Monday, December 29, 2014

And now for something a bit more serious

Dan Carlin discusses the background of one of the  most important, and largely forgotten, chapters in American history. The pivotal moment when the United States decided to step into the world of Great Power politics and conflicts, and began its transformation into the imperial power it is has become.

Kaiser Bill's Yacht

A brief musical interlude

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bishop of Antwerp advocates church blessings for homosexual unions

The [Roman Catholic] Bishop of Antwerp, Johan Bonny advocates an ecclesiastical recognition of homosexual relationships. The dogma that the Catholic Church can only accept male-female relationships, he put in question in an interview with this newspaper. "There should be a diversity of recognition forms." 

With his plea Bonny, is one of the first church leaders who attacks the absolute monopoly of the male-female marriage. "We have to look inside the church for a formal recognition of the relationality which is also present in many gay couples. As a variety of legal frameworks in society exist for partners, he wants to instate a diversity of recognition forms in the church." 

Read the rest here.
Original source

Greece: Here we go again

 ATHENS — The long-dormant euro crisis could come roaring back to life Monday with a vote in the Greek Parliament that is expected to bring down the pro-austerity government and open the way for a radical leftist party to take power for the first time in the history of the European Union.

The vote will be watched closely around the continent as a marker of economic peril in the year ahead as Europe gazes into the abyss of another recession. But it could also be a key political milestone as the center gives way to forces that were once relegated to the European fringe and are now buoyed by a populist, anti-austerity backlash.

For Greece, the expected collapse of the government comes just as the economy here had begun to stabilize. Now, with the far-left Syriza Party forecast to win the elections that would follow at the end of January , all bets are off.

The party has vowed to halt payment on Greece’s debt until the terms of the country’s $284 billion bailout agreements can be renegotiated, and it says it will thumb its nose at international lenders by ramping up public spending.

Read the rest here.

A Sea of Blue in Mourning

The temperature was generous for the season. Christmas decorations bedecked doorways and windows, clashing with the morning’s solemn event: the funeral of a police officer whose barbaric death has sliced deep into the city’s conscience and tested its character.

On Saturday, one week removed from the slayings, the city wept for an officer, Rafael Ramos, N.Y.P.D. Shield No. 6335, who was murdered Dec. 20 along with another officer for their choice of occupation.

The turnout was extraordinary. Though no reliable count was made, it appeared that more than 20,000 police officers came to Queens, from as far away as Wisconsin and California and England, some driving through the night to make it. Bordering streets were shut to traffic for blocks around. Traffic lights continued to change their colors, but there was no traffic, nothing but thick rows of police officers as far as anyone could see.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Pope Francis and the Social Gospel

Standing before a statue of Mary near the Spanish Steps on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Benedict XVI reminded his listeners that the Gospel is the good news of freedom from sin, that it is "the proclamation of the victory of grace over sin, of life over death."  Proponents of the "social gospel" have forgotten this.  The mission of the Church is not to eradicate poverty or social injustice.  As Dr. Dietrich von Hildebrand explains, while "a deep interest in the earthly welfare of our neighbor is a central duty of the Christian and an essential demand of the love of neighbor," still, "it is definitely no part of the message of Christ that there is to be no more poverty, no more war, that the earth is to become a natural paradise."

Proponents of the "social gospel" fail to understand, as Dr. Hildebrand reminds us, that "..the primary task of the Church is the proclamation of the divine Revelation, the protection of it against all heresies, the the sanctification of the soul of the individual, the securing of his eternal salvation - this is the spreading of the kingdom of God on earth, and not the attempt to build up an earthly paradise." (Essay entitled This-Worldliness).

Dr. Hildebrand explains that, "...the motive of many for eliminating poverty (which itself is not morally wicked, but only a morally relevant evil) is not rooted in the spirit of Christ or His Gospel, but in a humanitarian ideal.  The widespread tendency today to demand everything as a right and to refuse to accept any gifts is surely no manifestation of a Christian spirit.  There is in reality a clear, sharply delineated difference between justice and love.  Justice can and should be protected and demanded by state law; but love of neighbor could never be demanded by any law.  For it is a duty before God, and no state law could or should prescribe it or enforce it.  Love of neighbor presupposes the fulfillment of the claims of justice, but it goes far beyond this.  The words of the Gospel, 'if someone asks you to go one mile, go two miles with him,' clearly go far beyond the sphere of justice.  Of course, it is a pharisaical hypocrisy to the demands of justice as if one were giving alms.  But it is a terrible pride not to want to accept any alms, and to demand that which comes as a gift.  The true Christian should be happier to receive alms and to be grateful for them, than simply to receive what he has a right to.  When he receives a gift he is happy not only over the good which is the gift, but also over the goodness of the giver; and he experiences it as a great source of happiness that he can and should be grateful."

Read the rest here.

I have for sometime been wondering if one of the Pope's objectives is not to turn the RCC into a sort of liturgical Salvation Army.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Some Christmas Music

A Romanian Christmas Hymn

Agni Parthene (O Virgin Pure) in English

Fred on Cuba

...The embargo is the mean-spirited vengeance on the wrong people by a Washington miffed because Fidel beat them. He was a monster, yes, but Washington has never shown a disposition to avoid the company of monsters. Thing is, he won, and he made clowns of the CIA—or more correctly was a bystander as they made fools of themselves. This Washington cannot forgive.

What earthly purpose is the strangulation of the island thought to serve? Yes, yes, I kinow. “Castro is a Comminiss.” Right, got it. Today, Cuba. Tomorrow Arkansas. And so a ratpack of naïve adolescent petulants in the Senate are going to save the free world, which barely includes the United States, from a tiny impoverished country impoverished because we are saving the world from it. Whatever happened to grownups?

Read the rest here.

Monday, December 22, 2014

North Korea's Internet Crashes

It's a mostly symbolic gesture. The whole country has fewer IP addresses than any medium sized office building in Manhattan. But it does send a message to others who may have been watching and getting ideas of their own. We know where the "Off Switch" is, and we know how to use it.

Pope Francis Launches Blistering Attack on Vatican Bureaucracy

The original title of this post was "Pope Sharply Criticizes Vatican Curia." But honestly that was not an accurate description. This was a very broad and scathing attack.

Paul Krugman: Conquest Is for Losers

More than a century has passed since Norman Angell, a British journalist and politician, published “The Great Illusion,” a treatise arguing that the age of conquest was or at least should be over. He didn’t predict an end to warfare, but he did argue that aggressive wars no longer made sense — that modern warfare impoverishes the victors as well as the vanquished.

He was right, but it’s apparently a hard lesson to absorb. Certainly Vladimir Putin never got the memo. And neither did our own neocons, whose acute case of Putin envy shows that they learned nothing from the Iraq debacle.

Angell’s case was simple: Plunder isn’t what it used to be. You can’t treat a modern society the way ancient Rome treated a conquered province without destroying the very wealth you’re trying to seize. And meanwhile, war or the threat of war, by disrupting trade and financial connections, inflicts large costs over and above the direct expense of maintaining and deploying armies. War makes you poorer and weaker, even if you win.

Read the rest here.

I can't believe I'm about to write this, but here goes. While I could quibble with some details, Krugman is basically right.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Rothbard (etc.) on Egalitarianism

There are a lot of things you can say about the left, but one of its most salient characteristics is its total rejection of logic, mathematics, science, and anything that can be considered 'thinking.' With the left, it's all feelings. This is why the left seized on the principle of equality before the law and twisted it into a notion of the intrinsic equality of all people everywhere, an idea, as Orwell put it, so absurd that only an intellectual could entertain it. Of course, he mean [sic] self-styled intellectual, people who reject facts and dress up their whims and enthusiasms with logical-sounding rhetoric. And whims are the opposite of logic, and enthusiasm for an idea is no proof of its validity.

Read the rest here.
HT: The Young Fogey

More Delusion from the Anglicans

The historic consecration of the Rev Libby Lane will transform the perception of an institution that has long been considered out of touch.

Read the rest of the drivel here (if you must).
HT: T-19

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Two NYPD Officers Assassinated

Almost certainly a revenge attack for the killing of Eric Garnier. One wonders if Al Sharpton will lead a march protesting their murder.

Memory eternal.

ISIS selling Christian artifacts, turning churches into torture chambers

The Islamic State is turning Christian churches in Iraq and Syria into dungeons and torture chambers after stripping them of priceless artifacts to sell on the black market, according to reports.

Ancient relics and even entire murals are being torn from the houses of worship and smuggled out through the same routes previously established for moving oil and weapons in and out of the so-called caliphate, a vast region the jihadist army has claimed as sovereign under Sharia law.

Read the rest here.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Appeals court: Gun control must meet toughest test

Breaking ranks with other federal appeals courts, and probably setting up a major test case for the Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled that laws imposing controls on the personal right to have a gun must satisfy the most rigorous constitutional test.  And, in another split with other courts, it was the first to strike down a federal gun law under the Constitution’s Second Amendment as expanded by the Supreme Court six years ago.

Since the Justices’ ruling in 2008 in District of Columbia v. Heller, finding in the Second Amendment a guarantee of a right to have a gun for personal use, at least in some circumstances, federal courts have struggled with how to apply that ruling in specific cases testing specific gun laws.  Before the Sixth Circuit ruled, however, none had declared that gun laws should be judged by a “strict scrutiny” test.

The Sixth Circuit’s decision came on Thursday in the case of Tyler v. Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Department, involving a southern Michigan man, now seventy-three years ago, who was involuntarily sent to a mental institution for only a brief period nearly thirty years ago.  He has long functioned normally in society, and is now considered to be mentally healthy and not dangerous.

Because of the brief stay in that institution, however, he is barred for life from having a gun, under the federal law that the Sixth Circuit has now nullified because it failed the “strict scrutiny” test.  He is not eligible for a special federal-state program that gives some who are barred by law from gun ownership a chance to become eligible to have a gun, because Michigan does not take part in that program, and he cannot get relief under another federal program that Congress has refused to fund.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How the Patron Saint of Catholic Traditionalism Helped Start the Revolution

In the modern struggles and disagreements over the Liturgy, there tends to be a list of friends and opponents depending on one’s stance. For those of us with a more traditional leaning, Pope St. Pius X looms large as a friend and an image of tradition. He is usually seen as a defender of the tradition and a great proponent of what is called today the Extraordinary Form or Traditional Latin Mass (TLM)—so much so that the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) takes its name from him.

And yet things, people, and movements are seldom as simple as we would like them to be. Despite many good reasons for admiring Pope St. Pius X’s attention to the Sacred Liturgy, he also (arguably) helped lay the groundwork for the revolution that would follow, not so much by his ideas but by his rather sweeping use of papal authority to influence and change the Liturgy in his day.

Read the rest here.

In fairness, I think Catholic Traddies revere Pius X less for his liturgical contributions than for his unreserved condemnation of Modernism, with which, all other differences aside, I suspect we Orthodox could heartily agree. Still there is some fascinating history here.

Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev: Atheism and Orthodoxy in Modern Russia

In this talk I propose to outline the history of atheism in Russia during the last hundred years. I will start by considering the kind of atheism present in Russia before the Revolution. Then I will say something about the development of atheism during the Soviet period. And finally I will conclude with some observations concerning the nature of Russian post-Soviet atheism.

I should like to begin with the following questions. How did it happen that the country known as ‘Holy Russia’, with such a long history of Orthodox Christianity, was in a very short period of time turned by the Bolsheviks into ‘the first atheist state in the world’? How was it possible that the very same people who were taught religion in secondary schools in the 1910s with their own hands destroyed churches and burned holy icons in the 1920s? What is the explanation of the fact that the Orthodox Church, which was so powerful in the Russian Empire, was almost reduced to zero by its former members?

I should say at once that I cannot interpret what happened in Russia in 1917 as an accident, the seizure of power by a small group of villains. Rather I perceive in the Russian revolution the ultimate outcome of the processes which were going on within the pre-revolutionary society and so, to a considerable extent, within the Russian Church (as there was no separation between Church and society).

I would claim that the Russian revolution was the offspring of both the Russian monarchy and the Church. The roots of the post-revolutionary atheism should be looked for in pre-revolutionary Russian society and in the Church.

It has been said that Russia was baptized but not enlightened. Indeed, as far as the 19th century is concerned, it is clear that enlightenment was very often in conflict with religion: the masses of illiterate peasants kept their traditional beliefs, but more and more educated people, even from a purely religious background, rejected faith and became atheists. Chernyshevsky and Dobroliubov are classic examples: both came from clerical families, both became atheists after studying in theological seminaries. For people like Dostoyevsky religion was something that had to be rediscovered, after having been lost as a result of his education. Tolstoy, on the other hand, came to a certain type of faith in God but remained alien to the Orthodox Church. It is clear, when one looks at the pre-revolutionary period, that there was a huge gap between the Church and the world of educated people, the so-called intelligentsia, and this gap was constantly growing.

But on the eve of the revolution it became more and more clear that atheism had also invaded the mass of ordinary people. Berdyaev wrote at that time that the simple Russian baba, who was supposed to be religious, was no longer a reality but a myth: she had become a nihilist and an atheist. I would like to quote some more from what this great Russian philosopher wrote in 1917, several months before the October revolution:

“The Russian nation always considered itself to be Christian. Many Russian thinkers and artists were even inclined to regard it as a nation which is Christian par excellence. The Slavophiles thought that Russian people live by the Orthodox faith, which is the only true faith containing the entire truth… Dostoevsky preached that. The Russian nation is a bearer of God… But, it was here that revolution broke out, and it…revealed a spiritual emptiness in Russian people.

Read the rest here.

This is a rather thought provoking piece originally from 2001. It was recently reposted on a Catholic blog and I think it worth some sober reflection.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Quote of the day...

Truths are not relative. What is relative are opinions about truth. 
-Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Monday, December 15, 2014

Russian Central Bank Hikes Interest Rate to 17% as Ruble Collapses

Russia just raised interest rates to 17% from 10.5%.

According to a statement from Russia's central bank, Russia has taken its key interest rate to 17% from 10.5% in a stunning decision made after the collapse of the ruble on Monday.

The Bank of Russia's statement said the decision was driven by the need to limit significant devaluation in the ruble and inflation risks.

The announcement was made at 1 a.m. local time in Moscow.

Last Thursday, Russia hiked rates to 10.5% from 8% in an effort to combat inflation, which rose 9.1% year-on-year in November.

This surprise announcement from Russia comes after the ruble got absolutely crushed on Monday, losing more than 10% of its value against the US dollar, as the  ruble fell to below 64 against the dollar on Monday; earlier this year, one dollar bought about 35 rubles.

Read the rest here.

Not just gay issues: Why hundreds of congregations made final break with mainline denominations

In 2005, two congregations left the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In 2006, three churches departed.

But the floodgates have lifted since then as decades-old tensions between liberals and conservatives have reached breaking points.

After a 2011 decision allowing gay ordinations, 270 congregations left in 2012 and 2013. And church analysts estimate upwards of another 100 churches may leave by the end of the year as presbyteries vote on a proposal to rewrite the church’s constitution to refer to marriage as being between “two people” instead of the union of “a man and a woman.”

In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, some 600 congregations left in 2010 and 2011 following the denomination’s 2009 decision allowing the ordination of pastors in same-sex relationships.

That the denominations’ changing stances on gay ordinations and same-sex marriages were a key factor in the exodus is without question. But new research into why congregations decided to leave reveal differences on sexuality issues were only part of a much larger divide.

Among the broader, longstanding concerns that convinced departing congregations that they no longer had a home in their denominations that Carthage College researchers found were:

• “Bullying” tactics by denominational leaders.
• A perceived abandonment of foundational principles of Scripture and tradition.
• The devaluation of personal faith.

“The ones that left said reform was not possible,” said Carthage sociologist Wayne Thompson, study leader.

Read the rest here.

IOPS to present White Book on slain Mideast Christians at UN

Moscow, December 15, Interfax - The Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society (IOPS) has announced the creation of a White Book on crimes against Christians in the Middle East, which will be presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council in February 2015.

"We are working to compile the so-called White Book, containing a sorrowful list of names of the slain and tortured Christians, instances of churches and shrines being destroyed, and eyewitness accounts. We would like to present this book at the UN HRC at its next session in late February - early March," IOPS Vice President Yelena Agapova told a general meeting of IOPS members.

The book will be available in Russian, Arabic and English.

Read the rest here.

Pope Francis praises Pius XII and more alarming quotes from Rome

If I were a Roman Catholic of the serious kind, as opposed to the Episcopalian wannabes, I would be looking for a bunker to hide in until this Pope retires or is called home. Yea yea, I know... he can't teach formal heresy. Setting aside that debatable claim, the man doesn't have to proclaim heresy ex cathedra to do some really major damage. I think there are way too many otherwise sober Catholics who are in denial about how bad this Pope is shaping up to be.

The latest from Rome via Rocco Palmo.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Amidst Russian provocations Sweden begins to grasp the perils of disarmament

Stockholm (AFP) - With an assertive Russia next door, Sweden has started to beef up its military after a decade of downsizing, but a credible deterrent may take years to achieve, analysts warn.

In one of Sweden's most dramatic steps since the end of the Cold War, it has brought back the option of using reservists to boost its military force, making no attempt to hide the fact that the main motivation behind the move is Russia.

Read the rest here.

Non-interventionism is a fine foreign policy. But a neutral country that is unable or unwilling to defend itself is just a free lunch waiting for someone to start eating.

Frank the Hippie Pope and Bart the Patriarch Sing Love Songs

From the people at Lutheran Satire.

Gay Christians choosing celibacy emerge from the closet

When Eve Tushnet converted to Catholicism in 1998, she thought she might be the world’s first celibate Catholic lesbian.

Having grown up in a liberal, upper Northwest Washington home before moving on to Yale University, the then-19-year-old knew no other gay Catholics who embraced the church’s ban on sex outside heterosexual marriage. Her decision to abstain made her an outlier.

“Everyone I knew totally rejected it,” she said of the church’s teaching on gay sexuality.

Today, Tushnet is a leader in a small but growing movement of celibate gay Christians who find it easier than before to be out of the closet in their traditional churches because they’re celibate. She is busy speaking at conservative Christian conferences with other celibate Catholics and Protestants and is the most well-known of 20 bloggers who post on, a site for celibate gay and lesbian Christians that draws thousands of visitors each month.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

New York City Cops Are Furious With Mayor de Blasio

So yeah, how does the first Democratic mayor of one of the most Democratic cities in the country in twenty or so years deal with the recent controversial police shootings? He tells his son, who almost certainly has around the clock police protection, to be very careful in his dealings with cops. Look, I have been a frequent critic of cops over reacting to situations or abusing their authority; but this clown seems bent on elevating hypocrisy to unusual heights, even for a hard core lefty. Not surprisingly rank and file NYPD don't much care for the man, putting it as gently as I can.

I stopped caring today

Today, I stopped caring about my fellow man. I stopped caring about my community, my neighbors, and those I serve. I stopped caring today because a once noble profession has become despised, hated, distrusted, and mostly unwanted.

I stopped caring today because parents refuse to teach their kids right from wrong and blame us when they are caught breaking the law. I stopped caring today because parents tell their little kids to be good or “the police will take you away” embedding a fear from year one. Moms hate us in their schools because we frighten them and remind them of the evil that lurks in the world.

They would rather we stay unseen, but close by if needed, but readily available to “fix their kid.” I stopped caring today because we work to keep our streets safe from mayhem in the form of reckless, drunk, high, or speeding drivers, only to be hated for it, yet hated even more because we didn’t catch the drunk before he killed someone they may know.

Nevertheless, we are just another tool used by government to generate “revenue.” I stopped caring today because Liberals hate the police as we carry guns, scare kids, and take away their drugs. We always kill innocent people with unjust violence. We are called bullies for using a Taser during a fight, but are condemned further for not first tasing the guy who pulls a gun on us.

Read the rest here.
HT: l82start

A Sad Day for the Royal Canadian Navy

OTTAWA, Dec 12 (Reuters) – The Royal Canadian Navy on Friday imposed an almost total ban on sailors drinking at sea, after a warship had to be recalled from an international exercise because inebriated crew members got into trouble.

Sailors had hitherto been allowed to drink off duty. Now, they will only be able to sample alcohol on special occasions such as Christmas, if the captain gives permission.

In addition, beer vending machines will be removed from vessels. And in the rare instances when sailors are allowed to drink, they will have to pay more, since ships will hike the price of alcohol served in their onboard bars.

Read the rest here.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Happy Birthday Edward G. Robinson

One of the Hollywood greats

Greenpeace Activists Damage Ancient Peruvian Cultural Landmark

When the stunt-planners at Greenpeace sent teams of activists to trespass this week at Peru's Nazca archeological site, they must have thought their bumper-sticker messaging would look good on a Facebook page next to the 2,000-year-old geodesic drawings.

After all, the group is known for stringing banners from bridges and skyscrapers to draw attention to its environmental campaigns, and with U.N. climate talks taking place in Lima this week, the activists clearly wanted to make an impact.

And so they have. The impact of their footprints on the fragile desert site, in fact, will last "hundreds or thousands of years," according to outraged Peruvian officials.

So furious is the Peruvian government that it has barred the Greenpeace activists from leaving the country and is preparing criminal charges for "attacking archeological monuments," punishable by up to eight years in prison.

Read the rest here.

Is there no limit to what these so called liberal activists will do to gain attention for themselves? They habitually act in a manner that screams "IT'S ALL ABOUT US AND OUR CAUSE!" Nothing, and no one else matters including the rule of law. And now apparently even minimal respect for incredibly fragile ancient cultural landmarks must yield to their left wing narcissism.

These self absorbed spoiled brats are in serious need of a "time out." Lock them up and throw the key away. It's long over due.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Waiting for the storm

So all week we have been warned to start building an ark here in California. The biggest storm in forever was supposed to roll in last night and just dump water on us for days. As of 12:30 PM today it's breezy, overcast and bone dry. I don't think I have been this disappointed since Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone's vault.

Update: OK, we got some rain. Big deal. It looks like folks up north took a hit though.

Monday, December 08, 2014

China's stock mania decouples from economic reality

China’s stock market boom has reached outright mania, with equities galloping higher at a parabolic rate, despite threats of a crackdown by regulators and the continued slowdown of the national economy. 

The Shanghai Composite Index has risen 32pc in the past six weeks, blowing through 3,000 to a three-and-a-half-year high even though corporate earnings are declining steeply.

Read the rest here.

Fred Reed on the News Racket

It is curious: Though I have spent a lifetime in journalism, I do not read a newspaper, not the New York Times nor the Washington Post nor the Wall Street Journal. Nor do I have television service.

Why? Because, having worked in that restaurant, I know better than to eat there. The foregoing media are quasi-governmental organs, predictably predictable and predictably dishonest. The truth is not in them.

Read the rest here.

In case there was any doubt

Yes, Europe has gone mad.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Johnathan Tepper: Why I'm giving up my passport

LONDON — THE mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who was born in New York and holds both American and British passports, recently said that he would not pay a tax bill from the United States on capital gains from the sale of his home in the London borough of Islington. Mr. Johnson pointed out that he hasn’t lived in America since he was 5. He’d like to renounce his citizenship, but said the process was “very difficult.”

It is, but I am doing it. My “in-person final loss of citizenship appointment” is scheduled for Jan. 14 at the United States Consulate here. My British passport, acquired in 2012, will be my only one.

Read the rest here.

Some Thoughts on College

Friend of the blog Anti-Gnostic has a perspicacious post up on some of the problems with college today, in particular its unhealthy relationship with government. I encourage everyone to read it here. To this I will add a somewhat less irenic critique of the socio-political culture on modern campuses from Messrs. Penn & Teller.

Part 1

Part 2

Warning: For the uninitiated, Penn & Teller tend to be VERY frank on just about any topic they (really Penn is the only who talks) are addressing. Which is to say that the two linked videos are definitely Rated PG-13, mostly for potty language. So yeah, some blog readers may wish to skip this post.

RIP: Fabiola Dowager Queen of the Belgians

Belgium's Dowager Queen Fabiola, the devoutly Roman Catholic widow of King Baudouin, has reposed at the age of 86.

Memory eternal!

Worst Op-Ed of the Week

And a strong contender for the worst of the month...

In last month’s deep and damning Rolling Stone report about sexual assault at the University of Virginia, a reporter told the story of “Jackie,” who said she was gang raped at a fraternity party and then essentially ignored by the administration. It helped dramatize what happens when the claims of victims are not taken seriously.

Now the narrative appears to be falling apart: Her rapist wasn’t in the frat that she says he was a member of; the house held no party on the night of the assault; and other details are wobbly. Many people (not least U-Va. administrators) will be tempted to see this as a reminder that officials, reporters and the general public should hear both sides of the story and collect all the evidence before coming to a conclusion in rape cases. This is what we mean in America when we say someone is “innocent until proven guilty.” After all, look what happened to the Duke lacrosse players.

In important ways, this is wrong. We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist. Even if Jackie fabricated her account, U-Va. should have taken her word for it during the period while they endeavored to prove or disprove the accusation. This is not a legal argument about what standards we should use in the courts; it’s a moral one, about what happens outside the legal system.

The accused would have a rough period. He might be suspended from his job; friends might defriend him on Facebook. In the case of Bill Cosby, we might have to stop watching his shows, consuming his books or buying tickets to his traveling stand-up routine. But false accusations are exceedingly rare, and errors can be undone by an investigation that clears the accused, especially if it is done quickly.

Read the rest here.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Speaking of morons...

I am back online after a long day without internet. Yes, I am aware that you want a detailed explanation of how such a thing could happen. It went down thusly...

The house I rent has two very large, indeed sprawling pine trees in the yard that help to shade it during the often brutal summer days. However the tree limbs have grown to the point where they overhang the road to a degree that sometimes they fall off creating potential traffic hazards. The city has, somewhat understandably gotten a bit irritated and after the latest such incident they sent a crew over to trim one of the trees back. Since the landlord has thus far shown little interest in the matter, I have no real issue with the city's decision.

But in the course of trimming the tree branches that overhang the road... they CUT THE BLEEPING INTERNET CABLE LINE! After making sure they left word to the effect that the landlord would be billed for the trimming, they got into their truck, performed a well executed K Turn and then stopped before the downed internet cable lying in the street. At which point our fearless tree trimming heroes got out of the vehicle, gathered around the downed cable, picked it up and passed the end around. Then they dropped it, got back into their truck and without another word, DROVE OVER THE DOWNED CABLE and left.

I cannot of course be certain, but I will hazard a guess that no man on the tree trimming detail makes less than $50,000 a year plus full civil service benefits.

It took most of the day to get the Charter internet repair guy out here; not his fault, they were backed up with service calls. Once here the poor guy spent about an hour and half rerunning the cable and then another half hour fiddling with the modem which didn't want to read the signal. He ended up installing a new one. Oh, I forgot to mention that the outdoor work was done mostly in the dark and it was raining. Happily we were his last call for the day. I gave him a couple bottles of Guinness in gratitude for his outstanding customer service.

As for what I'd like to give the the city's tree trimming crew, one wonders if they would even know what a piece of coal looks like. I hope Charter sends a nasty note and a bill to the city.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Quote of the day...

The man is a good-hearted moron, and I mean that in a completely non-malicious way. He is a sentimental, gushing, huggy-bear and would make a great parish priest, but is in well over his head as Patriarch of an autocephalous Church.

-Fellow blogger Anti-Gnostic on Pope Francis from the comment thread here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Pope Francis Sacks Commander of Swiss Guards

The commander of the Swiss Guard at the Vatican has been removed from his post, apparently as a result of Pope Francis’s unease at the security chief’s militaristic style... 

...The pope’s apparent discomfort with the gruelling shifts and strict rules of the Swiss Guard, which were enforced by Anrig, has been evident since his election in 2013. Italian press reports said the pontiff wanted to see a less rigid military corp and one that was less obsessed by rules.

Read the rest here.

Now that's the ticket. Because everyone knows that the surest foundation stone for a crack military/security service is lax discipline.

It is perhaps worth noting that assassination, like larceny, is primarily a crime of opportunity. Heads of state and other VIPs who insist on moving about in open cars, without bodyguards or who deliberately keep their security at bay are worse than fools. This is because ordinary people can choose to take foolish risks, and in most cases the danger is primarily or exclusively to them alone. But when you are a pope, president or king you are almost never alone in public. The assassin spraying bullets or setting off a bomb is not going to worry about "collateral damage." In the modern world the opposite is more likely to be the case. If you have a martyr complex, that's fine. But you don't have the right to endanger other people by your actions.

Quote of the day...

"You just can't say that, just as you can't say that all Christians are fundamentalists. We have our share of them (fundamentalists). All religions have these little groups,"
- Pope Francis responding to critics of Islam's violent track record

I think we have reached a point where it's time to admit that this Pope has a problem with his off the cuff remarks. Honestly I really don't think that he believes there is some equivalence between conservative or "fundamentalist" Christians, whom he has made it very clear that he doesn't like, and Islamic savages who chop the heads off of women and children for being Christians. But when he makes these kinds of boneheaded comments, it is like a flashing neon sign, practically begging his critics to flay him. And before the inevitable, he was quoted out of context arguments start flying in from his loyal defenders, my response is maybe and maybe not. But so what if he was? He should know better than to be saying things that can be so easily taken advantage of by the enemies of his church. And what about all of the other times he has made comments that make even moderate Catholics cringe? This is getting out of hand.

Flash bulletin: He is the Pope of Rome!

Yet he continues to speak extemporaneously in a manner suggesting his comments are of no more importance than those of the village priest. Popes should never hold press conferences. Never! Not EVER! Nor should he be giving unprepared sermons at his daily Masses. But for whatever reason, he does not seem to have grasped that his words carry massive weight and are going to be parsed and dissected by people all over the world. Often these are people with an agenda.

Benedict XVI occasionally made comments that caused trouble. But compared to Francis, he was a paragon of restraint and caution. I don't know if there is someone in the Vatican with the stature to tell this Pope he is behaving badly, to the point of causing scandal with his careless words. But I hope there is. In the meantime I offer this alternative quote for reflection...

"I find it is the things I have never said that have caused me the least trouble."
- Calvin Coolidge

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Gay Marriage Acceptance by Finnish Lutheran Archbishop Prompts Mass Resignations

I am not sure about the term "mass resignations," but some 8,000 people did resign from the state church over the weekend. At least that's something.

Read the story here.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Russia Reels as Oil Plunges and Sanctions Bite

The Russian rouble has suffered its steepest one-day drop since the default crisis in 1998 as capital flight accelerates, raising the risk of emergency exchange controls and tightening the noose on Russian companies and bodies with more than $680bn (£432bn) of external debt.

The currency has been in freefall since Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states vetoed calls by weaker Opec members for a cut in crude oil output, a move viewed by the Kremlin as a strategic attack on Russia.

A fresh plunge in Brent prices to a five-year low of $67.50 a barrel on Monday caused the dam to break, triggering a 9pc slide in the rouble in a matter of hours.

Analysts said it took huge intervention by the Russian central bank to stop the rout and stablize the rouble at 52.07 to the dollar. “They must have spent billions,” said Tim Ash, at Standard Bank.

It is extremely rare for a major country to collapse in this fashion, and the trauma is likely to have political consequences. "This has become disorderly. There are no real buyers of the rouble. We know that voices close to president Vladimir Putin want capital controls, and we cannot rule this out," said Lars Christensen, at Danske Bank.

Read the rest here.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew Meet

The joint declaration.

And before everybody starts flipping out over "Black Bart" trying restore communion with Rome, I suggest a glance at this uncommonly realistic assessment from a Roman Catholic source. Bottom line; it aint happening anytime in the foreseeable future.