Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Quote of the day...

The reign of tears is over.  The slums will soon be only a memory.  We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs.  Men will walk upright now, women will smile and children will laugh.  Hell will forever be for rent.
-Evangelist Billy Sunday before a crowd of 10,000 at a revival in Norfolk Virginia January 16, 1920.  That night at one minute past midnight the Eighteenth Amendment took effect.

OWS: No cameras please... or else

The face of Occupy Wall Street for many of those who've never made it to New York City says he’s under increasing attack from other protesters, and was assaulted recently during a march.

Tim Pool, a mini-celebrity for giving OWS the Walter Cronkite treatment through his nonstop web-based, TimCast live video stream, was involved in some kind of scuffle at around 9:30 p.m. Sunday night -- there is, of course, video evidence. On other occasions, marchers have been seen harassing him and yelling for him to turn off his camera. And there are ominous statements directed at him online, like this one: "I suggest you stick by his side because unfortunately he's probably going to need protection."
Read the rest here.

Romney wins Florida in a landslide

All major networks are reporting a lopsided victory for Mitt Romney in the Florida state primary election.  Gingrich is in a distant 2nd with Rick Santorum and Ron Paul running 3rd and 4th respectively.  Dr. Paul largely skipped Florida due to the high cost of the media market there.

Although this should be a big boost to Gov. Romney it is likely that a significant portion of Florida's delegation will not be seated at the GOP convention.  Florida broke two party rules when it unilaterally moved its primary date forward and also refused to adopt proportional representation which the GOP requires of all primaries held before April 1.

A couple of noteworthy posts from other blogs

 A Greek Orthodox Archimandrite has reportedly converted to Rome at the Monastery of Bellaigue.  That would be news in itself but supposedly he was received by Bishop Fellay of the SSPX.  Click here for the story.

There is a spectacular photo essay of life in an Orthodox parish by a professional photo-journalist.  Click here to visit her blog post.

Islamists set fire to Orthodox church

LABUNISTA, Macedonia — An Orthodox Christian church famed for its valuable icons was set alight in southern Macedonia overnight, authorities said Tuesday, as religious tension between Christians and minority Muslims grew over a carnival in which men dressed as women in burqas and mocked the Quran.

Firefighters extinguished the fire late Monday in the two century-old Sveti Nikola church, in the village of Labunista near the town of Struga. The church’s roof was partly destroyed but its icons were not damaged, the fire service said.
Read the rest here.

The Debt: Good news and bad news

The federal budget deficit will top $1 trillion for a fourth straight year, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday, but is likely to be the smallest since the Great Recession began taking a toll on the budget in 2009.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that the gap between government spending and tax collections would continue to fall, dropping sharply in 2013 and through the decade if policymakers follow through with major changes in both tax policy and government spending now on the books.
Read the rest here.

America is becoming a nation of renters

There was fresh data from the government Tuesday showing that the American dream of owning a home is fading fast.

The share of all U.S. privately-owned houses that stood empty fell in the fourth quarter to its lowest since 2006 as the number of houses occupied by renters rose faster than the pace of new vacancies created by homeowners moved out, according to the Commerce Department. There number of housing units occupied by renters rose by 749,000 in the fourth quarter compared to a year earlier; some 91,000 fewer homes were occupied by owners, the data show.

With the fast pace of foreclosures showing no sign of letting up, the U.S. homeownership rate continues to fall. Just 66.0 percent of U.S. homes were occupied by their owners in the fourth quarter of last year – half-a-percentage-point lower than a year earlier. That’s the lowest level of homeownership since the second quarter 1998.
Read the rest here.

First lawsuits filed over shipwreck

GIGLIO, Italy -- Calling an initial compensation offer “insulting,” an attorney representing Costa Concordia passengers announced Tuesday details of a $460 million class-action lawsuit against the owner of the wrecked cruise ship, The Guardian reports.

The lawsuit comes more than two weeks after the cruise ship, owned by Costa Cruise Lines, an affiliate of Carnival Corp., capsized Jan. 13 off the coast of Italy, killing 17. At least 16 passengers remain missing and are presumed dead.
Mitchell Proner, a New York-based personal injury attorney, said his firm of Proner & Proner, along with a coalition of international lawyers, is representing more than 500 passengers. He announced details of the civil lawsuit filed in Florida on Tuesday during a press conference in Genoa, Italy, according to The Guardian. He called Costa Cruise Lines’ initial offer of $14,460 to passengers for lost baggage and psychological trauma “insulting.”

“They must be held responsible for what they did,” Proner said. “They intentionally put the passengers at risk. We believe we can win in Florida and we are going to go forward, forward, forward without fear until they don't know what hit them … sort of like the Concordia.”

Proner has teamed up with another New York firm, Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik, noted for winning compensation for Ground Zero workers who had health claims related to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The civil lawsuit has been filed in Florida, the home base of Carnival. While Costa Cruise Lines is headquartered in Italy, it is also registered in Hollywood, Fla.
“At present, it is unknown as to whether the US courts will accept the class-action claim, given that the conditions set forth by the cruise ship tickets specify that litigation must take place in the Italian courts,” according to a blog post on the Proner & Proner website.

Unlike in Italy, accident victims who file suit in the United States can recover punitive damages if they can prove a defendant acted egregiously. These damages can soar above the amount of any actual loss. U.S. lawyers who bring successful cases on behalf of injured people can be awarded fees of as much as 30 percent of any recovery.

Meanwhile, Italian emergency officials say they are calling off a search for missing people in the submerged part of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, due to the danger to rescue workers, according to the Associated Press.
Read the rest here.

California has only enough cash for one month

SACRAMENTO -- California will run out of cash by early March if the Legislature does not take immediate action, Controller John Chiang told budget leaders at the Capitol in a letter Tuesday.

The controller recommends borrowing and delaying some payments in order to deal with the shortfall, which he projects will last seven weeks. Absent that kind of action, the state could face sending IOUs and delaying tax returns.

"Although this cash management plan relies on still more borrowing, payment delays and deferrals, we believe this is the most prudent and responsible course of action considering we have about four weeks before the advent of a cash shortfall," Chiang wrote in a letter to the chairman of the Assembly and Senate budget committees.
Read the rest here.

Life without all the tech... My vote for the best video of the month



Click here for the background story.

This guy would be my sister's hero, except she doesn't have a computer and can't see the video.   How anti-tech is my sister?  Generally speaking she disdains anything developed post 1975. No cell phone (they cause cancer).  She doesn't even like touch tone phones.  I am not joking.  The phone in her house is a rotary.  No computer, they are just waiting to take over the world.  Word processing?  She has my mom's old manual typewriter.  ATMs?  Rarely and only in urgent situations.  She prefers cash for everything.  She has by necessity accepted modern cars, but she hates them.  Her favorite car was her 1973 Ford Gran Torino, a car I remember fondly for its ability to go from 0 to 60 in about 3 seconds just from breathing on the accelerator.  We won't discuss gas mileage.

Oh for the good old days.

ABC News: Iran Syria involved in assassination plot in Bahrain

Five men arrested in November in connection with a plot to blow up the only bridge connecting the island of Bahrain with Saudi Arabia and to assassinate Bahraini politicians are allegedly tied to Iran's Revolutionary Guard and reportedly received military training in Syria, according to information leaked to the media by authorities.

The charges are the latest salvo in a regional struggle for power between Iran and the Arab Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, and come just after the U.S. revealed an alleged plot by Iran's Revolutionary Guard to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in Washington, D.C.
Read the rest here.

The GOP's drift to anti-intellectualism

...The Republican establishment acts as if this season’s goon squad of presidential candidates has come out of nowhere, an act of God — a tsunami that hit the party and receded, leaving nothing but nitwits standing. In column after column, conservative commentators lament the present condition, but not their past acquiescence as their party turned hostile to thought, reason and the two most important words in the English language: It depends.

If you ask me what I think of abortion, I’d say, “It depends.” It depends on whether you’re talking about the ninth month of pregnancy, the first, the health of the mother, the fetus — or, even, the morning-after pill. But in the Republican contest, the answer to the question is always the same: no, no and no again. Thanks for giving the matter such careful thought.

It is the same with taxes. Should they be raised? It depends. It depends on economic and fiscal conditions — and on whose taxes will be raised and by how much. The answer cannot be “No, never.” That’s not an economic position; it is an ideological one and exhibits a closed mind.

Similarly with global warming, GOP candidates are not certain it is exacerbated by industry, auto emissions and such. They take this position not because they have studied the science but because they are opposed to government regulations. They fear the solution more than they do the problem. Some also take a skeptical position regarding the theory of evolution — proof right there that there is something wrong with this theory.

This rampant anti-intellectualism is worrisome. The world is a complex place, but to deal with it, the GOP presented a parade of hopefuls who proposed nostrums or, in the case of Michele Bachmann, peddled false rumors about vaccinations. When this started I cannot say — the late Richard Hofstadter won the Pulitzer Prize for his “Anti-intellectualism in American Life” in 1964 — but the embrace of Sarah Palin by the GOP establishment has got to be noted. The lady has the gift of demagoguery and the required anti-elitism, but she knows next to nothing about almost anything — and revels in her ignorance.
Read the rest here.

Romney appears poised for win in Florida

TAMPA —Florida, land of hanging chads and notoriously razor-thin election margins — appears likely to hand former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney a decisive victory in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination.

As voters across the vast and diverse state visited polls in schools, churches and community centers Tuesday, Romney expressed increasing confidence that he had halted an insurgency by former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who upended the Republican presidential race 10 days ago by trouncing Romney in the South Carolina primary by 12 points.
Read the rest here.

Hungary grows weary of European Union

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungarians celebrated joining the European Union eight years ago by chopping through the barbed wire that separated them from Austria, eliminating a final vestige of the Iron Curtain. But after years of financial crisis, many here in Europe’s heart are questioning their westward ties.

As membership in the E.U. becomes ever more a dour pledge to cut spending while opening borders to economic competition, anti-E.U. politicians in many countries have surged in popularity, capitalizing on the anxieties of voters who see dimming hope for the future. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been at the front of the pack, passing electoral and economic revisions that critics say are far outside of European norms but that he says put his country’s interests first.
Read the rest here.

Obama plays his Catholic allies for fools

In politics, the timing is often the message. On Jan. 20 — three days before the annual March for Life — the Obama administration announced its final decision that Catholic universities, hospitals and charities will be compelled to pay for health insurance that covers sterilization, contraceptives and abortifacients.

Preparing for the march, Catholic students gathered for Mass at Verizon Center. The faithful held vigil at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Knights of Columbus and bishops arrived to trudge in the cold along the Mall. All came to Washington in time for their mocking...

...The implications of Obama’s power grab go further than contraception and will provoke opposition beyond Catholicism. Christian colleges and universities of various denominations will resist providing insurance coverage for abortifacients. And the astounding ambition of this federal precedent will soon be apparent to every religious institution. Obama is claiming the executive authority to determine which missions of believers are religious and which are not — and then to aggressively regulate institutions the government declares to be secular. It is a view of religious liberty so narrow and privatized that it barely covers the space between a believer’s ears.

Obama’s decision also reflects a certain view of liberalism. Classical liberalism was concerned with the freedom to hold and practice beliefs at odds with a public consensus. Modern liberalism uses the power of the state to impose liberal values on institutions it regards as backward. It is the difference between pluralism and anti-­clericalism.
Read the rest here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Prayer Request

I have just received word that the mother of Fr. David Thatcher, my former parish priest and an occasional contributor on this blog, has suffered potentially serious injury in a fall late last night.  Mrs. Thatcher is a wonderful lady of rather advanced years.  In your charity please keep her and the Thatcher family in your prayers.

The Regicide of Charles I

The Feast of Charles the Martyr

Great Charles his double misery was this,
Unfaithful friends, ignoble enemies;
Had any heathen been this prince's foe,
He would have wept to see him injured so.

(Katherine Philips, 1632-1664).

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ireland: Catholic bishop accused of "incitement to hatred" for sermon

A HOMILY delivered at Knock shrine by the Bishop of Raphoe, Philip Boyce, is being investigated by the Director of Public Prosecutions following a formal complaint by a leading humanist who claims the sermon was an incitement to hatred.

The gardai have confirmed to former Fine Gael election candidate John Colgan that they have prepared and forwarded a file to the DPP after he made allegations that the address by Dr Boyce was in breach of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989.

The homily, entitled: "To Trust in God" was delivered to worshippers during a novena at the Marian shrine in Co Mayo last August and subsequently reported in the media, including The Irish Times, under the headline: "'Godless culture' attacking church, says bishop."

Mr Colgan, a retired chartered engineer and economist from Leixlip, Co Kildare, referred in his formal complaint to two key passages in Dr Boyce's homily which he believes broke the law.

One of the passages referred to the Catholic Church in Ireland being "attacked from outside by the arrows of a secular and godless culture".

A second passage, which was included in the complaint, stated: "For the distinguishing mark of Christian believers is the fact they have a future; it is not that they know all the details that await them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness."
Read the rest here.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Quote of the day...

The selection of a Republican candidate for the presidency of this globalized and expansive empire is – and I mean this seriously – the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that has ever been.
-Fidel Castro
HT: Wilson Unplugged

Who says 13 is an unlucky number? 2013 is looking good

I just glanced at the long term calendar and realized that next year Easter/Pascha falls on the 5th of May which is the latest date I am familiar with.  What does this mean?  It means that 2013 will also be a record year for the number, or more accurately lack thereof, of fasting days.  There will be an enormous gap between Theophany and the Triodion (Feb 24th).  Meatfare Sunday doesn't arrive until March 10th with the Great Fast only beginning on March 18th.  So when does the Apostle's Fast begin?  Three days AFTER the Feast for those on the New Calendar and July 1st (NS) for those on the Old Calendar.  That means that there is NO Apostle's Fast for those on the New Calendar (except presumably the eve of).  Even those on the Old Calendar will only have an eleven day fast, which for Old Calendar types is a walk in the park.

On a side note Roman Catholic Easter in 2013 is on March 31, five weeks earlier than ours.

GOP Establisment Rallies Against Gingrich

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The revenge of the Republican establishment is a sight to behold. From one corner to another, those who have tangled with Newt Gingrich, who feel aggrieved toward Newt Gingrich or who fear Newt Gingrich have amassed to stop him. They know how much harder it will be to do so if the former House speaker wins Florida on Tuesday.

The quintessential example of establishment angst came Thursday from Bob Dole, the former Senate majority leader and 1996 Republican presidential nominee. Hours before Thursday’s GOP debate, he released a letter — circulated by Mitt Romney’s campaign — attacking Gingrich and pleading with Republican voters not to make him the party’s nominee. There is much rich history behind that letter.
Read the rest here.

I have no dog in this fight. Both Romney and Gingrich are just slightly different examples of the Republican Party's own version of right wing statism. That said I find the battle enormously amusing. The establishment people are right of course. Gingrich can not win in the general election. His supporters are the same people who nominated Christine O'Donnell in Delaware back in 2010 throwing away a Senate seat that was a lock. They are violating the late Bill Buckley's very astute rule of politics... "You don't nominate the most conservative candidate. You nominate the most conservative candidate who can win."

NBC News asks Romney Campaign to Remove Ad

TAMPA, Fla. – NBC News is asking that the Romney campaign remove from its ads any references to material from the network in response to a new commercial that consists almost entirely of old footage of its former news anchor, Tom Brokaw, reporting on Newt Gingrich’s legal troubles.

The ad, which uses a 1997 clip from the day Mr. Gingrich was found guilty by the House of ethics violations, prompted a terse statement from Mr. Brokaw on Saturday in which he expressed concern that his work was being used for political purposes he never intended.

“I am extremely uncomfortable with the extended use of my personal image in this political ad,” he said. “I do not want my role as a journalist compromised for political gain by any campaign.”

NBC’s lawyers have requested that the Romney campaign not only pull down the commercial but eliminate any references to the network’s journalism in other ads.
Read the rest here.

Special bond of a rescue dog and dying boy

Warning: Grab the tissue box before proceding.
As nearly anyone who has adopted a dog or cat from a shelter can attest, there’s something special about a rescued pet; it’s as if the animal senses he’s been given a second chance at life. That’s certainly the case with Juno, a Belgian Malinois who was rescued from a shelter just days before she was to be euthanized. But since coming to live with her family in Alcoa, Tenn., Juno has taken on the role of rescuer to four-year-old Lucas Hembree.

Lucas suffers from Sanfilippo syndrome, an inherited, metabolic disease caused by the absence or malfunctioning of an enzyme needed to break down long sugar molecules. As the disease progresses, children lose the ability to speak, walk and eat. The disease also causes severe neurological damage that leads to aggressive behavior, hyperactivity and seizures.

“The most catastrophic thing parents hear when they learn their child has this disease is that there’s no cure or treatment available,” says Lucas’ father, Chester.
Read the rest here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Israelis Say Settlements Must Be Part Of Israeli State

JERUSALEM — Israeli negotiators told their Palestinian counterparts this week that their guiding principle for drawing the borders of a future two-state solution would be for existing settlement blocks to become part of Israel, an approach that the Palestinians rejected as unacceptable.

The discussion, which occurred in Jordan on Wednesday night, was the first time the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formally told the Palestinian Authority how it would seek to handle the territorial part of their negotiations, although Mr. Netanyahu had made the point publicly to Congress in Washington in May.

A Palestinian official said the offer “effectively abandons international law and the framework we have been focused on for the past 20 years.” Speaking on the condition of anonymity on the subject of the talks, as did Israeli officials, the Palestinian said, “If you put it in perspective, it is as if the West Bank were not occupied, just disputed, with both sides having legitimate claims, while the rest of Israel remains outside the dispute.”

An Israeli official defended the offer.

“The principle we laid out on Wednesday is that the majority of Palestinians should be on the Palestinian side and the majority of Jews on our side,” that official said. “These are preliminary discussions. The Palestinians have asked for clarification. We have asked for clarifications from them on some things as well. And we hope that in the coming weeks these talks will continue.”

The Palestinians said they saw little reason to keep the talks — started under Jordanian sponsorship this month — going
Read the rest here.

A Newspaper With a Pitchfork

A  New York Times story on Friday that essentially indicted and convicted a 22-year-old star football player on an alleged sexual assault charge by an anonymous accuser should have begun as follows:

“We know absolutely nothing about this rumor except what six people told us anonymously about this guy who they say sexually assaulted this girl. We don’t know who she is or what she said, or really anything, but here’s HIS name and what ‘they’ say about him.”

Instead, with throat-clearing authority, the story begins with the young man’s name — Patrick J. Witt, Yale University’s former quarterback — and his announcement last fall that he was withdrawing his Rhodes scholarship application so that he could play against Harvard. The game was scheduled the same day as the scholarship interview.

Next we are told that he actually had withdrawn his application for the scholarship after the Rhodes Trust had learned “through unofficial channels that a fellow student had accused Witt of sexual assault.” And there goes the gavel. Case closed.

But in fact, no one seems to know much of anything, and no one in an official capacity is talking. The only people advancing this devastating and sordid tale are “a half-dozen [anonymous] people with knowledge of all or part of the story.” All or part? Which part? As in, “Heard any good gossip lately?”
Read the rest here.

I read the original story from the Times when it was posted and was sufficiently appalled to email a nasty letter to the editor which said in part... "A story based entirely on anonymous sources about an unnamed woman who filed a non specific and informal complaint with no police involvement and no formal action from the university alleging sexual misconduct by a nationally known athlete is not what most people would describe as news. Rather the word "gossip" seems more appropriate. Which is why I was sorry to see the "newspaper of record" publishing a story I would expect to find on page six of the Post."

For those not from the big city, the NY Post runs a notorious gossip column on page six.

Happy Birthday

H.I.M. Kaiser William II born 153 years ago today.

In Scotland football (soccer) rivalry is deep and bitter

GLASGOW — It was a normal Saturday game at Ibrox Stadium, home of the Rangers soccer team. A prematch fight broke out on the subway. The crowd lobbed trash onto the field. Fans of Rangers and their mutually despised opponents, Aberdeen, abused one another with traditional chants, songs and obscene gestures.

At times, it seemed that the only thing preventing a violent free-for-all was the heavy presence of police officers and security guards. And lest the message — control yourself, or face the consequences — was lost on anyone, there was a direct request from Rangers authorities.

“If you witness any form of unacceptable or offensive behavior, including sectarian singing,” a notice inserted into the ticket envelopes said, “please advise a steward or police officer.”

No one yet has been able to defuse the visceral hatred that runs through Scottish soccer. But in its latest effort to tackle game-related violence, the Scottish government recently passed a law making it illegal for fans to attack one another using religious, ethnic, regional or violent historical slurs in songs, chants, Internet postings or even stray remarks at a stadium or pub.
Read the rest here.

More nanny state foolishness.  I have no objection to some restrictions at the games themselves.  Inciting a riot has never been protected speech.  But this pretty much just feeds any concept of freedom of expression into the shredder.  Even sadder though is the image of a stadium packed with Protestants and Catholics, but not a Christian to be found anywhere.

Reuters: Germany wants Greece to surrender control over its budgets

(Reuters) - Germany is pushing for Greece to relinquish control over its budget policy to European institutions as part of discussions over a second rescue package, a European source told Reuters on Friday.

"There are internal discussions within the Euro group and proposals, one of which comes from Germany, on how to constructively treat country aid programs that are continuously off track, whether this can simply be ignored or whether we say that's enough," the source said.
Read the rest here.

Quote of the day...

Nothing needs reforming so much as other people's habits.  Fanatics will never learn that though it be written in letters of gold across the sky.  It is the prohibition that makes anything precious.

-Mark Twain

More signs US economy is slowly mending

The nation’s on-and-off economic recovery has picked up its pace, the Commerce Department reported Friday, with the U.S. economy growing at an annualized rate of 2.8 percent for the end of 2011.

That rate is the fastest recorded in a year and a half, and it follows three quarters of growth below 2 percent.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

In a military confrontation Iran could inflict serious damage

ISTANBUL — Tehran has stepped up its bellicose warnings of conflict in the Persian Gulf as potentially crippling new European Union and American sanctions have been approved on Iran's oil exports and central bank.

The US defied the warning of a top Iranian general this week and sent the USS Abraham Lincoln – flanked by British and French warships – through the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf. A senior Iranian lawmaker scoffed that the US "did not dare" to send its ship alone, because of the danger posed by the Islamic Republic. If Iran were to close the strategic waterway, as it has threatened to do, the American aircraft carriers "will become the war booty of Iran," he declared.

Such bluster is not all talk. The US may outspend the Islamic Republic nearly 90-to-1 on defense. But Iran, heir to ancient Persia's naval innovation, has a well-honed asymmetric strategy designed to reverse that advantage.

A 2002 US military exercise simulating such a conflict proved devastating to American warships.
Read the rest here.

Corruption allegations hit the Vatican

(Reuters) The Vatican was shaken by a corruption scandal Thursday after an Italian television investigation said a former top official had been transferred against his will after complaining about irregularities in awarding contracts.

The show "The Untouchables" on the respected private television network La 7 Wednesday night showed what it said were several letters that Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was then deputy-governor of Vatican City, sent to superiors, including Pope Benedict, in 2011 about the corruption.

The Vatican issued a statement Thursday criticizing the "methods" used in the journalistic investigation. But it confirmed that the letters were authentic by expressing "sadness over the publication of reserved documents."

As deputy governor of the Vatican City for two years from 2009 to 2011, Vigano was the number two official in a department responsible for maintaining the tiny city-state's gardens, buildings, streets, museums and other infrastructure.

Vigano, currently the Vatican's ambassador in Washington, said in the letters that when he took the job in 2009 he discovered a web of corruption, nepotism and cronyism linked to the awarding of contracts to outside companies at inflated prices.

In one letter, Vigano tells the pope of a smear campaign against him (Vigano) by other Vatican officials who wanted him transferred because they were upset that he had taken drastic steps to save the Vatican money by cleaning up its procedures.
Read the rest here.

GOP infighting is getting serious

Furious conservatives have taken to blogs and Twitter on Thursday to vent their ire against what they allege is a conspiratorial dumping of twisted and manipulated negative attacks on Newt Gingrich.

The target of their fury: The Drudge Report.

For the last 48 hours, the conservative Web site led by Matt Drudge has become a virtual campaign arm for Mitt Romney, featuring huge, screaming headlines about Mr. Gingrich and his past.

That prompted conservatives who support Mr. Gingrich to accuse Mr. Drudge of selling out to the Republican establishment — many of whom have come to Mr. Romney’s aid as the battle with Mr. Gingrich has heated up.
Read the rest here.

The GOP is not far from open civil war and the Democrats are laughing all the way to the political bank.

Some Americans barred from leaving Egypt

CAIRO — A top U.S. official’s son who is working for a pro-democracy group in Egypt has been barred from leaving the country, along with at least five other Americans, escalating a crackdown on such groups by Egypt’s military government that has outraged the United States.

Sam LaHood, the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, said Thursday that he learned of the travel ban only when he was turned away from the Cairo airport Saturday. He is the director of the Egyptian program of the International Republican Institute (IRI), a Washington-based civil society organization.
Read the rest here.

Poll: Gingrich gains in GOP field but trails Obama badly

Newt Gingrich leads Mitt Romney among Republicans, but he is the weakest of the Republican candidates tested against President Obama, according to an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday evening.

Gingrich leads Romney 37 percent to 28 percent nationally among registered Republicans likely to vote in the primaries; Rick Santorum is in third with 18 percent, and Ron Paul is fourth with 12 percent.

Gingrich has built its advantage by consolidating the heart and soul of the Republican Party: very conservative voters, the South and the Tea Party.

Though Gingrich is the preferred candidate of GOP primary voters, he performs the worst of all Republican candidates tested against Obama, including Santorum.

"Gingrich is Goldwater," said Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. "In the general election, Gingrich not only takes down his ship, he takes down the whole flotilla."
Read the rest here.

Fire badly damages 19th century church in southern Ukraine, no injuries reported

KIEV, Ukraine — Emergency officials say a fire has badly damaged a 19th-century Orthodox church in southern Ukraine, including collapsing its dome.

No injuries have been reported.

The fire at the landmark Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral in the town of Bolhrad outside the Black Sea port of Odessa broke out Thursday during renovation work, the Emergency Situations Ministry said on its website.

The church’s dome collapsed before the fire was put out.

Officials say the fire could have been caused by a violation of safety rules during the renovation.
Source

Priest with an A-level in woodwork builds his own jewel of a church... out of a garden SHED

Perhaps Father Stephen Weston took inspiration from the fact that Jesus was the son of a carpenter when he built Britain's smallest church in his back garden.

Father Weston, 63, constructed St Fursey's Orthodox Church in Norfolk with just an A-level in woodwork, earned 14 years ago, to his name.

The byzantine arches of the wooden shed, which is 18ft by 13ft wide, has become a local landmark in the middle of Father Weston's housing estate.

St Fursey's is so small the holy processions carried out during each service only take worshippers ten steps along and two steps across.

There is no room to sit and after services the congregation step through a door into the priest's living room for a cup of coffee.

But the Antiochian Orthodox church - very similar to the Greek Orthodox but English speaking - is an official place of worship after it was blessed by a bishop.
Read the rest here.

Colorado: The next front in the battle against prohibition

DENVER — Proponents of marijuana have argued for years that the drug is safer than alcohol, both to individuals and society. But a ballot proposal to legalize possession of marijuana in small amounts in Colorado, likely to be on the November ballot, is putting the two intoxicants back into the same sentence, urging voters to “regulate marijuana like alcohol,” as the ballot proposition’s title puts i

Given alcohol’s long and checkered history — the tens of thousands of deaths each year; the social ravages of alcoholism — backers of the pro-marijuana measure concede there is a risk of looking as if they have cozied up too much, or are comparable, to old demon rum.

“Why add another vice, right?” said Mason Tvert, a co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which has led the ballot drive. “But we’re not adding a vice — we’re providing an alternative.”

The goal of legalization, Mr. Tvert added, is not to make access to marijuana easier, but rather, “to make our communities safer by regulating this substance, taking it out of the underground market, controlling it and better keeping it away from young people.”

The debate here and in Washington State — where members of a pro-legalization group have also submitted what they say are more than enough signatures to secure a spot on the ballot — is premised on the idea that marijuana has become, if not quite mainstream, then at least no longer alien to the average voter. Medical marijuana is already legal in both states.
Read the rest here.

A few quick points.  It is not a propaganda myth.  Alcohol and tobacco are both far more dangerous than marijuana. Secondly saying the government should not criminalize something is NOT the same thing as saying it's a good idea to do it.  Any sane person knows that sucking anything into your lungs other than air is likely a bad idea.  But the obsessive attempts to regulate people's private lives need to come to an end.  All we are doing is criminalizing an entire generation, reducing respect for the law in general, and supporting organized crime which depends on the stubborn stupidity of politicians to make their billions off an underground market.

We could also add the staggering amount of public money being wasted on this fool's errand and the number of bodies populating the nation's morgues because of turf wars over who has the commercial rights to which street corner.  Enough already!

END PROHIBITION NOW!

I did not know this

Former President John Tyler, born 221 years ago, still has two living grandchildren. The one-term president isn't a well-known historical figure; he's probably best remembered for helping to push through the annexation of Texas in 1845, shortly before leaving office.

So, how is it possible that a former president who died 150 years ago would still have direct descendents alive today? As it turns out, the Tyler men were known for fathering children late in life. And that math is pretty outstanding when added up:

John Tyler was born in 1790. He became the 10th president of the United States in 1841 after William Henry Harrison died in office. Tyler fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler in 1853, at age 63. Then, at the age of 71, Lyon Gardiner Tyler fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. in 1924 and four years later at age 75, Harrison Ruffin Tyler. Both men are still alive today.
Read the rest here.

HT: MCJ

Poll: Furious Americans want to fire Congress

In a country sharply divided on almost every issue, most Americans agree on one thing: they don’t like Congress, and they would vote to replace every single member -- even their own -- if they had the option.

Fifty-six percent of registered voters say they would vote out every member of Congress if there were a place on the ballot to do so. That’s the highest response in favor of the question since it was first asked in March 2010.

And they say so across the ideological spectrum – with 55 percent of liberals, 55 percent of moderates, and 58 percent of conservatives all feeling the same way.
Read the rest here.

This is actually not a bad idea. Maybe it would result in some adults landing in Congress.

Protest Turns Violent Against Australia's PM Gillard

CANBERRA -- Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was dragged away by security guards Thursday after she was trapped in a restaurant by rowdy protesters demonstrating for indigenous rights following a ceremony to mark Australia's national day.

Some 200 supporters of Aboriginal rights surrounded a Canberra restaurant and banged on its windows while Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott were inside officiating at an award ceremony.

The protesters were marching at the nearby Aboriginal Tent Embassy to mark 40 years since its establishment and rushed the restaurant in response to comments by Abbott earlier in the day, The Australian newspaper reported.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Great Martyr Vladimir of Kiev and the Holy New Martyrs of Russia

I am reminded that today is the Feast of the Great New Martyr Vladimir of Kiev (+1918), the proto-martyr of the Communist persecution.  And this Sunday is the Synaxis of the New Martyrs of Russia.  We will never know the precise number of those martyred during what is indisputably the greatest persecution in the history of Christendom, but it is certainly in the millions.  Obviously it is not possible to identify more than a small percentage of these holy martyrs.  Thus the feast commemorating the millions whose names are lost to history but not God.

Thomas Sowell: GOP infighting is helping Obama

The Republican candidates' circular firing squad now seems to be using machine guns. Whoever the eventual "last man standing" turns out to be, he may not be standing very tall or very steadily on his feet — and he may be a pushover for Barack Obama in the general election, thanks to fellow Republicans.

Whether you are a Democrat, a Republican or an independent, this is a very serious and historically crucial time for the United States of America. What Mitt Romney did or did not do when he was with Bain Capital, or what Newt Gingrich did or did not say to his ex-wife, are things that should be left for the tabloids.

With the economy still faltering and Iran on its way to getting nuclear bombs, surely we can get serious about the issues facing this nation. Or can we?
Read the rest here.

Interesting post.  Of course my problem is that there is no material difference between Obama and Newt or Mittens.  They are all big government statists.   So my attitude is pretty much one of pass the popcorn, this is more entertaining than any of the crap on TV sitcoms.

Bells? We don't want no stinking bells!

COUNCILLORS will decide whether bells can ring out from an Oxford church for the first time in at least four decades after a cacophony of complaints from neighbours.

Russian Orthodox church St Nicholas the Wonderworker has applied to Oxford City Council for permission to install and ring new bells.

While originally a church, the Ferry Road building’s last use was as a sign factory and the ringing of bells was not allowed when planning permission was granted to turn it back into a place of woship in 2010.

But after being given a gift of bells made in Russia, the church now wants to have its planning permission changed – attracting more than 20 objections to Oxford City Council.

They have accused the church of bringing conflict into the local area and say the changes would “distress” the residents.

Ferry Road resident Ian Plummer said: “Bells by design are loud and carry long distances.

“The tolling of bells is not part of the general character of the area. The majority of the Russian Orthodox congregation do not live locally, including the priest, and hence it is incongruous that the local residents should be expected to suffer an additional frippery.”
Read the rest here.

Fed says it is unlikely to raise key interest rate until late 2014

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve went further than ever Wednesday to assure consumers and businesses that they’ll be able to borrow cheaply well into the future.

The Fed pushed back the earliest date for any likely increase in its benchmark interest rate by at least a year and a half, until late 2014. It said record-low rates are still needed to help boost an improving but still sluggish economy.
Read the rest here.

More cheap money. Stocks rose slightly on the news. Gold was up more than 2%.

US Navy SEALS rescue pirate hostages

U.S. special operations forces stormed an outdoor encampment in Somalia early Wednesday, rescuing a kidnapped American aid worker and her Danish colleague and killing nine men who held them captive, officials said.

Jessica Buchanan, 32, who is originally from Ohio, and Poul Hagen Thisted, 60, were abducted Oct. 25 by a group of armed men in Galkayo, a sleepy regional capital in north-central Somalia.
Read the rest here.

Well done!

More on the Dinner Menu

The Arlington Hotel circa 1930's

A couple days ago I posted a dinner menu dated October 13 of 1896 from an establishment called The Arlington in my hometown of Binghamton New York.  Subsequently I received several inquiries for more details and after a little online research I have discovered that The Arlington was an upscale hotel once located near the old train station.  The hotel was apparently a popular place to see and be seen and catered to local society as well as travelers of the more affluent type.  It was built sometime in the 1870's or 80's (still trying to pin down the date) and was upgraded a number of times over the years.  Sometime in the early 1910"s the hotel had some of its rooms converted into high end suites de luxe with the unheard of convenience of en-suite water closet and bath.  Everyone else still had to hoof it down the hall when nature called.  The restaurant with open terrace seating during warm weather, had a high reputation (as the menu might suggest) and was often booked for important dinners and functions.  Sadly the building that housed the hotel was torn down in 1969 as part of a so called urban renewal project to make way for a new post office among other things.  Another larger image of the hotel dating to the 1920's can be seen here.

A Mozarabic Liturgy

From the NLM.  Yes, Roman Catholics used to know how to build churches.  One notes the presence of Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Policarpo Stavrópoulos who oddly is wearing the epitrachelion.  Why?  Surely he was not directly participating in the liturgy or planning to commune.

Obama Offends the Catholic Left

When Barack Obama secured his party's nomination for president in 2008, one group of Democrats had special reason to cheer.

These were Democrats who were reliably liberal on policy but horrified by the party's sometimes knee-jerk animosity to faith. The low point may have been the 1992 Democratic convention. There the liberal but pro-life governor of Pennsylvania, Bob Casey Sr., was humiliated when he was denied a speaking slot while a pro-choice Republican activist from his home state was allowed.

With Mr. Obama, all this looked to be in the past...

...Now, suddenly, we have headlines about the president's "war on the Catholic Church." Mostly they stem from a Health and Human Services mandate that forces every employer to provide employees with health coverage that not only covers birth control and sterilization, but makes them free. Predictably, the move has drawn fire from the Catholic bishops.

Less predictable—and far more interesting—has been the heat from the Catholic left, including many who have in the past given the president vital cover. In a post for the left-leaning National Catholic Reporter, Michael Sean Winters minces few words. Under the headline "J'ACCUSE," he rightly takes the president to the woodshed for the politics of the decision, for the substance, and for how "shamefully" it treats "those Catholics who went out on a limb" for him.
Read the rest here.

Scots Begin Bid for Vote on Independence

EDINBURGH — Choosing a day of deep symbolic importance, Scottish authorities set out on Wednesday to prepare the ground for a potentially divisive referendum on their land’s independence after three centuries of union with England that separatist leaders say is becoming increasingly irksome.

Like Northern Ireland and Wales, Scotland already has its own Parliament and administration with powers over areas like health and education as part of the United Kingdom with a dominant England. But now, the country’s political leaders are pressing for a referendum on full independence or at least greatly expanded autonomy.

For its part, the British government, backed by the Labour opposition, wants Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom and differs with the Scottish authorities on both the timing of a referendum and the nature of the question it should answer.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Strictly for the lover of arcane points of international law and history...

You are not allowed to visit Pheasant Island, which lies near the Atlantic Ocean terminus of the French-Spanish border. But “it can easily be seen from the Joncaux bank, on the Bay Path,” the Web site for the local tourist office [1] suggests, without a hint of irony.

For border enthusiasts, that feels like insult added to injury. They’re condemned to contemplate the tiny eyot [2] from either bank of the Bidasoa, the border river that separates Hendaye in France from Irún in Spain [3]. And they can only wonder about the inscription on the gleaming white monolith that graces the island.

That monument commemorates the Treaty of the Pyrenees, concluded on the island in 1659. It fixed the Franco-Spanish border, following the mountain chain of that name as the natural boundary between the two countries [4]. But tiny Pheasant Island is more than the place where that treaty was signed.

For centuries, the island, less than an acre in size, was a favorite royal meeting place, often serving as a bridal exchange. In 1615, Louis XIII of France and Philip IV of Spain first met their wives — each other’s sisters — on the island, after having married them by proxy [5]. Later that century, Pheasant Island would be the place where both Louis XIV of France and Charles II of Spain first laid eyes on their respective brides.

In recognition of its historical significance, Pheasant Island [6] is also known in French as Île de la Conférence [7]. The Treaty of 1659 consecrated its significance to both countries by establishing it as a rare example of that curious border arrangement: a condominium.

A condominium is a territory jointly administered by two or more countries, often (but not necessarily) a territory on the common border between the parties involved. As one might surmise, such an arrangement depends on the benevolent cooperation of all parties involved — and indeed, historically, most condominiums have not survived very long.
Read the rest here.

Romney campaign worries as polls show Gingrich pulling ahead in Florida and nationally

Multiple sources are reporting that the Romney camp is getting very nervous.  The most recent polls show Gingrich leading nationally by 4+ pts and by almost 8 pts in Florida.  Andrea Mitchell at NBC reported that there has been talk among GOP big shots of trying to "reinvent the smoke filled room" and presumably draft an acceptable moderate Republican if Romney loses in Florida.  There is real fear of what will happen if Gingrich is the nominee.  He has staked out positions so far to the social/neo-con right that the only way he could win the general election is if the vote is limited to members of Free Republic.

The Guardian fumes over concessions on "female bishops"

The Church of England's House of Bishops – for which, read the archbishops of Canterbury and York – has explained how they hope to mollify the opponents of female clergy. The proposals are breathtaking.

The archbishops envisage that the Church of England, once it has female bishops, will continue ordaining men who do not accept these women, finding them jobs they will deign to accept, and promoting some of them to be bishops who will work to ensure the continued supply of male priests who refuse to accept female clergy. In fact, the church will pay three bishops (the formerly "flying" sees of Ebbsfleet, Richborough, and Beverley) to work full time against their female colleagues, and to nourish the resistance.

The General Synod, last summer, rejected the archbishops' plan to fix a reservation in law where the opponents could live as if nothing had changed. Now they have brought back the same proposals, but call them "a code of practice" instead. In theory, this gives both sides what they want. In reality neither will find it easy to accept.

Obviously this will be unacceptable to most supporters of women's ordination. But the cream of the joke is that it will probably be unacceptable to their principled opponents as well. The unscrupulous ones will, of course, be very happy with the deal.

Despite all these concessions, there will be female bishops, as there are already female priests, and these will be treated exactly the same as male ones – except by the men who don't want to treat them equally and who believe that God has called them to undermine women's authority wherever it appears.

This is apparently Rowan Williams's idea of justice.
Read the rest here.

Jewish editor resigns after suggesting Israel assassinate Obama

ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) — The owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times resigned after fallout from his column on why Israel should assassinate President Obama.

According to an email obtained by the JTA, Andrew Adler announced he was “relinquishing all day-to-day activities effective immediately.”

Jerry Farkas, office manager for the Jewish Times, told CBS Atlanta that everyone is “saddened” by what happened.

“It’s a hard thing,” Farkas told CBS Atlanta. “We feel like we’re fighting fires.”
Read the rest here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What a surprise... a new Protestant denomination

RNS) Conservative Presbyterians launched a new denomination on Thursday (Jan. 19), saying that the Presbyterian Church (USA) is too consumed by internal conflicts and bureaucracy to nurture healthy congregations.

“This ‘new Reformed body’ is intended to foster a new way of being the church, just as traditional, mainline denominations rose to serve in their day,” wrote leaders of the new Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians.
Read the rest here.

HT: T-19

Dinner In My Hometown (1896)


I just fond this remarkable dinner menu from an establishment (hotel? restaurant?) named The Arlington in my hometown of Binghamton New York dated from 1896.

Big hat tip to the New York Public Library which has digitized near 10,000 items from it's vast collection of menus going back to the early 19th century.  Just randomly glancing through them gives one a strange glimpse of the past from the perspective of what people ate and how dining out (or dining others in) was an often important social function.

Citizen Kane: Is the epic feud over?

The bitter feud that began seven decades ago between Orson Welles and William Randolph Hearst over "Citizen Kane" appears to have ended after the newspaper baron's family agreed to show the film at Hearst Castle.
Read the rest here.

Obama picks a fight with Catholics

The Obama administration has chosen to ignore the First Amendment and add insult to injury for Catholics whose schools, hospitals and charities help make this nation great. Now the real fight begins.

Religious leaders had feared the worst from Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her Department of Health and Human Services, which since September has been considering whether to exempt Catholic and other religious employers from a regulation mandating insurance coverage for sterilization and contraceptives, including some that cause abortion.

But on Friday afternoon, Sebelius announced the bad news in the most offensive way possible. Refusing even the smallest compromise with religious employers, she simply gave them an extra year to comply with the law.

“This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty,” Sebelius wrote in a brief statement from HHS. “I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”

Her attempt to appear compromising is absurd. What “balance” could Sebelius possibly mean? The HHS regulations include the narrowest exemption for religious employers ever proposed by the federal government, and even more restrictive than such exemptions in most states.
Read the rest here.

Senator Rand Paul detained by TSA

Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., has reportedly clashed with the Transportation Security Administration at a Nashville airport, according to tweets from his press aide and father, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.

At about 10 a.m. ET, Paul's press aide, Moira Bagley wrote: Just got a call from @senrandpaul. He's currently being detained by TSA in Nashville.

Soon after, Ron Paul wrote: My son @SenRandPaul being detained by TSA for refusing full body pat-down after anomaly in body scanner in Nashville. More details coming.

NBC News' Kelly O'Donnell reports that aides to Sen. Paul say he set off a full-body scanning machine while going through airport security Monday morning.
Read the rest here.

New York City: Socialism for the lucky few

Janio Marrero is a very lucky man. As facilities manager and technical director at the Cherry Lane Theater, Mr. Marrero can rent a lovely apartment above the theater at a discount — a serious discount. For the West Village one-bedroom with exposed brick and wide-beam floors, he pays $750 a month

Yes, it is the stuff that dreams, and apartments on the television show “Friends,” are made of. But compared with what his neighbors pay? Meh.

Just across the hall, a tenant named Arnold Warwick, who has had the same address for a half-century, pays $331.76 a month.

“I don’t plan on dying because I don’t want to give up a rent-controlled apartment,” said Mr. Warwick, who is 80. “I pay so little I’m almost embarrassed.”

In New York City, there is no shame in forking over thousands of dollars a month to live in somebody’s basement or crawl space. This unfortunate hiccup in the magic of the city makes the 16,000 remaining rent-controlled units in Manhattan mouthwatering in almost any context.

Cheaper apartments than the ones above the Cherry Lane do exist in the five boroughs, and a few of them even rent for less than three figures. But Mr. Warwick’s apartment, which has four small bedrooms built up around a wide-open living room, isn’t just cheap. It is also a fabulous apartment.

With 11-foot ceilings, exposed brick walls, piles of hardcover books, and views of chimneys and water towers, it is a 1,200-square-foot monument to the Greenwich Village of our fantasies.

His home is nestled on Commerce Street, a windy little road that stood in for Paris on the series finale of “Sex and the City.” A two-bedroom apartment in that area rents for an average of $4,745 per month, according to the brokerage Citi Habitats. And just down the block at 17 Commerce Street, a 2,200-square-foot federal style town house is currently for sale for $4.975 million.
Read the rest here.

This makes me ill. It is so grossly unfair that it beggars belief anyone could seriously support this.

Europe (sort of) bans Iranian oil imports

BRUSSELS — Europe banned the import of Iranian oil Monday and froze Europe-based assets of the Central Bank of Iran, intensifying an international campaign to choke Iran’s economy and force the radical Islamic government to dispel fears that it is working to develop nuclear weapons.

The ban, decided by foreign ministers of the 27-nation European Union, is a dramatic escalation of sanctions against Iran, joining with the United States to squeeze the oil earnings and financial transactions that the Tehran government depends on to sustain its citizens and finance its military. The British foreign secretary, William Hague, called the E.U. effort “unprecedented” and said it shows the resolve of European governments to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

But the decision also includes broad loopholes — including a six-month delay before it goes into effect — that soften its immediate practical impact. Existing contracts for Iranian oil can be respected until July 1, an announcement said, and the ban will come under review before May 1 to see if more flexibility is needed.
Read the rest here.

IMF: World could face a ‘1930s moment’ unless more is done

International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde warned of a “1930s moment” for the world economy if Europe does not solve its fiscal problems, and said Germany must contribute more money to stave off financial disaster.

In a public appeal Monday at a Berlin think tank, Lagarde voiced what has become a growing unease among fund officials about Europe’s potential to derail the world economy. Any number of events — a messy default in Greece, a bank failure, a disruption in the region’s financial markets – could be a trigger for a global economic meltdown.
Read the rest here.

Supreme Court: GPS tracking requires a warrant

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that police must get a search warrant before using GPS technology to track criminal suspects.

The GPS device helped authorities link Washington, D.C., nightclub owner Antoine Jones to a suburban house used to stash money and drugs. He was sentenced to life in prison before the appeals court overturned the conviction.

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia said that the government’s installation of a GPS device, and its use to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a search, meaning that a warrant is required.

“By attaching the device to the Jeep” that Jones was using, “officers encroached on a protected area,” Scalia wrote.

All nine justices agreed that the placement of the GPS on the Jeep violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

Scalia wrote the main opinion of three in the case. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor.
Read the rest here.

This is an important blow for civil liberties. And for the second time in the same year we have a rare unanimous decision.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Why World War I Resonates

Soldiers fix bayonets before going "over the top."
IN France I live near a little village called Sadillac. It’s no more than a cluster of houses, an old chateau, a church and a graveyard surrounded by a few farms and vineyards. The village probably hasn’t changed much since the French Revolution; its population hovers around 100. By the graveyard is a simple obelisk with the names of the 30 or so young men from Sadillac who died in the First World War, 1914-18. It’s almost impossible to imagine the effect on this tiny community of these fatalities over four years. Every year on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. — the hour and the day of the 1918 armistice — villagers gather to participate in a short memorial service around the obelisk.

In 2014 it will be a hundred years since the First World War began, and yet its presence in novels, films and television has never been greater — in “Downton Abbey,” on television, in Steven Spielberg’s movie “War Horse,” in a mini-series of Sebastian Faulks’s “Birdsong” and, coming soon, in Tom Stoppard’s adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s “Parade’s End.”

The last old soldier or sailor has died and almost all of the witnesses have gone, but the war exerts a tenacious hold on the imagination.
Read the rest here.

On Wall Street a Judge Takes a Stand

From a courtroom in Manhattan, not far from the epicenter of the nation’s financial crisis, a longtime federal judge is becoming a hero to many and a nightmare to some for demanding greater accountability in cases of alleged Wall Street fraud.

Jed S. Rakoff is driving regulators nuts by refusing to rubber-stamp the kind of deals that have long defined Securities and Exchange Commission justice — boilerplate settlements in which companies use shareholders’ money to pay fines while they neither admit nor deny doing anything wrong. The latest example called for Citigroup to pay $285 million for alleged misconduct during the mortgage meltdown.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Conflicting reports on Joe Paterno's health

There are several reports that long time Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has died of lung cancer.  Other sources are reporting that while he has taken a sharp turn for the worse he is still alive...

Gingrich makes play for gold vote

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Newt Gingrich has moved to capture some Republican voters who lean toward Ron Paul and other Republicans who were Jack Kemp followers by naming two gold bugs to the Gingrich future team of advisers.

The former House speaker says he intends to appoint investment banker Lewis E. Lehrman, famous in the Reagan era for his red suspenders and gold-standard advocacy, and Jim Grant, editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, as President Gingrich’s Gold Commission - if and when of course Mr. Gingrich wins both the Republican nomination and the general election in November.

Mr. Paul, a Texas congressman with a conservative libertarian world view, earlier had promised to appoint Mr. Grant as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

“It is a smart move to pitch both the Paul enthusiasts who may not think Paul has a chance and the Kempians,” conservative fundraiser Richard Norman told The Washington Times.

“Kemp and Paul are about as far apart as you can get but the one thing that unites them is a return to the gold standard.”
Read the rest here.

That's nice.  But what Newt is selling I'm not buying.  Gingrich is a quasi fascist imperialist whose idea about respect for the rule of law is jailing judges he doesn't agree with.  Moving on.

Ron Paul has my vote, even if I have to write it in.

Gingrich Stuns Romney in South Carolina

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) won a stunning come-from-behind victory in the South Carolina presidential primary on Saturday, using hard-edged debate performances to vault over former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Polls closed at 7 p.m., and Gingrich was leading Romney in the earliest official returns. Exit polls made it clear that he would go on to defeat Romney — a win that will profoundly re-shape a nominating contest that, a week ago, seemed to be almost over.
Read the rest here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

LA Times: Romney in panic mode

Reporting from Charleston, S.C.—

Two new polls out on Friday suggest trouble for Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney.

Gallup’s tracking poll shows Romney’s lead nationally – which was 23 percentage points last week – has fallen considerably. He still leads the pack of Republican contenders – which is now considerably smaller after the departure of Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry this week – but by just 10 percentage points.

Romney has 30% support, followed by Newt Gingrich with 20% and Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, who are tied at 13%

“Clearly things are collapsing,” Gallup political director Frank Newport said in an appearance on MSNBC earlier today.

But a poll out of South Carolina is more immediately troublesome for Romney.

Clemson University’s newest 2012 Palmetto Poll shows Romney trailing Gingrich in the South's first primary state, where voting starts tomorrow morning. The poll found Gingrich with 32% support, followed by Romney with 26%, Paul with 11% and Santorum with 9%.
Read the rest here.

Jewish newspaper column suggests Israel assassinate Obama

The Secret Service said it is looking into a recent op-ed from an Atlanta publisher that floated the idea of green-lighting Israeli Mossad agents to assassinate President Obama in order to improve Israel's security against enemies like Iran.

The publisher and author, Andrew Adler, reportedly has apologized.

But Jewish advocacy groups condemned his comments as "outrageous," and Secret Service spokesman George Ogilvie said the agency is "aware" of the incident.
Read the rest here.

A belated birthday nod to Robert E. Lee


Yesterday was his birthday, a date still observed as a holiday in some places.  No, I don't support secession or the Confederacy.  And no I am not one of those revisionists who in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary insist that slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War.  But I do recognize that he was a great and honorable man who did his duty, according to the lights that God gave him to discern right from wrong.

That at least commands respect.

The downside of reading on the cheap

It's a rainy and chilly day here and I am tired of my usual diet of reading (mostly non-fiction).  So it's time to look for something a little lighter than Rienhart & Rogoff's analysis of the anatomy of fiscal and monetary crisis using data going back eight centuries.  I had been meaning to read the new Stephen King novel on the Kennedy assassination so I clicked over to the library's website.  Yep, they have the book but alas it's out.  Not terribly surprising.  It is after all a new book and he is a popular author.  No problem says I.  I will just put a reserve on it and get the book when it is returned.  That took two more clicks.  Following which I was informed that my reserve was on file and would remain active until October 2012... AND THAT I WAS #82 IN LINE TO GET THE BOOK!

Sigh...

A Liberal Decries the Nation's Debt

WITH little fanfare, a dangerous notion has taken hold in progressive policy circles: that the amount of money borrowed by the federal government from Americans to finance its mammoth deficits doesn’t matter.

Debt doesn’t matter? Really? That’s the most irresponsible fiscal notion since the tax-cutting mania brought on by the advent of supply-side economics. And it’s particularly problematic right now, as Congress resumes debating whether to extend the payroll-tax reduction or enact other stimulative measures.

Here’s the theory, in its most extreme configuration: To the extent that the government sells its debt to Americans (as opposed to foreigners), those obligations will disappear as aging folks who buy those Treasuries die off.

If that doesn’t seem to make much sense, don’t be puzzled — it doesn’t. Government borrowing is still debt that must eventually be paid off, just as we were taught in introductory economics.
Read the rest here.

You know we are in deep trouble when the political left starts doing math.

House and Senate back off SOPA and PIPA

The main sponsor of a House bill targeting online piracy announced Friday that he will postpone further action on the measure that has triggered fierce protests, blackouts from Internet sites and some rethinking among lawmakers.

The action by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) on the Stop Online Piracy Act came a couple of hours after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that he would delay a cloture vote on a similar Senate bill, the Protect IP (Intellectual Property) Act.
Read the rest here.

Polarized news market has altered the political process in South Carolina primary

LAURENS, S.C. — Once upon a time — oh, about two presidential elections ago — Dianne Belsom would get up in the morning and read the paper, taking in news stories about candidates and campaigns. Some stuff she agreed with, some she didn’t.

This morning, Belsom wakes in her splendidly restored pink Victorian on Main Street in this rural South Carolina town, makes coffee and settles in at her desktop to fire up Facebook. There on her news feed are more than 100 stories that some of her 460 friends have posted since Belsom went to bed eight hours ago.

Over the next three hours, Belsom bops around the Web checking out the latest campaign news. Her sources are big and small, from nearby Greenville to faraway California, but they have one thing in common: With rare exceptions, the news and commentary sites Belsom visits share her world view, which she describes as “conservative, tea party, Christian.”
Read the rest here.

U.S. preparing to close embassy in Syria

The Obama administration is preparing to close the U.S. embassy in Damascus and evacuate all American personnel by the end of this month amid rapid deterioration of the security situation in Syria, senior administration officials said.

The embassy will be shuttered, officials said, unless embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad provides enhanced protection that he has so far been unwilling to authorize. “Unless we see that, we have no choice,” said one U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak about internal planning on the Syrian crisis.
Read the rest here.

Egypt: Muslim persecution of Copts continues

(AINA) - A Muslim mob attacked Copts today in the Upper Egyptian village of Rahmaniya-Kebly, Nag Hammadi, Qena province, destroying and torching their homes, straw huts and shops, while chanting Allahu Akbar. No one was reported killed or injured (video). According to reports, security forces were present but did not intervene and the fire brigade arrived 90 minutes late.

An eye-witness said that a straw hut belonging to a Copt was torched to clear the area for a mosque. There are more than 300 mosques in the village and one church.

According to Coptic residents, the reason behind the violence was the parliamentary elections. The Salafists wanted to prevent Copts, who number more than 50% of the inhabitants (20,000), from voting because they intended to vote for two moderate Muslims and not the Salafi candidates. "No Copt from Rahmaniya-Kebly was able to vote today, so the Salafists will win the elections," said a witness. Copts were forcefully prevented from voting.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

U.S. Jobless Claims Fall Sharply

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits for the first time plummeted last week to 352,000, the fewest since April 2008, the Labor Department said Thursday. The decline added to evidence that the job market is strengthening.

Weekly applications fell by 50,000, the biggest drop in the seasonally adjusted figure in more than six years. The four-week average, which smoothes out fluctuations, dropped to 379,000. That was the second-lowest such figure in more than three years.
Read the rest here.

Quote of the day...


'There are three things I like about Italian ships. First, their cuisine, which is unsurpassed. Second, their service, which is quite superb. And then - in time of emergency - there is none of this nonsense about women and children first.'
- Sir Winston Churchill when once asked why he had booked on an Italian liner when the RMS Queen Elizabeth was available.

Source.

Appeals Court: No forced abortion (shocking background)

A Massachusetts appeals court has verbally skewered a judge who ordered that a mentally ill woman have an abortion against her will even if it meant she had to be “coaxed, bribed, or even enticed” into a hospital.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court this week overturned the ruling by Norfolk Probate Judge Christina L. Harms, who had also ordered that the 32-year-old woman, known as “Mary Moe,” be sterilized.

The appellate decision noted that Moe “has consistently expressed her opposition to abortion” and likely would “continue to do so if she were competent.”

As for the sterilization order, state Appellate Court Associate Justice Andrew R. Grainger wrote: “No party requested this measure, none of the attendant procedural requirements has been met, and the judge appears to have simply produced the requirement out of thin air.”
Read the rest here.

This is insane.  The lower court judge should be disbarred.

30 Years Later: Can Britain Defend the Falkland Islands?

Probably not.  They have gutted their armed forces in general and the Royal Navy in particular.  Not a smart move for an island nation that still is dependent on the sea for its survival.  Add to that Argentina has been rattling its sabres of late... And no, sending Prince William there won't add to the defensibility of the Falklands.

Britain might as well apply to become the 51st state.  They have pretty much made it clear they are depending on us to protect them.

South Carolina: Three new polls show Gingrich pulling ahead of Romney (Paul in 3rd)

See the details here.  The Fat Lady I alluded to in an earlier post may want to take a break in her warm ups.  Her on stage appearance could be delayed...

GOP In Upheaval: Perry quits - endorses Gingrich, Santorum won in Iowa, Gingrich's ex-wife makes salacious accusations

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Republican presidential contest took a series of unexpected twists Thursday as Texas Gov. Rick Perry quit the race and endorsed Newt Gingrich, while officials in Iowa declared that former senator Rick Santorum had in fact won more votes than front-runner Mitt Romney in the caucuses there two weeks earlier.

The developments struck a blow to Romney, who just days ago appeared poised to lock up the Republican nomination by the end of the month. But on the morning of a potentially decisive debate in Charleston, the race was suddenly in flux. Gingrich seemed to be enjoying a sudden burst of momentum — drawing huge crowds, getting new endorsements and ticking upward in multiple polls — while Santorum laid claim to the Iowa caucuses as a victory.

But Gingrich faced his own setback Thursday after his former wife, Marianne, gave an interview to The Washington Post describing her husband’s infidelity. He is also expected to release his tax returns later Thursday, a move designed to pressure Romney to release his own, which Romney has said he will not do until April.
Read the rest here.
See more on Santorum's Iowa win here.  Read the story on Gingrich's ex-wife here (caution: salacious details).