June 19, 2006

It’s one week down and one to go for The Episcopal Church (TEC – formerly ECUSA)’s General Convention in Columbus, OH, and what a first week it has been.

First, TEC has a new Presiding Bishop (the office heading up the entire TEC operation), and – surprise! it’s a she. The UK Telegraph sums up the news and the initial response:

The Bishop of Nevada, the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, who is a leading liberal on homosexuality, is the first women primate in the history of Anglicanism. Her role as Presiding Bishop is the equivalent of the Archbishop of Canterbury [in the Church of England].

Her surprise election was greeted with whoops of joy by pro-women campaigners at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, where she was chosen by her fellow bishops in four hours of voting.

But conservatives predicted that she would lead the Episcopal Church further along its liberal path on issues such as homosexuality, and her election will dismay traditionalists opposed to women priests.

In those three little paragraphs, you have the basic story. This is a historic step for The Episcopal Church, but one that comes amidst increasing rancor and the possibility of open fracture with the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Virtue Online’s Hans Ziegler summarizes the elation of the TEC’s liberal activist wing…

Radical Left-wing leaders in the Episcopal Church were elated by the news, likening it to the approval of women’s ordination in 1976 and the consecration of homosexual Bishop V. Gene Robinson of the Diocese of New Hampshire three years ago.

“I hope you enjoy hearing the sound of another glass ceiling being shattered,” John Vanderstar of the Diocese of Washington told the House of Deputies.

Jefferts-Schori’s election is a victory for radical feminists in the Episcopal Church as well as the rapidly growing homosexual movement among Episcopalians.

Moments after Jefferts Schori’s election was announced to the House of Deputies, Virtue Online spoke with the Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity, the leading homosexual advocacy group in the Episcopal Church. “I’m thrilled,” said Russell. “I can’t think of a better Father’s Day present to the Communion than a woman primate. And the fact that it happens on the thirtieth anniversary of the ordination of women is a sign that God’s favor is with us.”

…while those from the Church’s embattled conservative wing see only difficult times ahead. Peter Toon, head of The Prayer Book Society, an organization seeking to keep alive the historical and liturgical traditions of Anglicanism, was quick to note:

As Presiding Bishop, Mrs. Jefferts Schori will have the task of being chief pastor of this mainline denomination, of commending and defending its teachings, especially its controversial ones in sexual ethics and ordination policies, and of initiating new mission and outreach in her Church. As she is enthusiastic about the innovations in progressive liberal religion of this Church, her domestic leadership will not be controversial, at least amongst the majority of Episcopalians. She is a very intelligent person and a good communicator and this will count for a lot in the USA.

Yet in representing the Episcopal Church to the Anglican provinces and their Primates overseas, at this time of crisis for the Communion, she will undoubtedly have a hard time, maybe an impossibly difficult time.

This prospect arises from two factors. First of all, she is an enthusiastic supporter of the consecration of Gene Robinson and of the blessing of same-sex couples, and is not apologetic about these things. In the second place, she is a woman whom the Episcopal Church has ordained deacon, priest and bishop and now elected as Chief Pastor, and there are still many provinces in the Anglican Communion, where a majority is opposed to the consecration of women as bishops, for they hold to the biblical doctrine of headship in family and church, and hold that only a man can be the icon of Christ at the altar.

I think Toon has it about right here. The word on the street is that Jefferts Schori is very articulate and smooth, and someone free of the huge amount of baggage accumulated by former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold in his prior dealings with conservative bishops in the USA and his fellow Church Primates over the years. Nevertheless, the hard fact is that Jefferts Schori voted for the Robinson ordination and enthusiastically supports political efforts in the U.S. to legalize gay marriage.

Also, Toon is very correct in that there are large segments of the Anglican Communion that don’t even support women as clerics, let alone bishops (in regard to the latter, the Church of England is currently wrestling with this very issue). In fact, most of the fastest-growing churches in the Communion (in Africa and Asia) haven’t yet begun to even broach the issue. Here, Jefferts Schori has an opportunity to break important ground in the acceptance of women as ordained leaders in the Anglican Communion; however, her support of the Robinson ordination and other so-called “liberal” positions will make her task in this area a very difficult one to achieve, indeed.

One final note: I congratulate Jefferts Schori on her election as Presiding Bishop and, in doing so, the Convention for its wisdom in rejecting the candidacy of the Rt. Rev. Edwin “Ted” Gulick, Bishop of the Diocese of Kentucky. Having witnessed Gulick’s treatment of so-called “orthodox” priests and candidates for the priesthood in his diocese first-hand, how someone so arrogant and utterly lacking in integrity and compassion could have even been considered for Presiding Bishop was beyond me. Given the number of votes he received during the voting process, others, apparently, were of a like mind.

The other big news out of Convention’s first week is that the language of a key resolution to be voted on by TEC’s House of Bishops and House of Deputies (think: England’s Parliament in an American ecclesiastical setting) articulating TEC’s formal response to the Windsor Report. in response to the Windsor Report has been finalized.

(The Windsor Report, in short, was a document released in 2004 by a commission charged by the Anglican Communion’s titular head, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to examine the challenges to Communion unity following TEC’s consecration of V. Gene Robinson, an openly-gay priest, as Bishop of New Hampshire, and to provide a framework by which Communion members could respond. Among other things, the Report seeks to have all the Churches in the Communion sign a “covenant” that would, in part, commit them to consulting the wider Communion whenever embarking on courses of action that could further threaten unity. It also urged those who had contributed to disunity (read:TEC) to express their regret.)

The final draft of the resolution going to the House of Deputies reads as follows:

“Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, mindful of ‘the repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ’ (The Windsor Report paragraph 134), express its regret for breaching the proper constraints of the bonds of affection in the events surrounding the General Convention of 2003 and the consequences that followed; offer its sincerest apology to those within the Anglican Communion who are offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of our actions on our church and other parts of the Communion; and ask forgiveness as we seek to live into deeper levels of communion one with another.”

Talk about “whistling pass the graveyard”. While obviously attempting to meet the most basic requirements recommended by the Windsor Report, it is obvious that, while a) apologizing to the Anglican Communion for allowing the Robinson consecration to cause great tension and threaten Anglican unity, and b) asking forgiveness from its fellow member Churches, it has no intention of reversing the Robinson consecration.

If this resolution is formally adopted by Convention, I believe the final course will be set for some kind of disciplinary action by the Communion’s Primates – perhaps even formal suspension from the Communion – in the very near future, perhaps as soon as next February, when the Communion’s Primates are next scheduled to meet.

That being said, I honestly don’t see what else TEC can do – they have painted themselves into a very small corner, and no matter what course of action they take, there would be severe repercussions. If it were to go the full extent of the Windor recommendations and not just apologize and ask forgiveness for the Robinson consecration, but in fact nullify it, it would alienate the powerful gay/lesbian activist faction of TEC; if it uses even weaker language than it already contains, disciplinary action on the part of the Anglican Primates would be certain. In this case, TEC has carefully articulated its only possible response, and will simply have to face the consequences down the line.

In both of these areas: the election of a female Presiding Bishop and the Windsor Report resolution, it is clear that The Episcopal Church is preparing itself for a future alone and apart from the Anglican Communion – a Church liturgically, historically, and informally linked to that worldwide body, but alienated and no longer a formal member of that body. What that would mean for TEC in both the near and long-term is anyone’s guess, but I guarantee it won’t be pretty.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 08:05 | Comments Off on General Convention Update
June 18, 2006

It’s a hazy, hot, and humid Father’s Day out here on the East Coast – perfect weather to hopefully break the remains of this head cold that has held my sinuses captive for the past week.

One of the first things you notice about these northern climes when you’ve been in the Desert Southwest for a while is that the intensity of the sun is so much less. While the humidity and the heat may feel more oppressive, you don’t get the sense that the sun is trying to burn a hole in your skin. Here, you can actually lay outside for an hour or so and allow yourself to tan a little bit – if you tried to do that in our backyard in Arizona, all you’ll end up with is a bad burn (as my sister-in-law found out the first time she visited).

The other thing you notice out here is how a breeze feels. Even on a hot day like this, there’s enough moisture in the air so that even the slightest breeze can provide some cooling relief to the brow, especially if you’re under a big ol’ shade tree. In Arizona, because there’s no moisture in the air, any breeze just moves the hot air around faster – sorta like you’re living in a convection oven.

Not that in Arizona you can’t find relief – it’s just that where we live, it takes a little longer to find it. Here in the heart of Middlesex County, the ocean is just an hour away, the White Mountains of New Hampshire 2 or so. Out in Gilbert, relief is a full, hard-driving three hours and 4,000 feet away, up in Prescott, better yet Flagstaff. So, I guess it’s just a matter of time and desire.

BTW, The Great White Shank wants to wish everybody out there the happiest of Father’s Days. I don’t think the rabbits got me anything, but that’s OK – being able to spend it here in MA with my own dad is gift enough. In this day and age where the joys and rewards of “traditional” families are constantly de-emphasized and under attack from a variety of quarters, any occasion that provides the means to celebrate and/or recognize the love, guidance, and influence our parents have provided us (for those lucky or fortunate enough to be able to say that, of course) is a good thing indeed. I count myself as one of those fortunate ones, as my dad has given me just that in his own quiet way.

This Father’s Day will be a bittersweet one for Red of Surviving Grady (one of my favorite blogs), who lost his just the other day. All prayers and good thoughts go out to Red and his family.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 10:38 | Comments Off on A Softer Sun
June 17, 2006

It brings me great comfort to say that I’m here in Massachusetts for the next week visiting friends and family, and trying to squeeze a little bit of work in along the way. It’s been a hectic and tiring past couple of days, but I thought I’d toss out a few humble observations:

1) The economy may be going through a its own set of ups and downs, but, judging from the number of young families with children on my flights (of which there were many) between Phoenix and Massachusetts, it can’t be doing too bad.

2) …and this is even with the latest astronomical increases in airline tickets – a trend I’m afraid is not going to reverse itself anytime soon. For flights from Phoenix to Boston, the increase is over 100% from this time last year.

3) I used to love Northwest Airlines, but obviously the labor tensions throughout the airline have made their employees either: a) bitter, b) disinterested, or c) both. Their new boarding policy seems to first allow all first class passengers to board, then allow a free-for-all where everyone stands in a long line waiting to board regardless of their seating. And, I’m NOT amused by their new policy of charging extra for window seats. A fare from one place to another should be the same for everyone in a given row. I’ll tell you this – as much as I hate the litigation-centric society we have come to be, that policy is destined for a legal challenge in court.

4) I predicted Sergio Garcia wouldn’t make the cut at the U.S. Open. Well, “Mr. Underachiever” didn’t disappoint – a +16 score after two days sealed his fate. Hell, he didn’t even come close to Tiger Woods (who had problems of his own).

5) We had a brief rainstorm here tonight. So starved for rain have I been that I went outside and allowed myself to get soaked to the skin basking in the glorious wetness. It was fantastic.

It’s great to be back here on the East Coast – it is a lovely change from th heat and dust of the desert Southwest. Be blogging with you soon.

Filed in: Golf & Sports,Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 19:02 | Comments Off on Back on the East Coast
June 16, 2006

Seems everywhere you go these days, whether it be on the national and cable TV networks or on various national conservative talk radio outlets, you will find Ann Coulter, who is pounding the pavement promoting her new bestseller “Godless: The Church of Liberalism”, which has rocketed up to #1 on Amazon.com’s non-fiction list. Coulter has always been brash, provocative, fearless, and controversial, but it seems that this time she’s touched off a real firestorm of controversy in her chapter on the so-called “Jersey Girls”, the four 9/11 widows from New Jersey lionized on the Left for their passionate attacks on the Bush Administration during the 9/11 Commission Congressional hearings.

The specific portion of her book at the center of the kerfluffle reads as follows:

“These self-obsessed women seem genuinely unaware that 9/11 was an attack on our nation, and acted as if the terrorist attack only happened to them. . . . These broads are millionaires lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities. . . . I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ deaths so much. . . .

“And by the way, how do we know their husbands weren’t planning to divorce these harpies? Now that their shelf life is dwindling, they’d better hurry up and appear in Playboy.”

Wow. Pretty rough stuff, no matter how you slice it. While I’ve often found Coulter amusing and her commentary spot-on, this time I think her remarks are not only over the top, but pretty offensive as well. Were I one of the “Jersey Girls”, I might even consider dropping a dime to my lawyer to see if Coulter’s remarks verge on slander in a court of law.

It should come as no surprise that the usual liberal mediacrats and liberal Democrats are howling with rage over Coulter’s remarks. What is surprising, however, are the complaints coming from bloggers and commentators right of center, who seem aghast – absolutely aghast! – that someone from their side of the aisle could produce such a venomous diatribe. For example, the usually level-headed Jim Geraghty (“TKS” at NRO) bemoans the fact that Coulter and other rabble-rousers like her are given such attention in the forum of public debate:

Forget building a better mousetrap — if you say something stunningly offensive, rude, and obnoxious, the world will beat a pathway to your door. If you make a brilliant argument, maybe the world will pay attention; maybe not. But it’s easier and more immediately rewarding to shock and appall people — and it seems like more and more folks have decided they would rather be infamous than not famous.

…Bloggers are asking similar questions about other masters of the Don Rickles and Triumph style of debate – Michael Savage, Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan. Think about how many sideshow controversy-courting gasbags have sprung up to occupy our national debate in recent years: Ward Churchill. Ted Rall. Why do Harry Belafonte’s opinions on politics generate headlines? Why are Charlie Sheen’s theories about vast conspiracies organizing 9/11 not treated like the ravings of a guy on a street corner yelling about alien mind control?

And TKS is not the only one. Dignan from Red State wonders why conservatives shouldn’t be howling just as loud when people like Coulter write stuff like this as they do when liberal counterparts like Michael Moore and Harry Belafonte spin their own wild conspiracy theories and such. Dignan even goes so far as to question the religious ethics of Christians who would defend Coulter’s remarks:

I am even more saddened by the Christians who defend Coulter, particularly her remarks about the 9/11 widows. Whether or not the 9/11 widows are “exploiting their victim status” to make anti-Bush rants doesn’t excuse Coulter’s remarks about them. Whether she is correct or not doesn’t make what she said right. Saying that these women enjoyed their husbands’ deaths is unconscionable and is a sin. If I made such a public comment, I can guarantee that my church would rightfully call me out for it and ask for my repentance.

No offense, Dignan, but that is total bull$hit. People can listen to what other people say and make up their own minds as to what they want to believe. There’s a big, BIG difference between thoughts and words someone might take offense to and what might be characterized as sinful. Let’s not go overboard here: if sin was somehow equated to thought and speech that could be deemed offensive, hell, we’d all be in… um, Hell.

Look, there’s no doubt Coulter’s words are outrageous and should be condemned for their inherent ignorance and stupidity, but to me this is much ado about nothing. A few points might be helpful here:

1) Coulter is a big girl who can take care of herself. She stands by what she has written, and is unapologetic about it. Whether she writes deliberately to generate controversy and sell books, or whether she truly believes what she writes (and my guess is the latter), she is what she is. No one elected her or selected her to speak for anyone but herself. You can love her, hate her, buy her books, protest her appearances, or turn the channel or radio dial whenever you hear her voice. However poisonous and offensive her writing might be to some, it’s within her rights to do so, and we have our right whether to support it in the marketplace with our hard-earned dollars or not.

2) Coulter is hardly the only one on the “left” or “right” who has ever produced scathing political commentary. One listen to Randi Rhodes on Air America or Michael Savage will tell you that. Same holds true in the blogsphere – Markos “Daily Kos” Moulitsas Zuniga‘s infamous “screw ’em” comment (referring to the American contractors whose bodies were burned and hung from that bridge in Fallujah) or Charles Johnson’s regular anti-radical Islam posts on Little Green Footballs are just two examples.

3) Coulter is hardly the first to have criticized the “Jersey Girls” for their past behavior and outspokenness. Michelle Malkin has noted that Dorothy Rabinowicz, media observer on Opinion Journal.com, rode the ‘Girls pretty hard and put ’em away wet two years ago following their bizarre accusations before the 9/11 Commission. I’m not going to defend the words Coulter has used, I’m just saying that the points she is trying to make are hardly new to the forum of public debate.

4) To decry a perceived lack of civility in today’s highly-charged, contentious, and even venomous political scene simply because people like Coulter, Savage, Belafonte, Moore, Rhodes, et al are allowed to ply their trade on the public airwaves is ludicrous on its face. Let’s face it, whether it be on South Park, The Simpsons, anything on MTV, Hannity & Colmes, whatever – people are attracted to the loud and outrageous. There’s so much media out there, and the competition for listeners and viewers is so great, it’s only natural that those who seek to push the envelope get the most attention and notoriety. It’s what made “All In The Family” such ground-breaking TV, and why George Carlin‘s “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” routine made him so popular. People want to be shocked. People like to be shocked. It’s not right, or even perhaps the best thing, but that’s the way it is and has always been in American entertainment and politics. And today, the distinction between the two has never been fuzzier.

Think about it: what’s the real difference between Coulter accusing the “Jersey Girls” of not grieving for their husbands, or Belafonte accusing President Bush of lying and the Department of Homeland Security of “Gestapo tactics”, or the “yellow journalism” of the 19th century where ragsheets spouted the most vile gossip and rumor? The answer is, there is none – it’s just that in this media-saturated age there’s a whole lot more of it.

If political commentators and bloggers want to criticize Coulter’s comments on their face, that’s their prerogative, right, and even obligation to do. But to hold her up as some kind of monument to the decline of civil behavior and public discourse in this day and age is to miss the point entirely. If the words and/or actions of Coulter are truly injurious to someone, we have laws and courts that can take care of that kind of thing. But to say that the media or blogsphere needs to take upon itself some rudimentary self-examination and reconsider the way it treats Coulter and those like her is laughable. Whether or not her popularity is right or not, it is what it is, and no pompous hand-wringing over how “mean” or “outrageous” she or those like her may be – liberal or conservative – will put an end to it. That horse left the barn a long time ago.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 02:31 | Comments Off on The Coulter Controversy
June 15, 2006

Today was just one of those days where everything seemed like such a freakin’ hassle. For one thing, it was mercilessly hot (110), and, still getting over this damned head cold and feeling a little shaky, I felt like I was functioning at 33 1/3 RPM in a 45 RPM world. In addition, my heart is heavy after an e-mail from our friend (and former neighbor) Jana from Louisville telling us that she is going to have to have her 19-year old cat Elizabeth put down in the next day or two. I know how she feels – I had to do the same thing to our 16-year old cat Sparkle on New Year’s Day. When you have certain pets around for so long, they become a part of the fabric of your life, and it’s so hard to say goodbye when the time comes, even when you know it’s the best and most humane thing to do.

But that’s not all. We also had our (seemingly) regular monthly visit from the Hawkeye Landscaping folks to fix a broken sprinkler valve in our backyard. Sayonara, $121.50.

And, we’re getting complaints (again) from our back neighbors because our mesquite tree is dropping leaves into their pool, but our landscaper Carmelo says the branches have gotten too high (the tree’s obvious response to the same neighbor’s insistence that we width-prune) for him to do it.

And, our next-door neighbor stopped by to ask us to ask Carmelo to trim the orange Lantana bush encroaching his driveway. He’s afraid to ask Carmelo himself, because the closest Mr. White Bread comes to anything remotely multicultural is when he orders tacos at the local Jack In The Box. Dude says the bush is dangerous ’cause he can’t see over it when he’s pulling out of the driveway – never mind the fact he owns a monster King Cab truck and that we both live on the tail-end of a cul-de-sac. Whatever.

So, it’s one of those days where the John Lennon song “It’s So Hard” from his Imagine album seems to fit the mood so well. It’s a good thunking blues rocker almost spoiled by Phil Spector’s production – the lilting, menacing strings over the instrumental and last verse seem a bit much when guitar, bass, drums, piano, and King Curtis’ grinding sax should have been enough throughout. Here are the words, and you’ll see what I mean:

You gotta live
You gotta love
You gotta be somebody
You gotta shove
But it’s so hard, it’s really hard
Sometimes I feel like going down

You gotta eat
You gotta drink
You gotta feel something
You gotta worry
But it’s so hard, it’s really hard
Sometimes I feel like going down

But when it’s good
It’s really good
And when I hold you in my arms baby
Sometimes I feel like going down

You gotta run
You gotta hide
You gotta keep your woman satisfied
But it’s so hard, it’s really hard
Sometimes I feel like going down

On nights like this it’s easy to forget these are minor annoyances in the grand scheme of life. So, you just accept it for what it is, remember that there will always be days when the wind is not filling your sails, and hope the next day will be better. I thank God for the ability to recognize that and to keep these kinds of things in perspective.

BTW, the U.S. Open starts today at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, NY. Tiger‘s first tournament since his father passed away two months ago, Phil‘s attempt to win three golf majors in a row. Unfortunately, The Great White Shank’s crystal ball portends ill for both of them, as my prediction is that Tim Clark will win. And that classic under-performer Sergio Garcia will not make the cut. Place your bets now, ’cause you can take these picks to the bank.

Filed in: Golf & Sports,Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:06 | Comment (1)
June 14, 2006

It seems like the Democrats have been having the Bush Administration for lunch – at least PR-wise – for the better part of a year. The reasons, in my view, are basically four-fold:

1) The woeful response by FEMA following the post-Katrina levee breaches;
2) The dino-media’s inability or unwillingness to report anything that could, in the slightest way, be perceived as painting the Administration in a favorable light;
3) The inability of the President and the White House to promote: a) the steady gains being made in Iraq on a daily basis, and b) the nation’s economic performance of the past three years – one that, even given high gas prices, has been nothing short of amazing;
4) The inability of the President to get tough on illegal immigration by pushing first and foremost a fence along the nation’s southern border, leaving the dirty work involving the controversial “amnesty” issue for Congress to battle over.

Of course, everyone knows political fortunes run in cycles, and recent events over the past week – the upturn of events in Iraq, particularly – may portend a shift in the President’s fortunes and a critical uptick in his (and his party’s) approval ratings as we head into the summer months preceding the frantic two-month dash to the November off-year elections.

Today especially, there occurred four events that the Democrats simply cannot be happy about:

1) The President’s surprise visit to Iraq to meet with its Prime Minister hot on the heels of three significant events in that country’s push towards political and socio-economic stability: the killing of al-Zarqawi, the “treasure trove” of intelligence retrieved by American and Iraqi forces in various raids conducted the day he was killed, and the seating of the final cabinet members overseeing Iraq’s security and armed forces. Simply put, a bold and intelligent move by the President.

Contrast the President’s bold actions today with those of Democrats John Kerry and John Murtha, who yesterday co-introduced a measure calling for the withdrawal of all American troops in Iraq by the end of this year. Talk about your “profiles in courage”.

2) The announcement that Presidential advisor Karl Rove will not be indicted in the ridiculous witch-hunt by Federal Prosector Patrick Fitzgerald in the Valerie Plame CIA agent outing investigation.

Several weeks ago, a certain liberal blogger and various lefty websites were trumpeting the “news” that Rove had been secretly indicted; today’s news has to be a crushing blow to both Fitzgerald’s investigation and those Democrats seeking to cement their Republican “culture of corruption” message via Rove’s indictment. Of course, that didn’t stop Dem Party Chairman Howard Dean from continuing to assert Rove’s guilt, but deep down even he has to know that this was a blow to a key piece of the Dems’ arguments against the Republicans this fall.

3) The news that the majority of a University of Colorado committee investigating left-wing wacko professor Ward “Little Eichmanns” Churchill have recommended he be fired for committing (in their words) “serious, repeated and deliberate research misconduct” that included plagiarism and fabrication of material.

Churchill, the darling of anti-Bush, anti-war tinfoil-hatted moonbats, has finally been revealed for exactly what he is – a fraud. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that the University of Colorado is only taking this position because they have been hurt both PR-wise and in the pocketbook by Churchill’s controversial rants following the 9/11 attacks. (Of course, you can guarantee this will only up his fee for speaking engagements when he rails against the government for “silencing his right to free speech”. That you can count on.)

4) News that House Speaker Dennis Hastert has placed a much-needed roadblock before the pro-amnesty immigration reform bill passed last month by the U.S. Senate. Saying that the House “needs to take a long look at it”, this is, for all intents and purposes, yet another attempt by House Republicans to get to the right of Democrats attempting to look and act tough on illegal immigration reform.

Hopefully this time it will stick. When it comes to the ballot box this November, whichever party can motivate their base the most will be the one having the most success, and this move by Hastert should be viewed by the majority of a Republican base hoping for a “get tough” stance by their elected leaders on the issue of illegal immigration as a positive development.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:30 | Comments Off on A Tough Day for the Dems
June 13, 2006

Pity The Great White Shank – his head is so stuffed that he can’t sleep. Not so stuffed, however, to prevent a few random thoughts from making their way from his brain to the keyboard. Such as…

We’re in the midst of a real stretch of heat here in Phoenix. Heat advisories are up and are expected to last through the end of the week. The weird thing is, as hot as it is during the day, the worst is yet to come. At least in early June the temps at night fall to the high 70s; in another month we’ll have days where the temps won’t fall below 90 for days on end.

…and the heat is starting to have an effect on the pool temperature. Two weeks ago it barely touched 80 – it’s up to a balmy 86 now. That might sound warm, but when the air temperature is 20 degrees warmer still, while you can’t say it’s exactly refreshing, it is wet.

While dining at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville in Las Vegas last week, I tried this new boat drink, called Bubba’s Big Bamboo. For those interested in giving it a whirl, here’s the recipe:

1/2 shot Cruzan Banana Rum
1/2 shot Cruzan Black Strap Rum
1/2 shot Cruzan Vanilla Rum
1/2 shot Triple Sec
Shake with a little orange juice and coconut milk

Give it a try, I think you’ll enjoy it!

Three weeks ago, we replaced our crappy V2 Premier PC with a rockin’ Dell XPS 200, and not only has it performed rock-solid since, the Dell support people have been fabulous, checking in from time to time just to make sure we’re satisfied and having no problems. Contrast that with our V2 Premier buying experience: the day we got it, we discovered the button to eject the CD-RW drive didn’t work. Not only did we never get a call from them, their crappy on-line support application was a joke. While I’ve heard folks complain about their Dell support experience, I can only say that between ours and the one I bought for my folks last Christmas, we’ve never had one bit of trouble.

Here’s a couple of strange headlines on the health front I couldn’t help but notice:
* Beer Ingredient May Fight Prostate Cancer. They say you’d have to drink 17 beers a day in order for you to get any benefit. Gives one something to at least shoot for, doesn’t it?
* Parasitic Worms May Help Bowel Disease. Isn’t that why people avoid the drinking water down in Mexico to begin with?

Thought for the day: If it’s true human beings are descended from apes, why are there still apes?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:43 | Comments (4)
June 12, 2006

…for the Episcopal Church of the USA, that is.

The Episcopal Church, circa 2006 finds itself at a crossroads, and this year’s General Convention – the gathering held triennially as a way to take stock of itself and set the direction for the next three years – promises to be a barn-burner, given the tremendous controversies and increased political infighting since the last Convention and the consecration of V. Gene Robinson – an openly-gay priest living in a committed relationship with another male – as Bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson’s ordination has put ECUSA in direct conflict with the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion to which it belongs and exacerbated tensions that had already been in place between the “liberal” (i.e., progressive) wing of the Church and those dioceses, parishes, and members considered “conservative” or “orthodox”, who wish to preserve the Church’s long-standing religious teachings and traditions.

It would be easy (and also lazy) to assign all ECUSA’s troubles to the debate over homosexuality – after all, this issue is being struggled with to one extent or another by all the so-called “mainline” Protestant churches in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, in ECUSA’s case, the debate over homosexuality as sinful behavior and whether, as in Robinson’s case, the Church actually rewards behavior contrary to its historical teachings, has actually transformed itself into a debate over church polity – that is, how the church orders and conducts itself within its historical and ecclesiatical structure. ECUSA also finds itself hemorrhaging membership and facing pressures both financially and spiritually as its own self-declared message of tolerance, acceptance and diversity is increasingly rejected by younger families who no longer find church attendance to be important or are drawn to the more traditional teachings of rapidly-growing non-denominational “megachurches” and/or Roman or Orthodox Catholicism.

As ECUSA gathers in Columbus, it finds itself in open rebellion with itself on a number of fronts due to increasingly-bold actions by a growing number of priests and parishes who reject the more “liberal” (and in ECUSA, this means pro-gay and lesbian) views of its diocesan bishop, and either seek to have alternative oversight by a bishop with more traditional beliefs, or leave ECUSA altogether. (Traditionally, the bishop has all the power in his diocese, but recently, bishops from so-called “conservative” Anglican churches in Africa, Asia, and South America – by far, the fasting growing churches in the Anglican Communion – have started intervening without a bishop’s approval to plant new parishes in that bishop’s own diocese in the name of upholding traditional Church teachings where it is perceived from overseas as being persecuted or under fire by so-called “liberal” bishops.)

So, what you have right now is basically chaos.

The controversies and debate over the Church’s moral teachings and polity aside, far more damaging to ECUSA’s future is its declining membership. After all, the oil that runs the Church’s political, organizational, and evangelical engine is money, and declining membership means declining money. I believe this decline can be attributed to three specific areas:

1) The graying and dying off of regular church attendees without replenishment from younger families with children.
2) A general lack of vision and attention to mission at diocesan and national Church levels.
3) A disconnect between the political ideologies of the Church’s power structure (who, by and large, remain trapped in a late-’60s/early ’70s “we shall overcome” progressive timewarp) and the more traditional values of the majority of its churchgoers.

Hans Ziegler writes of one of ECUSA’s standing (permanent) committees and the damaging effect the Church’s liberal activism has had on its ability to attract and maintain new members:

The Standing Commission on Domestic Mission and Evangelism may not be an orthodox outfit, but they certainly see the need to refocus the Episcopal vision. The Commission addresses the Bishops directly on this: “Bishops, please turn your attention to mission, and turn away from distractions like ongoing disputes and looming international meetings.”

For, as long as the Episcopal Church has been an agency of the far Left, it has been shrinking in numbers and diminishing in effectiveness. The Standing Commission on Domestic Mission and Evangelism cites an “alarming decline in attendance,” even as it aspires to double church attendance by 2020. Between 2002 and 2003, average Sunday attendance fell by 23,000. Between 2003 and 2004, average Sunday attendance fell by 27,000, to just 795,765. That’s only about a third of the Episcopal Church’s reported membership of 2.2 million. A new Gallup survey shows similar findings, concluding that Episcopalians are the least likely church attenders in the Christian faith. Only Jews and the non-religious go to a place of worship less frequently than Episcopalians.

What’s more, Episcopalians who do attend church regularly are not always readily identifiable as Christians outside of church. Many Episcopalians are Sunday Christians only. According to the Standing Commission on Stewardship and Development, “For many in our church, Sunday worship is the only venue for Christian formation.”

Even more depressing is this pessimistic view from Fr. Mark Lawrence, rector of St Paul’s Episcopal parish in Bakersfield, CA (Diocese of San Joaquin):

“The Episcopal Church in the United States of America is dying — a comatose patient on life support. The insufficient apparatus of aging communicants, and the evaporating wealth of prior generations will not sustain the patient indefinitely. Keeping vigil at its bedside, Episcopalianism, by which I mean the ethos of that body of Anglicans in the U.S., waits, gripped by a culture of denial, which includes its inability to look at either the declining health or the ecclesiology of the dying institution to which its constitution and canons tie it. Moreover, it has lost its Anglican identity, even while it has failed to reach its own American culture in any significant way. The average Episcopalian, parish church and mission, bishop and priest, seem to prefer to sleep at the bedside of the patient, thoughtless of the impending trauma, than to prepare for the inevitable or take swift action to avert it.”

What the Episcopal Church is suffering from, in short, is a crisis and vacuum of leadership. Lost in that time-warp of its own making, the Church has allowed itself to be kidnapped and held captive by a relatively small group of activists who, to be brutally honest, are simply more motivated, more passionate, and more energetic about their progressive (read: pro-gay and lesbian) agenda and the direction they want to take ECUSA than the “silent majority” who simply want to attend church, worship God in their own traditional way, and be left alone.

As they say, to the winner go the spoils. But in this case, there are no winners – well intentioned or not, everyone loses.

It will be interesting to see what happens at this year’s Convention. Will pro-gay and lesbian activists get their wish and have the Church make plans to develop formal rites for same-sex unions? If so, this would appear to guarantee schism both within itself and the Anglican Communion. A new Presiding Bishop will also be chosen to head ECUSA and represent it to the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth; this too, will go a long way towards predicting the future of ECUSA and how current and future conflicts will be dealt with.

Having much experience with the inner workings of the Church, I have to admit I’m very pessimistic about this Convention doing anything to turn the ship around. Too many personal agendas, too much power-tripping, and much too little concern and consideration for those who have put forth genuinely thoughtful and creative proposals that seek common ground and a way out of the increasingly contentous and divisive morass we Episcopalians find ourselves in. Nevertheless, I hope all Episcopalians will pray for their Church in the days ahead, hope for the best, and cope with the rest. We’ll need to.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:33 | Comments (2)
June 11, 2006

Seems with all this recent travel yours truly finds himself down with a murderous head cold, so blogging today will be light. Laying flat on my back in front of the TV and watching David Ortiz prove that he is one of the greatest – if not THE greatest clutch hitter in Red Sox history, however, is one of the few advantages of my quarantine.

Whenever I got a summer cold back in New England or Kentucky, you could always find yourself a chaise longe and bake out in the hot humid weather, and the sickness would just ooze out of your pores. Unfortunately, you can’t do that out here in Arizona – lay outside for a hour or so and all you’ll end up with is a wicked sunburn to go along with the rest of your miseries.

But one’s misery, like everything else, I suppose, is relative. I hope y’all will keep in mind that there are still a whole lotta people down in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast that continue to hurt bad from last year’s hurricane, and I can think of no better way for people to help than to make whatever travel arrangements you can afford and go down there and pay the folks a visit. Yeah, yeah, I know the fares have gone up and you may already have vacation plans set, but Dollar Bill and I both figure that if enough people could set aside time for even an extended weekend visit, it would do the economy and the folks down there a world of good.

BTW, I’d like to welcome two other New Orleans-area bloggers to my own Blogroll, Dangle24-7 and Leslie at Katrina Networking. From Dangle’s comment on my recent Phil Spector post over at CrabAppleLane Blog, his musical tastes follow some of the same pedigree as my own – one of the things that makes blogging so cool. I hope you’ll add these two sites to your own list of regular tour stops and help get the word out in every way possible so that the good people of NO and the MGC are not forgotten.

Now, where’d I put that handkerchief?

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 15:20 | Comments Off on Under The Weather
June 10, 2006

…but I remain a bonafide fan and admirer of the work of legendary rock producer Phil Spector. Yesterday over at CrabAppleLane Blog, I posted this tribute to his work. If you are, or ever have been a fan of his work, I welcome you to check both it and the comments that follow out.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 11:39 | Comments Off on He May Be In Jail On Murder Charges…

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