Monday, September 29, 2014

10th Anniversary: Michaelmas

I have not posted on this 10th Anniversary year of this blog lately.  But Michaelmas, the Feast of Michael and All Angels, today brings back memories of times in Oxford and Cambridge as it has before.  For Michaelmas marks the beginning of the academic years of those two great universities (Hence, both name their Autumn terms “Michaelmas term”.), and I’ve shared in the excitement of that in 2007 and 2011.

2007 was particularly auspicious as I spent Michaelmas weekend in Cambridge when the University was just starting the academic year. (Cambridge starts a week earlier than Oxford, where I was studying.)  It was excellent attending services at King’s College and a Michaelmas service at Little St. Mary’s.  The whole weekend recharged my batteries and restored my joy before returning and diving into the taxing work of Oxford’s Michaelmas Term.

Michaelmas still prompts me to dream of England, particularly Oxford, as I indeed literally did again last night.

I suspect I will be in Cambridge and Oxford with anticipation again one Michaelmas.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Big Announcement: Pilot Point is Published! UPDATED

About two weeks ago, I gave you a shameless tease.  Now I am ready to make the big announcement.  My novel Pilot Point is published and available!

As you can tell from looking at some past posts, the road of writing and publishing Pilot Point has been a long and winding one indeed.  It began decades ago in the days before the internet and self-publishing was viable and before Anglicanism and the Book of Common Prayer got its hold on me.

That long road was providential as I greatly improved Pilot Point with a strong Anglican flavor, even weaving the Book of Common Prayer through it.  Also, the novel has become an interesting timepiece, still set in the late 20th Century along I-20 in West Texas and in North Denton County, Texas.  As in much of life, events did not transpire as I would have wished.  (I strove to get an earlier version of the novel published in the 90’s and had strong and reputable support in so doing.)  But when I look back, I can see the gentle, strong hand of God’s providence.  He has proved himself an excellent editor, if you will.

The novel itself somewhat defies description and genre.  I am not aware of anything out there quite like it, which is fine as I do not want to duplicate another’s work.  I venture that it is best described as a literary novel with both a strong Texas and Anglican flavor.  Yes, unusual.

The novel follows the orphan Clayton Hays and friends he gains as they struggle with loss and fear in the midst of a Texas drought.  It is a simple story, but one in which I think readers will find much depth.

But read it for yourself.  Pilot Point is available at Amazon at a nice discount.  Or you can buy it direct from the publisher (but no discount there).  I will announce when it is available in Kindle form.

Also, those into Facebook, please “like” the Facebook page for Pilot Point.

Thanks for your prayers and support, and feel free at ask questions in the comments.


UPDATED: My announcement is so big, Eric Holder is trying to upstage it.  The nerve!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Environmental Totalitarianism UPDATED

I think I should state right off the top that I believe in taking responsible measures to protect the environment and to conserve nature and wildlife. Further, I have taken measures on my own land at personal cost so to do.

However, as long time readers know, I also oppose all forms of totalitarianism.  And the environmental movement has become pretty much become just another face of Leftism with a strong streak of totalitarianism.  The words of a prominent spokesman, Robert Kennedy, Jr., illustrate this very well:

Kennedy Jr. accused skeptical politicians of “selling out the public trust.” “Those guys are doing the Koch Brothers bidding and are against all the evidence of the rational mind, saying global warming does not exit. They are contemptible human beings. I wish there were a law you could punish them with. I don’t think there is a law that you can punish those politicians under.”

Kennedy saved his most venomous comments for the Koch Brothers, accusing them of “treason” for “polluting our atmosphere.”

“I think it’s treason. Do I think the Koch Brothers are treasonous, yes I do,” Kennedy explained.

“They are enjoying making themselves billionaires by impoverishing the rest of us. Do I think they should be in jail, I think they should be enjoying three hots and a cot at the Hague with all the other war criminals,” Kennedy declared.

“Do I think the Koch brothers should be tried for reckless endangerment? Absolutely, that is a criminal offense and they ought to be serving time for it,” he added.

If you want something really toxic, look at what Kennedy and his totalitarian ilk are doing to this country.


In case you think Robert Kennedy Jr. is a one-off, the climate change protests were swarming with totalitarians.  See for yourself.

The Snooze Media ignored this, of course.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Our Lady of Perpetual Litigation Declines a 2nd Term

The Presiding “Bishop” of THE Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori has announced that she will not seek a second term.  Perhaps she thought she had done enough damage already.

If so, she certainly won’t admit it.  Instead

In her letter to the church, the Presiding Bishop cited the accomplishments of her tenure noting first her “relational work”, which was “fundamental to the reconciliation we seek in Christ.  As bridges are built, more and more people can begin to cross the divides between us, and God’s dream begins to take flesh in a more just and peaceful world.”

Her citing her “relational work” towards “reconciliation” is beyond laughable.  Other than her heresies, the hallmark of her tenure has been vindictive litigation against parishes and dioceses that could no longer conscientiously stay in her apostate “church.”  She well earned the moniker, Our Lady of Perpetual Litigation.  She increased the lawsuits engaged in by TEC at least five times.

She even torpedoed amicable negotiations toward settlements, preferring to sue instead.  The most famous instance of this was in the Diocese of Virginia.  Bishop Lee was close to a settlement until Schori barged in.  In his words at the time, “there is a new sheriff in town.”

Her heresies and arrogance sped the demise of The Episcopal Church.  People have flooded out.  Five dioceses have left.  The last of those five, South Carolina, she practically forced out by an absurd and patently dishonest deposition of Bishop Mark Lawrence.  Oh, have I mentioned all her depositions of the faithful?

Yes, I could go on.  But Katharine Jefferts Schori has indeed done enough damage to The Episcopal Church already.  May she enjoy her retirement.  A very warm destination awaits.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Wouldn’t It Be Nice . . .

. . . If the Snooze Media paid half as much attention to Obama’s scandals, such as IRS targeting, Benghazi, Fast and Furious, etc. etc. as they are to attacking the NFL?

Methinks the Democrat News Media’s priorities are a bit off.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Giving the Scots their Due

As you all know, the Scots decisively rejected independence and decided to stay in the United Kingdom, which is a wise move on their part . . . and which proved me correct in my prediction.

But what I find most interesting from last night was a certain episode in Glasgow.  Ten instances of voter fraud were discovered.  Contrast the response to what would (not) happen in the U. S.:

Police launched an investigation after the city’s council alerted them to 10 suspected cases of voters impersonating other people, allowing them to complete two ballot papers. Under British law, voters are not required to present identification when they take part in an election.

Stewart Hosie, SNP Treasury spokesman at Westminster, said it was “very sad that people feel the need to engage in any kind of impersonation”, adding: “I think that’s a daft thing to do. The ballot papers have been identified, they will be taken away and fingerprinted, the police will do their job and I’m sure whoever has done it will be caught and sentenced….”

I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the Leftist politics of Scotland.  But at least they actually oppose and vigorously seek to punish election fraud.

The contrast with the ruling political party in the U. S. is stark indeed.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

More on the Hannah Overton Ruling

Yesterday morning, I greatly rejoiced in the overturning of Hannah Overton’s absurd murder conviction.  Now I’ve had some time to digest it.  With the caveat that I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV, I find the following most interesting.

Pamela Colloff, who has done a praiseworthy job of following this story through the years, posted a good summary of the case and of the ruling yesterday evening.  If you are not familiar with this case, I would definitely start there.

I think the opinions themselves are also well worth reading.  And they are neither long nor hard to read. 

The lead opinion, to which the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed by a 7-2 margin, pointedly overturns the conviction on narrow grounds as conservative appeals judges are wont to do.  Judge Lawrence Meyers writes that Overton’s Defense greatly erred in not presenting Dr. Michael Moritz, an expert on salt poisoning and pica, to testify. He contends this omission meets the tests of determining ineffective counsel, and then in effect says that’s all we need to rule.

But the conclusion is rather pointed in saying what is left unsaid:

Because we are granting relief on Applicant’s first claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, there is no need for us to address the second issue of whether the State failed to disclose exculpatory evidence. We reverse Applicant’s conviction and remand her case to the trial court for a new trial.

A very interesting concurring opinion by three of the judges just as pointedly says the unsaid.  It in effect says that the issue of ineffective counsel is enough to rule, but we are going to talk about the prosecution anyway.  In their own words:

The majority does not address applicant’s Brady claims because it grants relief based on one of her ineffective assistance of counsel claims. It is helpful, however, to place that ineffective-assistance claim within the broader context of applicant’s claims concerning the fundamental unfairness of her trial.

And they are withering in critiquing the conduct of the prosecution in the Overton trial, especially in withholding exculpatory (Brady) evidence from the Defense.  They certainly do not hold much back on the subject of lead prosecutor Sandra Eastwood:

At the habeas hearing, the lead prosecutor conceded that, during this 2007 trial, she was an alcoholic who was also taking prescription diet pills that affected her memory. She was later fired by the District Attorney (who had been the second-chair prosecutor during this trial) for unrelated ethical violations. During the habeas hearing, the prosecutor repeated seventy-two times that she did not recall or did not know the answers to questions concerning the investigation or trial of applicant. She could not remember documents that she had written during the trial and did not recognize her handwriting; she did not remember writing the e-mails that came from her e-mail address, nor receiving other e-mails at that address; she could not remember if she saw any vomit when she previewed the evidence with one of applicant’s counsel before trial, and she did not remember asking the police to have it tested.

The second-chair prosecutor (later appointed as the District Attorney by the Governor) testified that the lead prosecutor told her that “she would do anything it would take to get an advantage over the Defense,” including sending a “spy” to applicant’s church group to learn the defense strategy. The second-chair prosecutor testified that the lead prosecutor was not ethical and was “not truthful.” She said that the lead prosecutor told her that no vomit samples had been saved as evidence. She said that she was “concerned with the fact that [the lead prosecutor] was violating the Court’s orders.”

And that’s for starters.  Again, I am not a lawyer.  But I find it remarkable the three appeals judges feel it right so to call out the prosecution when that was not necessary to make the ruling in question.  It is safe to say that they were provoked by the egregious misconduct of the Nueces County D.A.’s office.

Not only that, the three question (page 2) the jury instructions issued by trial judge Jose Longoria, although they do not mention him by name.  Those instructions have also been an issue through the years.  They certainly contributed to the over-the-top verdict of guilty of capital murder.

As for the two judges who dissented, this is the last straw for me.  If they are so blind as to think Overton received a fair trial….  Given their short opinion, they hardly seem to care and hardly address the issues raised by the majority.  The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is elected.  And I will never vote for Judges Keller (aka Sharon Killer) and Keasler again.  I counsel all Texans to do likewise when the time comes.

The ball is now in the court, if you will, of the current Nueces County District Attorney, Mark Skurka.  His options range from trying Ms. Overton for capital murder again to dismissing all charges against her.

Hannah Overton has already served seven years in prison for a crime she did not commit.  Even if she was criminally negligent in the death of Andrew Burd – and that is a big “if” not at all supported by the body of evidence – seven years is certainly more than enough to serve for that.

D.A. Mark Skurka did not do the right thing when her conviction was appealed.  He now has the opportunity to make some amends.  Mark Skurka should dismiss all charges against Hannah Overton post haste.

I am among those who will be watching his conduct closely.  Eight years of injustice from the Nueces County D. A.’s office is enough.

The Seriously Nasty Party is Winning Hearts and Minds… or not.

I mentioned yesterday that the Scottish National Party has been a Seriously Nasty Party in the run up to today’s Scottish independence referendum.   Their lovely behavior continues.

Yes, not all SNP people are acting this way, obviously.  But many are.  And many feel their breath upon them.  A poll has found that 46% of Unionist “No” supporters have felt personally threatened by pro-independence “Yes” supporters.

The question is will their violence, vandalism, and threats succeed in scaring “No” voters away or instead turn people off to becoming an independent state with these thugs in charge.

I contend it will be the latter.  But we will find out tonight, won’t we.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

BREAKING: Hannah Overton Murder Conviction OVERTURNED

I may post more later, but I just got word that the murder conviction of Hannah Overton has been overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.  The court found for her claim of ineffective counsel.

This is a great day.

Why I Predict Scotland Will Vote “No” and Stay in the UK

It took a while, but now even those on the West side of the pond are aware that Scotland votes tomorrow on whether to leave the United Kingdom and become independent.  Polls are close with some putting pro-independence “Yes” ahead and others putting Unionist “No” in front.

But I am confident “No” will win for three reasons.

1. The Queen pulled off a brilliant exercise of understatement on Sunday.  After church on Sunday, she walked over to well-wishers and told a member of the public, “I hope everybody thinks very carefully about the referendum this week.”

Now us Americans may say, “So what?”  But, although more assessable than American presidents, The Queen usually just smiles and waves at the public.  And she takes pains to remain non-political.  So her expressing her hope to the public is unusual, even though she did not explicitly back either side.

At the same time, it is well known that The Queen wants the United Kingdom to stay together.  And she is beloved, even in Scotland.  So her statement is a timely, winsome, and powerful reminder that she wants Scotland to stay.

By the way, this illustrates one advantage of The Queen remaining above the fray and non-political.  When the time comes that she feels she should make her wishes known, she can do so with great impact, even with her usual reserve.  And I do think her statement is a significant reason Scotland will stay in the UK.

2. The Scottish National Party has more than its share of Leftist thugs, and they act like it, prompting the label “The Seriously Nasty Party”.  There have been stone-throwing, vandalism, and threats of worse.  They even made it next to impossible for Labour leader Ed Miliband to talk to people in an Edinburgh mall.

These thugs will surely turn many voters off and give them concerns as to who would be in charge if the SNP gets their way.  I also suspect some are afraid to answer polls honestly for fear of reprisals.  The “No” vote may be stronger than polls indicate.

3.  I expect the undecideds to break for the Unionist “No” side.  If someone is still undecided, he is probably more likely to vote for the status quo rather than the brave and highly questionable adventure of Scottish independence.

As for my wishes, I have said that I have mixed feelings.  I am certainly praying for God’s mercy on both England and Scotland.  Both are going to need it whatever the outcome tomorrow.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dinesh D’Souza, Political Prisoner?

Under Obama, we are getting more and more of the benefits of Leftist regimes.  So why not political prisoners as well?

Dinesh D’Souza has been convicted of violating federal campaign finance laws.  He pleaded guilty in May and has accepted full responsibility for his violation and that very publicly.  If memory serves me right, he even did so in his latest movie, America.  And he is hardly a hardened criminal.

Yet the Feds want to put him in prison for 16 months anyway.  Now if you think that desire has nothing to do with his being compelling opponent of Obama . . . well then, you probably think the IRS is non-partisan and doesn’t target Obama’s opponents either.  Hey, every Leftist regime needs its useful idiots.

Even if D’Souza does not become a political prisoner, keep voting Democrat and political prisoners will come.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Shameless Tease

No.  I am not referring to Obama delaying an announcement of amnesty until after the election (although I certainly could).  I am referring to myself and to this post.

For I am announcing . . . that I expect to make a big announcement soon, perhaps next week.

So watch this space.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Highland Park Presbyterian Reaches Property Settlement

Last year I mentioned that the church of my childhood, Highland Park Presbyterian, voted to leave the mainline Presbyterian denomination.  Now I am glad to see they have reached a reasonable settlement with Grace Presbytery to keep their property.  

And Grace Presbytery is to be commended for acting in a far more gracious and reasonable manner than so many other authorities in the PCUSA and other mainline denominations.

I will defer to the Session of HPPC for the details:

Dear HPPC Family,

After much deliberation and prayer, last night HPPC’s elders, trustees and pastors unanimously approved the settlement agreement previously approved by Grace Presbytery over the ongoing property litigation. This resolves once and for all that the congregation of Highland Park Presbyterian Church owns and controls the assets of Highland Park Presbyterian Church, free and clear of any claims by the PC(USA). This result achieves HPPC’s goal in the litigation of clarifying its exclusive ownership and control of its property.

In the settlement, HPPC has agreed to pay Grace Presbytery $7.8 million, or 11% of the fair market value of the approximately $70 million of assets that were at issue in the litigation. While the one-time cost of settling this lawsuit is significant, the Session believes that bringing resolution to a 30-year unanswered question about the control of HPPC’s property is worth even more in terms of our mission and witness to the community and the world. Additionally, this 11% figure is commensurate with the 11% of the congregation that voted during the discernment process to remain in the PC(USA).

Over the past year, HPPC has been opening the door to a brand new era:

     Last October, we enthusiastically entered ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, joining a growing new denomination with other mission-centered congregations.
     In April, we unanimously called the Rev. Bryan Dunagan to be HPPC’s 7th Senior Pastor. The energy and enthusiasm generated by the arrival of Bryan and his family into our church community has been truly invigorating.
     Our giving for 2013-14, which ended in August, was $1.2 million more than last year. Thank you for your confidence and trust during this season of transition.
     The settlement of the property litigation allows HPPC to focus its creativity and energy on transforming lives through gospel-centered ministry. 

The true church of Christ has never been a building or an institution, but a community of people centered in Jesus and sent into mission. At the same time, the campus that God has given us at 3821 University Blvd. is a great training ground and place of transformation in our ongoing ministry as a beacon of hope in Dallas. By being good stewards of the property that Christ has entrusted to us, we honor the legacy begun by the HPPC family in 1926 and affirm our calling to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ who make a Difference in the World for the Glory of God.

In Christ,
The Session at Highland Park Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The JV President – Reminders Before Tonight’s Speech

An election is near; Democrats are on the ropes; Obama’s numbers are punk and perhaps sinking; bombing ISIS polls well; and did I mention an election is near?  It does not take a political scientist to predict what Obama will do in tonight’s speech.  He will beat the war drums against ISIS.  He knows ISIS is rightly hated, and that Americans tend to rally around their president against a hated enemy.  And Obama and Democrats need all the political help they can get right about now.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think we should bomb ISIS to Hell.  But we should also remember Obama’s past negligence concerning ISIS.  So I present some brief reminders.

Obama was warned a year ago that ISIS was a serious threat.  His response?

…The president chose not to act, the source said. Nor did he request additional information on activities of ISIS including in his daily briefing.

And since then (until recent days), he has done little except deride them as “JayVee”.

Obama will surely try to distract from that.  He has already lied about that.  But he has already failed concerning ISIS.  And we would be foolish to forget that.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Whither Scotland?

For those who do not yet know – and most on the West side of the Pond do not – on September 18th Scotland via referendum will make the momentous decision whether or not to leave the United Kingdom and become independent.

For some months, it appeared Scots would vote “No” and stick with the UK.  But the pro-independence “Yes” vote has been gaining in the polls.  And now the latest YouGov poll even has “Yes” just ahead, 51% - 49%.  I am not sure why.  Perhaps London warning of diverse consequences of independence has rubbed cantankerous Scots the wrong way.  In any case, The Queen is among those greatly concerned.

I am hesitant to express my opinion on what would be the best outcome; for I have mixed feelings, and (as some of us on this side of the Pond say) I don’t have a dog in that fight.  It is not my business.

And it would be sad if the Union that came about by the luck of James being the rightful king of both England and Scotland some 400 years ago, ending centuries of hostility, would be thrown away by a foolish vote.

Yes, I do think Scotland would be foolish to run from England and then likely into the arms of the EU.  The UK led by England has its issues for sure.  But divorcing with the intent of wedding the EU Beast is madness.  Some “independence” that would be.

But, as will not surprise long-time readers, my heart is with England.  And I think Scotland voting “Yes” and leaving the UK would be good for England though the adjustments short term may be difficult.  Scotland sadly has become too much like California, inflicting Leftist politics on the rest of the Union and dragging it down to its level.  Scotland gave the UK Gordon Brown and long years of disastrous Labour government.  And Scotland is a big reason why Labour, even under Red Ed, nonetheless has a ghost of a chance to regain power.  (Of course, Cameron is a pretty big reason, too, but anyway…)

If California were to have a referendum to secede, I would be rooting, nay, praying for it to go.  If were English, although I surely would have more brotherly affection for Scotland than I do for Californicate, I would likely be hoping for it to leave as well – even if I would hardly rejoice if it does.

Lord have mercy on England and Scotland whatever the outcome.

An Aside: Even this sad affair has its comical aspects.  I am particularly amused that the effort to keep Scotland in the Union by offering greater political freedoms has been dubbed Devo Max.

Max Headroom singing Devo songs comes to this 80’s mind.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Chess History in the Making

This is not a chess blog, but my interest in the game is such that I cannot let the Sinquefield Cup now being played in St. Louis pass without comment.  It is, according to the average rating of its participants, the strongest tournament in history.  Now one can certainly quibble that a few tournaments decades ago before rating inflation might have actually been stronger, but at the very least, this is the strongest tournament in years.

Yet a certain Italian-American unknown to most Americans, Fabiano Caruana is running away with it.  And, not only that, his score is 7-0-0, seven wins, no losses, no draws, including a defeat of the current world champion, Magnus Carlsen.  As his latest victim, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave put it, “He’s not making a mistake.”

With draws common among grandmasters, in about half of GM vs. GM games, seven wins in a row in such a field is exceedingly rare.  One would  have to go back decades to find a more dominating performance in such a high-powered tournament. 

And it could hardly happen to a better young man.  Caruana is quiet, polite, and unassuming.  He even seems to have some sympathy for his victims.  Heck, one of his nicknames is “Mr. Perfect.”

Although Italian and playing under the flag of Italy, he was born in the United States.  But rumor has it he is considering returning to the U. S. which would be a wonderful coup for the American chess scene.

Caruana plays Magnus Carlsen again today.  FWIW, I think Magnus will at least draw and stop the Fab streak, but it should be a most interesting game whatever the result. You can watch the St. Louis Chess Club’s excellent coverage beginning at 1:50pm CDT over at livestream.  I will most certainly be watching.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

In Case You Did Not Know Socialism is Idolatry…

I could make well-reasoned arguments as to why socialism is idolatry.  I could point out that socialism gives the state so much power, it more or less makes it the god of a country.  I could point out that socialism looks to the Holy State as the Great Provider.  I could point out that socialism in practice claims the State, not God, owns everything.  It might let you keep something at its forbearance - and you had better be thankful for that – but do not even think about defending your so-called property against the State Almighty.

But I am tired this morning so I will simply present to you the Socialist Party of Venezuela.

"Our Chavez who art in heaven, the earth, the sea and we delegates," red-shirted delegate Maria Estrella Uribe recited on Monday at the PSUV party Congress.

"Hallowed be your name, may your legacy come to us so we can spread it to people here and elsewhere. Give us your light to guide us every day," she said in front of an image of Chavez.

"Lead us not into the temptation of capitalism, deliver us from the evil of the oligarchy, like the crime of contraband, because ours is the homeland, the peace and life forever and ever. Amen. Viva Chavez!" she exclaimed to applause.

Though Chavez died of cancer in March 2013, he remains omnipresent in Venezuela. His photo is plastered all over capital Caracas, state TV frequently airs excerpts of his famously lengthy speeches and supporters sometimes don earrings or pendants with an artistic black-and-white rendition of his eyes.