Friday, February 28, 2014

Lent is almost here - a note on fasting

As I sit at my desk, contemplating the four cheese vegetarian lasagna cooling on the kitchen counter, it occurs to me that our favorite time of year is now only a couple of short days away. And so a few quick points on fasting may be in order.

A general guide to the fasting discipline of the Church may be found here. Be aware that as with many other things in Orthodoxy, your mileage is going to vary a bit. There are local variations and you can find stricter, more detailed, and more lenient versions of the fasting discipline if you want to look around. But the linked site gives a pretty decent run down of the basics.

It is important though to remember that Lent is not a legalistic test to see how well we can keep a fourth century dietary code. Rather it is a spiritual exercise intended to stretch and temper the body so it does not come to rule the spirit. To which end I'm going to add a few observations and addendums.
  • Mind your own business. Your fast is your concern, your neighbor's is not. If you feel the need to brag about how well you are keeping the fast, save it for confession.
  • In line with the above, avoid gossip. It is one of the vices most frequently condemned in Scripture yet most prevalent in modern society.
  • Be prepared for failure. I have NEVER come close to keeping the Lenten Fast perfectly. Very few outside of monastics do. That is not an excuse to ignore it, but it is an acknowledgment of our human weakness. When you fall, pick yourself up and get back on the horse.
  • Shelve the triumphalism. I am seriously sick of the annual commentary about how WE still fast, unlike you know who. Every year those comments are as inevitable as a call of nature, and more or less as pleasant to contemplate.
  • Baptism by total immersion is a no no with fasting. If you are new to the Faith, do not attempt the full rigors of the fast. You will fail, probably badly, get discouraged and ultimately surrender. Talk to your spiritual father and get a modified rule from him. For the non-Orthodox looking to try something perhaps a bit more stringent than what they are accustomed to, I suggest Ad Orientem's Lenten Fasting for beginners... no meat throughout Lent and keep a strict fast (one meal only with no meat fish wine oil or dairy) on Wednesdays and Fridays. If you can handle that, you are doing pretty good. The other stuff can come later.
  • Common sense is not on the fasting list. If you are at work and feel faint because you are so hungry... don't be a twit, EAT SOMETHING! Likewise legitimate health issues trump the fasting rules. When in doubt consult your doctor and spiritual father.
  • Don't play the martyr. If you are making other people miserable because of your fasting either eat something or excuse yourself from the company of others. If someone unknowingly surprises you with a nice meal that's not on the OK list, the correct response is not "sorry I'm fasting." You smile, politely thank them and eat, even though that succulent juicy steak will undoubtedly make you miserable. The basic rule here is if your fasting makes someone else feel really bad then you have failed.
With that, I wish everyone a blessed fast.

Muslims impose strict Islamic law on Christians in Syria

A jihadist group in Syria has demanded that Christians in the northern city of Raqqa pay a levy in gold and accept curbs on their faith, or face death.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) said it would give Christian residents "protection" if they agreed to the list of conditions...

...The directive from ISIS, citing the Islamic concept of "dhimma", requires Christians in the city to pay tax of around half an ounce (14g) of pure gold in exchange for their safety.
It says Christians must not make renovations to churches, display crosses or other religious symbols outside churches, ring church bells or pray in public. Christians must not carry arms, and must follow other rules imposed by ISIS (also known as ISIL) on their daily lives.

The statement said the group had met Christian representatives and offered them three choices - they could convert to Islam, accept ISIS' conditions, or reject their control and risk being killed.
"If they reject, they are subject to being legitimate targets, and nothing will remain between them and ISIS other than the sword," the statement said.
Read the rest here.

Russia Invades Ukraine

Reports are headlining pretty much every news website, excepting at this point NBC and CNN who seem to be alone in grasping the importance of President Obama's moving recollections of his childhood and later experimentation with drugs.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

American flag banned in an American high school for Cinco de Mayo

This is how far things have sunk. Awaiting Anti-Gnostic's comment in 5-4-3-2-1...

Ukrainian crisis shifts to pro-Russian regions

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — The revolutionary upheaval in Ukraine’s faraway capital has awakened the separatist dreams of ethnic Russians living here on the Crimean Peninsula, where on Thursday pro-Russia gunmen who occupied the regional parliament building were met with an outpouring of support.

A group of men dressed in camouflage and armed with rocket-­propelled grenades entered the building early Thursday in the capital of Ukraine’s Crimea region, according to local reporters, then barricaded themselves inside and raised the Russian flag on the roof — a succinct answer to warnings from the United States and Europe that Ukraine remain united and Russia stand back.
Read the rest here.

Cry for Me, Argentina

USHUAIA, Argentina — A bon mot doing the rounds in post-commodities-boom South America is that Brazil is in the process of becoming Argentina, and Argentina is in the process of becoming Venezuela, and Venezuela is in the process of becoming Zimbabwe. That is a little harsh on Brazil and Venezuela.

Argentina, however, is a perverse case of its own. It is a nation still drugged by that quixotic political concoction called Peronism; engaged in all-out war on reliable economic data; tinkering with its multilevel exchange rate; shut out from global capital markets; trampling on property rights when it wishes; obsessed with a lost little war in the Falklands (Malvinas) more than three decades ago; and persuaded that the cause of all this failure lies with speculative powers seeking to force a proud nation — in the words of its leader — “to eat soup again, but this time with a fork.”

A century ago, Argentina was richer than Sweden, France, Austria and Italy. It was far richer than Japan. It held poor Brazil in contempt. Vast and empty, with the world’s richest top soil in the Pampas, it seemed to the European immigrants who flooded here to have all the potential of the United States (per capita income is now a third or less of the United States level). They did not know that a colonel called Juan Domingo Perón and his wife Eva (“Evita”) would shape an ethos of singular delusional power.

“Argentina is a unique case of a country that has completed the transition to underdevelopment,” said Javier Corrales, a political scientist at Amherst College.
Read the rest here.

China’s assertiveness leaves its neighbors anxious

A Chinese military expert is explaining to a conference
here what he sees as the benign inevitability of Beijing’s rising power
in the Pacific. “You should trust China,” he says cheerily. “In 10
years, we will be much stronger, and you will feel safer...”

...It is a sign of the times that delegates here talk openly about the danger of war in the Pacific. That’s a big change from the tone of similar gatherings just a few years ago, when Chinese officials often tried to reassure foreign experts that a rising China wasn’t on a collision course with the United States or regional powers. Now, in the East and South China seas, the collision seems all too possible.

Just two weeks ago, U.S. Navy Capt. James Fanell warned at a conference in San Diego that China had been training for a “short, sharp war” to assert primacy over islands claimed by Japan as the Senkakus and by China as the Diaoyus. “I do not know how Chinese intentions could be more transparent,” he said, noting that Beijing’s talk of “protection of maritime rights” was actually “a Chinese euphemism for the coerced seizure of coastal rights of China’s neighbors.”
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Divine Liturgy Project

Do check out this interesting project. Details are available over at the NLM.

GOP proposes radical overhaul of the income tax

The Republican chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee unveiled a bold but politically hazardous overhaul of the nation’s tax laws Wednesday that would jettison hundreds of popular tax breaks in favor of a simpler code with lower rates.

The proposal drafted by Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) would significantly reduce rates for individuals and corporations, pushing the top corporate rate down to 25 percent from 35 percent and the top individual rate down to 35 percent from 39.6 percent.

Tax-filing season would also be much easier for most households, with 95 percent of filers likely to claim a new expanded standard deduction and call it a day.

However, all that simplicity comes at the cost of hundreds of credits and deductions that have been woven into the American way of life. There would be no more personal exemptions for you, your spouse and your dependents; no more credit for child care; no more deductions for medical bills or for state and local taxes.

The mortgage interest deduction would be available only for mortgages worth less than $500,000, instead of the current $1 million (though currently held mortgages would be grandfathered). And an important tax break for the poor would be dramatically scaled back.

Investment income would lose its special status and be taxed like regular income. And the wealthiest households — those earning more than $450,000 a year — would lose virtually every deduction and credit, including the tax-free treatment of health insurance premiums paid by their employers.
Read the rest

I haven't read enough on this bill to form a definitive opinion, but my first impression is one of pleasant surprise. It's not exactly a state secret that the Republicans in Congress, especially the House, have been a bitter disappointment to me. But this bill sounds like it could be a really big step in the right direction. Assuming there isn't something horrid buried in it that I haven't found out about yet, I hope the bill gets some serious debate. And maybe (dare I hope?) some constructive input and support from Democrats. There's quite a bit in here that should appeal to their anti-1% constituents.

Judge strikes down gay marriage ban in Texas

A Texas judge has struck down that state's ban on gay marriage.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia did not say gay marriages could be performed immediately. Instead, he stayed the decision, citing a likely appeal.

"Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution," Garcia wrote in his decision. "These Texas laws deny Plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex."

The state's gay marriage ban was challenged by two gay couples -- one seeking to marry in Texas and one seeking to have their marriage, which was performed in Massachusetts, to be recognized.
Read the rest here.

As said in an earlier post, this battle is lost. It's time to refocus on the strongest possible conscience protection legislation.

Russia masses troops near Ukrainian border

MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin ordered a surprise exercise of ground and air forces on Ukraine’s doorstep Wednesday, intending to demonstrate his country’s military preparedness at a time of heightened tensions with Europe and the United States over the turmoil gripping Russia’s western neighbor. The Obama administration said any Russian military intervention in Ukraine would be a costly and “grave mistake.”

Russia’s military put tens of thousands of troops in western Russia on alert at 2 p.m. for an exercise scheduled to last until March 3. The minister of defense, Sergei K. Shoigu, also announced unspecified measures to tighten security at the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet on Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.
Read the rest here.

I really need to get a dog...

California couple finds $10 million in gold coins while walking their dog.

If stupidity were a crime...

There are some school administrators in Tennessee who would be looking at the electric chair. These are the people who are preparing the next generation of Americans for the challenges of the future. Not to unduly alarm anyone.

HT: RuralEngineer

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Francis and Benedict XVI enjoy warming friendship

VATICAN CITY — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is not “jealous” of his successor’s worldwide celebrity, holds him in “high esteem” and is developing an ever closer relationship with Pope Francis through “regular” communications, according to the former pontiff’s private secretary and prefect of the papal household, Archbishop Georg Gänswein.

In a rare interview with a U.S. media outlet, Gänswein, a Benedict confidant who resides with the retired pope in a remodeled Vatican City convent, suggested that despite their obvious differences, the former pope was not seeking to influence the new pontiff on major church decisions. In addition, Gänswein said, Benedict’s surprise appearance at a swearing-in ceremony for 19 new cardinals this past weekend should not be taken as a sign of his reemergence into public life. 
Read the rest here.

Setting aside the inevitable shot at Benedict's "ponderous conservatism," it's nice that the two men are on good terms and talk regularly. Ex-Pope's are not all that common and historically haven't always fared well.

Steep cuts proposed for military budget

The Defense Department on Monday proposed cutting the Army to its smallest size in 74 years, slashing a class of attack jets and rolling back personnel costs in an effort to adjust a department buoyed by a decade of war to an era of leaner budgets.

The five-year budget blueprint outlined by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reflects a willingness by the Pentagon to make deep cuts to personnel strength to invest in technology and equipment as it eases off a war footing. 
Read the rest here.

A good start. But I don't imagine that the Obama Administration will be showing a similar appetite for attacking the welfare state.

Prayers for the Ukraine

Prayers for peace and commemorating the casualties of the crisis in the Ukraine at St. Micheal the Archangel Church.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday of the Last Judgment (Meatfare)

Much to meditate upon today and I hope everyone is having a pleasant meatfare. Getting ready to grill a couple of steaks here.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Pat Buchanan on the situation in the Ukraine

Richard Engel of NBC, reporting from Maidan Square in Kiev, described what he witnessed as the Feb. 19 truce collapsed.

Police began to back away from their positions in the square, said Engel. And the protesters attacked. Gunfire was exchanged and the death toll, believed to be in the dozens, is not known.

In short, the reality in Kiev is more complex than the black-and-white cartoon of Vladimir Putin vs. the freedom fighters drawn by our resident Russophobic elite. Perspective is in order.
Read the rest here.

Ukraine’s parliament votes to oust president; former prime minister is freed from jail

KIEV, Ukraine — In a day of fast-moving events that changed the political landscape of Ukraine and brought joy to protesters who had defied the government, the Ukrainian parliament voted Saturday evening to dismiss President Viktor Yanukovych from office, saying he was guilty of gross human rights violations and dereliction of duty.

The parliament, now dominated by opposition politicians, declared that an election to choose a new president would be held May 25. 
Read the rest here.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Prayers Please

In your kindness please keep my step-father Harold in your prayers as also my mom. His long battle with dementia appears to be coming to an end.

The Myth of ‘Settled Science’

I repeat: I’m not a global-warming believer. I’m not a global-warming denier. I’ve long believed that it cannot be good for humanity to be spewing tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. I also believe that those scientists who pretend to know exactly what this will cause in 20, 30, or 50 years are white-coated propagandists.

“The debate is settled,” asserted propagandist-in-chief Barack Obama in his latest State of the Union address. “Climate change is a fact.” Really? There is nothing more anti-scientific than the very idea that science is settled, static, impervious to challenge. Take a non-climate example. It was long assumed that mammograms help reduce breast cancer deaths. This fact was so settled that Obamacare requires every insurance plan to offer mammograms (for free, no less).

Now we learn from a massive randomized study — 90,000 women followed for 25 years — that mammograms may have no effect on breast-cancer deaths. Indeed, one out of five of those diagnosed by mammogram receives unnecessary radiation, chemo, or surgery.

So much for settledness.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Carnage and Chaos in Ukraine

The latest reports..
  • The death toll may now be over 100. 
  • Some police are defecting to the protesters and scores of others have been captured.
  • The government may be employing military troops with live ammunition. There are credible reports that army snipers have been firing on protesters.
  • Both the European Union and the United States are moving to impose sanctions on Ukrainian government officials.
  • Some fear civil war.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Kiev monastery a sanctuary for battered protesters

Reuters - The injured, bloodied and bandaged, lay beneath icons and candles on the floor of St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery.

The combat fatigues and green helmets of some recalled the primitive field hospitals of distant wars.

As the death toll climbed from Ukraine's bloodiest day in two decades of independence, the wounded sought refuge on Wednesday beneath the bell tower of a sympathetic Kiev church.

Volunteers sorted through medical supplies - iodine, gauze, bandages - brought in bags and boxes by anxious residents of the capital. Doctors tended to the wounded on beds in a side-building of the monastery complex, while people hurried through the main doors clutching bottled water, bread, ham and processed cheese.

It was a scene of quiet determination and order, a short walk uphill from the black smoke and violence of Independence Square, crucible of a geopolitical battle between Russia and the West.
Read the rest here.

Note: The monastery belongs to one of the schismatic branches of the Ukrainian Church.

An open letter to His Holiness Pope Francis from Prince Bertrand of Orleans-Braganza

Oh my... This is going to raise a few eyebrows.

Famous snake handling preacher dies from bite

After sustaining numerous snake bites over the years, a prominent serpent-handling minister and co-star of Snake Salvation died Saturday night after a rattlesnake bit him during a Kentucky church service.

Jamie Coots, 42, died two hours later in his home surrounded by family. Andrew Hamblin, Coots's co-star on the reality TV show, was also present at the incident, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Emergency workers tried to convince the minister's family to let them take him to the hospital, but his wife and son refused.

"He always said, 'Don't take me to the doctor,'" his son Cody Coots told the Herald-Leader. "It was totally against his religion."
Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

Setting aside his flaky theology, if stupidity were a virtue the man would be a strong candidate for sainthood. Prayers for his family.

Salt Lake City parish fight reaches Constantinople

What a mess. It looks like the EP has had enough of this parish civil war playing out in the press. Let's hope someone steps in and restores order.

Feds want to be able to track where your license plate goes

The Department of Homeland Security wants a private company to provide a national license-plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers, according to a government proposal that does not specify what privacy safeguards would be put in place.

The national license-plate recognition database, which would draw data from readers that scan the tags of every vehicle crossing their paths, would help catch fugitive illegal immigrants, according to a DHS solicitation. But the database could easily contain more than 1 billion records and could be shared with other law enforcement agencies, raising concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens who are under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Scottish Independence would be a train wreck

There is a simple yet fatal contradiction at the heart of Alex Salmond’s case for Scottish independence. With self-government comes the need to earn economic credibility – and yet Salmond is threatening a confidence-shattering default on Scotland’s share of the national debt, is clueless about which currency he will adopt, has no idea how to retain a financial sector in Edinburgh, doesn’t have a realistic plan to deal with Scotland’s declining oil revenues, hasn’t thought through his future trading arrangements and continues to support a nonsensical, something-for-nothing approach to the public finances. 
It’s a recipe for disaster, and the very opposite of the cautious, prudent, pro-market manifesto that would be needed to make independence succeed. 
Read the rest here.

Ukraine: Protests escalate - turn violent

Violent clashes between hard-line protesters and police erupted Tuesday in Kiev, Ukraine, after more than a week of relative calm, leaving at least nine people dead and many more wounded.

The Interior Ministry reported that seven protesters and two interior troops were killed during the clashes. It wasn’t clear whether this total included a body found in the headquarters of the ruling Party of Regions after it had been cleared of occupying protesters. That man was identified as an office worker for the party.
Read the rest here.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Pope Francis may float compromise on divorce

...Sometimes mocked as “Catholic divorce,” an annulment is a declaration by a church court that a marriage never existed in the first place because one of the conditions for validity wasn’t satisfied, such as free consent by both parties.

Facing that tension, a compromise may be coming into focus: No change on the sacraments ban, but an easier and broader process for granting annulments.

O’Malley floated that idea during a recent Globe interview, saying that perhaps annulments could be sped up by eliminating the possibility of appeal to Rome, a provision that often means a case can drag on for years if one of the parties wants to contest the result.

A Feb. 15 conference of church lawyers in the Italian region of Liguria seemed to point in the same direction, arguing that the grounds upon which an annulment can be granted ought to be expanded.

In particular, these church lawyers proposed adding “mamma-ism” to the list, meaning a situation in which spouses are so completely under the thumb of one of their parents – usually, according to the jurists, the mom – that they don’t have free will.

Whatever one makes of “mamma-ism” as a legal or psychological concept, it illustrates how eager many Catholic officials are to make annulments more user-friendly.
Read the rest here.

Disclaimer: The Boston Globe is not a Catholic friendly news source. That said they are offering direct quotes with attribution.

US offers prisoner exchange with Taliban

In an effort to free American captive Bowe Bergdahl before the bulk of U.S. forces leave Afghanistan this year, the Obama administration has decided to try to resume talks with the Taliban and sweeten an offer to trade Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the Army sergeant, current and former officials said.

Five members of the Afghan Taliban who have been held at Guantanamo for years would be released to protective custody in Qatar in exchange for the release of Bergdahl, who was captured in Afghanistan in 2009 and is thought to be held in Pakistan by the Haqqani network, an allied insurgent group.
Read the rest here.

For the record, I strongly endorse this move. I expect much hysteria from the usual suspects among the neo-imperialists. But the fact is that POW swaps are an honorable and humane custom with a  history almost as old as organized warfare itself. As long as he doesn't give the store away, and it doesn't sound like that's on the table, I applaud the President for making this tough decision. One that is certain to generate a lot of criticism from his political opponents.

Why so many cops like the war on drugs

It's a huge cash cow. Follow the money.

UN Panel accuses N. Korea of crimes against humanity

SEOUL — A year-long investigation by the United Nations is set to conclude that North Korea has committed crimes against humanity, according to a leaked outline of the report, in the most authoritative indictment to date of abuses carried out by Pyongyang’s leaders.

The U.N. panel will also recommend that the North’s crimes be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, according to the Associated Press, which obtained the outline of the findings. The report of the three-member Commission of Inquiry will be released Monday.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

World War II is a touchy subject in Russia

SOCHI, Russia — The pageant of Russian history presented in the Olympic Opening Ceremonies passed over the Soviet victory in World War II to the consternation of more than a few patriots. But the war seems to be making the news these days more than ever nonetheless.

Russian sacrifices in the fight against the Nazis 70 years ago were stupendous, and feelings still run deep. Every family paid a price, and the war haunts everyday life here in a way that short-memory Americans would find startling. But there’s another side to its legacy: For decades after the war, Soviet leaders sought to reinforce their legitimacy by exploiting the memory of the titanic struggle.

And today the Russian government appears to be turning in the same direction.
Read the rest here.

Legislating and/or politicizing history is always a bad idea. That said, in the great drama that was the Second World War, the main actors were definitely Germany and the USSR. The United States and Great Britain were in basically supporting roles, at least in Europe from 1941.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Slow Posting

Catching up on some other (non urgent) stuff that's been piling up along with a backlog of reading I have been intending to get to. The news has been a bit slow of late anyways.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Athletes and their private lives

Christopher Johnson over at MCJ has noted that a certain college football player, and presumptive candidate for the NFL draft, has gotten into the news after confirming some rumors about his personal life. My take...

Whatever. I suppose there is valid a reason for making a public statement. There were rumors floating around and he didn’t want the National Enquirer staking out his apartment with photographers. I can understand that. But now that it’s on the record, any further mention of this young man in the press or media should be solely with regard to his abilities and activities on the gridiron.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

It's coming...

Eat drink and be merry for Lent is approaching...  (No fasting this week)

RIP: Hollywood Film Icon Shirley Temple (Black)

Memory eternal.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Feast of the Holy New Martyrs of Russia

Commemoration of the New Martyrs of Russia (OC) in the Cathedral of the Dormition in the Kremlin.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

British court summons Mormon head on fraud allegations related to church doctrine

A British magistrate has issued an extraordinary summons to the worldwide leader of the Mormon church alleging that its teachings about mankind amount to fraud.

Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been ordered to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London next month to defend the church’s doctrines including beliefs about Adam and Eve and Native Americans.

A formal summons signed by District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe warns Mr Monson, who is recognised by Mormons as God’s prophet on Earth, that a warrant for his arrest could be issued if he fails to make the journey from Salt Lake City, Utah, for a hearing on March 14.

In one of the most unusual documents ever issued by a British court, it lists seven teachings of the church, including that Native Americans are descended from a family of ancient Israelites as possible evidence of fraud. 
Read the rest here.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Forget the liberals, the real fight in the Catholic Church is between conservatives

For most casual observers, whether Catholic or not, the main battle lines within American Catholicism today seem self-evident. The cleavage overlaps perfectly the divide between the political parties, leading to the frequently-used labels “liberal” and “conservative” Catholics. We have Nancy Pelosi and Andrew Cuomo representing the Left, and Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback aligned with the Right. Mainstream opinion has classified Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI as honorary Republicans, and Pope Francis as a Democrat (hence, why he is appearing on the covers of Time and Rolling Stone magazines).

This division does indeed capture real battle lines, but more than anything, the divide is merely an extension of our politics, and—while manned by real actors—does not capture where the real action is to be found today in American Catholic circles.

The real action does not involve liberal “Catholics” at all. Liberal Catholicism, while well-represented in elite circles of the Democratic Party, qua Catholicism is finished. Liberal Catholicism has no future—like liberal Protestantism, it is fated to become liberalism simpliciter within a generation. The children of liberal Catholics will either want their liberalism unvarnished by incense and holy water, or they will rebel and ask if there’s something more challenging, disobeying their parents by “reverting” to Catholicism. While “liberal” Catholicism will appear to be a force because it will continue to have political representation, as a “project” and a theology, like liberal Protestantism it is doomed to oblivion.

The real battle is taking place beyond the purview of the pages of Time Magazine and the New York Times. The battle pits two camps of “conservative” Catholicism (let’s dispense with that label immediately and permanently—as my argument suggests, and others have said better, our political labels are inadequate to the task).
Read the rest here.
HT: Dr. Tighe

This is one of the more interesting articles I have read in a while. I suspect that there will be at least some Orthodox who are sympathetic to the more trad wing of this debate, myself included. Lots of links in there for those really interested in following the ongoing fight.

Memo to NBC News

Your new website sucks. I can't even load it in my browser (Firefox). And no, I'm not switching browsers. I took a look at it in I.E (first time I've opened that browser in a few years) and I think I like the unloadable version more. Yes, it's that bad.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Faced with drug shortage Virginia looks to 'old sparky'

Virginia has joined the ranks of states preparing for the day when they will not be able to lay their hands on the drugs needed to execute prisoners. Unlike Missouri which is considering firing squads, or Washington State, that still has the country's last operational gallows, the Old Dominion is planning to plug in its old electric chair.

UN slams Catholic Church on sex abuse scandal and doctrine

BERLIN — A United Nations committee on Wednesday issued a scathing indictment of the Catholic Church’s handling of child sexual abuse involving clerics, releasing a report that went far beyond how the church responded to abuse allegations and included criticism of its teachings on homosexuality, gender equality and abortion.

“The Committee is concerned that the Holy See and Church-run institutions do not recognize the existence of diverse forms of families and often discriminate against children on the basis of their family situation,” the report by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said. 
Read the rest here.

I'm not going to defend the Roman Church's handling of the sex abuse crisis. Until very recently that could fairly be characterized, depending on location and other factors, as ranging somewhere between poor and appalling. But the UN is way out of line when they start meddling in religious doctrine. I hope the Vatican tells them to go pack sand. For that matter the US government should put the new world order guys on notice that they have overstepped their brief. Unfortunately, with things as they are that's likely to happen on or about the day pigs fly.

On a side note, am I the only one who sees some pretty rich irony in an organization with an ugly history of sexual abuse allegations against its own staff and so called "peace keepers" lecturing others on that subject?

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Romania and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem restore communion

Details can be found on Byzantine Texas. Glory to God!

Some Roman Catholic Suggestions for the Pan Orthodox Synod

Two interesting posts on our much discussed forthcoming (?) Pan-Orthodox Synod from a Roman Catholic blog. See here and here.

Boston Byzantine Music Festival 2014

For those in the New England area I am pleased to pass along notice of the forthcoming Byzantine Music Festival scheduled for Feb 24 and 25, 2014. More information can be found here.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Quote of the day... (from a Seahawks fan)

Here in the land of gentle whale watchers, granola-eating earthy crunchies, metrosexual jammie clad health care discussers, soppy gay wedding sentimentalists, intense Janeane Garofalo lookalikes in hornrim glasses, passionate advocates for polymorphous perversities, fanatical recyclers, Unitarians in blocky African wooden jewelry and Birkenstocks leading bake sales to fund the library, chainsaw artists, bicyclists filled with snooty contempt for petrochemical consumers, New Age crystal gazers with 35,000 year old spirit guides helping them with their investment decisions in aromatherapy corporations, Pike Place fishmongers, gritty Indie bands, hipsters conducting their entire romances by tweeting partners of indeterminate gender from two tables away at the Starbucks on Aurora and 220th, Prius dealers offering cars with the Obama sticker pre-applied, parents placing their three year olds in high-intensity courses to groom them for executive positions at Microsoft and Nintendo, damp and dispirited Metro riders waiting patiently for winter rain to turn to spring rain like cattle waiting for nothing in particular… well, we appeared to the scions of cowpokes and painted ladies to be…. soft.
Read the rest here.
HT: Deacon Greg

Sunday, February 02, 2014

An illegitimate veto

Attorneys general, both state and federal, are entrusted with the power and responsibility to enforce and defend laws created by the political process, which can be highly contentious. They are to do so without political influence.

I have been attorney general of Colorado for nine years, during which time the state has enacted laws that span the philosophical and political spectrum. I personally oppose a number of Colorado’s laws as a matter of public policy, and a few are contrary to my religious beliefs. But as my state’s attorney general, I have defended them all — and will continue to.

Recently, however, attorneys general in Virginia, Pennsylvania and California have given in to the temptation to abuse the power entrusted to our position by refusing to defend their states’ bans on same-sex marriage in court. Depending on one’s view of the laws in question, such a “litigation veto” may, in the short term, be a terrific thing; an unpopular law is defanged and the attorney general can take credit — indeed, he can be the hero to his political base and keep his political ambitions intact.
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Western US braces for worst drought on record

LOS ANGELES — The punishing drought that has swept California is now threatening the state’s drinking water supply.

With no sign of rain, 17 rural communities providing water to 40,000 people are in danger of running out within 60 to 120 days. State officials said that the number was likely to rise in the months ahead after the State Water Project, the main municipal water distribution system, announced on Friday that it did not have enough water to supplement the dwindling supplies of local agencies that provide water to an additional 25 million people. It is first time the project has turned off its spigot in its 54-year history.

State officials said they were moving to put emergency plans in place. In the worst case, they said drinking water would have to be brought by truck into parched communities and additional wells would have to be drilled to draw on groundwater. The deteriorating situation would likely mean imposing mandatory water conservation measures on homeowners and businesses, who have already been asked to voluntarily reduce their water use by 20 percent.
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Saturday, February 01, 2014

How to shave with a straight razor


For the record I don't use a straight razor. If I feel the need for a super close shave, I will let the barber do it.

Socialist cleanup needed on aisle 7

CARACAS, Venezuela — On aisle seven, among the diapers and fabric softener, the socialist dreams of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez looked as ragged as the toilet paper display.

Employees at the Excelsior Gama supermarket had set out a load of extra-soft six-roll packs so large that it nearly blocked the aisle. To stock the shelves with it would have been pointless. Soon word spread that the long-awaited rolls had arrived, and despite a government-imposed limit of one package per person, the checkout lines stretched all the way to the decimated dairy case in the back of the store.
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Union officials say Obama betrayed them on health-care

Labor leaders who have spent months lobbying unsuccessfully for special protections under the Affordable Care Act warned this week that the White House’s continued refusal to help is dampening union support for Democratic candidates in this year’s midterm elections.

Leaders of two major unions, including the first to endorse Obama in 2008, said they have been betrayed by an administration that wooed their support for the 2009 legislation with promises to later address the peculiar needs of union-negotiated insurance plans that cover millions of workers.
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Dear America, I Saw You Naked

And yes, we were laughing. Confessions of an ex-TSA agent.

HT: Bill (aka The Godfather)