So God Made—

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The above video is in honor of Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst.  Go here to read about her.

 

The below video is in honor of Iowa Senate candidate Bruce Braley.  Go here to read about him.

 

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PopeWatch: Secret Consistory

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This is very interesting.  Rorate Caeli has a story, written by  Marco Tossati for La Stampa, about the “Secret” Consistory on February 22, 2014 at which Cardinal Kasper proposed that a “pastoral” approach be taken to Catholics in adulterous marriage to give them a process by which they could receive communion while remaining in their adulterous marriages.  Apparently the Cardinal’s proposal was as well received as a skunk at a perfume convention:

Marco Tosatti, for LA STAMPA

 
The Consistory on  the 22nd February to discuss the family, was supposed to be secret. Instead a decision came from the top that it was opportune to publish Cardinal Kasper’s long report on the theme of the Eucharist for the divorced and remarried. In all probability [this] to open the way in prospect of the  October Synod on the Family. However half of the Consistory remained secret: [that half] concerned  observations from Cardinals. And maybe not by chance, as, after Cardinal Kasper had presented his long report (and as it seems it was not very light when given ,) rather a lot of voices were raised in criticizing it. So much so, that in the afternoon when the Pope gave him the job of responding, the German Cardinal’s tone appeared piqued, even angry to the many [present].
 
The current opinion is  that “Kasper’s theorem”  tends to allow permission in general for the  divorced and remarried  to receive communion, without the previous marriage being  recognized as null.  At present this does not happen,  based on Jesus’ words which were very severe and explicit on divorce.  People who live a full  matrimonial life without the first union being regarded as invalid by the Church, find themselves in a situation of permanent sin, according to present doctrine.
 
In this sense, Cardinal Caffarra of Bologna as well as German Cardinal Mueller (Prefect of the Congregation of the Faith) spoke clearly.  Equally explicit was Cardinal Walter Brandmuller (“ Neither  human nature nor the Commandments nor the Gospel have an expiry date[…]Courage is needed to enunciate the truth even against current customs.  Whoever speaks on behalf of the Church must possess courage if he does not want his vocation to be a failure.[…] The desire to obtain approval and applause is a temptation which is always present in the transmission of religious teaching.”   Afterwards he made his words public).  Also the President of the Italian Bishops, Cardinal Bagnasco expressed himself in a critical manner with regard to “Kasper’s theorem”;   the same went for the African Cardinal Robert Sarah, Head of “Cor Unum”  who at the end of his comments, recalled  that in the course of the centuries even on dramatic questions controversies and divergences  had existed  inside the Church, but that the role of the Papacy had always been the one of defending doctrine.
 
Cardinal Re who was one of Bergoglio’s greatest electors, gave a very short statement, which can be summarized thus:  “I will speak for just a moment, because there are future new cardinals here and perhaps some of them do not have the courage to say it, so I will: I am completely against this report.”  Also the Prefect of the Penitentiary, Cardinal Piacenza said he was against it and more or less said: “we are here now and we will be here again in October for a Synod on the Family, and so since we  want to have a positive Synod, I don’t see why we have to touch only on the matter of  Communion for divorcees.”  He added: “Since we want to have a debate on pastoral care it seems to me that we should have to take note of  a widespread pan-sexualism  and the attack of the “ideology of gender” which tend to demolish the family as we have always known it.  It would be providential if we were lumen gentium so as  clarify the situation we find ourselves in, as well as the things that can destroy the family.”  He concluded by exhorting a re-reading of the catecheses by John Paul II on corporeity, since they contain many positive elements about sex, being a man and a woman, procreation and love.
 
Cardinal Tauran, (of Inter-Religious Dialogue) returned  again to  the attack on the family, also in light of relations with Islam. Likewise Cardinal Scola of Milan raised theological  and doctrinal perplexities .
 
Cardinal Ruini was also very critical.  He [also]added: “I don’t know if I understood well, but at this moment, about 85% of the Cardinals have expressed opinions apparently contrary to the layout  of the report.”  He added that among those who did not say anything  -  therefore could not be classified – he took from their silence that: “I believe they are embarrassed”. Continue reading

What Is Social Justice?

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Jonah Goldberg for Prager University asks and answers what is social justice.  I agree with him that social justice usually in practice ends up with thieves employed by the government taking property from A, keeping a substantial cut, and throwing the much reduced remainder at favored B and C.  This poorly thought out Robin Hood theology is at the basis of the manifestly failing welfare states today.  It is the antithesis of the voluntary charity called for by Christ in the tale of the Good Samaritan and it is beyond shameful that powerful people within the Church still think that the State is the preferred medium for social justice.  For those completely destitute and unable to work through no fault of their own, State support is a last resort necessity.  Where the welfare state ideology, masquerading as social justice, has gone astray is in taking a last resort and always making it a first resort, with disastrous consequences that are obvious to all, and completely ignored by those who ever bleat “social justice” and usually mean “state control”.

Economic & Semantic Ignorance: It Rolls Downhill

 

Acton’s Power Blog covered yet another piece on Pope Francis’ salvo against the free market today in the run-up to his meeting with President Obama, and the theme is quite familiar: “Pope Francis is not an economist or technocrat laying out policy…”

It seems as though this is now a magic incantation by which anything and everything a person says about economics becomes acceptable and perhaps even praiseworthy. I could be grateful for the fact that there is a subtle implication here: if an actual economist were to say the things about free markets that Francis said, he wouldn’t have much credibility left as an economist.

The plain truth here is that whether or not a person is an economist has nothing to do with the actual nature of the statements they make. Let’s take a look at what Francis himself said in a follow-up interview to Evangelii Guadium:

I wasn’t speaking from a technical point of view, what I was trying to do was to give a picture of what is going on. The only specific quote I used was the one regarding the “trickle-down theories” which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and social inclusiveness in the world. The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor. This was the only reference to a specific theory. I was not, I repeat, speaking from a technical point of view…

With all due respect, these are testable claims about empirical reality. “But what happens instead, is…” Yes, that is an empirical statement. An attempt to “give a picture of what is going on” is an attempt to explain reality. There’s no way out of it: these are “technical” statements, their lack of details or any evidence of systematic economic training notwithstanding. (I’m familiar with the translation controversies too – none of them help his case) Moreover, they are simply false. The world’s poor have benefited immensely from the globalization and liberalization of economies; according to the World Bank, in spite of a 59% increase in population in the developing world, the number of people living in extreme poverty (less than $1.25 per day) has fallen from 50% to 21% in the last 30 years.

Continue reading

The Judas Tradition

The Judas Tradition

 

It is a long and dishonorable tradition in Christianity, I call it the Judas Tradition, to place at the helm of ostensibly Christian organizations people who end up eager to transform the organization into an adversary of Christianity.  Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently in defense of the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, gives us the latest example:

Another “Christian” ministry surrenders to the Zeitgeist:

World Vision’s American branch will no longer require its more than 1,100 employees to restrict their sexual activity to marriage between one man and one woman.

Abstinence outside of marriage remains a rule. But a policy change announced Monday [March 24] will now permit gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages to be employed at one of America’s largest Christian charities.

Stearns asserts that the “very narrow policy change” should be viewed by others as “symbolic not of compromise but of [Christian] unity.” He even hopes it will inspire unity elsewhere among Christians.

Oh, sweet mother of…

“Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues,” he said. “It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage.”

Face?  Palm?  You know the drill.

“It’s easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there,” he said. “This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support.”

“We’re not caving to some kind of pressure. We’re not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us,” said Stearns. “This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We’re an operational arm of the global church, we’re not a theological arm of the church.”

Give me a break, Stearnsie.  Quick question.  If you weren’t under some kind of pressure, if some group or other wasn’t threatening to sue you, then WHY MAKE THE POLICY CHANGE AT ALL?!!

While we’re on the subject of slippery slopes there, Stearnsie, what are you going to tell a potential employee who wants a job with World Vision but tells you that he’s a devout Christian who’s living with and currently banging three women on a regular basis?  After all, “the global church” hasn’t definitively weighed on that topic yet, has it?

Prominent Christian thinkers aren’t buying what you’re selling, Stearnsie.  Russell Moore:

At stake is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If sexual activity outside of a biblical definition of marriage is morally neutral, then, yes, we should avoid making an issue of it. If, though, what the Bible clearly teaches and what the church has held for 2000 years is true, then refusing to call for repentance is unspeakably cruel and, in fact, devilish.

John Piper:

This is a tragic development for the cause of Christ, because it trivializes perdition — and therefore, the cross — and because it sets a trajectory for the demise of true compassion for the poor.

When J.I. Packer walked out of the 2002 synod of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster, he was protesting its decision to “bless same-sex unions.” His rationale is relevant for the developments at World Vision.

First, his words about unity expose the crass alignment of homosexual intercourse and baptism as comparable markers for biblical faithfulness. Packer wrote, “It is most misleading, indeed crass, to call this disagreement simply a difference about interpretation, of the kind for which Anglican comprehensiveness has always sought to make room.”

When World Vision says, “We cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on this issue,” here is the side they do, in fact, jump onto: We forbid fornication and adultery as acceptable lifestyles among our employees (which they do), but we will not forbid the regular practice of homosexual intercourse. To presume that this position is not “jumping into the fight on one side or the other” is fanciful.

But worse than fancy, removing homosexual intercourse from its biblical alignment with fornication and adultery (and greed and theft and drunkenness) trivializes its correlation with perdition.

Mark Marshall:

The explanation given by World Vision President Richard Stearns is fatuous.  He claims World Vision is remaining neutral on the issue of same-sex “marriage”.  No, World Vision’s policy for employees was celibacy for singles and monogamy for the married.  By deciding that gay sex inside of same-sex “marriage” meets that requirement for employees, World Vision is most definitely taking sides.

This is a cover for partnership with apostate denominations and letting them call the shots.  The United Church of Christ holds to the faith of the creeds?  Really?  As long as libchurchers can cross their fingers and mouth a creed, Stearns is just fine with partnering with them and letting them set, nay, abolish Christian moral standards for employees.  And that in the name of a unity which really destroys genuine Christian unity.

Franklin Graham:

I was shocked today to hear of World Vision’s decision to hire employees in same-sex marriages. The Bible is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman. My dear friend, Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse, would be heartbroken. He was an evangelist who believed in the inspired Word of God. World Vision maintains that their decision is based on unifying the church – which I find offensive – as if supporting sin and sinful behavior can unite the church. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, the Scriptures consistently teach that marriage is between a man and woman and any other marriage relationship is sin.

Check the stats, World Vision; Episcopalianization is not the wave of the future.  So I have no idea who you think that this move is going to impress. Continue reading

Whither Notre Dame?

Fathers Miscamble and Barron

 

 

Tom O’Toole has an interesting post up at Renew America on the future of Notre Dame:

 

 

After a stellar version of the standard salad, chicken and potatoes lunch, Fr. Miscamble began his talk, entitled, “What is the Future for Notre Dame?” Indeed, it was a sad tale I’ve both heard and written about many times before, yet there was something poignant about hearing it in person from the person perhaps most responsible for the University’s counter-reformation. Although I’m sure Miscamble realized that for the most part he was singing to the choir that day, he warned the rest that, “[i]f you’ve come to hear some carefully prepared PR fluff, you’ve come to the wrong place.”

Father began his lecture going from the general to the specific, noting that Notre Dame was part of an amazing push in the nineteenth and early twentieth century in which the Church built a massive Catholic culture of dioceses, schools and hospitals, “all at a time when Catholics had neither the wealth nor education they do today.” After that ironic statement, Father flashed forward to the subtly diabolical 1967 “Land O’Lakes” document, which promoted scholarly dialogue at the expense of magisterial obedience. “After a series of seemingly insignificant decisions, Notre Dame found itself both confused and lacking confidence in its Catholic identity,” so much that Notre Dame president, Fr. John Jenkins, and the ND Board of Trustees. could go against the directives of the bishops and forsake Truth for prestige by honoring the radically pro-abortion Obama.

While not denying that Notre Dame is at the crossroads of returning to its Catholic roots or becoming another Vanderbilt or Duke, former religious universities that are now almost completely secular, Miscamble, after acknowledging some positive steps the University has taken since the Obama disaster (not the least of these being “Notre Dame’s suing of the Obama Administration over clauses in the Affordable Heath Care Act”) offered four practical ways to return from Land O’Lakes to Ex Corde Ecclesiae, John Paul II’s “Magna Carta” on how a Catholic university should operate.

Although my one through four list of ways to save Notre Dame all involve naming Fr. Miscamble as Notre Dame’s president (an online petition, anyone?), barring that miracle, Father’s outline is the way to reform. First, Miscamble says you need a clear articulation of your mission statement. Noting that Notre Dame’s is actually pretty good, Father adds that a mission statement is “meaningless unless it shapes the University,” as was clearly not the case with honoring Obama and allowing annual campus performances of The Vagina Monologues, which, in Fr. Jenkins’ own words, includes “graphic descriptions of homosexual, extramarital…and auto-erotic [sex, including] the seduction of a sixteen year old girl by an adult woman,” or as Miscamble would add “reduces women to their body parts.”

Second, the Catholicity of the faculty is of utmost importance. Indeed, the hiring of faculty both “ambivalent” and “openly hostile” to Notre Dame’s mission may be the University’s gravest mistake to date. On the other hand, the hiring done during Miscamble’s brief five-year term as Chair of the History Department show it is far from impossible to turn a faculty around.

Thirdly, the curriculum must be re-examined. Of course, Father acknowledges that curriculum is intimately tied to the faculty, because even the finest selection of Catholic core courses (I myself am pushing Notre Dame to add one on the novels of Ralph McInerny) unless taught by the right teachers, could do students more harm than good.

Finally, Notre Dame needs to re-explore its choices regarding student life. While praising the great availability of the sacraments at Notre Dame, including daily Masses in all the dorms, Father says Notre Dame must do more to distance itself from the partying, hook-up culture of secular universities, and providing entertainment choices such as The Vagina Monologues, or bands such as the one that ended their concert my freshman year with a rousing rendition of “Let’s Get Drunk and Screw,” just isn’t cutting it.

After a  heartfelt round of applause, Miscamble gave way to his colleague, Fr. Robert Barron, narrator of the fine Catholicism TV documentaries and rector of Mundelein Seminary. Barron echoed many of Miscamble’s warnings, noting that between the “dumbed down, banners and balloons religion being taught in Catholic grade and high schools, and the Land O’Lakes Catholicism offered at many Catholic universities, Christ became just one of many options to follow, and Catholic theology was no longer at the center.” But “when Christ is no longer at the center, a center in which all other subjects find their meaning,” Barron noted that “something else will take His place.” Indeed, dialogue became god, and laws at many Catholic universities were no longer dictated by the Church but by the faculty or even the state, as Obama’s honorary degree of Law from Notre Dame sadly indicates. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Rush

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Father Z highlighted some interesting commentary from Rush Limbaugh with comments by Father Z:

RUSH:  Well, folks, the left’s honeymoon with Pope Francis may be coming to an end.  Remember the pope went out there and released an economic encyclical or document in which I analyzed it as being almost Marxist. And this caused just… There were eruptions in voluminous amounts. In fact, there were volcanic eruptions in the media.  And all of a sudden the left, which hates the Catholic Church, fell in love with the pope!

Remember that?  Oh, if I come out criticize him, the pope’s gotta be a good guy. So they fell in love with pope. “The pope is a great guy!” But now the Vatican’s chief justice feels that President Obama’s policies have been hostile toward Christians.  “Vatican Chief Justice: Obama’s Policies ‘Have Become Progressively More Hostile Toward Christian Civilization’ — The Vatican’s chief justice feels that President Barack Obama’s policies have been hostile toward Christians.”

Now, this is the Vatican. This is an official. It doesn’t have to be coming from the pope in order for it to be official. [Wellllll.... Rush... you need some tutoring here....] “In an interview with Polonia Christiana magazine [HERE] — and transcribed by Life Site News — Cardinal Raymond Burke said that Obama ‘promotes anti-life and anti-family policies.’” So the Vatican is out defending Christianity, defending itself, and this is gonna cause a fissure between the media, which was falling in love with the pope. [Not to mention fissures in the catholic Left.  Wait until the feminists start demanding that their tame males turn on Francis because Francis will never support the ordination of women.]

They weren’t falling in love with the Catholic Church, don’t misunderstand.  They were falling in love with the pope.  They thought, they really thought… Here, again, is another classic illustration of total ignorance.  They really think that they can make the Catholic Church moderate its tone.  They think they can bring the Catholic Church into what they call the Twenty-First Century.  They think that this pope might actually legalize gay marriage, sanction it in the church.

They think this pope might actually allow women to be priests.  They think this pope might actually lighten up on its pro-life position.  They really believe that. They really think the Catholic Church is just another political organization.  [Which is why the catholic Left talks about the Church's "policies".] If they exert enough pressure, and if they get the right pope in there, they can work on him to bring the church forward into the Twenty-First Century.  And this from the Vatican chief justice is just a major, major slapdown.

The left is not going to be happy about this. Continue reading

Iowa, Please Send This Gal to the US Senate

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43 years old, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa National Guard and a State Senator, pro-life Joni Ernst certainly has a way of attracting attention!  I can think of many fat pigs in Washington that could benefit from her expertise!

Update:

Well, Joni Ernst’s likely opponent in November, assuming she wins the nomination, has decided to give her a big gift:

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Congressman Bruce Braley was speaking before a group of ambulance chasers in Texas, begging for campaign donations.  Personal injury attorneys tend to be big donors to Democrats to stop tort reform.  So, to appeal to them he bad mouthed Senator Chuck Grassley as just an Iowa farmer who never set foot in law school.  Well, I have been a member of the bar for 32 years, and I can guarantee you that farmers are immeasurably more popular than attorneys, especially in a farm state like Iowa.  John Dickinson at the liberal Salon is calling this the gaffe of the year:

Why is this so awful? Let us count the ways. Iowa is a farm state, and it’s never a good idea to disparage one of the state’s chief occupations. Next, it’s particularly not a good idea to demean your state when you’re somewhere else: In this case, Braley was speaking in Texas. Next, Braley, a trial lawyer, was making his pitch to a room full of trial lawyers at a private fundraiser (which is why he didn’t think he was being recorded). Trial lawyers are perhaps the most unpopular constituency among Republican base voters—besides Obama administration officials. Since midterm elections are all about motivating your base, Braley has given his opponent a turnout gift. Next, look where Braley is standing: If you’re going to talk down to Iowa farmers, at least don’t do it next to a table of booze. It makes for amusing viewing and that reinforces the idea for voters that you’re not one of them. 

Thank you Congressman!  You have made it much more likely that when the Senate convenes next year it will have one less attorney and one more hog castrator!

 

 

The Annunciation

The Annunciation

26 And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth,

27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

28 And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

29 Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be.

30 And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.

31 Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus.

32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever.

33 And of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34 And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?

35 And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36 And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren:

37 Because no word shall be impossible with God.

38 And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1: 26-38

Rand Paul on What Obama Should Explain to Pope Francis

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Hattip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.  As long time readers of this blog know, I have never been a fan, to put it mildly, of Ron Paul.  His son, Rand, is a different matter.  He has keen political instincts and a feel for the jugular of his adversaries, as he demonstrated today:

“He ought to explain to the Pope why he is telling businesses in America they can’t remain true to their faith and stay in business,” the Kentucky Republican said on Fox News’s “Fox and Friends.” …

“The ‘Hobby Lobby’ case is being discussed today, and I think it’s important that he tell the leader of the Catholic Church why he thinks that businesses owned by Catholics can’t make their own decisions with regard to health care,” Paul said.

The outspoken senator said he agreed with the Vatican chief justice, who reportedly in a recent interview said Obama’s policies are “hostile” to Christians.

“And I think is something that really should be discussed in our country,” Paul said. “Most of us, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, believe … in free exercise of your religion. But if they’re telling you that your tax dollars have to go to something you find morally reprehensible, I think that’s not free exercise of religion.” Continue reading

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby: The U.S. Solicitor General’s clever, but illogical deceit…

 

Today, the Solicitor General of the United States, Donald Verrilli, will tell the the Supreme Court during oral arguments in the case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby that killing a human embryo by preventing the embryo from implanting in his or her mother’s uterus is not an “abortion” and, thus, the drugs approved by Obamacare that kill embryos in this way are not “abortion-inducing” drugs. Verrilli will also argue that every business that provides its employees’ healthcare insurance plans—even businesses owned and operated by Christians who are pro-life—must provide the drugs Obamacare mandates.

Yet, when Verrilli first petitioned the Supreme Court in September 2013 to take up Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, his petition conceded that among the drugs and devices Obamacare approved were some that prevented human “fertilized eggs”—conceived human embryos—from implanting in their mothers’ wombs. In his petition, Verrilli wrote:

The FDA has approved twenty such methods, ranging from oral contraceptives to surgical sterilization. Four of the twenty approved methods—two types of intrauterine devices (IUDs) and the emergency contraceptives commonly known as Plan B and Ella—can function by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg.

Then, in a footnote, Verrilli went stated:

Both the government and the medical amici supporting the government concede that at least some of the contraceptive methods to which the plaintiffs object have the potential to prevent uterine implantation.

So, Virrelli concedes that the drugs and devices the Obama administration mandates can terminate the life of a human embryo by preventing “implantation.” However, Virrelli also asserts that terminating the life of a conceived human embryo by preventing it from implanting in the womb is not an “abortion.”

Verrilli is weaving a clever, but illogical deceit. What the FDA and the Federal regulations call “contraceptives” include drugs and devices some of which work not by preventing conception but by terminating a human life after conception. In other words, these government-approved drugs and devices are not contraceptives but post-conception abortofacients.

The Motley Monk prays and is remains hopeful the more sober and honest members of the Supreme Court will see this charade for what it truly is and rule on behalf of innocent children.

 

 

To read the Solicitor General’s petition for a writ of certiorari, click on the following link:
http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/2013-0354.pet_.aa_1.pdf

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
http://www.richard-jacobs-blog.com/omnibus.html

Useful Idiots

Fearless Leader and Map

In an ever changing world it is good to know that you can depend upon certain things remaining the same.  Case in point:  The Nation sucking up to Russian tyrants:

In such a charged environment, it’s all the more important to pay close attention to diplomatic initiatives, even if they come from the Kremlin. While it may not be an ideal solution, there is merit in the Russian foreign ministry’s “road map” calling for establishing an international support group—with the EU, United States and Russia as members—to help Ukraine stabilize itself. Among other crucial points, the proposal calls for a Ukrainian national assembly to draft a constitution that would create a new federal system in which regions would have a reasonable degree of autonomy, confirm Russian as a second official language and, critically, uphold Ukraine’s military and political nonalignment—that is, maintain Ukraine’s geopolitical independence from Russia as well as the West, which will require an end to NATO expansion.

A settlement is possible if all countries’ security interests are taken into account. This would mean that Ukraine would hold elections with participation and guaranteed protection for ethnic Russians; would have a nonaligned government (stripped of neofascists); would pledge never to join NATO; and would develop economic relations with Russia and the EU (unavoidable if Ukraine is to survive economically). Continue reading

PopeWatch: Work

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The Pope has always been concerned with high unemployment and last week at a ceremony celebrating the 130th anniversary of an Italian steelworks he made the following comments:

“It is necessary to reaffirm that employment is necessary for society, for families and for individuals”, said the Pope. “Its primary value is the good of the human person, as it allows the individual to be fully realised as such, with his or her attitudes and intellectual, creative and manual capacities. Therefore, it follows that work has not only the economic objective of profit, but above all a purpose that regards man and his dignity. And if there is no work, this dignity is wounded! Indeed, the unemployed and underemployed risk being relegated to the margins of society, becoming victims of social exclusion”.

“What can we say, when faced with the very serious problem of unemployment that affects various European countries?”, he asked. “It is the consequence of an economic system that is no longer able to create work, because it has placed at its centre the idol of money. Therefore, the various political, social and economic actors are called upon to promote a different approach, based on justice and solidarity, to ensure the possibility of dignified work for all. Work is an asset for all, and must be available to all. Phases of serious difficulties and unemployment must be faced with the tools of creativity and solidarity. The creativity of courageous businesspeople and craftspeople, who look to the future with trust and hope. And solidarity between all the elements of society, who all give something up, adopting a more sober lifestyle, to help those in need”.

The Boss Wasn’t Amused

Bacall and Truman

One of the odder pictures in American history, this photo of 20 year old actress Lauren Bacall draped seductively over a piano being played by then Vice-President Harry Truman on February 10, 1945 caused considerable controversy and made headlines around the world.  The photo was taken at the National Press Club canteen where both Bacall and Truman were appearing to entertain 800 servicemen.  Bacall, reluctantly, posed on the piano at the request of her press agent Charlie Enfield, who was also publicity chief for Warner Brothers.  Bacall later recalled that Truman was a bad piano player. Bess Truman, Harry’s wife, was quite irked according to her daughter Margaret Truman, and ordered Truman not to play the piano in public again.

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