Archive for March, 2010

N-BOMB

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010 | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Matt Yglesias?  I don’t want to tell you how to run your site or anything but if a comment like the very first one ever turned up on my site, I’d immediately pull it and then ban the person who posted it.  I certainly wouldn’t leave it up almost ten hours.  Unless, of course, you think that word isn’t racist when liberals use it in which case never mind.

GLASS HALF FULL

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 26 Comments

Things couldn’t be better in the Episcopal Organization.  General Theological Seminary’s officially underwater:

The Board of Trustees of the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church resolved to move forward in finding the financial resources necessary to meet fiscal challenges that have recently surfaced in connection with its search for a new Dean and President. The current Dean, the Very Rev. Ward B. Ewing announced in December his intention to retire once his replacement has been hired.

At the conclusion of the Board’s meeting on March 29, Board Chair, the Rev. Canon Denis O’Pray, said trustees determined to ask the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, in response to her willingness to help, to convene a special think tank. Composed of board members and other Episcopal Church leaders, the group will address the Seminary’s pressing financial concerns in the context of the Church’s overall needs for theological education. In addition, the Board asked the Search Committee for a New Dean to consider instead the creation of an interim position so that the Seminary might fully appraise its financial situation and finalize specific ways of moving forward.

Not to worry.  Two more homosexual bishops should clear that right up.

SEEING THINGS

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

The Sullivanization of formerly interesting blogger Charles Johnson continues.  Seems Chuckles thought he’d spotted a neo-Nazi flag at a Tea Party rally.  Turns out he hadn’t.

IDOLATRY 2010

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

The Reverend Dr. Russell Levenson, Jr., rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church of Houston, Texas, thinks former Secretary of State James Baker is on to something: 

As you can see from Secretary Baker’s article, he brings his own perspective and insightful proposal out of, not only decades of experience in laying the groundwork for lasting peace and civility in a wide variety of arenas[Such as? - Ed], but also a faithful member of the Episcopal Church and out of his deep and abiding devotion to our Lord and this Church we both love and seek to serve.

Levenson describes himself as a traditionalist.

I have, for years, been open (as I was instructed to do at VTS), and have attempted to live into what Dean Markham calls “generous orthodoxy.”  That said, I do so from the place of one who believes that the revisionists’ (I do not use this word pejoratively, but descriptively) position around human sexuality is not only inconsistent with the Biblical and Traditional teaching of the Church, but has been the chief cause for our divisions and the present anemia we see infecting most of TEC since the mid-1970s, (a time during which we have lost roughly 1/3rd of our membership).

But he has an awfully funny way of displaying his traditionalism. 

But if I am completely honest, I must admit that I realize that these issues of deep concern to revisionists will not go away. These issues have dominated virtually every clergy conference, Diocesan gathering, and General Convention I have att ended since my ordination over two decades ago. But I am an Episcopalian and I love and seek to serve the Episcopal Church. I have not been called away, and feel that my position on these matters has (or should have) as much validity and authenticity as those who may sit on the “other aisle” (to borrow a political term) than I do.

Insofar as he feels the need to trot out the usual tired Episcopal bumper sticker about conservative Anglicans. 

In a letter Thornton Wilder wrote in the 1930s, he offered the following: ”The fundamentalist tradition in American Protestantism has made into fixed hard laws the substance of the Gospel…All that is censorious…and joyless in the Calvinistic-Methodist-Baptist tradition is based upon a misreading of the New Testament and a failure to see that most of the tone in the Old Testament is expressly superseded in the New…”

And lament the fact that there are winners and losers in the Episcopal Organization. 

I will confess that is has been a long time since many of us have experienced authentic “joy” in what we know to be the structures of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church. Some may have experienced some measure of satisfaction if his or her “side” won some specific victory, but is one part of the body “winning” and the other “losing,” really something worthy of joy?, (cf. I Corinthians 12). I would suggest that “joylessness” is rooted not in experiencing an open expression of freedom and authentic diversity, but instead a denomination increasingly dominated by strident liberals and conservatives running from grace into the pseudosafety of fundamentalism.

The liberals get a huge kick out of this, Russ.  But Levenson isn’t done insulting conservatives yet.  

I want to suggest that we are now witnessing this kind of “framework” in what we could easily say is a “church split apart.” The response to this increasingly divided Church is the kind of fundamentalism to which both Wilder and Solzhenitsyn refer. Conservatives have taken up the arms of schismatic and pietistic separation from those deemed unholy. Liberals have returned the favor by failing to include the conservatives fully, often deeming them as a dying breed that needs to catch up, convert, or move on.

What should we do about all this?  Basically, Russ thinks the bishops should recommit to the moratoria they just finished relieving themselves all over.

Another controversial General Convention has passed and the spin that key resolutions that were passed did not contradict the voluntary period of gracious restraint offered through resolution B033 in 2006, has not held water with election of the Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles and the approval of same-sex marriage in the Diocese of Massachusetts and same-sex blessings in the Diocese of Bethlehem, with more proposals en route. The period of gracious restraint for some – though not for all — has ended. Now what if, (thinking out of the proverbial box here) the majority of Episcopal Bishops, hopefully with the support of the Presiding Bishop, sought to find a middle-way that honors authentic inclusion.  In order to do so, they would have to re-commit to Solzhenitsyn’s “self-restraint.”

That hot college-aged blonde is the last one, honey, I swear.  Twelve extra-marital affairs is enough, believe you me.

They have to listen to the larger Anglican voice. They would need to honor the called for moratoria around revisionist proposals concerting human sexuality and have to absolutely reject foreign incursions that disrupt our internal unity.  Thus, again, we return to that call for self-restraint. Put simply, what if a majority of our bishops took the lead by calling the greater church to simply hit the “pause” butt on with a firm finger and do nothing more to finish the tear in our fabric that has just about destroyed our Anglican family.

Then what?  Nothing in particular.  

This “pause” could be until our 2012 General Convention. In that interim, this majority of American Bishops, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Consultative Council, coupled with leaders of our theological seminaries could work with a broad spectrum of openminded-hearted rectors and lay leaders to develop a solution that respects not only the autonomy of individual bishops and their dioceses, but also of clergy and their parishes. 

The problems with this idea have been discussed before and should be obvious to anyone with a functioning intellect.  There is no reason whatsoever for TEO’s dominant liberals to grant these proposals and every reason in the world for them not to.

To people like J. Jon Bruno, John Chane and Gene Robinson, the conservative position is not legitimate and cannot be permitted to be.  Because once planted, the idea that maybe Robbie shouldn’t have gotten that pointy hat in 2003 might grow into the idea that maybe Robbie shouldn’t have that pointy hat right now.

Besides, to declare that an Episcopal bishop is the bishop of this Episcopal parish but not that one or must preach one doctrine in this building and another over there would make Episcopal worship meaningless and turn Episcopal theology and Episcopal witness into even bigger jokes than they already are.

It’s difficult for me to get too angry about any of this anymore.  Like James Baker, Dr. Levenson is yet another Episcopal “conservative” in name only.  Indeed, Levenson seems scornful of orthodox Anglicans who actually believe things, hence words like “fundamentalist” and “pietistic” and “schismatic.”

Levenson claims “conservative” positions but won’t push them too hard or too stridently or in any other way that might make someone angry with him.  All he wants is for the liberal majority to continue to tolerate his existence in the Episcopal Organization.

Which TEO quite happily will, secure in the knowledge the people like Russell Levenson have no influence in the church, never will again, and cannot affect its decisions in any way.  Hope you enjoy your parish, Russ, because it’s as high as you’re ever going to go in TEO and in the future, there will be fewer and fewer such opportunities.

That’s the payoff for laodiceanism.

ZZZZZ…

Monday, March 29th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 31 Comments

Why am I not an atheist?  Apart from the fact that I can’t make the cosmological logic work, that atheism murdered more people in one century than religion supposedly did in twenty and that acts of non-religious altruism can be counted on one hand(not a lot of atheist-run food banks out there), I’m not an atheist because I just can’t make myself associate with pathetic little weenies like Phil Pullman:

Bestselling British author Philip Pullman risks offending Christians with his latest book, a fictional account of the “good man Jesus” and the “scoundrel Christ.”

Yet another attack on Christianity.  Carl?

Thanks, man.  Alas and alack, whatever shall we Christians do?!!

The 63-year-old, an outspoken atheist, angered some members of the Catholic Church with a thinly veiled attack on organized religion in his hugely successful “His Dark Materials” trilogy, the first of which was turned into a Hollywood blockbuster.

Wasn’t that much of a blockbuster if I remember correctly.

But “The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ” is a far more direct exploration of the foundations of Christianity and the church as well as an examination of the fascination and power of storytelling.

An “exploration of the foundations of Christianity and the church.”  Written by an atheist.  Okay, I’ll take a stab at it.  Really good man with nothing divine about him at all whose teachings were distorted into something he never intended?

In the novel, Jesus has a twin brother called Christ who secretly records and embellishes his brother’s teachings. 

Johnson, top of the arc, SWISH, nothing but net!!  At least Phil’s got an original plot.  By the way, did you know that the Pope’s got a brother named XVI and that Catherine of Russia had two sisters named The and Great? 

Pully, by the way, is one of those “brave” artists who grab you by the collar, slam you up against a wall and spend fifteen to twenty minutes making sure you understand just how incredibly courageous he really is.

When one man said Christians would be upset to hear Christ referred to as a “scoundrel,” Pullman replied:

“I knew it was a shocking thing to say, but no one has the right to live without being shocked. Nobody has to read this book … and no one has the right to stop me writing this book.”

Whatever, freakshow.  Phil, nobody is impressed by this crap anymore.

AND NOW…IDIOTS

Sunday, March 28th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 39 Comments

Recently, folks in Stephenville, Texas were outraged about a student production at the drama department of the local university:

A college student’s production of a play in which Jesus is portrayed as the “King of Queers” has outraged residents in a Texas town that fancies itself the Cowboy Capital of the World.

Just in time for Easter, Tarleton State University is playing host to a student performance of Terrence McNally’s 1998 play, “Corpus Christi,” which depicts a gay Jesus performing a same-sex wedding for two of his apostles.

And though Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in the traditional biblical narrative, his character (called Joshua) in the play shows Judas the full extent of his love, kissing the son of perdition at Pontius Pilate High School’s senior prom.

The play presents a modern-day version of Jesus’ life and death in 1960s Corpus Christi, Texas, with a few controversial updates. The apostles are all gay, Joseph is an alcoholic wife-beater, and Mary gives birth alongside a chorus of moaning men.

The fact that a college drama department got its blasphemy freak on is not news; this kind of thing happens all the time.  What’s interesting, and by “interesting,” I mean so mind-blowingly stupid that it’s actually kind of impressive, is the justification the kid director gave for putting this crap on.  Swallow anything you might be drinking and move liquids away from your computer before you proceed.

The production is a class project for student-director John Jordan Otte, who said in a written statement that he chose the play to “bring people together” and help gain acceptance for gay Christians, who he said often feel alienated from their churches.

“It is being said often that this play is a direct attack on Christians — their faith and their deity. It simply is not true,” wrote Otte, 26, who said he is a devout Christian.

“I am not attacking anyone in choosing this play. I want people to see and understand another side to faith. I want us all to know that unconditional love means just that — unconditional — and I believe tolerance is a key message in this play. None of us, not one of us, should ever feel alone or separated from God or whomever we believe in.

Yup.  Nothing brings people together quite as effectively as presenting the most important Person in the history of the world in the worst possible light.  Nothing I can think of promotes “tolerance” and the “acceptance of gay Christians” better than presenting pedal-to-the-metal blasphemy as “another side of faith.”

And no, I don’t know if this “devout Christian” Otte is an Episcopalian or not.

Big ups to Kevin.

THINKING OUT LOUD

Saturday, March 27th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 13 Comments

After further review, I’m starting to believe that as far as the Anglican situation in South Carolina is concerned, something else might be in play:

The Episcopal Church (TEC) this past Friday, March 12, filed in the US Supreme Court a brief supporting dissident Episcopal parishioners in the Pawley’s Island area. The brief seeks a writ of certiorari in an effort to overturn the South Carolina Supreme Court’s unanimous September 2009 decision allowing the parish church of All Saints, Waccamaw, to break away from TEC.

The South Carolina court’s unanimous decision last September was the oldest still-pending court dispute involving the application of the Dennis Canon of The Episcopal Church to a parish’s property. In a wide-ranging decision involving All Saints Parish Church, Waccamaw, which serves the Pawleys Island area, the South Carolina court held that All Saints Parish Church, Waccamaw, is an independent congregation and the true owner of its property outside the jurisdiction of TEC. The property includes the original parish church which is more than 200 years old.

The appeals brief was filed with the US Supreme court on a petition for a writ of certiorari. Certiorari is a procedure by which a party can ask the US Supreme Court in its discretion to review a case. The Supreme Court receives thousands of certiorari petitions each year and routinely denies all but about one hundred. If the court decides to accept the case, it will grant a writ of certiorari. Thus, the US Supreme Court still has to rule whether it will take the case. The All Saint’s parties have until April 23 to file a reply brief on this question.

That underlined part is important; this appeal is a long shot, one which Anglican conservatives recently lost.  Granted, Hail Marys sometimes work but the odds against TEO in this particular case have to be considered enormous.

Stay with me.

Since the South Carolina Supreme Court has already demonstrated that it will not prostrate itself before the Dennis Canon and since writs of certiorari are difficult things to obtain, a legal move against the Diocese by TEO would be extremely risky.

If TEO sues South Carolina for not suing some parish that wants to throw in with AMiA and TEO loses, Episcopal Organization authority over South Carolina effectively comes to an end and the Diocese is free to do anything it wants.

South Carolina could vote to join ACNA, it could vote to pursue an independent existence all its own or it could vote to maintain its present ambiguous relationship with TEO, secure in the knowledge that it was effectively independent anyway.

Mrs. Schori’s only option would seem to be her usual “abandonment of communion” scam, deposing Lawrence, firing the Standing Committee, appointing sock puppets in their places and hoping like hell that the South Carolina courts would be fearful of inserting itself into questions of “church governance.”

Thing is, they already have.  By deciding the Pawley’s Island case in the way that they did and by deciding it unanimously, the South Carolina Supreme Court has indicated that it won’t automatically and robotically defer to TEO’s arguments. 

And the difficulties in obtaining a writ of certiorari from the US Supreme Court suggest that if Mrs. Schori wants to “rebuild” the Episcopal Organization in South Carolina, it will be the liberals who will be renting worship space wherever they can find it.

SHOWDOWN

Friday, March 26th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 36 Comments

Mark Lawrence has three words for Katharine Jefferts Schori.  Bring it on:

I come now to the reason why this Annual Diocesan Convention was postponed.  If the challenges I mentioned above were not enough for a diocese to face in a downturned economy, since our Special Convention in October, which addressed the many theological challenges before us, an entirely new challenge has surfaced:  A constitutional question about the ability of a diocese to govern its common life in a way that is obedient to the teaching of the Bible, the received heritage of The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, and in accordance with The Constitution & Canons of The Episcopal Church.  In December of 2009 our Chancellor, Mr. Wade Logan, was finally informed by a local attorney that he had been retained by the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor.  In a subsequent series of letters he presented himself as “South Carolina counsel for The Episcopal Church” and requested numerous of items of the Bishop and Standing Committee, as well as information regarding parishes in this diocese.   This way of presenting himself fails to acknowledge that this diocese is the only recognized body of The Episcopal Church within the lower half of South Carolina.  There is no other representative or ecclesiastical authority of The Episcopal Church here but our Bishop and Standing Committee.  Furthermore, this was carried out without the Presiding Bishop even so much as calling me.   Subsequently, the Presiding Bishop has stated publicly, as well as to privately to me, that the retaining of this attorney was in keeping with the mutual litigation in the Pawleys Island case of All Saints’ Parish versus All Saints’, the Diocese of South Carolina and TEC.  But as I had pointed out to her privately, and Bishop Ed Salmon made clear during a brief discussion at the recent House of Bishop’s Meeting at Camp Allen, in the prior circumstances the Diocese and The Presiding Bishop’s Office were partners in a law suit in which both were named by the other party.  This present matter is quite different.  The retaining of counsel now has all the signs of an adversarial relationship—one of monitoring through a non-constitutional and non-canonical incursion how a Diocesan Bishop and Standing Committee may choose to deal with its priests and parishes.  

What is astonishing is that this Diocese of South Carolina, while seeking to be faithful to the Holy Scriptures, historic Anglicanism and the received teaching of the Anglican Communion as expressed through its four Instruments of Unity, as well as to The Book of Common Prayer, and adhering to The Constitution & Canons of this Church, has experienced incursions not authorized by these very constitution and canons. A reference here to Powel Mills Dawley’s book in the Church Teaching Series, The Episcopal Church and Its Work, may be helpful for many.  Writing of the Presiding Bishop’s authority, Professor Dawley notes, “[He] exercises no direct pastoral oversight of his own, nor does he possess visitatorial or juridical powers within the independent dioceses of the Episcopal Church.”  The absence of the Presiding Bishop having juridical powers within an independent diocese makes the hiring of an attorney by the Presiding Bishop’s office an unauthorized act.  The stated purpose for her incursion is the protection of Church property.  Whether there are other more disruptive reasons for such non-canonical intrusion can only be surmised.  But in addressing only this stated purpose we can summarize that the Presiding Bishop has decided that the best way to resolve the challenges TEC faces over profound questions of doctrine, morality and discipline is to interpret the so called Dennis Canon as demanding that every diocese institute litigation in the secular courts with parishes that decide to depart, therein exercising coercive power to the fullest extent of the law regardless of the local issues, or the decisions of the diocesan bishop and Standing Committee.

All this is a profound overreach of the Presiding Bishop’s authority.  Certainly I know there are many within TEC who strongly disagree with my theological commitments, and regardless of how monolithic people may believe this diocese to be, there are those within this diocese who share their disagreement.  I acknowledge this and respect it.  Even more, some do not like the strong statements I have made criticizing certain actions and resolutions successive General Conventions have affirmed, as well as the steps that many leaders of the “national” Church have taken, tearing the fabric of the Anglican Communion.  But the thing we are confronting now is not a challenge of this nature.  It is a challenge to how for over two hundred years The Episcopal Church has carried out its mission and ministry.  It is one of the ironies of this time that we in a diocese like South Carolina, which has been one of the most vigorous critics of the “national” church, should be the ones that are called to defend the polity of TEC—to defend the way Episcopalians have for so long carried out their mission.  But history is full of such paradoxes.  In standing up and protecting our autonomy or independence as a diocese in TEC, in protecting the diocesan bishop’s authority to shepherd the parishes and missions of his diocese, and in defending the bishop and, in his absence, the Standing Committee as the Ecclesiastical Authority, we are in fact defending how TEC has carried out its ministry and mission for these many years.  Every Diocesan Bishop, every Standing Committee, indeed every Episcopalian ought to know that if this is allowed to stand, that if The Presiding Bishop and her chancellor are allowed to hire an attorney in a diocese of this Church, to look over the shoulder of any bishop or worse dictate to that Bishop or Standing Committee how they are to deal with the parishes and missions under their care, imposing upon them mandates or directives as to how they disburse or purchase property then we have entered into a new era of unprecedented hierarchy, and greater autocratic leadership from the Presiding Bishop’s office and his or her chancellor.  It may then be the case that a chancellor who has heretofore been only a counsel of advice for the PB can now function, without election, confirmation or canonical authority, as the de facto chancellor of the Church, exercising power not authorized by this Church and therein dictating to the dioceses of this church how they shall deal with their parishes and property. 

Recently, the Presiding Bishop and I have had a respectful conversation about this matter, during which she asserted once again what she has stated publicly on many occasions.  That she has responsibility for the whole Church.  That the property of The Episcopal Church must be protected and this is one of her duties.  But if so, it is a duty that she has assumed, not one stated in the Constitution & Canons, nor assumed by any previous Presiding Bishop.  The PB’s role is to guide the work that the several dioceses perform together as may be voted upon by General Convention.  It is not to direct the work or ministry of the independent dioceses that make up the Episcopal Church.  That has always been the role of the Bishop of the Diocese and the various elected bodies of the local diocese.  The Standing Committee, the Bishop and perhaps the Board of Trustees of the local diocese alone have charge in various ways over these matters of property.  As a case in point, should a diocese decide to purchase property to plant a congregation, or alienate or sell the property it possess, it seeks no further authority than itself for such action. So too if a diocese chooses to close a congregation there is no higher authority than the bishop.  The Presiding Bishop’s decision to hire counsel in South Carolina leads us all into such precarious waters that every diocese and bishop in this Church ought to be concerned, lest the polity and practice of TEC be changed by a precedent without constitutional or canonical authority.  As I have said to our various deanery gatherings, and as I stated to the Presiding Bishop, precedent unchallenged may establish practice and practice unchallenged in time may turn to policy.  Therefore, we have a constitutional and canonical obligation to demand the removal of her legal counsel.  Especially is this fitting in that her public defense of her position was that they had previously had counsel in this diocese to assist in the Pawleys Island law suit.  Since the case is now finished there should be no further reason for such a retainer.  Unfortunately, after lengthy and respectful conversation, the Presiding Bishop and I stand looking at one another across a wide, deep and seemingly unbridgeable theological and canonical chasm.   At present both of us have signaled a willingness to continue the conversation even if it requires phone conversations from vastly different area codes.

And with that, Mark Lawrence has just crossed the Rubicon.  Will Lawrence’s stance cost him?  Of course it will; with this message, the Bishop has just painted a bullseye on his chasuble and his tenure as an “official” Episcopal bishop can now be measured in months rather than years. 

Should Lawrence’s line in the sand have happened sooner?  Absolutely.

But one of the things that irritates me the most about Anglican conservatives is this need to continually argue about what should have happened, where the line in the sand should have been drawn. 

Guess what?  The line wasn’t drawn where we think it should have been drawn and we’re not back there anymore, we’re here.  So what say we deal with actual reality rather than the reality we think should have been?

Is Mark Lawrence going to get run?  No doubt whatsoever.  Does South Carolina have some difficult choices ahead?  Yup.  Will they make the correct call? 

That remains to be seen.

WELL-OILED MACHINE

Friday, March 26th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 23 Comments

Things are apparently running so smoothly in his diocese, wherever that might be, that homosexual bishop Gene Robinson, who is the homosexual Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of As-If-It-Still-Matters-At-This-Point, has taken on a new gig:

Today the Center for American Progress announced that the IX Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Who-Gives-A-Crap, the Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson, has joined American Progress as a part-time Senior Fellow.

Bishop Robinson will bring a well-respected religious perspective to framing and addressing various areas of public policy, including economic justice, immigration, LGBT rights, health care, and the environment.

“Bishop Robinson has demonstrated extraordinary leadership and courage during his decades serving the Episcopal Church as a pastor, and even longer being a champion of fairness and equality for the people of some state or other, Bishop Robinson isn’t sure, except that he thinks it might begin with a M or an N or something” said John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress. “We are so pleased that his teachings will help inform our work.”

I might have changed some of the wording of that release.

ANNALS OF THE DISTINCTLY NATIVE AMERICAN CRIMINAL CLASS

Friday, March 26th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 20 Comments

“When everything is on the line,” Jim Geraghty observed the other day, “even the principles of Bart Stupak can be dilated and extracted.”

A day after Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and ten other House members compromised on their pro-life position to deliver the necessary yes-votes to pass health care reform, the “Stupak 11″ released their fiscal year 2011 earmark requests, which total more than $4.7 billion–an average of $429 million worth of earmark requests for each lawmaker.

Of the eight lawmakers whose 2010 requests were available for comparison, five requested more money this week than they did a year ago: Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Pa., Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind., Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, and Rep. Charles Wilson, D-Ohio.

The eleven members were the focus of high level pressure by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats because they threatened to vote against the health care reform bill, which passed the House on Sunday, March 21, by a seven vote margin. Granting earmark requests are one of the ways leadership can encourage members to vote their way.

Stupak requested more than $578 million in earmarks, including $125 million for a replacement lock on the Sault Ste. Marie, $25.6 million to build a federal courthouse in Marquette, Mich., $15 million to repaint the Mackinac Bridge and $800,000 to preserve the Quincy Mining Company smelter near Hancock in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

So good luck running on your pro-ObamReidNannerMcBotoxCare vote this fall.

Arizona must drop a plan to cut its Medicaid program’s generous eligibility and instead pay an additional $3.8 billion over the next three years under the federal health care overhaul, state officials reported Thursday.

Arizona also stands to pay billions of dollars more in subsequent years than less generous other states would have to pay, even after increased federal funding starts in 2014, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System said in a report.

Gov. Jan Brewer and the Republican-led Legislature included a rollback of AHCCCS eligibility to help balance the $8.5 billion budget for the next fiscal year. The rollback would have dropped 310,000 people, roughly a quarter of the 1.3 million people now served.

But AHCCCS officials concluded Thursday that the health care overhaul’s so-called “maintenance of effort” requirements require Arizona to keep its Medicaid program at current levels in order to keep getting federal dollars. They said the state will incur $3.8 billion of added costs for its Medicaid population before increased federal funding starts in 2014.

Which leads us to this.  The Pew Research Center recently asked 1,500 adults for a one-word impression of the US Congress.  The following words came up most often.

Dysfunctional, corrupt, self-serving, self-centered, selfish, self-absorbed, inept, confused, incompetent, ineffective, lazy, bad, suck(s), poor, crook(s), crooked, disappointing, gridlock, deadlock, idiots, idiotic, slow, mess, messed up, messy, lousy, terrible, disorganized, unorganized, divided, good, stupid, children, childish, child-like, dissatisfied, do nothing, failing, failure, inadequate, greedy, joke, jokers, not good, partisan, socialist, useless, worthless, bull(expletive), chaos, clowns, frustrating, frustrated, horrible, inefficient, liberal, liars, money-hungry.

It’s going to be an interesting couple of years around these here parts.

UPDATE:  Suckers.

The health care overhaul will cost U.S. companies billions and make them more likely to drop prescription drug coverage for retirees because of a change in how the government subsidizes those benefits.

In the first two days after the law was signed, three major companies — Deere & Co., Caterpillar Inc. and Valero Energy — said they expect to take a total hit of $265 million to account for smaller tax deductions in the future.

With more than 3,500 companies now getting the tax break as an incentive to keep providing coverage, others are almost certain to announce similar cost increases in the weeks ahead as they sort out the impact of the change.

Figuring out what it will mean for retirees will take longer, but analysts said as many as 2 million could lose the prescription drug coverage provided by their former employers, leaving them to enroll in Medicare’s program.

American industrial companies that are struggling to compete globally against companies with much lower labor costs are particularly likely to eventually drop retiree coverage, said Gene Imhoff, an accounting professor at the University of Michigan.

“Anything that they can use to justify pushing something away from the employees, pushing it back on the employees or the government, they’re going to do it,” Imhoff said. “I’m not sure you can really blame them for trying to do this.”

When Congress approved the Medicare prescription drug program in 2003, it included government incentives for employers to provide drug benefits to retirees so the public system wouldn’t be overwhelmed. Employers that provide prescription drug benefits for retirees can receive subsidies covering 28 percent of eligible costs; those subsidies totaled $3.7 billion in 2008.

Under the 2003 law, companies could deduct the entire amount they spent on the drug benefits from their taxable income — including the government subsidy, an average of $665 per retiree.

The health care law signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday prohibits companies from writing off the subsidies starting in 2011, meaning they will no longer be able to deduct them from their taxable income.

LAODICEANS

Friday, March 26th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 26 Comments

God bless ’em, as Joe Biden might say, you can set your clocks by Anglicans:

The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops, concluding its six-day retreat meeting at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas, has posted a draft of the long-awaited 95-page report titled “Same-Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church” on the College for Bishops’ website here.

Does ANYBODY not know what’s coming next?  Because I don’t see how that’s possible.

“For a generation and more the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion have been engaged in a challenging conversation about sexual ethics, especially regarding same-sex relationships in the life of the church,” Theology Committee Chair and Alabama Bishop Henry Parsley wrote in the report’s preface. “The hope of this work is that serious engagement in theological reflection across differences will build new bridges of understanding.”

Yup.  We’re going to keep talking about stuff.

“I think the house believes that the progress that was made both in terms of the more well-known conservative viewpoint, for lack of a better term, as well as the creative theological work of the more liberal group, again for lack of a better term to characterize them[How about apples and oranges? - Ed], did provide some new theological insight and grist for conversation,” he said. “But we all believe and are of a mind that there is more work to be done in pursuing strictly theological and biblical insights that will give the church some kind of resource to work toward finding a way to live together in the midst of some rather strong differences among many of our members, clergy and congregations.

And talking about stuff.

“The reception was less than thrilling,” Smith wrote of the papers in his blog. “One bishop pointed out that there was nothing new in the arguments, stuff we have heard 20 years ago. Still, I guess that it is a good thing that we are still at the table exchanging views.”

And talking about stuff.

Meanwhile, Rickel wrote that he was “a bit disappointed with the report itself, which was really simply two papers, one from the conservative viewpoint, and one from the progressive viewpoint.” Rickel noted that the paper did “provoke very good discussion.”

And talking about stuff.

Lambert, Diocese of Dallas bishop suffragan and member of [the] meeting’s planning committee, wrote on the Anglicans United website that the report “was received with some caution and we will continue to use the report as a basis for further conversations and it should not be seen as the definitive statement of the church’s statement on same-sex relationships, although some would see it as so.”

I wouldn’t worry about that, Bishop.  Episcopalians have never ever come up with a definitive statement about anything.  These days, they don’t need to what with their inclination to establish facts on the ground first and ask questions later.

It must be hell to be married to an Anglican.  Trying to work out where the family vacation’s going to be this year has to be excruciating.

Your Anglican husband wants to visit Europe, the Far East or some such place, your gamer son wants to go, “I dunno, someplace kewl, uh kay, whatEVER,” your sweet little daughter wants to go to Disney World to see Mickey again while you finally want to fulfill your lifelong dream and visit Webster Groves, Missouri.

So the four of you talk about it.  And talk about it.  And talk about it.  And talk about it.  And talk about it.  And talk about it.  And talk about it.  And talk about it.  And talk about it.  And talk about it.  And talk about it.

The thing is, you don’t realize that your Anglican husband is already on the best vacation he could possibly be on and your family hasn’t even left the house.  So when you finally lose it, stand up and scream, “Crap on a stick, just PICK one!!” you’re in for the worst vacation of your entire life.

SCAREDY CAT

Thursday, March 25th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“Hello?”

“Hello.  My name is __________ and I work in the office of Congressman Russ Carnahan.”

“What can I do for you, Mr. __________?”

“If I’m not mistaken, you live near the Congressman, don’t you?”

“I live right across the street.  None of us here in the neighborhood agree with him about much of anything but we don’t let that get in the way.  We all him over for cookouts or take in a Cardinal game now and then, stuff like that.  Russ is a good guy.”

“That’s nice to know, sir.  Anyway, I was wondering if…”

“Gotta say, Russ’s chrysanthemums are looking great this year.  Wish I could get mine to do that well.  And the nasturtiums he put in last spring are a really nice touch.  I didn’t think they would be but they are.”

“I’ll pass that on to the Congressman, sir.  Anyway, as to the reason for this call, I’d like to know if you’ve been following the recent health care debate.”

“Very much so.  I’ve been to three tea parties and one town hall, the one where Kenneth Gladney was assaulted by those punk-ass bitches from SEIU.” 

“Sir?”

“I asked Russ if he’d actually read the bill and he said he hadn’t so when the bill became more-or-less finalized by the Senate last Christmas Eve, I bought a copy for him.”

“Sir?

“In case you’re wondering, he hasn’t read the thing yet.  Last time I was over at his place, he hadn’t even taken the shrink wrap off and was using it as a doorstop.”

“That’s very interesting, sir.  Anyway, I was wondering if you were as concerned as I am about some of the overheated, extreme, completely out-of-hand and even violent rhetoric that’s been heard during and after this debate.”

“Damn right I’m concerned.  This kind of thing can prompt emotionally unstable people into all sorts of reprehensible actions.”

“I’m so glad you agree.  Talk like this can lead people to…

“Accuse opponents of the health care plan of being racists, hear racial slurs when none are uttered, claim you were spit on when you weren’t.  I hear you, man.  This kind of thing has got to stop.”

“Sir, that’s not really what I…”

“Did you know that Republican Congressman Eric Cantor’s Virginia office was shot at and that Ohio Republican Congresswoman Jean Schmidt received a vile phone threat?  Hell, somebody basically tried to kill a Republican candidate for Congress named Eddie Adams.”

“Um…so you agree that the rhetoric on all sides needs to be dialed down.”

“Oh very much so.”

“The reason for my call is that Congressman Carnahan wanted to bring up a couple of…concerns he had with you.”

“Concerns?  With me personally?”

“Sir, in the month of October following the town hall meeting you describe, Congressman Carnahan says that he saw your front yard decorated with skeletons, ghosts, coffins, things like that.”

“You mean the Halloween decorations?  My kids put those up.  They LOVE Halloween.  Me, I think it’s a pain in the ass, what with having to stay home and hand out candy, but they’re really into it so what’re you going to do?”

“Sir, Congressman Carnahan also says he could clearly see members of your family watching scary movies on your big screen TV several times that month.”

“That baby’s a 100-incher.  But so what if Russ could see what movies the kids were watching?”

“Sir, all those things, the so-called decorations, the movies, are symbolic of death.  And Congressman Carnahan could clearly see them.”

“Once again.  So?”

“Sir, Congressman Carnahan ‘appreciates thoughtful feedback received both in favor and opposition of health insurance reform’ and believes that we can have a thoughtful debate ‘without resorting to this kind of thing.’”

“What kind of thing?”

“The kind of overheated symbolism you displayed inside and outside your home last October which was clearly directed at the Congressman.”

“Overheated symbolism?  What the hell are you talking about?  It’s absolutely crazy to think that my kids’ Halloween decorations or the movies they enjoy constitute any kind of a…HANNNGG on a second.”

“What?” 

“You’re talking about last October.  Everybody’s getting bent out of shape about language right now.  So that can only mean one thing.  Russ isn’t scared of anyone’s political rhetoric.”

“He is too.”

“Russ actually is scared of ghosts and skeletons and coffins and vampires and werewolves and stuff.  He thinks scary movies are really happening.  My God.  Russ Carnahan is an absolute wuss.”

“The Congressman most certainly is not!!  And it isn’t at all helpful for you to characterize his perfectly valid concerns about…”

“Good God, how does the man make it through the day?   Look over there, wuss, I mean Russ.  A cemetery.  They bury dead people there, Russ.  Booga, booga, booga.”

“Sir, that’s not…”

“Of course, I guess these days it would be different.  Look over there, wuss, I mean Russ.  A cemetery.  Overheated right-wing political rhetoric.  Booga, booga, booga.”

Stop calling the Congressman a…

“Gotta tell you, dude, the neighborhood is never going to let Russ live this one down.  But tell him I’ll have the kids decorate the back yard for Halloween this year.  Wouldn’t want to give the little wuss nightmares.”

CHAOS THEORY

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 41 Comments

Former United States Secretary of State James Baker III loves the Episcopal Organization not wisely but too well:

As an Episcopalian who is concerned about the fracturing of our church, and one who desires to hold it together, I fear our dwindling church will continue to shrink unless we find a way to bridge our differences. Further breaking apart of our denomination would be extraordinarily regrettable, but in my view probable if we continue on our present path.

And he’s concerned about its future.

It does not have to be this way. Rather than choosing between the absolutist positions where there is one “winner” and one “loser” with respect to those issues, I believe that there is another more practical approach worthy of consideration.

Basically, Secretary Baker proposes to make the Episcopal Organization even more theologically and intellectually incoherent than it already is.

Therefore, I suggest that the best approach going forward would be for both sides of the controversy to agree to disagree, with each side expressing respect for the good faith of the other.

What practical steps would this involve, Mr. Secretary?

Such an approach could be called an “all are welcome” or “local option” approach and would promote a church of authentic inclusivity. It would be a reasonable and democratic solution. Under this approach, each parish would be able to decide by majority vote of its communicants the position it would take on these issues of sexuality.  Those votes would be conducted for the first time in 2012 and thereafter only in general convention years when a particular parish was presented with a petition in writing signed by 50% or more of the communicants of that parish requesting another vote on the issue. Parishes that voted in favor of same-sex blessings/ordinations could be referred to by one designation and those voting against by some other designation. All would be deemed to be parishes in good standing in the Episcopal Church of the United States.  Bishops in exercising oversight of the parishes in their diocese on issues of sexuality would do so in keeping with that particular parish’s most recent vote.

Leaving aside the fact that this idea doesn’t stand a chance because there’s no longer any reason for Episcopal liberals to allow it to ever see the light of day, I hope you grasp the fundamental problem here. 

Bishop Smith is a straight-down-the-line Episcopal liberal.  But Bishop Smith has three parishes in his diocese that are virulently opposed to homosexual bishops and same-sex marriage and, under Secretary Baker’s proposal, so designate themselves.

If episcopal oversight must be exercised “in keeping with that particular parish’s most recent vote,” Bishop Smith must preach that homosexual activity is a sin whenever he visits any of those three parishes.  When he visits any other parish, Smith can say what he truly believes. 

In effect, Baker’s proposal doesn’t just ask Smith to lie, it orders him to.  Which doesn’t seem like it would be particularly effective way of proclaiming the Gospel.  Of course, that’s just me and I don’t particularly care whether the Episcopal Organization continues to exist or not so take that for what it’s worth.

Yeah, I know, there are Episcopalians in Roman Catholic drag out there.  But for the most part, your average Roman Catholic could move from London to Webster Groves, Missouri or from Paris to Webster Groves, Missouri or from Rome to Webster Groves, Missouri or from New York City to Webster Groves, Missouri, walk into one of the numerous Catholic parishes around here and feel spiritually at home.

But Secretary Baker?  If you ask someone, “What do Episcopalians believe?” and he replies, “Depends on what building you’re in,” that is not a selling point.  Indeed, Christians tend to run, not walk, away from answers like that one and the churches who give it.  Because of, you know, the whole Laodicean thing.

DARK HORSE?

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 21 Comments

If Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn runs for president in 2012, count me in:

If you voted no and you vote yes, and you lose your election, and you think any nomination to a federal position isn’t going to be held in the Senate, I’ve got news for you. It’s going to be held.

Number two is, if you get a deal, a parochial deal for you or your district, I’ve already instructed my staff and the staff of seven other senators that we will look at every appropriations bill, at every level, at every instance, and we will outline it by district, and we will associate that with the buying of your vote. So, if you think you can cut a deal now, and it not come out until after the election, I want to tell you that isn’t going to happen. And be prepared to defend selling your vote in the House.

Coburn enjoys baiting Democrats.

On Tuesday, the GOP put its strategy into action, with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okl.) introducing an amendment beyond agreeable. Titled “No Erectile Dysfunction Drugs To Sex Offenders” it would literally prohibit convicted child molesters, rapists, and sex offenders from getting erectile dysfunction medication from their health care providers.

While it will undoubtedly be difficult for Democrats to vote against the measure (one can conjure up the campaign ads already), the party plans to do just that.

If Republicans, in a bit of legislative trickery, offer an amendment to the Senate reconciliation bill that allows for the establishment of a public option for insurance coverage, Democrats — despite longing for the proposal for more than a year — won’t even take the bait.

Knowing that means that the Senator can have a lot of fun.

Everyone get the joke here? If the Dems amend the reconciliation bill for any reason, they have to send it back to the House for yet another vote. So anything the GOP proposes — anything — they’re basically bound to vote no on. And Coburn knows it. One tasty shinola sandwich, coming up!

Exit question: How long after they vote on the Viagra amendment before we see a YouTube ad asking, “Why does Harry Reid want to give rapists erections”? Over/under is two days.

COBURN, 2012!!

BART STUPAK

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 | Uncategorized | 21 Comments

Chump:

President Obama signed the Senate health care bill into law Tuesday. He did not sign the executive order on abortion negotiated with Michigan Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak in an 11th-hour arrangement that may well have saved the entire health care reform effort.

A White House official told Fox, Obama will not sign the Executive Order Tuesday and has set no specific date to do so. Stupak predicted Obama would sign the order later this week. The White House said only that Obama would sign the order “soon.”

Stupak released a statement today defending the as-yet-unsigned executive order, placing it on a list of other significant orders that included Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and Harry Truman’s 1948 order desegregating the U.S. armed forces.

“Throughout history, Executive Orders have been an important means of implementing public policy,” Stupak said in a statement. “The most famous Executive Order was the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln in 1863.”

Or disingenuous crapweasel.

I don’t think I ever voted to de-fund Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood does not do abortions…in my district. Planned Parenthood has a number of clinics in my district that provide health care for my people. Therefore, these clinics do quite well in my district, and I’m all for health care and extending it to everybody–access to health care, so that’s just another way. Also on Planned Parenthood , when they do it, there is a segregation of funds that go with it. It’s usually about four hundred million they tried to de-fund on Planned Parenthood. Maybe this time, I’ll look at it again if Pence brings it up. Maybe I’ll vote differently this time, but you’re right I did vote against it.

But I guess there’s no reason why he couldn’t be both.

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