Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sundry Remarks (and a New Blog for You)

Out of the gallimaufry of Weblogs that I track in my categories in the columns to the right, one of my favorites is the Rev. Dr. Hunwicke's Mutual Enrichment. He is classed under the very few liturgical blogs ("Liturgi-cannon" in my jargon, also explained at the right) that I follow, and though he certainly excels at that topic, he frequently comments on Catholic matters, since he has left the Church of England to become a priest in the Anglican Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. So he could equally be classified among the more numerous (Anglo-)Catholi-cannon in the far right column, but I prefer to keep his link where it can be the crowning ornament in a far less crowded category.

Today, Fr Hunwicke (the British like to dispense with periods after titular abbreviations) pointed us to another Catholic (that is, Anglican Ordinariate) Weblog of which I had, to my regret, been unaware before. It is called ignatius his conclave -- apparently the Brits don't always need capital letters, either -- and I commend it wholeheartedly to your attention. By scrolling down to the bottom of the blog's home page, you may begin with the earlier posts and proceed sequentially to the most recent one, at the top.

You will be treated to a fine snapshot of the current consternation that surrounds the goings, comings and latest sayings of Pope Francis I on the topic of (among others) divorce and remarriage, and in particular, the Pope's refusal thus far to acknowledge or respond to five questions put to him by four senior cardinals, that asked him to clarify statements made in his most recent apostolic exhortation, Amoris laetitia ("The Joy of [Family] Love"). But you will also experience the gentle art of British satire, subtly practiced by a master. I have added it to my blogroll of (Anglo-)Catholi-cannon, where I intend to follow it regularly.

After all, things in the Episcopal Congregations (i.e., ECUSA) have just not been as comment-worthy lately (we are still waiting on word from the courts in South Carolina and Ft. Worth!) as what has been happening across the Tiber. To be sure, the satirists like Christopher Johnson still have their occasional field-day with the utterly vacuous outpourings from those the Congregations have chosen as their spokespersons, but your Curmudgeon has lost his taste for a sport that amounts to shooting fish in a barrel. Likewise, the desultory coming apart of the Church of England (foretold quite some time ago on this blog, and again here) is no subject for either joy or sport. When looked at too closely, it generates only despondency.

And as the Episcopal Congregations and Church of England go, so goes, as Dr Kirk of the newly linked ignatius blog puts it, the "Anglican soi-disant Communion", or Anglican Communion (so-called). The GAFCON group is struggling to preserve its core, but "turning and turning in the widening gyre, ... things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world..."

So perhaps, drawing on the inspirations provided by superior bloggers like Drs Kirk and Hunwicke, your Curmudgeon will start a series of posts that tries to draw back and portray the wider picture of what is going on. Did Yates have a prescient vision when he wrote these words?
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand. 
(Or did he rather have a vision in 1921 of what turmoil the election of 2016 would engender? [He who has ears, let him hear.])

For my local parish, I have been doing a series of presentations on "The End Times -- in Jesus' Own Words." Amid all the evangelical hullabaloo about the Rapture, the Four Blood Moons, the Shemitah and the like, it is a good thing to revert to the Most Knowledgeable Source and see what He had to say about His own Second Coming. I hope you will find the series instructive -- I will start working on it right away, and post as time permits. Until then, keep up to date by following the blogs linked at the right, and use the Guide to This Site to understand how we got to this point.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Professor Is Right Again

Professor Helmuth Norpoth of Stony Brook University on Long Island correctly called this election for Donald Trump back in February, when everyone -- and I mean everyone -- was confident that Trump would lose by a big margin. Later in the season, he was joined by a different professor using a different model, but who went contrary to the popular trends and predicted the same result.

The biggest loser in this election was not Hillary Clinton. She lost, and lost decisively, to be sure -- but the professors' models predicted she would lose, and they've been infallible in past elections for decades. (Of course, as I write this, she has declined to concede, and no doubt will seriously consider trying to mount an Al Gore-style challenge in the closest States. So be it -- there is no one, not even Bill, who at this point could convince her to stand down if she has decided not to. UPDATE 11/09/16: Hillary called Trump in private to concede the race, we are told -- she did not make a speech.)

No, the biggest loser -- actually, losers (to use a term beloved of our President-elect) -- are (1) the Beltway elite; and (2) the mainstream media -- who gave it everything they had, and still fell way short.

The Beltway elite -- everyone from the K Street lobbyists to the RINOs to, sad to say, Paul Ryan -- know that Donald Trump is beyond their power to control. His unpredictability spells their ruin (witness the debacle that Wall Street will endure tomorrow, as I write this some eight hours before the markets open). [UPDATE 11/09/16: From a reported deep plunge in after-hours trading, mirrored on several world markets, the Dow Jones has recovered nicely -- it seems that Wall Street suddenly sees good prospects with the news of Trump's victory, rather than the dire consequences predicted by the left.] Their cozy arrangements, consultancy contracts, special breaks in legislation that they themselves write -- all this will be out the window with a Trump administration, and they will have to go begging for jobs and sources of revenue. (Note that the District of Columbia went 93% for Clinton, and just 4% for Trump; there were similar percentages in the neighboring affluent counties of Maryland and Virginia.)

It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch -- because they way underestimated how much their haughty arrogance had angered the rank and file of the American public. (A friend reminded me of a highly prescient Doonesbury cartoon ridiculing one of Trump's earlier feints toward a run for the presidency. One of the Doonesbury regulars acidly remarks: "Who's going to be his constituency? The forgotten a--holes?")

Exactly, Mr. Trudeau; exactly. Spot on. And I know you will keep it up.

As will the second crowd of biggest losers, the mainstream media. The difference between them and the beltway elite, however, is that they will be unable to recognize how much ground they have lost.

Starting tomorrow, it is child's play to predict the memes that will dominate the post-election mainstream media: "Trump will need to 'reach out' [one of their favorite mantras] to heal the divisions he has caused with this election . . ." "The world will become a good deal more scary with a Trump at the helm -- he could land us in a war with Russia . . .". "Trump will be bad for business and the economy, because no one can predict what he will do . . .". "Trump will destroy what it took President Obama so long bring about that is beneficial to this country: Obamacare, Dodd-Frank financial restrictions, environmental limits on growth and emissions, restraining global warming and the melting of the icecaps (remember the poor polar bears!), bringing peace and security to the Middle East, putting Israel in its place, raising the minimum wage, solving the immigration problem, regaining the world's respect for our country in the United Nations and in foreign affairs . . ." and on and on and on, ad nauseam.

It is my dearest hope that with each repetition of these vacuous liberal mantras, the mainstream media will lose ever more and more of their readers and listeners, to the point where they, too, will have to look around for other lines of work.

And last but not least, James Comey's stalwart agents in the field may finally be able to investigate some people worthy of their attention: start with Comey's former boss, Loretta Lynch, and her attempts to squelch the ongoing investigations into Hillary's violations of our secrecy laws; move on to Patrick Kennedy and the whole corrupt bunch at the State Department who lied about Benghazi and then have been enabling and hiding Hillary's outrageous and dangerous disregard for our security; then to the IRS and its illegal targeting of conservative non-profit groups; then to Eric Holder and his scheme of gun-running, while also letting others get away with voter intimidation; and ...  oh, yes -- did I mention a certain former Secretary of State? And her husband? Who together enriched themselves by selling access and favoritism at this country's expense? And broke all the laws about charitable organizations in the process?

Who knows where all this is going to lead, indeed? Certainly not the entrenched elite, nor their lapdogs, the mainstream media.

Mind you: I do not blindly endorse Mr. Trump and his ways. (Indeed, I agree with C.S. Lewis, who once wrote: "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busibodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some time be satisfied; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own consciences.") Mr. Trump will have to mind his manners a lot more, and surround himself with advisers who are much more knowledgeable than he is in particular areas. But that is what businessmen who are promoted to head up major corporations traditionally do.

No, what I am celebrating tonight is the radical shakeup of the Washington establishment. They have needed it for a long, long time.

And no one can assure us that a shakeup of this magnitude will be totally beneficial in all ways -- some things that are truly good may perish along with so much else that is so bad, and deserves to come to an end. As I have maintained throughout this campaign, America is under God's judgment -- which is why we were presented with the Hobson's choice we had. We are not out from under that judgment yet, because America has not yet turned back from its ways, and repented of its manifold sins and wickedness. Whether it will do so under its new government remains to be seen.

So fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a riveting ride.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Election Developments - as Predicted

As I predicted in my previous election posts here, there have been new surprises emerging just before we head to the polls (for those of who who have already voted by mail -- well, all I can say is that I warned you). The malign media, of course, are pushing exclusively the new Trump accusers that have come out of the woodwork after 20 or so years -- because they believe that just now their unsupported allegations can finally receive attention? I call them "malign", because they are doing their best to decide the election for the rest of us, making it unnecessary for us to exercise our duty as citizens of this republic. They don't care a fig for the republic, but only for what unrepublican power and influence they can assert over the rest of us.

But now comes FBI Director Comey, whom the Democrats have deliberately placed between a roack and a hard place. With a bevy of newly discovered emails, thanks to the cupidity of former Congressman Weiner, his enabling spouse, and her employer, he had just two choices: keep silent and release his bombshell after November 8, or speak up now and say: "It's too soon to say how bad this is, but it's serious enough to deserve a good look, and I shall keep you informed as I am able."

Notice how absolutely silent the President and his Attorney General are remaining, even though now is the time, if it is not too late, for them to announce the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Which brings your Curmudgeon to his main point: What business did the Democrats hope to achieve by allowing and then nominating a candidate to run for President who was the chief target of an FBI investigation?

As this article makes clear, the Democrats knowingly did so well in advance of the start of the primaries. So they have made their bed, and now they will have to lie in it.

It is actually poetic justice, because the Democrats exploited an ongoing FBI investigation to influence public opinion in advance of the 1992 election, as explained in this article.

Thus I repeat my advice: keep your powder dry until November 8. We probably haven't seen the worst of it yet.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How Should a Christian Vote? (Part II)

This post continues from where I left off in my previous post.

As noted, your voting decision becomes easy if you are in one of the States that in all likelihood will strongly favor one candidate over the other (see the color-coded map here: solid deep blue States [115 electoral votes] are expected to go for Clinton; solid dark red States [49 electoral votes] are expected to go for Trump). Whether you want to go with the flow or contrary to it, your vote will not make any difference to the outcome, so you might as well vote your conscience.

In very probably the same category are the States that are seen on the same map as either "likely Clinton" (medium blue; 54 electoral votes) or "likely Trump (medium red; 41 electoral votes). While a surge of new first-time voters, or a major development in the race, could change the predicted outcome, the results will probably not change if nothing else changes between now and November 8. So I would recommend that Christian voters in these States bide their time, and take the measure of the mood in their given State on November 7 before deciding finally how to vote. If nothing has changed by then, your decision will likely matter as little as it would have in one of the "solid" States. But if there is a change of opinion strongly in one direction or the other, your vote could become more important in proportion to the extent that the race has tightened up.

People in the so-called "battle-ground States" (see the States colored gray on this map) are expected to decide (as of this writing) the fate of no less than 140 Electoral College votes, while those in the States depicted as "leaning" one way or the other (light blue States, 103 votes; light red States, 36 votes) will determine a further 139 votes. Together, they make up more than half of the electoral college -- and this is why they are so crucial.

It is in just these States, because the margins are so close (down to single digits), that the polls are least to be trusted, for the reasons I gave in this earlier post. (Let me be precise: the polls as to these States are probably correct in showing that the race is tight. But they are likely incorrect in predicting a specific outcome that is still 14 days off.) Any new developments in the campaigns will likely have their greatest effect in these States, again because the margins of victory are already seen as so close.

The job of the Christian voter is twofold. The first aspect of it is to cast his vote, as discussed in Part I above, objectively for the best-qualified candidate, determined after a careful analysis of each in light of the abilities that this country will need in the next four years for leadership. This part of the job can be carried out now, without waiting for Election Day, because the candidates' abilities will not change between now and then. They are what they are.

The second aspect of the task is a little trickier: it is to make his or her vote, so determined, count to the greatest degree possible.

What does that mean? Consider elections (such as Florida's in 2000) which are won by just a few thousand votes, or even less. If such a result seems possible in your State this November, then both as a Christian and a citizen your duty is not just to vote yourself, but to see to it that other Christians (or secular friends with whom you see eye-to-eye politically) turn out to vote as well. This could mean volunteering to take people to the polls on Election Day, or help with candidate phone banks in the days leading up to November 8, or similar assistance in turning out the vote for your chosen candidate.

Note that I am not urging you to bring to the polls only voters who think, and who will vote (to the extent they will freely tell you) as you have decided to vote. Remember, you have no right whatsoever to ask a person to tell you how they intend to vote -- they may certainly volunteer that information, but otherwise it is strictly private.

No, what I am saying is that you should first assist your fellow Christians in going through the same careful analytical steps that you have, if they are willing to see their duty to do so, and then assist them in casting their vote to the extent they need assistance. Your duty as a Christian goes at least that far toward your fellow Christians, whether you know how they will decide or not.

Next, you may -- and should -- certainly assist any other non-Christian friends of yours, again in exactly the same manner, to they extent they are willing to receive your assistance.

And of course, you may see it as your Christian duty to join a given campaign in order to get out the vote for a particular candidate -- that, too, is certainly allowed if you have done your objective analysis beforehand. ("Objective" in this sense is a relative term that depends on the individual exercising the very best talents and skills for impartial analysis which God has given them. There will be no one "objective" answer that is the same for everyone, since not everyone has the same talents, or exercises them in the same way. God asks only of each of us that we do our very best.) 

And thus the third Christian principle comes into play, in these States where the race will be close: it can be summed up in the phrase God helps those who help themselves. Yes, this nation is under God's judgment, and yes, this election is in His hands. But Christians who are situated to make a possible difference in the outcome cannot remain passive and fulfill their obligation to serve Him as best they are able.

Now, having said all the foregoing, I want to take this analysis one step further, and show how a Christian who has objectively decided that neither of the major candidates would be a suitable leader for this country may still -- in certain key States, at least -- be able to affect the outcome of this election. To do so, however, will require a separate post, because the analysis will have to get a little technical.

Monday, October 24, 2016

How Should a Christian Vote? (Part I)

We are only about two weeks from the presidential election. While I strongly believe that how any citizen votes is a private matter between them, their conscience, and (if they profess to be Christian) God, I cannot help but take note of a good deal of moral confusion concerning what Christian principles require of us in making a decision on how to exercise our freedom to vote.

The first thing I have to stress is that in the United States of America (at least), your vote is private. No one has the ability to compel you to disclose anywhere, at any time, how you voted. So if you are Christian, how you vote in this election is really a matter only between you and your faith.

That said, there is a necessary distinction between how you privately exercise your privilege to vote, and how you urge others (publicly or privately) to exercise that right.

If, for example, you choose to speak out and advocate how others should vote, then you are under a moral (Christian) obligation not to mislead or deceive. You cannot urge others to vote for Candidate A on certain grounds, and then privately vote for Candidate B on different grounds (such as that while Candidate B is less desirable, he has promised you a position in his government if he gets elected).

Thus, faced with the execrable choice we have in this presidential election, absolutely no one could fault you if you choose to vote in private for some minority candidate who has none of the moral deficiencies of the candidates advanced by the Republican or the Democratic parties. By voting in secret for the candidate whom you truly believe to be best qualified for the position, you are doing your duty as an informed citizen, and no one can blame you for doing that.

But once you take it upon yourself to advocate how others should vote in this election, you have a far greater responsibility: you must be true to the principles you espouse, even though your individual vote still by law remains secret, and cannot be disclosed for any reason. The accountability here required of you is that of Christianity itself, since even if no one else knows, God knows how you voted, in relation to how you told others to vote.

With those principles laid down, let us see how a Christian might propose to deal with the quandary of whom to vote for in the current presidential election.

Perhaps the first principle a Christian ought to apply is this: Judge not, lest ye be judged. A Christian has no business comparing himself to a candidate, and voting according to whether he considers the candidate inferior (or superior) to himself. Candidates must be evaluated on their own merits as to their abilities to lead our country; let God decide which ones are morally fit. (Needless to say, a lack of morals has not in the past operated to keep candidates from being elected President.)

The second Christian principle would be this: Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's. Although I have said many times that this election is in God's hands, and that this country is under His judgment, that does not mean a Christian should decline to vote. It is every citizen's duty to vote. And as I just noted, citizens must exercise their vote based on criteria that evaluate the candidates according to their abilities to lead this country for the next four years -- not on whether a candidate is of a given sex, or race, or religion.

Those are the basic Christian principles that apply to voting for President in this election. But they are necessarily general; what is lacking is an application of them to specific facts and circumstances.

If, for example, you reside in a State such as I do, which is overwhelmingly predicted to go for one of the two major candidates, you have a light burden, because the State's total vote is out of your hands. You are free to vote your conscience, and leave the outcome to God's providence.

But if you are in one of the States expected to be more closely contested (and you should know by now if you are), then your vote will count for much more. You should analyze the candidates carefully, using the criteria mentioned earlier: what are the candidates' agendas? Their legislative proposals? Their proposed appointees to the Supreme Court, and to their Cabinet? How well can they be expected to deal with the Congress that is likely to be elected? Will they support a more balanced budget? How well can they be expected to deal with various foreign leaders? If an armed conflict breaks out somewhere in the world, how are they most likely to respond, and will that be good for America?

It might help you to set up a checklist of all the appropriate criteria you can think of, and then systematically and objectively rate the candidates you are considering using those criteria. I use the word "objectively" advisedly -- considerations of political correctness have no place in your decision.

That is enough for this first post. In my follow-up, I will go through more of the technical details of the Electoral College and how various State-by-State results might affect the outcome of the race -- and consequently, how Christians in certain States may choose to vote.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Why the Polls Will Prove Wrong

First off -- I want to assure those who have come to this blog only recently that its customary fare is not politics. Because that topic is normally so desultory, it usually does not provide the dose of leavening which I have decided (on my own, thank you) is the measure of a good blog.

However, once every two or four years, and certainly just before a presidential election, I make an exception. As we near Election Day this November 8, more of my posts will be devoted to that rite than to the traditional topics otherwise addressed here -- such as religion, the state of the Anglican Communion, the latest outrage from the (amalgamated) Episcopal Congregations in the US of A, and so forth, and so on.

And actually, I have to say: right now, the Presidential election is a rather lively topic, because it keeps shifting with every cycle of the news.

To listen to the mainstream media, the election is already over -- Hillary has won, and it's just a matter of her adding even more States to her unstoppable haul than the number she has already bagged -- a number which (they assure the gullible) is more than sufficient to guarantee her a majority in the Electoral College.

One has to take into account, however, the sources of these claims, which are mostly the polls conducted by all the interested organizations -- from independent polling outfits to the major news media themselves.

To see what might be wrong with their data, consider this question: just how does a poll-taker obtain (and record) a voter's supposed preference for a particular candidate?

The best overall summary I have found on how polls are conducted is presented in this set of FAQs. Read it through carefully, and note the following takeaways:

1. Polls are ordered and approved by the customer, not by the voters themselves. This is perhaps the biggest source of bias: the customer gets the final say on how, and to whom, the poll questions are phrased, and those two factors determine in large part how the questions are answered.

2. Polls reach, for the most part, only those of us who still have land lines (not cell phones). This obviously leaves out most of the younger generation, for the reasons noted in this report.

3. There is no reliable method to coordinate the number of potential voters polled with the number of them who will actually vote in the election. Again, as explained in the FAQ linked above, the accuracy of any poll in this regard will depend on what questions and what survey audience the customer agreed to pay for -- and even then, there is no guarantee that someone who tells a pollster that he or she "intends to vote" will actually do so. This is why the most accurate polls historically have been based on the exit polls taken of persons leaving the polling booths -- but you will learn of those only late on Election Day, and even then they are still subject to inaccuracies, because many voters will not agree to be so polled.

4. How the pollsters decide to call numbers does not guarantee a representative sample of actual voters. This is perhaps the biggest source of error of all in published polls compared to actual election results. People contacted who disclose that they have not voted in recent elections, for example, may be excluded from the tallies because on the basis of such an answer, they are not a good fit with those who may fairly be expected to vote in this next election.

5. This election is not your "typical" election. The next election will not be any "election as usual" -- may we all please agree on that? There are, I dare say, more people now motivated (by a lack of any sense of connection, by feelings that they have previously been excluded and discounted, by mainstream media propaganda that their votes could just not matter in any case, etc.) to vote in this election, who have not felt any compunction to do so previously, than the ones whom the pollsters will manage to reach by their limited methods.

In conclusion: take the daily "poll" news with a very large grain of salt, and do not let the headlines affect your voting decisions. Note that the poll results advertised (for the reasons given above) almost certainly will not include the opinions of these people, nor (thank goodness, in this case!) of these people (who will never, you may be confident, vote in any election).

Do not, therefore, think you should not bother to vote because the mainstream media all declare this election is already in the bag for Hillary Clinton. They are trying simply to predetermine the outcome by discouraging you from thinking that your vote could, and will most likely, matter: there are, for instance, far more interesting scenarios that could play out in the weeks to come.

But those alternative scenarios are highly dependent on one thing: that YOU get out and vote. So do not become despondent, and do not let the media's barrage make you believe that your individual vote could not possibly matter: it does, and will, particularly with regard to the future of this country.

And for those among you who are still not decided just how you should vote, don't worry. The election is still 21 days away, and a lot can, and will, happen, before you have to make your choice. Your Curmudgeon is willing at this point to declare that on no account could he ever consider recommending voting for the status quo, because to contemplate such a continuation of everything as it has been thus far is, to say the least, depressing beyond measure.

At the same time, he is keeping his powder dry, because he fully expects that by the time November 8 comes around, the picture will be a lot clearer (if not improved). So say tuned, and keep praying for your country.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Dialogue of the Self in Modern Times


Q. Is Donald Trump crude, and coarse, and pompous?

A. Indubitably.

Q. But we knew that about him already, correct?

A. Yes.

Q. So what is “new” in regard to a tape of his crude and coarse remarks made in 2005?

A. Nothing.

Q. So how can the left [sc. the Democrats and their camp-followers] claim this development as “news”?

A. They can’t. But that doesn’t stop them from doing it anyway, since they see a political advantage. 

Q. And just what is the political advantage they see?

A. That they can trumpet [pun intended] how crude, and coarse, and pompous Mr. Trump is.

Q. Wait — we already knew that, right? [See first question.]

A. Right. Just as we already knew that former President Clinton used his position to exploit women, and on occasion to assault, batter and even rape them -- with no fear of reprisal.

Q. So what possible advantage can they gain from raising as “new” something that everyone already knew, and that is hypocritical of them to boot?

A. Ah, now you’ve gotten to the heart of the matter.

Q. I have?

A. Yes. The God of PC [Political Correctness] demands from His devotees incessant sacrifices of the same thing over and over again. Thus the left can once more (ad nauseam) profess and show how much they adore their God of PC: they kneel and prostrate themselves before His altar, but are careful to offer only their political opponents (and never one of their own) for sacrifice. Those on the right, on the other hand, are left [pun intended] — with a quandary.

Q. What quandary?

A. They don’t relish worshiping the God of PC — but they will, and will sacrifice even their own chosen candidate if that’s what it takes to get themselves re-elected. And that’s why so many of the right have chosen this particular moment to abandon their previous [albeit lukewarm] support of Mr. Trump.

Q. And just where does that leave Mr. Trump?

A. Just where you now find him: gazing in the pool, admiring his own reflection, and not caring a fig for what anyone else may think -- all the while that his erstwhile “supporters” desert him in droves. 

Q. That’s not a very pretty picture.

A. It’s not. But politics is never pretty. If you wanted Mother Teresa for a candidate, you could never have gotten her, because half (or more) of the electorate would have rejected her just for what she stood for, namely the welfare of everyone else but herself. The majority of those motivated to go to the polls today ask only: "What will this (or that) candidate do for me?"

Q. Well, even if that's so, what's wrong with that? Shouldn't they vote based on which candidate can deliver the most for them?

A. That approach renders them incapable of placing themselves in anyone’s shoes but their own. Consequently they end up with candidates whose vision likewise cannot extend beyond their own selves, e.g., Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In short, they get just those whom they have asked for, and whom they certainly deserve.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Obama Years in One Picture and Nine Charts

Here is an easy-to-understand graphic presentation of what the Obama years have done to America (H/T: Steven Hayward, Power Line Blog) -- click to enlarge:

Enough said. How the man's approval ratings continue to stay above 50% is a mystery that serves only to indict America's electorate.

Friday, September 30, 2016


In a sobering analysis of what's gone wrong with our country and why, Prof. Angelo Codevilla of Claremont gave this telling example of just how bad things currently are:
No one running for the GOP nomination discussed the greatest violation of popular government’s norms—never mind the Constitution—to have occurred in two hundred years, namely, the practice, agreed upon by mainstream Republicans and Democrats, of rolling all of the government’s expenditures into a single bill. This eliminates elected officials’ responsibility for any of the government’s actions, and reduces them either to approving all that the government does without reservation, or the allegedly revolutionary, disloyal act of “shutting down the government.”

Rather than talk about how to restrain or shrink government, Republican candidates talked about how to do more with government. The Wall Street Journal called that “having a positive agenda.” Hence, Republicans by and large joined the Democrats in relegating the U.S. Constitution to history’s dustbin.
Case in point: the Republican majorities in both the Senate and the House caved in last night to the Democrats, voted for everything the Democrats demanded to support the latest blockbuster continuing resolution, and left town to campaign for their own re-election. As the article just linked puts it:
[The Republicans] managed to give Democrats everything they wanted in both houses, got it all passed by violating their own rules, and left town to campaign for re-election so they can ... er … well … ahh ... beat Democrats and ... er ... well ... enact some more Democrat policies.
The continuing resolution contained a number of significant giveaways, including surrender of America's veto over Internet domain policies:
This bill funded every major Democratic policy priority with no meaningful limitations on a single illegal, abusive, or harmful executive action taken by the president. It contained no limitations or reforms to Obamacare, Planned Parenthood funding, Obama’s transgender bathroom mandate on the states, sanctuary cities, or DACA amnesty. What was particularly disturbing about this blank check is that the timing of the budget deadline coincided with two new harmful unilateral policies of the Obama administration: the giveaway of oversight over internet IP addresses to a foreign entity and a net increase in refugee admission for the new fiscal year — all on top of the existing increase in refugees from the Middle East during a time of grave homeland security concerns.

The budget bill also reflected Obama’s spending priorities instead of the spending figures reflected in the Republican budget. It wasted $1.1 billion on Zika funding that was unnecessary and funded Planned Parenthood with those extra funds. While one expects compromise with divided government, this blank check was truly breathtaking in completely reflecting Democrat values — as if Republicans had no control over Congress.
The surrender by Congress and Obama of America's right to supervise domain name policies is an irretrievable one -- there is now no going back. What will happen to control future Internet content and writers is now out of our hands, and there are lots of unpleasant results that might -- nay, inevitably will, given the tendency toward more control by the ruling class identified in the first article above -- ensue. (For the technically minded, here is a full explanation of what is involved.)

United States citizens no longer have any representation in their supposedly "representative" government. We have become a nation of peons ruled by Beltway elites for their own profit and satisfaction, i.e., no different from a third-world dictatorship or oligarchy. They not only continually ignore us; they seem to relish sticking their elitist thumbs in our eyes, again and again and again.

And yet they have the gall to marvel at the constituency that a narcissistic showman has assembled? A showman who at least tries to connect, now and then, with the resentments that are driving the rest of us? As this article has it, our upcoming election is properly dubbed "the Flight 93 election." It's our last chance -- and even then, it may be too late, unless we can turn it into a total rout of all incumbents.

No citizen who cherishes America's ideals has any business voting for any of their Senators or Representatives who voted for the latest continuing resolution. Make it your business to go to the House or Senate Web sites and mark their names.

Voting "as usual" means "business as usual." Our democracy can no longer afford business as usual. Like it or not, something has got to change. You can either play a part in trying to stop it, or stand back and watch the train wreck.

[Note: A tip of the Rumpolean bowler to Chris Johnson at The Midwest Conservative Journal for calling my attention to some of the articles cited above. His is a blog (linked at the right) that should always be one of your regular stops -- at least, while we still have an Internet that will allow it.]

Monday, September 26, 2016

Political Thoughts -- Mixed with a Bit of Religion

Like millions of others, I watched the whole debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton tonight, and came away singularly unimpressed and unenlightened.

To wit: Hillary was her usually glib and imperial self, supremely disdaining to answer forthrightly the (extremely mild) questions put to her, using them instead as springboards to attack Donald Trump, in league with and fully sustained by the overtly biased moderator, Lester Holt.

Which put Donald largely on the defensive -- and as Hillary no doubt conceitedly expected, Donald would not vigorously counter-attack, because then he would appear as domineering and sexist (i.e., not shrinking from attacking a poor, defenseless female).

Indeed, I remember a number of occasions when it was Donald who said he was not spending any money on responding in kind to the Clinton campaign's scurrilous attack ads against him -- yet it was Hillary who in the debate claimed (quoting St. Michelle) that she was taking the "high road."

Likewise, Hillary never admitted to being in the same "birther camp" as Donald -- but her minions, like Sid Blumenthal, surreptitiously fueled the "birther" debate (though they now deny it) when it was to her political advantage to do so. Instead, she successfully maintained that Donald stayed in that camp for much longer than she did. (Since she lost the race and became Obama's Secretary of State, why in the world would she keep pushing it?) And thus she came off making Donald appear as the more unscrupulous one.

But the main question is: why were we treated to exchanges on so many topics that are wholly in the past, when the pressing issues of immigration, Hillary's wide-ranging abuse of her position as Secretary of State to garner funds for her foundation, and the respective health status of the candidates, never even surfaced? (Just another instance of how the media's -- and this moderator's -- political bias has let this country down.)

In sum, it was not a good evening for America, as neither candidate did themselves proud. (Nor, once again, did the media -- but we long ago lost them to partisanship.) Hillary smugly hid behind her status as the first female candidate of a major political party, and declined to be drawn into answering any specifics about the shortcomings of her past policies or the vapidity of her future plans if she becomes President.

And Donald Trump was far too much the deferential gentleman, largely unlike the scrappy persona that has gotten him to this point in the race. He has to learn that the key to going up against Hillary is not to try to interrupt her mid-sentence (and thereby miss his main opportunity for a measured response), or to out-talk her, but instead to bide his time and hit back at her overweening self-assurance with some well-aimed blows at her glass jaw.

Just to take a major "for instance": Hillary speculated that Donald's failure to disclose his tax returns was because "he probably is not as charitable as he says he is" (or words to that effect). Well, are the Clintons such paragons of charitable giving that they donate to much beyond their own self-dealing foundation? I have not seen any such evidence.

Or again, how in the world does Hillary get off with claiming that she is the soul of public disclosure when she (or rather, her hired minions, for her protection from unwelcome inquiries) deleted over 33,000 official government emails so that the public would never see them? Instead of Donald scoring a big point on that issue, she managed to place him on the defensive by claiming that he just wanted Russia to hack "private American servers" -- which she never should have had for official State business in the first place.

So if this is the way the debates are going to proceed, count me out -- I have better things to do than watch the halt flail away against the blind in the rigged arena of national television. As I said in an earlier post, this election has turned out as it has because this nation, having neglected its basic Christian roots and priorities, is now under the judgment of God. It will assuredly reap the harvest that He deems fit for it, whether in 2017 or later.

Even if you may not agree with these observations, I ask that you join myself and many other Christians in praying for the repentance of our country from its self-indulgent and God-defying arrogance, in the hope that it may ultimately be delivered from the wrath that will otherwise come upon it.

Look to the Bible: has there ever been an unrepentant nation whom God ultimately spared from judgment? So why ever should He except the United States, so long as it remains committed to defying Him? (Indeed, you might want to ponder the question posed in this earlier post.)

(Of course, if you are one who does not look to the Bible for guidance, for whatever reason, then you are part of the problem, and I have nothing to say to you, beyond wishing you God's grace and peace in your final days. So be it -- I cannot do otherwise, while I still pray for America to turn back from her current ruinous path.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Men Ruling over Women? How Has That Worked?

Bible translation is much more a rough art than an exact science. It breaks down into three domains, each of which presents major problems for translators:

1. The Accuracy of the Starting Texts. The Old Testament was written mainly in Hebrew (and a small part in Aramaic); the New Testament was written in Greek. We do not possess any of the original manuscripts, but only copies -- of which we have tens of thousands, but which are an unknown number of generations removed from the originals. Added to some 5,800 Greek sources for the New Testament, for example, are ten thousand or more manuscripts and fragments of the NT translated very early into another language, such as Latin. Although we thus have many, many more such fragments (and in some cases, complete books) to work from than is the case with any other ancient document, and although there is agreement (consensus) as to practically 90% of its text, there are still many variant readings as to which scholars differ. Most of those are trivial or minor, but some are major, such as in the case of John 7:53-8:11, which does not appear in several manuscripts. Moreover, the discovery of older fragments, such as those found at Qumran, continually reshapes our views of what particular reading in any given case would be closest to the "original." So the first problem in Bible translation is to decide on the starting text (and avoid the trap of "garbage in, garbage out").

2. The Meaning and Context of the Words in those Starting Texts. Language dictionaries are only a very recent phenomenon. The Hebrew words of the Old Testament in many cases remain the same today, but their meanings have changed; the same is true of the Koine dialect of Greek in which much of the New Testament was written. In many cases, the recovery of lost meanings is pure guesswork, as in quite a few instances, particular words may occur only once or twice in the entire NT (or OT). And even when we have a pretty good idea of how a word was used in the first century (or earlier), we have to put it into the context intended by its author, which was aimed for the most part at hearers or readers who were alive at that time. We have to beware of anachronistic interpretations.

3. The Meaning and Context of Words in the Target Language. As just noted in the last paragraph, language is not static, but changes continuously with time. To put the Bible into the English of 1611 was a wholly different task from putting it into the English of today (and whose English -- British, American, Australian, Canadian, Scottish, or Irish?). The process of translation thus presents a continually moving target. While the meaning and context of the original words may have been fixed at the time they were written, the same is not at all true of any given target language into which they may be translated. And no translation can at the same time be one that is word-for-word and is also suitable for reading aloud to a congregation. A balance must be struck, and in each case it is different, depending on the goals of the translators.

It comes rather as a surprise, therefore, to learn that the publisher of the respected English Standard Version of the Bible has decided, in conjunction with its Translation Oversight Committee, to make just a further 52 changes in its official text, and then no more, forever and ever, amen. It will thus join the King James version (last changed in 1769) as a fossilized text: those in the far future who wish to use it will first have to master the vocabulary of English as it stood in 2016, and not as it may have further evolved in their own day. [UPDATE 09/29/2016: persuaded by the instant and numerous reactions to its decision, the publisher Crossway has announced it made a mistake. It will continue to revise the ESV, chiefly for the reasons I identified above.]

The decision has been strongly criticized, and with good reason. I shall not add to the general criticism here, but I do want to take issue with some of what the Oversight Committee thinks are necessary and advisable changes to make before the text becomes "permanent." For in my view, the changes they have adopted to the ESV's translation of Genesis 3:16 and 4:7 are going in the wrong direction -- please have a look:
Permanent Text VersesPrevious Text Verses
Genesis 3:16
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.
Genesis 4:7
Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.
The words in each case are spoken by God -- to Eve in verse 3:16, and to Cain in verse 4:7. In both cases the change involves the translation of a Hebrew preposition, 'el, which normally has a spatial element of motion to or toward an object or destination. Thus as previously translated, verse 3:16 conveyed the thought in English that Eve would experience a desire for, or toward, her husband Adam; verse 4:16 expressed the notion that sin would likewise approach Cain if he did not curb his anger.

Changing these expressions from "for" to "contrary to" in each instance is not just a subtle shift in meaning, but introduces (in my view) a whole new social context that is foreign to our traditional reading of these verses. To see this, let's focus on Gen. 3:16 more closely.

As is well explained in this post, there are two differing exegeses of what God is saying to Eve in verse 3:16. The first is that God's statement is a prescription, both for her own future and for that of all women who come after her -- it lays down a principle of what her nature will cause her to do.

The second is that God's statement is simply descriptive of what the fallen world after Eden will be like for women.

So in the first case, the ESV translators are in effect saying that God has willed it that men and women should be always at odds with each other. And in the second case, well, He may not have willed it so, but it will always be so.

Either way, the ESV choice simply underwrites current feminist theology without any warrant in the Hebrew text for doing so, since "to go against" is not one of the normal or usual senses of 'el in the Hebrew Bible. And drawing on Genesis 4:7 for support of that context is, as Sam Powell says in the post I cited to explain the use of that preposition, "pretty sketchy exegesis." (I have always believed that the Devil was not content merely to act contrary to us; he would far rather entrap us. So saying that his desire is "contrary to" man is like saying that a policeman just wants to act differently from a thief: it may superficially be true, but it by no means tells the whole story of their respective roles.)

Both Sam Powell and Scot McKnight, in the posts cited above, point to the use of 'el in the Song of Solomon, verse 7:10, to derive the proper understanding of its use in Gen. 3:16. The ESV translates that verse as follows: "I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me" (my bold emphasis). No sense of "contrary to" there -- and yet it is love's desire that is being described in each case. So why does it have to be one sense for Eve, and another one for the Song of Solomon?

And moreover, why does it have to now be permanently so? (Actually, I note that although the changes have been incorporated into the online ESV version, they provide the alternative translation of "toward" in a footnote reference to verses 3:16 and 4:7.)

The move to make the change fixed forever in stone bespeaks a pride or even arrogance that does not become a "Translation Oversight Committee", no matter what is their underlying theology. Pastor Powell has added to his exegesis of Gen. 3:16 cited above some further remarks on the topic of men versus women and women versus men in this post, entitled "Headship is not Hierarchy." I commend it to your careful attention.

Husbands, love your wives. Wives, love your husbands.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Bishop Bruno -- the Hypocrite par excellence

This blog has on previous occasions taken to task the Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles for, as stated, speaking "with a forkèd tongue." Thus, those few Episcopalians who still bother to follow this blog written by a-no-longer-Episcopalian might be comforted to know that Bishop J. Jon Bruno continues in top form. And for this once, since the hypocrisy of Bishop Bruno on this occasion is so outlandish, I will forego my resolution to write no more about the apostate Episcopal Congregations of the United States of America, i.e., ECUSA -- yes, that rapidly disappearing group that has now endorsed collective blasphemy every time they celebrate a same-sex union.

As I previously reported, Bishop Bruno was the recipient of Title IV disciplinary charges filed against him by various Episcopalian members of St. James the Great, the choice parish in Newport Beach, California built upon donated property worth millions in today's real estate market. Prior to filing those charges, the same group had filed a civil action against Bishop Bruno in the Superior Court for Orange County. I discussed the background and the gravamen of the civil and canonical charges against +Bruno in this previous post.

Bishop Bruno rejected all efforts at mediation or conciliation under the Title IV disciplinary canons, and simply refused to recognize that he had violated any canons as to the remnant congregation of St. James the Great -- whom he eventually locked out of their church, and forced to hold open-air services in a nearby park. Meanwhile, his attempt to sell the property on which St. James was built met with a roadblock filed by the original donor of the property, who had imposed a condition that the property be used only for church, and not real estate development, purposes. (Unfortunately for the donor, California has a statute that eradicates any such limitation after a stated period of years, unless the donor files a renewal -- so the condition may turn out to be unenforceable, after all.)

Thus the fate of the civil proceedings is currently uncertain, although the original prospective buyer long ago withdrew its offer. The disciplinary proceedings under Title IV, however, are now headed (after time allowed for any discovery on both sides) for a hearing.

Comes now Bishop Bruno, he of the forkèd tongue, and for a response to the charges files a motion to dismiss the Title IV proceedings against him in their entirety. His reasons stated are twofold:

(1) The complainants violated the confidentiality provisions of Title IV by disclosing the substance of their charges, and of ECUSA's responses to them; and

(2) [Now get this] The complainants violated Canon IV.19.2 by resorting to a proceeding in the secular civil courts before filing their charges against +Bruno under Title IV.

Note that while +Bruno is technically correct that the earlier stages of the Title IV proceedings against him were confidential, the violation of that confidentiality by the Complainant (i.e., the members of St. James the Great) does not furnish canonical grounds for a dismissal of the charges. Under the Canon he cites (IV.13.9[a]), it is only misconduct "that the Hearing Panel deems to be disruptive, dilatory or otherwise contrary to the integrity of the proceedings" on the part of the Respondent (i.e., Bishop Bruno) or the Church Attorney that can provide grounds for the imposition of sanctions -- which, by the way, do not include the dismissal of all charges, as +Bruno requests.

And now that the proceedings have reached the Hearing stage, the Canons provide that all proceedings (except its private deliberations) "shall be open ... to persons from the public." (Canon IV.13.6.) So this blog is not violating any confidentiality of the proceedings by publishing Bishop Bruno's hypocrisy for all to see.

Hypocrisy? Why, certainly: as is typical of ECUSA's bishops in these matters, they ignore the language of the Canons, and proceed as though the Canons said what they want (for the moment, at least) them to say. (ECUSA's former Presiding Bishop made a career out of so misreading the Canons, and is mostly at fault for the current trampling of the Canons that has led to ECUSA's institutional blasphemy, and its disqualification to be considered any longer as a Christian church.)

Most notably, the other Canon cited by Bishop Bruno as grounds for dismissing the charges against him -- Canon IV.19.2 -- is so regularly ignored by ECUSA bishops in bringing civil lawsuits, that I have previously had occasion to write about their hypocrisy in ignoring it, in this post, for example -- where you may read just what it says.

Thus Bishop Bruno demonstrates a par for the course by invoking that Canon as grounds to dismiss the proceedings against him. For in doing so, he blithely and supremely ignores the fact that in suing the original congregation of St. James the Great for their property, and in eventually forcing them to go elsewhere, he himself violated that Canon. What is sauce for the goose ...

To state a tautology: hypocrisy, thy name is ECUSA -- or in this particular case, +Bruno.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bishop Barron on Morality, Character and Relationships

I've had such good feedback from the previous post with Fr. Robert Barron, a Roman Catholic bishop who publishes regular short video talks in a series he calls "Word on Fire", that I am posting another favorite of mine from that series. In this talk, Bishop Barron zeroes in on the relationship between morality and character, and illustrates beautifully the false dichotomy behind the Gnostic fallacy (that our mind may keep itself pure even if we corrupt our body):

For those whose browsers will not display the video above, here is the link to it on YouTube. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Catholic's View of Episcopal Feminist Theology

A bit tardy, perhaps -- but since she is still giving sermons, and will soon once again be teaching at a school of divinity (this time not as its head, but as the Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry),  some might find this worthy of watching. A Roman Catholic bishop takes note -- as so many others did at the time -- of the strange feminist twist given to Acts 16:16-34 by the former Presiding Bishop of ECUSA in a sermon at Curaçao, Venezuela, and uses her message to point up the limits of Christian tolerance:

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Thank You -- and a Little Advice -- to Faithful Christians

Thanks to all who commented so thoughtfully to the previous post -- you have encouraged me to continue blogging, even if not to focus any more on the decline of the Episcopal Congregations in the United States of America (this blog's new name for the group that calls itself ECUSA), their mostly  corrupt bishops, or their self-centered wrecking of the Anglican Communion. (And if that means that certain ECUSA-enablers will no longer come to test the limits of the comment policies here, then that will be one small gain for the rest of us.)

Instead of those desultory topics, this blog will redirect itself to issues facing Christians who still respect the faith once handed down to us by the saints: where and how to maintain traditional worship in a secular and increasingly divided (and hostile) society; what has happened to bring us to this point; and where things may go from here. That seems more than enough to take on for now -- although since I remain interested in the interfaces between theology and science, between politics and economics, and between law, legislation and good jurisprudence, the usual sprinkling of leavening will hopefully manage to keep your interest to some degree.

As an experiment in this new direction, I want to offer a few observations and comments on the current (and highly frenetic) political scene -- in particular, the lead-up to November 2016.

The first -- and perhaps most essential -- observation is this: It's not even Labor Day yet!

So take a deep breath, dip yourself in a fresh rivulet of faith, and come up to enjoy the cleanliness for at least another month or so. Not only did the current election campaign begin far too early some twenty-two months ago, but that means we are still suffering from a surfeit of mud. (Old saying of Confucius [intentionally not PC, for humor's sake]: "Man who sling mud lose ground.")

A lot can -- and will -- happen between now and November. What will happen in particular is very difficult to predict, but that something completely unexpected will happen is predictable.

Thus the current daily rush for headlines, Facebook and Twitter posts, and general bouncing around as the mainstream media wants you to, are wholly unnecessary. They won't change or influence what is going to happen, and neither can you or I. Indeed the media are on the horns of a dilemma themselves, so sit back and enjoy their self-made predicament while you still can.

I also find the ivory-tower speculations of academics in the law equally enjoyable to peruse at leisure. Even if they may not be your cup of tea, they show the lengths to which the human mind will go to rationalize anything. (And the phenomenon, of course, is not confined to academics -- even cartoonists are susceptible.)

If you find yourself too caught up in the too-awful, seemingly binary choice that the major parties have presented us with for this November, you might find these reflections by the always-readable Doug Wilson to be just what you need to jolt you out of your anxieties. For this election, as is the case with everything else that is going on just now, is indeed in God's hands. That much can be said with absolute conviction.

So pause, gather yourself, repent of any intemperate quarrels or outbursts provoked by what you read in the media, pray often, and take comfort in the faith you have been given by the grace of God. That is the best election advice I can offer to Christians right now.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Still an Anglican, but Barely

I have to wonder, in light of the recent stories highlighted below, whether it's still worth any reader's time to generate posts about the Anglican Communion.

First of all, the Episcopal Congregations in the United States of America (what used to call themselves ECUSA) are no longer a church, let alone a bona fide member of the Anglican Communion. In wrecking themselves, they have done their level best to drag the rest of the Communion down with them.

So I decline to cover any more news items about ECUSA. Apostasy is neither uplifting nor fulfilling. Writing about its continuing descent into irrelevance, and its internecine disputes over canons that no one respects or obeys anyway, is too dispiriting to your faithful Curmudgeon.

The Anglican Communion, thanks to ECUSA (and now the Anglican Church of Canada as well), is a train wreck in slow motion.

Following the farce that took place at Lusaka in the wake of the Primates' Meeting last January, the Archbishop of Canterbury promoted his former advisor on reconciliation to be his Chief of Staff and Strategy -- good luck with that, and to the woman who has succeeded him in an impossible role.

Meanwhile, the independent inquiry into a massive scandal and coverup of child sexual abuse in the Anglican churches of England and Wales is underway.

And the Archbishop of Canterbury has asked the Primates to reserve a week in October for another meeting, at which they will hear about the (non-) results of the sanctions they supposedly imposed on ECUSA.

Given the current course of the Churches of England, Scotland and Wales, it is beginning to look as though Pope Leo XIII was correct when he stated his view in Apostolicae Curae that Anglican orders were invalid. But they go on ordaining persons professing and practicing views contrary to Scripture all the same, as though "reconciliation" with Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy were no longer important.

In short, the definition of what is "Anglican" is by no means even a consensus any more. The Communion itself is broken and disjointed. For what is perhaps the best view of the matter I have come across, please read Fr. Van McCalister's observations in this post. I think he is correct in saying that we are wrong to try to understand Anglicanism through observation (still less imitation) of the Church of England. It never was meant to be that way, and should not be so now.

So the question is: what is left for this Curmudgeon to write about? What, over the past years, have you found rewarding here, and what not worth your time? I welcome your insights and reflections (be polite, please) in the comments.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

San Joaquin Appeal Rebuffed by California Supreme Court

I have held off writing about the case of the Episcopal Church (USA)'s lawsuit against the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin as it was going through its final stages in the California courts. Today I can do so no longer, because today the California Supreme Court slammed the door shut by denying review of the abysmally egregious decision by the Fifth District Court of Appeal that I wrote about in this post, and this one. Naturally, it wrote no opinion justifying its refusal to grant review, but just issued a one-sentence order. [UPDATE 07/18/2016: To read the legal arguments and details of why we believed the Supreme Court should review the decision by the Fifth District Court. click on this link to access and/or download a .pdf of the Reply Brief we filed, which summarizes the issues pretty well.]

The result is that the Episcopal Church (USA)'s Machiavellian strategy of organizing a minority group that pretends to be the only diocese in the region after one of its former dioceses votes (by an overwhelming majority of laity and clergy) to realign with a more orthodox denomination has succeeded in California, much the same as it did in Pittsburgh. (But not -- Deo gratias -- in Illinois (Quincy), or [yet] in Fort Worth or in South Carolina [whose highest court has yet to issue its decision, ten months after the oral argument].) So the lawyers for 815 Second Avenue managed to hoodwink the highest judges in both Pennsylvania and California, but not everywhere.

In Pennsylvania, the appellate decisions were unpublished, so no lasting precedent was (thankfully) created. But in California, the Court of Appeal decided to publish its decision, so it will now stand forever in the California Reports as a monument to the inability of secular judges to figure out even the most rudimentary aspects of church canon law and corporations sole. (Haven't I always said on this blog that St. Paul already warned Christians of such ignorance centuries ago?) Unfortunately, when ECUSA sues its fellow Christians, it is the one responsible for dragging the canons into the civil courts -- and violating its very own canon in so doing:
Sec. 2. No member of the Church, whether lay or ordained, may seek to have the Constitution and Canons of the Church interpreted by a secular court, or resort to a secular court to address a dispute arising under the Constitution and Canons, or for any purpose of delay, hindrance, review or otherwise affecting any proceeding under this Title.
As this blog has repeatedly and exhaustively shown, however, ECUSA's leaders and parishioners just don't care about such things. All they appear to care about, given their litigation strategy, is money and property.

Just as I am done with ECUSA, so I am done with judges in California. In their collective inability to apply neutral principles to religious entities, and in order to allow 815 to lord it over local parishes and dioceses, they have made mincemeat of the Statute of Frauds, have misread a key statute to favor just the Church, have ruled that the trust imposed on all parish properties by the Dennis Canon can be lifted only by General Convention (and not by any single bishop), and now have let stand a decision that makes hash of the concept of a corporation sole -- and that rewards parties who resort to self-help by filing fraudulent papers with the Secretary of State rather than seek the aid of the courts in the first instance. They are so incompetent in these matters that it does no good whatsoever to write about their rulings anymore. Moreover, ECUSA is welcome to live and operate here under the skewed doctrines it has so brought into being -- along with its blasphemous rites of same-sex unions, its unwavering support for abortion, and all its other manifold apostasies.

There will be those, I well know, who will just say that the Curmudgeon is giving vent to sour grapes. They are just the ones, however, who have not followed the eight years of church litigation -- and the constant fight for right decision-making -- to which this blog has been dedicated, as an unflinching witness to the unvarnished truth. There is absolutely no sense of feeling a victim here; only regret that some very fine people who relied upon their attorneys to do their level best have been let down in the final analysis by their elected judges. May ECUSA, its bishops, clergy and laity get everything they deserve.

Homine sit turpitudo, Deo sit gloria.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Uniquely American Conundrum

When it comes to evaluating prosecutorial discretion, count me out -- my career for 45 years has been in the civil law. (Although I was fortunate to learn criminal law from a new and then very young Professor Alan Dershowitz.)

So I am reluctant to enter the prosecutorial debate between FBI Director James Comey and a former colleague of his, Andrew McCarthy, over just what kind of charges each would recommend be brought (or, in Comey's case, not be brought) against former First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State -- and prospective Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton. There are strong arguments on both sides. That said, it might have been better for someone further up in the chain to make the decision -- such as a federal grand jury.

I do believe that Director Comey is being truthful when he swore that this was his (and his senior FBI investigators') decision alone, with absolutely no input from the Department of Justice or the White House. Had there been some dissent in the FBI's ranks from Comey's recommendation, there would have been some publicly announced resignations by now. And there has been none.

So Director Comey and his senior staff gave Attorney General Lynch and President Obama -- to say nothing of Hillary Clinton -- a huge gift, all wrapped up in the ostensible independence which they had promised to extend to him. But the FBI's decision, and the unseemly haste with which AG Lynch accepted it and closed down the investigation, still leaves unresolved a major conundrum.

A uniquely American conundrum.

The conundrum is just this:

1. Director Comey's press conference, which he self-organized to announce his decision, eviscerated Hillary Clinton's credibility (if indeed she had any shreds remaining). Just have a quick look at this expertly prepared video from the folks at Reason TV:

2. And as he admitted during his appearance before the House Government Oversight Committee this morning, any employee of his at the FBI who treated classified material the way that Hillary Clinton did through her unsecured private email server in her basement would face (among other sanctions) a loss of his or her security clearance. (Would you like to read the emails that went through Hillary's unsecured server? Just click here.)

3. Indeed, as the article just linked mentions, the State Department has now resumed its disciplinary inquiry into the handling of emails by Secretary Clinton and her staff (which was suspended to allow the FBI to complete its probe).

4. So as a former employee of the State Department who is still subject to its discipline, Hillary Clinton could lose her top-secret security clearance (along with her closest colleagues -- whom she might, if she is elected President, have liked to appoint to the National Security Agency, or similar jobs where top security clearance is a must).

Thus we come to the conundrum. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton could (and by all rights should) lose her security clearance. (President Obama, however, could order it reinstated.)

Indeed, due to the ultimate power of the office, if elected President of the United States and commander-in-chief, Hillary Clinton could through executive order reinstate her own revoked security clearance, as well as that of any of her colleagues whose clearances had also been revoked.

The irony -- and heart of the ultimate conundrum -- is thus this. Despite the fact that the President of the United States can by executive fiat bestow and restore security clearances, it is the voters of the United States who will decide who will be the next US President.

So by deciding whether or not to make her the next President, the voters will at the same time be resolving the conundrum of whether or not, in their judgment, Hillary Clinton is qualified to be entrusted with top-secret data and information.

In other words, the ultimate decision as to Hillary Clinton's future ability to work in a meaningful capacity for the government is exactly in the hands of those who should have it. May they exercise their judgment wisely.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Curmudgeonly Remarks as America Turns 240

The America of 2016 is as unlike the America that declared its independence from Britain in 1776 as Bernie Sanders is unlike Thomas Jefferson.

Just as Mr. Sanders has no clue to the importance of the freedoms which Jefferson and his compatriots proclaimed were the essence of this country's founding, so the majority of Americans today have no clue to what the Fourth of July is all about. My generation has failed abysmally to transmit to our successors an appreciation of those freedoms -- and of their inextricable intertwining with America's prosperity and exceptional character.

Benjamin Franklin, once asked by a woman what the founding fathers had given to America after the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia had adjourned in September 1787, replied succinctly: "A republic, madam -- if you can keep it."

We have not managed to keep the republic our fathers handed down to us.

Instead of a government of laws, we have a government of lawlessness -- at all levels.

Instead of a government led by citizens who instinctively put their country's interests first, we have a government led by those who cannot see past their own noses -- or their next election campaign.

Instead of an electorate driven by debates of the issues that matter, we have an electorate that is passionate only for bread and circuses, and who is less and less likely even to bother to vote.

Instead of supporting an economy that fosters a rising tide to lift all boats, Americans look only for short-term gain regardless of the cost to others -- especially if that gain comes in the form of "free" government benefits, or special-interest legislation drafted and paid for by professional lobbyists.

Instead of teaching our children how this country overcame oppression and hardship to become a land of unparalleled opportunity, we teach them sexual confusion, gender prolixity and the virtues of demanding open access to any bathroom they care to use.

Instead of having an independent press to keep politicians in check, we have reporters doing their utmost to stay one-sided while nonetheless protesting to be "unbiased."

Instead of honoring a tradition of speaking truth to power, we are increasingly a country where blatant lies are told to the ignorant, who happily swallow whatever they are told.

Instead of being a country of local communities that met in taverns, at holiday fairs and on front porches, we have become a country of special enclaves united only by their Facebook pages and chat rooms, where few deal face-to-face, and no one has to be accountable for what they say -- unless, God forbid, it should be seen by some as politically incorrect.

And as regards political correctness, we have degenerated from a nation of self-reliant individuals into a mewling cacophony of mostly imaginary victimhood.

Instead of being a Christian "beacon on a hill", we have devolved into an amorphous blob of multiculturalism and dull venality.

We are, in short, largely the opposite in 2016 of everything our forefathers fought for -- and for which they risked their lives and sacred honor -- in 1776.

Those values are no longer important, because few remember -- let alone honor -- them today, or can even describe what the Revolutionary War was about.

My prayer to God on this, our 240th birthday, is that we may recover our lost values, and live to be a Christian beacon to the world once again. And may God have mercy on us if we fail.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Don't Support the Media's Memes

The Orlando shooter was not insane, or a deranged madman: like all haters, he had to be carefully taught.

Indeed, he had visited the Pulse Club some dozen or so times beforehand, and had perhaps sought to hunt down victims by using gay dating apps. This, in short, was a man with malice aforethought. (See also this story, which suggests that much more about the planning of this act will come to light soon.)

The rifle he used was not an AR-15.

In fact, there is no such weapon as an "assault rifle." If you can't define it, you can't regulate it.

The shooter was not on any "watch list" or "no-fly list" when he bought his guns (though he had been on one earlier). Instead, he was employed with a major firm providing security services for the DHS and other government agencies.

This was not the "greatest single mass shooting in history on American soil." Think Wounded Knee. Think Tulsa in 1921. Or even the Mystic Massacre in 1637.  All were directed against groups who were the objects of prejudice and hatred. Most of the deaths were by gunshot, and all of the dead, including many women and children, were unarmed and mostly defenseless.

Indeed, our history of massacres against American natives alone is shameful to catalog. Google's page for that category lists 51 separate links to individual accounts.

For Planned Parenthood to state that the Orlando shooting was the result of "toxic masculinity" and "imperialist homophobia" is like Kermit Gosnell saying that he performed live-birth abortions because "as a physician, I am very concerned about the sanctity of life."

In this day and age, words are cheap. Pay attention to who is saying them.

Crazy times beget crazy people. Don't aid or abet them by spreading their memes.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

On Faith -- and the Dark Side (a Repost)

[Blogging lately has taken a back seat to other pressing matters. This post from 2012, however, still resonates with me, and if anything is even more topical now than when I first wrote it. Ponder the truths in it as you witness the ongoing disintegration around us.]

Something is going on all around us, and we need a name for it if we are to be able to deal with it.

Sorry for the paranoid-like opening, but this is serious -- deadly serious.

People are lost to the faith all the time, I know -- it is nothing new. So it's not just that the people I am talking about are either losing their faith, or are turned off by professions of faith, or whatever.

It is that one can see their minds going, going, going... until they are gone. Gone, to the dark side.

To the side where "reality" is nothing objective any more, where "reality" is simply whatever they choose subjectively to make of it.

Here -- let me try to give an example. This is a description of the world he inhabits by a young man who also happens, more than once, to have been inside a church. He begins forthrightly enough:
Can I be honest? 
I find the church exhausting. At times infuriating. 
I’ve spent the last decade working for a few different local congregations—from conservative Baptist to non-denominational to mainline Protestant—and to be honest, regardless of their theological/ideological/political nuances, they have all generally caused within me the same feeling: endless frustration. 
Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Church. I believe it to be the single most potent and powerful possibility for the transformation of the world (and by “transformation of the world” I mean the actual restoration of the various ills and suffering and ecological devastation we experience and cause one another and the creatures around us…not the whole “getting people to think and vote just like me” agenda it’s been turned into). It’s why I continue to participate in it, why I continue to identify myself as “one of them.” 
But there are times—more often than not—that it drives me absolutely crazy.
So far, so good. The writer has not expressed any frustration which all of us have not experienced from time to time. And his vision of "restoration of the various ills and suffering and ecological devastation we experience" is appropriately fired-up with youthful enthusiasm for going about the business of change.

But change to what? "Restoration," after all, is a Rousseau-inspired myth. There is no going back to a "better" time. But let us listen on. In the passage that follows I have bolded some of the language -- not for emphasis, but to flag it as the first of many clues:
I’m in my early 30’s. I was born at the tail end of Generation X. I grew up with corporate downsizing and political scandals, and am therefore generally skeptical of people in positions of power. I was a latchkey kid, so being independent is pretty much second nature (although, inwardly, all I want is to connect with others). I spent a good chunk of my childhood in a single parent household, so the whole ‘nuclear family’ thing is actually bit of a foreign experience/concept for me. I have seen technology advance exponentially throughout my lifetime and was young enough when the trend began to have been able to ride that wave fairly comfortably and competently.
All right, the stage is now set. We have introduced the protagonist of the struggle, and have highlighted the clues for what will follow, and will almost surely stupefy and sadden you. Prepare yourself:
I exist in a world of diversity and globalization, of extreme expression and sharing (a la social networking). I engage a society and culture that connects virtually, that speaks more with sounds and images and “Likes” than it does words, and where the words themselves are becoming symbols and codes for other words through an almost tribal form of emotive texting. I am comfortable with (and actually excited by) the mashing up of ideas and concepts and sources into a cacophony of stories and thoughts and experiences (notice my almost obscene use of hyphens?) in which there isn’t any one right answer or message save for the one that YOU take away from the whole thing. I am deeply postmodern. This is the world I live in. This is my experience of existence.
This time, instead of bolding, allow me to extract from that passage the parts of it that evidence the phenomenon I am trying to describe:
I exist in a world ... of social networking. I engage a society and culture that connects virtually, that speaks more with sounds and images and “Likes” ... through an almost tribal form of emotive texting. I am ... excited by the mashing up of ideas and concepts and sources into a cacophony ... in which there isn’t any one right answer ... save for the one that YOU take away from the whole thing. ... This is the world I live in. This is my ... existence.
Now can you begin to see what I am talking about?

This is a young man who grew up with no experience of family, and who expresses a burning desire to be connected with others. But to him who grew up in this world of atheistic, arrogant technology, that connection can be achieved only remotely, by means of that technology, through "networking" over the Internet. (There are over 900 million people on Facebook. That is 15 percent of the global population. But people are feeling lonelier, and more isolated, than ever. That is the "Internet paradox.")

And so what kind of reality turns him off?

Precisely. The reality which he encounters in a church:
... This is the world I live in. This is my experience of existence.  
Except at church.  
At church I step back into a veritable time warp…and I’m not talking about a “This is so old/ancient it’s cool!” sort of scene, but more of a “Why does this place smell like my grandma’s living room? Seriously, it smells JUST LIKE her house” sort of vibe.  
I am officially at a loss for words when it comes to the insistence of so many churches to try and preserve within their walls a snapshot of a certain cultural point in time…while at the same time bemoaning the fact that there aren’t any young people around, and secretly dreading whether or not their congregation will even exist 50 years from now (which I have found many mainline Protestant churches to be doing).... 
His principal beef with churches is that they "try [to] preserve within their walls a snapshot of a certain cultural point in time ...". Yes, young man, that is precisely what churches try to do, what churches are obligated to do. It is called "keeping the faith once for all entrusted to the saints."

That faith, by definition, does not vary with time. It is true that the manner in which it can be expressed may vary with cultures and languages over time, but the faith "once for all entrusted" does not change -- it is eternal, and hence unchanging.

Your problem, my son, is that you have never been given the equipment to hear it, let alone to appreciate it for what it is. For all of your technological savvy and skills are bent to a single purpose -- to making your own virtual reality out of the "cacophony of ideas and concepts and sources" with which you surround yourself, of your own free will.

You rely on no higher judgment than your own in this impossible task. And so, not surprisingly, what you are able to take away contains no clue, no grasp whatsoever, of anything that could be such as to never change -- to be eternal. And why are you unable to do so? Indeed, you yourself supply the answer:
Because there are a couple things young people simply won’t tolerate. They will not put up with what they deem to be a lack of community and/or authenticity, and they will not abide anything that appears to simply be going through the motions or the semblance of just being part of some spiritual/religious club. They aren’t interested in towing [sic] the party line that has no bearing on their social and cultural experiences. And–most terrifying to previous generations–they aren’t threatened by threats of “It has to be this way or nothing at all.” 
Because this is a generation of self-starters and micro-entrepreneurship. They have no problem whatsoever starting up their own things. And they have been. And they are. And they will continue to do so. 
"Starting up their own things." In other words, rejecting the things which their elders try to hand down to them. And thus we have the problem -- the problem for which I am trying to find words. In its essence, it is this: how can we hand down to such a young person the faith that has been handed down through the centuries to us? And if we cannot, what will happen to that faith? Listen to our young man a bit more:
And they’re not coming back to darken the doors of the places that insisted it had to be done THIS way and THAT way or it couldn’t be done at all. Churches have been reduced to elementary school playgrounds with the endless bickering and threats made by this faction or that one taking their proverbial ball and going home. And those playgrounds are getting noticeably more empty.
Some of this, of course, rings true. It is true that some churches break down arguing over things of no consequence. And I am sorry if your own experience included -- or includes -- such a church.

I daresay, however, that most of the breakdowns which you could witness today are not over inconsequential matters. They are over the fundamentals -- such as the authority and interpretation of Scripture.

But that is just the kind of dispute which you could not recognize as such, young man. For to you, who decides what your own reality is, all such disputes appear trivial, because for you, nothing in particular is consequential. All is ephemeral -- here today, perhaps gone (or different, at least) tomorrow. Best not to place much reliance upon it, and certainly not worth arguing over. Live and let live, isn't that the idea?

There is more where the quotes came from -- indeed, I have excerpted from what is only the first of a promised two parts. But I have read enough to know already that we have probably lost you, young man -- lost you to the dark side, where they let you make up your own reality to your heart's content. And there are plenty of "churches" who will welcome you into their folds, while claiming to give you all the room you need. Indeed, they see their sole remaining role in society as providing you with all the reinforcement you require to remain as isolated and alienated from "the old stuff" as you wish.

It is too bad that no one who knows and rejoices in "the faith once for all entrusted" will be able to reach out to you, young man. Indeed, I am at a loss to envision how that could happen.

Unless -- unless -- well, perhaps it is worth a try, should this post ever make its way into your hands.

Should that happen, young man, please remain open to a possibly new experience of something that is very, very old. For I am going to take you far back in time -- to an age when the churches were musty, and smelled of wax and incense, and mould and dung and who knows what else. I hope that the words I am about to quote will do the feat all by themselves.

For they are old words, from the middle of the sixteenth century. Some of them may look strange to you, because the spelling differed back then, but that very spelling is part of the experience I want to try to share with you.

Picture yourself as a medieval knight, in England, in 1550. Normally you would be in armor, but for this occasion -- the wedding ceremony in the manor church of your lord and master, as he marries another lord's daughter -- you have doffed it, and are instead in full formal livery. You are right up there in front as the priest begins to intone the words of the ceremony ... [close your eyes for a moment, and use your twenty-first century technical skills to put yourself into the picture] ...  

Ready? Begin:

DEERELY beloved frendes, we are gathered together here in the syght of God, and in the face of his congregacion, to joyne together this man and this woman in holy matrimonie, which is an honorable estate instituted of God in paradise, in the time of mannes innocencie, signifying unto us the misticall union that is betwixte Christe and his Churche: whiche holy estate, Christe adorned and beutified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galile, and is commended of Sainct Paule to be honourable emong all men; and therefore is not to bee enterprised, nor taken in hande unadvisedlye, lightelye, or wantonly, to satisfie mens carnal lustes and appetites, like brute beastes that have no understanding: but reverentely, discretely, advisedly, soberly, and in the feare of God. Duely consideryng the causes for the whiche matrimonie was ordeined. One cause was the procreaciion of children, to be brought up in the feare and nurture of the Lord, and prayse of God. Secondly it was ordeined for a remedie agaynst sinne, and to avoide fornicacion, that suche persones as bee maried, might live chastlie in matrimonie, and kepe themselves undefiled membres of Christes bodye. Thirdelye for the mutuall societie, helpe, and coumfort, that the one oughte to have of thother, both in prosperitie and adversitie. Into the whiche holy estate these two persones present: come nowe to be joyned. Therefore if any man can shewe any juste cause why they maie not lawfully be joyned so together: Leat him now speake, or els hereafter for ever hold his peace. 
And also speakyng to the persones that shalbe maried, he shall saie. 
REQUIRE and charge you (as you will aunswere at the dreade full daye of judgemente, when the secretes of all hartes shalbee disclosed) that if either of you doe knowe any impedimente, why ye maie not bee lawfully joyned together in matrimonie, that ye confesse it. For be ye wel assured, that so manye as bee coupled together otherwaies then Goddes woord doeth allowe: are not joyned of God, neither is their matrimonie lawful.

Can you even begin to grasp the kind of minds who would receive this speech as perfectly ordinary, understandable, and normal, young man? For in their world, they did not decide their own reality. No, their reality was God-given: it came from outside themselves, they were born into it, and they lived their entire lives inside its sheltering folds.

For them, God made their world, and that was the end of it. They stood in fear and awe of it, even as they exercised man's dominion over it. (And so there were lords, knights, serfs and peasants -- yes, I know. But God knew, as well, and God settles all accounts on the day of judgment. Thus, it is not for you to criticize, or to fret over, or to use as reason to abandon the faith.)

Ponder those words of ceremony, and savor them. They are soundly based in Scripture -- in the "faith once for all entrusted to the saints." As such, they are part of your heritage -- receive it or not.

May they bring you back from the dark side -- that is my fervent prayer.