Sunday, December 10, 2017

States seeking new methods for capital punishment

Details here.

This is just idiotic. I'm not a big fan of capital punishment but our obsession with finding new and more scientific ways of killing people has gotten out of hand. Lethal injection is simply barbarous. Any method of execution that can take hours should be dismissed out of hand. If your going to have capital punishment, then just do it and don't be so damned squeamish. Low tech works surprisingly well. A bullet to the back of the head is pretty definitive, and cheap. If you feel the need for something more cutting edge, the French method is also fairly fast and decisive. It might be a tad disturbing to witnesses, but hey they are signing up to see someone killed. Hell, even hanging works surprisingly well. The only reason it got a bad rep here in the US is because we have never had a trained professional class of executioners. Hanging requires some skill and training. But the British had it down to a science. Generally their executions were over within a minute of the hangman entering the condemned man's cell. (The gallows was secretly right next door, literally only steps away.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Memory Eternal: King Michael of Romania

King Michael I of Romania, his forced abdication is not recognized in this corner of the blogosphere, has reposed.

Memorie veșnică!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Of Bitcoins and Dutch Tulips

December 1, 2017 Boston and Beijing—The digital currency called bitcoin has made speculators a fortune, drawn in drug dealers, technology optimists, and those who distrust traditional banks.

Now, it’s ever-more mainstream. From small investors in Japan to big institutional ones in the West, bitcoin is attracting new waves of people anxious to pour money into the latest craze.

It’s hard to resist the action. Worth 6 cents seven years ago, a bitcoin now sells for more than $10,000 – a mind-blowing rise of more than 16 million percent. This year alone, it’s value jumped from $998 to a record $11,155 on Wednesday morning. Seven hours later it had dropped 17 percent, then rose above the $10,000 mark, only to drop another 15 percent on Thursday. By Friday, it was up around $10,500.

“I talk to a lot of people and they say: ‘I have bitcoin’ – average households, many colleagues, friends,” says Daniel Heller, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and former official at the Bank for International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund. “It’s definitely very big.”

It also looks like a financial bubble, he and other financial experts say.

Read the rest here.

My take: Could someone show me a Bitcoin? Can I lock one in a safe deposit box at the bank? This sounds like the greatest racket since someone decided to market pet rocks. Of course when you paid for a pet rock, you actually got... a rock.

What's holding the Democrats back?

In the forthcoming special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions in Alabama it's likely (though not certain) that Roy Moore will win. How is this possible given the very credible allegations that he is a sexual predator? How could the Democrats not win an election against such a morally compromised man? The answer is that they have ceased to be a political party that even attempts to win elections in culturally conservative states like Alabama. For better or worse the party that once stood for the working man, the idea that he should be able to get an honest wage for an honest day's work, that he should be able to work in a safe place, that his kids should have a chance to go to a decent school and maybe even college, and that those who through no fault of their own found themselves in a jam should not be put out on the street or left to depend on charity but rather should be provided for... in short the party of FDR and Harry Truman, is dead.

It has been supplanted by a party dedicated to three main issues... support for unrestricted immigration including defense of illegal aliens. Support for the current wave of identity politics which seeks to balkanize the country along racial, ethnic and sexual lines.  All the while encouraging a belief in victimization among those favored groups and stoking racist hostility towards the hitherto majority group and its culture. And lastly it's unquestioning, almost religious support for abortion on demand with no questions or caveats being tolerated.

When you nominate someone who supports abortion on demand in a state like Alabama you are announcing loudly and clearly that you have no interest in winning a statewide election there and that the people of that state simply don't matter. Then again that has long been true for most of the benighted people who have the misfortune of inhabiting the vast swath of real estate between Manhattan and LA.

But given how far the GOP has gone off the rails, if the Democrats ever abandoned their demand for fealty to the three sacraments of the church of the left, and returned to being a party for the working and middle class while leaving abortion to the conscience of its candidates, they could again become a national party and pose a mortal threat to the party of Steve Bannon, Richard Spencer, Donald Trump and yes, Roy Moore.

Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky): Sermon against the pogroms

April 20, 1903

The joyous feast of reconciliation, the Resurrection of Christ, continues. We have completed the commemoration of St. Thomas, who was the first to confess that the risen Jesus is our true God, and we are now singing of the deeds of the myrrhbearers. We commemorate those women who did not grow weak in their faithfulness to Christ even during the terrible days when He was betrayed and put to death, and who were accounted worthy to announce His resurrection to the apostles. The apostles would enlighten the world by proclaiming the resurrection, but these holy women had first enlightened the apostles with it.

In extolling their faith, the Church calls all of us to imitate this struggle and to participate in the preaching of the resurrection. We are called upon to become so penetrated by joy in Him that we not only forget about the evil done against us by enemies, but to forgive from our hearts their hatred toward us and not only forgive them, but even love our enemies. We must now strive to embrace with love all mankind, inviting them to share with us the spiritual ecstasy of that new life revealed so clearly to us, that everlasting life filled with blessed communion with God. Now is fulfilled that prophecy of Isaiah; “And everlasting joy ... illness, sorrow and sighing have, fled away” (Is 35:10).

The grace of Christ’s resurrection shines brightly even in our corrupt age, and it shines not only on the pious but even on those who are unconcerned. During these sacred days, those who did not pray earlier now turn to prayer; even those whose hearts were hardened. We greet one another with the kiss of peace, and even the unmerciful and miserly find pleasure in showing love toward their neighbour. “Christ is risen and life springs forth” as the God-fearing voice of Chrysostom proclaims. But amidst such comforting circumstances in our Christian life, sorrowful, shameful news reaches us that in the city of Kishenev, on the very day of Christ’s resurrection, on the day of forgiveness and reconciliation, there occurred the cruel inhuman massacre of unfortunate Jews.

At the very time when in the holy temples there was being sung, “Let us embrace one another and say ‘brother’ even to those who hate us...” yes at that very time, outside the church walls, a drunken, beastly mob broke into Jewish homes, robbing the peaceful inhabitants and tearing human beings into pieces. They threw their bodies from windows into the streets and looted Jewish stores. A second crazed, greed filled mob rushed in to steal the clothing and jewelry from the bloodied corpses, seizing everything they could lay hand on. Like Judas, these robbers enriched themselves with silver drenched in blood—the blood of these hapless human sacrifices!

O God! How did Thy goodness endure such an insult and offence to the day of Thy saving passion and glorious resurrection! Thou didst endure Thy terrible struggle so that we would be dead to sin and live in Thee (Rm. 6:11), but here they cruelly and in a most beastly manner slaughtered those who are Thy relatives according to the flesh, who, though they did not recognize Thee are still dear to Thy heart as Thou Thyself didst say not long before Thou didst suffer in the flesh, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou who killest the prophets and stone those who are sent to thee; how often have I longed to gather your children as a hen gathers its chicks under its wing, and you desired it not” (Matt. 23:37).

O brethren, I wish to make you understand this so that you would comprehend that even today the Jewish tribe is dear to God’s heart, and realize that God is angered by anyone who would offend that people. Lest anyone suppose that we are selecting words from the sacred scripture with partiality, let me cite for you the words of that man whom the Jews hated above all men. This is the man whom a company of the Jews vowed neither to eat nor drink until they had killed him (Acts 23:12)—Apostle Paul.

Hearken to the words of God’s spirit speaking through him: “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing my witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen” (Rm. 9:1-5).

Startling and frightening word! Did you truly write them, Paul, you who came to love Christ, who began to live in Christ as Christ lived in you? For whose sake did you consent to be separated from Christ? Was it not you, Paul, who wrote the lines preceding this verse “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rm. 8:38-39). Even the angels could not have done that which you would voluntarily have done for the sake of the salvation of the Jews - those who were your enemies, your betrayers, they who beat you with whip, chained you in prison, exiled you and condemned you to death.

  Behold, brethren and marvel: these words of Apostle Paul are spoken concerning the Jews, even though they were opposed to Christ’s faith. Lest your perplexity i continue, that same apostle and martyr explaining in the following chapter, the reason for his love of the house of Israel! “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (10:1-2).

The words are confirmed in our own day by the life of the Jews. Observe for yourselves their dedication to their law, their preservation of the Sabbath, their faithfulness to their spouses, their love of work and their love toward their children, whom they encourage toward obedience. There was a time not so long ago when Christians excelled them in all these things, but in our present corrupt and degenerate age, we must look with regret upon all these qualities of the way of life of pious Jews. In our cities, the majority of Christians no longer distinguish between the ordinary day, feast days and fasts, but have fallen into negligence and a loose life.

It is true that there are also some like this among the Jews, but from whom did they learn such a disorderly path? Alas, from those whose forefathers confess Christ, from European and Russian nihilists who, like toads, swarm over our land, whose books and newspapers poison the air around us like the plague and cholera.

The Karaim and Talmud Jews must be respected, but woe to both those nihilists from among the Jews and from among us, who are corrupting both family and society, who sow the seed of their contagion among Russian and Polish youth, and who are the main cause of the hatred toward the descendants of the holy forefathers and prophets beloved by the Lord. I am not speaking about respect for these nihilists among the Jews.

Listen as the blessed apostle further explains the reason for his warm, self-denying love toward this people; hear how he explains their unbelief and obduracy toward Christ “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy” (11:11). If the Jews had all accepted Christ’s faith, then the heathens who despised the Jews would have rejected it. If the Jews had all believed, then we, brethren, would not have become Christians, but would still be worshipping Jupiter and Venus or Perun and Volass as our pagan ancestors did. Be cautious, therefore, about slandering the unbelief of the Jews; rather grieve over it and pray that the Lord may be revealed to them. Do not be at enmity with them, but respect the apostolic word about the Israelite root and the branches that broke from it “Because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. “ (11:20-21)

O Christians, fear to offend the sacred, even though rejected, tribe. God’s recompense will fall upon those evil people who have shed blood which is of the same race as the Theanthropos, His most pure mother, apostles and prophets. Do not suppose that this blood was sacred only in the past, but understand that even in the future reconciliation to the divine nature awaits them (2Pt.1:4), as Christ’s chosen vessel further testifies, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written. There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (11:25-27).

Let the savage know that they have slain future Christians who were yet in the loins of the present day Jews; let them know that they have shown themselves to be bankrupt opponents of God’s providence, persecutors of a people beloved by God, even after its rejection (11:28).

How sinful is enmity against Jews, based on an ignorance of God’s law, and how shall it be forgiven when it arises from abominable and disgraceful impulses. The robbers of the Jews did not do so as revenge for opposition to Christianity, rather they lusted for the property and possessions of others. Under the thin guise of zeal for the faith, they served the demon of covetousness. They resembled Judas who betrayed Christ with a kiss while blinded with the sickness of greed, but these murderers, hiding themselves behind Christ’s name, killed His kinsmen according to the flesh in order to rob them.

When have we beheld such fanaticism? In Western Europe during the middle ages, heretics and Jews were shamefully executed, but not by mobs intent on robbing them.1

How can one begin to teach people who stifle their own conscience and mercy, who snuff out all fear of God and, departing from the holy temple even on the bright day of Christ’s Resurrection, a day dedicated to forgiveness and love, but which they rededicate to robbery and murder?

O believers in God and His Christ! Fear the Lord’s judgment in behalf of His people. Fear to offend the inheritors of the promise, even though they have been renounced. We are not empowered to judge them for their unbelief; the Lord and not we will judge. We, looking upon their zeal even though it is “not according to knowledge” (Rm.10:2) would do better to contemplate their fathers: the righteous Abraham, Isaak, Jakob, Joseph and Moses, David and Samuel and Elijah, who rose to heaven still in the flesh. Look upon Isaiah who accepted voluntary death for the faith, Daniel who stopped the mouths of beasts in a lions’ den, and the Maccabbee martyrs who died with joy for the hope of resurrections. Let us not beat, slay and rob people, but soften their hardness toward Christ and Christians by means of our own fulfilment of the law of God. Let us multiply our prayer, love, fasting and alms and our concern for those who are suffering, let us be zealous about the true essence of the faith; let our light so shine before people that they may glorify our heavenly father and Christ. Let us overcome unbelief and impiousness among Christians first, and then concern ourselves with the Jews, “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:20-21).


God’s Un-American View of the Poor and Why It Matters

America has an odd view of the poor. It is a view that reveals much about the underlying theological assumptions that create and support our culture. I will quickly quell any protests about the mixing of theology and politics by saying, everything, even politics is rooted in theology. More about that later on…

In general terms, when Americans encounter the poor, our first thoughts go to the individual and his/her story. What happened to them? What decisions did they make? Why are they stuck in this situation? Our stories of success do the same thing. We see the rich and focus on their individual accounts of luck, entrepreneurship, and brilliance. It is an analysis and a cultural reflex that is of a piece with Adam Smith’s musings about economics and commerce. Classically, it is called Capitalism.

We have a hard time in American culture managing a critique of Capitalism. The word acquired almost deified valuation during the Cold War. In the American mind, Communism was bad and Capitalism was good, and there was little nuance in the sentiment. Adam Smith did not write in a vacuum. He was a major figure in the Scottish Enlightenment (1700’s), perhaps the most rigorous and thorough application of reason and individualism the world has ever known. One author has described it as the movement that gave birth to modernity.1

Reason and individualism, though rarely identified as such in contemporary parlance, are at the very heart of American consciousness. When we see the poor, our individualism draws our attention to each single instance. Our rationality asks questions regarding that individual’s choices, virtues and failings. Occasionally that same individualism and rationality turn their attention to God and wonder why He allows such problems to exist.

Adam Smith’s contribution to economic theory was rooted in “rational self-interest.” It was put forward that if markets are free, rational self-interest will be the engine of success and prosperity. It is an idea that is so current that it stalks the hallways of government to this day. It operates as a general assumption – something that need not be defended because it appears to be self-evident truth.

It is not God’s truth.

Read the rest here.
Also, please leave any comments there as well.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

If you ever wondered where is the best place to get away with murder...

It's San Francisco. But only if your an illegal alien with a lengthy criminal record who has been previously deported five times. Excuse me while I go throw up.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Mass shootings and the harassment of victims by conspiracy nut jobs

Mike Cronk was sitting half-naked on a street corner, hands covered in blood, when the TV news reporter approached. The 48-year-old, who had used his shirt to try to plug a bullet wound in his friend’s chest, recounted in a live interview how a young man he did not know had just died in his arms
Cronk’s story of surviving the worst mass shooting in modern US history went viral, but many people online weren’t calling him a hero. On YouTube, dozens of videos, viewed by hundreds of thousands of people, claimed Cronk was an actor hired to play the part of a victim in the Las Vegas mass shooting on 1 October.

Conspiracy theorists harassed him on Facebook, sending messages like “How much did they pay you?” and “How does it feel to be part of a hoax?” The claims multiplied and soon YouTube’s algorithm began actively promoting the conspiracy theory.

Two months later, Cronk’s online reputation appears damaged beyond repair. Type “Mike Cronk” into Google and YouTube, and the sites automatically suggest searches for “actor” and “fake”, leading to popular videos claiming he and his wounded friend were performers and that the Mandalay Bay tragedy that killed 58 people never happened.
“It’s awful that we have to go through what we did and then you have a whole new level of attacks on you and who you are,” said Cronk, a retired teacher. “I don’t want negative stuff associated with my name, but how do we stop that?”

As record-breaking mass shootings have become a ritual of life in the US, survivors and victims’ families across the country have increasingly faced an onslaught of social media abuse and viral slander. Bullying from the ugliest corners of the internet overwhelms the grief-stricken as they struggle to cope with the greatest horror they’ve ever experienced.

The cycles of hoaxer harassment are now as predictable as mass shootings. And yet those with the most power to stop the spread of conspiracy theories have done little to address victims’ cries for help.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Ross Douthat: Is There an Evangelical Crisis?

About 20 years ago, the eminent sociologist of religion Christian Smith coined a useful and resonant phrase, describing evangelical Christianity in the post-1960s United States as both “embattled and thriving.”

By this Smith meant that evangelicals had maintained an identity in a secularizing country that was neither separatist nor assimilated, but somehow mainstream and countercultural at once. Evangelicals were both fully part of American modernity (often educated suburbanites, rather than the backwoods yokels of caricature) and also living lives in tension with pluralistic and permissive values. And this combination, far from undercutting their communities, was actually a source of religious vitality and demographic strength.

Smith’s description still holds up pretty well. The story of American religion lately has been one of institutional decline, of Mainline Protestantism’s aging and Catholicism’s weakening and the rise of the so-called “nones.”
But there has been an evangelical exception. The evangelical market share has held steady while other traditions have declined, evangelical churches have continued to win more converts than they lose, and evangelical resilience is the main reason why religious conservatism retains an intense and active core.

The question is whether this resilience will survive the age of Trump. Some evangelical voices think not: Whether the subject is the debauched pagan in the White House, the mall-haunted candidacy of Roy Moore or the larger question of how to engage with secular culture, there is talk of an intergenerational crisis within evangelical churches, a widening disillusionment with a Trump-endorsing old guard, a feeling that a crackup must loom ahead.

Read the rest here.

Britain's Great North Road in 1939

A glimpse of a world now long gone. The Great North Road on the eve of World War II filmed in color.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

How to Think About Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin is a powerful ideological symbol and a highly effective ideological litmus test. He is a hero to populist conservatives around the world and anathema to progressives. I don’t want to compare him to our own president, but if you know enough about what a given American thinks of Putin, you can probably tell what he thinks of Donald Trump.

Let me stress at the outset that this is not going to be a talk about what to think about Putin, which is something you are all capable of making up your minds on, but rather how to think about him. And on this, there is one basic truth to remember, although it is often forgotten. Our globalist leaders may have deprecated sovereignty since the end of the Cold War, but that does not mean it has ceased for an instant to be the primary subject of politics.

Vladimir Vladimirovich is not the president of a feminist NGO. He is not a transgender-rights activist. He is not an ombudsman appointed by the United Nations to make and deliver slide shows about green energy. He is the elected leader of Russia—a rugged, relatively poor, militarily powerful country that in recent years has been frequently humiliated, robbed, and misled. His job has been to protect his country’s prerogatives and its sovereignty in an international system that seeks to erode sovereignty in general and views Russia’s sovereignty in particular as a threat.

By American standards, Putin’s respect for the democratic process has been fitful at best. He has cracked down on peaceful demonstrations. Political opponents have been arrested and jailed throughout his rule. Some have even been murdered—Anna Politkovskaya, the crusading Chechnya correspondent shot in her apartment building in Moscow in 2006; Alexander Litvinenko, the spy poisoned with polonium-210 in London months later; the activist Boris Nemtsov, shot on a bridge in Moscow in early 2015. While the evidence connecting Putin’s own circle to the killings is circumstantial, it merits scrutiny.

Yet if we were to use traditional measures for understanding leaders, which involve the defense of borders and national flourishing, Putin would count as the pre-eminent statesman of our time. On the world stage, who can vie with him? Only perhaps Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey.

When Putin took power in the winter of 1999-2000, his country was defenseless. It was bankrupt. It was being carved up by its new kleptocratic elites, in collusion with its old imperial rivals, the Americans. Putin changed that. In the first decade of this century, he did what Kemal Atatürk had done in Turkey in the 1920s. Out of a crumbling empire, he rescued a nation-state, and gave it coherence and purpose. He disciplined his country’s plutocrats. He restored its military strength. And he refused, with ever blunter rhetoric, to accept for Russia a subservient role in an American-run world system drawn up by foreign politicians and business leaders. His voters credit him with having saved his country.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Gerald McDermott: Is Pope Francis a Liberal Protestant?

Is the pope Catholic?” For at least a century, this was the way we Anglicans joked about anything that seemed too obvious to state. Now we must ask in seriousness whether the pope is a liberal Protestant.

Early this month, an American theologian resigned under pressure from his post as theological advisor to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. What had Fr. Thomas Weinandy done to deserve this public rebuke? He had made public a July letter to the pope, in which he charged that the Holy Father was causing “chronic confusion.” The pope’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia is “intentionally ambiguous” on grave moral and doctrinal matters. It “risks sinning against the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth,” and “demean[s] the importance of Christian doctrine” by inviting changes to traditional Catholic teaching on marriage and divorce. The pope “resents” criticism and “mock[s]” those who have challenged Amoris Laetitia “as Pharisaic stone-throwers.”
As an outsider, I can’t help but wonder whether the pope and the USCCB were particularly provoked by Weinandy’s suggestion that Jesus had allowed this controversy in order “to manifest just how weak is the faith of many within the Church, even among too many of her bishops.” Catholics will have to make up their own minds—but I’ll admit I have questions about the faith of Pope Francis, which seems, if not weak, at least different from that of the Catholic tradition.

Even before the release of Amoris Laetitia in March 2016, Francis had caused many to question his fidelity to that tradition. In 2014, the midterm report of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family recommended that pastors emphasize the “positive aspects” of cohabitation and civil remarriage after divorce. He said that Jesus’s multiplication of bread and fish was really a miracle of sharing, not of multiplying (2013); told a woman in an invalid marriage that she could take Holy Communion (2014); claimed that lost souls do not go to hell (2015); and said that Jesus had begged his parents for forgiveness (2015). In 2016, he said that God had been “unjust with his son,” announced his prayer intention to build a society “that places the human person at the center,” and declared that inequality is “the greatest evil that exists.” In 2017, he joked that “inside the Holy Trinity they’re all arguing behind closed doors, but on the outside they give the picture of unity.” Jesus Christ, he said, “made himself the devil.” “No war is just,” he pronounced. At the end of history, “everything will be saved. Everything.”

Read the rest here.

A Republic of Lies

Rod Dreher on the willingness to accept patent lies and reject facts based on political convenience.

"A democratic nation where ‘truth’ is what feels good will not be democratic for long."

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

$450 Million

I really hope that whoever just dropped all that bank on a painting gets their big tax cut for Christmas. After all, society has a duty to support billionaire art collectors.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Rod Drehere's thoughts on the Roy Moore debacle

An interesting and wide ranging take on the political nightmare in Alabama where the choice for the US Senate appears to be between a fundamentalist theocratic wingnut who is also very probably (though not definitely) a child sex predator on the one hand and a man who is comfortable killing children who are inconvenient, provided they haven't been born yet on the other.

My take: Hold your nose and vote for the theocratic wingnut molester. I think it unlikely he will spend much time in the Senate. He is too much of a political liability, and it seems that there are actually some lines that even Republicans won't let one of their own cross. I think if he is elected that the Senate will either refuse to seat him or they will expel him immediately after he takes the oath of office. Like Mitch McConnell I believe the women. But I also believe that the Washington Post had this story in the can for a while and deliberately held it back until after the loon won the GOP primary and the last date where he could be replaced on the ballot was safely past.  If Moore gets elected and subsequently barred from the Senate (or expelled) then the governor gets to name his replacement pending a new election.

All of which said, this is one of those situations where the overused expression, "the lesser of two evils" is definitely apropos.

Monday, November 13, 2017

California: How did CalPERS dig a $153 billion pension hole?

During the next five weeks, the CalPERS board, custodian of $326 billion in assets needed to fulfill retirement promises for 1.8 million California public employees and beneficiaries, will make decisions affecting government budgets for decades to come.

 The problem is, despite their fiduciary duty under the state Constitution to “protect the competency of the assets” under their absolute control, CalPERS is roughly $153 billion short of fully funding the retirement promises earned to date.

How did CalPERS dig this huge hole?  During the last decade, they manipulated actuarial assumptions and methods to keep employer and employee contribution rates low in the short term.

Besides over-estimating investment returns, CalPERS uses very long amortization schedules to push debts onto future generations, greatly increasing the pension system’s long-term cost.  As a result, CalPERS is just 68 percent funded, barely above what would be “critical” status for private-sector pension plans.

Just like a family that assumes it will receive healthy raises every year and only makes minimum payments on its credit card debts, there must be a day of reckoning. Yet it is not clear the CalPERS board recognizes this important momentis now.

This week, CalPERS will discuss its quadrennial Asset Liability Management process, one that assesses its financial position and proposes course corrections.  The results are pretty bleak.

Read the rest here.

Civil service employees in California should be really worried. Just like in Illinois and other liberal fantasy lands they have been promised this, that and the other thing, with no realistic idea of how it's all going to be paid for.  The basic idea at the moment is to not worry; someone thirty years down the road will figure it all out or just send the bill to the tax payers. The problem is that the tax payers are not going to pay. All they will do is flip Sacramento what those of us from New York used to call the Bronx salute as they pack up and move out of that insane asylum masquerading as a state.

Can anyone figure out what this is about?

This article is so riddled with confusing, and in some cases obviously erroneous claims that I can't grasp who this so called bishop is or what church they claim to be a part of. I seriously doubt he was consecrated a bishop of the Eastern Orthodox Church based on his wearing western vestments.

Never mind: It's as I suspected. This man is a member of some silly vegante church that has no relationship with either Rome or Orthodoxy. This article may make my list for one of the worst attempts at journalism I have ever come across where the subject is religion. 

Let little boys wear tiaras: Church of England's new guidance to schools

Boys as young as five should be able to wear tiaras at school without criticism, teachers in Church of England schools are to be told.

Male pupils should also be free to dress up in a tutu or high heels without attracting any comment or observation, according to anti-bullying rules sent out by the Church yesterday.

The instructions for the CofE’s 4,700 schools said they should not require children to wear uniforms that ‘create difficulty for trans pupils’.

This appears to give official backing to schools that ban skirts to avoid discrimination against transgender children.

Schools are also told they cannot use the Christian faith or Bible teachings to justify behaviour that is considered to amount to bullying – for example, identifying a transgender pupil by a sex other than the one they have chosen. The advice contains instructions on how to report bullying, including sample forms on which teachers are encouraged to name the alleged bully and their target, and use tick boxes to describe what happened.

Examples include name-calling, social media trolling, or insulting gestures.

Read the rest here.
HT: Blog reader TD

Friday, November 10, 2017

Marc A. Thiessen: The New York Times keeps whitewashing communism’s crimes

The Trump administration marked this week’s 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution by declaring a National Day for the Victims of Communism. The New York Times marked the same anniversary in a different way: by running a series of articles extolling the virtues of communism.

The irony of the series’ title, “Red Century,” seems lost on the Times’s editors. The 20th century was “red” indeed — red with the blood of communism’s victims. The death toll of communism, cited in “The Black Book of Communism,” is simply staggering: In the USSR, nearly 20 million dead; China, 65 million; Vietnam, 1 million; Cambodia, 2 million; Eastern Europe, 1 million; Africa, 1.7 million; Afghanistan, 1.5 million; North Korea: 2 million (and counting). In all, Communist regimes killed some 100 million people — roughly four times the number killed by the Nazis — making communism the most murderous ideology in human history.

Never mind all that. University of Pennsylvania professor Kristen R. Ghodsee writes that Communists had better sex: “Eastern women had twice as many orgasms as Western women . . . [who] had less sex, and less satisfying sex, than women who had to line up for toilet paper.” She has tough words for Joseph Stalin because he “reversed much of the Soviet Union’s early progress in women’s rights — outlawing abortion and promoting the nuclear family.” Yes, that was Stalin’s crime. Not the purges, not the gulag, but promoting the nuclear family.

In “How Did Women Fare in China’s Communist Revolution?” Helen Gao recalls her grandmother “talking with joyous peasants from the newly collectivized countryside” and writes that “for all its flaws, the Communist revolution taught Chinese women to dream big.” Mao’s revolution killed tens of millions of Chinese — not counting the millions killed under China’s brutal “One Child” policy, which led to widespread female infanticide. Those Chinese girls never got a chance to dream at all.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Memorial Service for the Victims of Communism

Solemn Panikhida for the victims of Communism, on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Revolution of 1917 (in English and Church Slavonic). From the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Washington, DC.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Quote of the day...

Stanley Hauerwas’ Dictum: “As soon as we agree to take charge of the outcome of history, we agree to do violence.”

I would add to that the observation that from that point on, every discussion will ultimately come down to figuring out who should be killed and when. That the devil was a “murderer from the beginning” should be born in mind as we think such a thing through.

-Fr. Stephen (Freeman) from the comment thread under this excellent reflection.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Why the far right believes a US civil war will start on Saturday

Since late September, ‘alt-right’ members have advanced the idea that anti-fascist groups will begin a violent insurrection on 4 November. But no antifa groups are planning to protest – so what gives?

Some websites are telling their readers that antifa groups are “planning to kill every single Trump voter, Conservative and gun owner” this weekend. Hundreds of Facebook posts show how seriously consumers of such media are taking the news, and comments like “One more threat against white people and I swear to God I’m going to take a goddamn car and run over every fucking one of them” are not unrepresentative of the response.

But antifa groups have no plans to protest that day, and the small leftist groups who are planning protests have only dubious connections to the antifa movement. So what gives?

The whole thing rests on some very slender reeds, according to Spencer Sunshine, who recently wrote a report on the theories for the far right-monitoring group Political Research Associates. In the conspiracy underground on YouTube, he explains, there has been talk that “there was going to be a civil war” starting in November for some months.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Oberlin Declaration by the Orthodox delegation on ecumenism and inter-communion

As delegates to the North American Faith and Order Study Conference, appointed by His Eminence, Archbishop Michael, to represent the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, we want to make the following preliminary statements.

We are glad to take part in a study-conference, devoted to such a basic need of the Christian World as Unity. All Christians should seek Unity. On the other hand, we feel that the whole program of the forthcoming discussion has been framed from a point of view which we cannot conscientiously admit. "The Unity we seek" is for us a given Unity which has never been lost, and, as a Divine gift and an essential mark of Christian existence, could not have been lost. This unity in the Church of Christ is for us a Unity in the Historical Church, in the fullness of faith, in the fullness of continuous sacramental life. For us, this Unity is embodied in the Orthodox Church, which kept, catholikos and anelleipos, both the integrity of the Apostolic Faith and the integrity of the Apostolic Order.

Our share in the study of Christian Unity is determined by our firm conviction that this Unity can be found only in the fellowship of the Historical Church, preserving faithfully the catholic tradition, both in doctrine and in order. We cannot commit ourselves to any discussion of these basic assumptions, as if they were but hypothetical or problematic. We begin with a clear conception of the Church’s Unity, which we believe has been embodied and realized in the age-long history of the Orthodox Church, without any change or break since the times when the visible Unity of Christendom was an obvious fact and was attested and witnessed to by an ecumenical unanimity, in the age of the Ecumenical Councils.

We admit, of course, that the Unity of Christendom has been disrupted, that the unity of faith and the integrity of order have been sorely broken. But we do not admit that the Unity of the Church, and precisely of the "visible" and historical Church, has ever been broken or lost, so as to now be a problem of search and discovery. The problem of Unity is for us, therefore, the problem of the return to the fullness of Faith and Order, in full faithfulness to the message of Scripture and Tradition and in the obedience to the will of God: "that all may be one".

Long before the breakup of the unity of Western Christendom, the Orthodox Church has had a keen sense of the essential importance of the oneness of Christian believers and from her very inception she has deplored divisions within the Christian world. As in the past, so in the present, she laments disunity among those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ Whose purpose in the world was to unite all believers into one body. The Orthodox Church feels that, since she has been unassociated with the events related to the breakdown of religious unity in the West, she bears a special responsibility to contribute toward the restoration of the Christian unity which alone can render the message of the Gospel effective in a world troubled by threats of world conflict and general uncertainty over the future.

It is with humility that we voice the conviction that the Orthodox Church can make a special contribution to the cause of Christian unity, because since Pentecost she has possessed the true unity intended by Christ. It is with this conviction that the Orthodox Church is always prepared to meet with Christians of other communions in inter-confessional deliberations. She rejoices over the fact that she is able to join those of other denominations in ecumenical conversations that aim at removing the barriers to Christian unity. However, we feel compelled in all honesty, as representatives of the Orthodox Church, to confess that we must qualify our participation, as necessitated by the historic faith and practice of our Church, and also state the general position that must be taken at this interdenominational conference.

In considering firstly "the nature of the unity we seek," we wish to begin by making clear that our approach is at variance with that usually advocated and ordinarily expected by participating representatives. The Orthodox Church teaches that the unity of the Church has not been lost, because she is the Body of Christ, and, as such, can never be divided. It is Christ as her head and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that secure the unity of the Church throughout the ages.

The presence of human imperfection among her members is powerless to obliterate the unity, for Christ Himself promised that the "gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church." Satan has always sown tares in the field of the Lord and the forces of disunity have often threatened but have never actually succeeded in dividing the Church. No power can be mightier than the omnipotent will of Christ Who founded one Church only in order to bring men into unity with God. Oneness is an essential mark of the Church.

If it be true that Christ founded the Church as a means of unifying men divided by sin, then it must naturally follow that the unity of the Church was preserved by His divine omnipotence. Unity, therefore, is not just a promise, or a potentiality, but belongs to the very nature of the Church. It is not something which has been lost and which should be recovered, but rather it is a permanent character of the structure of the Church.

Christian love impels us to speak candidly of our conviction that the Orthodox Church has not lost the unity of the Church intended by Christ, for she represents the oneness which in Western Christendom has only been a potentiality. The Orthodox Church teaches that she has no need to search for a "lost unity," because her historic consciousness dictates that she is the Una Sancta and that all Christian groups outside the Orthodox Church can recover their unity only by entering into the bosom of that Church which preserved its identity with early Christianity.

These are claims that arise not from presumptuousness, but from an inner historical awareness of the Orthodox Church. Indeed, this is the special message of Eastern Orthodoxy to a divided Western Christendom.

The Orthodox Church true to her historical consciousness declares that she has maintained an unbroken continuity with the Church of Pentecost by preserving the Apostolic faith and polity unadulterated. She has kept the "faith once delivered unto the saints" free from the distortions of human innovations. Man-made doctrines have never found their way into the Orthodox Church, since she has no necessary association in history with the name of one single father or theologian. She owes the fullness and the guarantee of unity and infallibility to the operation of the Holy Spirit and not to the service of one individual. It is for this reason that she has never felt the need for what is known as "a return to the purity of the Apostolic faith." She maintains the necessary balance between freedom and authority and thus avoids the extremes of absolutism and individualism both of which have done violence to Christian unity.

We re-assert what was declared at Evanston and what has been made known in the past at all interdenominational conferences attended by delegates of the Orthodox Church. It is not due to our personal merit, but to divine condescension that we represent the Orthodox Church and are able to give expression to her claims. We are bound in conscience to state explicitly what is logically inferred; that all other bodies have been directly or indirectly separated from the Orthodox Church. Unity from the Orthodox standpoint means a return of the separated bodies to the historical Orthodox, One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

The unity which Orthodoxy represents rests on identity of faith, order, and worship. All three aspects of the life of the Church are outwardly safeguarded by the reality of the unbroken succession of bishops which is the assurance of the Church's uninterrupted continuity with apostolic origins. This means that the uncompromised fullness of the Church requires the preservation of both its episcopal structure and sacramental life. Adhering tenaciously to her Apostolic heritage, the Orthodox Church holds that no true unity is possible where episcopacy and sacraments are absent, and grieves over the fact that both institutions have either been discarded or distorted in certain quarters of Christendom. Any agreement on faith must rest on the authority of the enactments of the seven Ecumenical Councils which represent the mind of the one undivided Church of antiquity and the subsequent tradition as safeguarded in the life of the Orthodox Church.

We regret that the most vital problem of Ministry and that of the Apostolic Succession, without which to our mind there is neither unity, nor church, were not included in the program of the Conference. All problems of Order seem to be missing in the program. These, in our opinion, are basic for any study of Unity.

Visible unity expressed in organizational union does not destroy the centrality of the spirit among believers, but rather testifies to the reality of the oneness of the Spirit. Where there is the fullness of the Spirit, there too will outward amity be found. From Apostolic times the unity of Christian believers was manifested by a visible, organizational structure. It is the unity in the Holy Spirit that is expressed in a unified visible organization.

The Holy Eucharist, as the chief act of worship, is the outward affirmation of the inner relation rising from unity in the Holy Spirit. But this unity involves a consensus of faith among those participating. Intercommunion, therefore, is possible only when there is agreement of faith. Common worship in every case must presuppose a common faith. The Orthodox Church maintains that worship of any nature cannot be sincere unless there is oneness of faith among those participating. It is with this belief that the Orthodox hesitate to share in Joint prayer services and strictly refrain from attending interdenominational Communion Services.

A common faith and a common worship are inseparable in the historical continuity of the Orthodox Church. However, in isolation neither can be preserved integral and intact. Both must be kept in organic and inner relationship with each other. It is for this reason that Christian unity cannot be realized merely by determining what articles of faith or what creed should be regarded as constituting the basis of unity. In addition to subscribing to certain doctrines of faith, it is necessary to achieve the experience of a common tradition or communis sensus fidelium preserved through common worship within the historic framework of the Orthodox Church. There can be no true unanimity of faith unless that faith remains within the life and sacred tradition of the Church which is identical throughout the ages. It is in the experience of worship that we affirm the true faith, and conversely, it is in the recognition of a common faith that we secure the reality of worship in spirit and in truth.

Thus the Orthodox Church in each locality insists on agreement of faith and worship before it will consider sharing in any interdenominational activity. Doctrinal differences constitute an obstacle in the way of unrestricted participation in such activities. In order to safeguard the purity of the faith and the integrity of the liturgical and spiritual life of the Orthodox Church, abstinence from interdenominational activities is encouraged on a local level. There is no phase of the Church’s life unrelated to her faith. Intercommunion with another church must be grounded on a consensus of faith and a common understanding of the sacramental life. The Holy Eucharist especially must be the liturgical demonstration of the unity of faith.

We are fully aware of deep divergences which separate Christian denominations from each other, in all fields of Christian life and existence, in the understanding of faith, in the shaping of life, in the habits of worship. We are seeking, accordingly, an unanimity in faith, an identity of order, a fellowship in prayer. But for us all the three are organically linked together. Communion in worship is only possible in the unity of faiths. Communion presupposes Unity. Therefore, the term "Intercommunion" seems to us an epitome of that conception which we are compelled to reject. An "intercommunion" presupposes the existence of several separate and separated denominations, which join occasionally in certain common acts or actions. In the true Unity of Christ’s Church there is no room for several "denominations." There is, therefore, no room for "'intercommunion." When all are truly united in the Apostolic Faith and Order, there will be all-inclusive Communion and Fellowship in all things.

It has been stated by the Orthodox delegates already in Edinburgh, in 1937, that many problems are presented at Faith and Order Conferences in a manner and in a setting which are utterly uncongenial to the Orthodox. We again must repeat the same statement now. But again, as years ago in Edinburgh, we want to testify our readiness and willingness to participate in study, in order that the Truth of the Gospel and the fullness of the Apostolic Tradition may be brought to the knowledge of all who, truly, unselfishly, and devoutedly seek Unity in Our Blessed Lord and His Holy Church, One, Catholic, and Apostolic.

Bishop Athenagoras Kokkinakis, Chairman
Very Rev Georges Florovsky
Very Rev Eusebius A. Stephanou
Rev George Tsoumas
Rev John A. Poulos
Rev John Hondras
Rev George P. Gallos

September 3-10, 1957
Oberlin Ohio

Quote of the day...

"You wish to be only a spectator, the gentleman in the balcony who wipes the glasses of his lorgnette in order to lose none of the comedy. Well, you can not do so. That role is not permitted a man. He must act, and he acts always, even when thinks he is looking on, even when he washes his hands as Pontius Pilate, that dilettante, too, who uttered the words of your masters and of yourself. What is truth? Truth is that there is always a duty to fulfill." 

-Andre Cornelis (1886) by Paul Bourget

Friday, October 27, 2017

Deaconesses (again)

A handful of individuals have signed a letter praising the Patriarchate of Alexandria for reviving the ancient order of deaconesses. See the letter here. And my take...
Alexandria needs to be very very careful. They are playing with fire. Make no mistake; the real cause that animates the vast majority of those agitating for deaconesses is women priestesses. For them this is the camel's nose under the tent flap. Some may say that I am being unduly alarmist, but I've seen this game played too many times in other religious sects. Any attempt to go down the road of W/O would almost certainly end in schism.