Plot Thickens Forum Opens!

As some of you know, I have an essay published in the recent anthology of essays on the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling. To learn more about the book, visit at

To join in the forum discussion of the book, go to:

Here's what Amazon says about the book: The Plot Thickens... Harry Potter Investigated

Have you got your wits about you?
JK Rowling challenged her fans to use their wits, and now her fans have responded. She's dribbled clues through her interviews, website, and of course the books. Where are the hints and how should we interpret them?

If you're tired of chewing on your quill alone, pondering the possibilities, then join 53 fans from 10 countries, as they investigate cauldronfuls of sly clues, shedding new light on the mysteries hiding within JK Rowling’s pages. Her bubbling brew of characters is becoming thick with suspects:

* What's up with Aunt Petunia?
* Is Gilderoy permanently disabled?
* Is Percy really a git?
* Where is Gran Longbottom’s allegiance?
* How does time travel work?
* Is there still something odd with Mad-Eye?
* Whose side is Snape on?

Through the magic of the Internet community, our authors have been brought together from the Mighty MuggleNet "Chamber of Secrets" and "New Clues" forums to discuss the clues and hints in the Harry Potter septology. Transfigured from Internet posters to new authors, they have written The Plot Thickens...Harry Potter Investigated by Fans for Fans brimming with new thoughts and theories on what may be one of the best-loved literary epics of all time. Just like Wizarding World Press's Ultimate Unofficial Guide to the Mysteries of Harry Potter this new book can be a great starting point for those fans who wish to examine the series in depth.

As the plot begins to truly thicken, these author-sleuths have conjured a collection of discussions, character analyses, and theories that will hook up your fireplace flue to the busiest Brain Room outside of the Department of Mysteries. Read fascinating scrolls that delve below the surface of over 60 topics, and peer ahead to what is yet to come. Share in the bouts of speculation. Investigate with your fellow fans as they weave together the threads of this mystery...worry with them over what tragedies still await our beloved Harry.

Wizarding World Press invites you to come, join our discussion, as from one fan to another we respond to JK Rowling's challenge by using our wits to decipher this great mystery. Here is a unique, fun book, and a unique opportunity to experience the magic.

Note: Major spoilers included! Do not read this unless you have read all five Harry Potter books. The Plot Thickens...Harry Potter Investigated by Fans for Fans is a collection of articles by international authors--it is not the Ultimate Unofficial Guide to Book 5.

Inauthentic Dylan: A Pligrim in Progress?

This article causes me to reexamine what we mean by being authentic in the arts. Maybe authenticity is not the point after all? Maybe it's the pigrimage, the journey, the "pilgrim's progress" view rather than some attempt to strive for authenticity. I am rethinking this because it seems that to strive for authenticity actually ends up at creative dead-ends, rather than inspiring creativity. Authenticity seems based what art is not, rather than what art is. Looking at Dylan's career, of what appears to be his "reinventing himself" at every turn his life's journey may actually be his own "pilgrim's progress." All along he meets the characters as Christian did in John Bunyan's classic. Maybe that's closer to the truth than asking "Who is Bob Dylan?" Maybe the question is more about the journey.

Here's the article from Reason magazine, November 2001:

REASON * November 2001

The Free-Floating Bob Dylan
The wonderfully inauthentic art of America's most vital singer-songwriter

By Brian Doherty

Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, by Howard Sounes, New York: Grove Press, 527 pages, $27.50

Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña, by David Hajdu, New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux, 328 pages, $25

Bob Dylan turned 60 in May, and his first album of new material in four years, "Love and Theft", came out in September. Those events, along with the recent release of the biographies Down the Highway and Positively 4th Street, have occasioned the most recent wave of ink spilled on the former Mr. Robert Zimmerman of Hibbing, Minnesota. His position in America's cultural landscape seems as rock-solid and over-large as Mt. Rushmore: He is widely acknowledged as the greatest songwriter of his generation, a man who irrevocably changed the popular song, a successful singer who is the constant butt of (undeserved) jokes about guys who just can't carry a tune.

Too much Dylan commentary gets trapped in Significance -- in documenting his importance in terms of his "influence," as if his worth is to be measured in the careers of Roger McGuinn, Barry McGuire, the Band, and a plethora of singer-songwriters with virtues widely understood as "Dylanesque." That is, a way with a colorful phrase, a "social conscience," or an unusual singing style.

Dylan has certainly been influential, and not always for the best. His seemingly effortless brilliance has a don't-try-this-at-home quality that has escaped emulators both great and small. Indeed, the more closely someone tries to ape Dylan, the more likely he or she is to sound ridiculous. (As Barry McGuire famously, ludicrously sang in the Dylan-inflected '60s hit, "Eve of Destruction," "Think of all the hate there is in red China/Then take a look around at Selma, Alabama.../Blood so hot, feels like coagulatin'/Handful of senators won't pass legislation.") The same held true for Dylan himself: The less he directly emulated early influence Woody Guthrie or Guthrie manqués such as Ramblin' Jack Elliott, the better he became.

What makes Dylan worth our continuing attention is not that he has clearly influenced other major artists, or that he "invented" folk rock, was the voice of his generation, ended the Vietnam War, moved to Woodstock, sang with Joan Baez, turned the Beatles onto pot, merged the Beats with a beat, or made the world safe for Loudon Wainwright III (and every other would-be "new Dylan"). What makes Dylan worth thinking about is that he has been -- and remains -- unprecedentedly great at what he does: writing songs and performing them.

Over a career that spans five decades, Dylan has written a huge body of wonderful songs with rich, fresh language, a vast emotional range, and an appreciation for and understanding of the totality of human experience. He has blended these with exhilarating melodies and musical backings. He has been absurd, tender, vengeful, smart, sexy, foolish, mystic, pious, nostalgic, journalistic, and phantasmagorical. He's a master of love songs (from "I Want You" to "Precious Angel"), word-drunk ramblings (from "Desolation Row" to "Idiot Wind"), and hymn-like anthems that sound ancient and necessary right out of the box (from "I Shall Be Released" to "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"). It seems likely that Dylan will be providing insight and pleasure to listeners for as long as digital storage media last.

Yet one thing Dylan has never been is "authentic," the prime value of the late '50s and early '60s folk-music milieu from which he arose. Both Down the Highway and Positively 4th Street provide valuable insight into how Bob Dylan violated the codes of his folk-scene background, which restricted performers to politically and culturally imposed limits thought to be more "real" than the "plastic" American culture exemplified not only by Eisenhower's America but by then-burgeoning rock 'n' roll. Dylan became the most successful product of the folk movement precisely by daring to be more than what its repressive version of identity politics allowed. Every step of the way, his career throws into question the usefulness of politicized restrictions on freewheeling cultural production and identity formation. Though it is rarely acknowledged, even or perhaps especially by his champions, Dylan's status as an American cultural icon is a reflection of his brilliance at continuous self-fashioning, not his "authenticity."

An Opportunistic Folkie

Some Dylan diehards scorned journalist Howard Sounes' Down the Highway for being a more gossipy tome than the mighty poet deserved. Gossipy it is; no other Dylan bio will tell you how he stole fellow Greenwich Village folkie Liam Clancy's lass while Clancy was playing at being a wandering troubadour in the early '60s. Still, Sounes has done the reporter's job well: He interviewed dozens of people (many missed by previous Dylan biographers) and dredged up many previously unknown tales. Very much because Sounes does not try to assess Dylan the artist (it isn't even clear if he finds Dylan's music all that interesting), this is the most satisfying Dylan biography yet, an entertaining set of anecdotes and memories of a fascinating, if ultimately unknowable, man. Down the Highway is thankfully unmarred by shoddy and tortured theory or criticism. Sounes is a storyteller, not an archeologist of historical truth. Some of his fresh material (such as his discovery of a secret second Dylan marriage from 1986-92, to backup singer Carolyn Dennis) comes from examining marriage licenses, court records, and business documents. But most of it is gleaned from tales told by Dylan associates, unverifiable in the main, and to be taken more as legend than cold fact. The book is nonetheless delightful for all that.

In Positively 4th Street, David Hajdu (author of an award-winning biography of Billy Strayhorn, one of Duke Ellington's composing partners) spins a dense group biography of Dylan and a trio of his close pals during the early '60s: folk goddess Joan Baez, her recently deceased sister Mimi, and Mimi's husband Richard Fariña, a hipster-hustler best remembered for the popular countercultural student novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me (1966). Hajdu nowhere bludgeons the reader with the meaning or larger importance of the story he tells. He trusts that the inherent color of his subjects and his own skill at presenting character through incident will captivate -- and it mostly does. Hajdu clearly sees Richard Fariña as the linchpin. He has even complained (lamely) that he didn't want his book coming out amid the hype surrounding Dylan's 60th birthday; his is not just another Dylan book. (I suspect Hajdu wanted to write a straight Fariña bio, but that linking him to Dylan was the only way he could sell his proposal.)

While he resolutely shows-not-tells, Hajdu unconvincingly implies that Fariña's early blatherings about poetry-with-a-beat were key to Dylan's artistic renaissance circa 1964-66, when Dylan grew beyond folk and became a true cultural giant. Complaints from other early Dylan associates that Dylan ripped them off and sucked them dry have been proven absurd by time. While Dylan doubtlessly copped a song or two or some vocal mannerisms from, say, folkie Dave Van Ronk, Van Ronk has had decades to prove himself Dylan's equal and failed. But any fantasy of influence and promise can be projected on Fariña, since he died before his long-term creative powers could be fairly judged. In a bizarre, almost unbelievable, turn of events, Fariña was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1966, on the very day his novel was released. That event ends Positively 4th Street, and in his last sentence, Hajdu reveals that Fariña's next project was to be a memoir of his days with the Baez sisters and Dylan. It's as if Hajdu has creepily adopted Fariña's goals as his own.

Hajdu glorifies Fariña (who seems merely self-aggrandizing and opportunistic to those more immune to his charms), makes Joan Baez look about as ridiculous as possible, and shows Dylan escaping her folkie-leftist orbit to become an artist of greater power and breadth than that scene could accommodate. The key to Dylan's escape from Baez's world, as cruel as it was to his erstwhile lover and early career booster, was his inauthenticity: Dylan jumped situations and styles opportunistically or by chance.

Falling in love with Congress of Racial Equality volunteer Suze Rotolo led him to write his early social conscience/protest hits. He was dragged to Southern civil rights events by folk elder Theodore Bikel, not his strong desire for social justice. As Sounes relates it, Dylan himself told people that he wrote the anti-war anthem "Masters of War" merely because he thought it would sell.

What did authenticity mean to the folkies with whom Dylan passed his younger days? As Hajdu explains it, the folk aesthetic in the '50s was "styled as largely antithetical to the times...[It] posed challenges to Eisenhower-era conservatism...put a premium on naturalness and authenticity during a boom in man-made materials, especially plastic...celebrat[ed] the past rather than the 'new' and 'improved' was small in scale...when American society, with its new supermarkets, V-8 engines, and suburban sprawl, appeared to be physically ballooning. Folk music was down to earth when jet travel and space exploration were emerging."

Echoes of this complaint against the unprecedented wealth and opportunities of postwar America sound through the Beats (whose style Dylan pinched in some of his mid-'60s work); intellectuals such as Paul Goodman, whose classic Growing Up Absurd (1960) argued that the "system" in the '50s gave young men no meaningful, authentic choices for life, leading the intelligent and spirited to rebellion; and J.D. Salinger's massively popular The Catcher in the Rye (1951), whose protagonist Holden Caulfield, the patron saint of disaffected, whiny kids everywhere, tellingly directs his harshest contempt at "phonies." Far from merely an era of bland conformity, it seems one couldn't swing an Organization Man in the '50s without whacking some sort of far-out rebel.

Hajdu's explanation of the folk authenticity ethos is evocative, and certainly as good as or better than anything the folkies themselves could have come up with. Folk authenticity was an ill-defined quality you claimed to possess, one that dripped virtue and decency, and that your enemies lacked. Yet the insistence on it was a self-deluding exercise at best. The usually white, usually well-off college kids who championed folk were not the rural, mountain, poor, and often black folk who had actually developed and kept this music alive. By pretending that singing those songs meant absorbing the values that their original guardians exemplified, the folk revivalists were faking it, becoming something that they were not.

But their values still seemed to them "real" somehow. They resolutely sided with nature vs. artifice, cotton vs. rayon, wood vs. plastic. They were opposed to what they saw as the commercial and intellectual values of the dominant culture. While rock 'n' roll in the '50s may have scared many mainstream Americans, to folkies it was just one more plastic, inauthentic product of the Commercial Machine. The Pete Seegers and Joan Baezes of the folk world sought to replace such crass, moneymaking music with songs that reflected what they saw as the struggle and dignity of the common man.

It's easy to laugh at the folkies now, to find their music effete and dull and to find absurd their dream of building a proletarian social consciousness by playing precious British love ballads and songs about miners' travails. But within their own circumscribed world, who can fault them? They had a music and style they loved and wanted to preserve. As Joan Baez buddy (and son of Masterpiece Theater's Alaistair Cooke) John Cooke told Hajdu, "One of the things that made [folk] music different and better than whatever everybody else was listening to was the fact that everybody else wasn't listening to it....It was anticommercial music."

Alas for snobs like Cooke, folk music became a full-on cultural explosion by 1963. Joan Baez became a major pop star; folk was the subject of a weekly ABC TV show Hootenanny and used as a general-purpose cultural signifier in everything from pinball machines to candy bars. Folk may never have lived up to its implied politico-cultural promise to re-authenticate a plastic American middle-class "death culture," but its insistence on authenticity remains a cornerstone of self-consciously cool subcultures, ranging from punk's disdain for "posers" to hip-hop's concern for "keepin' it real."

Going Electric

By any definition, authenticity is something Bob Dylan lacked, even before he adopted his stage name in 1960. Born in 1941, he has warped and changed year by year, evincing no solid core other than an ability to write great songs. He was a small-town, middle-class kid from Hibbing, Minnesota, who loved Little Richard more than anything. He went off to a hip college scene at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and, as insecure new college kids are wont to do, shed his past. He fell in with a crowd of hard-left folkie types and became consumed by the Woody Guthrie myth -- not through the man's actual music but through Bound for Glory, his autobiography about life on the road.

Though he fancied himself a vagabond, Dylan traveled the country only a little bit -- one trip to Colorado and back to Minneapolis, with occasional visits to another left-leaning college town, Madison, Wisconsin. According to stories Sounes dug up, he burgled records from benefactors along the way and lied madly to create a phony legend about himself. He eventually tracked down his hero Guthrie in New York. Guthrie was dying, his voice uncharacteristically slurred by late-stage Huntington's Disease. Guthrie's wife complains that Dylan, thinking he was tapping into Guthrie's essential style, began emulating some of the verbal tics brought on by his illness.

Dylan was well-known for pinching techniques and songs wholesale from others during his early days. Indeed, his genius is intertwined with his ability to both pick up and shed new influences and styles over time. As one Hibbing friend told Sounes, Dylan "had it calculated all the way....Each step, how he was gonna do it, and how you get to be a star." Even while he was the young king of the Greenwich Village folk scene, Dylan violated "authentic" folk codes, first by writing his own songs in a folk or protest mode, and then by returning to his real, hidden roots -- the rhythms and electricity of rock 'n' roll. Dylan's live debut with a full electric band happened at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. A legend has bloomed around it: When he performed three songs with an electrified rock band, hidebound folkies booed en masse, shocked and appalled that Dylan dared to challenge folk's limits.

The reality is that he'd already released Bringing It All Back Home, which included a whole side of electric rock. At the time of the Newport show, his rock classic "Like A Rolling Stone" had been released as a single the week before and would in three weeks hit number 2 on the charts. It's unlikely most of the audience was shocked or angered by anything other than a bad sound system. Still, there's no question that folk reactionaries such as Pete Seeger and Alan Lomax were appalled by Dylan's performance. Seeger still maintains that if he'd had an ax that day, he'd have cut the electric cable to shut Dylan up.

Dylan has carefully played to the myth of the overwhelming boo, once noting in his best hipster-bitch mode that "I can't put anybody down for coming and booing. After all, they paid to get in....Lots of whole families had driven down from Vermont, lots of nurses and their patients, and, well, like they just came to hear some relaxing hoedowns, you know, maybe an Indian polka or two. And then just when everything's going all right, here I come on, and the whole place turns into a beer factory."

Musical Chameleon

More than his folk comrades, Dylan recognized that authenticity -- at least the folkies' restrictive version of it -- is likely to lead to artistic stagnation and irrelevance. "He not busy being born is busy dying," Dylan sang. Yet even as he was leaving the folk world's values behind, Dylan couldn't even manage to be an authentic apostate. Through most of "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," which appears on the acoustic side of Bringing It All Back Home, he seems to be channeling Paul Goodman. Dylan trowels on disturbing visions of the emptiness of modern life, spitting at standard authority figures and the lie of commerce, at "toy guns that spark/flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark/It's easy to see without looking too far that not much is really sacred."

Like Goodman, Dylan tried to lay bare the supposed spiritual emptiness of consumerism and middle-class life. So even as he was selling out by going electric, Dylan failed at being authentically inauthentic. Or to put it differently: He was a contradictory human being, with no allegiance to entrapping cultural codes. He had everything he needed, he was an artist, and as he exited the folk world, he didn't look back.

For the most part he still hasn't. In every step of his career, Dylan's vitality as a singer and writer has come from creating new personae and new voices. A generic Dylan imitation is something every drunken wag at a party thinks he can nail. But listen in a row to vocal performances ranging from "Mr. Tambourine Man" (1965) to "Lay Lady Lay" (1969) to "Gotta Serve Somebody" (1979) to "Things Have Changed" (2000). You'll hear an immensely skilled vocalist who can sing with marvelous expressiveness in a wide variety of styles and tones. While rock performers such as David Bowie and Neil Young get more play out of being "musical chameleons," it is equally true of Dylan, who has invented fresh ways for a rock band to sound on almost every one of his albums since the mid-'60s. It's rare that a song from one would not sound out of place on another. On tour, he reinvents his own oldies every time he plays them, radically altering the tempo, tone, and arrangements.

Dylan's singularity as an artist comes from his penchant for -- perhaps even his commitment to -- constant reinvention of the self. As one might challenge Holden Caulfield, what does it mean to be a phony if constant change is what the individual personality chooses? We are all nothing more than what we are -- existence precedes essence, as Jean-Paul Sartre, another hip intellectual who loomed large in Dylan's early days, said. Thus, authenticity becomes a slippery idea indeed. Perhaps endless carping about who is more "real" could be settled in the manner of Bishop Berkeley, by the debaters bashing themselves against rocks.

What adds piquant pleasure to watching Dylan is that in most cases his shape-shifting seems calculated to annoy and enrage his current audience. And yet these turnarounds -- from folk to rock in 1965, from rock to country in 1969, from secular sybarite to fundamentalist Christian in 1979 -- have almost always ended up working out well both for Dylan's art and his pocketbook. (The turn to born-again believer only worked at first. His Slow Train Coming LP, on which Dylan consigned non-believers to Hell in no uncertain terms, was a big seller and earned Dylan his first Grammy, for the single "Gotta Serve Somebody." However, once the novelty wore off, his relentless preaching murdered his commercial prospects for over a decade. As Sounes accurately notes, "Electricity had annoyed folk purists, but religion bothered everybody.")

Dylan's life has been a series of inauthentic moves. It was fake for young rocker Dylan to become a folkie, fake for folkie Dylan to become a rocker, fake for rocker Dylan to become a country squire, fake for protest Dylan to become a poet of amphetamine-driven Beat wordplay and internalized reflections on romance, fake for superstar Dylan to become a vagabond minstrel with his 1975-76 Rolling Thunder tour, fake for secular Jew Dylan to become a vengeance-spouting born-again Christian, fake for that born-again Christian to return to secular pop and tour with the Grateful Dead, fake for rock star Dylan to return to acoustic folk-blues roots in the early '90s, and fake for a washed-up zombie to release one of the most vital records of his career, Time Out of Mind (1997), after knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door with a heart infection.

Because of this, attempts to lay bare the "real" Bob Dylan inevitably feel strangely insubstantial. You can't touch this Dylan guy. He's not there, he's gone, as Dylan once sang of himself. Then again, he's easy to find: This summer, for instance, he toured state fairs across much of the U.S., at last the ramblin', gamblin' man he pretended to be as a clean-cut kid hanging in Greenwich Village 40 years ago. Dylan knew all along, if often only instinctively, that nothing fresh, new, or startling comes from being "authentic." It comes from change, growth, evolution, electricity, and "selling out" to the wide world that exists beyond any blinkered, limited conception of proper culture.

Brian Doherty ( is an associate editor of REASON.

Simply the funniest thing I've read in a long time

Prince Charles announces he's going to marry. The Guardian publishes "Harry's Diary." I fell out of my chair and rolled under my desk laughing. Here it is:

Jeez. The Goat will be my stepmother,2763,1410070,00.html

Ros Taylor couldn't get her hands on Prince Harry's diary. So she made it up instead.

Thursday February 10, 2005

Big bash coming up. What am I going to wear?
Asked Wills if he was going to wear the leopard costume again. He said no, crotch a bit too defined, Granny wouldn't like it. We had a bit of a laugh about the crown jewels. Always sets him off on one.

Seriously, will have to be careful this time. Pa will go totally apeshit if I wear the Japanese soldier costume with the Hara-kiri fake blood pouch in the belt. Might have to save it for Weasel's Pink Bits party in May.

Chelsy just texted from Durbs. Wants to know if she's invited. Jesus, not bloody likely. She told me I was a wuss after Pa sent me to weed his parsnips at Highgrove. Said it was pointless going to Sandhurst. And she can't keep her mouth shut. Now everyone knows I call Camilla the Goat behind her back. Wills is right, I should dump her when I get the chance. Feckhead told me the other day her father's a friend of Robert Mugarby. Don't see the problem, myself, but might be a good excuse.

Just realised the Goat will be my stepmother. Jeez.

Had another thought. Might see if I can get a goat mask for Jizza's party next week. No one'll know what it really means, just my little joke. Texted the Bokster to see what he thought, and he says he'll come as a horse.

Bollocks. Fancy dress shop is out of goats.

I have got it. I have ab-so-effing-lutely got it. I'm going to go to the wedding as Mummy. How much of a tribute is that? I mean, it's what she would have wanted. To be there in spirit. Told Wills, he gasped a bit and ran out of the room making funny noises. Might even be able to raid her old dressing room at Ken Palace. Blonde wig, bit of mascara - this is going to be a bloody knockout.

If the Episcopal Church is alarmed - is that a bad thing?

Virginia Bill Would Alter Rules on Church Property

By Rosalind S. Helderman and Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 2, 2005; Page B01

RICHMOND, Feb. 1 -- A bill before the Virginia Senate has alarmed the Episcopal Church and other mainline Protestant denominations that are deeply torn over the ordination of gay ministers and the blessing of same-sex marriages because, they say, the measure would give local congregations unprecedented powers to break away from their national denominations.

Several major church groups on Tuesday urged lawmakers to reject the bill, which they said would entangle state government in church politics.

The bill, now on the Senate floor, would allow congregants to vote to leave their denominations and keep their church buildings and land, unless a legally binding document such as a deed specified otherwise.

Many denominations have long had rules that prevent dissenting congregations from leaving the parent church and taking their land, buildings and other property with them. Since 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court and numerous other courts have upheld those rules in all but a few exceptional circumstances.

As a result, relatively few of the Episcopal congregations in Virginia and other states that vehemently object to the consecration of a gay bishop in New Hampshire have simply left the Episcopal Church USA. Instead, most have formed a network of disenchanted parishes that some call a church within a church, and they have tried to muster international pressure on the U.S. Episcopal hierarchy from the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Opponents of Senate Bill 1305, sponsored by Sen. William C. Mims (R-Loudoun), said it would be an unconstitutional intrusion of the government into that dispute.

"It puts us in the middle of that argument, and I think it's very inappropriate that we be there," said Sen. Martin E. Williams (R-Newport News), who said he plans to vote against the bill Wednesday.

Mims, a lawyer whose practice includes settling real estate matters on behalf of church groups, said his bill is designed to distance government from church disputes. Without it, he said, courts are forced to look to church doctrine to resolve arguments over congregational property.

"Those church members who have donated their money to build the church or expand the church or maintain it would probably be surprised to find that an authority hundreds of miles away could take that from them," he said. "If in fact that could happen, it needs to be clearly stated in the deed or trust agreement."

Mims said the bill was not meant to target the Episcopal denomination or get involved in its internecine conflict. Though the laity in his own Episcopal congregation in Ashburn has discussed the issue, Mims said, there have been no official moves to split with the church.

He said the congregation, which objected to New Hampshire's gay bishop and has joined the opposition Network of Anglican Communion Parishes, did not request that he introduce the bill.

The Rev. Clancy Nixon, vicar of Church of the Holy Spirit, Mims's congregation, said he supports the measure.

"They say it's about states interfering with internal church matters. I think that's baloney. It's all about property," Nixon said. "I think the bill is a good idea because it's a basic justice issue. In most cases, the local people bought the property, they paid for it and they maintain it, and now they're being told that in the event of a dispute, they can't keep it."

L. Martin Nussbaum, a Roman Catholic lawyer in Colorado who has served as general counsel to more than 30 religious institutions and denominations, called the Virginia bill "a rare example of a legislative attempt to rejigger the polity, or governance, of a church."

Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists and others -- as well as Episcopalians -- have raised questions about the bill. At a news conference Tuesday at Richmond's historic St. Paul's Episcopal Church, clergy lined up to oppose it.

Bishop Charlene P. Kammerer of the United Methodist Church said she is concerned it could promote schisms in churches by allowing a simple majority concerned about any doctrinal or social issue to vote to leave and take property.

Although Episcopal Church officials did not learn of the bill until the middle of last week, delegates to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia's annual convention in Reston over the weekend passed a resolution opposing it, said Russell V. Palmore, the chancellor, or lawyer, of the diocese.

"It came up on such short notice, it's been difficult to develop any type of coordinated effort, but I can tell you based on my conversations with other denominations that we are all against it," he said.

Cooperman reported from Washington.

Remembering the Liberatin of Auschwitz

Remembering the Liberation of Auschwitz

This post is part of a “blogburst” coordinated by Joseph Alexander Norland at Israpundit, to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz.

The Holocaust, symbolized by Auschwitz, the worst of the death camps, occurred in the wake of consistent, systematic, unrelenting anti-Jewish propaganda campaigns. As a result, the elimination of the Jews from German society was accepted as axiomatic, leaving open only two questions: when and how.

As Germany expanded its domination and occupation of Austria, Czechoslovakia, France, the Low Countries, Yugoslavia, Poland, parts of the USSR, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Italy and others countries, the way was open for Hitler to realize his well-publicized plan of destroying the Jewish people.

After experimentation, the use of Zyklon B on unsuspecting victim was adopted by the Nazis as the means of choice, and Auschwitz was selected as the main factory of death (more accurately, one should refer to the “Auschwitz-Birkenau complex”). The green light for mass annihilation was given at the Wannsee Conference, January 20, 1942.

The Wannsee Conference formalized “the final solution” - the plan to transport Europe’s Jews to eastern labour and death camps. Ever efficient and bureaucratic, the Nazi kept a record of the meeting, which were discovered in 1947 in the files of the German Foreign Office. The record represents a summary made by Adolf Eichmann at the time, even though they are sometime referred to as “minutes”.

Several of the Conference participants survived the war to be convicted at Nuremberg. One notorious participant, Adolf Eichmann, was tried and convicted in Jerusalem, and executed in 1962 in Ramlah prison.

The mass gassings of Europe’s took place in Auschwitz between 1942 and the end of 1944, when the Nazis retreated before the advancing Red Army. Jews were transported to Auschwitz from all over Nazi-occupied or Nazi-dominated Europe and most were slaughtered in Auschwitz upon arrival, sometimes as many as 12,000 in one day. Some victims were selected for slave labour or “medical” experimentation before they were murdered or allowed to die. All were subject to brutal treatment.

In all, between three and four million people, mostly Jews, but also Poles and Red Army POWs, were slaughtered in Auschwitz alone (though some authors put the number at 1.3 million). Other death camps were located at Sobibor, Chelmno, Belzec (Belzek), Majdanek and Treblinka. Adding the toll of these and other camps, as well as the mass executions and the starvation im the Ghettos, six million Jews, men, women, the elderly and children lost their lives as a consequence of the Nazi atrocities.

Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army on 27 January 1945, sixty years ago, after most of the prisoners were forced into a Death March westwards. The Red Army found in Auschwitz about 7,600 survivors, but not all could be saved.

For a long time, the Allies were well aware of the mass murder, but deliberately refused to bomb the camp or the railways leading to it. Ironically, during the Polish uprising, the Allies had no hesitation in flying aid to Warsaw, sometimes flying right over Auschwitz.

There are troubling parallels between the systematic vilification of Jews before the Holocaust and the current vilification of the Jewish people and Israel. Suffice it to note the annual flood of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN; or the public opinion polls taken in Europe, which single out Israel as a danger to world peace; or the divestment campaigns being waged in the US against Israel; or the attempts to delegitimize Israel’s very existence. The complicity of the Allies in WW II is mirrored by the support the PLO has been receiving from Europe, China and Russia to this very day.

If remembering Auschwitz should teach us anything, it is that we must all support Israel and the Jewish people against the vilification and the complicity we are witnessing, knowing where it inevitably leads.

Washington Times Covers VA Diocesan Council

Virginia Episcopals to discuss ordination
By Julia Duin
Published January 27, 2005

Virginia Episcopalians, who at 89,000 make up the country's largest Episcopal diocese, will meet tomorrow and Saturday in Reston to discuss finances and whether the denomination needs to stop ordaining homosexual clergy.

Things are looking up a bit for the Diocese of Virginia this year, as contributions, also known as pledges, are up 5 percent from last year, when a financial boycott by conservatives caused a $860,000 drop in the 2004 diocesan budget.

Thus, this year's budget, which delegates will vote on, is $4.05 million, up $160,374 from last year's $3.89 million budget. One cost-saving measure will be $40,000 from the salary of Assistant Bishop Frank Gray, who will retire July 1. As the bishop will do some part-time work, there are no immediate plans to replace him.

However, several of the diocese's largest -- and most conservative parishes -- are withholding contributions to the diocese because of the Episcopal Church's decision in August 2003 to ordain a homosexual bishop.

A majority of the Diocese of Virginia's delegates agreed with that vote when it was taken at the church's General Convention.

"The decisions that will be made in the next couple of months will determine the direction for the future of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion," said the Rev. Tom Herrick, vicar of Christ the Redeemer Church in Centreville. "The gravity of these decisions call for seeking God's wisdom, discernment of God's will, and the courage to follow it."

Three of the 19 resolutions up for vote deal with how Episcopalians should give to their diocese. Two recommend either forcing parishes to tithe their earnings or return to their pre-2003 giving levels.

This same issue arose at last year's diocesan convention, resulting in the formation of a diocesan "task force on giving." After several months of hearings, it recommended Dec. 15 that the Diocese of Virginia rely on voluntary, not forced giving.

The 979 clergy and laity attending the diocesan meeting, at the Hyatt Regency Reston, also will elect deputies and alternates to the 2006 Episcopal General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, the 2.2-million-member denomination's decision-making body.

Also among the 19 resolutions, the diocese council will consider six on the "Windsor Report," a document issued in October by a task force set up by the archbishop of Canterbury, head of the 70-million-member Anglican Communion.

The report sought to resolve the Anglican Communion's crisis over authority and homosexuality, by criticizing blessings of same-sex unions in U.S. and Canadian churches and the 2003 consecration of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, a divorced man living with a male lover.

To date, U.S. Episcopal bishops have expressed only "regret" for the "pain, hurt and damage" caused by the consecration, according to a Jan. 13 statement.

One church has taken the meeting especially to heart, calling for a 21-day churchwide fast for its 300 members. The parish-wide fast for Christ the Redeemer Church ended Sunday.

"We'd like to see true repentance, not just 'regret' for the church's actions," Mr. Herrick said.

A report also will be given about the findings of a "reconciliation commission," set up last year to work out differences between liberal and conservative Virginia Episcopalians.

The commission's chairman, the Rev. Andrew Merrow, did not return calls asking for comment.

The Rev. Richard Crocker, associate rector at Truro Church in Fairfax, noted that Diocesan Bishop Peter Lee "is trying to keep everyone at the table" in a diocese split between liberals and conservatives.

This has been appreciated widely, Mr. Crocker said, adding, "but it's a temporary peace because the fundamental differences still exist."

"There are not many people happy with this holding position," he said.

Time to remember Patrick Henry 1775

Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death
Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Jay Leno's Tribute to Johnny Carson, Tonight Show, Jan. 24, 2005

The following is a transcript of host Jay Leno's comments at the top of the show:

Welcome to "The Tonight Show." As you know, it's been a tough 24 hours for those of us who are fans of Johnny Carson. I was thinking about what I could say about Johnny Carson, and I kept trying to search for something new that hadn't been said before. After a couple hours, I realized that was impossible. Maybe that was the greatest thing about Johnny, imagine getting to the end of your life and there's no compliment that you haven't been paid. Johnny had that special quality of grace, charm and dignity in the public arena. He was an incredibly polite man and when you were invited into his house, this show, you knew you were an honored guest. Before he became host of "the Tonight Show", he was the host of a show called "Who Do You Trust?" which was the perfect title for show starring Johnny Carson. Because the truth is, we trusted Johnny. We trusted him to make us laugh, to entertain us, to speak for us with what was a truly an American voice.

Johnny hosted this show for 30 years…Think about that, these days some NBC shows don't last 30 days. What made Johnny such a unique talent was that for 30 years he was hip, but smart enough not to be so hip that next year he was out of style. That was a fine, almost impossible, line to walk and no one did it better than Johnny Carson. Johnny never went out of style. As a comedian he taught me that it was okay to be known for doing political humor, but never making the mistake of thinking you're a political commentator. It's okay to satirize the society we live in, just don't start believing you're a social commentator.

You know, people say this country is divided now, these people forget the 60s and early 70s. There were almost daily marches, there were race riots, there were assassinations, there were anti-war demonstrations all the time. We witnessed the most drastic cultural change in American history. But, throughout it all, no matter what the state of the world, it seemed to get its sanity back every night at 11:30. Johnny was a constant in our lives and every night he made us feel okay about it.

As good as Johnny was with celebrities and politicians, he was at his best with ordinary folks. Because they didn't treat him as Johnny Carson, "the king of Late Night", they treated him as Johnny Carson from Norfolk, Nebraska. There was always a moment when he would ask, "Do you ever watch my show?" And the person would always say something like " No, I don't stay up late unless there's something worthwhile to do." Well Johnny loved that, he would laugh and laugh and he thought that was the greatest thing in the world.

As a performer I don't think I ever wanted to impress anyone more than Johnny Carson. He had that effect on comedians. When he gave you that wave, or the wink, or the call over to the desk. Nothing before or since has had as profound an effect on me as that one little gesture. In the mid-80s I started working as a guest host for Johnny. And it's strange, after all these years, I still feel like a guest in his house… Because he built this place, everyone who does this for a living owes it to him. Johnny was the best, plain and simple. The best way to sum it up is, you had to be there. If you were fortunate to be watching during Johnny's 30-year run, consider yourself lucky, cause you're not going to see the likes of him ever again.

From the Rt. Rev'd Bob Duncan

Moderator’s Pastoral Letter for All the Churches

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul
25th January, A.D. 2005


It has been one year since the chartering of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, now commonly called the Anglican Communion Network. What a year it has been!

I write as Moderator with a word of encouragement. I know these are exceedingly anxious times. Remember, no matter what the appearances, “[He] has overcome the world,” (Jn 16.33) and his word to us is that we are to “Be of good cheer.” Jesus spoke these words to the first followers, just as He speaks them to us. To be sure…their challenges were no less daunting than ours.
That the entire and undiminished Christian Faith has been passed to us has to do with their unflinching stand. We can do no less in our day.

So much has happened in one year. Be encouraged. One layman in the Diocese of Pittsburgh is raising $100,000 to insure the work of the Convocations. His efforts are a challenge to laity of the nine other Network dioceses. We have only just begun to receive word of commitments from parish and diocesan budgets and the news is very good. So far just nine congregations have pledged $155,436 to the Network’s 2005 budget, most of which will be matched by a 1:2 challenge grant from the American Anglican Council. Having said this, another million dollars in commitments is urgently needed from Network parishes and dioceses. Please, vestries and diocesan councils, act now.

This letter brings word that Mr. Wicks Stephens, formerly chief operating officer of Trinity School in Ambridge (and a litigator licensed before the California bar), has accepted full-time appointment as Development Director and Legal Advisor for the Network. (The funding of this position was provided by a special and far-sighted gift of one Virginia parish, dollars additional to the budget figures above.) Alongside of our Network Canon for Operations, Larry Crowell, and new staffing for the Ministry Development Program (the tested ordinations program pioneered by the AAC) the Network’s Pittsburgh office is gaining significance, structure and stability. The AAC (from its new Atlanta office) continues to fund and provide services as Network secretariat, providing for public relations, communications, educational, accounting and secretarial needs.

Anglican Relief and Development has soared beyond our wildest hopes. Announced at Michaelmas (September, 2004), we have thus far funded 13 development projects in 9 nations totaling $460,000. We are targeting an additional $550,000 in grants for the next 6 months, in addition to our best guess of something like $250,000 of tsunami relief enabled by our one-time South Asia appeal in Christmastide. Blessing upon blessing, we have also been notified by the Reformed Episcopal Church that they will consider action to make ARDF their relief and development arm as well.

Extraordinary talent has come forward as the Network’s needs have developed. Six convocational deans – serving the vast areas of our country (including some 200 congregations and 300 clergy) that are in non-Network dioceses – have devoted much of their energies to what has become the creative engine of the Anglican Communion Network. The deans are John Guernsey (Mid-Atlantic & Convenor), Bill Murdoch (New England), Jim McCaslin (Southeastern), Ron McCrary (Mid-Continental), Bill Thompson (Western), and Bill Ilgenfritz (Forward-in-Faith[acting]). A Cabinet system has also emerged – alongside of the faithful weekly efforts of the Steering Committee – whose members are, in addition to the Moderator, Ed Salmon (Bishops), Martyn Minns (International Partnership), Kendall Harmon (Strategic Engagement), John Guernsey (Deans), Larry Crowell (Operations) and David Anderson (Network Secretary). Mary Hays convenes a church-planting task force, with Tom Herrick as church-plant staff. Sharon Stockdale Steinmiller presides over 15 missionary organizations that have come together as Anglican Global Mission Partners.

Committed to “gathering the Anglican diaspora” from our chartering, I am privileged as Moderator to convene and chair a roundtable which brings together orthodox forces inside the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada, as well as significant numbers of those who have moved outside. Included, at this point, in this roundtable are the Network, the AAC, Forward in Faith, the Anglican Mission in America, the Reformed Episcopal Church, the Anglican Province of America, the Network in Canada, the Federation in Canada, and the Anglican Communion in Canada. We are all one river – flowing at this point in different channels – whose source and end are together.

With this letter I am also able to announce “Hope and a Future,” a first-ever national Network conference. On November 10, 11, and 12, 2005, we intend to gather 2000-3000 souls in Pittsburgh to worship, to learn, to hear from our national and global leaders and partners, and to share our resolve to be agents of a renewed Biblical and missionary Anglicanism.

The upcoming Primates meeting in Ireland will have much to say (either in speaking or not speaking) about the future of Biblical, missionary Anglicanism in North America and around the globe. Pray mightily. Consider fasting through much of this season between now and Holy Week. Whatever emerges from Ireland, do not lose hope. God would not – for no purpose -- have given all the blessing to the Anglican Communion Network that this letter describes. He does not waste His resources. And He is faithful even when we are not (I Tim 2.13). Besides, Jesus has overcome the world, so we really can be of good cheer.

Humbly and faithfully in Christ,

+ Bob Pittsburgh

Moderator, Anglican Communion Network
Bishop of Pittsburgh

Bishop Lee to Undergo Open Heart Surgery


To the Standing Committee, Executive Board, Deans and Presidents:

Follows and important announcement from Bishop Lee. You are among the first to receive this letter. You may receive it again through another automated e-mail process but I wanted to ensure you received it directly. This announcement also is being sent to Members of Council will be posted to the diocesan Web site. Please keep the Bishop and his family in your prayers.

Patrick N. Getlein
Secretary of the Diocese
1-800-DIOCESE x30

January 25, 2005

Feast of the Conversion

To the Leadership of the Diocese of Virginia

Dear Friends,

As a result of a heart catheterization procedure yesterday, I learned that three arteries to my heart are significantly blocked.

My surgeon has advised me to reduce my activities immediately, so I will miss the 210th Annual Council. I will enter the hospital on Friday for outpatient, pre-operative tests. Then, on Monday, January 31, I will undergo triple by-pass open heart surgery. I expect to be in the hospital for up to five days and the recuperation period will be six to eight weeks.

In consultation with the President of the Standing Committee, I will be on leave until April 1, 2005.

The 210th Annual Council meeting this weekend will be the first I have missed in twenty years. Bishop Jones will preside. I am so thankful for the leadership of Bishop Jones and Bishop Gray, the diocesan staff and the support and prayers of our people. No one is indispensable, and I am confident you will find the ministry of the diocesan staff to support fully your ministry in my absence. The diocesan staff will keep you informed of my progress. I welcome your prayers and trust God’s loving care for our diocese and for me.

Faithfully yours,

Peter James Lee