtail the nearly $14.3 trillion debt.

Stock prices immediately fell and the dollar dropped against competing currencies before stabilizing late in the morning. The yields on long-term Treasury bonds spiked, indicating that people loaning the U.S. government money wanted more of a return to offset the risk of extending credit to the United States.

“We believe there is a material risk that U.S. policy makers might not reach an agreement on how to address medium-and long-term budgetary challenges by 2013,” S&P one of the nation’s three major credit-rating agencies, said in a report.

S&P added: “If an agreement is not reached and meaningful implementation does not begin by then, this would in our view render the U.S. fiscal profile meaningfully weaker than that of peer ‘AAA’ sovereigns.”
Read the rest here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Super-rich pay less in taxes

WASHINGTON — As millions of procrastinators scramble to meet Monday's tax filing deadline, ponder this: The super rich pay a lot less taxes than they did a couple of decades ago, and nearly half of U.S. households pay no income taxes at all.

The Internal Revenue Service tracks the tax returns with the 400 highest adjusted gross incomes each year. The average income on those returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million. Their average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992.

Over the same period, the average federal income tax rate for all taxpayers declined to 9.3 percent from 9.9 percent.
Read the rest here.

The GOP in never-never land

The Republican self-deception that draws the most attention is the refusal to believe that Barack Obama is American-born.

But there are Republican doctrinal fantasies that may be more dangerous: the conviction that taxes can always go down, but never up, for example, and the gathering consensus among Republican leaders that human-caused climate change does not exist.

I’m not saying that Democrats’ answers to the budget or climate challenges are necessarily right. You can make a case for smaller government or argue that there’s no point in America curbing greenhouse gases if China won’t.

But it’s hard to debate blind faith. When President George W. Bush and Congress lowered taxes in 2001, the justification, unlikely as it seems today, was a budget surplus. When the surplus melted away, that didn’t affect the ideology. Surplus or deficit, peace or war, healthy growth or steep recession — anything is an argument for tax cuts.

You can get a taste of this illogical arithmetic in Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget. The Wisconsin Republican lays out some ideas worth discussing to control entitlement costs. But by refusing to acknowledge that revenue will ever have to rise, even as society ages, he ends up, as the Congressional Budget Office noted (though not in so many words), in fiscal never-never land.

In Ryan’s vision, all federal spending other than Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest payments will decline from 12 percent of the national economy (GDP) in 2010 to 6 percent in 2022 to 3.5 percent in 2050.

“For comparison, spending in this category has exceeded 8 percent of GDP in every year since World War II,” the CBO said. “The proposal does not specify the changes to government programs that might be made in order to produce that path.”

Of course not — because they are changes that few Americans would ever support.
Read the rest here.

Behold the bridegroom comes at midnight

Great and Holy Week

In keeping with the custom of this blog since its inception we will begin winding down as the week progresses with little or no posting from Great and Holy Thursday until Bright Monday.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Palm Sunday Vigil in Moscow

Texas University has about $1 Billion in Gold Bullion

The University of Texas Investment Management Co., the second-largest U.S. academic endowment, took delivery of almost $1 billion in gold bullion as the metal reaches a record, according to the fund’s board.

The fund, whose $19.9 billion in assets ranked it behind Harvard University’s endowment as of August, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers, last year added about $500 million in gold investments to an existing stake, said Bruce Zimmerman, the endowment’s chief executive officer. The holdings reached about $987 million yesterday, as Comex futures closed at $1,486 an ounce.

The decision to turn the fund’s investment into gold bars was influenced by Kyle Bass, a Dallas hedge fund manager and member of the endowment’s board, Zimmerman said yesterday at its annual meeting. Bass made $500 million on the U.S. subprime- mortgage collapse.

“Central banks are printing more money than they ever have, so what’s the value of money in terms of purchases of goods and services,” Bass said today in a telephone interview. “I look at gold as just another currency that they can’t print any more of.”
Read the rest here.

HT T-19

‘Gang of Six’ in the Senate Seeks a Plan on Debt

WASHINGTON — Days after President Obama called for forming a bipartisan group in Congress to begin negotiating a $4 trillion debt-reduction package, the parties have not even agreed to its membership. Yet six senators — three Democrats, three Republicans — say they are nearing consensus on just such a plan.

Whether the so-called Gang of Six can actually deliver something when Congress returns from a recess in May could determine whether Democrats and Republicans can come together to resolve the nation’s fiscal problems before the 2012 elections.

As Mr. Obama and Republican leaders have warred publicly over the budget, this small group of senators has spent four months in dozens of secretive meetings in offices at the Capitol and over dinner at the suburban Virginia home of Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat.

The senators have weathered criticism from bloggers and even colleagues, including the leaders of their own parties, who oppose tampering with Social Security or taxes. The gang nearly collapsed several times, including two weeks ago.

The group’s oldest members — Senator Richard J. Durbin, 66, a progressive from Illinois who counts the Senate’s only socialist as a friend and ally, and Senator Saxby Chambliss, 67, a genial Georgia conservative whose nasty first campaign left lingering bad feelings among Democrats, and who is a confidant of Speaker John A. Boehner — illustrate that even with the mounting federal debt intensifying the partisan divide over spending and taxes, the severity of the fiscal threat is forging unlikely alliances.
Read the rest here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Protestant Proselytizing in Russia

MOSCOW -- In a land where the Russian Orthodox Church dominates, one evangelical charismatic church is creating spiritual waves.

"The Protestant movement is growing very strongly," said Rick Renner, senior pastor of Moscow Good New Church.

Renner and his wife Denise are at the forefront of the movement. In 1991, the couple moved their family to what is now the former Soviet Union with the goal of reaching Russians with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Nine years later, in September 2000, they started Moscow Good News Church in the Russian capital city.

"Moscow church is approximately 3,500 people in regular attendance," Renner told CBN News.

That's big for Russia, where most Protestant churches attract less than a thousand people to each of their congregations.

Reaching the Upper Crust

While the goal is to reach a broad section of those living in the Moscow metropolis, the church puts a special emphasis on reaching the upper class.

"Specifically, a part of our vision is to reach a higher class of people," Renner said.

That's because "they need God, too, and there aren't many churches that they can actually feel comfortable in," he explained.

Most Russians belong to the Orthodox Church. Currently, there are an estimated 30,000 churches dotting the Russian landscape.

The church is gaining more prominence after decades of persecution under the Soviet system. Yet, this newfound role isn't necessarily translating into regular attendance or observance.

"Most people don't even know the tenets of the faith," Roman Lunkin of the Slavic Center for Law & Justice, explained. "They don't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Nowadays, it is hip to be religious in Russia."

A Whole New Experience

But Renner said something different happens at Moscow Good News. Those from an Orthodox background find the evangelical church community a whole new experience.

"Some of them are shocked!" he exclaimed. "Some of them think, 'Wow, I've only seen this in movies!'"

Along with the preaching of the Gospel, worship and style of music played in church is a big draw, too.

"I say, 'Hey, come to church. We have music in church and it is fun," Renner said. "'Like what, Gospel music?' I said, 'Yeah, come see it!'"

In addition to the main service, Moscow Good News has an active children's ministry that puts on regular drama performances about the life of Christ.

They also have an entire church dedicated entirely to reaching the elderly.

House Divided

Despite the tremendous success of Moscow Good News Church, it faces a huge public perception problem.

In Russia, charismatic churches are often considered cults. Consequently, the government puts laws on the books to restrict religious freedom.

Because the Russian Orthodox Church views the evangelical churches as competitors, they often side with the government trying to limit evangelical church growth.

"The official position of the Russian Orthodox Church is that everything besides them is a cult," Renner told CBN News.

Hope in a New Generation

However, a new generation of young Russians are emerging with different views on the matter.

"I have evangelical Christians who are friends of mine," one young woman said. "I enjoy talking with them and appreciate things they share with me."

"I know the Orthodox Church doesn't have a good opinion of the Protestant churches, but that has to change," another young woman said.

It is that sentiment that Renner and members of Moscow Good News Church hope lead to more Russians embracing the message of Jesus Christ.

"Capitalism has come. Many people are successful. Many people have made money," Renner said.

"Many people have huge amounts of money, and they've found out for themselves that it is not the answer to all of their problems," Renner noted. "And so there's a new wave of interest in spiritual things."