Due to an ongoing health crisis in the family, blogging will be 'on and off' as time and circumstances permit for the foreseeable future. I also beg your indulgence if I am slow in responding to emails. New posts will appear below this notice.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Right-Wing Extremists’ Popularity Rising Rapidly in Greece

ATHENS — The video, which went viral in Greece last month, shows about 40 burly men, led by Giorgos Germenis, a lawmaker with the right-wing Golden Dawn party, marching through a night market in the town of Rafina demanding that dark-skinned merchants show permits.

Some do, and they are left alone. But the action quickly picks up, as the men, wearing black T-shirts with the party’s name, destroy a stall with clubs and scatter the merchandise. “We saw a few illegal immigrants selling their wares,” Mr. Germenis says in the video. “We did what Golden Dawn has to do. And now we’re going to church to pay our respects to the Madonna.”

Just a few months ago, the name Golden Dawn was something to be whispered in Greece.

But three months after the extremist right-wing group won an electoral foothold in Parliament, talk of Golden Dawn seems to be on everybody’s lips.
Read the rest here.

Roman Catholics Debate Women Deacons

The article "Backing women deacons" [News, Sept. 27] contains a statement from a canon lawyer that " 'there is no possibility that women will ever be ordained to the diaconate' because canon law forbids it." It is a true that current canon law forbids it, but that is irrelevant as to a future decision by the Holy Father. To conclude that there is no possibility is quite a leap.

The question of whether women can be validly ordained as deacons is a doctrinal one, not canonical. The real question is whether the prohibition of such an ordination is, when applied to diaconate, repeating an unchangeable doctrinal teaching or, alternatively, expressing a legal prohibition that can be altered -- something that has happened in many areas of law in the past.

In fact, recent amendments to the canons by Pope Benedict XVI suggest that this is a legal prohibition and that a change in this matter is quite possible. Bishop Emil Wcela, a retired auxiliary bishop from the Diocese of Rockville Centre, addresses this question in the article when he notes that, three years ago, a significant paragraph was added to distinguish the diaconate from the episcopate or priesthood. The key role of bishops and priests as iconic representations of "Christ the Head," which is one of the principal arguments for a male priesthood, was explicitly removed from the description of deacons.
Read the rest here.

Of course it's a non-starter from an Orthodox perspective. The ancient office of "deaconess" often cited by advocates of women's ordination was a lay office, in no way related to that of "Deacon" which is part of holy orders and exclusively male. For the record I think this nonsense is just rumblings from the aging (and dying) Catholic left. The likelihood of the Pope ever going along with it is basically nonexistent. Unfortunately there will always be people who just can't handle being told "no."

Quote of the day...

Right now I have enough money to last me for the rest of my life, unless I buy something.
- Jackie Mason

Copts' flight from Sinai's Rafah alarms church; rights groups express solidarity

Attacks on a Coptic-owned shop in the city of Rafah in northern Sinai and the subsequent flight of nine scared Christian families after reportedly receiving death threats from unknown sources have sparked anger among political figures and parties in addition to religious leaders.

The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church released On Friday, after a meeting attended by a large number of bishops and presided over by Bishop Pachomius, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria since the death of Pope Shenouda III in March, a statement expressing solidarity with the Christian families and condemning threats against them.

Ayman Al-Sayyad, adviser to President Mohamed Morsi, said on his personal Twitter account: "I am waiting for an official statement from the government that puts the subject of forced migration of Christians from Rafah in its real context, without trivialising or dramatising it."
Read the rest here.

Russian Orthodox Church calls for clemency for P---- Riot

The Russian Orthodox Church has asked for clemency for the three jailed members of the punk band Pussy Riot, provided they repent for their "punk prayer".

The statement came a day before an appeal hearing and appeared to reflect a desire to put to an end to the case that has caused international outrage.

But it was unclear whether the women, who were sentenced to two years last month, would offer a penitence sought by the church and how much leniency a court may show.
Read the rest here.

There are so many things I admire about the Russian Church. But its historic inability to resist becoming an arm of the state is disconcerting. Not that it should have any relevance on the P---- Riot case. What they did was a crime in any civilized country. One can argue about the sentence. But not that they committed a serious offense.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Solemn High Mass By The New Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco


This bodes well for the most liberal diocese in the country. On the other hand there are some people in San Francisco who should be afraid, very afraid.

HT: Rorate

Friday, September 28, 2012

Vatican says "Jesus wife" papyrus is fake

An ancient papyrus fragment which a Harvard scholar says contains the first recorded mention that Jesus may have had a wife is a fake, the Vatican said Friday.

"Substantial reasons would lead one to conclude that the papyrus is indeed a clumsy forgery," the Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, said in an editorial by its editor, Gian Maria Vian. "In any case, it's a fake."

Joining a highly charged academic debate over the authenticity of the text, written in ancient Egyptian Coptic, the newspaper published a lengthy analysis by expert Alberto Camplani of Rome's La Sapienza university, outlining doubts about the manuscript and urging extreme caution.

The fragment, which reads "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...'" was unveiled by Harvard Professor Karen King as a text from the 4th century at a congress of Coptic Studies in Rome last week.
Read the rest here.

These sorts of cons pop up all the time. It can be amusing watching supposedly smart people being duped by really bad forgeries. Anyone remember Hitler's diaries?

Bob Dole: Life after losing an election

In eulogizing Gerald Ford at his Grand Rapids, Mich., funeral in January 2007, Jimmy Carter described a New Yorker cartoon that both men had found amusing. In it a small boy informs his mother, “When I grow up, I want to be a former president.”

No one aspires to be a defeated presidential candidate.

In Washington, losing an election is viewed as a sort of death. But instead of bringing food to the house, a few neighbors and some in the media stick a microphone in your face and ask, “Did you cost Ford the White House?”

Twenty years after Ford and I lost the White House to Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale, I was the one pointing fingers — at myself. Then, for a long time after my loss to Bill Clinton in 1996, I would lie awake nights wondering what I could have done to change the outcome. Did we rely too much on the Republican base, letting cultural issues define us in a harsh light and driving away independents and suburban voters?

I remembered former president Richard Nixon’s assessment in the months before his death in April 1994: “If the economy’s good,” he told me, “you’re not going to beat Clinton.”

The logic was irrefutable: If times are good, why would you vote out an incumbent? But that didn’t keep me from replaying the race in my head.
Read the rest here.

In 1996 I voted for Harry Browne not Sen. Dole. That said, I have always thought he was a class act and a true gentleman.

Casual Friday Circa 1902

1902. "Cashier cage -- Richmond & Backus Co., Detroit." Note the man on the right has rather shockingly removed his jacket in the presence of ladies and is working in just his shirtsleeves and waistcoat. Nice watch chain though.

See Shorpy for the hugely detailed full sized version.

France unveils budget light on spending cuts - heavy on taxes

PARIS - President Francois Hollande's Socialist government unveiled sharp tax hikes on business and the rich on Friday in a 2013 budget aimed at showing France has the fiscal rigour to remain at the core of the euro zone.

The package will recoup 30 billion euros ($39 billion) for the public purse with a goal of narrowing the deficit to 3.0 percent of national output next year from 4.5 percent this year - France's toughest single belt-tightening in 30 years.

But with record unemployment and a barrage of data pointing to economic stagnation, there are fears the deficit target will slip as France falls short of the modest 0.8 percent economic growth rate on which it is banking for next year.
Read the rest here.

Louisiana death-row inmate proved innocent by DNA evidence

NEW ORLEANS — A Louisiana death-row inmate convicted of the rape and murder of his 14-year-old step-cousin in 1996 on Friday became the 300th person exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence in the United States — and the 18th death-row inmate saved from execution by DNA.

Damon Thibodeaux, now 38, confessed to the brutal attack on his cousin after a nine-hour interrogation in 1996 by detectives from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. He recanted a few hours later and has maintained since that his confession was coerced. Despite his recantation, Thibodeaux was indicted four days after his arrest. In 1997, a jury found him guilty of murder and rape, largely on the basis of his confession, and he was sentenced to death.

Thibodeaux walked out of the death-row unit of Louisiana’s Angola prison farm on a rainy Friday afternoon, free for the first time after 15 years, during which he was kept in solitary confinement 23 hours per day.
Read the rest here.

FOX News broadcasts suicide live

Yep. I just saw it by accident (was changing channels and landed there just in time to see the end). If you missed it a man was apparently in a high speed chase running from police (you just have to broadcast that, right?), and he bailed from his car ran a ways then pulled a gun and shot himself in the head on live national TV. Score another point for our voyeuristic society and the anything for ratings mentality on the news.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Where the economy is strongest

Income is growing much faster in Republican-leaning "red states" than in Democratic-tilting "blue states" or the pivotal swing states that will decide the 2012 presidential election, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

Personal income in 23 red states has risen 4.6% since the recession began in December 2007, after adjusting for inflation. Income is up just 0.5% in 15 blue states and Washington, D.C., during that time. In the dozen swing states identified by USA TODAY that could vote either way Nov. 6, income has inched ahead 1.4% in 4 ½ years.

The big drivers of red state income growth: energy and government benefit payments such as food stamps.
Read the rest here.

Some Germans Hint At A Gold Standard

On September 18th, the London office of Deutsche Bank  — one of the most respected banks in the world, and a bellwether of elite opinion — published a Global Markets Research paper entitled Gold: Adjusting for Zero. It was written by two esteemed, mainstream analysts Daniel Brebner and Xiao Fu:Figure 7: USD devaluation vs. gold.
Read the rest here.
HT: Molonlabe70

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rome's house cleaning continues...

ROME, September 20, 2012 – At the end of last spring, an article from www.chiesa focused on the many cases of bishops asked to resign by the Vatican because they were seen as no longer capable of fulfilling their office, or, in the case of refusal to resign, "relieved" of their posts personally by the pope:

> Vatican Diary / The "who's who" of the deposed bishops

A few days after the publication of this article, another case of this kind emerged in Slovakia.

The news is in a terse statement from the Vatican dated July 2:

"Il papa ha sollevato dalla cura pastorale dell’arcidiocesi di Trnava (Slovacchia) S.E. Mons. Róbert Bezák, C.SS.R.".

The deposed archbishop, 52 years old, a Redemptorist, has left his post and has also been obliged to reside outside of the archdiocese. But his case appears to be far from closed. It is invading the Slovakian media and dividing public opinion, Catholic and not. Leading intellectuals and artists have closed ranks in defense of this "bishop with a human face," according to them unjustly driven out for having wanted to expose the malfeasance of his predecessor Jan Sokol, who retired in 2009 after reaching the age limit.
Read the rest here.
HT: Dr. Tighe

Benedict has sacked another bishop. I think this is starting to become a habit (no pun).

A Catholic pays a visit to a Russian Orthodox Church in Beijing.

Sunday morning in China’s capital city is not unlike most other days: Beijing’s more than 20 million inhabitants bustle through congested sidewalks, cars compete almost hopelessly for space on crowded roads, and hazy grey skies loom heavily over the city landscape, punctuated by soaring cranes marking new constructions.

Beijing is not exactly a city of church bells and rising spires, but nestled quietly among the trees within the protective walls of the Russian Embassy lies the Russian Orthodox Church of the Dormition of Most Holy Theotokos. Its humble but majestic onion dome and Greek cross rise above the embassy walls, a sight few could have imagined only 50 years ago, when the Orthodox church was converted by the Soviet authorities into a garage. Three years ago the “garage” was restored into what it was originally made for, a temple of God where the Divine Liturgy is offered in all the rich beauty of the Russian Orthodox tradition.

About a month ago I contacted the priest rector of the church, Father Sergiy Voronin, and the first words of his response were, “Christ is in our midst.” The presence of Christ becomes obvious as one enters the beautiful Church of the Dormition, with its remarkable iconostasis; 30 minutes before Liturgy the icons are already illuminated as the faithful light candles and offer them prayerfully while intoning the name of Holy Trinity.

Why was I, a Roman Catholic, visiting this Orthodox church located in the Russian embassy?
Read the rest here.

Army general accused of sex crimes, adultery

An Army general based in Fort Bragg, N.C., has been charged with forced sex, multiple counts of adultery and inappropriate relationships with female subordinates while serving in Afghanistan.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair was relieved of his command in Afghanistan last May and returned to Fort Bragg. In addition to the sexual misconduct accusations, Sinclair also faces charges of possessing pornography and alcohol while deployed in Afghanistan.

Sinclair has been in the Army for 27 years, according to The Associated Press, and has been deployed three times to Afghanistan. He also served in Iraq.

Sinclair now faces an Article 32, the Army's equivalent of a grand jury hearing, to determine whether he should face court martial on any or all charges.
Read the rest here.

Egypt’s President Morsi tells U.N.: Insults to Muhammad ‘unacceptable’

UNITED NATIONS — Insults to the Islamic prophet Muhammad are part of an organized assault on Muslim religious and cultural values and cannot be brushed aside, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said Wednesday, rejecting the case for free speech made by President Obama just a day earlier.

“The obscenities that I have referred to that were recently released as part of an organized campaign against Islamic sanctities are unacceptable,” Morsi said, referring to a crude Internet video that mocks Islam called “Innocence of Muslims.”

“We reject this. We cannot accept it,” Morsi said, his voice thin with anger. “We will not allow anyone to do this by word or deed.”
Read the rest here.

Bureaucrats declare war on free advice

North Carolina is giving Steve Cooksey some choices. He can stop speaking. Or he can get a PhD in nutrition, or a medical degree, or a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and then pass an examination after completing a 900-hour clinical internship. Or he can skip this onerous credentialing, keep speaking and risk prosecution.

He has chosen instead to get a lawyer. His case, argued by the libertarians at the Institute for Justice (IJ), will clarify the First Amendment’s relevance to an ancient human behavior and a modern technology.

Four years ago, Cooksey was a walking — actually, barely walking — collection of health risks. He was obese, lethargic, asthmatic, chronically ill and pre-diabetic. The diet advice he was getting from medical and other sources was, he decided, radically wrong. Rather than eat a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet, he adopted what he and other enthusiasts call a Paleolithic diet, eating as primitive humans did — e.g., beef, pork, chicken, leafy green vegetables. Cooksey lost 75 pounds and the need for drugs and insulin. And, being a modern Paleo, he became a blogger, communicating his dietary opinions.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tensions rise over disputed islands

About 50 Taiwanese vessels on Tuesday entered waters near a group of uninhabited islands at the center of a bitter territorial dispute involving Japan, China and Taiwan.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK showed footage of a Japanese coast guard ship shooting water at a Taiwanese fishing boat, while a Taiwanese patrol vessel blasted water at the coast guard ship in reply during an incident near the disputed Senkaku or Diaoyu islands, as they are known respectively in Japan and China/Taiwan.
Read the rest here.

Attention Men: Want to live longer?

A eunuch gurds the entrance to a harem in Tunisia circa 1931.
(Reuters) - A study of eunuchs in Korea's royal court has found men without testicles live longer.

Researchers looking at the court of the Chosun Dynasty found eunuchs lived to 70 on average, or 14 to 19 years longer than "intact" men of similar socio-economic status.

Three of the 81 eunuchs studied lived to 100 or more, giving the group a centenarian rate some 130 times that in developed nations today.

During the dynasty, which ran from 1392 to 1910, boys in Korea sometimes underwent castration in order to serve as eunuchs and gain access to the privileged life of the palace.
Ouch! Read the rest here.

California: The Great Exodus

For decades after World War II, California was a destination for Americans in search of a better life. In many people’s minds, it was the state with more jobs, more space, more sunlight, and more opportunity. They voted with their feet, and California grew spectacularly (its population increased by 137 percent between 1960 and 2010). However, this golden age of migration into the state is over. For the past two decades, California has been sending more people to other American states than it receives from them. Since 1990, the state has lost nearly 3.4 million residents through this migration.

This study describes the great ongoing California exodus, using data from the Census, the Internal Revenue Service, the state’s Department of Finance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and other sources. We map in detail where in California the migrants come from, and where they go when they leave the state. We then analyze the data to determine the likely causes of California’s decline and the lessons that its decline holds for other states.

The data show a pattern of movement over the past decade from California mainly to states in the western and southern U.S.: Texas, Nevada, and Arizona, in that order, are the top magnet states. Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Idaho, and Utah follow. Rounding out the top ten are two southern states: Georgia and South Carolina.
Read the rest here.
HT: Bill (aka The Godfather)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Groucho Marx On What's My Line








From September 20 1959. For background this was around the same time that Nikita Khrushchev was making his famous trip to the US and he threw a fit when they told him he couldn't go to Disneyland. Predictably, Groucho steals the show.

Latin Renaissance



I'm not Catholic (anymore) but this is clearly good news. Benedict XVI is the best thing to hit Rome in a very long time.

Ron Paul chairs hearings on monetary policy 9-21-2012



Dr. Paul chairs congressional hearings on monetary policy with Jim Grant and Lew Lehrman as principal witnesses. The Democratic members of the committee didn't even bother to show up.

Recovery will be 'painful', IMF chief warns

Heavily indebted countries like the UK face years more “painful” austerity to get their economies back on an even keel, International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde has warned.

Urging policymakers to deliver on their promises of co-ordinated global action to restore growth, she said: “For many economies, under present circumstances it will take years of fiscal adjustment to get back to pre-crisis levels. And again, without sufficient growth, we should not delude ourselves about how painful this is going to be.”

Speaking at the Peterson Institute for International Economics ahead of next month’s annual IMF meetings, she called on leaders to stop simply making promises and to start delivering on them.
Read the rest here.

Bill Clinton is sounding the alarm on the debt

Former President Bill Clinton has renewed his warning about the importance of reducing the federal deficit before inevitable interest rate hikes push the nation into a debt crisis with profound, long-lasting consequences.

“If interest rates were the same today as they were when I was president, the payment on the debt, that is, what the taxpayers have to pay every year, the financial debt (payments) would go from $250 billion to $650 billion a year,” Clinton warned on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday.

Congress and President Barack Obama, he said, “can't let that happen” – so they must strike a deal on reducing deficits and debt.
Read the rest here.

Comments

First a quick apology. I usually check the spam filter for comments more frequently but I let it slip over the last week and found several that had been mistakenly shelved pending my approval. So if you posted a comment and it didn't appear for some reason that's probably why. I have cleared the comments and they should all be up now.

Secondly I draw your attention to a very thoughtful piece on the subject of commenting on blogs. I encourage everyone to peruse it and I think I am going to link it in my guidelines for comments.

Thanks to blog reader John S. for the tip.

Update On Prayer Request

Just heard that the cancer test results for my brother in-law's father came back negative. I deeply appreciate your prayers on his behalf.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Next Panic

This summer, many government officials and private investors finally seemed to realize that the crisis in the euro zone was not some passing aberration, but rather a result of deep-­seated political, economic, and financial problems that will take many years to resolve. The on-again, off-again euro turmoil has already proved immensely damaging to nearly all Europeans, and its negative impact is now being felt around the world. Most likely there is worse to come—and soon.

But the economic disasters of our time—which involve big banks in rich countries, call into question the viability of government debt, and seriously threaten the reach of even the most self-confident nations—will not end with the euro debacle. The euro zone is well down the path to severe crisis, but other industrialized democracies are hot on its heels. Do not let the euro zone’s troubles distract you from the bigger picture: we are all in a mess.

Who could be next in line for a gut-wrenching loss of confidence in its growth prospects, its sovereign debt, and its banking system? Think about Japan.

Japan’s post-war economic miracle ended badly in the late 1980s, when the value of land and stocks spiked dramatically and then crashed. This boom-and-bust cycle left people, companies, and banks with debts that took many years to work off. Headline-growth rates slowed after 1990, leading some observers to speak of one or more “lost decades.”

But this isn’t the full picture: after a post-war baby boom, population growth in Japan decelerated sharply; the number of working-age people has declined fairly rapidly since the mid-’90s. Once you account for that, Japan’s economic performance looks much better. The growth in Japan’s output per working-age person—a measure of productivity for those who have jobs—has actually kept up with most of Europe’s, and has lagged only slightly behind that of the United States. Japan is a rich country with low unemployment. Its private sector is by no means broken.

So why is Japan’s government now one of the most indebted in the world, with a gross debt that’s 235.8 percent of GDP and a net debt (taking some government assets into account) that’s 135.2 percent of GDP? (In the euro zone, only Greece has government debt approaching the Japanese level.)
Read the rest here.
HT: MG from here.

This is a really insightful read.

In Libya Anti-Extremist Protestors Storm Islamic Militia Bases

BENGHAZI, Libya — Forces allied with the Libyan government took control of at least two powerful militias’ bases in the eastern city of Benghazi on Saturday after protesters overran the compounds in the early morning hours.

Clashes erupted outside one base, the stronghold of the influential Rafallah al-Sahati militia, leaving four people dead and dozens injured, according to Libyan state television.

The clashes followed a large-scale protest Friday in which thousands of people marched through the city demanding the dissolution of the militias that have run Libya’s streets in the absence of a strong central government and police force since a revolution ended the 42-year rule of Moammar Gaddafi last year.

Many Libyans have blamed extremist groups for the attack on the U.S. Consulate here last week that left four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, dead. The groups have operated with relative impunity in the security vacuum that has prevailed since Gaddafi’s ouster and death.

On Saturday, fighters from a militia loyal to the government roamed the ransacked base of the Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia, which many here have accused of leading the attack on the consulate.

“The ambassador was a good man. He ate with us. Even during the revolution he was with us,” said Riziq, a fighter with a government-allied militia across the street that had moved in to guard the abandoned compound and who declined to give his full name out of fear of retribution from Ansar al-Sharia.
Read the rest here.

I have to admit this was not a news story I expected to read.

As China Flexes Its Muscles Japan Rethinks Its Defenses

TOKYO — Japan is in the midst of a gradual but significant shift to the right, acting more confrontationally in the region than at any time since World War II.

The shift applies strictly to Japan’s foreign policy and military strategy, not social issues, and has been driven both by China’s rapid maritime expansion — particularly its emphatic claims on contested territory — and by a growing sense here that Japan should recover the clout squandered amid two lost decades of economic stagnation.

Japan’s shift can be seen in an increasingly muscular role for the nation’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF), in a push among mainstream politicians to revise key portions of the pacifist constitution and in a new willingness to clash with China, particularly in the East China Sea, where U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said this week he was “concerned about conflict.”
Read the rest here.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Surprise! California is far more broke than we thought

Gov. Jerry Brown of California announced when he came into office last year that he had found an alarming $28 billion “wall of debt” looming over the state, which had to be dismantled...

...The task force estimated that the burden of debt totaled at least $167 billion and as much as $335 billion. Its members warned that the off-the-books debts tended to grow over time, so that even if Mr. Brown should succeed in pushing through his tax increase, gaining an additional $50 billion over the next seven years, the wall of debt would still be there, casting its shadow over the state.
Read the rest here.

Darwin Award Wannabe

NEW YORK -- A man jumped out of the Bronx Zoo's monorail into the tiger exhibit Friday afternoon, where he was badly mauled by one of the big cats before zoo employees rescued him using fire extinguishers, zoo officials said.

The man, believed to be around 25, severely injured his leg and foot in the attack, which happened just before 3:30 p.m., sources tell NBC 4 New York. He also has deep cuts to the back.

Once the tiger backed away, the man was instructed to roll under a hot wire to safety, said Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny in a statement. The keepers then called the tiger into its exhibit holding area and secured him there, Breheny said.
Read the rest here.

Suicide by tiger. That's unusual even for New York.

For 1st time, gay marriage may win statewide vote

Updated at 1:45 p.m. ET -- After losing some 30 ballots on same-sex marriage across the country over the past decade, advocates of lesbian and gay couples are encouraged by polls showing they have a good chance of finally logging their first victory in a statewide popular vote.

Polls show majorities back same-sex marriage in Maryland, Washington and Maine, and they indicate a tight battle in Minnesota – the four states holding votes on the issue in November.

“We’re feeling positive. The reality is, we haven’t won a ballot measure on marriage yet,” said Sarah Warbelow, state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. “I think it’s very reasonable and realistic to expect that we’ll win one or more of these ballot measures; certainly the polling suggests that all four are … a possibility.”
Read the rest here.

Texas cheerleaders fight for biblical banners at football games

A group of Texas high school cheerleaders is at the center of a spat over religious speech after the school district told them they had to stop using Christian-themed banners at school football games.

The large signs, carried onto the field at Kountze High School, included messages such as "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me" and "But thanks be to God which gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ," according to a report by NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.

Kevin Weldon, superintendent of the Kountze school district, about 85 miles northeast of Houston, informed the cheerleaders’ parents Tuesday that the religious banners would not be allowed, the station reported.
Read the rest here.

Australian deputy PM: 'Cranks and crazies' in GOP threaten US economy

CANBERRA, Australia -- Australia's deputy prime minister said Friday that the greatest threat to the U.S. economy are "cranks and crazies" in the Republican Party.

Wayne Swan, who also serves as treasurer and is his center-left Labor Party government's ranking finance minister, took aim at the Tea Party during a speech to a business forum on Friday, breaking a convention among Australia's major parties to steer clear of U.S. domestic political debates.

Swan, one of few world leaders able to boast his country had avoided recession during the global financial crisis, also labelled the Tea Party wing of the Republicans as "extreme."

"Let's be blunt and acknowledge the biggest threat to the world's biggest economy are the cranks and crazies that have taken over the Republican Party," Swan said in a speech in Sydney.
Read the rest here.

Wall Street Rolling Back Another Key Piece of Financial Reform

Wall Street lobbyists are awesome. I’m beginning to develop a begrudging respect not just for their body of work as a whole, but also for their sense of humor. They always go right to the edge of outrageous, and then wittily take one baby-step beyond it. And they did so again last night, with the passage of a new House bill (HR 2827), which rolls back a portion of Dodd-Frank designed to protect cities and towns from the next Jefferson County disaster.

Jefferson County, Alabama was the most famous case – the city of Birmingham went bankrupt after being bribed and goaded into taking on billions of dollars of toxic swap deals – but in fact it was just one of hundreds of similar examples of localities being duped into suicidal financial deals by rapacious banks and financial companies. The Denver school system, for instance, got clobbered when it opted for an exotic swap deal pushed by J.P. Morgan Chase (the same villain in Jefferson County, incidentally) and then-school superintendent/future U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, that ended up costing the school system tens of millions of dollars. As was the case in Jefferson County, the only way out of the deal involved a massive termination fee that might have been even more destructive than the deal itself.

To deal with this problem, the Dodd-Frank Act among other things included a simple reform. It required the financial advisors of municipalities to do two things: register with the SEC, and accept a fiduciary duty to respect the best interests of the taxpayers they are advising.

Sounds simple, right? But Wall Street couldn’t have that. After all, if companies are required to have a fiduciary responsibility to cities and towns, how in the world can they screw cities and towns? The idea was a veritable axe-blow to the banks’ municipal advisory businesses.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Images From The Battle of Antietam...


...taken last weekend with Civil War era camera technology. How cool!

US: Iran behind cyber attacks on banks

National security officials told NBC News that the continuing cyber attacks this week that slowed the websites of JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America are being carried out by the government of Iran. One of those sources said the claim by hackers that the attacks were prompted by the online video mocking the Prophet Muhammad is just a cover story.

A group of purported hackers in the Middle East has claimed credit for problems at the websites of both banks, citing the online video mocking the founder of Islam. One security source called that statement "a cover" for the Iranian government's operations.
Read the rest here.

Washington is partying like it's 1933

1933 was a tough year. FDR had just taken office with about one in three Americans unemployed. Banks were failing left and right and wiping out people's savings. There was no social safety net. For the first time in the history of the country there were credible reports of people dying from hunger.

It was also the last time a major league baseball team from Washington DC, the old Senators, made it to the playoffs... until tonight. For the first time in 79 years a baseball team from the nation's capitol will be playing in the post season.

Congrats to the Washington Nationals!

Police: Britain vs the US

Here in the US we live in a country where our police are constantly demanding more firepower and the latest in military weaponry for their officers. The gulf between the police and the people they are supposed to "serve and protect" has perhaps never been wider. But this is not the norm everywhere.

On Tuesday two female police officers were lured by a false report of a burglary to a house and then ambushed and shot dead. The suspect is a 29 year old man with a long police record who was out on bail at the time for suspicion of murder. This happened in Great Britain and the two police officers were unarmed. As one might expect there has been a huge uproar and a massive outpouring of sympathy for the female PCs and their families.

There has been something else though as well. A few voices are suggesting that the time has come for Britain to "join the modern world" and arm its police. Since the establishment of the country's first real police in the early 19th century the tradition has been that most of their officers are unarmed except for a short truncheon. Today about one in ten British police carry a gun. Most police departments have special armed rapid response units for situations where they may be needed. But the average beat cop is still no more heavily armed than his predecessor during the reign of William IV.

Public opinion polls show little enthusiasm for an armed police force. Nor has there been any movement in that direction among Britain's political class from either party. Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister threw cold water on the idea yesterday when the subject came up. What is surprising, especially in contrast to our police here in the US, is that the overwhelming majority of British cops don't want guns either.

The heads of almost all of Britain's major police forces and police union leaders were very quick to declare that they saw no compelling argument for arming the nation's police. Polls have shown that both police and citizenry believe that issuing guns to cops would create a barrier between them and the public.

People should not draw erroneous conclusions from this and buy into the fairytale that there is no violent crime in Britain. Point in fact UK crime rates are comparable to those in the US for most offenses. The exception is homicide where the per-capita murder rate is a fraction of ours. Which is no doubt one reason why the premeditated murder of two police officers has so shocked the nation.

Which leads to the contrast in approaches to policing between Britain and here where we are militarizing our police at an alarming rate that I find fascinating. Is there a compelling argument for beat cops to be carrying military assault weapons? I remain dubious.

Of course we do have different conditions here. Unlike in the UK where the right to own weapons has been more or less suppressed, here the Second Amendment enjoys greater strength in the law and courts than at any time in the last 100 years. And this is reflected in levels of gun ownership. America has one of the most heavily armed populations on the planet which undoubtedly contributes on at least some level to our high murder rate.

Even so I remain a supporter of gun rights with a few common sense restrictions. Yes, it is a double edged sword. But I believe the trade off is a necessary one in a free society where the state should always be treated as a necessary evil and all its acts regarded with a healthy dose of skepticism.

One obvious byproduct is that an unarmed police force is a nonstarter on this side of the pond. But does that mean that our police need to become an essentially para-military force that one would normally associate with authoritarian states?

I think not.

I have never seen any evidence that suggests we are safer with cops in armored cars carrying machine guns than we would be with beat cops carrying a judiciously loaded .357 magnum revolver. And there is a great deal of evidence showing that the overarming of our police is causing unnecessary use of force incidents and civilian causalities.

It is time to step back from this and have a serious discussion about what kind of police we want and need in our society.

Prayers Requested

My step-father Harold is in the later stages of dementia and may be reaching the point where my mom can no longer take care of him. Also my brother in-law's father, Tye, has been hospitalized for more than a week with multiple serious health issues. Doctors now fear that he may have liver cancer. Such a diagnosis, especially for a man in his eighties, would likely be fatal. Tests are being done today to try and confirm or rule out this possibility.

Your prayers are greatly appreciated.

White House Orders Orthodox To Include "Filioque" In Creed

Preview of coming attractions.
HT: Basil (the Godson)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Good grief! What's going on with the Republicans?

Caveat: I was not, and am not, planning on voting for Romney or any other Republicans for national office this year. Ditto Obama and the Democrats.

With that out of the way, am I the only one who thinks the GOP is blowing what should have been a golden opportunity to seize the White House from a weak incumbent and a narrowly divided Senate? It seems like the last six months have been one long string of political gaffs by big time candidates who should know better.  That and the ever more dramatic ideological tone of the GOP reflected in the nomination of candidates who while pleasing to the far right are in some cases probably unelectable. A hard right Tea Party neo-con is likely to play well in Texas. I have doubts about places like Ohio and some other states where congressional seats are being contested by uber-right candidates. And we can just throw out the Senate race in Missouri which was a Republican lock until they nominated Archie Bunker.

Now we have the already gaffe prone Mitt Romney announcing that 47% of Americans are losers who pay no taxes, think they are victims and that he will never be able to convince to take responsibility for their own lives! Never mind that there is an element of truth to what he said. It's political suicide to say it. And a man who wants to be President of the United States should demonstrate greater care with his words. Forget my political disagreements with the man. I am seriously starting to wonder if he has the temperament for the job.

I don't know if this is a death blow to his campaign. But I am pretty sure it is the most spectacular case of foot in mouth disease that I can remember from a presidential nominee in my lifetime. If it isn't a fatal wound (and it might be) it is certainly devastating. He seriously comes across sounding like a snobbish jackass. Worse is that he doesn't have a lot of time to recover. This isn't June. It's late September. Early voting is about to begin in some states and the general election is less than two months away. Time and opportunity needed to bounce back from mistakes are fast disappearing.

Nevada recluse dies with $200 in bank, $7 million in gold at home

“He was a hoarder – there was everything inside that home you could think of,” Glover said. “The workers found a crawl space from the garage. That led to everything else.

“He was apparently buying gold from a local coin dealer. We found it in sealed boxes marked 'books.' We also found gold wrapped in tinfoil stored in ammunition boxes,” Glover told The Times. “There was just more and more. We found a family silver set with rolls of U.S. $20s and Mexican five peso coins.”

The gold coins had been minted as early as the 1840s in such countries as Mexico, England, Austria and South Africa, he said.

Based on just the weight of the gold, Glover estimates the value at $7 million. Because some of the coins appear to be collector items, the value could go much higher, he said.
Read the rest here.

What! Uncle Walter died? I had no idea he was still around. I would have gone to the funeral.

Leaked video puts Romney campaign on defensive

COSTA MESA, Calif. — With just seven weeks left in the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney’s efforts to recast his campaign in response to critics and a drop in polls have been derailed by new criticism of a leaked video that shows him dismissing President Obama’s supporters as people who take no responsibility for their livelihoods and who think they are entitled to government handouts.

In the video, published by Mother Jones magazine, the Republican presidential nominee tells a private audience of campaign donors that Obama backers will vote for the president “no matter what.” Romney said that they account for “47 percent” of voters and he does not “worry about those people.”
Read the rest here.

Royal Couple Sue French Magazine For Breach Of Privacy

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge today won their fight to block a French magazine from republishing or selling topless photos of the royal couple in France or abroad.

The civil court at the Tribunal de Grand Instance in Nanterre, a suburb of Paris, also ordered Closer magazine to hand over all files of the pictures to representatives of the royal couple within 24 hours.

Mondatori Magazines France, the glossy's publisher, faced a 10,000-euro fine for every day's delay and was ordered to pay 2,000 euros in damages., the written injunction stated.

The ruling prevents Closer, which published the pictures on Friday, from reusing them in print or on its website, as well as from selling them to markets where they have not been published. The penalty for sale of the photos was set at 100,000 euros.

Publishing of the photos, taken while the royals were on holiday in Provence on September 5, was also banned “on digital tablets”.
Read the rest here.

Good for them. This was a stunning violation of privacy. The editor and photographer should be jailed.

'Money printing is the work of the Devil'

The head of Germany’s Bundesbank has raised eyebrows across Europe after he appeared to compare Mario Draghi’s bond buying programme with the "devil’s work"

Jens Weidmann said that efforts by central banks to pump money into the economy reminded him of the scene in Faust, when the devil Mephistopheles, “disguised as a fool”, convinces an emperor to issue large amounts of paper money. In Goethe’s classic, the money printing solves the kingdom’s financial problems but the tale ends badly with rampant inflation.
Read the rest here.

Interview With Craig Rowland On The Permanent Portfolio

Sunday, September 16, 2012

US Set To Upgrade Its Nuclear Arsenal At Huge Expense

The U.S. nuclear arsenal, the most powerful but indiscriminate class of weapons ever created, is set to undergo the costliest overhaul in its history, even as the military faces spending cuts to its conventional arms programs at a time of fiscal crisis.

For two decades, U.S. administrations have confronted the decrepit, neglected state of the aging nuclear weapons complex. Yet officials have repeatedly put off sinking huge sums into projects that receive little public recognition, driving up the costs even further.

Now, as the nation struggles to emerge from the worst recession of the postwar era and Congress faces an end-of-year deadline to avoid $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts to the federal budget over 10 years, the Obama administration is overseeing the gargantuan task of modernizing the nuclear arsenal to keep it safe and reliable.

There is no official price tag for the effort to upgrade and maintain the 5,113 warheads in the inventory, to replace old delivery systems and to renovate the aging facilities where nuclear work is performed. A study this summer by the nonpartisan Stimson Center, a Washington think tank, estimated costs would be at least $352 billion over the coming decade to operate and modernize the current arsenal. Others say the figure could be far higher, particularly if the work is delayed even longer.
Read the rest here.

There is no rational reason for keeping that many bombs around. Several studies have been conducted which show that we could get by with less than 1500 nukes. Even a quarter of that number would be enough to effectively wipe out a country the size of Russia. As much as I would like to get rid of the damned things entirely that's not reasonably possible. But we don't need 5000+.

Nuclear weapons are the most useless thing this, or any country has ever spent so much money on. They can't be used... ever. And any sane human being knows this. The only argument in their favor is that they may have prevented another world war because of the  terrifying shadow they cast.

Bernanke on the brink

We are reaching — or may already have passed — the practical limits of “economic stimulus.” Last week, the Federal Reserve adopted an open-ended bond-buying program of $40 billion a month to goad the economy into faster growth. But even before the announcement, there was skepticism that it would do much to lower the unemployment rate, which has exceeded 8 percent for 43 months. The average response of 47 economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal was that a similar program might cut the jobless rate 0.1 percentage point over a year.
Read the rest here.

David Stockman on TARP, Gold, the Fed, Ron Paul and Reagan

150 Years Ago: America's Bloodiest Battle

The charge of the Irish Brigade 

Casualties in "the sunken road"
SHARPSBURG, Md. — A spine of gray limestone runs north and south through the legendary cornfield here, just breaking the surface and leaving a path where no corn can grow.

For a century and a half, the elements have scoured the dirt, and crops have come and gone. But the stone has remained, scarred and smoothed by the plow and the weather.

On the morning of Sept. 17, 1862, the feet of thousands of desperate soldiers hurried across the ancient rock. Some men fell and bled on it. Bullets and shells flew over it. And somewhere nearby toppled the Lone Star flag of the 1st Texas Infantry Regiment.

In this stony cornfield, the doomed 1st Texas lost, along with its flag, 82 percent of its men. Here, the Civil War’s Battle of Antietam exploded in fury, and here, a crucial, bloody step was taken toward the end of slavery in America.

“Of all the days on all the fields where American soldiers have fought, the most terrible by almost any measure” was here at Antietam, historian Stephen W. Sears wrote in his classic 1983 study of the battle.

In the late summer and fall of 1862, as the Civil War moved through its second year, it had reached frightful new levels of violence, which would grow as the war went on.

But the fight along Antietam Creek, 150 years ago this month, would endure as its bloodiest single-day battle, and its horrors would haunt the soldiers who fought there for years.
Read the rest here.

For a more detailed discussion of the actual battle see here.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Limited Posting

The next several days are going to be rather busy so posting will be limited.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

From Prussia With Love

Frederick the Great
WITH its decision yesterday to allow Germany to contribute to European bailout efforts, the country’s Federal Constitutional Court not only handed Chancellor Angela Merkel a big political victory — it also provided further confirmation that this economic powerhouse, a cautious and self-effacing country during the cold war, is assuming a dominant role in a new Europe. And it is doing so in the 300th anniversary year of the birth of Frederick the Great, the Prussian ruler who almost single-handedly forged a powerful new European kingdom.

Indeed, Ms. Merkel is presiding over a transformation every bit as dramatic as that of her royal predecessor, a cultural and political shift in Germany that exemplifies a rebirth of the Prussian values of thrift, independence and incorruptibility that she hopes to export to her neighbors.
Read the rest here.

Statement of President Calvin Coolidge on the Libyan Crisis

After waking up on his own (there would be strict prohibitions against waking him up over things like this), he might have seen that there was a rebellion brewing in Libya and after being hounded by the press he might have made the following statement:

I've never much cared for that Qaddafi fellow.  He was always a bit flashy and thuggish for my taste.  I don't blame the Libyans if they are tired of him.  If they decide that changing their political leadership is something they want to do, then I wish them well.  We had a civil war here and came out of it okay.  I think that every rebellion deserves the opportunity to be left alone and succeed or fail based on the merits of the rebels' grievances, as opposed to the strength of the foreign power that has decided to pick a side in the struggle.  I respect the sovereignty of other governments the same way I expect them to respect the sovereignty of ours.

Clearly there are many nasty and brutish dictators in humanity's history, and they often treated their people downright poorly.  However, I am not nearly wise enough to be able to select which rebellions are: (i) morally correct in their grievances, (ii) weak enough to require the assistance of the U.S. in order to be successful, and (iii) strong enough to be able to stand on their own without further assistance from the U.S. once the tyrant has been toppled.  Since I do not possess this level of knowledge concerning the nature of the countless rebellions that are always unfolding somewhere in the world, and since I do not believe the American people elected me to try out my fortune telling abilities in matters of foreign policy, I am content to leave foreign countries to take care of their own internal affairs and I will busy myself with the internal affairs of the U.S., assuming they do not interfere with my nap times.

We tried to improve upon human nature through government interference and global war under Mr. Wilson's administration, and I do not believe that we saw any improvement at all in human nature as a result of his lavish expenditure of treasure and the the blood of our sons.  I hope you will understand when I say that the business of the U.S. is business, and exorcising the demons in human nature as they manifest themselves in the guise of dictators and thugs in foreign locales is not part of the oath of office I took as President and appears nowhere in my job description under the Constitution.


Good day. [President Coolidge yawns as he leaves the podium]
Shamelessly stolen from here.

Federal Reserve Launches Aggressive Money Printing

http://i.imgur.com/XaiUx.gif
Ben Bernanke brought the monetary bazooka Thursday when the Federal Reserve's policy-making committee announced it was taking action to further dampen interest rates with its third round of quantitative easing. This time, the QE will take the form of purchasing $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities a month until the labor market improves (i.e. indefinitiely).

"If the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially, the committee will continue its purchase of agency mortgage-backed securities, undertake additional asset purchases, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate until such improvement is achieved in a context of price stability," the FOMC statement said.
Read the rest here.

Personal Safety: How to avoid being a victim when outside your normal environment

This is a terrific read with some very deep insights that most of us ignore out of habit.
Customs of Your Tribe
In 'Caesar and Cleopatra' George Bernard Shaw wrote: Pardon him ... he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.

It is ironic that Caesar was speaking about Britannus (a British Celt). We say ironic because:
    A) In modern times the British are considered so civilized.
    B) It is civilized, educated people who most often make    the  mistake of assuming their customs are the laws of nature.

What many people do not realize is that "When in Rome, do as the Romans" works both ways. It is as difficult to shift gears 'downward' as it is upwards -- perhaps more so. Yet you can get in a lot of trouble if you can't do this.
Read it all here.
HT: Pointedstick

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Obama dispatches US Marines to hunt killers

Barack Obama dispatched 50 US marines to Libya to help hunt down the killers of American ambassador Chris Stevens as suspicions grew that the attack was planned and carefully orchestrated.
Read the rest here.

Archaeologists believe they have found skeleton of King Richard III

More than 500 years since he was killed in battle, archaeologists believe they have finally found the skeleton of King Richard III, buried deep beneath a council car park.

Over 500 years since he was killed in battle, archaeologists believe they have finally found the skeleton of King Richard III, buried deep beneath a council car park.

Experts said a fully intact skeleton matched much about what they knew about the medieval king, and are hoping that DNA tests will put their beliefs beyond doubt.
Read the rest here.

US Ambassador And Three Others Killed In Libya

U.S. Ambassador to Libya John Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed Tuesday in an assault on the American consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, the White House said.

In a statement issued by the White House early Wednesday morning, President Obama said he had directed an increase in security at U.S. diplomatic posts around the world. CNN reported that the Defense Department has dispatched two Marine anti-terrorism security teams to Benghazi to reinforce security there.
Read the rest here.

In related news; Gov. Romney condemns Obama's response as "disgraceful."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Germany criticizes US debt levels

(Reuters) - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble questioned on Tuesday how the United States could deal with its high levels of government debt after November's presidential election.

In a speech to the Bundestag lower house of parliament to open a debate on the 2013 German budget, Schaeuble said worries about U.S. debt were a burden for the global economy, hitting back at Washington which has criticized Europe for failing to get a grip on its own debt crisis.

In private, German officials often express concern about U.S. debt levels and the inability of politicians there to reach a consensus on how to reduce it, but Schaeuble's public remarks underscore the extent of the worries in Germany.
Read the rest here.

Many Years!

Many years to Archduke Imre of Austria (Imre Emmanuel Erzherzog von Habsburg-Lorraine) and H.I.H. the Archduchess Kathleen (Walker) who were married according to the traditional Roman Rite in Washington DC on Saturday.

Gott erhalte den Kaiser!
 

Israel Demands US Ultimatum To Iran

JERUSALEM — Signaling a deepening dispute with Washington over issuing ultimatums for Iran’s nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that those who won’t make such demands on Tehran “don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”

In a blistering response to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s statement that the United States is “not setting deadlines” for Iran and that negotiations coupled with sanctions are the best approach, Netanyahu said that if no “red line” is established for Iran, it will continue a program that Israel says is intended to build an atomic bomb.
Read the rest here.

I sometimes wonder, is Israel an American puppet state? Or is the US an Israeli puppet state?

Moody's to cut US credit rating if no budget deal is reached

NEW YORK — The U.S. government’s debt rating could be heading for the “fiscal cliff” along with the federal budget.

Moody’s Investors Service on Tuesday said it would likely cut its “Aaa” rating on U.S. government debt, probably by one notch, if budget negotiations fail.
Read the rest here.

UBS whistleblower gets $104M from IRS (+ 3 years in prison)

The Internal Revenue Service awarded $104 million to a banker-turned-whistleblower who helped the government uncover a massive scheme in which Switzerland’s largest bank helped its American clients dodge taxes.

The award, confirmed by the IRS on Tuesday, was announced by the legal team representing Bradley Birkenfeld. The former UBS banker gave federal investigators an inside account of the bank’s conduct but ended up serving nearly three years in prison after he pleaded guilty in 2008 to helping one of his clients evade taxes.
Read the rest here.

Only in America.

Memory Eternal

Monday, September 10, 2012

Homosexual Couple Sue Catholic Church Over Cancelled House Sale

BOSTON — A gay couple from Massachusetts sued a Roman Catholic diocese Monday for allegedly refusing to sell them a mansion because church officials were concerned they would host gay weddings there.

James Fairbanks, 59, and Alain Beret, 57, filed suit in Worcester Superior Court for loss of civil rights and dignity and for emotional distress.
Read the rest here.

Why Is Central Bank Money Printing Not Working?

Economics 101 says a massive dose of easy money is supposed to be a reliable cure for a sluggish economy. For the first time in decades, the prescription isn’t working, to the rising frustration of central bankers in the U.S. and Europe.

Four years and more than $2 trillion after the Federal Reserve opened the money spigots following the financial collapse of 2008, the U.S. economy remains stuck in the mud.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, in a widely-watched speech last month in Jackson Hole, Wyo., defended the central bank’s past decisions to churn out record-breaking volumes of cash -- a process known as “quantitative easing” -- saying the policy had prevented a much more painful recession. Bernanke also left little doubt that more money may be coming, as early as this week’s regular Fed policy meeting. 
Read the rest here.

US Gun Sales Are Smoking Hot

The gun business is booming. The question is, why?

Smith & Wesson stock was zooming Friday, thanks to a stellar earnings report. The firearms maker also boosted its outlook for the rest of the year. Because of the strong business, its backlog of orders more than doubled from the same quarter last year, the company is concentrating on boosting production and building inventory.

 “We are underserving the market at this moment, we all know that, and that's a great opportunity going forward for us,” CEO James Debney said in a conference call with analysts.
Read the rest here.

It's an election year with a strong chance a Democrat will be reelected as president. That always gets the far right in a frenzy over gun grabbers. Never mind that with the exception of a few really hardcore northeastern liberals, the Democratic Party has long since abandoned gun control as an issue. Not that there is anything wrong with being armed. Just don't let the PR machine for the NRA and the gun manufacturers snow you into buying a gun because next year you won't be able to.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Britain: Conservative MP's demand greater self defense rights

 Tory MPs make fresh demands today for the law to be changed to give clear rights to householders who protect themselves against burglars.

They call on Chris Grayling, the new Justice Secretary, to “raise the bar” against criminals and alter the law on self defence to make it harder for householders to end up in the dock for defending their homes.

The debate was reopened after Andy and Tracey Ferrie spent almost three days last week being questioned on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm after shooting at, and wounding, two men who broke into their remote farmhouse in Leicestershire.

The couple were confronted in their bedroom by masked intruders and used a legally-held shotgun to defend themselves. They were eventually released without charge, having initially been told by police they could be prosecuted and sent to prison.
Read the rest here.

France's richest man seeks Belgian citizenship

The French president, who has admitted to disliking the wealthy, is planning on raising the top tax bracket to75%. Read the story here.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Three states say feds can't 'unmarry' gay couples (state's rights)

Three states where members of the clergy and justices of the peace today marry gay couples argued on Friday that it’s a violation of states’ rights for the federal government to then “unmarry” those people under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In an amicus brief to a New York case involving a lesbian widow, Vermont, Connecticut, and New York argue that the federal government had no right, despite the federal designation of marriage as being between a man and a woman, to demand $350,000 in estate taxes when Edie Windsor’s partner died. That would not have happened under a marital tax deduction that lets other married couples pass their assets to their spouse without penalty.

The three states who filed amicus briefs argue that states regulate marriage and family relationships and that Congress doesn’t have constitutional authority to interfere with that license at any level.
Read the rest here.

I think they are right purely on the legal and constitutional points. This is a tenth amendment issue. No where does the constitution give Congress any power over marriage. Of course the smart thing to do (which by definition means it won't happen) would be for the states to expunge the word "marriage" from the legal code and replace it with "civil union" for everyone. Leave marriage for religious institutions and let the state provide for the regulation of voluntary contractual unions for the purposes of benefits and the like.

Iran Restricts Women's Access To Universities

Female students in Iran have been barred from more than 70 university degree courses in an officially-approved act of sex-discrimination which critics say is aimed at defeating the fight for equal women's rights.

In a move that has prompted a demand for a UN investigation by Iran's most celebrated human rights campaigner, the Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, 36 universities have announced that 77 BA and BSc courses in the coming academic year will be "single gender" and effectively exclusive to men.

It follows years in which Iranian women students have outperformed men, a trend at odds with the traditional male-dominated outlook of the country's religious leaders. Women outnumbered men by three to two in passing this year's university entrance exam.

Senior clerics in Iran's theocratic regime have become concerned about the social side-effects of rising educational standards among women, including declining birth and marriage rates.
Read the rest here.

Islam: Returning the world to the Middle Ages one step at a time.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Vatican Official Complains of Anti-Christian Bigotry in Israel

The Israeli government's failure to respond adequately to Jewish extremist attacks against churches and monasteries is fostering a climate of intolerance towards Christianity in the country, a senior Vatican official in Jerusalem has warned.

Police inaction and an educational culture that encourages Jewish children to treat Christians with "contempt" has made life increasingly "intolerable" for many, Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custodian of the Holy Land, said.

Fr Pizzaballa's intervention, unusually outspoken for a senior Catholic churchman, came after pro-settler extremists attacked a Trappist monastery in the town of Latroun.
Read the rest here.

Interview With Canadian Billionaire Frank Giustra



This is a fascinating interview on a wide range of topics including economics, American politics and philanthropy. I was really impressed and highly recommend it.

Debt forecast: U.S. will look like Greece by 2021

PITTSBURGH (MarketWatch) — The federal debt crossed the $16 trillion mark this week. What’s more remarkable than the number of zeros in that figure is that Washington somehow didn’t see this coming. The Congressional Budget Office is responsible for predicting the budgetary effects of policy changes. Politicians cite CBO figures when telling us what to expect in the future. But it turns out that CBO forecasts, taken out of a very limited context, aren’t very accurate.

Every January, CBO forecasts the U.S. economy for each of the subsequent 10 years. Since 1997, the agency has underestimated the yearly debt in 85 out of 110 tries.. Almost 80% of the time, the CBO produces (and politicians parrot) a ridiculously optimistic picture of the future.
James R. Harrigan

Ten years ago, the CBO predicted that we’d be $7.6 trillion in debt by now. At $16 trillion, the reality is more than twice as bad. Unfortunately, that’s par for the course. Since 1997, the agency’s forecasts of the debt five or more years into the future have been 40% too low on average — even ignoring the 2008-2009 recession.

Currently, the CBO estimates that the federal debt will hit $25 trillion by 2021. But if that forecast is also off by 40%, we’ll actually be facing a federal debt of $35 trillion by then.

What will our country look like with a $35 trillion debt? The CBO has a good track record of predicting gross domestic product, and it predicts 2021’s economy will exceed $24 trillion. That will put our debt at almost 150% of GDP, or about where Greece is today.
Read the rest here.

What do the US Europe and China have in common?

European Central Bank announces unlimited bond buying to support heavily indebted countries.

China launches massive stimulus.

US Federal Reserve seen as likely to launch more stimulus on bad jobs report.

Meanwhile in the land of the sane... gold is trading well over $1700 oz. today and CITI Bank is predicting gold will hit $2500 within the next 6-12 months and possibly top $3000 long term.

Canada breaks diplomatic ties with Iran

TORONTO — Canada shut its embassy in Tehran on Friday, severed diplomatic relations and ordered Iranian diplomats to leave, accusing the Islamic Republic of being the most significant threat to world peace.
Read the rest here.

Prince Harry is back in Afghanistan

CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan — Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, began a four-month combat tour Friday in Afghanistan as a gunner on an Apache attack helicopter, fresh from a vacation that included strip billiards in a Las Vegas hotel.

It was the second tour in Afghanistan for Harry, 27, who will start flying missions within 10 days in the country’s restive Helmand province, the British military said. In 2007-08, he served in Helmand as an air traffic controller.
Read the rest here.

They had to get their little dig in at his personal life. Whatever. He is doing his job and I respect that.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Should a Catholic Read Eastern Orthodox Writings?

Should a Catholic read Eastern Orthodox writings?  In my humble opinion, that really depends. 
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Britain: Christians should 'leave their beliefs at home or get another job'

Christians should leave their religious beliefs at home or accept that a personal expression of faith at work, such as wearing a cross, means they might have to resign and get another job, government lawyers have said...

...James Eadie QC, acting for the government, told the European court that the refusal to allow an NHS nurse and a British Airways worker to visibly wear a crucifix at work “did not prevent either of them practicing religion in private”, which would be protected by human rights law.

He argued that that a Christian, or any other religious believer, “under difficulty” is not discriminated against if the choice of “resigning and moving to a different job” is not blocked.
Read the rest here.