Sunday, January 25, 2015

Greece: Far left wins election - setting stage for battle with Europe

ATHENS — Greece rejected the punishing economics of austerity on Sunday and sent a warning signal to the rest of Europe as the left-wing Syriza party won a decisive victory in national elections, positioning its tough-talking leader, Alexis Tsipras, to become the next prime minister.

With 60 percent of the vote counted, Syriza had 36 percent, almost eight points ahead of the governing center-right New Democracy Party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who had conceded defeat. The only uncertainty was whether Syriza would muster an outright parliamentary majority or if it would have to form a coalition.

Appearing before a throng of supporters outside Athens University late Sunday night, Mr. Tsipras, 40, declared that the era of austerity was over and promised to revive the Greek economy. He also said his government would not allow Greece’s creditors to strangle the country.

“Greece will now move ahead with hope, and reach out to Europe, and Europe is going to change,” he said. “The verdict is clear: We will bring an end to the vicious circle of austerity.”

Read the rest here.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Guns and Politics

California Bans Judges From Boy Scouts

California judges will no longer be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts organization after the state Supreme Court voted this week to eliminate an exception to a rule that bars jurists from being a part of discriminatory organizations.

The Boy Scouts of America continues to bar gay and lesbian adults from serving as leaders in the organization, even after lifting a ban on openly gay youth.

California's judicial code of ethics bars judges from holding "membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity or sexual orientation."

Read the rest here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thomas Cromwell was the Islamic State of his day

Forget Wolf Hall: this pathologically ambitious "ruffian" sent hundreds to the chopping block and destroyed England's religious and artistic heritage.

Read the rest here.

Patriarch Kirill Calls for Ban on Abortion in Speech to Russian Parliament

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has called upon MPs to begin a campaign against abortions, starting with canceling state sponsorship for the procedure and aiming at a total nationwide ban.

“If we manage to cut the number of abortions by 50 percent we would have stable and powerful population growth,” Patriarch Kirill said, speaking before the Lower House on Thursday. This was the first ever speech of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church before the State Duma.

“The argument that a ban would cause an increase in the number of underground abortions is pure nonsense. People have to pay money for these operations and our task is to make the price of a legal infanticide the same as of the illegal one. Taxpayers must not pay for this,” the church leader told the MPs, suggesting the exclusion of abortion from the list of services covered by the obligatory medical insurance program.

Read the rest here.
HT: Ordo Antiquus

Scary Rumors: Pope Francis is Considering a Vatican III

I dislike posting rumors and gossip, but this is all over the internet, and sadly it is not beyond the realm of possibility. Apparently the unconfirmed report from Andrea Gagliarducci, an Italian journalist, is that Pope Francis may be preparing a document that would announce a Third Vatican Council.

I am shuddering at the mere thought. But I stress that as of right now, the journalist himself has stated that there is no confirmation. 

German Priest Suspended for Speaking at anti-Islamic Rally

A Catholic priest in Germany has been banned from giving sermons or representing the church after speaking at a Pegida rally.

Father Paul Spaetling, from the Diocese of Munster, told the rally that Europe had spent over a thousand years fighting against Islam.

He said that he did not agree that Islam had a place in the country, which the German chancellor had said.

Pegida protest against what they call the 'Islamisation' of Europe, and have been accused of xenophobia.

The spokesman for the diocese, Stephan Kronenburg, said Father Paul's simplistic view of history was "not compatible with the Christian message of love, kindness and inclusion".


Paris Flat Locked Before World War II Opened

A Paris apartment, locked and abandoned on the eve of the war, and somehow left untouched for seven decades, is opened. Think of a giant time capsule giving us a glimpse of a bygone era with a secret love affair dating all the way back to the belle epoch for flavor.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Former BIS Economist Warns of Dangers in QE

The economic prophet who foresaw the Lehman crisis with uncanny accuracy is even more worried about the world's financial system going into 2015.

Beggar-thy-neighbour devaluations are spreading to every region. All the major central banks are stoking asset bubbles deliberately to put off the day of reckoning. This time emerging markets have been drawn into the quagmire as well, corrupted by the leakage from quantitative easing (QE) in the West.

"We are in a world that is dangerously unanchored," said William White, the Swiss-based chairman of the OECD's Review Committee. "We're seeing true currency wars and everybody is doing it, and I have no idea where this is going to end."

Mr White is a former chief economist to the Bank for International Settlements - the bank of central banks - and currently an advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Meet the Islamic Thought Police

“You have shamed the community,” a fellow Muslim in Morgantown, W.Va., said to me as we sat in a Panera Bread in 2004. “Stop writing.”

Then 38, I had just written an essay for The Washington Post’s Outlook section arguing that women should be allowed to pray in the main halls of mosques, rather than in segregated spaces, as most mosques in America are arranged. An American Muslim born in India, I grew up in a tolerant but conservative family. In my hometown mosque, I had disobeyed the rules and prayed in the men’s area, about 20 feet behind the men gathered for Ramadan prayers.

Later, an all-male tribunal tried to ban me. An elder suggested having men surround me at the mosque so that I would be “scared off.” Now the man across the table was telling me to shut up.

“I won’t stop writing,” I said.

It was the first time a fellow Muslim had pressed me to refrain from criticizing the way our faith was practiced. But in the past decade, such attempts at censorship have become more common. This is largely because of the rising power and influence of the “ghairat brigade,” an honor corps that tries to silence debate on extremist ideology in order to protect the image of Islam. It meets even sound critiques with hideous, disproportionate responses.

Read the rest here.

50 Years Ago: Remembering Churchill's funeral and the sunset of the Empire

Churchill’s passing at 8am that Saturday morning – 50 years ago this week – at his home in Hyde Park Gate in London did not come as a surprise to anybody. He was 90 years old, after all, and he had suffered a massive stroke two weeks previously.

Yet it did seem a historically significant moment, coming at a time when the Labour government was considering withdrawing all troops from east of Suez and so closing down the last remnants on the British Empire. “Now Britain is no longer a great power,” said Charles de Gaulle when he heard the news.

Many commentators in the British press agreed with him, and saw in the ceremony at St Paul’s the end of the era of British greatness. With the uninspiring Harold Wilson in Downing Street – about as un-Churchillian a figure imaginable – wrestling with recurrent economic problems that were soon to force the government into a humiliating devaluation of sterling, it was natural to fit Churchill’s death into an overall narrative of decline and malaise.

“The day of giants is gone for ever,” the historian Sir Arthur Bryant wrote in the Illustrated London News. Churchill’s own detective agreed, saying: “If the king dies you can say 'Long live the king’, but now Sir Winston’s gone, who is there? There’s no one of his stature left.” A L Rowse, the Oxford don, was equally pessimistic, writing: “The sun is going down on the British Empire.”

Read the rest here.

Israel's Netanyahu seeks more trade partners citing Islamization and anti-Semitism in Europe

Benjamin Netanyahu risked opening a new rift with European leaders on Sunday by announcing plans to boost trade with Asia because Western Europe, its main partner, was experiencing "a wave of Islamisation, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism".

The Israeli prime minister's comments at a weekly cabinet meeting came as he prepared to welcome Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, who arrived in Israel accompanied by around 100 heads of leading Japanese companies.

"We definitely want to reduce our dependence on certain markets in western Europe," said Mr Netanyahu while advocating increased trade with Japan, India and China.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The joys of being a lame duck President with a hostile Congress

You can make all kinds of ridiculous proposals that you know are going nowhere.
President Obama plans to propose raising $320 billion over the next 10 years in new taxes targeting wealthy individuals and big financial institutions to pay for new programs designed to help lower- and middle-income families, senior administration officials said Saturday.
Read the rest here.

Friday, January 16, 2015

An Unvarnished Look at Vladimir Putin

A new PBS Front Line documentary takes a hard look at one of the most controversial figures in the world today. It's not pretty, but I suspect it's not unfair either. While there is much to admire about Russian history and culture, the current government is not on that list.

Watch it here.

Thank You Eric Holder

Now there is a blog title I never expected to write without sarcasm. But giving credit where it is due, this is a hugely important move in defense of civil liberties.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without evidence that a crime occurred.

Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.
 Read the rest here.

Supreme Court Will Decide Gay Marriage

No surprise. Given the conflicting rulings at the appellate court level they really had no choice.

Why Switzerland is wreaking havoc in the global currency markets

This is how a currency peg ends. This is how a currency peg ends. Yes, with a bang, actually.

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) shocked markets on Thursday by announcing that it would no longer hold the value of the Swiss franc down at 1.2 per euro, although it would lower interest rates from -0.25 to -0.75 percent. Mayhem ensued. The Swiss franc immediately shot up as much as 39 percent against the euro, before settling at "only" up 17 percent on the day. This is basically the biggest single-day move for a rich country's currency, as economist David Zervos points out, in the last 40 years. And it's sent Switzerland's stock market down 10 percent, as its suddenly more expensive currency will cripple its exporters by making their goods more expensive abroad.

Now let's back up a minute. Why was Switzerland pushing its currency down, and why has it stopped now? Well, in four words, it's the euro crisis. Back in 2011, you see, what looked like the imminent end of the euro made people want to move their money to the safety of Swiss banks. It wasn't about the secrecy, though. It was the fact that Swiss banks use Swiss francs, and those wouldn't get devalued like, say, Italian euros would if the common currency broke apart. The problem, though, was that this flood of incoming money pushed Switzerland's currency up too much, over 40 percent in just a year. The Swiss franc got so expensive that Swiss exporters, who sell 56 percent of their goods to the EU, were becoming uncompetitive, and Swiss prices were starting to fall.

And then the SNB remembered that a central bank can always push its currency down just by printing more of it. So that's what it did. Even better, it told everybody that this was what it was doing. It said it would buy as many euros with newly-printed Swiss francs as it took to keep the Swiss franc from being worth more than 1.2 per euro. That meant that, for awhile, the SNB didn't actually have to do anything, since nobody wants to bet against somebody with infinite money.

Read the rest here.

Further evidence of severe global deflationary pressure.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


HT: Daily Paul
Via Wilson Revolution Unplugged

Pope Francis on Charlie Hebdo: ‘You cannot insult the faith of others’

A week after the massacre at the headquarters of a French publication known for insulting adherents of several faiths, Pope Francis told reporters that freedom of expression has its limits when it comes to insulting religion.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fred Reed: Diversity: Koom. Bah. Humbug

Regarding the unsurprising slaughter in Paris:
Diversity is a disaster. Why people cannot see this is a mystery. A country can ignore an unfortunate reality, but it cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring it. Why governments allow and even encourage immigration of incompatible populations is a greater mystery. Few things cause more misery, hatred, death, and destruction than does diversity. One may wish it were not so, but it is so.

Read the rest here.

Disclaimer: This post should not be viewed as an endorsement of brother Fred's column, though I think he makes some some points worthy of discussion.

AEP: Europe's imperial court is a threat to democracy

The European Court of Justice has declared legal supremacy over the sovereign state of Germany, and therefore of Britain, France, Denmark and Poland as well. 

The ECJ's advocate-general has not only brushed aside the careful findings of the German constitutional court on a matter of highest importance, he has gone so far as to claim that Germany is obliged to submit to the final decision. "We cannot possibly accept this and they know it," said one German jurist close to the case.

The matter at hand is whether the European Central Bank broke the law with its back-stop plan for Italian and Spanish debt (OMT) in 2012. The teleological ECJ - always eager to further the cause of EU integration - did come up with the politically-correct answer as expected. The ECB is in the clear. The opinion is a green light for quantitative easing next week, legally never in doubt. 

The European Court did defer to the Verfassungsgericht in Karlsruhe on a few points. The ECB must not get mixed up with the EU bail-out fund (ESM) or take part in Troika rescue operations. But these details are not the deeper import of the case.

The opinion is a vaulting assertion of EU primacy. If the Karlsruhe accepts this, the implication is that Germany will no longer be a fully self-governing sovereign state. 

Read the rest here.

Top Anglicans: Church of England cannot carry on as it is unless decline ‘urgently’ reversed

The Church of England will no longer be able to carry on its current form unless the downward spiral its membership is reversed “as a matter of urgency”, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have warned. 

Read the rest here.

Sorry your lordship; the problem is not administrative, it's spiritual.

Pope considers adding cardinal-electors for next conclave

(ANSA) - Vatican City, January 9 - Pope Francis is considering the feasibility of expanding the number of cardinal electors who will chose the next pontiff to 140 from the current 120.

Read the rest here.

Hmmmm... I cannot imagine why he would do such a thing.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sorry, liberals, Scandinavian countries aren’t utopias

Want proof that the liberal social-democratic society works?

Look to Denmark, the country that routinely leads the world in happiness surveys. It’s also notable for having the highest taxes on Earth, plus a comfy social-safety net: Child care is mostly free, as is public school and even private school, and you can stay on unemployment benefits for a long time. Everyone is on an equal footing, both income-wise and socially: Go to a party and you wouldn’t be surprised to see a TV star talking to a roofer.

The combination of massive taxes and benefits for the unsuccessful means top and bottom get shaved off: Pretty much everyone is proudly middle class. Danes belong to more civic associations and clubs than anyone else; they love performing in large groups. At Christmas they do wacky things like hold hands and run around the house together, singing festive songs. They’re a real-life Whoville.

In the American liberal compass, the needle is always pointing to places like Denmark. Everything they most fervently hope for here has already happened there.

So: Why does no one seem particularly interested in visiting Denmark? (“Honey, on our European trip, I want to see Tuscany, Paris, Berlin and . . . Jutland!”) Visitors say Danes are joyless to be around. Denmark suffers from high rates of alcoholism. In its use of antidepressants it ranks fourth in the world. (Its fellow Nordics the Icelanders are in front by a wide margin.) Some 5% of Danish men have had sex with an animal. (I could have lived without that piece of information.) Denmark’s productivity is in decline, its workers put in only 28 hours a week, and everybody you meet seems to have a government job. Oh, and as The Telegraph put it, it’s “the cancer capital of the world.”

So how happy can these drunk, depressed, lazy, tumor-ridden, pig-bonking bureaucrats really be?

Read the rest here.
(Fixed the link)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Russia continues to reel as credit rating is slashed

Fitch has downgraded Russia's credit rating and painted a horrific picture of a struggling economy rocked by a collapsing rouble, falling oil prices, high inflation and declining international reserves.

The ratings agency cut the country to BBB- from BBB with a negative outlook, meaning further downgrades are possible.

But it was the language Fitch used in its reasoning that was most shocking.

Read the rest here.

Russian government bonds are now just one short step from being graded as "junk."

A British ex-Pat on why he loves Romania

His 25 reasons for why he loves Romania wore both informative and at times funny.

HT: Dr. Tighe

Pondering French gun laws and the terrible "what ifs"

When American audiences read of a dramatic event in a foreign country, they often frame it in terms of the political debates occurring at home. As such, it was no surprise that after shootings at the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris this week, some Americans began to wonder about gun control laws.

"Isn't it interesting that the tragedy in Paris took place in one of the toughest gun control countries in the world?" American reality television star Donald Trump wrote on Twitter shortly after the news broke. The tweet prompted both praise (over a thousand retweets) and scorn (Trump was labelled a "moron" and an "idiot" by other tweeters).

Trump, a perennial attention seeker, was likely attempting to score political points and insult liberals with his tweet. But behind the disingenuity, there is is a genuinely troubling question: Why didn't France's gun laws save the Charlie Hebdo victims?

Read the rest here.

So, would the outcome have been different if this had gone down somewhere a bit more friendly to the right of self-defense? We will never know with any certainty, but let's consider a hypothetical alternative scenario.

Let's move the crime from Paris to San Antonio Texas. Texas, for those who don't pay attention to such things has a pretty libertarian approach to gun ownership. Assuming you are not a convicted felon, you can pretty much own anything that is legally sold in the United States. A concealed carry permit is required if you want to carry a weapon, but again, barring a serious criminal record getting one is mostly just a matter of filing some paperwork and getting fingerprinted.

So would the victims have been armed? Again, we cannot know with any certainty. These were mostly left wing wienies, so maybe not. But even Democrats have been known to pack heat in Texas. And we are talking about people who had been directly, and very credibly threatened. My gut says at least some of the ten targeted victims would have been armed.

Would the presence of one or more armed persons among the victims have changed the outcome? This is HUGELY speculative because there are so many variables. How many would have been armed? What would they be carrying? Remember the bad guys had fully automatic assault weapons and were at least competent in their use. And contrary to rumor those kinds of guns are generally illegal, even in Texas. So the victims would almost certainly have been outgunned. Most likely they would have been carrying sidearms of some kind. And then we have to factor in training. The bad guys had some. Who knows about our victims. And of course the bad guys were fanatics willing, and perhaps even desirous of dying in their twisted cause. So it's unlikely they would have been deterred or frightened off by a few shots fired in their direction. But probably the one factor that would have weighed most against the victims is that the bad guys were wearing at least some level of body armor. That, plus the huge difference in firepower would have tipped the odds severely in favor of the terrorists.

Conclusion: The best that can be said with even a moderate level of confidence is that the bad guys would not have had a walk over. Which is to say that if even one or two of the victims had been carrying something as simple as a .38 revolver, it would have instantly added a degree of danger and complication that the assassins did not have to face in France.

Friday, January 09, 2015

How long can you last...

...before hitting the "off" button or violently regurgitating?

HT: Fr. Z on whose post you can find some interesting (and amusing) commentary.

Atlanta's Mayor Sacks Fire Chief for Anti-Gay Religious Comments

Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran — the subject of recent controversy over remarks made in a self-published religious book — has been terminated from the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, Mayor Kasim Reed announced today.
Cochran returned to work today following a month-long suspension for comments in his 2013 book “Who Told You That You Are Naked?” Many criticized the book as promoting discriminatory and anti-gay views, while Cochran’s suspension — and now termination — has since become the focus of a fight over “religious liberty.”

Read the rest here. See also this related story.
HT: Dr. Tighe

David Brooks: I Am Not Charlie Hebdo

The journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression, but let’s face it: If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down.

Public reaction to the attack in Paris has revealed that there are a lot of people who are quick to lionize those who offend the views of Islamist terrorists in France but who are a lot less tolerant toward those who offend their own views at home.
Just look at all the people who have overreacted to campus micro-aggressions. The University of Illinois fired a professor who taught the Roman Catholic view on homosexuality. The University of Kansas suspended a professor for writing a harsh tweet against the N.R.A. Vanderbilt University derecognized a Christian group that insisted that it be led by Christians.

Read the rest here.

Good points. Defending someone's right to be an anti-religious bigot should not be seen as an endorsement. And freedom of expression runs in every direction, something that far too many liberals don't want to acknowledge.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Quote of the day...

"This may sound pompous, but I would rather die standing than live on my knees."

-Stéphane Charbonnier Senior Editor of Charlie Hebdo and martyr to the cause of human liberty

Je suis Charlie

Republican Congress Plans to Dilute Regulation of Wall Street

WASHINGTON, Jan 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives expects to vote Wednesday on legislation retooling a series of financial regulations, an early sign that Republican leaders will attack President Barack Obama's Wall Street reforms this year.

Scaling back reforms including the so-called Volcker rule on banks is a top Republican priority as stated on the website of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California

The proposal is one of the first votes House lawmakers will take this year after the Republican Party formally took control of both chambers of the U.S. Congress this week following last November's congressional elections.

Read the rest here.

Ignoring the fact that this is just plain wrong, it's also stupid politics. The GOP is playing into the hands of Obama. The mega  banks are as crooked as my dog's hind legs and pretty much everybody knows it. Obama will veto anything along the lines of what the GOP is planning thus coming across as a hero for the folks on Main Street who are sick of the preferential treatment that the Wall Street banksters get.

Massacre in Paris

Prayers for everyone affected.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Christ is born! (Again)

A joyous Feast of the Nativity to those on the traditional church calendar.

Many Years!

To George and Barbara Bush on their 70th (!) wedding anniversary.

“I married the first man I ever kissed; when I tell my children that they just about throw up.” -Barbara Bush

HT: Fr. Z

GQ Magazine eat your heart out

Introducing the 1926 man and car of the year.