Tuesday, March 29, 2022

For the first time since the Wall fell, nuclear horror is weighing on my mind.

I have no idea how many read this or know who I am, but for the uninformed: I grew up during the latter days of the Cold War.

Part of my mental architecture from those years are these pop culture markers: 

A Canticle for Leibowitz, Gamma World, World War III (the NBC miniseries), The Day After, Threads, Hackett's Third World War, Alas Babylon, On The Beach, The Last Ship, 99 Luftballons, The Horseclans, Snowbrother, Down to a Sunless Sea (very underrated), Testament, The Pelbar Cycle, The Survivalist, Miracle Mile, This Is The Way The World Ends...

[References to the above can be found on this solid list here.]

And they have remained there, despite receding quite a bit in the wind of change

But now those old feelings are back. I'm not sure what the strategy is behind this sort of tough-guy posturing, especially with the repeated hints regarding the grim change in Putin's headspace. The latter of which seems to be borne out by his speeches and forced resettlement of Ukrainians. 

But sure, why not?  

In the meantime, I've carefully avoided any use of the N[uclear]-word around the children. The pandemic already left enough to deal with. 

And yet, I'm going to have to address it sooner or later. What a time to be alive.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Not that my opinion matters...

 ...but the Consecration last Friday hit all the right notes. It reminded me of the pope's pandemic prayer service in St. Peter's back in 2020: the "this is fitting" vibes were present. 

Let's keep praying for peace as the skies darken.

Two loose-cannon Presidents in a row.

The most recent one demanded regime change for a nuclear-armed power we are not at war with.

Not saying the quiet part out loud is one of the commandments of effective diplomacy.

Ah, well. I'm sure it'll be fine.

And it's not like we weren't warned that such things could happen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Yelena Baturina.

Ms. Baturina is a billionaire, and depending upon the source, either the richest or second-richest woman in Russia.

Unlike many,many other oligarchs, she has not been the subject of sanctions by the Administration for Putin's War.

Pay no attention to the passed envelope in 2014

Nor to the 2010 Wikileaks material

For, as everyone knows, the road to wealth in Putin's Russia comes straight through the pages of a modern-day Horatio Alger tale.  [Anyone who says the same about the contemporary United States gets the coveted Whataboutism Nonpublished Lazy Comment of the Moment Award.]


Monday, March 21, 2022

Looks about right.



A grim year is going to get grimmer as it drags on. 

To wit, American farmers can't take advantage of soaring wheat prices because commodity markets are spooked.  

After Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent global wheat futures soaring, U.S. farmer Vance Ehmke was eager to sell his grain.

Local prices shot up roughly 30% to nearly $12 a bushel, about the highest Ehmke could recall in 45 years of farming near the western Kansas town of Healy.

Instead of reaping a windfall, Ehmke found a commodities market turned upside down. He and his wife Louise told Reuters they couldn't sell a nickel of their upcoming summer wheat harvest for future delivery. Futures prices for corn and wheat had rocketed so abruptly that many along the complex chain of grain handling - local farm cooperatives, grain elevators, flour millers and exporters - stopped buying for fear they couldn't resell at a profit.

On the other hand, agricultural profit projections are extra-murky as diesel prices soar into the stratosphere.

First pestilence and death, now another war, perhaps famine


I have taken to cramming together the last three years into one super-horrible one with six numbers--hence the title. A safe bet I'm going to have 202023 in the hopper.

Fret not, Americans who earn less than $300,000 per year! Mike Bloomberg's digital steno pad has some advice for getting through the latest twist in the anni horribili.

Now, the article itself is not that bad--apart from the "let them eat lentils" bit. But someone at Bloomberg's Twitter account added the tag line of "nobody said this would be fun." 

Hoo, boy. 

And while I like lentils, they are persnickety, requiring hours of careful soaking and repeated washing to avoid the gritty "I just ate a lot of chaff" aftertaste

Anyway, it's going to get worse and worse, so prepare as best you can.



Friday, March 18, 2022

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Another day, another pontifical innovation.

In a teleconference with Putin's House Chaplain, the pontiff declared the just war tradition dead.

At one time we also spoke in our churches of holy war or just war. Today we cannot speak like that. The Christian conscience has developed on the importance of peace.

If you can think of a worse argument to pose to an Orthodox Patriarch than the chap in Rome bragging about how effortlessly-superior he is to the Tradition he is supposed to guard, let me know. 

 I've got nothing. 

But it was (genuinely) good of him to mention the poor Russian soldiers who are dying.  The agony of their families is something we should also keep in mind when thinking of Putin's war of aggression. That is a line of argument that might land--at least with others in Russian Orthodoxy.

Monday, March 14, 2022

A question about the current crisis.


Have any members of the Western political elites (broadly construed to include lesser figures like members of Congress or their European equivalents, prominent religious figures, celebrities, etc.) spoken out against the insane tide of Russophobia engulfing their nations?

As someone who loathes Putin and delivered aid to a Ukrainian Catholic parish for shipment to that besieged nation, I find this blinkered ethnic cancellation campaign beyond repulsive. 

But even more so is the utter refusal of anyone in prominent political or cultural positions to call it out and to continue to do so.  

If you have examples of people doing so, I would love to see them. But I suspect they come from those at the fringes of power, according to various values of the term "fringe."

Proof of concept leaps to my distrustful mind. But in the short term it is another marker of how unfit our leaders are to lead free people, and how little they like such folks.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Putin's War proves Eastern Catholics really don't matter to a lot of Latins.

 The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches. Her Patriarch Sviatoslav (currently "Major Archbishop" because the title he deserves would offend Putin's House Chaplain and wreck the chance to have a meaningless papal confab with said House Chaplain) is a model of Christian resistance to tyranny and unjust war.

Not that he or the millions he leads matter a damn to Putin's Catholic Amen Corner. And it this point I have to concede that Todd is more right than I was about the depth (in every sense of the word) of apologetics for the Russian thug. While the overt support is more muted, there's a bumper crop of anti-anti-Putinism that is functionally the same thing. And it gives not a damn for the deaths of Ukrainian Catholics, to my building fury.

But then again, Easterners have never mattered much to American Catholics of the western rite. The Orthodox Catholic Church in America was birthed by Archbishop John Ireland and fellow Latin hierarchs who were appalled by the married priesthood of Easterners and their desire to maintain ethnic traditions, leading to the inevitable conversion of large numbers of Slavic Catholics to Orthodoxy.

As always, slowly and painfully, Easterners won out against Latin pig-headedness with the belated support of Rome. For example, the Latin Bishop of Mobile, Thomas Toolen, tried to ban use of the vernacular in a Melkite parish, but was thankfully overruled by John XXIII

Lest you think Bishop Toolen was some stock southern villain from Progressive Casting, he should be remembered as a good-hearted man with a mostly-solid record when it came to African-Americans.

Still, the rote-obedience-and-uniformity-at-all-costs mindset of Latin Catholicism is one of its least attractive features and invariably harms its relationship with Catholics of the East. And it is something that needs to be remedied as soon as possible. 

Divine Physician, heal all of our hearts in this time of war.

Monday, March 07, 2022

Kirill makes his choice.

And it's as gruesomely-caesaropapist as possible: 

Ukraine had to be punished because it allowed gay pride parades.

God help the people and faithful of Russia. 

And Rome: make Sviatoslav a Patriarch right now. And a Cardinal, too. 

[As to the latter, it's ludicrous that he is not one--and ideological. Being a young Benedict appointment is anathema to the pontiff.]


Not All Russians.

The insane anti-Russian hysteria is correctly rebuked by Charles Cooke in this excellent essay. 

We have been sternly (and correctly) told not to lump all Chinese in with their genocidal government nor all Muslims for the dreary drumbeat of atrocities across the globe.

And yet, the hysteria here has slipped the leash without anything close to the same pushback.  

During the First World War, the British public took to booing dachshunds in the street — or so I was told as a boy. I always thought this was probably untrue, but I am now beginning to wonder. In the last 48 hours, I have read that “the International Cat Federation” — that pillar of civilization — “has banned Russian cats from its international competitions”; that the Paralympics “will deny access to athletes from Russia and Belarus”; that the state of New Hampshire is removing “bottles of Russian vodka from New Hampshire’s state-run liquor stores”; that EA Sports intends to “remove the Russian National Team and all Russian club soccer teams from its FIFA video game franchise, and remove all Russian and Belarusian hockey teams from the latest NHL video game franchise”; and that Russian chess player Alexander Grischuk has been “kicked out of a forthcoming tournament” in Norway, despite being a critic of the war that has caused his ejection. From here, booing dogs seems the obvious next step.

I can certainly imagine a situation in which one country’s behavior became so extraordinary — and the threat that it posed became so total — that another country needed to take the sort of zero-tolerance line that includes the superintendence of cat-fancying. In 1940, Nazi Germany posed such a threat to Great Britain. But, clearly, Russia isn’t at that point yet, because, if it were, we would have stopped buying its oil. We are not expected, I hope, to believe that it is imperative that we expel Russian pixels from our video games, but a mere matter of taste whether we cease to purchase Russian energy? Somehow, that would seem a failure to get our priorities straight.

Our reluctance to distinguish between Vladimir Putin’s evil on the one hand and Russians and Russian culture more broadly on the other is especially jarring given how unwilling so many people have been to criticize the Chinese Communist Party for its role in the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year, it was deemed beyond the pale even to mention China in connection with the pandemic — lest doing so lead to sudden outbreaks of “anti-Asian hate.” Why, I must ask, is the same rule not being applied here? Is there really no useful middle ground? Assuming sufficient due process, there are excellent reasons to target well-connected Russian oligarchs, just as there are solid justifications for our having imposed harsh sanctions on the broader Russian economy. But vodka that is served in the United States? Norway wasn’t willing to boycott an Olympic Games that was being held in a country that is committing genocide, but it has the resolve to keep a dissident chess player from competing on its shores? None of this makes much sense.

I was going to ask rhetorically whether we intend to abandon Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky, too, but, as it turns out, this isn’t really a joke, for over at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen notes that “the editors of the ‘Studies in the History of Philosophy’ have decided not to pursue the project of publishing a thematic issue devoted to Russian religious philosophy.” Why? Are there are a lot of religious philosophers in the Russian military? Did they help plan the invasion of Ukraine? Are the bulk of them fans of Putin’s — or even still alive? This is boobishness in the extreme, the equivalent of disowning Beethoven because of Bismarck’s bad behavior. The United States should use any leverage it has against the Russian regime, but there is a difference between leverage and iconoclasm, and it is one that too many in the West are not presently observing.

Even Russian NHLers are getting death threats, to the horrified outrage of their emigre Ukrainian Jewish agent.

The closest analogy here is China, given that state misbehavior is directly comparable, so I will focus on that. 

Why the difference? A couple of likely culprits in my book.

First is cash--China owns a lot of things and people in the West, and that sweet yuan stream is addicting. 

Second is the poisonous identity politics of the West: Russians are overwhelmingly white, and insane domestic nastiness transfers well overseas in this case. Xi gets the race card played on his behalf, but there is nothing in the same deck for Putin. 

Oh, make no mistake: there is no shortage of apologetics for Putin's hellish aggression out in the wild. But it is dressed in a different brand of blood-stained tinsel than that which festoons the monster in Beijing.

Good job, builders of the "Digital Curtain." Now do China.

It beats war.

But genocide deserves no less. 

I won't be holding my breath, though.

Thursday, March 03, 2022

How about "our Vlad-loving Patriarch" instead?

The invaluable Pillar does excellent work today examining the impact of Putin's war of aggression on the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches. The report can be found here.

As hinted at before here, there is more than one Orthodox Church in Ukraine. The largest is recognized by the Patriarch of Constantinople and those in communion with him. The other is recognized by Kirill, who heads what is easily Orthodoxy's 800 pound gorilla. The demographic and power imbalance in the patriarchates is profound, and drives the schism between them.

Which, yes, started in 2018 because the Patriarch of Constantinople recognized one Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and Kirill the other.

But the attack on Ukraine has thrown the Russian-recognized one into turmoil. 

To the point where two Russian-recognized diocese have stopped recognizing the Russian Patriarch in the Divine Liturgy:

“The termination of the commemoration of the Primate of the Church, not because of doctrinal or canonical errors, or delusions, but because of discordance with certain political views and preferences, is a schism, for which anyone who commits it will answer before God, not only in the age to come, but also in the present,” Patriarch Kirill of Moscow wrote March 2 to an archbishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is governed by Kirill.

The statement came after Metropolitan Archbishop Evlogy of Sumy, a city in eastern Ukraine, instructed his priests Monday to discontinue prayers of communion with Kirill in the Divine Liturgy, or celebration of the Eucharist. 

Schism is the refusal of submission to the authority of a legitimate religious authority, or refusal of communion, or unity, within a church body.

Evlogy’s decision is understood to be a repudiation of Kirill’s leadership. It came after the Russian Orthodox patriarch issued prayers Sunday that seemed aimed at theologically justifying Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

But the Sumy Orthodox archbishop said in a statement March 2 that directing priests to stop praying liturgically for Kirill is not an act of schism. Evlogy wrote that he remains in communion with Kyiv Metropolitan Onufriy, leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Kirill’s jurisdiction. 

As with the various western Catholic forms of Mass, the Divine Liturgies of the East (Orthodox and Catholic) commemorate the servant of the Faithful. In the case of churches with patriarchs, it is "our Patriarch," sometimes with the prefix "our most blessed" or even "God-loving Patriarch."

So, to not recognize your servant-patriarch is a momentous decision. But one that makes sense in momentous times--like your nation being assaulted and your patriarch making justification noises for the assault. 

Hence my sardonic suggestion in the title. It increasingly fits the ecclesiastical situation, sadly.

And it will only get worse as the war rages on and Ukraine continues to be ground down. Unfortunately for those who support the Russian patriarch, it seems that he has no intention of changing direction. 

Which bodes ill for an internal revolt among the rest of the elites who support Putin and his offensive. They bought the ticket, and they are riding it all the way down.

It's easy to pray for Ukraine, and right to so do. But remember Russia in your prayers, too. The noble people of that land deserve better than the would-be tsar, kleptocrats and lickspittles plunging them all into ruin.

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Putin and the Patriarch.

 I was harsh on Patriarch Kirill a few days ago, and I wondered if I was too harsh.

I have stated in other forums that confessional apologetics need to take a sabbatical during the latest War in Europe, and I have gone that route since my post below.

I still think my rhetorical choices were a bit over the top, but quod scripsi, scripsi

But not too harsh, as his dreadful homily last Sunday demonstrates:

It was pretty much that bad. A sardonic wag (not me, for once) conceded that such was fair, given that Christ admonished us to lash out at those who laugh at us when we attack someone else. 

And yet, one cannot deny that the Russian Patriarch is in a tight spot, as are all those who are beholden to Putin. Indeed, the reaction from Rome (which instinctively defers to the beholden Kirill) was a muted bleat until Monday, when Russia was finally condemned by the Secretary of State. And perhaps--just maybe--Kirill was and is doing something behind the scenes which reflects well upon him. Not at all improbable. Hopefully, such is happening.

In the meantime, the Moscow-recognized Orthodox hierarchy in Ukraine leapt out the gate with a condemnation of the attack and issued a call to defend the homeland.

And now they have doubled down, calling upon Kirill to intervene.

Will the man meet the hour? He has that rarest of things open to him--a second chance. He will not get a third.


The GOP Garbage Squad.

Nine awful human beings whose views are unworthy of the slightest respect. Especially after caterwauling about spending money on Ukraine, no...