Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sede Vacante

Following an emotional farewell in Rome and his withdrawal to Castel Gandolfo, the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI took effect at 8PM in Italy (2PM Eastern US Time). May God grant him many years in his retirement.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Traveling

No blogging tomorrow.

Major banks aid in payday loans banned by states

 Major banks have quickly become behind-the-scenes allies of Internet-based payday lenders that offer short-term loans with interest rates sometimes exceeding 500 percent.

With 15 states banning payday loans, a growing number of the lenders have set up online operations in more hospitable states or far-flung locales like Belize, Malta and the West Indies to more easily evade statewide caps on interest rates.

While the banks, which include giants like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, do not make the loans, they are a critical link for the lenders, enabling the lenders to withdraw payments automatically from borrowers’ bank accounts, even in states where the loans are banned entirely. In some cases, the banks allow lenders to tap checking accounts even after the customers have begged them to stop the withdrawals.

“Without the assistance of the banks in processing and sending electronic funds, these lenders simply couldn’t operate,” said Josh Zinner, co-director of the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, which works with community groups in New York.
Read the rest here.

Banks are the enemy.

Thinking about a cruise? Caveat emptor...

What does a cruise line owe you when your dream vacation turns into a nightmare? As passengers who were trapped aboard the ill-fated Carnival Triumph for five days earlier this month are going to learn – it’s not very much.

The cruise line has very limited liability even when things go terribly wrong. This is all spelled out in the ticket contract.

“The Carnival passenger contract is standard,” said Steve Danishek, a travel industry analyst based in Seattle. “They protect the cruise lines from all sorts of liability and make it incredibly difficult for a passenger to take any legal action against them.”

Carnival’s ticket contract specifically bans class action lawsuits.

“All disputes other than personal injury, illness or death must go through arbitration and they get to choose the arbitration company,” said Professor Martin Davies, director of the Tulane Maritime Law Center. “That means if your claim is simply, ‘you ruined my vacation,’ then this has to go to arbitration.”
Read the rest here.

Axios!

And many years to newly elected Patriarch Neophyte of Bulgaria.

Raul Castro announces retirement in 2018

HAVANA - Cuban leader Raul Castro announced on Sunday he would step down from power after his second term as president ends in 2018, and the new parliament named a 52-year-old rising star to become his first vice president and most visible successor.

Castro, 81, made the announcement in a nationally broadcast speech shortly after the Cuban National Assembly elected him to a second five-year term in the opening session of the new parliament.

"This will be my last term," Castro said.
Read the rest here.

Pope Benedict Allows Early Conclave

Pope Benedict has changed Catholic Church rules to allow the conclave that will choose his successor to be held earlier if cardinals are ready, the Vatican said Monday.

In a motu proprio – in effect, a personal decree – he introduced modifications to the laws governing the timing of the secret election, which had been due to begin on March 15 or later.

Pope Benedict XVI officially stands down from his role on Feb 28, having resigned earlier this month citing his own failing health.

A conclave – the behind-closed-doors ballot of cardinals – cannot begin within 15 days of the papacy becoming vacant; in this case, March 15.
Read the rest here.

Senior British Cardinal Resigns

LONDON -- Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric has resigned amid allegations of inappropriate behavior made by priests.

The Vatican said Monday that Pope Benedict XVI had formally accepted the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. The Observer newspaper reported Sunday that the Vatican had been notified of allegations of inappropriate behavior stretching back 30 years.

Three priests in Scotland, as well as a former priest, have lodged complaints to the Vatican's ambassador to Britain and demanded O'Brien's immediate resignation, according to the newspaper.
Read the rest here.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Federal Reserve Paper Warns of Possible Monetary Crisis

A new paper for the US Monetary Policy Forum and published by the Fed warns that the institution's capital base could be wiped out "several times" once borrowing costs start to rise in earnest.

A mere whiff of inflation or more likely stagflation would cause a bond market rout, leaving the Fed nursing escalating losses on its $2.9 trillion holdings. This portfolio is rising by $85bn each month under QE3. The longer it goes on, the greater the risk. Exit will become much harder by 2014.

Such losses would lead to a political storm on Capitol Hill and risk a crisis of confidence. The paper -- "Crunch Time: Fiscal Crises and the Role of Monetary Policy" -- is co-written by former Fed governor Frederic Mishkin, Ben Bernanke's former right-hand man.
Read the rest here.

Israel: Ultra-Orthodox Jews fear loss of political power

On a cool winter evening in 2012, a senior delegation of ultra-Orthodox rabbis and politicians — members of Israel’s Ashkenazi religious party, United Torah Judaism, and the Sephardic religious party, Shas — convened in Bnei Brak, a predominantly Haredi city near Tel Aviv. The host was a 98-year-old rabbi, Aharon Shtainman, spiritual leader of the Ashkenazi Haredi stream. The objective was to form an Ashkenazi-Sephardic bloc to prevent the conscription of yeshiva students into the Israel Defense Forces following the expiration of the Tal Law, which currently exempts them from these obligations.

Exiting the meeting, some of the delegates announced that they were willing to go as far as to sacrifice their lives to ensure that Haredi students may continue to study the Torah instead of joining the military.

This extreme rhetoric might sound like an expression of strength and confidence. But it’s not. These ultra-Orthodox parties are, rather, at a point of desperation, concerned about the future of their political power within Israel. Pressure, rather than theology, is the element that has united these vastly different parties in recent months — the result of last January’s general elections for the Knesset, growing public pressure to integrate Haredi men into the military and the labor force, and trends within the Haredi world itself.

The election sent a clear message to Benjamin Netanyahu, insisting that he form a coalition to address the middle class demand for social and economic justice and equality. It’s a task that would become easier without Haredi parties occupying key positions in the coalition and working to secure Haredi financial interests.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lent: The countdown begins

Pre-Lent begins tomorrow. Starting today there is no fasting until Wednesday March 6th. On a related note I observe that for the first time I can remember the feast of St. Patrick is not in the middle of Great Lent falling instead on Forgiveness Sunday (the Sunday of Cheesefare). And due to the extraordinarily late Easter this year, the Apostles Fast will be extremely short for those on the traditional calendar and nonexistent for those on the reformed calendar.

Do you hate flying as much as I do?

Do you long for a more civilized way of getting from point A to point B? If so, this will probably make you sick.
The above is a sailing roster for May and June indicating steamship line,ships and their ports of call as well as sailing dates. It would likely have been posted on a travel board in a hotel or similar venue. The year is not stated but based on the names of ships and other clues I have a high degree of confidence that it is from the spring of 1924. You may have to play around with the right click function on your mouse to see it full sized or try clicking here.

See here for a travel guide (full text with photos) from 1910.

Bob Woodward: The White House is lying about who came up with the sequester

The finger-pointing began during the third presidential debate last fall, on Oct. 22, when President Obama blamed Congress. “The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed,” Obama said. “It is something that Congress has proposed.”

The White House chief of staff at the time, Jack Lew, who had been budget director during the negotiations that set up the sequester in 2011, backed up the president two days later.

“There was an insistence on the part of Republicans in Congress for there to be some automatic trigger,” Lew said while campaigning in Florida. It “was very much rooted in the Republican congressional insistence that there be an automatic measure.”

The president and Lew had this wrong. My extensive reporting for my book “The Price of Politics” shows that the automatic spending cuts were initiated by the White House and were the brainchild of Lew and White House congressional relations chief Rob Nabors — probably the foremost experts on budget issues in the senior ranks of the federal government.
Read the rest here.

I love the way Woodward uses every possible linguistic alternative to avoid saying what he actually means... the Obama administration has been lying through their teeth.

The manufactured crisis of sequester

Even during this desultory economic recovery, one industry thrives — the manufacture of synthetic hysteria. It is, however, inaccurate to accuse the Hysteric in Chief of crying “Wolf!” about spending cuts under the sequester. He is actually crying “Hamster!”

As in: Batten down the hatches — the sequester will cut $85 billion from this year’s $3.6 trillion budget! Or: Head for the storm cellar — spending will be cut 2.3 percent! Or: Washington chain-saw massacre — we must scrape by on 97.7 percent of current spending! Or: Chaos is coming because the sequester will cut a sum $25 billion larger than was just shoveled out the door (supposedly, but not actually) for victims of Hurricane Sandy! Or: Heaven forfend, the sequester will cut 47 percent as much as was spent on the AIG bailout! Or: Famine, pestilence and locusts will come when the sequester causes federal spending over 10 years to plummet from $46 trillion all the way down to $44.8 trillion! Or: Grass will grow in the streets of America’s cities if the domestic agencies whose budgets have increased 17 percent under President Obama must endure a 5 percent cut!
Read the rest here.

Cardinal Mahoney: 'i'm a scapegoat'

Los Angeles' retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, who was rebuked last month for his handling of the sex-abuse crisis, suggests he was "scapegoated" in a blog post ahead of two important dates: his Saturday deposition in a lawsuit alleging that the church hierarchy protected a priest accused of molesting children and his trip to Rome to help pick the next pope.

The high-profile "prince of the church" is at the center of an outcry over several scandal-tainted cardinals being allowed to help choose who will succeed Pope Benedict XVI at next month's conclave at the Vatican.

Ireland's Sean Brady, Belgium's Godfried Danneels and Philadelphia's Justin Rigali have all been pilloried in the Italian press over allegations they failed to protect children from pedophiles -- but it's Mahony who has drawn the most ire.
Read the rest here.

San Bernadino Hires a New Manager

LOS ANGELES - The bankrupt city of San Bernardino has hired a new city manager who, according to court filings, has twice declared personal bankruptcy and was recently ousted from the board of a small community's water company after being sued by shareholders.

The city council voted unanimously on Tuesday night to hire Allen J. Parker, 71, as its city manager on an annual salary of almost $222,000. He replaces an interim city manager who resigned last month because, according to friends, she was exasperated by the city's internal divisions.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Beware fake seafood

When you sit down for a meal at your favorite sushi restaurant, the bite at the end of those chopsticks probably isn’t what you think it is. A new report sheds light on this dirty secret of the food industry: Cheap fish is widely passed off as more expensive varieties, at customers’ expense.

One third of the 1,215 samples collected from grocery stores and restaurants by advocacy group Oceana were actually a different kind of fish than what the seller purported. The group found instances of fake fish across the country, and at all kinds of establishments. Nearly half of the 674 retailers Oceana visited sold mislabeled fish.
Read the rest here.

Not a big seafood guy, but this was disturbing.

'Miracle' providers claim constitutional protection (quackery)

An Ashland couple accused of peddling over the Internet a diluted version of industrial bleach as an elixir for everything from earaches to cancer claims the federal government has no jurisdiction over their operation because it is a private health "association."

Federal prosecutors labeled their claim "misguided."

In federal court filings, defendants Louis Daniel Smith and Karis Delong claim they have constitutional protections to make and sell "Miracle Mineral Supplement" through their online company, Project GreenLife, because their products are offered only to members of a "First Amendment Private Health Care Association."

Smith, 42, and Delong, 38, claim the First and 14th Amendments protect these associations because they are private and not part of the public domain over which agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration have power, so federal health laws don't apply, according to court filings seeking to get their case dismissed.

Project GreenLife shipped Miracle Mineral Supplement and other products only to members of the association, a distinction that frees them from the scrutiny of the FDA, which is mandated to protect public health, Smith and Delong argue.
Read the rest here.

San Francisco: 572 city workers paid more than governor

No fewer than 572 San Francisco city workers and executives made more than Gov. Jerry Brown last year.

More than 1,500 city workers made more than state Attorney General Kamala Harris.

And that's without overtime.

"That's pretty staggering," said Tom Dalzell, head of the California Citizens Compensation Commission, which sets pay for state lawmakers.
Read the rest here.

Paul vows to hold up Brennan’s CIA nomination over drones

Sen. Rand Paul said Thursday that he would “use every procedural option” at his disposal to block the confirmation of White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan to become CIA director if the Obama administration keeps dodging questions about its policy on lethal drone strikes against terrorism suspects, including Americans.

In a letter to Mr. Brennan on Thursday, Mr. Paul, Kentucky Republican, said that Mr. Brennan evaded answering a key question about the administration’s drone policy during a confirmation hearing this month before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

During the hearing, Mr. Brennan was asked whether the Obama administration asserts the authority to carry out such lethal drone strikes on U.S. territory.

In written responses filed with the committee later, Mr. Brennan said the administration “has not carried out” such strikes and “has no intention of doing so.”
Read the rest here.

Just a reminder, summmer is coming


Spain: Children adopted from Morocco must be raised as Muslims

Spain has acceded to the demands of the Islamist government in Morocco by agreeing that Moroccan children adopted by Spanish families must remain culturally and religiously Muslim.

The agreement obliges the Spanish government to establish a "control mechanism" that would enable Moroccan religious authorities to monitor the children until they reach the age of 18 to ensure they have not converted to Christianity.
Read the rest here.
HT: Religion Clause

SSPX: Is time running out?

An interesting post over at Rorate well worth a read on the subject of the SSPX. I don't know what the future holds anymore than anyone else does. But it is exceedingly difficult for me to see the next Pope bending over backwards the way Benedict has to accommodate and reconcile them. As I have said many times, from personal experience, I think the Society is deeply infected with a schismatic mindset which has only hardened over the years. I hope they reconcile with Rome as they could do a lot of good. But I confess that if it happens I will be surprised. And yes, deep down my gut says this may be their last best chance.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Experts: China has hacked most of Washington

Start asking security experts which powerful Washington institutions have been penetrated by Chinese cyberspies, and this is the usual answer: almost all of them.

The list of those hacked in recent years includes law firms, think tanks, news organizations, human rights groups, contractors, congressional offices, embassies and federal agencies.

The information compromised by such intrusions, security experts say, would be enough to map how power is exercised in Washington to a remarkably nuanced degree. The only question, they say, is whether the Chinese have the analytical resources to sort through the massive troves of data they steal every day.
Read the rest here.

South Korea faces quandary over potential human rights probe of North

SEOUL — The United Nations’ human rights chief declared recently that the time had come for a “long overdue” investigation into what she called unparalleled rights abuses in North Korea. The probe, unprecedented in scope, could help establish whether the North’s leaders are committing crimes against humanity.

Navi Pillay’s January proposal has already drawn support from the United States. But the decision has proved sensitive in South Korea, where leaders remain divided over whether to confront the North or try to somehow reduce tensions with it, even after Pyongyang last week detonated an underground nuclear device. 
Read the rest here.

GOP seen as accepting sequestration

WASHINGTON — House Republicans, shrugging off rising pressure from President Obama, are resolutely opposing new tax increases to head off $85 billion in across-the-board spending reductions, all but ensuring the cuts will go into force March 1 and probably remain in place for months, if not longer. 
Read the rest here.

In Reversal, Florida to Take Health Law’s Medicaid Expansion

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida reversed himself on Wednesday and announced that he would expand his state’s Medicaid program to cover the poor, becoming the latest — and, perhaps, most prominent — Republican critic of President Obama’s healthcare law to decide to put it into effect.

It was an about-face for Mr. Scott, a former businessman who entered politics as a critic of Mr. Obama’s health care proposals. Florida was one of the states that sued to try to block the law, and, after the Supreme Court ruled last year that though the law was constitutional, states could choose not to expand their Medicaid programs to cover the poor, Mr. Scott said that Florida would not expand its programs.
Read the rest here.

Memory Eternal

Ten years ago today 100 people died in the Station Night Club Fire. More then 200 were injured, many with 3rd degree burns. An old navy friend of mine lost a cousin in the tragedy.

Gold Is Insurance

Gold is a really religious topic for investors. People either love it or hate it. As part of the Permanent Portfolio we hold gold along with other assets. This gets a lot of people up in arms and I hear comments about gold not being an inflation hedge, is not money, is not useful in a portfolio, serves no purpose, etc. Well, I want to set the record straight on this asset from my own perspective.

Gold is an insurance asset. It’s not perfect (what is?), but when currencies are having a problem people want gold.

It’s interesting because some often describe the use of gold as the mythical ‘long time horizon’, but the actuality is much different. The lifespan of paper currencies is short and brutal in terms of history. Indeed, there are perhaps a small handful of currencies on the planet that even exist in somewhat the same form today as they did even 100 years ago (not to mention their stock and bond markets). Most others have vanished. That’s pretty incredible when you think about it. Go ahead and write down a list of countries and then research them to see if their governments even still exist today as they did 100 years ago (along with their issued currency). You’ll probably be surprised just how short that list is.

The odds of a currency (take your pick whereever you live) having a problem in your particular lifetime is actually quite high if you look at the number that have come and gone even over the last 100 years. And when I say lifetime, I don’t mean your investing lifetime. I mean your actual lifetime of around 70-80 years. A lot happened over the last 80 years and a lot more will happen in the next. I personally don’t feel the last 80 years of U.S. history is likely to repeat into the future. It may be better, or it may be worse, but it won’t be the same and this uncertainty means I want to diversify.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Outrage As Another Adopted Russian Child Dies In the US

MOSCOW — Reports that a 3-year-old adopted Russian child died in Texas last month set off a furor here Tuesday, with Russian officials declaring the boy had been abused, although U.S. authorities say the death is still under investigation.

The child, Max Shatto, was born in northwestern Russia and lived in the same orphanage in the city of Pskov as Chase Harrison, who was adopted by a Northern Virginia couple and died at the age of 21 months after his father left him in a hot car in July 2008.
Read the rest here.

Chinese Army Unit Is Seen as Tied to Hacking Against U.S.

On the outskirts of Shanghai, in a run-down neighborhood dominated by a 12-story white office tower, sits a People’s Liberation Army base for China’s growing corps of cyberwarriors.

The building off Datong Road, surrounded by restaurants, massage parlors and a wine importer, is the headquarters of P.L.A. Unit 61398. A growing body of digital forensic evidence — confirmed by American intelligence officials who say they have tapped into the activity of the army unit for years — leaves little doubt that an overwhelming percentage of the attacks on American corporations, organizations and government agencies originate in and around the white tower.
Read the rest here.

This is very chilling and frankly a bit alarming.  I am a non-interventionist but that does not mean I think we need to lie down for this kind of attack on our sovereignty. Someone needs to put the Chinese on notice that this will not be tolerated any longer and they need to cut it out or risk serious damage to our relations.

To put this in diplo-speak we need to inform them that any more state sponsored cyber attacks will be considered an "unfriendly act." That's a very loaded term in the world of diplomats.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Despite tax hikes California shows signs of life

SAN FRANCISCO — If there’s anyplace in the country where rising tax rates should choke off an economic recovery, it’s California. On top of the federal tax hikes that kicked in last month, the state has just raised income taxes on its wealthiest residents to the highest levels in the nation, a move conservatives warn will drive millionaires and their companies to other states, taking jobs and growth with them.

The increases come as California’s economy continues a remarkable turnaround. A year ago, the state was a mess, with double-digit unemployment, a bottoming-out housing market and scary budget deficits. Now, hiring is up faster than the national average, and the housing market is regaining strength. Even the state budget is back in the black.
Read the rest here.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Marine Corps Commandant Vows No Lowering of Standards For Women In Combat

...Not surprisingly, the idea of women in the infantry draws sharp questions from many active-duty Marines and veterans, who express concerns that standards will be diluted for women.

In an interview, General Amos acknowledged hearing those worries and insisted that the corps would not lower its standards. To guarantee that, he plans to use the course, which Marines consider the gold standard of infantry training, to study the performance of potential female infantry officers and then use that data to develop requirements for enlisted infantry Marines.

In March, two Naval Academy graduates will become the second set of women to enter the course. Over the coming years, General Amos is counting on dozens more female volunteers to provide him with enough information to decide whether women can make it in the infantry. The outcome, he says, is far from certain.

“I think there is absolutely no reason to think our females can’t be tankers, or be amtrackers, or be artillery Marines,” he said, referring to tracked amphibious assault vehicles. “The infantry is different.”

General Amos said that if too few women were able, or willing, to join the infantry, he or his successor might ask the secretary of defense to keep the infantry closed to women. The deadline for that request is January 2016.
Read the rest here.

Some rare sanity on a very touchy subject.

Documents Show a Dysfunctional Vatican

VATICAN CITY — Guests at the going-away party for Carlo Maria Viganò couldn’t understand why the archbishop looked so forlorn. Pope Benedict XVI had appointed Viganò ambassador to the United States, a plum post where he would settle into a stately mansion on Massachusetts Avenue, across the street from the vice president’s residence.

“He went through the ordeal making it very clear he was unhappy with it,” said one former ambassador to the Vatican, who attended the Vatican Gardens ceremony in the late summer of 2011. “And we just couldn’t figure out, us outsiders and non-Italians, what was going on.”

There was no such confusion within Vatican walls. Benedict had installed Viganò to enact a series of reforms within the Vatican. But some of Rome’s highest-ranking cardinals undercut the efforts and hastened Viganò’s exile to the United States.
Read the rest here.

The Second Whiskey Rebellion Has Ended

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After backlash from customers, the producer of Maker’s Mark bourbon is reversing a decision to cut the amount of alcohol in bottles of its famous whiskey.

Rob Samuels, Maker’s Mark’s chief operating officer, said Sunday that it is restoring the alcohol volume of its product to its historic level of 45 percent, or 90 proof. Last week, it said it was lowering the amount to 42 percent, or 84 proof, because of a supply shortage.
Read the rest here.

Bucking Trend; New York's Governor Urges Legalizing Late Term Abortions

ALBANY — Bucking a trend in which states have been seeking to restrict abortion, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is putting the finishing touches on legislation that would guarantee women in New York the right to late-term abortions when their health is in danger or the fetus is not viable.

Mr. Cuomo, seeking to deliver on a promise he made in his recent State of the State address, would rewrite a law that currently allows abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy only if the pregnant woman’s life is at risk. The law is not enforced, because it is superseded by federal court rulings that allow late-term abortions to protect a woman’s health, even if her life is not in jeopardy. But abortion rights advocates say the existence of the more restrictive state law has a chilling effect on some doctors and prompts some women to leave the state for late-term abortions.

Mr. Cuomo’s proposal, which has not yet been made public, would also clarify that licensed health care practitioners, and not only physicians, can perform abortions. It would remove abortion from the state’s penal law and regulate it through the state’s public health law
Read the rest here.

Moral depravity seems to know no bounds.

Too big to fail and too big to jail


I never thought I'd hear myself cheering a liberal senator from Massachusetts. Strange days...

Banks are the enemy.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Israeli Colonists Brace For Obama Visit

...At the heart of the dispute is Israel’s policy of building homes for Jewish settlers building communities built on land that the Palestinians feel is vital to a future state.

“We are a force to be reckoned with,” said Yigal Dilmony, deputy general manager of the Yesha Council which represents 360,000 Jews who have settled in East Jerusalem and the West Bank (what they call Judea and Samaria). “The reality on this territory is that we can’t be ignored.”

Late last year, the Israeli government announced it would speed up the start of construction of around 3,500 homes for settlers, connecting Ma’aleh Adumim to Jerusalem in an area known as E1 on the planners’ maps.

The settlers’ progress appeared unstoppable. But in 2013, the political landscape at home and abroad shifted.

In December, in a rare public show of unity, every member of the United Nations Security Council except the United States condemned the expansion plans. In January, U.N, human rights investigators said Israel must stop settlement expansion and remove all Jewish settlers from the occupied West Bank, saying that its practices could be subject to prosecution as possible war crimes.
Read the rest here.

Friday, February 15, 2013

State of the Union nonsense

In the 12 months we have to steel ourselves for the next State of the Union spectacle, let us count the ways that this spawn of democratic Caesarism — presidency worship — has become grotesque. It would be the most embarrassing ceremony in the nation’s civic liturgy, were the nation still capable of being embarrassed by its puerile faith in presidential magic.

The Constitution laconically requires only that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Nothing requires “from time to time” to be construed as “every damn year.” Informing and recommending need not involve today’s tawdry ritual of wishful thinking by presidents unhinged from political reality and histrionics by their audiences. And must we be annually reminded that all presidents think that everything they want is “necessary and expedient”?

Some of the blame for this yearly night of nonsense goes to Ronald Reagan. Most, however, goes to Woodrow Wilson. Reagan, who loved entertainment, pioneered the regrettable practice of stocking the House gallery with (usually) admirable people. Wilson, who loved himself, had, as professors often do, a theory, which caused him to reverse Thomas Jefferson’s wholesome reticence.
Read the rest here.

Yet another reason for why I cordially detest Woodrow Wilson.
I have seen more rank idiocy spouted by members of the mainstream press/media since the announcement of the Pope's abdication than I can remember at any time in the last ten years. It's like every pundit has decided to take stupid pills all at the same time. Here's a tip for members of the press and media. If you don't know anything about the subject under discussion PLEASE resist the temptation to pontificate on the matter. To paraphrase Lincoln, "it's better to let everyone think you are a fool than to open your mouth (or start typing) and remove all doubt."

Quote of the day...

"It follows that except as such policies may ultimately protect our own security, we have no primary interest as a national policy to improve conditions or material welfare in other parts of the world or to change other forms of government. Certainly we should not engage in war to achieve such purposes. I don't mean to say that, as responsible citizens of the world, we should not gladly extend charity or assistance to those in need. I do not mean to say that we should not align ourselves with the advocates of freedom everywhere. We did this kind of thing for many years, and we were respected as the most disinterested and charitable nation in the world.

But the contribution of supplies to meet extraordinary droughts or famine or refugee problems or other emergencies is very different from a global plan for general free assistance to all mankind on an organized scale as part of our foreign policy. Such a plan, as carried out today, can only be justified on a temporary basis as part of the battle against communism, to prevent communism from taking over more of the world and becoming a still more dangerous threat to our security. It has been undertaken as an emergency measure. Our foreign policy in ordinary times should not be primarily inspired by the motive of raising the standard of living of millions throughout the world, because that is utterly beyond our capacity. I believe it is impossible with American money, or other outside aid to raise in any substantial degree the standard of living of the millions throughout the world who have created their own problems of soil destruction or overpopulation. Fundamentally, I doubt if the standard of living of any people can be successfully raised to any appreciable degree except by their own efforts. We can advise; we can assist, if the initiative and the desire and the energy to improve themselves is present. But our assistance cannot be a principal motive for foreign policy or a justification for going to war."
-Senator Robert A Taft (R-OH)
A Foreign Policy for Americans (1951)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

OK, I'm not Catholic. But I like Fr. Z's take on recent events. I note the late Patriarch Pavle of blessed memory who lived into his 90's. He was old and infirm. In the last years he was confined to a wheelchair and could not travel. Others took over those duties for him. But he was a living saint and the Serbs would not let him go. When he tendered his resignation to the Holy Synod they refused to accept it even though he could no longer perform the public duties of his office or celebrate the liturgy.

Remember the Maine!

On this date in 1898 the USS Maine exploded in Havana Cuba, then a Spanish colony, killing 266 sailors and marines. Americans quickly blamed Spain for the ship's destruction and despite resistance from President McKinley war was declared on April 25th. It is now almost universally accepted that the ship's destruction was accidental.

The Reform of the Orthodox Calendar

An interesting video on the topic can be found here.

For the record the adoption of the Roman Catholic calendar was not heretical. It was however done in a manner (as the video points out) that was grossly uncanonical and deeply injurious to the unity of the Church.

Global Money Printing and the Limits of Currency Manipulation

There’s plenty of money in the world. That’s the good news.

The not so good news: The flood of dollars, euros, yen and pounds pumped into the global economy by major central banks in recent years has yet to pay off in the form of job creation, investment and stronger economic growth.

It has kept banks afloat, let corporations build large cash reserves and restructure debt and, arguably, staved off a worldwide depression. But the ultimate aim — strong and self-sustaining growth in the world’s core industrial economies — remains out of reach, and analysts are wondering whether central banks are at the limits of what they can do to help.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rome Gives Ultimatum to SSPX

Rorate has the details.

Feast of the Great New Martyrs of Russia


February 10 2013 Cathedral of the Dormition in the Kremlin

Quote of the day...

"It is a well-known fact that during a war the State acquires powers that it does not relinquish when hostilities are over. When the enemy is at the city gates — or the illusion that he is coming can be put into people's minds — the tendency is to turn over to the captain all the powers he deems necessary to keep the enemy away. Liberty is downgraded in favor of protection. But, when the enemy is driven away, the State finds reason enough to hold onto its acquired powers. Thus, conscription, which Mr. Roosevelt reintroduced at the beginning of the war, has become the permanent policy of the government; and militarism, which is the opposite of freedom, has been incorporated in our mores. Whether or not this eventuality was in Mr. Roosevelt's mind is not germane; it is inherent in the character of the State. Taxes imposed ostensibly 'for the duration,' have become permanent, the bureaucracy built up during the war has not been dismantled, and interventions in the economy necessary for the prosecution of war are now held to be necessary for the welfare of the people. This, plus the fact that we are now engaged in preparing for World War III, was the net result of our entry into World War II. Whichever side won, the American people were the losers."
-Frank Chodorow
"Out of Step: The Autobiography of an Individualist" (1962)

How Knowing Latin Lead To Journalistic Scoop

Defenders of classical education and lovers of Latin the world over have a new hero in Giovanna Chirri. The reporter for the Italian news service ANSA was one of the few journalists listening to the pope speak in Latin at an “extremely banal” Vatican ceremony Monday when her knowledge of ablatives and accusatives came in handy.

“He kept speaking in Latin,” Chirri said in a video on ANSA’s Web site. “Then he said that he had important news for the future of the church, that he was becoming old.” She said her ears perked up, and “immediately you could understand that he was announcing his resignation.
Read the rest here.

Soccer racism raises concern in Israel

JERUSALEM — With 10 minutes left to play, Dzhabrail Kadiev, a Muslim soccer player from Chechnya, took the field for the first time for Beitar Jerusalem, a local team notorious for fan violence and racism. A chorus of catcalls went up from the stands, quickly drowned out by a welcoming ovation.

Yet every kick of the ball by the newly signed player was met with jeers and whistles, punctuating Sunday night’s tense game that ended in a 2-2 tie with a squad from the Israeli Arab town of Sakhnin.

The signing of two Chechen players by Beitar’s owner, Russian-Israeli oligarch Arcadi Gaydamak, has triggered an outburst of violent protest from the club’s hard-core followers, long opposed to recruitment of Muslim or Arab players to the team.
Read the rest here.

Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Today is Ash Wednesday on the Western Church calendar. A blessed fast to all concerned.

Bring Out The Clowns

There is something entirely appropriate about holding the State of the Union address on the same day as Mardi Gras.

One is a display of wretched excess, when giddy and rowdy participants give in to reckless and irresponsible behavior.

The other is a street festival in New Orleans.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

North Korea Sets Off Nuke

SEOUL — North Korea on Tuesday conducted an underground explosion of what it called a “miniaturized” nuclear weapon, testing a technology that could theoretically be paired with a long-range missile to threaten the United States.

Pyongyang confirmed the test nearly three hours after unusual seismic activity was detected near the secretive police state’s mountainous test site. The test follows weeks of threats from the North to build up its nuclear capacity and carry out an “all-out action of high intensity.”
Read the rest here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The next Pope...

Lots of speculation out there. Let me throw out a name I haven't read yet... Antonio Cardinal Cañizares.
From here.

Obama awards Medal of Honor to hero of Afghan battle

President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor on Monday to a former Army staff sergeant for his courageous actions in defending a remote combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan from a 2009 insurgent attack that left eight other Americans dead and 22 wounded.

Clinton L. Romesha, a section leader in a unit of the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division during the Oct. 3, 2009, attack on Combat Outpost Keating in the Kamdesh District of Nurestan province, became the fourth living recipient to be awarded the nation’s highest military honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. He was wounded by shrapnel during the fierce 12-hour battle, in which he was credited with saving the lives of fellow soldiers pinned down by heavy fire from Afghan insurgents belonging to or allied with the Taliban.
Read the rest here.

Pope Benedict XVI To Abdicate

VATICAN CITY — Citing advanced years and infirmity, but showing characteristic tough-mindedness and unpredictability, Pope Benedict XVI shocked Roman Catholics on Monday by saying that he would resign on Feb. 28, becoming the first pope to do so in six centuries.

Speaking in Latin to a small gathering of cardinals at the Vatican on Monday morning, Benedict said that after examining his conscience “before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of leading the world’s one billion Roman Catholics.
Read the rest here.

On a personal note I am deeply saddened by this news. Both from the perspective of a former Catholic and currently Orthodox Christian I think H.H. Benedict XVI was the best thing to hit Rome in a very long time. I fear for the future of the Roman Church where the election of a new Pope can have far greater consequences than a change in primates in one of the Orthodox churches. Even so I wish him well in whatever retirement awaits him.

Many years!

Hooray!

I finally got internet hooked up today!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book Review

Just finished Tim Blanning's "The Pursuit of Glory," a history of Europe from the Peace of Westphalia (1648) to the end of the wars of the French Revolution (1815). It was a highly readable and insightful work that covered almost all aspects of the period from the state of the  roads (dreadful) to the development of commerce (impressive), to medical technology (don't ask), to geo-politics and war. Among the more interesting things I learned about were the effects of agriculture and famine on major events like the French Revolution and the better part of a chapter dedicated to 18th century vice.

The love of blood sports was also a bit of an eye opener. Anyone from PETA should skip the chapter on hunting. I am no animal rights fanatic but some of their "entertainments" made me cringe. For lovers of the good old days you will enjoy the chapter on the wave of palace building that swept Europe during the golden age of the ancien regime.

The detail including astonishing levels of data and charts on the most obscure topics like the number of miles of canals built in Holland in the closing decade of the 17th century, lends incredible weight to his conclusions. And those are?

Read the book.

Lent

Five weeks and counting. For those starting this week however I wish you a blessed fast.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Moscow Patriarchate: progress in relations with Catholics, increased distances with Protestants

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Relations between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Church in recent years are experiencing a " positive trend," due to the "clear recognition of the need to join forces in defence of traditional Christian values ​​and counter some threats of modernity, such as the 'aggressive secularism which threatens the moral basis of social and private life, the crisis of family values ​​and the persecution and discrimination of Christians in the world".  This overview of inter-Christian dialogue, and in particular with the Catholic Church, was given by the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, as he opened the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church on February 2nd.

In his speech, published on the Patriarchate website, Kirill recalled some of the events in ecumenical dialogue with Catholics. Among these, the work of the the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, that aims to outline "a common position on a number of topical issues including family, church and state relations, the moral and spiritual reasons for the economic crisis. "
Read the rest here.

Should Richard III Be (re)Buried As A Catholic?

You thought there couldn’t be a law and religion angle to today’s news—fascinating for us history nerds—that archaeologists have discovered the mortal remains of Richard III beneath a parking lot in Leicester? Think again. Plans are underway to re-inter the bones in the city’s Anglican Cathedral. Not so fast, say some: the hunchback king wasn’t a Protestant, but a Catholic, and he requires a Catholic burial. In fact, as Shakespeare fans know, Richard died at Bosworth Field (“A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”), defending his throne from Henry Tudor. Henry went on to reign as Henry VII; his son, Henry VIII, broke with Rome. As The Tablet’s blog argued this morning, “Had Richard prevailed at the Battle of Bosworth Field, there would have been no Henry VII, therefore no Henry VIII and no Reformation. England today might still be a Catholic country.” Think of it: no Reformation, no Established Church, no Archbishop Laud, no Puritans, no Great Migration — no Massachusetts! — and no Establishment Clause. Surely there’s a law review article in there somewhere.

Leicester Cathedral seems to know it’s facing a sensitive situation. A Catholic priest is keeping watch over Richard’s remains (as is an Anglican, I believe), and the cathedral is planning a “multifaith” burial ceremony. Personally, I’m not sure why English Catholics are so keen to claim Richard, anyway. They must be forgetting the nephews in the Tower.
From here.

His claim to the throne was weak given that he was almost certainly a bastard and of course a regicide probably twice over. That said he wasn't excommunicated and he certainly wasn't a Protestant. I think the argument for a Roman Catholic funeral is pretty compelling.

Southern California Tense As Cops Hunt Rogue Killer

A massive manhunt was under way Thursday for an ex-LAPD cop suspected of murdering at least two people and seeking to kill many others including police officers and their families on a vengeful rampage.

Christopher Dorner — who posted what appeared to be his plan in a chilling online manifesto — was playing a deadly game of cat-and-mouse that had California cities from Los Angeles to San Diego on high alert, while officers guarded the homes of at least 40 people who could be on his hit list.

At an emotional press conference, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck cataloged the bloody trail that began Sunday with a double murder and continued Thursday — leaving one cop dead, two more wounded and two civilians shot by officers in a case of mistaken identity.
Read the rest here.

Northeast Braces for Blizzard

A crippling and potentially historic winter storm barreled toward the Northeast on Thursday, threatening tens of millions of people with 2 feet of snow. Boston canceled school and braced for one of its worst blizzards of all time.

Airlines encouraged fliers to change their plans and get out of the way. There were already delays of more than two hours at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, where tangles can snarl air traffic across the country, and hundreds of flights were canceled.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Argentina Freezes Food Prices In Effort To Stem Runaway Inflation

Oh Argentina…the poster-child for incompetent and corrupt government in handling of financial affairs. They just announced they are freezing food prices to “control” inflation. Of course the official inflation rate is reported around 10%, but unofficially it is around 30%:
 Read the rest here.

Preview of coming attractions...

'Judge, jury and executioner': Legal experts fear implications of White House drone memo

Legal experts expressed grave reservations Tuesday about an Obama administration memo concluding that the United States can order the killing of American citizens believed to be affiliated with al-Qaida — with one saying the White House was acting as “judge, jury and executioner.”

The experts said that the memo, first obtained by NBC News, threatened constitutional rights and dangerously expanded the definition of national self-defense and of what constitutes an imminent attack.
Read the rest here.

Obama should be impeached and put on trial for murder.

NBC:Justice Department memo reveals case for assassination of Americans

A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” -- even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.

The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the  September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes. 
Read the rest here.

Saturday, February 02, 2013


Why Islamists are intent on destroying cultural artifacts

LONDON -- They have destroyed the iconic Buddhas of Bamiyan, smashed down the fabled “end of the world” gate in the ancient city of Timbuktu and even called for the destruction of Egypt’s ancient pyramids and the Sphinx.

Extreme Islamist movements across the world have developed a reputation for the destruction of historic artifacts, monuments and buildings.

This week, officials confirmed that up to 2,000 manuscripts at Mali's Ahmed Baba Institute had been destroyed or looted during a 10-month occupation of Timbuktu by Islamist fighters. Some experts have compared the texts to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

To many in the West, such actions are simply wanton vandalism. However, experts say the thinking behind it is actually part of a wider tradition of rooting out idol-worship and superstition found in Christianity and Judaism as well as Islam.
Read the rest here.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Obama signals partial retreat on birth control mandate

The Obama administration proposed broader latitude Friday for religious nonprofits that object to the mandated coverage of contraceptives, one that will allow large faith-based hospitals and universities to issue plans that do not directly provide birth control coverage.

Their employees would instead receive a stand-alone, private insurance policy that would provide contraceptive coverage at no cost.

The new proposal aims to find middle ground between faith-based nonprofits that have a religious opposition to contraceptives and women’s health advocates who vociferously supported the required coverage of birth control without co-payment.

It could also breathe new life into lawsuits filed against the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive requirement, some of which were put on hold until the Obama administration clarified its policy on the issue.
Read the rest here.

RIP: Barney (First Pet)

President George W. Bush’s dog Barney has died of lymphoma at the age of 12, the former president said in a statement Friday.“Barney was by my side during our eight years in the White House,” Bush wrote. “He never discussed politics and was always a faithful friend. Laura and I will miss our pal.”
Read the rest here.

"If you want a friend in Washington who will never betray you, get a dog."

-Harry Truman

RIP: Ed Koch a New York Political Icon

Edward I. Koch, the master showman of City Hall, who parlayed shrewd political instincts and plenty of chutzpah into three tumultuous terms as New York’s mayor with all the tenacity, zest and combativeness that personified his city of golden dreams, died Friday. He was 88. 
Read the rest here.

Documents Show Cardinal Mahoney Concealed Sex Abuse

LOS ANGELES — The release of 12,000 internal personnel documents late on Thursday by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles came after six years of resistance to a settlement reached in 2007 with more than 500 victims of abuse.

The documents reveal how Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, now retired, and other church leaders kept priests accused of sexually abusing young people in ministry and failed to report them to the authorities.

To signal action, the church packaged the document release along with an announcement that Cardinal Mahony had been disciplined by his successor, Archbishop José H. Gomez, who has been in office less than two years. Archbishop Gomez released a statement saying that Cardinal Mahony will “no longer have any administrative or public duties.”

The censure amounts to a dramatic public repudiation of a cardinal who dominated Catholic life in Los Angeles for more than two decades, but may have little import other than to bolster the church’s public relations, according to church experts. The retired Cardinal Mahony has now been restrained from speaking in public, but he retains his priestly authorities and may still celebrate Mass.
Read the rest here.