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*No, not that JP. Note: If your goals in life include meeting cute emergency room nurses, having multiple extreme (and painful) injections, getting cool disfiguring injuries and spending quality time with plastic surgeons, please disregard these rules. Never pet a cat on the street. Also avoid stray dogs. Don’t pick up dead bats. Ditto “dead” […]

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Team Mungadai had handed the mission off to Team Boomslang.* We successfully conducted our Relief In Place. We’d turned over our vehicles and crew-served weapons. We had decamped our building, and moved into two-man Component Housing Units. The next day, we would take helicopters from Mosul to Baghdad. Then contracted air from BIAP to Kuwait. […]

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“[We] continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” Step 10 of Alcoholics Anonymous. https://www.aa.org/ I had a good faith belief in collusion and/or kompromat. However, I am taking AG Barr at his word that Mueller found that no members of the Trump campaign actively colluded with the Russians.  The […]

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By now it’s common wisdom that there should have never been any question as to whether Obama was born in the U.S., and that anyone who believed that he might have been born in Kenya had nothing other than pure racism on which to base that belief. Trump, being the highest profile “birther” is, of […]

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The Left’s Presumption of Their Own Bias

 

As time passed, and months and years went by, it became increasingly obvious that Mueller had found no collusion. And it seemed obvious from the beginning that there would be no collusion, because why on earth would the Russians want Trump in the White House when they could have had Hillary Clinton? But despite the lack of evidence, progressives really believed that there would be collusion discovered. Somehow.

This tweet is from a year ago, so I suppose it may not be fair to bring it up a year later. But what the heck was this guy thinking? How could he be so confident? He wrote this last April, a year after the investigation started. Wasn’t he starting to wonder by then?

At that time, there was no evidence of any wrongdoing on Trump’s behalf. And after the release of the report a year later, there still isn’t.

With no evidence to support his opinion, how could he be so sure that he was right? He couldn’t be. Unless he presumed that the overwhelming bias of Mueller and his hand-selected team of Democrat activists would lead them to follow the law just like liberal Supreme Court justices follow the Constitution.

The only explanation I can come up with for the certainty of the left on the eventual findings of Mueller’s team was the presumption of their own bias and disregard for the law.

And that says a lot more about the left than it does about Trump.

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It will be interesting to see if Corsi can breach sovereign immunity and make Mueller pay. It would be entertaining to see Mueller cross examined and discovery could reveal much about Mueller and his questionable team. Maybe he could serve time in Massachusetts where four men were incarcerated who the FIB knew were innocent (it’s […]

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Checking in on Bill Kristol and the Bulwark this morning… pic.twitter.com/PSyV2GXLrY — EJ Hill (@EJHill_PSC) March 25, 2019 Heh.

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Jordan Peterson – a postscript

 

Further to @brianwatts satirical piece on Jordan Peterson’s latest book, let us not forget the inherent danger of any form of censorship.

Above all, remember that in 1823 the German-Jewish author Heinrich Heine wrote: “Dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende Menschen.“ (Where you burn books, you will finish by burning people). 

A century later, when the Nazis came to power, they did just that, burning books (including those of Heine himself). And you know how that story ended.

Booksellers and librarians refusing to stock books with whose content they do not agree is a far cry from the mass incineration of “decadent” works. But maybe not quite as far as that. Alarm bells should be ringing!

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  I know some of you have heard all this before. Well too bad. Here it is again. I didn’t get married until I was 34. I was having too much fun. I remember feeling sorry for my friends as they got married one by one, the first one when we were just 21. Poor […]

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The first Sunday of Lent: The Triumph of Orthodoxy

 
The Triumph of Orthodoxy – Theodora’s restoration of icons. By Anonymous – National Icon Collection (18), British Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7306236

Great Lent is the most profound time of the Orthodox year. The rigors of fasting (to the extent that you can do it – not everyone can, and if you can’t it’s nobody else’s business), the added services throughout the weeks, the very special nature of those services, the change in the tones of chanting from major keys to more muted and plaintive minor keys, and the change in the vestments and various draperies, covers, and hangings to darker colors, all together carry the change of the season. There is also a cycle of Sunday services as Lent approaches, with each Sunday being set aside for something significant to the history of the Church, to remind the Orthodox annually of the commitment they have made to carry on with the living tradition and faith of nearly two thousand years.

Eastern Orthodoxy is sometimes called the Church of the Seven Councils, after the first (and only) truly Ecumenical Councils (“ecumenical” here meaning those councils which could be said to truly represent all of Christendom, and whose decrees were universally accepted by all of Christendom – though the Catholic Church numbers many more, the Eastern prelates were either not represented, or the decrees of these councils were never accepted by them). The first Sunday of Lent is called, variously, The Sunday of Orthodoxy, or the Triumph of Orthodoxy, and commemorates the Seventh and final such council and its aftermath. This final council settled the final major theological question of the ancient Church: the proper role and place of religious art. In so doing, it closed arguments that had ebbed and flowed for nearly 500 years, and had been the cause of riots, banishments, and wholesale destruction of art throughout all of the eastern provinces of Christendom (many early relics and works of art from the East were sent West during this time).

The History

The use of images in Christianity has long been controversial, with early church theologians such as Origen and Eusebius of Caesarea writing against them, and other church fathers writing in support of them, but it was under the emperor Leo III, in 726, that the first official edicts banning them outright were issued.  

The Eastern Roman Empire had been by this time fighting a losing war against the Islamic Caliphate for nearly a century, and Islam is, of course, well known for banning nearly all images in mosques. The Christians in the eastern provinces under direct assault, or already behind Islamic lines, in particular therefore concluded that their string of defeats and retreats was a divine judgement against images, an opinion shared by the emperor. With his proclamation, frescos were to be painted or plastered over, mosaics stripped or covered, and a great many other icons were burned. Those who tried to preserve the images were very often imprisoned, tortured, or executed, and an untold number of works, many dating from Christianity’s earliest days, and others dating from the last golden age of Justinian, were lost forever.

CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=579440

But this was only the opening action in a conflict that would rage for nearly two centuries. The remaining western provinces in Italy refused to comply, with a series of Popes outrightly defying the decrees and issuing anathemas against any clerics who sided with the iconoclasts. Leo would reign until 741. His successor, Constantine V, continued the policy for decades to come, even convening a council to provide theological justification to the ban, and furthering the destruction of images by targeting monasteries (who had hitherto been somewhat immune to threat). Constantine overreached in some matters, however, when he attempted to remove any veneration of saints or of Mary, but as he, like Leo III before him, was militarily successful against both the Caliphate and the rising Bulgar threats,. It should be noted, however, that under his reign he lost Byzantine control over Ravenna and Rome, beginning the slow retreat from Italy (which would take centuries) and especially laying the seeds of the estrangement which would ultimately separate the Eastern and Western churches from one another over the coming centuries.

Yet under his successor, Constantine VI, Constantine V’s widow Irene, acting as imperial regent for their son (then a minor), the issue shifted. Irene called a council in 787 – the Second Council of Nicea (the history of what tricks Irene had to pull off to call the council are worth the study), and at this council the question of holy images was re-examined. The proclamations of the council of Constantine V were rejected as heresy, and at Nicea the prelates crafted a lengthy defense of holy images, which stands today within the Orthodox Church as the final word on the matter. But this was not to be the end of the controversy just yet.

Leo V, who took the throne in 813, again banned the use of images, though it appears his fervency for the matter was less severe than prior iconoclast emperors, and the policy continued under his successor, Theophilos. Only with the unexpected death of Theophilos in 842, leading to another minority succession, did this iconoclasm finally end. Theophilos’s widow, Theodora, acting regent like Irene before her, did something very brave: acting on her authority as regent, she convened a council to restore the icons, and in 843 lead a procession with a large icon of Mary the Theotokos. Though many clerics and theologians would resist for years to come, officially the 7th Council’s declarations were affirmed, and the holy images were restored permanently.

Icon procession

The Commemoration

Why the controversy, and why the commemoration? As I touched on here some months ago, the issue stems from the tension between the meanings and interpretations of the second of the Ten Commandments, which prohibits the making of graven images, and the understanding of the Incarnation (Jesus, as God, taking on a human body and living with us). The issue is a considerable one.  

On the one hand is the Commandment in Exodus, chapter 20, verses 4 through 6.  

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands[b] of those who love me and keep my commandments” (ESV)

Yet in the commands from the Lord for the making of the Tabernacle and the Ark, in chapters 25 and 26, there are clear instructions for cherubim to be fashioned of gold for the lid of the Ark, and for the cloths of the tent to have embroidered cherubim on them as well. These are certainly the likenesses of things that are in Heaven above. And Solomon’s temple would later be adorned with cherubim, palm trees, and flowers carved from olive wood (I Kings, chapter 6). What then to make of chapter 20?

Throughout Genesis there are references to family gods – small stone statues of personal household deities, and of course in Exodus there is the matter of the golden calf – these are all false deities and objects of actual worship. And the histories are replete with references to various Baal statues and other shrines to the various cult gods of the Canaanites, Philistines, and other peoples of the area. These are again false deities, and their worship is prohibited. Moreover, the belief of these peoples was that by making these statues and images, people could not only gain an audience with these deities, but actual power over them. Thus the prohibition in Exodus 20 – the one and only Lord of Hosts is the only real deity, beyond description or capture or earthly power. The rest are all false.

Yet Jesus was real and walked among us, so any depiction of him would be a depiction of someone real. To forbid a depiction of Jesus would be to deny his reality, to deny the incarnation. And so icons of Jesus himself, and of his miracles, and of the saints of the Church are all depictions of real people, and affirmations of that incarnation. Moreover, no actual worship is made of these depictions, but the faithful may show veneration (high honor) to the people therein on account of their faithful worship of God The icons remain themselves nothing but paint and glass or wood or plaster – not to be worshiped in themselves, but only shown respect for whom they depict. In addition, they inform and instruct the faithful in their own history and religious upbringing. Thus the iconodules (those who supported the icons) concluded, decreeing that icons have their place in the churches, in homes (which are considered the “little churches”), on public buildings, on vestments, and on the Eucharistic vessels of the churches.

Lent is a journey towards the death of Jesus on the cross, and his resurrection. It is a time of spiritual and physical preparation, and the first Sunday’s step on that journey is, by reaffirming this last major declaration of the early Church, thus a reaffirmation of the Incarnation itself, and a celebration of the Church’s final triumph over the heresy of the iconoclasts.

The service is, where possible, celebrated jointly by multiple churches’s congregations coming together for a single service, and concludes with the clergy and people processing together through or around the church, carrying their icons for all to see. It is the Triumph of Orthodoxy.

Postscript

As the Protestant Reformation swept across northern Europe, many nations, regions, and principalities went through renewed periods of iconoclasm, so in way the issue has been reopened. Many of the Protestant reformers came to reject the 7th Council, either angered at abuses of religious art and concluding that even if it were correct in theology, in practice people really did worship depictions or relics of saints, or else simply concluding that the Council was incorrect. Certainly in the East, from before the periods of iconoclasm there are surviving accounts of some priests and bishops misusing them, treating them as talismans, scraping the paint from them for use in the Eucharistic chalices, and other forms of what can only be described as outright idolatry, though such abuses drew the scorn and condemnation of the patriarchs. In the Western churches there were similar issues.

The most famous (or infamous) iconoclasm of the time was that of Henry VIII, of England. As monasteries were forcibly closed, artwork and vessels were looted and destroyed. The graves of saints were opened, and their remains burned or cast into rivers, frescoes were covered over, in over the course of just a few years the medieval aspects and artwork of many churches were stripped away in favor of a clean and much simplified appearance. What survived this time was often stripped still further during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. In time, art did again appear in Anglican churches, but much of the ancient art is now lost.  

Anglican church, Bar Harbor, Maine

And most Protestant churches today still eschew any religious art at all, favoring a simple cross with little or no adornment save perhaps in stained glass windows. That the Catholic and Orthodox churches still retain the old forms is very often a barrier to dialog, and old arguments remain. In that sense, the triumph of the 7th Council is still incomplete and controversial.


Nota Bene: I’m still way behind on this series. Orthodoxy Sunday this year was last week, on March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day in both Eastern and Western traditions). Hoping to get caught up shortly, and maybe, just maybe, have the 2nd Sunday, Gregory Palamas Sunday (Gregory who?) up before the 3rd Sunday.

Quote of the Day: Greatness is a Decision

 

Everybody matters. Everything goes back to the people. I hire people first, coaches second. I recruit people first, players second.

But if you want to know what the biggest change in Clemson football is over the last 10 years, it’s this: it’s attitude. We control what goes in our heads. So many people let people walk through their heads with dirty feet. Greatness isn’t anybody’s destiny. It’s a decision.

 

–Clemson football coach, Dabo Swinney

 

Recently Coach Swinney gave a speech at a fundraiser for Southeastern University in Bartow, FL.

You can tell he’s one down-to-earth fellow and doesn’t mince words. (I love the image of people walking through the heads of others with their dirty feet.)

After all the controversy over people illegitimately trying to get into colleges, I very much liked his emphasis on the importance of people, not just the positions. Too often we look for “qualifications”: the highest grades, the best statistics, the most celebrated. Instead, Coach is saying that we also need to consider that to do a great job, a person has to have the right values, dedication to others, the vision and a willingness to give their all.

Thanks, Coach, for reminding us that it’s not just the numbers, but the people, who matter.

Town and Gown Troubles

 

There is a long history of Town and Gown troubles. Riots between university students and townspeople took place in the Middle Ages and they continue to this day. One difference, though, is that the combatants, for the most part, are students and police officers. There are outside agitators that are attracted to the fights. Anarchists travel to Portland from Seattle, and anarchists who reside in Portland travel to Seattle for away games.

On February 10 1355, Walter de Springheuse, Roger de Chesterfield and their companions from Oxford University walked into the Swindlestock Tavern. A disagreement over the quality of the wine resulted in an argument. The university men angered by the “stubborn and saucy language” of the wine-seller, threw the wine and its container at his head. The wine-seller expressed his anger to his friends and family, who armed themselves with bows and arrows and shot at the scholars and the chancellor who arrived to calm the situation down.

As we reflect on our own contentious troubles between town and gown, and those who seek to profit from the troubles — journalists and politicians — we should remember that we have been down this road before. This is the story of Notre Dame students that fought against members of the Ku Klux Klan, a fight that lasted for about three days in South Bend, IN.

D.W. Griffith’s 1915 movie The Birth of a Nation, led to a revival of the Ku Klux Klan that was not confined to the South.

But what made Indiana unique was that one man, D.C. Stephenson, engineered the Klan’s revival in the state. He was not a true believer or a racist ideologue, but he was a talented salesman and opportunistic huckster who saw a chance to exploit people’s fear and nationalism for profit in 1921.

Instead of a secret society dedicated to nighttime violence, Stephenson sold this gentler Klan as an all-American social fraternity that gathered for picnics and parades, complete with high school bands and free barbecue. The speeches and newsletters focused on patriotism and virtue.

In less than three years, Stephenson grew the Indiana membership to more than 425,000 people, more than that of Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia combined. As Grand Dragon, his cut of the $10 Klan membership fee made him rich, and he used his money and contacts to gain political power.

Free barbecue, picnics, parades, and high school bands became political power in Indiana in the year 1924. Ed Jackson, who did not hide his affiliation with the Klan, became the Governor of Indiana. Klan members were elected to office throughout Indiana, to include the Mayor and City Council of Indianapolis.

Another institution in Indiana was starting to gain some national attention in the 1920s. A small private school in South Bend was making a name for itself on the football field.

During the 1910s and 1920s, stereotypes and ethnic slurs were openly expressed against immigrants, Catholics and the Irish. The press often referred to Notre Dame teams as the Catholics — or worse, the Papists or Dirty Irish — because the school was largely populated by ethnic Catholic immigrants, many of them Irish. University leaders bristled at such descriptions, and school publications called the team the Gold and Blue or the Notre Damers.

This was also the Knute Rockne era, when the Notre Dame football team first put the small private school on the national map. Rockne’s teams were often called the Rovers or the Ramblers because they traveled far and wide, an uncommon practice before the advent of commercial airplanes. These names were also an insult to the school, meant to suggest it was more focused on football than academics.

Black, Jews, and Catholics are the rhetorical targets, and in some cases physical targets for the Klan. Indiana did not have a large Black or Jewish population in the ’20s. South Bend had the largest Catholic population in the State. Notre Dame had a student body, a majority of whom were the sons of ethnic Catholic immigrants. The Klan decided to pay a visit to South Bend in May 1924 to remind the residents of South Bend, Notre Dame students, and faculty of their proper place in Indiana. The rumors made up by the Klan included arms being stored in the sewers on the Notre Dame campus to start a Catholic uprising in Indiana.

Rumors that spread on both sides of the battle for South Bend made it an ugly fight. Fortunately, no one lost their life.

No one was seriously hurt and only eight arrests were made, six of them students, including two for using profane language. Father Walsh was disappointed that news reports portrayed the students as brawling rioters, living up to a stereotype that would hurt the school’s reputation.

Lane was even more upset about reports of lawlessness in his city. He vowed not to let it happen again, while the county sheriff deputized about 30 Klansmen. They did not have to wait long for their opportunity.

On Monday night, a phone call to Freshman Hall said that the Klan had one student and was beating him mercilessly. Again, about 500 students rushed to town — and into an ambush. Near the Klan office, the students encountered a group that included prepared Klansmen, the police and the sheriff’s deputies.

Bottles and rocks flew through the air. Bats and police clubs cracked down on skulls and backs. The students fought back, throwing punches and organizing into flying wedges like the football team. Bloody and bruised, many of them retreated to regroup at the county courthouse a few blocks away.

Notre Dame made the decision not to discipline the students involved in the fight. Father Walsh decided that it was time to build more dormitories, and a dining hall to keep students on campus.

The Klan tried to organize a second rally to seek a rematch, but it did not come to pass. Scandals concerning Klan members, as well as the residents of Indiana becoming disenchanted with the Ku Klux Klan led to the demise of Klan influence in Indiana politics.

The Kellyanne and George Debacle: A Sad Testimony on Marriage

 

This post is not going to cover the lurid details of the public spat between Donald Trump and George Conway. Instead, I’d like to speak to the degradation of the Conway marriage vows, to the absence of spousal respect and to the damage it causes to the family, especially the children.

Let me provide a little background. Kellyanne and George Conway married in 2001. They now have four children. Before working for President Trump, Kellyanne founded a polling company with many credits to her name. George is a private attorney.

Early on they both supported Donald Trump for president. Kellyanne was chosen by Trump to be a consultant to him. It appeared that George would be appointed to the Justice Department, but after James Comey was fired, George withdrew as a candidate to remain a private lawyer. Shortly thereafter he began his attacks on Twitter. If you’d like to read more about the attacks, you can look here and here.

The real tragedy for the Conway family, the country, and the institution of marriage is not the battle that has emerged and evolved, but how it has been publicly displayed and the disrespect it shows for the institution of marriage. Let me explain.

First, I assume that George Conway knew he was marrying an independent and successful woman. We can’t know how healthy their marriage was before her work with Donald Trump, but since the original plan was for them both to be in the administration, and George bowed out, his decision may have created all kinds of conflicts on his part. The problem is not that George opted out of the administration, but how he acted following his own decision: he publicly attacked his wife’s boss in a high-profile manner, and since her boss just happened to be the President of the United States, it made the headlines.

I don’t expect George to support the President or his wife publicly. But when there are difficulties in a marriage, your spouse is entitled to a level of respect and decent behavior. For George to not only humiliate his wife’s boss but also his own wife is a violation of the marriage vows. Remember, “love and honor”? In fact, I don’t know the nature of their relationship, but whatever problems George and Kellyanne had, his behavior is abominable. When a couple is in conflict, especially when they are high-profile people, the appropriate thing to do is to keep it between themselves.

The couple also has four children. George is putting them in an impossible position when he indirectly attacks their mother. Kellyanne not only chose to work for the President, but to date, she has tried to maintain some dignity in her public comments. To have the children hear their father humiliating their mother, even if indirectly, is unacceptable.

I know that all marriages go through changes. Many of us have probably had a spouse take a job that we resented, disliked or are even envied. When those decisions are made, they need to be discussed privately, candidly and resolved in a way that both parties can make adjustments and work with the situation as maturely as possible. There is no way I can know the ins and outs of the Conways’ relationship. But I do know what I see in the media, and I am saddened and disappointed to see such a display.

I’m clearly not objective about this situation. I can appreciate that George Conway doesn’t like Donald Trump and wishes his wife didn’t work for him.

But she does. And he apparently approved early on of her taking the job.

I believe Kellyanne will find her way through this debacle.

Will George?