Archive for June, 2012
A: The heads of tech companies have their heads in the cloud. The cloud, or rather massive central servers that can be used to save data, are revolutionizing technology. Consumers and businesses are increasingly choosing to store their data remotely. They can then use small mobile devices, no matter where they are, to access that data. An easy-to-understand example of how the cloud is changing technology would be the way consumers are tracking their personal finance information. Companies like Mint and PageOnce are two examples of companies that allow consumers to use mobile devices to track their money. Using a smartphone, consumers can see their checking, savings and credit card account information. All the data are stored on remote computers, or the cloud, instead of on the device itself. But its not just about consumers. Giant companies like Oracle (ORCL), Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), Salesforce.com (CRM) and Amazon (AMZN) are all angling for a piece of the cloud. Some of the companies currently offer cloud-based services like the office productive suites from Microsoft and Google. Both of these companies are pitching customers the idea of allowing employees to edit and produce documents using word processors and spreadsheets on the cloud. Similarly, Salesforce.com is pitching companies on its cloud-based software that allows sales people to track leads and sales, again, without having to install any software. Meanwhile, Amazon and Microsoft are offering customers services where they can store their own mission critical software systems on the cloud. Companies hope such services can help them save money.
A: The heads of tech companies have their heads in the cloud.
The cloud, or rather massive central servers that can be used to save data, are revolutionizing technology. Consumers and businesses are increasingly choosing to store their data remotely. They can then use small mobile devices, no matter where they are, to access that data.
An easy-to-understand example of how the cloud is changing technology would be the way consumers are tracking their personal finance information. Companies like Mint and PageOnce are two examples of companies that allow consumers to use mobile devices to track their money. Using a smartphone, consumers can see their checking, savings and credit card account information. All the data are stored on remote computers, or the cloud, instead of on the device itself.
But its not just about consumers. Giant companies like Oracle (ORCL), Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), Salesforce.com (CRM) and Amazon (AMZN) are all angling for a piece of the cloud.
Some of the companies currently offer cloud-based services like the office productive suites from Microsoft and Google. Both of these companies are pitching customers the idea of allowing employees to edit and produce documents using word processors and spreadsheets on the cloud. Similarly, Salesforce.com is pitching companies on its cloud-based software that allows sales people to track leads and sales, again, without having to install any software.
Meanwhile, Amazon and Microsoft are offering customers services where they can store their own mission critical software systems on the cloud. Companies hope such services can help them save money.
They survived the Nazis, the Viet Cong and the Taliban. But hundreds of mentally disabled veterans suffered new wounds when the country they served put their checkbooks in the hands of scoundrels.
Gambling addicts, psychiatric cases and convicted criminals are among the thieves who have been handed control of disabled veterans finances by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, a Houston Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers investigation has found.
For decades, theft and fraud have plagued the fiduciary program, in which the VA appoints a family member or a stranger to manage money for veterans the government considers incapacitated. The magnitude and pace of those thefts has increased, despite VA promises of reform. Three of the largest scams – ranging from about $900,000 to $2 million – each persisted 10 years or more before being discovered.
In the past six years, the VA has removed 467 fiduciaries for misuse of funds, but only a fraction have faced criminal charges, according to the VAs Office of the Inspector General.
The government has never adequately tracked fiduciaries thefts from disabled veterans. The inspector generals office says it conducted 315 fiduciary fraud investigations from October 1998 to March 2010, resulting in 132 arrests for thefts amounting to $7.4 million. But a Chronicle analysis of court records and documents obtained though the Freedom of Information Act show the thieves took more $14.7 million since 1998 – nearly twice the amounts reported to Congress.
VA spokesman Joshua Taylor says the program is being reorganized, and improvements are being ordered every year.
VA has taken significant efforts to protect veterans and other beneficiaries in its fiduciary program, Taylor declared.
The inside job
Robert Morong Tabbutt was a VA field examiner, desperately in debt, who supervised fiduciary Jack Perry in Memphis. He used his authority to turn a dozen mentally disabled veterans into ATM machines so he and Perry could steal from them, according to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
They siphoned away nearly $900,000 with stunning ease, records show. Over a decade, they made more than 1,000 illegal transactions. Perry falsified records and moved veterans money from account to account to cover their tracks, records show.
Meanwhile, the two began gambling at Mississippi casinos, and Tabbutt, who filed bankruptcy petitions five times between 2001 and 2007, borrowed money from Perry hundreds of times. Their stealing did not stop until one veteran died and Perry went to the FBI to confess in 2008.
The other veterans, meanwhile, were never told theyd been ripped off – even after the two thieves went to prison.
Until a Chronicle reporter called him, Henry Ashurst, 83, did not know he had unwittingly financed the lifestyle and gambling habits of Perry and Tabbutt for a decade.
I thought he was on the level, Ashurst, an Army veteran, said of Perry.
Things went wrong, and that should not have happened, said VA spokesman Taylor.
A 2004 law requires victims be reimbursed if the VA is partially at fault for their losses. Taylor told the Chronicle that since 2008 only 15 beneficiaries have been reimbursed a total of $652,685 under that law because of VA negligence.
Republican Congressman Phil Roe of Tennessee, a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, said he has been trying without success to get information from the VA about compensation for the Tennessee victims.
Attorneys who represent program participants said it is very difficult to recover stolen money from the VA.
It has to be pried out of them, said former combat medic Richard Weidman, executive director for policy and government affairs at Vietnam Veterans of America. He summed up the fiduciary program in four words: The corporate culture stinks.
Jim Vale, an attorney for Vietnam Veterans, called the programs lack of transparency appalling.
Thieving fiduciaries operated illegally for an average of 32 months before being caught, the newspapers analysis reveals. More than 70 cases remain pending in the federal system, or in state courts, since federal prosecutors frequently decline to handle the cases. Even when they do, it takes, on average, 29 months before charges are filed, the newspapers analysis showed.
Joy Farmer eluded VA auditors for five years while juggling the books at a Tuskegee, Ala., law office before being caught in May 2004. Federal prosecutors didnt indict her for another six years. She finally got sentenced to federal prison in March 2011 for embezzling more than $620,000 from 25 vulnerable clients.
It just kind of got pushed from attorney to attorney, said Clark Morris, an assistant US Attorney in Alabama.
Even when investigations yield convictions, many criminals received probation in exchange for promises to repay some or all of what they stole. They often fail to pay, and many victims died or disappeared before seeing any compensation.
The Chronicle examination of more than 100 criminal cases from the past decade and other documents going back more than 30 years revealed a disheartening cycle: When problems are identified, fixes are proposed and sometimes even mandated by Congress. But eventually, the same tragic mistakes get repeated.
After 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as veterans age, the number of mentally disabled veterans is growing rapidly. As of May, more than 127,000 veterans have fiduciaries who oversee more than $3.3 billion in assets.
Fiduciary failures rank pretty high up there among the current VA problems, said Republican Congressman Jeff Miller of Florida, chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, which is drafting reform legislation. We are talking about the life savings of a veteran.
Taylor, the VA spokesman, said that under the Obama administration, the VA has beefed up background checks for new appointees, added staff, consolidated scattered fiduciary offices into six regional hubs and appointed the reorganized programs first national leader, VA lawyer David McLenachen, last August. In direct response to fraud, the agency also issued directives requiring that veterans annual bank statements be sent directly to the VA, and now bans excessive compensation to fiduciaries when veterans receive large retroactive benefit checks.
Yet audits repeatedly fault agency employees for failing to properly examine financial records, and for not coordinating with other agencies like Social Security to exclude known scofflaws from managing veterans money.
Staff turnover is high and training for fiduciaries is virtually nonexistent. Fiduciaries sign agreements, but not formal contracts. On-site inspections are often tardy or skipped, and field examiners are ill-prepared to deal with sophisticated would-be thieves.
The $2 million case
Roy Wilson Swirczynski, a disabled US Army veteran in Houston, filed written complaints to the VA about his fiduciary, attorney Joe Phillips, and requested an investigation years before an unrelated 2007 audit of Phillips records found nearly $2 million missing from 28 veterans accounts, according to court records and copies of the complaints Swirczynski kept.
Those alleged thefts – discovered when the VA audited Phillips work for the first time in 25 years – constitute the largest scam ever uncovered in the VA fiduciary program.
Phillips, a former VA employee, and his wife, Dorothy, have been accused of draining about $2 million from veterans in a pending Houston federal court case. Dorothy Phillips pleaded guilty to conspiracy; Joe Phillips denies wrongdoing and awaits trial. Phillips and his attorney refused comment.
Swirczynski long kept date-stamped copies of his own complaints against Phillips – faded from years of moving from place to place – in a suitcase alongside copies of his mothers obituary, his US Army service record and a faded snapshot of himself sporting a bushy mustache and an afro in his glory days. In one hand-written complaint, the Beaumont native, who suffers from schizophrenia, asked VA officials to stop a hold up. In another, he urges action: This Joe Phillips fiduciary is not a 5-mile long freight train that takes 500 miles to stop.
Swirczynski said the VA never responded and hes never been told if any money was taken from his accounts. He learned of Phillips indictment from the Houston Chronicle.
Thats what really galls me, said Swirczynski. They need to be exposed. They always have the excuse that theyre overworked and dont have enough people and all that crap.
The VA loses track of money and fiduciaries in part because of a computer system cobbled together by agency staff in 1989 and slightly upgraded in 1998. The system cannot interface with the departments more modern computers.
Slated for replacement many times, the system can track a fiduciary for only two months. Mandatory accounting reports that arrive two or three years late are shown in the system as just one year late, records show.
In March 2010, the agencys inspector general estimated that $161 million in the coffers of mentally disabled veterans was at risk of misuse because of the volume of seriously delinquent accountings.
An audit also faulted the computer system for VAs failure to list fiduciaries removed for bad conduct. Replacement would cost about $2 million.
McLenachen, the VA lawyer, admitted at a February congressional hearing that the computer system and antiquated agency regulations are obstacles. He promised new regulations by 2013 and computer upgrades at an unspecified date.
Current rules require no professional standards or qualifications for fiduciaries, and impose no limits on the number of veterans an individual fiduciary can handle. Some have dozens.
The call of the casino
Hazel Diane Hill, of Coppell, said she controlled 16 veterans finances as a fiduciary and was very trusted by the VA. Hill was a Department of Labor employee and a gambling addict. In January 2008, after wagering buried her in debt, she told the Chronicle it was too tempting to take a little bit at a time from veterans and easy to conceal by shuffling money among accounts.
A remorseful Hill turned herself in because she got tired of crying in July 2009, she said, but not before embezzling $62,000 from three veterans. Given the VAs lax oversight, frankly, she could have taken money until the day she died, said her attorney, Perry Hudson.
One out of four fiduciaries convicted of financial misuse over the past decade were found to have mental illness, gambling problems, substance abuse issues or some combination of them, the Chronicle investigation found.
In Fort Worth, fiduciary Patricia Ibrahim got five years in prison after she moved Larry Rodgers from a nursing home and, without VA permission, put him into a substandard group facility so she could use his money to go gambling, said prosecutor Lori Burks. It is despicable. Rodgers died before Ibrahim was prosecuted.
The most financially destructive of many fiduciaries with gambling addictions was Connie Hanson, of Apple Valley, Minn., who went to prison for stealing $1.26 million to feed her habit.
Others prosecuted include lawyers, an educator, an optometrist, a radio personality, a nursing home operator, a corrections officer, an ex-police officer and the former city attorney of Hutchinson, Kan., Charles Hyter, who told the Chronicle that when he embezzled money from veterans in 2001, there wasnt much oversight. Some of his victims were ripped off again by the fiduciary who replaced him.
To keep bad actors out of the program, the department last December mandated instant background checks on prospective fiduciaries. Checks were done in the past, but documents show authorities often required only a self-generated criminal history and a good credit report.
Still, Miller, the Florida congressman, dislikes the pattern he sees.
My suspicion continues to be high that there may be more of this (theft) going on than any of us are aware of, he said. Mainly because there is no way to tell.
Reporters and researchers Lindsay Wise, Joyce Lee, Mayra Cruz and Sarah Hinman contributed to this report.
Posted by Admin in Uncategorized on June 28, 2012
FLOWER MOUND, Texas, May 17, 2012 On May 9, President Obama announced in an ABC News interview his support for same-sex marriage. This followed the May 6 Meet the Press interview where Joe Biden revealed that he was more than comfortable with same-sex marriage.
The presidents popularity is dropping and many of his important fund raisers (or money bundlers) are said to be gay, so his change in view was not unexpected. In March 2004, when asked about his views as an Illinois state senator by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Obama responded, I support civil unions to guarantee basic rights to same-sex couples. I do not believe that federal recognition of same-sex marriage is practical because of strong political and religious resistance.
The presidents change in views came partially with the aid of his familys dinner-table talk in which his wife and two minor daughters helped convince him. Its important to treat others the way you would want to be treated, was the Presidents conclusion.
The dramatic shift in positions gave him the dubious distinction as the first US President to openly support same-sex Marriage. The announcement prompted Newsweek Magazine to dub him The First Gay President.
For Christians and other religious groups, this comes as a rejection of the authority of the Bible and hundreds of years of cultural norms. Some say that rejecting same-sex marriage denies citizens their civil rights. In 2004, then-presidential candidate Obama in an interview remarked, I dont think marriage is a civil right.
Most opponents of same-sex marriage do not deny the civil rights of homosexuals. The civil rights of every citizen regardless of race, creed, religion or sexual orientation are protected under the Constitution.
If one chooses to accept the authority of scripture, then the practice of homosexuality is condemned. Those who do not accept the authority of the Bible derive moral authority from some other source, either from other writings or from their own inner conscience, and so accept non-biblical teachings. That is their right. It does no good to try to rewrite or reinterpret scripture to find a meaning that makes the practice of homosexuality acceptable.
The Bible does not speak about a person who is homosexual. The term is used to describe a person who is practicing homosexuality. It is very clear that the practice of homosexuality is unacceptable to the God of the Bible. It must also be noted that the Bible condemns promiscuous heterosexual activity, as well as the worship of idols, adultery, male or female prostitution, theft, greed, drunkenness, abuse,cheating others, and God-haters (I Corinthians 6:9-10).
The legal exercise of marriage of people of the same sex does not suddenly make sexual activity acceptable by scriptural standards. Creation of male and female is Gods order for populating the earth.
Voters in thirty-one states have rejected same-sex marriage. Even the voters of California rejected same-sex marriage, but their votes were overruled by California judges. The Bible speaks only of heterosexual marriage and its necessity for populating the earth. It never suggests same-sex marriage has any purpose in Gods order.
Modern culture is so enamored with the freedom of sexual expression that it has lost its moral compass. The attempt to be politically correct can be a stumbling block to a wholesome society. Isnt a wholesome society what Americans of all religions, races, and creeds want?
While our American heritage allows for the free expression of the religious and non religious, it must not let our society degrade itself into embracing a moral culture that is self destructive.
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There has been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth as, in the spring, it appeared that forces supporting Mitt Romney would be able to raise about as much money as those supporting Barack Obama. Theres even more now that it seems likely that the pro-Romney side will raise and spend more money than the pro-Obama side.
Four years ago, the Obama forces heavily outspent those supporting John McCain. The Obama campaign had enough money to target — and carry — heretofore Republican states like North Carolina and Indiana.
When Big Money talks, the truth walks
Mark Shields op-ed column: Mark Hanna Was Right
Date published: 6/18/2012
There has been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth as, in the spring, it appeared that forces supporting Mitt Romney would be able to raise about as much money as those supporting Barack Obama. Theres even more now that it seems likely that the pro-Romney side will raise and spend more money than the pro-Obama side.
Four years ago, the Obama forces heavily outspent those supporting John McCain. That made the Democrats spoiled. The prospect that the other side would have as much money as they do struck them as a cosmic injustice. The prospect that it would have more heaven forfend!
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., May 16, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ –
Vayama.com, the online travel agency that specializes in international travel, announces today a list of international cities that provide a wealth of history and culture for students who want to continue their education outside of the classroom. Each destination highlights popular attractions and local cuisine along with other insights about the culture and its people.
“Traveling internationally is great for students as it creates a sense of independence while also providing a once in a lifetime learning experience that cannot be found inside a classroom,” said Thomas Kent, vice president of marketing at Vayama.com. “Our experts at Vayama.com have developed a list of some of the most culturally rich cities on the planet that provide an abundance of great food, entertainment and historical attractions so that students can get a firsthand look at how people around the world live, work and play.”
Casablanca, MoroccoMorocco is a country that is rich in culture and etiquette as it is home to a variety of backgrounds and religions. The cultural diversity in Morocco is so abundant that a separate unique identity can be found in each city within the country. Students should visit Casablanca as it is not only world famous because of the 1942 Hollywood romantic classic, but is also home to the Hassan II mosque, the largest mosque in the country and the seventh largest mosque in the world. A true taste of Moroccan culture can be found in its cuisine, which contains an extensive blend of spices along with a large range of Mediterranean fruits, vegetables and common meats such as mutton lamb, beef, chicken, camel, rabbit and seafood.
Istanbul, Turkey Turkey is packed with over 2000 years of history that is illustrated in its monuments that are placed throughout the country and date back to Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods. Istanbul is the most populated city in Turkey and is the country’s cultural and financial center. Great historical attractions in Istanbul include the Hagia Sophia, a mosque and now museum that originally opened in 360 ac, and the Topkapi Palace that was home to the Ottoman Sultans for nearly 400 years. Students should be sure to check out the local bazaars, Turkish delight and the national drink Raki, an unsweetened hard alcoholic drink.
Shanghai, ChinaIn the 18th century Shanghai was just a small fishing and textiles town, but it has since grown to be the largest city in the world. It is known as the birthplace of modern culture in China. Tourists flock to the city for its historical landmarks, stunning architecture, flourishing nightlife and great shopping. Students should be sure to check out The Bund, which is one of the most famous attractions that sits on its world famous waterfront boulevard and is lined with 1920′s art deco buildings along the Huangpu River. The Pudong district is also popular as it is home to the gleaming 21st century towers and some of the best-known buildings in China such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center. Shanghai cuisine is popular worldwide and many are shocked to find that sugar is one of the key ingredients along with soy sauce and alcohol.
Buenos Aires, Argentina Buenos Aires contains a mix of old-world traditions, but is chock full of contemporary attitude. It is Latin America’s third largest economy and a top tourist destination known for its European style architecture and rich culture life. Students should take in such local experiences as a tango show and enjoy the traditional barbeque techniques called asado. Buenos Aires offers a unique history that can be viewed by simply visiting the old-world cafes, colonial architecture, outdoor markets and the La Recoleta cemetery where Eva Peron (Evita) was laid to rest.
Bangkok, Thailand Bangkok is the largest city in Thailand and is known as the “city of angels.” It is the political, social and economic center of Thailand and one of the leading cities in Southeast Asia. Students who travel to Bangkok will discover that the city is not only living in the modern world, but also surrounded by tradition. The city has some of the country’s most visited historical venues such as the Grand Palace, the official residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782 and Wat Pho, a temple that is known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. Thai food plays a tremendous role in the country’s culture and visitors do not have to travel very far to find something to eat as street carts can be found on every street corner and in many small Soi (lanes) that are full of varieties of food stalls.
About VayamaVayama is an online travel agency uniquely focused on international travel. The company offers travelers a vast selection of flights through its online booking engine that taps into inventory not available on other online travel websites. Launched in 2007, Vayama has continued to expand its online international travel services to include features such as 24/7 customer service, premium economy airfare, hotels, activities and car rentals.
For regular Vayama updates, follow us at
www.twitter.com/Vayama become a fan on Facebook at
www.Facebook.com/VayamaTravel or visit
About Travix International B.V.Vayama is part of Travix International B.V., a global travel company that manages an extensive portfolio of international travel websites operating under the brands: Vayama (USA), CheapTickets (Europe & Asia), Vliegwinkel.nl (Netherlands), BudgetAir (The Netherlands, United Kingdom, UK, USA, Canada & France), Flugladen (Germany) and EasyToBook.com (Worldwide).
Travix operates in 16 countries, employs 430 staff and has combined sales in excess of USD $1.1Billion.
Copyright (C) 2012 PR Newswire. All rights reserved
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The city of Bend is one step closer to breaking ground on a major overhaul of its surface water system. Thats after a new Forest Service analysis concluded the project wouldnt do any lasting environmental harm.
Posted by Admin in Uncategorized on June 13, 2012
When the Dean of the Roman Rota said we must learn again to believe in our capacity to marry (see Dean of Roman Rota suggests stricter rule for annulments), thespiritual history of the modern world clicked together for me like the five matching symbols on the original slot machine. Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz was arguing that psychological grounds for annulment were undermining our trust in both the human and the divine elements of the sacrament.What isobjective had been replaced by what is subjective.
This is something we see throughout modern culture, and it should not surprise us. The key to modern secularism is flight from God toward what fits our immediate desires. A scientist looks at a new discovery not with eyes that see the magnificence of the Creator but with a willful insistence that every time we learn more about how things work we disprove the need for a Creator. A philosopher examines being not from the point of view of its essential unity but with amyopicfocus on its confusion. A commentator observes differences of opinion about fundamental moral issues, and it leads him to conclude not that some are right and others are wrong but that there is no right or wrong. The person in the street, faced with questions of life and death, regards them not as puzzles to be solved but as so much interference with the way he wants to live his life.
The culture of this world tends to dominate our beliefs, interests and affections, and as this culture gains a firmer and firmer hold, the idea of escaping it is dismissed with a typical Luciferian myth: Why chase after what you cannot see and nobody can understand when there are so many good things here with which to occupy yourself?
It is a somewhat mysterious process, but everybody knows instinctively what the dominant cultural myths are for the age in which they livethat is, the acceptable ideas and attitudes, the perceptions we are supposed to share, the behaviors we are supposed to justify or find objectionable. You might notice, for example, that many people believe in God or understand that homosexual behavior is wrong, but you will still have no doubt what you are supposed to say about such things in polite society. The larger culture, whatever it may be, permeates everything; we are all aware of it all of the time. What do we do then, when the clear teachings of the Catholic Church (or Christianity in general) directly contradict this prevailing cultural consciousness?
During much of recent history, this question has been answered for religious people by what we call Modernism, which neatly reverses the moral force of the quandary. Recognizing the fact that the culture of the day influences how we perceive reality, the Modernist goes a step farther to insist that we actually cannot acquire religious ideas and beliefs except insofar as they are mediated to us by our culture. This means that specific religious ideas are really nothing more than a particular set of clothes for deeper universal realities or aspirations. Thus the Modernist parts ways with anyone who believes we must work to transform human cultures to bring them into line with the Gospel. Rather, the Gospel itself must inevitably be reinterpreted in the light of the prevailing culture.
What a remarkable coincidence! The Modernist notion of religion is the same as the secular notion of relativism. This enables all those who wish to remain religious, while actually in thrall to the world, to express their spiritual beliefsin the form ofprevailing cultural notions. It enables them to maintain the fiction thatthis form of expression is the right one for our time just as other forms may have beenappropriate in previous ages.
Nothing, of course, is so calculated to put conscience to sleep. In a single stroke the Modernist eliminates all the tensions that are supposed to exist in our lives when we fail to fully integrate the truths of Christ. Instead, we simply redefine our specific beliefs in light of how our culture reflects a similar set of concerns.
Consider the following examples:
- Catholic Doctrine: Are we concerned at loss of faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist? It doesnt matter, for just as a prior culture expressed a potent spiritual value by insisting on a particular philosophical distinction between substance and accidents, our culture expresses that same value by understanding the Eucharist as a symbol of a better life.
- Catholic Morals: Does it bother us that every form of sexual license is permitted today, including contraception, which has been condemned as immoral by the Church? Ah, but this is only because the fundamental moral trajectory which prior cultures expressed through rigorous statements about right and wrong is expressed in our culture by adherence to a loving inner meaning in our hearts.
- Catholic Social Teaching: Is it confusing that in former times Catholics placed a strong emphasis on unanimity in religion andsubsidiarity in the world, whereas now so many Catholic leaders seem to permitpluralism in Faith while stressing the need for State control of just about everything in the world? Not to worry; by regulating everything through political power, we in our age express the same concern for human well-being that a lesssophisticated generation did by emphasizing personal Faith and self-reliance.
- Natural Law: Does abortion seem somehow to be a horrendous violation of a natural human right? Well, not so fast. We must understand that though a former culture may have honored life in a biological way, our culture honors it through a recognition of consciousness, which not all human beings possess.
In fact, wherever the default principles of our defiantly secular culture have permeated the Church, Modernists have welcomed the results and justified them asfresh expressions of legitimate religiosity. For much of my life, these Modernist attitudes have been deeply embedded in the chanceries, seminaries, religious orders, Catholic press, and Catholic universities of the Western world. They have been so many marks of a dying culture which, for a time at least, Catholics have been powerless either to resist or revive. But though we have a long way to go, two things have driven Modernism gradually into retreat.
The first is demographic: Modernists simply do not reproduce themselves well, because in the end there is no reason to remain Catholic if you are simplyadding a religious veneer to prevailing cultural norms. The second is effective teaching: The long pontificate of John Paul II and now the pontificate of Benedict XVIone a brilliant philosopher and the other a brilliant theologianhave slowly leavened a new generation. These popes, and those who follow them, know how to articulate the Faith in terms the prevailing culture can understand, while avoiding the immense mistake of confusing the Faith with what the prevailing culture already understands.
Now, as I said, the Dean of the Roman Rotas remarks brought all this together like the winning symbols on theancient 5-reeled slot machine. In the context of my previous examples, here is how we can frame the issue:
- Canon Law: And do we wonder why so many marriages fail today, with a huge number actually being annulled? Nothing is amiss. Former cultures expressed commitment through promises and contracts, whereas our culture expresses it through being true to ourselves psychologically, so that a bond is not real if it does not properly engage our inner self.
Here is the needed fifth symbol, rolling right into line, and winning the Modernist jackpot. For what has so adversely affected marriage tribunal work, especially in the United States (where the number of annulments dwarfs the rest of the world), is the bizarre psychological interpretation that if a marriage is seen to have failed, then it must be the case that it could never have succeeded, and therefore it is null and void.
As I said, we have a long way to go. But in Bishop Stankiewicz remarks we also have yet another small sign that Catholics around the world are slowly escaping the Modernist grip. Reflecting our culture and being true to what our culture makes of us is not what Our Lord intended. When He became man and died on the cross He was not making the point that we should forever enjoy being culture bound. He was teaching us exactly the opposite lesson. In the world you have tribulation, He taught. But be of good cheer: I have overcome the world (Jn 16:33).
Posted by Admin in Uncategorized on June 11, 2012
Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest comedy with director Larry Charles (Borat, Bruno) is wildly erratic; often broad to the point of eye-rolling and just as often supremely funny. The film is The Dictator and it once more features Cohen slapping on a big accent in addition to a stereotypical wardrobe in order to satire an element of our modern culture. As the title implies, Cohen and Charles are taking aim at ruthless foreign tyrants. However, they’re crosshairs also linger on American culture too, from the hipsters trolling through New York City to our own government.
What’s especially different about this particular collaboration is the shedding of the documentary style ala Cohen’s character interviewing – or not depending on the situation – real people on the streets to prove his point. The Dictator is entirely fictional, though to call it scripted wouldn’t be entirely accurate as improv is a clear element, with the basic story the only structure, even if there are three writers attached to the movie (Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer) alongside Cohen.