Monday, May 30, 2005

More on the Jerusalem Patriarch

TIME Europe magazine has a long article about the controversy over the Jerusalem Patriarch (or former patriarch) Irineos. It collects information about the patriarch's background and the financial issues at stake.

Last week a pan-Orthodox synod meeting in Istanbul voted to give Irineos the heave-ho, but Irineos left the assembly and doesn't acknowledge their authority.

One of the participants, Metropolitan Kesarious Asilios of Jerusalem -- a member of the hierarchy of the Jerusalem Patriarchage -- reported that the patriarch "has been dismissed by all Orthodox churches."

Not quite true: Only 12 churches participated, and of them the Patriarch of George voted in favor of Irineos and Antioch and Poland abstained.

Georgia argues that the process was wrong:
“Issues like this should not be discussed as it was done at this meeting of synod, it contradicted traditions,” Zurab Tskhovrebadze, the spokesman for the Georgian Orthodox Church told Civil Georgia on May 25.
I honestly don't know what to make of this, but it fascinates me -- I think because of all the unspoken motives. It's like watching a Noh drama -- an elaborate dance of a drama with enormous stakes, even beyond the apparent, with a cast of mask-wearing characters whose history would explain who and what they are, but their history is unknown, and throughout it all, comprehension hangs out of reach like a tempting fruit.

Students for sanity

A column in the University of Oregon newspaper, provocatively titled "10 reasons not to kill Bush" proves that not all of the Left have lost their minds:
In all seriousness, I don't hate President Bush. I dislike a lot of his administration's choices, but I think he's a good man doing a difficult job. As a leader, you're always going to be hated. I am too often shocked by the vitriolic repulsion many people feel for our leader and America in general, especially because the loathing is often poorly informed. I've met people on this campus who see America as the worst human rights abuser in the world (unlike the angelic paradise of Cambodia) and people who sway liberal not because they actually know anything about issues but because it's popular.

Liberalism has to be more than a college fad or a collection of loudmouths whose idiotic comments stir headlines. The rabid dislike some people feel for a man they've never even met makes me ashamed to be a Democrat.

I've heard middle-aged adults who understand American politics say they wished the grenade had exploded. I don't believe they were threatening (or I'd have called the FBI), but that exhibit of bitterness makes me distrust their character. They show themselves less mature than this college student.

This writer, Jennifer McBride, could teach a lot of people how to argue more effectively and keep the door open for future persuasion even with people whose policies she opposes.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Notes from Ashland


Revisionist historians say that the reputation of Richard III was written by his enemies, and Shakespeare's tragic character study begins with the received history of a conscienceless murderer whose death leaves everyone better off.

Given all that, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's addition of the chorus of grieving women gives us a deeper glimpse not at Shakespeare nor his time nor even Richard III but of a refusal to distinguish between violence and force that is possibly unique to our time.

The OSF production opens with four veiled women singing, "I had an Edward [Henry, Richard, etc.], but a Richard killed him," to a minor-key melody with a deep bass beat like the clanging of a tower door or the pounding of a cannon.

It serves as an introduction to the story for modern audiences for whom the War of the Roses looks like an unintelligible conflict between British Hatfields and McCoys with very little, in the grand scheme of things, at stake. So when Richard comes out in Shakespeare's opening scene with his "winter of our discontent" speech, we see him as bent by history and prejudice into a bitter, spiteful, dissembling, alienated nobleman, very much in character with the story of Richard III written by his enemies and raised into something terrible and universal by Shakespeare.

And James Newcomb as Richard is chillingly sociopathic, bent and spiderlike, filling every corner of the stage with a wiry athleticism and every corner of the play with his character. This production is worth seeing if only for Newcomb's performance.

But I'm blogging about the chorus of lamenting women.

Shakespeare ended the play with a speech by Richmond, who has come to the rescue and ended the reign of Richard III by fighting him to the death. Richmond is like Fortinbras in Hamlet--the one who brings order into a situation that has devolved into chaos. Richmond's speech contrasts with Richard's--where Richard vowed at the beginning to use his influence to sow discord and murder, Richmond vows to heal the wounds of war by uniting the warring families. The two speeches bracket the action of the play. So Shakespeare.

But the OSF production brackets the brackets. Opening with the shrouded lamenting women, it closes with the four women of the play--Elizabeth, Margaret (played as a mad woman, a shrieking ghost), the Duchess of York and Lady Anne, all of whom have been bereft and betrayed by Richard, all of whom have driven if not controlled the action by their vengeful curses. They repeat the earlier chorus: "I had an Edward [Clarence, Richard], but a Richard killed him," and end with, "I had a Richard, but a Richmond killed him."

The implication is that all killings are the same and that the women lament just as fiercely for Richard as for the men and children he killed. Whatever point the play thus makes about love, death and the equivalence of mourning is not Shakespeare's point.

It's still a powerful production. Drama is always a collaboration between playwright (dead, elsewhere or backstage) and the present cast and crew. And when the women turned to Richmond and chanted, "But a Richmond killed him," it sent a chill up my spine as it was intended to.

But--it wasn't until I looked at a script that I saw that it wasn't Shakespeare's chill--and the overlayer of meaning had taken Shakespeare's view of the ending and turned it inside out.

I don't say it shouldn't have been done that way; I only say that it's important to note which message is whose.

UPDATE: Thomas has an thoughtful rant on this.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Off to Ashland

I'll be away from home until Sunday with uncertain Internet access. When I get back, I'll have a report (of some kind) ion the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Stem-cell confusion

Newsweek reports that "according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 63 percent of voters support stem-cell research, including 58 percent of Roman Catholics. A recent Gallup poll showed that 53 percent want to see either no restrictions or fewer restrictions on government funding of stem-cell research."

The problem is that the poll -- as well as a lot of pols -- lumps people who support embryonic stem cell research with those who support adult stem cell research, without making any distinction for either the moral issues or the medical efficacy of the techniques. By extension, they say that anyone who has a problem with harvesting the organs of a unique human being for the convenience of someone else doesn't care if a given Parkinson's patient dies.

As a matter of fact, there no ethical problem with adult stem cells -- no one (no matter how small) has to die to give a cell from hair or fat or skin that can be tweaked in some almost magical way to reconstitute itself as a different form of cell.

Ironically, the only stem cell therapy that has shown any promise is adult stem cell therapy. Embryonic stem cell therapy has brought problems with tissue rejection and tumors and no examples of success.

Which raises the question: Why are some people so committed to embryonic stem cell research that they will promote it as if it's superior to adult stem cells and as if the moral issues are trivial?

The Wall Street Journal apparently doesn't have any deep-seated respect for the embryos that are destroyed by the process, but at least it has a modicum of respect for the people who do -- and for the truth of what works and what doesn't.

Props to Pres. Bush for being willing to use his first veto on government funding of embryonic stem cells.

UPDATE: Raymond J. Keating gives a more thorough explanation of the moral and polictical issues at Orthodoxy Today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

More Republican bashing

I know a man, a Democrat to the core, who says that one bad Democrat is worth more than ten good Republicans. Today I agree with him (he would call John McCain a good Republican). Toss in Voinovich and you can have eight "good" (read that, spaghetti-spined, mush-mouthed, roll-over-and-screech) Republicans for any Democrat you can name.

The chickens made a deal with the foxes that the chickens won't lock the door of the hen house, if the foxes will eat the hens only under the direst emergency. I don't blame the foxes -- it's their nature to bargain in bad faith; I do blame the chickens. But maybe that's not fair. They're only brainless, flightless birds, bred to be the eternal victims of the barnyard.

UPDATE: James Taranto is more sanguine about the deal than I am.. I hope to be proven wrong.

Remember these names

These are the "Republican" senators who sold out the party and the Constitution for -- what? -- a good writeup in the New York Times?
Seven Republicans abandon GOP on filibuster
  • Mike DeWine, Ohio
  • Susan Collins, Maine
  • Lindsey Graham, South Carolina
  • Lincoln Chaffee, Rhode Island
  • John McCain, Arizona
  • John Warner, Virginia
  • Olympia Snowe, Maine.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Did anyone check around Crawford, Texas?

The Russians are onto us low-down lake-thieving Americans.

American lake-jackers struck again, leaving the Russian village of Bolotnikovo high and dry.

Martin Cruz Smith's Soviet detective, Arkady Renko, has been brought in as an expert investigator. He speculates (I refrained from saying "specu-lakes") that the lake may have been sent to Texas or Arizona. On the other hand, Area 51, Nevada, may have the necessary technology, and Minnesota might be a better place to hide it.

If Renko can't find it, Paul Volcker will be on the case, as soon as he locates the sinkhole in Turtle Bay.

And this is a problem because?

Parks' Sex Offenders Stance Draws Concern: "CHICAGO -- Bob Levan bought season passes to Six Flags Great America for his daughters and their best friend, but he is worried he won't be able to ride the roller coasters with them because he is a convicted sex offender."

Best quote:
"My 13-year-old girl read this on the back of the pass and said, 'Now Daddy, does this mean you can never take me to Great America?'" he said. "I am 350 percent for protecting children, and that just bugs me."

He was convicted of molesting an 8-year-old when he was 16, spent time in jail, got mental health treatment, and is apparently open about his past with his daughter. So far so good. But if he needs help with an answer for his daughter, here's one suggestion:
"Yes, dear. The actions you take even as a teen-ager, even now, can affect your whole life. I don't get to go to Great America. The child I molested is now 27 and is also still dealing with the fall-out of my behavior."

Not a bad lesson for a lot of 13-year-olds.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

It's starting

Senate Judicial Showdown Begins to Unfold With Debate Over Nominees - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, May 18 - The long-awaited confrontation over judicial nominees began to unfold today, as Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, opened debate on the Senate floor on the nomination of Priscilla R. Owen, a Texas Supreme Court justice. The move will set in motion a battle over rules that have enabled Democrats to block Justice Owen and six other nominees from confirmation votes."

And 25 years to the day after the 1980 Mount St. Helens blast.

Cosmic.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Haaretz weighs in on the 'Palestinianization' of the Jerusalem Patriarchate

I heard an American make reference today to the fact that the Church of Jerusalem has kicked out its Greek patriarch -- a patriarch installed by the meddling (not the speaker's word, but the gist) of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople. Well, that's one way of looking at it.

A columnist in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has referred to the ouster as the "Palestinianization of the church."
Irineos did what was done by his predecessors - Deodorus, Benedictus and Timotheus. The Greek Orthodox Church, the largest and richest of the Christian churches in our region, owning properties valued in the tens of millions of dollars, has leased and sold quite a bit of property to Israelis since 1948. Among those properties are valuable real estate like Saint Simon in Jerusalem, a large part of the Katamonim, Liberty Bell Park and the apartment houses and hotels around it, parts of Mishkenot Yamin Moshe, land in Caesarea, land around St. George's Church in Lod, land in Nazareth, Haifa and along the banks of the Kinneret. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis live on these properties, which were leased for 99 years.

That is why the PLO, ever since it was established, has regarded the intimate relationship between Israel and the heads of the Greek Orthodox Church as a target for disruption. And since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority a decade ago, the PA has made efforts to penetrate the ranks of the church in order to prevent the transfer of property to Israeli hands.

The writer, a reserve colonel who studies Palestinian society, says that the ouster of Patriarch Irineos is the result of an effort by the Palestinian Authority to unify Palestinians -- Christian and non-Christian -- on the basis of nationalism in an effort to evict the Jews (in this case, literally) from the Land of Israel.

His comments accord with the public statements of Atalla Hanna, who seems to be working the crowds to get himself installed as patriarch.

The Patriarch of Constantinople has shown himself capable of playing hardball to maintain congregations outside the strictures of his Turkish capital even in the United States, and as a general principle, the bishop should be of the people.

As a general principle, also, though, the bishop should be opposed to sending youngsters to blow up themselves and people having a peaceful dinner in a restaurant.

This post is also available at Blogger News Network.

Because it's important to know

I don't know what should be done about North Korea, but the first step is knowing the truth.

The San Diego Union-Tribune has published a piece by a South Korean pro-democracy activist. I've heard bits and hints of this over the past couple of years, but this gathers many of the horrific details in one place. Here's a sample, but read the whole thing:
The sadistic regime led by Kim Jong Il has developed and maintained all kinds of extreme terror machines in order to cruelly suppress any dissident opposition. They range from gulags and the forced abortion of babies of prisoners to public firing squads and execution by burning, though the latter is rare. During the extreme famine of the late 1990s when about 3 million people starved to death in North Korea, public executions were staged nearly every month in every town in order to prevent spontaneous uprisings by the local population, according to Jang Yeop Hwang, the former secretary of North Korea's ruling North Korea Workers' Party. On many occasions, some of the victim's family members came out before the executions and declared: "Though you are my son, you are a traitor and a puppet of imperialists. You therefore deserve your death."

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Sometimes it's hard to gauge --

What effect you might be having on the world.

Maybe someone besides us has been following a discussion in the comments with Thomas, who protested that I wasn't fair to Catholics for Faithful Citizenship when I excoriated the group about some of the language in its press releases.

I said that the group was behaving hypocritically, and he said I was a hack, and I asked if he was affiliated with CFFC, and he said no.

But it was hard to understand why he took everything so personally, why he was so concerned about what I said on this little blog, in one post, rapidly lost in the ongoing flow of words in the blogosphere, if he didn't have any stake in the group I had criticized.

He came back yesterday asking what I thought of the group's most recent press release: "Senator Voinovich -- A Profile in Courage."

I didn't agree with the content and told him so, but -- CFFC didn't call anybody any names, didn't say anyone had sold his soul or was stifling debate, and so although I disagreed with the point of the press release, I said it was fine. I said, "Good on them."

Thomas came back with an outrage that smacks of hurt feelings: "Well?!?!?!?! Come on! Give them some kudos! You slammed them before and now? ha!"

I gave them one kudo, which was all I had lying around.

But -- Thomas came from a stat counter for the CFFC website, a password-protected stat counter. So he is affiliated with the organization in some way, but for some reason he declined to own up to it when I asked him.

And now I wonder -- did he ask my approval on that press release because it mattered to him, after all was said and done, what I thought of it? Did my criticism of the headlines on the press releases have some effect, despite his belief that I am a hack for the right? If I had known it made a difference -- and I'm not presuming that it did, mind you -- I'd have certainly dug out and dusted off at least another kudo.

The point of this rambling -- and there is a point, though it squiggles around like mercury -- is that it makes such a difference in an argument if one thinks the other despises him, if one doesn't understand the other's investment in the outcome.

So to Thomas, if he ever wanders back to this space, I apologize for not being more conscious of his personhood. I'm not sure what I would do differently. I still believe the arguments I put forward, right-wing hackery or no, but I should have remembered that anyone may be sensitive to criticism and open to change.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Fr. John, meet Paddy O'Brien

Father John Whiteford in Texas talks about the meltdown of the welfare system in Texas. Doing twice the work with half the people with inadequate tools -- decline of morale, recriminations between the welfare system and the legislators, loss of services for the needy, misery for the employees.

I wish I could introduce him to my friend Paddy O'Brien, who actually waxes enthusiastic about management organization, who cut the processing time for food stamps in the Portland Metro Processing Center from 30 days to 24 hours just by rearranging the work flow. She has started giving seminars all over the country, talking about the difference between batch processing and one-piece processing.

Maybe the Texas Legislature could bring her in to look over the welfare department's processes. Surely no one could lose if the workflow was streamlined so that more got done in less time with less stress.

Anyway, I e-mailed the link to Father John's blog post to Paddy.

Sometimes I really would just like to buy the world a Coke.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Fair to whom?

Members of the Legislature are trying to push through a bill that would give in-state college tuition to people who entered the country without bothering the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

It's all about fairness, says the Eugene Register-Guard, and it characterizes opponents as "anti-immigrant activists."

"Fairness" in that a composite kid came from Mexico at age 3, went to public schools, earned a 3.6 GPA and now has to go to work instead of going to college paying in-state tuition.

Two things, there. First, you don't have to opposed to immigration -- or immigrants -- to say that the states and the United States may need to exercise some control over how many people move into the country all at one time.

Second, "fairness" is an interesting word to bring up in reference to someone whose parents jumped to the head of the line, got their kid in public school, as well as very likely public health care and other government services, and then want her to attend the university at the same price as people who came here legally, when, in the meantime, hamstrung by taxes, another kid, who came here legally or was born here, is starting out in community college, working while going to school, taking progressively better jobs, sometimes with companies that pay for education.

The Register Guard says the cost would be relatively small, based on advocates' estimates of how many illegal immigrant high-school seniors they know about (never mind that when word gets out, more illegal immigrants will move their families to Oregon). Well, let those people take up a collection if they wish -- a voluntary collection. The legislature is trying to find money to flush through the schools, money for cradle-to-grave public health care, money to pay for the housing for old folks, money to pay for the housing for low-income folks, money to improve the highways, money to . . . .

I suppose now I have to say I'm not anti-immigrant. That so many people are willing to come thousands of miles to do stoop labor in Oregon fields is a testimony to their endurance, fortitude, sacrifice for their families' future -- and what a crappy life is offered them south of the border.

I'm also not anti-immigration. I'm in favor of mongrelization in all its forms -- genetic, social, cultural. But -- the Leftists think we're a bottomless money well.

The Register-Guard has illustrated Jonah Goldberg's recent observation:
Listen to Democratic politicians when they wax righteous about social policy. Invariably it goes something like this: “I simply reject the notion that in a good society X should have to come at the expense of Y.” X can be security and Y can be civil liberties. Or X can be food safety and Y can be the cost to the pocketbook of poor people. Whatever X and Y are, the underlying premise is that in a healthy society we do not have tradeoffs between good things. In healthy societies all good things join hands and walk up the hillside singing I’d like to buy the world a coke.


This post is also available at Blogger News Network.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Palestinian Christians lobby for jihad promoter to be next patriarch

Some people want this man to be the next patriarch of Jerusalem.

The English in the Palestinian News Service article, although infinitely better than my Arabic, raises as many questions as it answers, but it says that Israeli police raided a church "to protect ousted patriarch's accomplice."

The plot thickens.

According to this source, Father Gabriel Naddaf, loyal to the patriarch, went to visit a church in Galilee, and the people tried to throw him out. He called the Israeli police saying that he was going to be assaulted.

There's more detail here about the mechanism the Palestinians used to oust the patriarch:
Irineos was dismissed of his position as Greek Orthodox Patriarch last Thursday, by a unanimous decision of the Holy Synod. A committee of three priests was assigned in his place to supervise the church's affairs until a new Patriarch was elected, said Archimandrite Atallah Hanna, the spokesman for Greek Orthodox Church in the Holy Land, said on Friday.
The article also says that Patriarch Irineos fled under the protection of Israeli forces and that laymen in Galilee are lobbying to get Hanna installed as patriarch.

Next question: Who's Father Gabriel Naddaf? Google popped up a 2002 article detailing the rocky relationship between Atalla Hanna (or Hanna Atalla?) and Father Naddaf. When Patriarch Irineos reprimanded Hanna for his support for suicide bombers, he put Naddaf in his place. Naddaf said that Hanna took advantage of the illness of Diodoros, the prior patriarch, to become spokesman for the patriarchate. A great detail here is that at the time of the article, Hanna and Atalla were sharing an office (and you thought your office politics were dangerous).

Hanna insists that he never really said that about suicide bombers, that he has always supporter peaceful resistance. A search for his name on the Middle East Media Research Institute brings up a series of speeches in 2002-03 that Hanna made and later denied.

In a Theophany sermon at the Greek cathedral in Jerusalem, Hanna said:
"We do not believe in so-called 'peace with Israel' because peace cannot be made with Satan. Israel is the greatest Satan. No concession and no truce must be made [with Israel]. Any type of peace with this entity is concession, submission, and retreat from pan-Arab and national principles… The negotiations and the other attempts [at an arrangement] will not restore the Palestinians' rights to them. The Palestinians' rights will be restored only by resistance. What was taken by force will be restored only by force…"

"Resistance is the obligation of every Palestinian Christian Arab, as it is the obligation of every Palestinian Muslim Arab."

"We encourage our youth to participate in the resistance, to carry out martyrdom attacks, and to participate in removing the occupation. There is a need for resistance to the occupation, and for Islamic-Christian cooperation, so that we will remove the foreign Zionist Jewish intruders and so that the gates of Palestine will open wide and all those who were uprooted or emigrated in 1967 and 1948 will return…"
At protest of the lead-up to the U.S. war in Iraq at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in 2003, he said:
"We declare publicly our blessing, support, and legitimization of the brave Palestinian resistance [carried out] by any means, including the brave Fidaiyin[4] martyrdom operations… The names of the Fidaiyi Shahids [the martyrs] will be inscribed in the history of our Palestinian and Arab people in holy white letters. The voices of those who defame these acts of heroism and honor are nothing more than anomalous voices that do not represent Arab and Palestinian public opinion…"

"The Fidaiyin martyrdom operations aimed deep inside Israel are unique pioneer operations that deter the Zionist enemy. They have caused great damage to this enemy, which understands nothing but the language of force and thinks that only force will bring peace. We say to the enemy: 'Leave our land, our Jerusalem, and our holy places. This is Arab Palestinian land, that has no connection whatsoever to the Jews and the Zionists'…"
Just to be sure you know what he means by "Fidaiyin," he told Hamas' news agency:
"The Fidaiyin are the heroes of this nation. We are proud of them and resolutely refuse any attempt to defame their deeds… They are not committing suicide, as some claim, and they are not terrorists, as others claim – they are resisting the occupation. We unreservedly support the martyrdom operations." Hanna also called on "Palestinian Arab Christians to participate in resisting the occupation in all forms, since they are part of the Palestinian people and of this nation."
A lot of Arab militants, jihadists and murderers use the West's ignorance of the Arabic language to say one thing in Arabic and something entirely else in English. MEMRI translates the Arabic.

And I thought Bishop Saruman was scary.

This post is also available at Blogger News Network.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The fall of Miss Of Arc

I hope I don't have to have watched an episode of the television show Joan of Arc to say that the New York Times DVD critic Kate Aurthur doesn't seem to get it.

I don't mean she doesn't get the show. As I said, I haven't watched it and just can't seem to get around to watching TV series (except my one vice, Stargate SG1, which I constantly record and watch at my leisure).

But the conclusion Aurthur draws from the show's loss of viewers is just weird.

Apparently, we were happier in 2002, with our "post-9/11 prayer services rather than heated debates over 'The Passion of the Christ.'" Barbara Hall, the show's creator, explained that the show debuted "before we lived in a theocracy," when "God wasn't quite as controversial . . . as he is now."

Somebody stop my head spinning, please. Secularists (among others) go into an unholy snit about a religious movie, and it's "the theocrats" who have made God controversial? How controversial is God in another theocracy, say, Iran?

I've heard good things about the show; people whose opinion I respect like it, and the description of the first season seems engaging enough that I'm sorry I missed it. Light-hearted events, the God of Bill Cosby's old Noah routine, easy, friendly, sweet. The television of Mayberry and Leave It to Beaver. Nothing wrong with that.

In the second season, as Aurthur describes it, Joan questions whether her visions were real and she tries to ignore God. "She relented, but the mood of the second season was grimmer than the first, and Joan was increasingly isolated."

The reviewer relates that the show lost 2 million viewers during its second season, and so it might not be renewed. "Whether CBS has decided that the show's temperate, humanitarian approach to religion has lost its relevance will become clear when the network announces its fall schedule."

By Aurthur's own description, the show became grimmer during the second season. Maybe the viewers who liked the sunnier Joan of Arcadia didn't like the grimmer Joan of Arcadia. Why does every problem, from fallen arches to falling ratings, end up getting thrown at the feet of the "theocrats"?

I don't know if I'd have liked the second season or been disappointed with it. I know there have been TV shows I've liked that didn't keep enough viewers to stay on the air, and others that I can't understand how they keep going and going and going. I've always said, "Oh, well. There's no accounting for taste" (or maybe, to be honest, launched a rant on occasion), but I never knew I could blame my cultural disappointments on the theocrats.

But now I know. The light turns red as I get close to it? The theocrats did it. It starts to rain when I left my umbrella at home? Theocrats. Article or story gets turned down? Theocrats. Puppy gets excited and piddles on the floor? Damned theocrats. Look at how much times and energy I've wasted trying to take responsibility and fix things for myself. But no more.

So, you lousy theocrats, I'm onto you now. I've been accused of being one of them, but that's just a clever ruse to keep them from knowing that I've gone into deep cover.

Girl wrestlers angry at easy wins

Under the general heading of "can't win for losing" comes this story out of Seattle about middle-school girl wrestlers who are upset because some boys forfeit the match rather than wrestle against them.

The boys attend a couple of Christian schools, and their parents and the schools think it's not good for the boys and girls to be rolling around on the floor together. So if they go the match, and find themselves up against one of the handful of girl wrestlers in the league, they forfeit. The girl gets the points toward the state championship.

But that's not good enough. The girls went to the match to wrestle and they'd better be able to wrestle or there will be lawyers.

The girls argue that the matches are not at all sexual. "When you walk on the mat, you're not a girl, you're not a guy anymore. You're just there to wrestle," one girl wrestler said. I've never been a boy, though I've known a few, and I suspect they wouldn't share that sentiment.

School officials are dealing with federal regulations about what to do with a sport that only a few girls want to participate in. Title IX requires the public schools to provide a "wrestling experience" for them. Under Title IX, the only alternatives to having girls wrestle boys would be to get enough girls to form their own league or shut down wrestling for everybody.

But what the lawsuits seem headed for is the exclusion of the Christian schools from the public schools' sports programs.

The father of one of the girls is outraged:
Connors, a former Episcopal president and one-time pastoral assistant for social justice at St. James Cathedral in Seattle, believes religion should play a role in public life. "But there's a limit," he said.

"If my religion says that once a year on a full moon, I had to get into a hit-and-run accident, I think the cops would take exception to that," he said. "That's an extreme example, but if you come into the public domain, you can't develop a policy that discriminates against people."

He's filed a complaint alleging the Vashon Island School District is violating Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools, by allowing the policies to exist. If the policies aren't changed, he says, he'll make a complaint to the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education and, if necessary, file a lawsuit.
Yes, I'd say that's an extreme example -- since we're not talking about injuring anyone -- and an extreme reaction. The rules are that anyone can refuse to wrestle -- and forfeit a match -- for any reason. Any reason, apparently, except that the one doing the forfeiting doesn't want to fight a girl.
The principal at McMurray Middle School, Greg Allison, said the school values its female wrestlers and plans to attempt to get the policies changed, too.

"We can't necessarily change a private school district's policy," he said. "But we can certainly try to influence it as best we can."
Anyone want to bet that by the beginning of the next school year, those schools will be disinvited from participating in school sports?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

They fired the patriarch?

The LA Times reports this morning that Greek Orthodox Church Dismisses Patriarch:
The Greek Orthodox Church's highest ruling body in Jerusalem dismissed Patriarch Irineos I over his alleged role in a land deal that angered Palestinian Christians, church officials said.
The LA Times goes on to detail some he-allegedly-said, she-allegedly-said stuff about land deals not being illegal but controversial, etc. . . , and I went on to find out what was really happening.

I skipped Al Jazeera and the National Post of Canada, but found this article at the Christian Today site:
The Synod is the highest decision making body in the Greek Orthodox Church and the church leadership announced on Thursday that it would be ending all contact with Patriarch Irineos I due to corruption suspicions. They added that from this point onwards they would consider the Patriarch dismissed – however, this decision is non-binding.
Interesting twist in the last clause there. Who would have the authority to make it binding? (This is a procedural question.)

Later, a Church spokesman speaks:
The Church spokesman, Attalah Hanah said, "We decided to fire him and he left today and we don't know where he went."
Yikes. It's like when the city council here in West Linn fired the city manager.

But wait, this is the same Attallah Hannah who in 2002 was removed from his post as spokesman for the Orthodox Church for saying he supported the Palestinian "resistance" -- which at the time was suicide bombers blowing up school buses, restaurants, religious observances and street corners in Israel.

In 2001, Hannah said, "Al-Quds (the Arab name for Jerusalem) is an Arab and Palestinian city with its holy shrines, holy Islamic and Christian shrines," maintained Atallah Hannah, the Greek Orthodox head of the delegation and an ethnic Arab. "There will be no peace in the region unless the city is returned to its legitimate owners and becomes the capital of the Palestinian independent state," which sounds to me as if he shares Arafat's dream of eliminating the state of Israel (not to mention the Jews) from the region.

I haven't been following the vicissitudes of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, but it seems that the Hannah party squared off against the Irineos party, and the Irineos party lost. Irineos' crime, apparently, was leasing land to Jews, and now what appears to be an anti-Semite (OK, Arabs consider themselves Semites -- anti-Jewish) wing of the Church rises to take over.

This post is also available at Blogger News Network.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Increasing the civility, one press release at a time

Catholics for Faithful Citizenship is distancing itself from Sen. Ken Salazar's decision to call Focus on the Family's James Dobson "the anti-Christ."
Salazar’s response is not condoned by Catholics for Faithful Citizenship.

We must work to recognize our shared faith and find room for reasonable and thoughtful debate.

So far, so good, but CFFC continues:
Focus on the Family has consistently tried to shut down debate by questioning the faith and morals of those who disagree with them. Most recently, they have used the debate over the use of the filibuster to personally attack the values of public officials who support the filibuster.

Huh? I can't say I've read everything Dobson has said or written, and I'm not a big fan of his, but . . . When did he question the faith or morals of those who disagree with him? When has he tried to shut down debate? And by what means? How do questions shut down a debate? He made some easily misinterpreted remarks about Sponge Bob Square Pants, which have been vigorously misinterpreted -- but can anyone say that the debate was shut down? Finally, when did he personally attack the values of any public officials? Quotes, people, I'd like to see quotes.

On the other hand, from CFFC's own website:
"William Donohue Sells both his Soul and the Catholic League to the Right”
"Senator Frist votes for legislation denying bankruptcy option to millions of average Americans, while he declares moral bankruptcy himself, declaring that God demands Republican judges.

CFFC concludes its Salazar release with a worthy sentiment:
We must not attack one another’s faith because of political disagreements. Personal attacks revolving around the filibuster are a clear manipulation and misuse of scripture and faith. We call on all Christians to unite behind the consistent and true meaning of the Gospels, and to condemn these politically-motivated attacks that manipulate our faith.
Good idea. Why not start with your own press releases?

This post is also available at Blogger News Network.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Sticheron for the Tuesday after Thomas Sunday

My friends and fellow choristers were futzing with a sticheron for vespers of next Tuesday, and asked me to have a hand at it. The problem was that the Greek version was too soft and the American version was too hard (or vice versa). That is, the Greek version sounded like it was translated by someone who doesn't know English very well, and the American version by someone who, though a native speaker, also doesn't speak English very well (that's my take, not my friends').

Since I need to get to work early tomorrow, and since I put a blog post's worth of effort into it, I'll go ahead and post it here. Read it carefully, there will be a survey question at the end:
I greatly delight to behold your Resurrection, O my Savior,
Which you allowed Thomas to confirm by the touch of his own hand.
Henceforth we proclaim and teach that You are one Person undivided,
With two natures and two energies uncommingled.
Truly You are both God and Man.
Here's the survey question: in the second-to-last line, I picked up "uncommingled" from the Greek-to-English version; my friend used the word "unconfused" in her version. They mean basically the same, except that I was concerned that someone might take the more common meaning of "confused"as "befuddled." On the other hand, the long "U" sings better than the "gled." The rest of the committee preferred "confused." I gave my reasons, but told them -- and it's true -- that I'm not emotionally invested in either word. Still I'd be interested in anyone else's thoughts on the question and especially if someone else knows an even better word.

Until tomorrow night or Saturday.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

The mid-20th-century's assault against the Jews is one of the defining moments of Western history. Hitler may not have had the largest list of victims (Stalin multiplied his several times), but the Nazis' atrocities have captured the imagination in ways that the destruction of the kulaks, the Armenian genocide, Rwanda or Darfur have not. The literature of the era has ranged from ridiculous (Hogan' Heroes) to the profound (Shoah and Life Is Beautiful).

But for all that, we really don't understand it. The Nazis are so demonized that people think that they were not the educated, sophisticated people of their day, but rubes and crustaceans, like fundamentalist Christians of the present.

Barbara Lerner comments on the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe:
Certain that they have long since been cleansed of any guilt for the sins of their fathers, Eurosecs see themselves as the very incarnation of postmodern virtue. Naturally, they reject the grotesque racist stereotypes their fathers embraced. They know today's Jews are their moral inferiors for an entirely different, entirely factual, reason: that Israel is a poisonous foreign element in the Middle East — a racist, colonial state whose 5 million Jews are oppressing the Palestinians, occupying their land, and preventing peace and progress in the 22 failed Arab states that surround them.

A couple of years ago, Barry Strauss noted the rise of anti-Semitism on American campuses:
It's been a season of anti-Semitism on campus. To cite just a few highlights: After temporarily canceling its invitation, Harvard reinvited Oxford poet Tom Paulin to deliver a lecture. Paulin is the humanitarian who said that Brooklyn-born Jewish settlers on the West Bank should be shot dead. Meanwhile, a Georgetown University professor has reportedly said that the "international Zionist movement" is pushing the U.S. into war with Iraq because Jews want to take over the Arab world. And a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst says that since no Israelis died on September 11, 2001, Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, must have known about the attacks in advance and forewarned Israelis — but not Americans. Never mind that Israeli citizens in fact were killed on the planes and in the Twin Towers on 9/11.

The roots of the Holocaust go back to the Weimar Republic, which is in many ways not much different from ours:
The war and the subsequent inflation had discredited the Victorian values of the older generation, and youth were ready to participate in what Americans were calling the jazz age. No point in saving for marriage in an age of rapid inflation; better to spend and enjoy. Women cut their hair, used makeup, smoked, discarded corsets, and adopted the new rayon stockings. Men shed their handlebar mustaches and tried to look rakish, boyish, adventurous, or intellectual, with horned-rimmed glasses and hair brushed back instead of parted. Wild parties and bohemian manners were no longer confined to the fringes. Berlin became famous in the 1920s for nightclubs and sexual license–the world of Christopher Isherwood's novels (later transformed into the film/musical Cabaret ). Jazz age vitality went along with a consciousness of decadence in Berlin. The writer Erich Kastner summed up the scene: "In the east there is crime; in the center the con men hold sway; in the north resides misery, in the west lechery; and everywhere–the decline."

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, an American Orthodox Jew, excoriates Jewish elites (by and large Jewish by birth and self-identification rather than practice) as being a source of "heinous charicatures" of Jews. He says that Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman's portrayal of the title couple in Meet the Fockers (which I haven't seen and probably won't) is itself anti-Semitic: "In spite of having several Jewish producers and several Jewish stars, this film’s vile notions of Jews are not too different from those used by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels."

He says that the revulsion against Judaism that grew up in the 1920s and 1930s in Germany had a partial foundation in some Jews' assaults against the culture. Consider that in light of the rise of Islam in Europe -- with their strait-laced mores and their predisposition to hate Jews.

To the people of the time, the Nazis looked advanced, sophisticated and enlightened. They did not look like Commander Klink. To the people looking forward, the little brush mustache was not yet a joke. The curved helmets were not yet a sign of Evil. The swastika was a neutral symbol. Leni Reifenstahl was a genius. The next Holocaust(s) will seem equally advanced, sophisticated and enlightened, and people who give themselves a pass on their own capacity for evil will never even notice that they have become perpetrators.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Song travel for Scotsmen

The Scotsman reports that Amarillo, Texas, has become a big tourist destination inspired by a song that's popular over there, "(Is This The Way To) Amarillo."

Someone needs to tell the Brits that while Amarillo is a scenic place if you like sky, and the people are friendly, if you're going to travel to the other side of the planet for vacation, you need to be able to spend more than a day and a half sight-seeing.
Amarillo, a four-hour drive from Dallas, has a population of 177,000 and attracts an average of 16,000 overseas tourists a year. The second-largest canyon in America is just south of the city. It also has a famous steak ranch at which customers who manage to eat a massive 72-ounce steak within an hour get it for free.

Amarillo tourist chiefs say they are looking forward to welcoming British visitors who take driving holidays across the States -- the city is on the east-west 140 highway and is connected to the old Route 66.

Visitors can also see an abstract work called Cadillac Ranch, a display of ten classic Cadillacs sticking out of the ground as if they have just fallen from space.

The Scotsman omits the American Quarter Horse Heritage Center and Museum, which I'm sure would be high on the list of attractions for someone following a 1970s hit to Texas.

All the same, in the interest of international tourism, I offer a suggested trip across roadside-attraction America, inspired by songs from the '60s and '70s. Start off, of course, with the great "Route 66." "It winds from Chicago to LA, more than 2,000 miles all the way . . ." So fly from London to Chicago and rent a car.

"You go through St. Louie," (the Gateway Arch) "Joplin, Missouri" ("Lead Capital of the World"); "Oklahoma City looks mighty pretty" (Myriad Botannical Gardens). "You'll see Amarillo" (this is the way to Amarillo), "Gallup, New Mexico" (allow a few extra days to explore Canyon de Chelly and Navaho country, and bring along a couple of Tony Hillerman novels), "Flagstaff, Arizona" (and a few days here, too, near one of the entraces to the Grand Canyon) -- "don't forget Winona" (or, maybe you should forget Winona), "Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino."

Now that you've been dumped in California, here's the Lowell George song, Willin' --
I've been from Tuscon to Tucumcari (back to Route 66)
Tehachapi (you missed the 13th Annual Spaghetti Feed and Auction) to Tonapah (silver mines and a nuclear test range) . . .
By the end of that trip, you'll be singing the London Homesick Blues.

Welcome to America.

This post is also available at Blogger News Network.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Sen. Gordon Smith will vote to end filibuster

Sid at New Frames reports that Sen. Gordon Smith will side with the Republicans on the filibuster. Sid's not happy about it, but she called the senator's office and got a confirmation from an aide.

I wonder if my e-mails had any effect.

UPDATE: Sid is a "she." Error fixed above.