Tuesday, February 27, 2018

For whom does this bell toll?

 A village church in Germany recently discovered that one of its three bells has a dark past. It is inscribed with a swastika and an inscription that roughly translates as "Everything for the Fatherland  Adolf Hitler."

The church is described as Protestant which I am sort of assuming means Lutheran. After a rather heated debate that has drawn global interest (and commentary) they appear to have decided to leave the bell alone for now although there are plans to add some kind of plaque.

I am not unsympathetic to the conflicting views. After the war, first the Allies and then both East (Communist) and West Germany went on something of a campaign to eradicate monuments and buildings that it was feared might serve as some kind of rallying point for Nazi sympathizers. Laws were passed that forbade the public display of Nazi symbols and salutes. While a few structures with ties to the Third Reich survive, most were demolished or at least had any symbols stripped away.

But it has been almost three quarters of a century since the end of the war and many Germans are wondering if it isn't time to approach their past with out the kind of fear that, justifiably IMO, motivated their parents and grandparents to eradicate almost all physical reminders of that evil regime.

The options considered in this case were to leave the bell alone, move it to some kind of museum or simply melt it down. While I understand the emotional argument in favor of destroying the bell, I think its historical value would make some kind of preservation desirable. But as a Christian (forget Orthodox for the moment), I cannot conceive worshiping in a church with a Nazi bell ringing. It just beggars the imagination. The swastika along with the hammer and sickle are the two political symbols that I most closely associate with the demonic. To me it simply has no place in a church.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Three words...

Oddly Democrats have shown a great fondness for them over the last year or so.

Obstruction of justice

Friday, February 23, 2018

Wilbur Ross wants to turn the moon into a gas station

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Thursday the future of commercial space projects depends on colonizing the moon.

"I think a lot depends upon how successful we are in turning the moon into a kind of gas station for outer space," Ross told "Squawk Box." "The plan is to break down the ice [there] into hydrogen and oxygen, use those as the fuel propellant."

Rockets would not need as much thrust leaving Earth if they only had to get to the moon, he said. "Then at the moon, you have very low gravity so you don't need so much thrust to go from the moon to Mars, for example, or another asteroid."

Ross, a former private-equity investor with more than 55 years experience, has emerged as the point man for promoting commercial space projects. President Donald Trump has previously emphasized federal efforts to spur private space projects.

The Trump administration is also pushing to get Americans back to the moon. Additionally, the administration announced plans earlier this month to have private entities take over operations in low Earth orbit from the International Space Station.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Fr. Hunwicke asks...

How to respond to a Pope who is demanding assent to something clearly contrary to the Catholic Faith.

See here for the discussion.

Here is my answer... If I were a convicted Roman Catholic and confronted with a Pope who was, at the least, a material heretic intent on subverting the Deposit of the Faith my answer would be that you resist. You follow the lead of the great French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. That is to say you commemorate him at mass, you pray for him ceaselessly, you obey him in all matters not contrary to the faith (also excluding changes to immemorial discipline intended to undermine Catholic Faith), and in all other matters you ignore him until he either repents or God calls him to judgement.That may in some instances require some adjustment in your relationship with your local ordinary. Consider Byzantine Rite parishes or the SSPX. The bottom line is you do what you need to do.

As an Orthodox Christian obviously my answer is in fact different, but that's my advice to Catholics who aren't ready to consider other possibilities. And for the record, I also agree with Fr. H in his rejection of sedevacantism. A Catholic cannot logically subscribe to that without accepting that Rome has fallen. Once you cross that bridge the game is over.

If you want an idea of what kids are getting taught in college today...


The patriarchal race to colonize Mars is just another example of male entitlement

I could never make this up even if I had a gift for satire. The sheer bone-crushing level of narcissism on the part of people who produce this kind of fertilizer defies words.


The Rev Billy Graham has reposed. I was not always a fan of his, and it goes without saying that I do not agree with his theology, but he was certainly one of the great figures of American Protestantism. Memory eternal.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

On the eve of the Great Fast...

Please forgive me for any injury I have caused, especially through this blog.

Five Killed at Russian Orthodox Church

Five women were shot dead in an apparent Islamist attack on an Orthodox church in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Dagestan on Sunday.


Memory eternal.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Expanding the Military Budget Is Wasteful and Unnecessary

Gordon Adams comments on the massive giveaway to the Pentagon:
The United States is back to defense spending, in constant dollars, that is higher than the peak spending levels under Ronald Reagan [bold mine-DL]. Only in 2010, at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was defense spending higher.
Support for expanding an already bloated, excessive military budget is broad and bipartisan, but it is also profoundly misguided. For one thing, much of this spending has had and will have little or nothing to do with actually defending the United States or its allies, and most of it isn’t necessary for that purpose. The U.S. spends this much on a military this large in order to police and attack other parts of the world, and the only reason to increase that spending for an even larger military is to do more of those things. We should call it military spending or hegemony spending or imperial spending, but we should stop the bad habit of referring to it as spending on defense.

There is no security threat comparable to the Soviet Union today that would begin to justify spending more than at the height of the Reagan build-up. Reagan’s splurging on the military was also excessive, but he could at least point to a major rival that posed a serious threat as the reason for doing it. Threats to the U.S. today are not remotely on the same scale and don’t require anything like the same outlays on the military. We are frittering away resources on a much more expensive military at a time when we don’t need one and can’t afford one. Jacking up military spending at the same time as cutting taxes makes the new expenditure that much more irresponsible, and compounding the fiscal irresponsibility is the fact that there is no good reason to do it.
Adams notes that the surge in military spending is happening only because the military is demanding it and our representatives and president have no interest in rejecting that demand:

Read the rest here.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Saturday, February 10, 2018

California discovers the complexity of creating a single payer health care system

California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon may have expected to torpedo the idea of a statewide single-payer healthcare system for the long term last June, when he blocked a Senate bill on the issue from even receiving a hearing in his house.

He was wrong, of course. His shelving of the Senate bill created a political uproar (including the threat of a recall effort), forcing him to create a special committee to examine the possibility of achieving universal health coverage in the state. On Monday and Wednesday, the Select Committee on Health Care Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage held its final hearings.
The panel ended up where it started, with the recognition that the project is hellishly complex and politically daunting but still worthwhile — yet can't happen overnight. "I'm anxious to see what it is that we can actually be working on this year," committee Co-Chair Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) said toward the end of Wednesday's seven-hour session. "Some of the logistics and the challenges we have to deal with are multiyear challenges."

Little has changed since last year, when a measure sponsored by the California Nurses Assn., SB 562, passed the Senate in June and was killed by Rendon (D-Paramount) in the Assembly. The same bill, aimed at universal coverage for all residents of the state, including undocumented immigrants, is the subject of the select committee's hearings and the template for statewide reform.

Backers of the Healthy California program envisioned by the bill feel as if they're in a race with federal officials intent on dismantling healthcare reforms attained with the Affordable Care Act, and even those dating from the 1960s with enactment of Medicare and Medicaid.

In just the last few weeks, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has approved adding a work requirement to Medicaid in Kentucky and begun considering a plan to place lifetime limits on Medicaid benefits — profound changes in a program traditionally aimed at bringing healthcare to needy families.

The Republican-controlled Congress effectively repealed the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. That is likely to drive up premiums for unsubsidized middle-income insurance buyers and has prompted California and other states to consider implementing such a mandate on their own. (Idaho is moving distinctly in the opposite direction from California, proposing to allow "state-based health plans" that allow insurers to discriminate against applicants with pre-existing conditions.

Read the rest here.

Friday, February 09, 2018

The G.O.P. Is Flirting With Fiscal Disaster

In August 2015, the leading Washington budget watchdog predicted that the federal deficit would total about $600 billion the next year.

Now, just about two and a half years later, the projected gap for 2019 has grown to $1.2 trillion, in large part because of a boisterous round of tax cuts and spending increases. And if history is any guide, when the books close, the final number will be higher.

That amounts to a shortfall that will rival the deficits of a decade ago, when the economy was struggling to recover from the financial crisis and ensuing recession.

But while fiscal stimulus to restore economic growth has merit, staggering deficits in the ninth year of a recovery, with unemployment down to 4.1 percent, make no sense.

In addition to piling more debt onto the current $20 trillion of outstanding obligations, today’s mounting gap between revenues and expenses is already contributing to higher interest rates and the shakiness in the stock market.

Leading the charge into rising amounts of red ink have been the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress.

Yes, blame for what is likely to be $15 trillion of added debt over the next 10 years should be placed squarely on the self-proclaimed party of fiscal responsibility.

“The level of national debt is dangerous and unacceptable,” the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said in 2016. Referring to President Obama’s stimulus program, he added, “We borrowed $1 trillion and nobody could find that it did much of anything.”

That was then and this is now.

Read the rest here.

Unreality and Incoherence Reign at the Vatican

Back in the 1920s and 1930s, it was fashionable for Progressive and left-wing intellectuals to travel to the Soviet Union to find out what was “really” going on in the world’s first great experiment in communism. “The entire British intelligentsia,” the editor of the left-leaning New Statesman Kingsley Martin breathlessly exclaimed in 1932, “has been to Russia.”

The vast majority came back wide-eyed and deeply impressed by what they had seen. Following his visit to Russia in 1919, for example, the American progressive journalist Lincoln Steffens famously wrote, “I have seen the future, and it works.”

There were, however, realities about Soviet communism which few such individuals ever got around to mentioning. They rarely referred to, for instance, the Bolsheviks’ destruction of freedom; the cults of personality surrounding Lenin and then Stalin; the regime’s use of systematic terrorism against real but mostly imaginary opponents; the dynamiting of churches; the herding of peasants into collective farms; the murder of thousands of Orthodox and other Christian clergy; the Great Famine that killed millions in the Ukraine; the show-trials, purges and executions; the labor camps; and the relentless propaganda which assured everyone that everything was fine and that any problems were the work of saboteurs, kulaks, class-traitors, Czarist reactionaries, evil Western capitalists, and British Intelligence.

I was reminded of all this recently when reading a strange interview of Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo. He is the Argentine-born and Vatican-based long-time Chancellor of what are called the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Having recently visited China, the bishop described the one-party communist state as “extraordinary.”

Why extraordinary, you might ask? Well, according to Bishop Sanchez, China has “no shanty-towns” and “young people don’t take drugs.” Moreover, he said, China takes climate change so much more seriously than most other nations. That’s hard to square with China’s relentless emphasis on economic growth. But, above all, the bishop exclaimed, “those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese.”

Read the rest here.
HT: Fr. Z

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Antifa’s Handbook: A Primer on Violent Illiberalism

Keith Ellison, the deputy director of the Democratic National Committee and congressman from Minnesota, recently ignited a Twitter firestorm when he tweeted out a picture of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, a book, he declared, that would “strike fear in the heart of” Donald Trump. Upon reading Antifa, it’s easy to see why the tweet generated so much controversy.

Since its release last August, the handbook, by Dartmouth lecturer Mark Bray, has garnered attention as one of the few windows available into the mind of the newly prominent Antifa movement. Bray makes clear from the beginning that the book isn’t an attempt at a neutral rehashing of facts, but rather “is an unabashedly partisan call to arms” for the purpose of equipping activists “with the history and theory necessary to defeat the resurgent Far Right.” He articulates clearly the revolutionary ideology of the far left and defends using violence in its service, from street brawls to kidnappings to assassinations. For those who do not desire to see the world reborn in the flames of global anti-capitalist revolution, the popularity of The Anti-Fascist Handbook should prove alarming.

Antifa’s somewhat obvious immediate goal is the eradication of (what Bray considers to be) fascism. However, conveniently for Antifa, Bray argues that anti-fascist action is not merely limited to academic and historical definitions of fascism. Instead, “anti-fascism is an illiberal politics of social revolutionism applied to fighting the Far Right, not only literal fascists.” This meaning speaks to the broader end of the revolutionary left that Bray sees Antifa as a part of. This end, Bray explains, is the total destruction of the current capitalist order via a violent “international popular uprising.”

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Benedict XVI: ‘I am on a pilgrimage Home’

The Pope Emeritus has written to an Italian newspaper to say he is “on a pilgrimage Home” in this “final period of my life”.

In a nine-line letter to Corriere della Serra, Benedict XVI thanks the paper’s readers for their concern, and assures them he is surrounded “by a love and a goodness that I could not have imagined”.

“I was moved that so many readers of your newspaper want to know how I am spending this last period of my life,” he said.

“I can only say in this regard that, in the slow decline of physical strengths, inwardly I am on a pilgrimage Home,” he added, capitalising the Italian word ‘Casa’.

Read the rest here.

May his remaining days be filled with peace and love.

America's States Of (Fiscal) Siege

America's states and municipalities should be awash in good budget news. Unemployment remains below 5%, inflation is tame, and the stock market rose more than 20% in 2017 — the ninth year of a bull market. Yet many local governments faced intense struggles last year to balance their books.

Localities have confronted unrelenting fiscal pressure since 2008, a result of the  weakest recovery since World War II of tax revenues combined with ever-escalating costs. Many states and localities have had to rewrite budget books in ways that leave taxpayers paying more — and receiving less.

"U.S. states have entered a new era characterized by chronic budget stress," the financial analyst Gabriel Petek, a managing director in the U.S. Public Finance group at S&P Global Ratings, wrote last April.
President Trump has promised $1 trillion in infrastructure spending that could provide some help to localities, but what governments across the country really need is a return to economic growth rates of 3% or higher.

Tax reform passed in December looks like it will help but states and cities will also need to become more efficient and innovative in delivering basic services, or else face a future of tax hikes and service cuts to keep up with their mounting bills.

Local governments got a sense that something might be different starting in 2009, when state tax revenues, hammered by the steep recession, collapsed by nearly 9% — only the second time in the postwar era that state revenues had declined from one year to the next.

Then revenues slumped again in 2010, by 4% this time, leaving governments tens of billions of dollars short of where they'd been just two years earlier.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

The Donald's Parade (no not Disney World)

Apparently the narcissist in chief was much impressed with the military show staged by the French on Bastille Day and now he wants one too. And so the order has been given. My personal suspicion is that it's less the French he wants to upstage than the dictator of North Korea who is also fond of public displays of military power and pomp. The irony of course is that this martial spectacle will presumably be reviewed by the draft dodging patriarch of a family, from which to the best of my knowledge, no one has served in uniform... ever.

And the hits just keep on coming

China is the best implementer of Catholic social doctrine,’ says Vatican bishop

Words fail.
HT: Leroy Huizenga via email.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Orthodox Religion, Unorthodox Medicine: The Rise of Romania’s Christian Doctors

A new breed of Romanian doctors wants to place faith at the heart of their practice, alarming those who believe religion and medicine do not mix.

Cardiologist Ciprian Fisca barely got any sleep on last night’s shift, and his next one starts early tomorrow morning.

But right now, eight hours before he returns to hospital, there is nowhere he would rather be than in the kitchen of a religious retreat, deep in rural Transylvania, peeling horse-radishes.

The 27-year-old is volunteering his services as a kitchen-hand in the isolated retreat of St John the Evangelist, helping the priests with tomorrow’s meal. Among the small group assisting with the catering are a pharmacy student and Ciprian’s younger sister, who hopes to study medicine herself.

The retreat consists of a modest church surrounded by modern-looking buildings currently under construction, including a canteen, conference centre and accommodation facilities.

The transformation of this remote site hints at the revival of the Romanian Orthodox Church, flexing its muscles after half a century of communist dictatorship.

Once associated with the elderly and the rural poor, the Church now attracts educated youth in the cities, including a conspicuous following of doctors and medical students.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Thursday, February 01, 2018

The Red Moon

“I do not believe that this generation of Americans is willing to resign itself to going to bed each night by the light of a Communist moon”. -Lyndon B Johnson