Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Major Anglican Meeting Likely Cancelled

An every ten year gathering of all or most of the bishops of the worldwide Anglican Communion is likely to be cancelled or at least postponed indefinitely. The decision to put off the Lambeth Conference indefinitely due to extreme differences within the communion over church doctrine and discipline is believed to be without modern precedent. The only previous postponements were a result of the two world wars.

Read the story here.
HT: T-19

The Secret Service Under Fire

It's been a tough year for the Secret Service. One after another the hits just keep coming for one of the most legendary law enforcement agencies out there. Their job description requires among other things, a readiness to step between the person they are protecting and anyone or thing that may pose a danger to their principal. In the most extreme case they would be expected to use their bodies as human shields and "take the bullet" meant for the President. (At least one agent has done exactly that.) And for 113 years they have, with one truly horrific exception, kept the President's of this country safe from harm despite several close calls.

But now we have people openly questioning whether they are up to the job after a series of scandals and revelations of embarrassing security lapses. Recently an armed man not only jumped the White House fence but managed to force his way into the Executive Mansion itself where he ran amok until finally tackled by an off duty agent.

Possibly though, the most alarming revelation has just made it into the open. Two weeks ago an armed man with a violent criminal record, who somehow had acquired a job as security contractor for the CDC, managed to ride an elevator with President Obama! That's crazy.

Sacrificing Property Rights on the Altar of Gun Rights

...As a matter of personal preference, I would certainly encourage private companies to allow their employees to bring their firearms to work, and, as a matter of taste, I would prefer it if those who have been discovered violating company policy were treated gently — especially if they were forced to break the rules in self-defense. But, unless one is to wholly rewrite the nature of American constitutional government, these decisions must be reserved to the private sector, and not to local voters or representatives. Like all of the provisions within the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment serves as a check on government and on government alone. It does not apply to Walmart or to FedEx or to Joe’s Highway Diner. When the NRA gripes that some politicians are “heeding corporate concerns” over the predilections of gun owners, what it is really saying is that those politicians are respecting property rights and refusing to get involved where they are not welcome. At what point, one wonders, did that become undesirable to liberty-loving people?

Read the rest here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Consecration of St. Clement's

The consecration of the church dedicated to the Great Martyr St. Clement Pope of Rome September 27, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

We Broke Iraq

Colin Powell famously told President George W. Bush before the Iraq invasion, "If you break it, you own it." Well, it's safe to say we broke Iraq.

That's the story I heard last week from two people who live there. I met with the Rev. Canon Andrew White — "The Vicar of Baghdad" — who serves as the chaplain to St. George's Anglican Church in the heart of Baghdad. We were joined by Sarah Ahmed, a director at White's Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East. Ahmed was born and raised in Iraq. White has lived there for 15 years.

"I was in favor of the U.S. invasion," White told me. "But we are literally 5,000 times worse than before. If you look at it, you can see it was wrong. We have gained nothing. Literally nothing. We may have had an evil dictator, but now we have total terrorism. We used to have one Saddam. Now we have thousands."

Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

Worst Op-Ed of the Month

OK, there are still a few days left in September. But I am calling it game over and handing this month's prize to Dan Emmett for this piece promoting a further militarization of our society and law enforcement. I won't even touch who he wants to put in charge of protecting the President of the United States.

Friday, September 26, 2014

North Korean Dictator Suffering from "Discomfort"

He hasn't been seen in weeks and his most recent previous appearances showed him limping. All of which has gotten the rumor mill running at full tilt. Now in a very rare admission the N. Korean state media has publicly admitted that their supreme dictator is suffering from "discomfort." Hmmm...

Read the story here.

10% of Americans Drink Half of All Booze Consumed Annually

Do you drink a glass of wine with dinner every night? That puts you in the top 30 percent of American adults in terms of per-capita alcohol consumption. If you drink two glasses, that would put you in the top 20 percent.

But in order to break into the top 10 percent of American drinkers, you would need to drink more than two bottles of wine with every dinner. And you'd still be below-average among those top 10 percenters.

The top 10 percent of American drinkers - 24 million adults over age 18 - consume, on average, 74 alcoholic drinks per week. That works out to a little more than four-and-a-half 750 ml bottles of Jack Daniels, 18 bottles of wine, or three 24-can cases of beer. In one week.

Or, if you prefer, 10 drinks per day.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Hollywood Ending for Captain Clutch

Derek Jeter, the longtime captain of the New York Yankees, hit a walk off single in the bottom of the ninth, driving in the tie breaking run in his final at bat in Yankee Stadium. Really, was there ever any doubt?

Next stop... Cooperstown.

Flight to Israel Delayed as Ultra-Orthodox Jews Demand Gender Segregation

An El-Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv was turned into an “11-hour nightmare” after hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jewish passengers refused to sit next to women.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The California Dream: A second bedroom

IRVINE, Calif. — This was the state that embodied the middle-class American dream: Move west, acquire a small slice of property, perhaps with a palm tree or two.

For decades, comfortable suburbs like this one just south of Los Angeles boomed with new housing tracts designed to attract the latest arrivals. When space started to come at a premium, developers moved inland, building more homes for people who could not afford the more expensive coastal areas.

But now, cities across the state are grappling with a dwindling stock of housing that can be considered affordable for anyone but the wealthiest. In much of the state, a two-bedroom apartment or home is virtually impossible to acquire with anything less than a six-figure salary.

“It’s hard to imagine how all of California doesn’t become like New York City and San Francisco, where you have very rich people and poor people but nothing in between,” said Richard K. Green, an economist and director of the Lusk Center for Real Estate at the University of Southern California. “That’s socially unhealthy and unsustainable, but it’s where we are going right now — affordability is its worst ever, and we’re seeing a hollowing-out of the middle class here.”

Read the rest here.

The Resurgence of European Anti-Semitism

SARCELLES, France — From the immigrant enclaves of the Parisian suburbs to the drizzly bureaucratic city of Brussels to the industrial heartland of Germany, Europe’s old demon returned this summer. “Death to the Jews!” shouted protesters at pro-Palestinian rallies in Belgium and France. “Gas the Jews!” yelled marchers at a similar protest in Germany.

The ugly threats were surpassed by uglier violence. Four people were fatally shot in May at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. A Jewish-owned pharmacy in this Paris suburb was destroyed in July by youths protesting Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. A synagogue in Wuppertal, Germany, was attacked with firebombs. A Swedish Jew was beaten with iron pipes. The list goes on.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

ISIS Destroys Memorial & Church of Armenian Genocide in Der Zor, Syria

Fighters from the Islamic State (ISIS) reportedly desecrated and blew up the Armenian Genocide memorial complex in the eastern Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, near the site where vast numbers of Armenian refugees were forced to march to their deaths in the early 20th century. 

The Church, located in al-Rashidyeh neighborhood, was built in 1989-1990, and consecrated a year later. 

The Armenian Genocide Memorial Church contains the remains of victims of the Armenian Genocide collected from the Syrian desert and has served as a pilgrimage site for Armenians worldwide, and every year, on April 24, special commemoration ceremonies attended by thousands of people would be held at the site. 

Read the rest here.

US and allies launch heavy air strikes on ISIS

The United States and several Middle East partners pounded Islamic State targets in Syria Tuesday with waves of warplanes and Tomahawk cruise missiles in an aggressive and risky operation marking a new phase in the conflict.

A statement issued by the U.S. Central Command early Tuesday said that a “mix of fighter, bomber, remotely-piloted aircraft and Tomahawk” cruise missiles destroyed or damaged multiple Islamic State targets in Syria, where a civil war has been raging for more than three years.

The U.S. statement said “partner nations,” including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, “participated in or supported” the operation, although it provided no details. The involvement of these regional allies are key for the legitimacy and logistics of the operation.

Read the rest here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

When Israel is the Subject, Rabbis Tread Carefully

...Forty-seven years after Israel’s victory in the 1967 Middle East war — celebrated by Jews worldwide — Israel’s occupation of Arab lands won in battle and its standoff with the Palestinians have become so divisive that many rabbis say it is impossible to have a civil conversation about Israel in their synagogues. Debate among Jews about Israel is nothing new, but some say the friction is now fire. Rabbis said in interviews that it may be too hot to touch, and many are anguishing over what to say about Israel in their sermons during the High Holy Days, which begin Wednesday evening.

Read the rest here.

US Ramping Up Nuclear Weapons at Huge Expense

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A sprawling new plant here in a former soybean field makes the mechanical guts of America’s atomic warheads. Bigger than the Pentagon, full of futuristic gear and thousands of workers, the plant, dedicated last month, modernizes the aging weapons that the United States can fire from missiles, bombers and submarines.

It is part of a nationwide wave of atomic revitalization that includes plans for a new generation of weapon carriers. A recent federal study put the collective price tag, over the next three decades, at up to a trillion dollars.

This expansion comes under a president who campaigned for “a nuclear-free world” and made disarmament a main goal of American defense policy. The original idea was that modest rebuilding of the nation’s crumbling nuclear complex would speed arms refurbishment, raising confidence in the arsenal’s reliability and paving the way for new treaties that would significantly cut the number of warheads.

Instead, because of political deals and geopolitical crises, the Obama administration is engaging in extensive atomic rebuilding while getting only modest arms reductions in return.

Read the rest here.

OCA Holy Synod issues Preliminary Response to canonical restructuring proposals

A Preliminary Response of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America to proposals with regard to canonical restructuring, a topic of discussion at the fifth meeting of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America in Dallas, TX September 15-19, 2014, was issued and distributed to all bishops on September 17.

The text of the Preliminary Response reads as follows.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Crying Rape

In the emotionally charged conversation about rape, few topics are more fraught than that of false allegations. Consider some responses to the news that singer-songwriter Conor Oberst had been falsely accused of sexual assault. Last December a woman writing in the comments section of the website xoJane, going by the name Joanie Faircloth, claimed Oberst raped her when she was a teenager. The charge spread across the Internet; Oberst denied it and brought a libel suit against Faircloth when she refused to retract the story. In July she completely recanted, admitting that she had made it all up to get attention. Yet instead of showing sympathy for the ordeal of the musician—one known for being supportive of feminist issues—some chided him for taking legal action to defend himself against a false, career-damaging charge. In the Daily Dot, pop culture critic Chris Ostendorf decried the lawsuit, arguing that it could intimidate real victims of rape and that it promoted the idea of men as victims of false accusations—even though that’s exactly what Oberst was. After Oberst dropped the suit, Bustle’s Caroline Pate praised his decision and referred to the saga as “a roller-coaster for both parties”—treating the false accuser and the wrongly accused as morally equivalent—and called the revelation of Oberst’s innocence “crushingly disappointing.”

False rape accusations are a lightning rod for a variety of reasons. Rape is a repugnant crime—and one for which the evidence often relies on one person’s word against another’s. Moreover, in the not-so-distant past, the belief that women routinely make up rape charges often led to appalling treatment of victims. However, in challenging what author and law professor Susan Estrich has called “the myth of the lying woman,” feminists have been creating their own counter-myth: that of the woman who never lies.

More than a quarter-century ago, feminist legal theorist Catharine MacKinnon wrote that “feminism is built on believing women’s accounts of sexual use and abuse by men”; today, Jessica Valenti urges us to “believe victims en masse,” because only then will we recognize the true prevalence of sexual assault. But a de facto presumption of guilt in alleged sexual offenses is as dangerous as a presumption of guilt in any crime, and for the same reasons: It upends the foundations on which our system of justice rests and creates a risk of ruining innocent lives.

Read the rest here.

After the Vote: Cameron Suggests a Federal System for Great Britain (Updated)

So Scotland is staying with the promise of what will effectively be Home Rule, with Westminster (Parliament) exercising authority over only matters of obvious interest to the entire United Kingdom, i.e. defense, foreign affairs, trade and commerce etc. Pretty much everything else will be handled by the Scottish Parliament. But now Cameron is throwing a wrench into the works and suggesting that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. He wants ALL of the UK to enjoy the same benefits. That would mean Northern Ireland, Wales and yes, England would also have the right to substantially self govern themselves. Predictably the Labor Party is up in arms. It's one thing for Scotland to be largely free of any Tory governance. It is altogether a different matter for the English to be able to govern themselves, likely with very limited input from Labor.

(Update) The BBC has a good story up discussing the constitutional, and political, issues revolving around home rule for England.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scotland Says "No" to Secession

Scotland has decisively rejected secession from Great Britain. If the current figures hold, the margin of defeat for the nationalists will be near a super-majority of 10 pts. Such a sharp rejection of the proposal should put an end to any serious threat of dis-union for the foreseeable future and cannot be seen as anything other than an electoral rebuke to the SNP.

Still, Westminster would be gravely mistaken in taking too much comfort from this victory. A significant percentage of Scots did vote to secede.  And it is probable that at least some of the No votes were reluctant ones, likely based  more on pragmatic concerns than any affection for the United Kingdom. Clearly there is a strong undercurrent of dissatisfaction north of the border.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Six Reasons Scotland Might Vote to Secede

How will it go tomorrow? Nobody really knows. Both campaigns are supremely confident, both can point to polls that show them narrowly ahead. Both have “invisible advantages”. YES probably enjoys the support of thousands of first time voters; NO thinks that it leads comfortably on early postal votes. The NO people are satisfied that they have a “quiet” vote motivated by reason rather than passion, and that with every new outrage perpetrated by YES extremists they gain yet more silent support. One YES person put it to me that the people who tend to break toward NO are the old and English-born.

Personally, I think that YES might indeed enjoy a slight edge. Due to the following factors:

Read the rest here.

FP: A Critical Indictment of US Foreign Policy Over the Last 20 Years

...Look where the United States was in 1993. Communism had been vanquished, Saddam Hussein was out of Kuwait and fully contained, and the United States faced no hostile states of any consequence. American prestige was at an all-time high and the Israelis and Palestinians were signing the Oslo Accords. Open markets and democratic institutions were spreading and a new World Trade Organization was preparing to foster further liberalization of the world economy. Some people thought we'd reached the "End of History" and Thomas Friedman was busy congratulating America for inventing "DOScapital 6.0." The future was so bright, we had to wear shades.

Fast forward to 2014. Great-power rivalry is back, even if the level of competition has yet to reach the intensity of the Cold War or other turbulent periods in world history. The peace process in the Middle East is kaput, and most states in that region are either pariahs, politically stagnant, or convulsed by civil war. At this point, it is not outlandish to imagine a substantial redrawing of several Middle East borders and/or the emergence of several new states, along with an intensifying struggle for Palestinian civil rights inside Greater Israel. The EU is still on economic life support, the United Kingdom may lose Scotland, Ukraine is torn between East and West, and Islamic extremists are operating from Nigeria to Pakistan and beyond. Pakistan (!) and North Korea (!!) have joined the nuclear club in the past 20 years, and there are growing disputes over territorial claims and navigation rights in the waters adjacent to a rising China.

As sure as a sunrise, the GOP wants to pin the blame for a lot of these problems on President Obama. Neoconservatives like Robert Kagan -- who cannot seem to find enough quagmires to dive into -- also blame the American people for being less enthusiastic about fighting foolish wars than he is. But in fairness, there are several reasons why things have gone so poorly over the past two decades, and plenty of blame to go around.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sandro Magister: A Ceremonial Exile for Cardinal Burke

The Vatican purge of anyone connected to Pope Benedict XVI appears to be continuing apace...

ISIS May Be Targeting Pope Francis

Pope Francis is at risk of an assassination attempt by the Islamic extremists of Isil, the Vatican has been warned, ahead of his first visit to a Muslim-majority country this weekend.

As the 77-year-old pontiff prepares to travel to Albania on Sunday for a one-day visit, Iraq's ambassador to the Holy See said there were credible threats against the pontiff's life.

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church could also be vulnerable when he travels to Turkey in November, the ambassador said.

Read the rest here.

Italy's debt level heading to dangerous levels

The OECD has drastically cut its growth forecast for Italy. The depression will drag on though most of 2015.

The economy will contract by 0.4pc this year. It will remain stuck in the doldrums next year with growth of just 0.1pc.

If so, Italy’s public debt will spiral to dangerous levels next year, ever further beyond the point of no return for a country without its own sovereign currency and central bank.

“This is catastrophic for the finances of the country. We’re heading for a debt ratio of 145pc next year,” said Antonio Guglielmi, global strategist for Mediobanca.

“Who knows the maximum number that the market will tolerate? The number is already scary, but for the time being Draghi’s poker game is proving successful, and there is now the smell of QE keep the game going for a bit longer.”

Read the rest here.

Fred Reed on illegal immigration

A few thoughts for Americans (justifiably) upset by the influx of illegal Mexicans:

First, they come because you invite them. In effect you say, “Diego, don’t you cross that river. If you do, and we catch you, we’ll just put you back across the border and you can try again, perhaps the same night. When you make it across, which is easy, we’ll give you a good job and, depending on where you are, a driver’s license, schools for your kids, welfare, food stamps, and medical care. Any children you have will be US citizens and, as we all know, sooner or later you will have amnesty Now, don’t cross that river, you hear?.”

That’ll work.

Second, they come because you guys changed the immigration laws. Mexico didn’t change your laws. The illegals didn’t change your laws. You did.

Third, you let them stay. You are not deporting them. You encouraged them to come and, when they did, you let them stay, and now you complain that they came and stayed. How sensible.

Fourth, you grouse that Latinos take American jobs. They do not. It is probable that no Latino has ever taken an American’s job. How would he do it? Point a pistol at the gringo’s head and say, “Give me that shovel or I’ll blow you into gruel”?

Read the rest here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

If World War I was a bar fight

Germany, Austria and Italy are standing together in the middle of a pub when Serbia bumps into Austria and spills Austria’s pint.

Austria demands Serbia buy it a whole new suit because of the new beer stains on its trouser leg.

Germany expresses its support for Austria’s point of view.

Britain recommends that everyone calm down a bit.

Serbia points out that it can’t afford a whole suit, but offers to pay for the cleaning of Austria’s trousers.

Russia and Serbia look at Austria.

Austria asks Serbia who it’s looking at.

Russia suggests that Austria should leave its little brother alone.

Austria inquires as to whose army will assist Russia in doing so.

Germany appeals to Britain that France has been looking at it, and that its sufficiently out of order that Britain not intervene.

Britain replies that France can look at who it wants to, that Britain is looking at Germany too, and what is Germany going to do about it?

Germany tells Russia to stop looking at Austria, or Germany will render Russia incapable of such action anymore.

Britain and France ask Germany whether it’s looking at Belgium.

Turkey and Germany go off into a corner and whisper. When they come back, Turkey makes a show of not looking at anyone.

Germany rolls up its sleeves, looks at France, and punches Belgium.

France and Britain punch Germany. Austria punches Russia. Germany punches Britain and France with one hand and Russia with the other.

Russia throws a punch at Germany, but misses and nearly falls over. Japan calls over from the other side of the room that it’s on Britain’s side, but stays there. Italy surprises everyone by punching Austria.

Australia punches Turkey, and gets punched back. There are no hard feelings because Britain made Australia do it.

France gets thrown through a plate glass window, but gets back up and carries on fighting. Russia gets thrown through another one, gets knocked out, suffers massive brain damage, and wakes up with a complete personality change.

Italy throws a punch at Austria and misses, but Austria falls over anyway. Italy raises both fists in the air and runs round the room chanting.

America waits till Germany is about to fall over from sustained punching from Britain and France, then walks over and smashes it with a barstool, then pretends it won the fight all by itself.

By now all the chairs are broken and the big mirror over the bar is shattered. Britain, France and America agree that Germany threw the first punch, so the whole thing is Germany’s fault . While Germany is still unconscious, they go through its pockets, steal its wallet, and buy drinks for all their friends.

Old news

It's old news but I haven't seen it mentioned outside of the Byzantine Forum...

Fr. Constantin Simon, SJ, former vice-rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, and author of several articles and books on Russian Christianity, has been received into the Orthodox Church.

HT: Blog reader Ordo Antiquus 

Scottish nationalists 'severely underestimate the economic risks of independence

Scottish nationalists have severely underestimated the economic risks of independence, a leading think tank has concluded as it predicted a major black hole in public finances after a Yes vote.

The triple-whammy of declining oil revenues, fleeing financial services and increasing pension costs would see Scottish Government revenues drop more than £13bn after a Yes vote, according to the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS).

The centre-right think tank predicted the Scottish Government would bring in just £50bn in 2015-16 – some £14bn lower than predicted by the Yes campaign.

Read the rest here.

Monday, September 01, 2014

A brief update

In the event that anyone is still looking in here, I thought I might post a quick update. For now I am still on the the right coast helping out with dad. His recovery continues, although it is going very slowly. I had hoped to be back in California by now and deeply regretted missing Bill's funeral, but it is what it is. All of which aside I am keeping pretty busy. At this point I am no longer making guesses as to a date for my return. Lastly, I intend to remain offline except for occasional checks of email and or news until after the forty days of mourning for my Godfather. That should be somewhere around the fifteenth of September, following which regular blogging and other normal activities will resume.