Monday, February 28, 2005

More Meltdown in Colorado Aftermath

To follow up on my previous posts about the meltdown of the welfare system in Colorado, there is news today of how this is impacting pre-natal care in the state.

Most people do not understand the real nature of government assistance to the poor and lower middle class. People tend to assume that the benefits are a lot higher, and that more people get cash. Medicaid is often not thought about at all, but the reality is that to most of the people I deal with, the Medicaid is the most important assistance that they receive. And in many cases, Medicaid is the only assistance that people receive. For pregnant women, this is a very big deal.

Today the Rocky Mountain News reports:

"More Colorado mothers are getting little or no prenatal care, and it's beginning to show with more unhealthy babies, a hospital manager says.

"We're seeing more women show up in labor having no prenatal care," said Barbara Hughes, director of the Exempla St. Joseph Medical Center's midwife program.

Hughes blames a change in state policy last year that no longer allows counties or doctors to "presume eligibility" for Medicaid for a pregnant woman who seems to have very little money.

And here's the kicker:

She also blames the state's new $200 million Colorado Benefits Management System, which is supposed to determine eligibility for welfare payments, but has been beset by problems.

If a pregnant woman applies for Medicaid, but then has to wait three or four months to be approved, she loses out on most of the crucial prenatal care, say health officials who want presumptive eligibility restored.

A specific example of how bureaucratic stupidity effected a real person is cited by the story: pregnant mother who applied for Medicaid last August, just before the change in presumptive eligibility. "She decided to wait for her Medicaid application to go through," Hughes said. "It took five months. She missed all her prenatal visits over that time." She finally showed up at St. Joseph, about 10 days before her baby's due date. "The baby was already dead," Hughes said. "It's so tragic."

The fact that the case was not certified in 15 days is due to the change in presumptive eligibility. The fact that the case was not certified in at least 30 days is due to this disaster of a computer system that was pushed through before it was ready, with no plan to deal with the possibility of it being a total flop, as has turned out to be the case. 5 months is an unheard of length of time to wait for an application for pregnancy Medicaid.

Again, Texans should be taking note, because there is good reason to believe that a meltdown is in the works here in the not too distant future.

Update: Today was the original Court-Ordered deadline for the state of Colorado to clean up at least 40% of it's backlog. Not suprisingly, they didn't meet the deadline. Here is the lattest from the Associated Press:

A new report says that nearly a thousand calls for urgent state welfare or Medicaid benefits remain unresolved following problems with Colorado's new computer system.

The computer system has been blamed for causing a backlog of nearly 30,000 people waiting to find out if they can receive benefits. District Judge John Coughlin ordered the state to reduce its backlog by 40 percent and open a phone bank to help people with emergencies within five days.

Coughlin originally set a deadline of today for the state to reduce its backlog and provide proof. He has agreed to give the state until March seventh to provide its report.

Rhonda Bentz is a spokeswoman for the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. She says some cases have taken a while to resolve because the state has to track down information with the applicant or with the county where they live.

That last line is just an excuse. This information always has to be tracked down. That is the job of determining eligibility for the programs in question. The reason for the backlog, and the reason why they can't catch up is that they made a series of bad decisions that resulted in an implosion of the system, and now they have to try to fix a badly damaged ship while still at sea (because you can't just tell the poor that you get back with them in a year, after you sort all this through).

Recollections of Fr. Joseph

Me and and my Godson, Basil Huneycutt, in 2001

Fr. Joseph Huneycutt has posted the above picture, along with some recollections of the time he visited my parish to serve the liturgy (I believe it was for our parish feast day). This was back when I was still a Deacon, and so our parish normally did Reader Services, except on the occassions when we could get a priest to come and serve for us. For those of you who may have wondered why I have so much information about Reader Services on my site, we did Reader Services for the most part, from October 1998 (when our mission began) until January of 2001 (when I was ordained a priest).

Fr. Joseph is of course not the first person to make comparisons between me and ZZ Top.

ZZ Top

There have also been less favorable comparisons.


Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Visit of the Holy Relics of the Holy New Martyrs Elizabeth and Barbara to Russia Concludes

The Holy New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth

Press Conference Held on the Visit of the Holy Relics of SS Elizaveta and Varvara to Russia

The Fund of St Andrew the First-called will soon publish a documentary on the visit to Russia of the holy relics of Holy New Martyrs Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna and Nun Varvara, as reported by the Fund's President, Alexander Melnik, during a press conference held on February 24 in Moscow.

The Holy New-Martyr Barbara

During the last seven months, an unprecedented procession of the cross traveled through 61 dioceses both in Russia and the countries of the CIS.

"She has not been forgotten; in the hearts of the Russian people, she lives on. While the entire world is moving further from Christ, these New Martyrs are saving the Russian land from this," said Bishop Michael of Boston, who escorted the relics throughout the entire procession.

The Grand Duchess Elizabeth in 1894

Bishop Alexander of Dmitrovsk, Vicar of the His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia Alexy, expressed the opinion that "the visit of the relics has done more [for the two parts of the Russian Church—ed.] than any negotiations."

The large reliquary with the right hand of St Elizaveta will return to Jerusalem on February 28, whence it embarked in June of last year to Russia, and then will be taken to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign in New York.

Portions of the relics of the Holy New-Martyrs Elizabeth and Barbara have been taken throughout Russia and the other nations once part of the Soviet Union.

A smaller reliquary containing the relics of the saints will be given to Marfo-Mariinsky Convent in Moscow when the monastery is completely restored. "This reliquary itself is a holy item," remarked Bishop Michael. "The reliquary is made of the boards from the coffins in which the honorable relics of the saints were transported from Bolshevist Russia through China and Egypt to the Holy Land. The reliquary holds not only the relics of the holy women, but also earth from Darmstadt, where Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna was born, soil from Gethsemane, where SS Elizaveta and Varvara were interred since 1921, and soil from Alapaevsk, where they were crowned with martyrdom. In addition, the reliquary is adorned with a medallion given to the Grand Duchess by Emperor Nicholas II on the day of her conversion to Orthodoxy."

The large and small reliquaries will be held at Christ the Savior Church, where a midnight service will be held on the last day of their visit, concluding in a Divine Liturgy, during which many clergymen and laity will partake of the Holy Gifts.


St. Mary Magdalene Convent on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem
which contains the relics of the Holy New-Martyrs Elizabeth and Barbara

Update: See this article on the the final service in Moscow.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Welfare System in Colorado in Total Melt Down

"To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer."--Farmers' Almanac, 1978

A not-yet-ready-for-primetime Computer Program that was pushed through with the result of thousands of people needlessly suffering

Note: I still haven't finished my introductory posts in my "What's Wrong With Welfare" series... but will get back to that later.

Note Also that my comments are those of a private citizen, and do not represent the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in any way.

People in Texas, particularly its politicians should be paying attention to what has been going on in Colorado in the past 6 months, because I fear we are heading in the same direction. Colorado implemented a new computer program to handle it's welfare system, and did not first ensure it would work in the real world, or properly phase it in. Instead, following the pattern of Soviet and Maoist "Great Leap Forward" policies, they simply pushed it through and figured the kinks could be worked out.

What has happened is a complete melt down of the system, with people going for months without any benefits. Now some may say, "Good... maybe those lazy people will get jobs", but the reality is that while there is fraud and abuse, there are a great many people who depend on these benefits were really can't just go out and get a job. Some are disabled, some are too old, and some have other issues that prevent them from just going out and getting a job -- and many people do have jobs, but still count on these benefits to make ends meet.

Here's what the Denver Post is reporting:

"...the explosion in hunger across the state is the direct result of problems with the state's $200 million Colorado Benefits Management System, a nightmare computer-software program that has thrown food stamps, Medicaid, Old Age Pensions and other relief services into chaos since it was brought online Sept. 1.

Ed Kahn, attorney for the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, said the state's own statistics, as well as calls to the center from people seeking help, indicate the problems in processing aid applications have not eased.

"There were more applications overdue at the end of January than there were in December" when Denver District Court Judge John Coughlin gave the state until Feb. 28 to reduce the backlog by 40 percent, Kahn said.

Liz McDonough, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Human Services, admitted as much. "We still have a considerable backlog," she said. She reminded people struggling to get help to call the emergency hotline number: 800-536-5298.

"We're on a major push to meet the 40 percent deadline," she said.

Face it, it would take a miracle.

Kahn said that though state workers processed 16,000 applications in January, they were no closer to catching up. The backlog was about 29,700, up from 29,600 in December.

And, to make matters worse, the system was dropping people from benefit rolls for no apparent reason, requiring them to reapply and wait - and wait - for assistance all over again.

"The food pantries and food banks and homeless services providers are really ill-equipped to take on a need of this magnitude," said Linda Murphy, director of the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative. Usually they handle people in brief emergency situations, or the working poor who don't qualify for public assistance but periodically run out of money for food.

Since fall, they have been flooded with desperate families unable to get benefits. They need food for weeks at a time.

"There was a groundswell of people in need," Murphy said. Across the state, food pantries were being stripped bare soon after they opened each morning.

Hirota said the fund could not begin to solve the problem. "The gap is still considerable between what was needed and what we could provide."

And Kahn said the state is still failing to meet its responsibilities.

"This food-bank problem is going to go on indefinitely. We don't see much relief," he said. "We've called for an independent evaluation of the system. We want to find out: Is this system repairable? And if not, what are the alternatives?"

After six months of mismanagement endangering the lives of so many, it really doesn't seem like too much to ask.


In Texas, we have two issues on the horizon, either one of which could result in a melt down... and if both are implemented quickly, you can be sure that we will see a disaster that will make what is happening in Colorado look small time.

1). We too have a new computer system in the works. The old system does need to be replaced, because it is an old DOS based system that was created in the late 80's and early 90's, and has been increasing hard to make work with contemporary computer systems that are available. However, the new system (TIERS) is developing into a boondoggle, because (in my opinion) they bit off more than they could chew and tried to get it to do too much, and they did not really listen to the end users when this project was in the early development stages.

2). The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is planning on implementing Call Centers to process most of the work done in conjunction with the Food Stamp, TANF, and Medicaid programs. The problem is they are pushing this through without having tested the premises that they have based their model on, and one of them is that the TIERS system is going to save time, and require fewer people (who will be paid less than the already low wages paid to the current staff). The reality is that this program is still flawed, and it takes longer to process a case action than the old system does. They also assume that they can cut about half of our agencies staff, and possibly privatize these call centers, and still get the same or better end results that the current system produces. There is no reason to believe that this will turn out to be the case.

I work in a call center that was implemented to handle the processing of changes to cases between recertifications (such as changes in income, address, and household). Eventually we made this work, but for about two years, our call center was more of a problem than a help. Much of our work had to be shifted back to the local offices, while we worked out the kinks. But one problem with consolidating our work into 2 or 3 call centers for the whole state, without having worked out the kinks first, is that there will be no one to call upon to bail out those call centers, should they find that they need the help temporarily or long term. And should they discover that the whole idea was wrong headed, it will take years to reverse what they propose to quickly undo with the mass closing of offices that currently handle this work.

In short... take heed Texas, because I have seen the future, and it doesn't work.

Texas Integrated Eligibility Redesign System
Another computer system that needs a lot more work and testing before it is fully implemented.


TIERS of Frustration

More Meltdown Aftermath

The Great Leap Forward, and Other Examples of Bureaucratic Stupidity

Colorado's Computer System Price Tag Just Went Up

Denver Post Editorial: Computer fiasco adds expense

Accenture to get HHSC call center

Greely Tribune: State must pay to fix computer glitches, Aid agencies suffering

Colorado makes progress in cleaning up mess, but progress attributed to exta man hours rather than improved software

Welfare Glitches Continue and Worries About Texas Do Too.

If I had a Hammer: The Limits of Privatization

Denver Post Editorial: Progress in benefits system is illusory

Colorado Welfare System: Still A Sticky Situation

Colorado Employees and Officials Feel Burned by Computer System.

Foxes in the Chicken House

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Last Samurai: A Belated Review

I realize that this review comes quite a bit late, but I very rarely go to see a movie in the theatre... and generally strive to not pay a red cent toward a Holywood Movie, unless it is worth supporting (e.g. the Passion).

This movie had great action scenes, and was mostly enjoyable, but the self hating white liberal revisionist history was hard to overlook.

For one thing, we have the usually portrayal of all American soldiers during the period of the Indian Wars having personally participated in the massacre of women and children. One would think that the Indians only sat around singing "cum by ya" and tossing daisies in the way of settlers, and that white settlers just killed them all for the fun of it.

It is certainly true that there were massacres of Indians, but there were also massacres of whites by the Indians. However, it seems that now Indians can only be portrayed as peace-loving, noble, wise, and kind; and the whites who delt with them as only the opposite of those virtues.

But what is worse, in the case of this movie, is that now white America is blamed for the militarization of Japan.

It seems that the Japanese were also noble, wise, and kind... at least until they came into contact with the evil Europeans. But history shows that the Japanese were so brutal that even the Nazis were bothered by the level of their brutality. During the course of the Rape of Nanking, Nazis present in Nanking sought to put a stop to the rape and slaughter of civilians.

Aside from all that, the movie has almost no historical basis. And most certainly, the establishment in Japan was not trying to stamp out Bushido (the way of the Samurai).

Furthermore, the Last Samurai repeatedly ripped-off Braveheart... to such an extent that I was expecting during the final battle scene that at some point Tom Cruise was going to shout:

They can take away our lives, but they can never take away our Bushido!

But Braveheart at least was based on real history.

One get's a better sense of Japanese history from watching Samurai Jack...

But the fight scenes were good though.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

From Campus Crusade to Orthodox Priest

Fr. Peter Gillquist

Fr. Peter Gillquist was recently in Texas, and gave a talk about his conversion that was reported on in the North Texas Daily.

You can read more about him here.

You can read a lot more about it by reading this book:

Becoming Orthodox, Fr. Peter Gillquist

This was the second book I read about Orthodoxy, and it helped me a great deal down the road towards entering the Orthodox Church. The story of a group of people who started off with Campus Crusade for Christ, tried to reinvent the early Church, and finally ended up joining the real thing was a facinating story that I heard tell of long before I was interested in Orthodoxy. At first it struck me as simply interesting, in an odd sense.

I got my copy of this book from Fr. Anthony Nelson, whom I met at a pro-life rally. The first time I saw him, with his long robe, long beard, pectoral cross, and skufia, I said to my wife with a chuckle... "Can you imagine me dressed like that?" Little did I know at the time....

Monday, February 21, 2005

Rabbit Proof Myths

In December of 2000 I spoke at an Orthodox youth conference in Western Australia, that was held at a now closed Aboriginee college that is located on the grounds of a Benedictine Monastery in New Norcia. I mentioned this in passing in a talk I recently gave and someone afterward suggested I should see the movie "The Rabbit Proof Fence" in order to find out the real story of how Aboriginees were treated in Australia.

It was a beautiful and well acted movie, but the story of evil white Australians trying to steal Aboriginee children for purely racists reasons caused me to question how accurately the history in this movie was portrayed.

Well, I have found two articles that compare the facts of the movie with the real history.

The first is Rabbit Proof Myths, by Andrew Bolt.

The second is Rabbit-proof fence: “a true story”? by Keith Windschuttle.

Here is how Andrew Bolt's article begins:

The truth of Australia's past is hard enough to face, and untruths and exaggerations now will only divide us. Phillip Noyce claims his new film, Rabbit-Proof Fence, is a true story. The Hollywood director's publicity blurb repeats the boast: ``A true story.'' Even the first spoken words in the hyped film, which opens next week, are: ``This is a true story.'' Wrong. Crucial parts of this ``true story'' about a ``stolen generations'' child called Molly Craig are false or misleading. And shamefully so.

No wonder that when Craig saw Rabbit-Proof Fence at a special screening in her bush settlement last month, she seem surprised. ``That's not my story,'' she said as the credits rolled. No, it isn't. Instead, it is Craig's story told in a way that would help ``prove'' the ``stolen generations'' are no myth -- that thousands of aboriginal children were indeed torn from the arms of loving parents by racist police.

In saying this, I mean no disrespect to Craig. She has had a film (supported by $5.3 million of taxpayers' money) made of an episode of her life in which she showed extraordinary courage, endurance and willpower -- but it's a film which can't be trusted to tell the whole truth. Who could value its praise?

It was 1931 and Molly Craig was just 14, when she and two of her younger cousins -- Daisy, 8, and Gracie, 11 -- were taken from an Aboriginal camp at Jigalong, in Western Australia's north, and sent to the Moore River Native Settlement, 2000km south. There these girls were to live with other ``half-castes'' and to go to school, learning skills to help them to adapt to non-Aboriginal society.
But the girls fled after one night, and in an amazing nine-week epic walked home to Jigalong -- all but Gracie, that is, who was found by police at Wiluna. Craig's feat made the papers but was not written up in full until 1996, when her daughter, Doris Pilkington, who was herself raised at Moore River, wrote the book on which Noyce has based his film.

BUT Noyce and his scriptwriter didn't stick to the facts Pilkington uncovered. Instead, the story was rewritten and now supports a monstrous falsehood -- that we have a genocidal past that is, as Noyce's publicity material declares, ``more cruel than could ever be imagined''.

Let me show you how they did it -- how they told untruths or only half the truth in their ``true story''.

Read on here.

The Man That Launched A Hundred Kung-Fu Movies

Wong Fei-Hong

"Wong Fei-hung, also known as Huang Fei-hong is one of the most revered folk heroes in Southern Chinese culture. This figure has been immortalized in serialized novels and in over 100 feature films. While little is known about the personal life of Fei-hung, this celebrated kung fu expert, healer, philosopher, and champion of justice has left an indelible mark on Hong Kong cinema and the martial arts world."

Read more about the real hero behind the movies.

An Exit Strategy

From Cartago Delenda Est

UPI Reports that Iran is preparing for a US invasion.

Iran has begun preparing for a possible U.S. attack, or at least trying to dissuade Washington from such an attack by appearing to prepare for war.

Tehran has recently disclosed efforts to bolster and mobilize recruits in citizens' militias and making plans to engage in the type of asymmetrical warfare used against U.S. troops in Iraq, the Washington Times reported Saturday.

Read more here.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Iwo Jima 60th Anniversary

Today is the 60th Anniversary of the begining of the Battle of Iwo Jima, which is a battle that my father played a small a role in aboard the USS Bougainville, which was a Casablanca Class Aircraft Carrier.

The USS Bougainville

Of the 6,800 American who died in that battle, obviously most of them were the brave Marines that stormed the beaches. However, this was also the first battle in which Kamikaze attacks were the primary use of Japanese air power.

At Okinawa, in which the Bougainville also participated, Kamikaze attacks sunk more than 400 ships. So these battles were no picnic for the men supporting the invasion from the sea, either. For example, the USS Bismarck Sea, which was an identical Carrier to the Bougainville was sunk after being struck by two kamikaze planes. 318 sailors went down with her.

The aft end of USS Bismarck Sea CVE-95 explodes, minutes after she was struck by a Kamikaze, 21 February 1945.

My father had very vivid memories of these battles, the kamikazes, and the shot up plans returning to the flight deck. He had hearing problems for the rest of his life due to his maning of anti-aircraft guns during the war.

He also was struck by the devastation he saw when the Bougainville docked in several Chinese ports after the war. He saw people starving in the streets, and people fighting over the trash his ship threw overboard. Girls were being sold on the street to whoever wanted to buy them (not rented as prostitutes, but sold).

While poking around on the net for information, I stumbled across a picture of members of the crew of the Bougainville celebrating the end of the war when they first got the word that the war was over:

Click to enlarge

After the war, my father just worked hard until he retired. He had 7 Children. Never was one to complain, despite the fact that he had to endure many hard breaks during his life. One of his favorite maxims he learned from his father was a beatitude not found in the Bible: "Blessed are they that don't expect much, for they shall not be disappointed." That sort of hard as nails stoic approach to life seems to be in shorter supply these days, in which were are encompassed about by whiners. But we see in the troops in Iraq today that at least some Americans still know how to deal with real trials and difficulties.

My father passed away this past April.

Guss Leon Whiteford
December 3, 1925 - April 2nd, 2004

Update: See this collection of posts and articles on Iwo Jima at Black Five.

See Zell Millers article on what would have happened if contemporary reporters were reporting on the battle of Iwo Jima.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Cultural Diversity: The Old School Approach

The Hindu custom of "Suttee," in which a widow was burned alive... sometime voluntarily, and often not.

In recent times we are often told that all cultures are equal, and that one should not suggest that one culture is superior to another. However, the following story both shows the folly of this view, as well as how those of the old school handled cultural diversity.

In the mid 1800's, when Britain ruled India, they banned the custom of burning widows alive on the funeral pyres of their husbands. A delegation of Indians came to Sir Charles James Napier, to complain that this was their ancient custom, and that they should be allowed to practice it.

This was Sir Charles' response:

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

For the most part, this custom died out.

Sir Charles James Napier

Sunday, February 13, 2005

In War, the Aggressor Sets the Rules.

St. Paul's Cathedral in London, surrounded by flame and smoke from German Bombs

Today in the news we read about Germans whining about the fire bombing of Dresden, and of course we are used to hearing of how horrible it was for the US to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In fact, you hear so much talk of how horrible the Allies were that one might think that the Allies were the ones that started the war, or were the first to target civilians. It just ain't so.

Sept. 7, 1940 - the beginning of the
London Blitz

Children sit among the rubble of their home September 1940

A German Buzz-Bomb in flight, headed for London

If more German Civilians ended up being killed by British and American bombs than British Civilians being killed by German bombs, it was not because the Germans wouldn't have done it, had they been able... it was only because they were prevented from doing it.

But we should not forget the large number of Russians killed by the Germans during the war:

About 30 Million Russians were killed in World War II

And as for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, one could point out that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor first:

The USS West Virginia

But we should not forget that the Japanese killed more civilians in the course of the Rape of Nanking than were killed in either Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

"Over the six weeks of the massacre, in addition to the murder of about 300,000 civilians, the Japanese troops raped over 20,000 women, most of whom were murdered thereafter. In recognition of these horrifying acts, the massacre is also commonly referred to as 'the rape of Nanking."

Women raped and murderd along with their children were left in the streets

Mass Graves at Nanking

Of course the death of any civilian is a shame, but those who make war on civilians without any provocation should not complain when they get back what they so freely dished out to others.

What the Allies did, they had no choice but to do. The aggressors set the rules, which included attacking population centers. It was kill or be killed on a grand scale, and the fact of the matter is lives were saved by the dropping of the bomb on Japan -- not just American lives, but Japanese lives that would have been lost if they had gone through with their plan to fight to the bitter end.

One might question whether the fire bombing of Dresden was justified, but the bombing campaign against Germany sped up the end of the war. German lives were probably saved by this, but certainly the lives that were being extinguished by the hour at the hands of the Nazis were mounting by the day, until the day that the Germans raised the white flag. The Germans were also working on their own atomic bomb, and had they developed it in time to use it, you can be sure they would have, and the world would have been a far darker place for it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

How Christians Began the End of Slavery

Thomas Sowell writes about the Christian origins of the Abolitionist movement.

This is a topic I've been meaning to post on. Jesse Jackson has of late been pontificating about the difference between "progressive" Christianity and "conservative" Christianity, and attempted to suggest that conservative Christians defended slavery, while the liberals opposed it... that conservatives don't care about feeding the poor, while liberals do, etc. The reality is that he is imposing an anachronistic distinction upon the past. It was only in the early 1900's that a serious divergence began to manifest itself between those advocating a "Social Gospel" and those just advocating the Gospel. And it was only after this that we began to see the beginings of what is commonly known as "liberal" Christianity.

Abolitionists, such as Charles Finney, were not liberals who denied the virgin birth, or the bodily resurrection of Christ in favor of the "Social Gospel".

Charles Finney

William Wilberforce became a fervent Christian, before he became a fervent abolitionists, and dedicated his life to ended it in the British Empire (which finally happened one month after his death).

William Wilberforce

The Salvation Army was not founded by liberals who denied the deity of Christ, but by people who earnestly believed in the need for people to be transformed spiritualy by the Gospel.

It was not a denial of the teachings of the Orthodox Church that inspired Tsar Alexander II to abolish serfdom in Russia (before Lincoln freed a single slave in America), but his embrace of those teachings that led him to do this.

Tsar Alexander II

In the end, it is only the power of sincere Faith in God that has historically led to people voluntarily giving up power over the weak, and choosing mercy and justice over selfish interest. This requires a change in heart, and a mushy Christianity has historically failed to inspire people to even go to Church, much less to do anything really hard.

See also:

Stump the Priest: What about Slavery in the Bible?

Uncle Tom was no "Uncle Tom"

Monday, February 07, 2005

Beslan Massacre Mastermind... traumatized by what happened

Basayev... traumatized, but says he will do it again

One has to wonder at the nonsense that is reported with a straight face these days by members of the mainstream media. Consider the following from the Times Online, written by a certain Nick Sturdee.

“THE Chechen rebel leader who masterminded the Beslan school siege last autumn plans more such operations, despite his apparent remorse over the deaths of more than 330 people — half of them children — in the North Ossetia attack. In his first interview since that bloodbath, Shamil Basayev says that he is in a state of shock over what happened, but blames the Russians for precipitating the bloody end of the siege.”

So Basayev has “apparent remorse” and is so traumatized by what happened that he is “in a state of shock”, but it is all the Russians fault for how it ended? Let’s consider how the Beslan massacre progressed:

“Other survivors told how screaming teenage girls were dragged into rooms adjoining the gymnasium where they were being held and raped by their Chechen captors who chillingly made a video film of their appalling exploits. They said children were forced to drink their own urine and eat the petals off the flowers they had brought their teachers after nearly three days without food or water in the stifling hot gym.

… “One of them is a child, just 18 months old, with many knife wounds," …The Chechen terrorists - including two so-called "Black Widows" - had been meticulously planning the hostage-taking for months.High explosives and ammunition had been smuggled into the building during the summer by rebels disguised as workmen. A shocking account of the siege has come from Indira Dzetskelova, the mother of 12-year-old Dzerase who was guarded by two women suicide bombers during the siege. She said: "On the first day they shot a man before my daughter's eyes. They frightened the kids by saying that water in the tap was poisoned. "The famished children had to eat rose petals from bouquets which they specially bought for their teachers to mark the first day of term. Parents who were also captured had to feed their kids with all the window plants. "After they ate all the petals, my daughter said that she started to nibble the rose plants.

"She told me that several 15-year-old girls were raped by terrorists. She heard their terrible cries and screams when those monsters took them away."

…"I saw kids and women falling to the ground. And I saw that vermin's face. I saw his smile as he killed my friends."

…"All the kids were crying, 'Please don't shoot! Please don't kill us'. But the rebels did not listen to us.

"Then I saw an open window and just jumped out. My little sister Lena was left inside there." And sobbing, she added: "I don't know if she's alive. She was only ten."

One girl was so thirsty that when she had the opportunity to run to safety, she ran instead to a water fountain. She was shot in the back as she tried to take a drink.

What brave warriors... at least brave in the face of starving thirsty little girls, and unarmed civilians.

Mind you, Basayev is so traumatized remorseful that he has been in shock, but Nick Sturdee goes on to tell us that Basayev also says: “We are planning more Beslan-type operations in the future because we are forced to do so.”

Hopefully, someone will prevent Mr. Basayev from being further traumatized by another Belsan.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Blessed Xenia

I ran across an article in the Russian press which took note of the fact that today is also the commemoration of Blessed Xenia of Petersburg.

You can read a more detailed account of her life here. This is a briefer account that was published in Orthodox America:

We know almost nothing about the early years of Blessed Xenia's life. She was happily married to a colonel who was a court singer in St. Petersburg, Russia's capital city at that time, and we can assume that her' own family was among the well-to-do. She was only 26 years old when her husband suddenly died at a drinking party. Xenia loved her husband very much and his unexpected death came as a great shock, It completely changed her way of looking at life. Knowing that her husband had not prepared himself for death and that he had died without the prayers of the Church, she began to be very concerned about the eternal state of his soul. It was as though she were given new eyes; she thought no more about parties, about having fun with friends; she gave away her possessions to the poor. In fact, she broke all ties with the world--to such an extent that even her relatives thought she must be crazy. Xenia dressed in her husband's clothes and insisted on being called by her husband's name, Andrew, as if to say that she had died, not he. And indeed, she died to the world in order to be closer to God.

At night she would go into a field outside the city and stand for hours in prayer, even in the snow. Or she would secretly help in the building of the Smolensk cemetery church carrying to the top bricks which would be waiting for the workmen in the morning. Often. as she walked the streets in the city's poorer neighborhoods, people made fun of her, children would throw dirt at her and laugh. The blessed one only prayed for their souls, bearing patiently their taunts for the sake of Christ.

Blessed Xenia would help build Churches at night time, while everyone else was sleeping

Gradually, however, people began to see that behind her seemingly odd behavior was someone who was very special in the eyes of God. They noticed that when she would hold a crying baby in her arms, the baby would at once quiet down and remain calm and content for the rest of the day. Those stores which she entered would have good business that day. People began to realize that her often strange words held a deeper meaning, sometimes warning them of approaching disasters, or of what was to happen in their life. Once, for example, she went to visit her friends the Golubevs as they were preparing to sit down for a cup of coffee. "Oh my beauty," she said to the daughter, "here you are making coffee, while your husband is burying his wife at Ochta. Run quickly!" The young girl and her mother were most puzzled by these words, but knowing Xenia' s gift of being able to see the future, they obeyed at once. There they came upon the funeral procession of the wife of a young doctor who was so overcome by grief that he fainted.

The Golubevs brought him back to his senses, became acquainted, and a year later the daughter became his wife, just as the blessed one had foretold.

Another time some merchants were selling some particularly delicious honey out of a barrel. People had already begun to buy it at a high price when suddenly Blessed Xenia appeared. "Don't take it, don't take it," she cried. "This honey can't be eaten; it stinks of a corpse." She leaned with all her strength against the barrel which overturned on the sidewalk, spilling the honey to the merchants' great dismay. To everyone's horror, there at the bottom of the barrel was a huge dead rat. Even those who had already bought some of the honey had to throw it out.

St. Xenia lived in this way for for years after the death of her husband. Exactly when she died is not known, but it was probably in the last years of the 18th century. She was buried in the Smolensk cemetery, not far from the church which she had helped to build. Later a chapel was built over her grave, and to this very day many people come there to pray to St. Xenia who, even after death continues to work many miracles, helping people out of all kinds of misfortunes. Through her prayers, people have been healed of serious illnesses; she is especially quick in helping to find jobs or places to live. Just this year a woman in England was looking for a place to live near the church where she had recently been received into the Orthodox Faith, so as to be able to attend the daily services. She and her priest prayed to St. Xenia and within a few days she had an apartment in the house next door to the Parish House! Wondrous is God in His saints.

May we learn from the example of Blessed Xenia how important it is for us not to be attached to the things of the world, but to keep our minds and hearts turned towards heaven, our true home, that we too, like St. Xenia, may, after our earthly wandering, “come to dwell in the Father's house.”

The Chapel in which Blessed Xenia is buried. A popular place of pilgrimage in St. Petersburg, Russia