Thursday, May 30, 2013

Memo to the NY Yankees

Fr. Anthony Bondi: The Secret to Preserving Anglicanism (Western Rite Orthodoxy)

It was suggested to me that I give a bit of history from the writings of Metropolitan Hilarion of the External Affairs Department of the Moscow Patriarchate, then focus on the Continuum, and finally to open the floor to any of the questions you may have, keeping in mind that having established the Western Rite Vicariate in The Russian Church Outside Russia, we are still growing into our identity.

The first difficulties in relation to the Church of England emerged in 1992 when its General Synod agreed to ordain women to the priesthood. The Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church came out with an official statement expressing regret and concern over this decision as contradicting the tradition of the Early Church. One might ask why our Church should have concerned itself at all with this matter?

By the early 90s the Protestant world had already ordained many women pastors and even women bishops. But the unique point here was that the Anglican Community had long sought rapprochement with the Orthodox Church. Many Orthodox Christians recognized the existence of apostolic continuity in Anglicanism.

From the 19th century, Anglican members of the Association of Eastern Churches sought 'mutual recognition' with the Orthodox Church and its members believed that 'both Churches preserved the apostolic continuity and true faith in the Saviour and should accept each other in the full communion of prayers and sacraments'. Much has changed since.
Read the rest here.
HT: Fr. Anthony Chadwick

Sorry folks, there's still no such thing as mermaids

Meanwhile the Animal Planet Network is laughing all the way to the ratings bank with their recent hoax (they are calling it  "docufiction"). But lots of people, including a friend of mine, were taken in by its realism and lack of disclaimer.

Why We Can't Be Sweden

Daron Acemoglu, an eminent economist at M.I.T., has ignited a firestorm by arguing that contemporary forces of globalization bar the United States from adopting the liberal social welfare policies of Scandinavian countries.

“We cannot all be like the Nordics,” Acemoglu declares, in a 2012 paper, “Choosing Your Own Capitalism in a Globalized World,” written with his colleagues James A. Robinson, a professor of government at Harvard, and Thierry Verdier, scientific director of the Paris School of Economics.

If the “cutthroat leader” – the United States — were to switch to “cuddly capitalism, this would reduce the growth rate of the entire world economy,” the authors argue, by slowing the pace of innovation.

Acemoglu, Robinson and Verdier put their argument technically, but there is no mistaking the implications:
A longish but interesting article. Read the rest here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Quote of the day...

"It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
- C.S. Lewis

HT: Rocketdog

Trouble in the SSPX?

I am not sure what to make of this. Damian Thompson is a well respected columnist who does have a clue about matters Catholic. But the source he is citing strikes me as questionable. Don't get me wrong, I have long held the view that Williamson is several fries short of a Happy Meal. But I seriously doubt that this watchdog group that supposedly keeps an eye on the lunatic right has a serious grasp of Catholic ecclesiology or the internal politics within the SSPX. Absent some more details, my guess is that this may just be a plot to set up yet another schismatic splinter group. And while Williamson is without a shadow of a doubt an anti-Semitic Holocaust denier who attracts others of a similar ilk, I think they are overstating his influence. Yes there is a nasty undercurrent within the society but it is not as open as Williamson and his crowd.

Ultimately I agree with Thompson's conclusions. The SSPX had their chance but that ship has now sailed. Their mentality (though they heatedly deny it) is basically that they are the Church and Rome needs to run up the white flag. They have been on their own for too long. I doubt they will ever reconcile with Rome. And their baggage is such that the Holy See would be better off just ignoring them.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Why The World Does Not Suck

If you are as tired as I am of all the gloom doom war crime disaster and political backbiting in the news this should put a smile on your face.  As happy as I am about the decline of slavery I will concede that # 18 is the one for which I am perhaps most grateful.

Why the world does not suck in 31 charts.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Chinese Hackers Steal Secret Plane and Weapons Designs

Designs for many of the nation’s most sensitive advanced weapons systems have been compromised by Chinese hackers, according to a report prepared for the Pentagon and to officials from government and the defense industry.

Among more than two dozen major weapons systems whose designs were breached were programs critical to U.S. missile defenses and combat aircraft and ships, according to a previously undisclosed section of a confidential report prepared by the Defense Science Board for Pentagon leaders.
Read the rest here.

This is outrageous and a very serious threat to national security. I would prefer to be left alone and at peace with the world, but if China is determined to continue these provocations and aggressive assaults on our security we need to respond. The US Ambassador to Beijing should be recalled and our national defenses need to be reoriented to treat China as the principal danger to our country.

Memory Eternal

Old men declare war, but it is the young who must fight and die.
-Herbert Hoover

Next to a battle lost, the saddest thing is a battle won.
-Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Anglicans and Women Bishops: The voting will continue until the correct result is obtained

Senior bishops have raised the prospect of asking the Queen to dissolve the Church of England’s ‘Parliament’, the General Synod, if it continues to oppose the creation of women bishops.

The unprecedented proposal was made in a confidential meeting chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury last week and reflects Church leaders’ frustration with the Synod for narrowly defeating legislation in November to allow women priests to become bishops.

The House of Bishops unveiled fresh plans on Friday to push through the historic reforms within two years and is preparing for a battle with traditionalists.
Read the rest here.

The Last Inspection

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. — The soldier bent to his work, careful as a diamond cutter. He carried no weapon or rucksack, just a small plastic ruler, which he used to align a name plate, just so, atop the breast pocket of an Army dress blue jacket, size 39R.

“Blanchard,” the plate read.

Capt. Aaron R. Blanchard, a 32-year-old Army pilot, had been in Afghanistan for only a few days when an enemy rocket killed him and another soldier last month as they dashed toward their helicopter. Now he was heading home.

But before he left the mortuary here, he would need to be properly dressed. And so Staff Sgt. Miguel Deynes labored meticulously, almost lovingly, over every crease and fold, every ribbon and badge, of the dress uniform that would clothe Captain Blanchard in his final resting place.

“It’s more than an honor,” Sergeant Deynes said. “It’s a blessing to dress that soldier for the last time.”

About 6,700 American service members have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and almost every one of their remains have come through the Dover Port Mortuary. Yet only since 2009 have journalists been allowed to photograph coffins returning from the war zones, the most solemn of rites at this air base. The intimate details of the process have been kept from public view.

But recently the Air Force, which oversees the mortuary, allowed a reporter and a photographer to observe the assembling of dress uniforms for those who have died. A small slice of the process, to be sure, but enough to appreciate the careful ritual that attends the war dead of the United States military.
Read the rest here.

California Debates How to Blow a Windfall

LOS ANGELES — After years of grueling battles over state budget deficits and spending cuts, California has a new challenge on its hands: too much money. An unexpected surplus is fueling an argument over how the state should respond to its turn of good fortune.

The amount is a matter of debate, but by any measure significant: between $1.2 billion, projected by Gov. Jerry Brown, and $4.4 billion, the estimate of the Legislature’s independent financial analyst. The surplus comes barely three years after the state was facing a deficit of close to $60 billion.

At first glance, the situation should be welcome news in a state overwhelmingly controlled by Democrats, who have spent much of their time slashing programs they support. After last November’s elections, the party has two-thirds majorities in the Assembly and the Senate, relegating Republicans almost completely to the sidelines.

Instead, the surplus has set off a debate about the durability of new revenues, and whether the money should be used to reverse some of the spending cuts or set aside to guard against the inevitable next economic downturn.
Read the rest here.

California is a one party state (always a bad thing). I will be astonished if they don't blow the money like the man with several maxed credit cards who suddenly gets a bonus from work.

Former Senator Bob Dole Sharply Criticizes Modern GOP

The current GOP ought to be “closed for repairs” because it lacks a vision and is unable to strike deals with Democrats, Dole said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday”.

...Asked whether he would be welcomed by the Republican Party today, Dole said, “I doubt it. Reagan wouldn’t have made it, certainly Nixon wouldn’t have made it, because he had ideas. We might have made it, but I doubt it.”
Read the rest here.

Jim Rickards: We are in a depression, and its not over

The whole video is interesting but the relevant part starts at around 12 minutes.

HT: Reub from the Permanent Portfolio Forum.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Britain: The Lords Stand Against Populist Tyranny

Lords from all main political parties will unite next week in a last-ditch attempt to block the Government’s introduction of gay marriage.

Peers expect the Upper’s House debate over same sex weddings will go through the night or even into a second day, with a key vote that could scupper the policy regarded as “too close to call”.

The former head of the British army Lord Dannatt and Lord Lothian, a former Conservative Party chairman better known as Michael Ancram, are amongst those set to criticise the draft legislation in next Monday’s session.

Other opponents will include Lord Waddington, a former Home Secretary, Lord Luce, who served as a minister in Baroness Thatcher’s government, and Lord Singh of Wimbledon, a respected figure in the Sikh community.

The Sunday Telegraph has also established that the senior Tory Baroness Warsi, a practising Muslim, refused to lead the bill through the House of Lords when asked to do so by David Cameron, the Prime Minister.

Some peers believe dozens [of] Lords who rarely attend Parliament will flock to Westminster to make their position on homosexual marriage clear.
Read the rest here.

One wonders, is this the last gasp of the House of Lords? This latest and most vulgar expression of populist tyranny is the best argument in years for why we need an unelected component in government that can say "No, you can't have this because it's a bad idea" to the people. Thank God for the Peerage and confusion to all forms of damnable Whiggery!

Fr. Z Again: Contrasting Orthodox and Really Bad Catholic Liturgy

Fr. Z has posted a youtube video that ostensibly compares the modern Roman Rite with the Orthodox Byzantine liturgy. The video contrasts clips from the services for Great and Holy Friday in Christ the Savior Cathedral with clips from a "pontifical" Mass from the Archdiocese of LA.  It goes without saying that the video was intended as a polemical shot at the Romans. My guess is that Fr. Z saw it as reinforcing his longstanding crusade to restore dignity to the Western liturgy.

As for the video itself, it is grossly biased. On "our side" the producer shows one of the most solemn services of the year being done by the Patriarch of Moscow. And let's be frank here. Say what you will about the Russians, but they do know how to do liturgy right. For "their side" he chooses a liturgy in probably the worst run and most liberal diocese in North America. Not surprising the comments on Fr. Z's post reflect sadness and indignation at everything from the fact that such a liturgical travesty was possible in the Roman Church, to the obviously cherry picked scenes chosen for contrast.

I give it an A for propaganda and polemics. and an A+ for tragic comedy. But for fairness and accuracy it gets a C-. It would have been far better to contrast a typical OCA parish liturgy with a typical Novus Ordo Mass. Of course even that sort of comparison would likely have been jarring for many Catholics. The sad truth is that the once great Western Liturgical Tradition has been battered in the wake of Vatican II. That's not hyperbole or a polemical attack. It is simply an observation of fact. And to the extent that Fr. Z has posted this silly video to drive home the point, I can't argue with him.

I also note from one of the comments that apparently there is a companion video of the same sort which may be seen here.

Concelebrated Patriarchal Liturgy

His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Assumption Moscow Kremlin on the Feast of Sts. Kyrill and Methodius Enlighteners of the Slavs.

Friday, May 24, 2013

California Unveils Obamacare Insurance Rates

Amid anxiety over rising costs from the federal healthcare law, California received better-than-expected insurance rates for a new state-run marketplace, but many consumers still won't be spared from sharply higher premiums.

Three years after President Obama's landmark law was passed, the state unveiled the first details Thursday on what many Californians can expect to pay for coverage from 13 health plans offering policies in the state's exchange, in which as many as 5 million people will shop for coverage next year.

Developments in California are being watched carefully around the country as an important indicator of whether the healthcare law can deliver on its promise to expand health coverage at an affordable price. Many Republicans, insurance executives and other critics of the law have been warning that consumers are in for a shock next year when insurance companies raise rates to comply with the law's many new requirements.

Supporters were upbeat after an initial look at the proposed premiums, while critics remain unimpressed.

"These rates are way below the worst-case gloom-and-doom scenarios we have heard," said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state agency implementing the healthcare law. "But let's be clear, some consumers will have prices that go up. There may be some sticker shock."
Read the rest here.

Sweden: Muslim Immigrants Engage in 5th Night of Rioting

The trigger was the shooting dead by police of an elderly man wielding a knife. But the riots convulsing Stockholm suburbs such as Husby and Rigby-Kista have been a long time in building.

As in France — which is periodically affected by similar outbreaks — many of the rioters are young and unemployed, members of an urban underclass that feels abandoned by the modern state.

More importantly, they are also mainly immigrants. The statistics explain the problem: although people born abroad or to immigrant parents make up only about 15% of the Swedish population, unemployment in immigrant neighbourhoods of Stockholm is much higher than that elsewhere in the city.
Read the rest here.

China Takes A Hard Line With North Korea

BEIJING — The Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, bluntly told a North Korean envoy Friday that his country should return to diplomatic talks designed to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons, according to a state-run Chinese news agency.

“The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and lasting peace on the peninsula is what the people want and also the trend of the times,” Mr. Xi said in a meeting at the Great Hall of the People with Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, a personal envoy of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, the China News Service reported.

Vice Marshal Choe, who has been in Beijing for three days on a mission to repair the prickly relationship between North Korea and China, handed Mr. Xi a letter from Mr. Kim. The contents were not disclosed.

In telling the North it should return to the negotiating table, Mr. Xi appeared to strike a stern tone, saying, “The Chinese position is very clear: no matter how the situation changes, relevant parties should all adhere to the goal of denuclearization of the peninsula, persist in safeguarding its peace and stability, and stick to solving problems through dialogue and consultation.”
Read the rest here.

One of the Great Socio-Political Philosophers You Never Heard Of

A belated Happy 100th Birthday to Nicolás Gómez Dávila (May 18th). And a particular thank you to Mr. Baltzersen of Wilson Unplugged for bringing him to my attention. The short Wiki article alone was enough to warm my reactionary heart. My "must read" list just got a lot longer.

Scenes From Patriarch Kyril's Recent Trip to China

Liturgy on 14 May 2013 in Holy Virgin Protection Church in Harbin

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The End of the Perpetual War

Every few years the NY Times screws up and they publish an editorial that I actually agree with, at least in part. To whit...
President Obama’s speech on Thursday was the most important statement on counterterrorism policy since the 2001 attacks, a momentous turning point in post-9/11 America. For the first time, a president stated clearly and unequivocally that the state of perpetual warfare that began nearly 12 years ago is unsustainable for a democracy and must come to an end in the not-too-distant future.

“Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue,” Mr. Obama said in the speech at the National Defense University. “But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. It’s what our democracy demands.”

As frustratingly late as it was — much of what Mr. Obama said should have been said years ago — there is no underestimating the importance of that statement. Mr. Obama and his predecessor, President George W. Bush, used the state of war that began with the authorization to invade Afghanistan and go after Al Qaeda and others who planned the Sept. 11 attacks to justify extraordinary acts like indefinite detention without charges and the targeted killing of terrorist suspects.

While there are some, particularly the more hawkish Congressional Republicans, who say this war should essentially last forever, Mr. Obama told the world that the United States must return to a state in which counterterrorism is handled, as it always was before 2001, primarily by law enforcement and the intelligence agencies. That shift is essential to preserving the democratic system and rule of law for which the United States is fighting, and for repairing its badly damaged global image.
Read the rest here.

Yeah, there are some points where I disagree. But broadly speaking they are, astonishingly, right.

Britain's Tory Prime Minister Faces Party Revolt

LONDON — First, a prominent Tory called the party’s rank and file “swivel-eyed loons.” Then the populist politician Nigel Farage called Prime Minister David Cameron and his Tory-led government “a bunch of college kids.” Then The Daily Mail called Mr. Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, a “pint-guzzling eccentric.”

At the heart of all this competitive insulting in the halls of Westminster this week was something deadly serious: a battle over the future of the fractured, fractious Conservative Party and its leader, the increasingly fragile prime minister. 
Read the rest here.

Obama Suggests It's Time to Wind Down the Wars

“Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue,” Mr. Obama said. “But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.” 
Read the rest here.

If this actually amounts to more than political rhetoric he will have my enthusiastic support.

Holder OK'd search warrant for Fox News reporter's private emails

Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “possible co-conspirator” in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails, a law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday.

The disclosure of the attorney general’s role came as President Barack Obama, in a major speech on his counterterrorism policy, said Holder had agreed to review Justice Department guidelines governing investigations that involve journalists.
Read the rest here.

Thank You Fr. Z

Fr Z has posted a reply to the question...
we will be on a Greek island without a Catholic church on a Sunday:
can we attend the Greek mass and/or receive the Sacrament?
His response to a touchy subject is both accurate and charitably worded.  Some of the comments are worth a glance as well.

In a nutshell, while visitors are (almost) always welcome we do not commune those who are not members in good standing of the Orthodox Church. This is not done out of snobbery or triumphalism but rather out of concern first for the spiritual welfare of the communicant (and the priest). And secondly out of regard for communion being a sign of full agreement on all substantive points of doctrine and faith. Such, sadly does not exist with the Roman Catholic Church. And while Catholics are permitted in certain situations by their church's law to commune in non-Catholic church's, provided that they have "valid" sacraments, this policy is not reciprocated in our Church. Nor may an Orthodox Christian commune in a Catholic church.

Quote of the day...

I am not sure what else is to be expected when the West invades barbarian lands and then invites the barbarians here. Cameron is a pathetic sissy calling this "terror-related." No, Prime Minister, it's far worse than anything you and the rest of the Cathedral's blank slate adherents can imagine. It's just the sort of thing that barbaric primitives in thrall to a hostile creed are going to do when placed in an unarmed, passive society. The immigrants are what they are; they do not belong and never should have been invited. If there's to be outrage, it should be directed to the people who dream up these awful social engineering schemes.
-The Anti-Gnostic

I have generally disagreed with AG's hardnosed anti-immigration stance. And for the most part I still do. But I think I am coming around to his POV at least with regards Islamic immigration. There is a lot of evidence that Muslims just don't assimilate well and that their cultural and moral compass is incompatible with that of Western Civilization.

See also these related articles...

The Manhood of the West

Cameron: Attack Not Representative of Islam; Al-Shabaab: Yes It Is

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Obama's Lawlessness

Early in an opinion issued recently by a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Judge A. Raymond Randolphsaid: “Although the parties have not raised it, one issue needs to be resolved before we turn to the merits of the case.” The issue he raised but could not resolve — that is up to the Supreme Court — illuminates the Obama administration’s George Wallace-like lawlessness. It also demonstrates the judiciary’s duty to restrain presidents who forget the oath they swear to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” 
Read the rest here.


It is with sadness that I note the retirement of two bloggers long linked in the sidebar of A/O. First Shawn Tribe of the NLM has announced he will soon be passing the baton to new management. His blog has been simply one of the best Roman Catholic blogs on matters liturgical. And secondly I read today that J.Sanidopoulos of Mystagogy is also looking to pursue other interests. I am very grateful for their years of tireless contributions to good blogging and wish them both the best in their future endeavors.

Polls Show Scandals Hurting The President

The spin that the American people aren’t interested in Benghazi or that it’s only Republicans who think something is fishy isn’t faring too well in a plethora of other polls.

The GOP figures on all these are off the charts (vs. the administration). But independents are much more like GOP voters than Dems. In some cases, they view the president more harshly.

The newest Post/ABC poll finds: “Last year’s deadly attack on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, is shaping up as a real political problem for President Obama, with concern extending well beyond the conservative base. More than half of Americans say his administration is trying to cover up the facts of the attack.” Asked if the White House is engaged in a cover-up, 56 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of independents say yes.
Read the rest here.

Britain: Soldier Decapitated by Men Shouting Allahu Akbar

(Reuters) - A British soldier was hacked to death by two men shouting Islamic slogans in a south London street on Wednesday, in what the government said appeared to be a terrorist attack.

Video footage filmed by an onlooker just minutes after the killing showed an angry man with hands covered in blood, holding a bloodied meat cleaver and a knife.

"You people will never be safe. Remove your government. They don't care about you," the man, a black man in his 20s or 30s wearing trainers and jeans and speaking with a local accent, said in the footage obtained by Britain's ITV news channel.

"I apologize that women had to witness that, but in our lands our women have to see the same thing," the man said.
Read the rest here.

Clearly it's a frame job. The religion of peace would never condone such a thing. My money is on the Amish Mafia.

Calls for Attacks on Christians Emanate From Mosque Loudspeakers in Pakistan Villages

LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A Muslim political candidate suspected of murdering a Christian has instigated calls from mosque loudspeakers for attacks on Christians, whom he blames for his May 11 election loss.

Tensions were high in Punjab Province’s Okara district after provincial assembly seat candidate Mehr Abdul Sattar, sought by police in connection with a 2008 murder, on May 13 arranged for mosque calls for violence against Christian villages.

“Burn their homes to the ground … Punish them such that they forget Gojra and Joseph Colony,” blared village mosques in the district, according to Younas Iqbal, chairman of the Anjuman-e-Mazareen Punjab, a peasant movement fighting for land rights.
Read the rest here.

Irish Archbishop Warns Pro-Abortion Pols of Excommunication

The next Catholic primate of Ireland has said politicians who “knowingly introduce legislation aiding and abetting abortion” should not “approach [a priest] looking for communion”.

In the clearest statement so far on the church’s position Archbishop Eamon Martin, who will succeed Cardinal Seán Brady next year, said legislators who support abortion are excommunicating themselves.

“You cannot regard yourself as a person of faith and support abortion,” Martin said in an interview with The Sunday Times. “You cannot believe you are with your church and directly help someone to procure an abortion. This includes medical professionals and the legislators.
Read the rest here. (Subscription required)

Dana Milbank Slams Obama's Assault on the Press

There are various reasons you might not care about the Obama administration’s spying on journalist James Rosen and labeling him a “co-conspirator and/or aider and abettor” in an espionage case.

Liberals may not be particularly bothered because the targeted journalist works for Fox News. Conservatives may not be concerned because of their antipathy toward the news media generally. And the general public certainly doesn’t have much patience for journalists’ whining.

But here’s why you should care — and why this case, along with the administration’s broad snooping into Associated Press phone records, is more serious than the other supposed Obama administration scandals regarding Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service. The Rosen affair is as flagrant an assault on civil liberties as anything done by George W. Bush’s administration, and it uses technology to silence critics in a way Richard Nixon could only have dreamed of.

To treat a reporter as a criminal for doing his job — seeking out information the government doesn’t want made public — deprives Americans of the First Amendment freedom on which all other constitutional rights are based. Guns? Privacy? Due process? Equal protection? If you can’t speak out, you can’t defend those rights, either.
Read the rest here.

Aside from being a generally good article, the source is important. Milbank is a  dyed in the wool lefty Obama drone. This is just the latest sign that the MSM is having a sudden recollection that they are supposed to be journalists, and not members of the White House cheer-leading squad. This could be very bad news for Zero.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Oklahoma City Suburb Leveled; Dozens Killed by Tornado

Rescue crews searched Tuesday for survivors and victims of a massive tornado that devastated a suburb of Oklahoma City, grinding up entire neighborhoods and pulverizing two elementary schools.

A total of 24 people were confirmed dead as of Tuesday morning, said Amy Elliott, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office. The toll was considerably lower than the 51 fatalities reported in the hours after Monday’s twister, but Elliott cautioned that the numbers were still preliminary and were likely to rise as search and rescue efforts continued.
Read the rest here.

Senior IRS Official to Take the 5th

A top IRS official scheduled to testify Wednesday before the House Oversight committee has notified Congress that she will invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer questions.

Lois Lerner, head of the IRS unit which handled tax-exempt organizations, won't answer questions about what she knows about the improper screening of conservative groups or about why she repeatedly failed to tell Congress that such targeting was going on, according to a letter from her lawyer, William W. Taylor 3rd.
Read the rest here.

That is certainly her absolute right. What's more, given the circumstances I will go so far as to say it is probably a very smart decision from a legal perspective. And of course this must not be held against her... in a court of law. That however does not apply to the workplace. No one should be able to invoke the 5th amendment when asked by their employer if they are a thief and expect to remain employed. Especially if you are employed in a law enforcement capacity.

Ms. Lerner should be immediately dismissed.

Final Prepararations for Manning Courts Martial

Prosecutors in the case against the WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning have decided to drop one of 22 counts against him, but are pressing ahead with the most serious accusation, that he "aided the enemy".

Military lawyers told Manning's final pre-trial hearing that they would no longer seek to prove the US soldier was guilty of leaking a single state department cable, known as "Reykjavik-13". The cable, which relates to the Icelandic financial crisis, was the first of a massive stash of diplomatic cables leaked by Manning to be published by WikiLeaks, on 18 February 2010.

Manning has been in military custody since May 2010, when he was arrested at a US military base in Iraq, where he was working as an intelligence analyst. He has pleaded guilty to a lesser offence relating to the leak of Reykjavik-13 and liable to a maximum of two years. The US government had sought to press further statutory charges on him that would have added up to an additional eight years on his sentence, but has now dropped the count.

It is not clear why government lawyers opted to remove the Reykjavik-13 count, though in the wider picture the move is of limited significance. If Manning is found guilty of "aiding the enemy" – in effect, assisting Osama bin Laden by making public information that could injure the US – he faces a possible life sentence with no chance of parole.

Should Manning be found not guilty to having aided the enemy, he still faces a further 20 counts carrying an overall maximum sentence of more than 150 years. At a minimum, the soldier has already pleaded guilty to lesser charges, of prejudicing the good order and discipline of the military by leaking information, which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Read the rest here.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The (Ana) Baptists Are Right!

Japan’s New Optimism Has a Name: Abenomics

TOKYO — After years of grinding malaise, Japan suddenly has some of its bling back.

A humbled Sony — once a titan of Japan Inc. — recently sprang back into the black for the first year in five years, courtesy of a plunging yen. Honda, another corporate icon, triumphantly announced a return to Formula One racing, rejoining an exclusive club of high-performance carmakers after having slinked away when cash ran low.

Even some of Japan’s wary consumers are beginning to indulge. At the plush Takashimaya department store in Tokyo’s financial district, a clerk reported that $20,000 watches had become hot sellers. And a cut-rate sushi chain, which flourished in difficult times, just started a line of upscale restaurants for customers newly able to afford “petite extravagances.”

The reason for the exuberance? Early — and some say deceptive — signs that new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic shock therapy, called Abenomics, might just be working.

His plan, one of the world’s most audacious experiments in economic policy in recent memory, combines a flood of cheap cash (doubling the money supply in two years), traditional fiscal stimulus and deregulation of Japan’s notoriously ingrown corporate culture. The hope is that this will yank Japan from a debilitating deflationary spiral of lower prices and diminished expectations, stirring what Keynes called the “animal spirits” of investors and consumers.
Read the rest here.

Gary Jenkins: The Limits of Ecumenism

...I say all of that to address something else. Today I left coffee hour early to attend the confirmation of my niece and nephew. They attend a parish of the United Church of Christ. As we were coming home after the confirmation I asked my foster son, Matt, a very simple boy, if he ever felt the need to cross himself during the service. He answered no. The reason? They never once invoked the name of the Trinity. They wrote the word “Lord” out of all their texts as well. At the offertory was song “We give you (yech) of your own, what ere the gift may be. All that we have is yours alone, we give it gratefully.” The only time they used the name Father to refer to our Father, was in the Lord’s prayer. Prior to the confirmation, there were three “baptisms,” done in the name of “God, Jesus, and the Spirit.” Now, I cannot judge the piety of the people there present, but the Liturgy in that Church was not served to the Trinity, and indeed, at one point was God was invoked as one “who is known by many names.” Apparently, “Lord” isn’t one of them. Indeed, I was waiting for either of the two ministers to say “To the Unkown God.” One came very close: “Oh God whom we cannot know.” All the false apophaticism has been addressed before, and I would commend Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon’s essay “Father, glorify Thy Name!” I bring it up to note that I could not bring myself to say any prayers with them other than the Our Father. The very first prayer of the service began “O Mother God.” I was tempted to take out my pen and shove an “of” between Mother and God, but I controlled myself.
Read the rest here.
HT: Dr. Tighe

Pope Francis: Gossip is a sin

Vatican City, May 18, 2013 / 09:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis spoke today about how gossip by Christians is a “slap” to Jesus “in the person of his children.”

“All three - disinformation, defamation and slander - are sins! This is sin! It is to slap Jesus in the person of his children, his brothers,” the Pope said May 18 in the chapel of St. Martha’s House.

The topic came up in Pope Francis’ homily because of the day’s Gospel reading from John 21 in which Peter asks if John will be alive when Jesus returns to earth.

“What is it to you?” the pontiff began his homily, referring to Jesus’ response to Peter, who was being tempted “to interfere in the lives of others.”

Peter became “nosy,” Pope Francis remarked, noting that there are two ways people are tempted to get involved in others’ lives. The first is “to compare oneself with others” and the second is to gossip.
Read the rest here.

An oft overlooked sin and one that I have certainly been guilty of. I wonder how often this is mentioned in confession. My guess is probably not enough.

Massive Tornado Strikes Oklahoma City

This is breaking news. Text and details reported below are likely to change.
A monster tornado ripped through southern Oklahoma City and the suburb of Moore on Monday afternoon, leaving homes and schools in ruins and fires burning out of control.

There was no immediate word on casualties, but aerial footage showed major destruction: homes in rubble, cars flipped over and crushed, residents milling around in shock or combing through debris.

"A large part of the community has been affected," Jayme Shelton, a spokesman for Moore, told MSNBC.

A forecaster for NBC station KFOR said the tornado was kicking up a debris cloud about 2 miles wide as it tracked east into residential neighborhoods in the Moore area.

Forecasters said the twister could be an EF5, the most devastating category of storm with sustained wind speeds topping 200 mph and “incredible” damage. The National Weather Service will confirm the storm’s intensity.
Read the rest here. Live coverage on most news channels. There are reports that at least one school took a direct hit.

Prayers for all effected.

Kermit Gosnell Was Not an Exception

Caution: Graphic Content.
A second 'house of horrors' abortion clinic is being investigated in Texas, just days after Dr Kermit Gosnell was found guilty of murdering newborns at his Philadelphia termination center.

Houston doctor Douglas Karpen is accused by four former employees of delivering live fetuses during third-trimester abortions and killing them by either snipping their spinal cord, stabbing a surgical instrument into their heads or 'twisting their heads off their necks with his own bare hands'.
Read the rest here.

Kermit Gosnell is what abortion is all about.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Virginia GOP Steers Hard Right

RICHMOND — Thousands of Virginia Republicans on Saturday picked a slate of statewide candidates who vowed to stay true to conservative principles, resisting calls to remake the GOP message after losses in 2012.

At the top of the ticket is gubernatorial hopeful Ken Cuccinelli II, the attorney general. Known for high-profile battles against “Obamacare,” abortion and a university climate scientist, Cuccinelli stood by what detractors have called an out-of-the-mainstream agenda.

“When did it become extreme to protect children from predators and human traffickers?” Cuccinelli asked. “When did it become extreme to guard our Constitution from overreach? When did it become extreme to secure the freedom of the wrongly convicted? And when did it become extreme to ask government to spend a little less so our economy can grow?”

He left the stage to the strains of the country music singer Aaron Tippin’s “You’ve Got to Stand for Something.”

Cuccinelli was one of three conservatives chosen Saturday for the GOP’s 2013 ticket — a reaction, many here at the state party convention said, to last year’s failed presidential bid by Mitt Romney, a Republican they thought was too moderate and waffling.
Read the rest here.

More Assassins With Badges

The sharp cracks echoing from the East Bakersfield street were loud enough to jolt Ruben Ceballos from a midnight slumber. Then he heard screams.

The 19-year-old jumped from his living room sofa and hurried to the kitchen door, which offered a view of the violent scene outside — Kern County sheriff's deputies repeatedly striking a man in the head with batons as he lay on the pavement.

"I saw two sheriff's deputies on top of this guy, just beating him," Ceballos said in an interview Monday. "He was screaming in pain … asking for help. He was incapable of fighting back — he was outnumbered, on the ground. They just beat him up."

The man was David Sal Silva, 33, a father of four, and he was pronounced dead less than an hour later. The altercation last week was videotaped by witnesses and has roiled the Central Valley city for days.

One woman frantically called 911, telling the operator: "The guy was laying on the floor and eight sheriffs ran up and started beating him up with sticks. The man is dead laying right here, right now. I got it all on video camera and I'm sending it to the news. These cops have no reason to do this to this man."

In an unusual move, sheriff's officials later detained for several hours two witnesses who had videotaped the incident on their phones. They were released only after they surrendered their phones to deputies.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Can the dead repent and be saved?

It's been a while since I have posted on, or linked to a weighty theological topic. I think this one fits the bill though. Please leave your comments on the respective posts.

Here  Here  and Here

Afghanistan: Law protecting women is tabled - called "un-Islamic"

The bill would have set a minimum age for marriage for girls, outlawed domestic violence, supported shelters for women who were victims of domestic abuse, barred prosecution of women for rapes committed against them, and banned "baad" (a practice of trading a young girl to settle a family dispute).

From here.

This is what we have been fighting for.

Japan: Is the Sun Rising Again?

WHEN Shinzo Abe resigned after just a year as prime minister, in September 2007, he was derided by voters, broken by chronic illness, and dogged by the ineptitude that has been the bane of so many recent Japanese leaders. Today, not yet five months into his second term, Mr Abe seems to be a new man. He has put Japan on a regime of “Abenomics”, a mix of reflation, government spending and a growth strategy designed to jolt the economy out of the suspended animation that has gripped it for more than two decades. He has supercharged Japan’s once-fearsome bureaucracy to make government vigorous again. And, with his own health revived, he has sketched out a programme of geopolitical rebranding and constitutional change that is meant to return Japan to what Mr Abe thinks is its rightful place as a world power.

Mr Abe is electrifying a nation that had lost faith in its political class. Since he was elected, the stockmarket has risen by 55%. Consumer spending pushed up growth in the first quarter to an annualised 3.5%. Mr Abe has an approval rating of over 70% (compared with around 30% at the end of his first term). His Liberal Democratic Party is poised to triumph in elections for the upper house of the Diet in July. With a majority in both chambers he should be able to pass legislation freely.
Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

France: Where it all went wrong

The French Stalinist Maurice Thorez spent the second world war in Moscow, where he called himself “Ivanov”. When France was liberated, he came home and entered government. After Charles de Gaulle stepped down as French leader in 1946, Thorez picked up one of the general’s pet projects: the creation of a school, the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, to train the new republic’s top bureaucrats. This caste, Thorez must have thought, was the “vanguard of the proletariat” that Lenin had always talked about. ENA has since produced countless members of the French political and financial elite, culminating in President François Hollande.

Elite-bashing in France dates back to the guillotine but the “énarques” and their buddies are currently at an all-time low. Within a single year, governments of both right and left have become despised. France has record unemployment. Elite scandals keep coming (most recently, around the budget minister, Jérôme Cahuzac, with his secret Swiss bank account). Something has gone horribly wrong for Thorez’s caste.
Read the rest here.

Good News for the IRS

After an absolutely horrible week, things may be looking up for the IRS. The odds overwhelmingly suggest that someone is going to discover in the next 24 hours that they owe the US Government something north of $150,000,000.00 (that's 40% of $376 million).
If you’re lucky enough to win the upcoming $600 million Powerball, you’ll also be putting a big smile on Uncle Sam’s face.

And when it comes time to give the tax man his share, your total bill will have a lot to do with which state you live in.

For example, if you buy a ticket and live in Florida, you'll pay less than if you live in New York; Florida does not collect state tax on lottery winnings. A New York City Powerball winner can expect to pay about $197.1 million – or more than half of a $376.9 million lump sum payment – in federal, state and city taxes.

The tax bite happens in stages. The very day you cash in your winning ticket you'll be hit with a withholding that is deducted immediately from your payout. Then, next April, you’ll pay whatever additional tax you owe based on the bracket you’re in after you add up all your other earnings.
Read the rest here

Next coronation to involve other faiths besides Christianity

The coronation of the next monarch will include a role for people of other faiths besides Christianity, in a break with a thousand years of history, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt [sic].
Read the rest here.

It doesn't matter. Britain will be a Muslim country within the next fifty years. The Queen will be Europe's last explicitly Christian crowned sovereign unless the monarchy is restored in Serbia (possible) or Russia (unlikely, at least while uncle Vlady is running the shop).

God save The Queen and God save Europe!

Britain: Almost half want out of the EU

Asked the exact question Conservatives want to put the public in the 2017 referendum – “Do you think that the UK should remain a member of the EU” – 46 per cent opt to come out, a higher figure than in other recent surveys.

Just 30 per cent say they want to remain.

In a further boost for the eurosceptic cause, 44 per cent want an “in/out” referendum immediately, although 29 per cent are prepared to wait until 2017, David Cameron's preferred option.
Read the rest here.

Vatican Moves to Tighten Canon Law

While the pontifical council is looking at small adjustments to several sections of the Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983, and ways to speed up the process for evaluating the validity of marriages, the section concerning offenses and penalties was judged to be in need of more than a touch up.

The current code was drafted in the 1970s, Bishop Arrieta said, "a period that was a bit naive" in regard to the need for a detailed description of offenses, procedures for investigating them and penalties to impose on the guilty. It reflected a feeling that "we are all good," he said, and that "penalties should be applied rarely."

"The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, when Pope Benedict was prefect, was obliged to act as a consequence of the fact that the (church's) penal law was not working," he said.
Read the rest here.
HT: Rorate Caeli

Egypt: Muslims Target Christians With Blasphemy Laws

CAIRO — The pale, young Christian woman sat handcuffed in the courtroom, accused of insulting Islam while teaching history of religions to fourth-graders. A team of Islamist lawyers with long beards sang in unison, "All except the Prophet Muhammad."

The case against Dimyana Abdel-Nour in southern Egypt's ancient city of Luxor began when parents of three of her pupils claimed that their children, aged 10, complained their teacher showed disgust when she spoke of Islam in class. According to the parents, Abdel-Nour, 24, told the children that Pope Shenouda, who led the Egyptian Coptic Church until his death last year, was better than the Prophet Muhammad.

Blasphemy charges were not uncommon in Egypt under the now-ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak's regime, but there has been a surge in such cases in recent months, according to rights activists. The trend is widely seen as a reflection of the growing power and confidence of Islamists, particularly the ultraconservative Salafis.

"Salafis are the engineers of these stories," said Abdel-Hamid Hassan, a Muslim and the head of the parents' council at the primary school where Abdel-Nour teaches. Hassan's daughter was among several students who denied any wrongdoing by Abdel-Nour.
Read the rest here.

Friday, May 17, 2013

This is going to make a great movie plot

Premiering this year at the Cannes Film Festival: “To Catch a Thief.”

Someone stole a hotel-room safe and made off Friday with $1 million worth of gems by Chopard, a Swiss jeweler that decks the stars in its ritzy wares for the red carpet at the most celebrated gathering in cinema.

Police said that the jewels were meant to be loaned to stars, but a spokeswoman for the jeweler later said they were not.

A police source told NBC News that the safe was torn from wall of the hotel room of an American employee of Chopard. The heist took place in the middle of the night, French media reported.

It’s common for employees of jewelers to stay out all night during events like the Cannes festival, either surveying loaned-out jewelry or recovering pieces of it from the stars after parties.

French judicial police were investigating.
Read the rest here.

Party Like It's 1813

So what was it like to throw, or be invited to a party 200 years ago?

IRS stalled conservative groups, but gave speedy approval to Obama foundation

When the Barack H. Obama Foundation sought tax-exempt status to raise money for good works in Kenya, the Internal Revenue Service provided quick help.

The IRS approved charitable status for the foundation, which was run by President Obama’s brother and named after his father, in about a month’s time. The IRS also agreed to give the group this important financial status retroactively, back to 2009, when it had begun its fundraising.

The 34 days the IRS’s Cincinnati office took to process the foundation’s application stands in contrast to the waits of several months — and sometimes longer than a year — that several conservative groups say they experienced with the same office. Obama has apologized, saying Americans have a right to be angry that the office improperly targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny.
Read the rest here

Harry Reid Preparing to Restrict the Filibuster

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is increasingly focused on the month of July as the time to exercise the so-called “nuclear option” and revisit filibuster reform, and he has privately told top advisers that he’s all but certain to take action if the Senate GOP blocks three upcoming key nominations, a senior Senate Democratic aide familiar with his thinking tells me.

Reid has privately consulted with President Obama on the need to revisit filibuster reform, and the President has told the Majority Leader that he will support the exercising of the nuclear option if Reid opts for it, the aide says, adding that senior Democrats expect the President to publicly push for it as well. “If Senator Reid decides to do something on nominations, the president has said he’ll be there to support him,” the aide says.
Read the rest here.


Not a word I use lightly. But sometimes it's the only appropriate adjective.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Trouble in Socialist Paradise

First milk, butter, coffee and cornmeal ran short. Now Venezuela is running out of the most basic of necessities — toilet paper.

Blaming political opponents for the shortfall, as it does for other shortages, the embattled socialist government says it will import 50 million rolls to boost supplies.

That was little comfort to consumers struggling to find toilet paper on Wednesday.
Read the rest here.

I would just like to say well done to my vast right wing co-conspirators who secretly bought up all of Venezuela's TP just to make the lefties look bad.

The Real Military Sexual Assault Crisis

Most military victims of sexual assault are men.

The Christian Flight From Egypt Continues

CAIRO — Wasfi Amin Wassef used to buy and sell jewelry from his shop in Cairo’s vast Khan al-Khalili bazaar. Now he mostly buys it.

Well into a third year of economic malaise following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, many ordinary Egyptians are selling their most cherished possessions, including heirloom jewelry, to raise cash for a ticket that will let them start a new life abroad. Official figures or estimates are not publicly available, but anecdotal evidence suggests emigration is rising.

“The number of people who sell us their gold since the revolution has increased three times,” Mr. Wassef said during an interview this month.

Some are Muslims but most are Christians, said Mr. Wassef, a member of Egypt’s ancient Coptic Orthodox Christian minority.
Read the rest here.


We can't count the number of times we've wanted to enact vengeance on some inconsiderate audience member whose cell phone goes off during a performance. But, like most people, we just bottle that fury up deep down inside and take it out on the break room vending machine later. Not Kevin Williamson. Last night the National Review writer was in attendance at the marvelous new musical Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 when one theatergoer's incessant cell phone use finally drove him over the edge... into vigilantism.
Read the rest here.
HT: The Deacon's Bench

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Just because you lean libertarian doesn't mean you aren't an idiot

Activist Adam Kokesh has asked 1,000 people to march across the Potomac on July 4 carrying loaded rifles.

He calls it a protest against “tyranny.”

Suppose the D.C. police, as they have promised, block the marchers from crossing into Washington? How should they respond?
Read the rest here. Arrest jail and a criminal record are among the less bad ways this could end for those involved. I can think of a number of scenarios where it might be a lot worse. This herb is playing a dangerous game to stoke his own ego.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Gosnell To Get Life in Prison

He cut a deal with prosecutors in which he forswears any appeals and in exchange he gets to die of natural causes. Given his age and the interminable appeals process in capital cases this seems like a very sensible course of action.

FBI Launches Criminal Investigation in IRS Scandal

Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation into allegations that Internal Revenue Service officials targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Tuesday.

In what is the most serious escalation yet of the revelations surrounding the agency, Holder said the Justice Department and FBI would examine whether any laws were violated at the IRS, which has acknowledged that it selected groups with the words “tea party” and “patriot” in their names for special audits.
Read the rest here.

Israeli Police Accused of Assaulting Christians

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Patriarchs and heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem on Sunday released a joint statement denouncing attacks by Israeli police officers on worshipers and pilgrims during Holy Saturday at the Church of Holy Sepulcher.

Signatories of the statement highlighted that they saw “awful scenes of the brutal treatment to clerics, average people and pilgrims in Jerusalem during Holy Saturday.”
Read the rest here.

North Carolina May Ban Tesla Sales To Prevent “Unfair Competition”

No. I'm not making this up.
From the state that brought you the nation’s first ban on climate science comes another legislative gem: a bill that would prohibit automakers from selling their cars in the state.

The proposal, which the Raleigh News & Observer reports was unanimously approved by the state’s Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday, would apply to all car manufacturers, but the intended target is clear. It’s aimed at Tesla, the only U.S. automaker whose business model relies on selling cars directly to consumers, rather than through a network of third-party dealerships.

The bill is being pushed by the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association, a trade group representing the state’s franchised dealerships. Its sponsor is state Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Republican from Henderson, who has said the goal is to prevent unfair competition between manufacturers and dealers. What makes it “unfair competition” as opposed to plain-old “competition”—something Republicans are typically inclined to favor—is not entirely clear. After all, North Carolina doesn’t seem to have a problem with Apple selling its computers online or via its own Apple Stores.
Read the rest here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

IRS Scandal Widens

Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington, and at least two other offices were involved in the targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear that the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

IRS officials at the agency’s Washington headquarters sent queries to conservative groups asking about their donors and other aspects of their operations, while officials in the El Monte and Laguna Niguel offices in California sent similar questionnaires to tea party-affiliated groups.

IRS employees in Cincinnati also told conservatives seeking the status of “social welfare” groups that a task force in Washington was overseeing their applications, according to interviews with the activists.

Lois G. Lerner, who oversees tax-exempt groups for the IRS, told reporters on Friday that the “absolutely inappropriate” actions were undertaken by “front-line people” working in Cincinnati to target groups with “tea party,” “patriot” or “9/12” in their names.

In one instance, however, Ron Bell, an IRS employee, informed an attorney representing a conservative group focused on voter fraud that the application was under review in Washington. On several other occasions, IRS officials in Washington and California sent conservative groups detailed questionnaires about their voter outreach and other activities, according to the documents.

“For the IRS to say it was some low-level group in Cincinnati is simply false,” said Cleta Mitchell, a partner in the law firm Foley & Lardner LLP who sought to communicate with IRS headquarters about the delay in granting tax-exempt status to True the Vote.

Moreover, details of the IRS’s efforts to target conservative groups reached the highest levels of the agency in May 2012, far earlier than has been disclosed, according to Republican congressional aides briefed by the IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) on the details of their reviews.
Read the rest here.

US Government Secretly Collected Journalists' Phone Records

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.

The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of the calls.

In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown, but more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.
Read the rest here.

Gosnell is Guilty of First Degree Murder

The jury has convicted him of three counts of First Degree Murder and numerous other charges. This modern day Dr. Mengele will now spend the rest of his life in prison, which is certainly where he belongs. If you want to see the face of abortion, it is Kermit Gosnell.

Gosnell Jury Deadlocked on Two Charges

PHILADELPHIA — Jurors here informed a judge Monday morning that they were hung on two charges in the capital murder trial of abortion provider Kermit Gosnell, who is accused of severing the spinal cords of babies born to women during procedures at his clinic.

It remained unclear which of the many charges he faces had caused the stalemate. When jurors were brought into the courtroom about 11:15 a.m., Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart gave them what is commonly called a Spencer charge, telling them to reexamine the evidence and continue trying to reach a verdict.

“The fact that you are stuck on two counts — it shows you are considering the evidence seriously. It’s an indication of your sincerity and your objectivity,” Minehart said. “It’s a difficult case. We appreciate that.”

Minehart said the gridlock also could represent “confusion” about the details of the charges in the case and the evidence presented. He said he was sending the jurors back to further consider that evidence in hopes of reaching a consensus. But, he added, “no juror should surrender an honest conviction” merely to reach a verdict.
Read the rest here.

Having had the experience of sitting on a murder jury I sympathize. What is obvious to some may not be to others. In the case I sat on we spent a day and a half debating between First and Second Degree Murder and at one point I thought we were going to be hung. Then we went back and watched the rather long video taped confession and reread transcripts from the police interview and the clear "premeditation" pretty much just leaped out.

Gordon Brown Slams Scottish Independence Bid

Gordon Brown has warned the SNP is willing to endanger Scottish jobs, mortgages and state pensions in the hope of winning next year’s independence referendum.

Launching Labour’s campaign to keep together the UK, the former Prime Minister delivered a passionate and sometimes angry critique of the Nationalists’ economic blueprint for separation.

He argued that the consequences of the SNP’s policies would be less money for basic services and pensions, while their desire to keep the pound would mean ceding control of the economy to what would be a foreign country.

Scotland would have no input, either at Westminster or Bank the England, over decisions that would have a major impact on job levels or mortgage repayments, he said.

But the former Chancellor suggested SNP ministers deliberately ignore the risks their plans pose to ordinary families because their overriding concern is the “dogma of separation”
Read the rest here.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Saudis Sentence Two For Aiding Conversion to Christianity

Naharnet today reports that a court in the Saudi Arabian city of Khobar has sentenced two men for helping a young woman, identified only as "the girl of Khobar", convert to Christianity and flee to Sweden. All 3 were co-workers at an insurance company in Khobar. A Lebanese man was sentenced to 6 years in prison and 300 lashes for encouraging the conversion. A Saudi man was sentenced to 2 years in prison and 200 lashes for helping the woman flee the country. The defendants say they will appeal. Still pending are possible charges of corruption and forging official document that allowed the woman to leave Saudi Arabia without her family's consent.
From here.

Sometimes things just need to be said bluntly. Islam is a barbarous religion.

Pope Francis Canonizes 800 Martyrs of Islamic Persecution

ROME -- Pope Francis canonized more than 800 Catholics in Saint Peter’s Square Sunday – the largest number to be elevated to sainthood at once in the history of the Catholic Church.

The choice of some of the new saints was also striking, touching on the already-fragile relationship between Christianity and Islam.

The new saints included hundreds of laymen from the southern Italian port town of Otranto who were slain in the 15th century by the invading Ottoman Turkish army after they refused to convert to Islam.

In 1480, after conquering Constantinople – modern day Istanbul - the Ottoman Sultan Mohammed II planned to invade Rome, and Otranto became his army’s port of entrance into Italy.

The local population fought back in a week-long siege, putting up a brave but hopeless resistance. When Ottoman soldiers finally overrun the town, they were ordered to kill every man over the age of 15 who refused to convert to Islam.

More than 800 resisted, locking themselves up into the town’s Cathedral. Their ringleader, local shoemaker Antonio Primaldo, was first to be beheaded. According  to local legend, his headless body remained standing until the last of his fellow townspeople was killed.

Since then, Primaldo and his townsfolk, who chose to die rather than betray their Catholic faith, have been hailed as martyrs. Their bones and skulls – proudly on display behind glass walls in the Cathedral of Otranto – are well-known Catholic relics and a popular pilgrimage destination.
Read the rest here.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Republicans (finally) Have a Real Scandal

After four years of desperately looking for a scandal to pin on the Obama Administration, the GOP appears to have just been handed the real deal. No, I am not talking about Benghazi. As scandals go that one is fairly garden variety. Basically it was the keystone cops running crisis management and then they tried to cover up their incompetence. Lots of knavery but I don't see anything criminal.

Not so today's announcement by the IRS that they targeted conservative political groups in 2010 and 2012 for special scrutiny. That's not just unethical, its illegal. And not just in the administrative sense. This could (big word there) be a major scandal involving the politically motivated use of one of the most powerful law enforcement agencies in the country against the opposition party.

That's bad news for Obama. Worse, I don't see anyway he can order an in house investigation that would not be stripped of all credibility from its inception. The best thing he could do, and frankly the only thing he should do, is to call up Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader McConnell and ask them for the name of someone he could appoint as an independent council with full prosecutorial authority and a mandate to go wherever the evidence takes him/her..

IRS Admits They Targeted Conservatives

The Internal Revenue Service on Friday said that it inappropriately selected tea party political groups for special scrutiny in the 2012 campaign, an admission likely to fuel long-simmering suspicions among conservatives that the IRS has been singling them out for unfair treatment.

The IRS official who oversees tax-exempt groups, Lois Lerner, acknowledged at a conference on Friday the actions were wrong and apologized, according to the Associated Press. Lerner said groups with the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status faced additional screening.

In a statement, the IRS said the screening occurred by career employees in Cincinnati who, between 2010 and 2012, were seeking to centralize work related to tax exempt organizations. The agency said that while it made errors, they were not politically motivated.
Read he rest here.


Thursday, May 09, 2013

Political Humor From Britain

The traditions of the House of Commons are quite different from  our more sedate speechifying in the House and Senate where as often as not speeches are delivered to a dead silent and more or less empty chamber. In Britain the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are expected to appear for a weekly grilling called "Question Time." In this and major debates on important subjects there is a lot of heated back and forth with much shouting and jeering in the Commons. And being a good parliamentary debater means being quick with the cutting and or witty remark.

Memo to Employers

No, you can't force your employees to join the Scientology cult.

High Tech "Flash Mob" Loots Banks of $45 Million

NEW YORK — A worldwide gang of criminals stole a total of $45 million in a matter of hours by hacking their way into a database of prepaid debit cards and then draining cash machines around the globe, federal prosecutors said Thursday — and outmoded U.S. card technology may be partly to blame.

Seven people are under arrest in the U.S. in connection with the case, which prosecutors said involved thousands of thefts from ATMs using bogus magnetic swipe cards carrying information from Middle Eastern banks. The fraudsters moved with astounding speed to loot financial institutions around the world, working in cells including one in New York, Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said.

She called it “a massive 21st-century bank heist” carried out by brazen thieves.

One of the suspects was caught on surveillance cameras, his backpack increasingly loaded down with cash, authorities said. Others took photos of themselves with giant wads of bills as they made their way up and down Manhattan.

Here’s how it worked:
Read the rest here.

How quaint. Apparently some people still rob banks instead of the other way around.

Sad News

It is looking grim for the flagship of America's merchant marine. The SS United States, one of the world's last transatlantic liners and still the fastest, is in imminent danger of being sent to the scrap yard. Future generations will not judge us kindly for allowing this to happen.

Hell hath no fury...

Ah, romance. Boy meets girl. Boy dates girl. Boy dumps girl. Girl embarks on a campaign of online harassment that lands her a prison sentence. Girl flees country.

Lee David Clayworth, 35, met Lee Ching Yan, 29, while he was teaching at an international school in Malaysia. They began casually dating in mid-2010, said Clayworth, who called it quits by December. "I decided to go my own way," he told TODAY, describing a relationship that at times "wasn't the healthiest." Unfortunately, he said, the dumping "didn't go down so well with her."

After the split, Yan broke into Clayworth's home and took his laptop, external hard drive, teaching portfolio and other significant personal belongings, he said.

"And then this online onslaught started," Clayworth said. "My email account was hacked into, my Skype account was hacked into. Emails started coming from my account ... claiming that I'm having sex with underage students."
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Bright Tuesday

Liturgy in honor of the Iberian Icon of the Mother of God in Moscow's Novodevichy Convent.

Yellow Dog Republicans

Once upon a time in South Carolina election day meant Democratic Primary day. There was a popular expression used to describe white southerners back in the days of the "Solid South." They were called (and embraced the term) "yellow dog Democrats." By which it was meant that they would sooner vote for a yellow dog on the Democratic ticket than a Republican. Last night confirmed beyond a shadow of doubt that the pendulum has now swung all the way.

The Holy Grail of Battle Re-Enactments

ATLANTA — Inside Craig Ivey’s travel bag are objects reminiscent of the Middle Ages.

He has a steel, rounded shield; a five-sided, wooden shield; a red, white and blue surcoat; a protective vest; a wraparound helmet, pockmarked with dents; steel pads to hide his forearms, knees, legs and hands; and a blunt-edged sword designed to inflict pain but not cut. His collection cost about $4,000.

Ivey, a fitness trainer in Atlanta, will use all 60 pounds of the equipment Thursday at an outdoor arena in Aigues-Mortes, in the south of France. He will compete in his first Battle of the Nations, a modern-day, medieval-like combat involving national teams of fighters.

“Everybody thinks I’m a little crazy,” Ivey said, without refuting the perception.
Read the rest here.

Thanks, but I will stick with baseball.

At 87 The Queen is Slowing Down

Historians may view this week as a turning point for the British royal family. On Tuesday, Queen Elizabeth II announced she would not travel to a major meeting of nations later this year. Prince Charles will take her place at the Commonwealth conference in November.

And on Wednesday, the Prince of Wales accompanied her to one of the most important events of the British political year. It was the first time in 17 years that Charles has attended the state opening of Parliament.

“The reality is, the queen is the oldest monarch in history,” NBC News royal expert Robert Jobson said. “So we’re in uncharted waters as to how to move forward.”

The plan is for the queen to relinquish some aspects of her role to her son and other members of her family. Prince William is soon expected to announce a scaling back of his Royal Air Force role, and an increase in royal duties.
Read the rest here.

Orthodoxy and Catholicism

The Young Fogey has been putting up a series of posts on the Orthodox vs Catholicism debate. Some of them are quite interesting. You may have to scroll down on his blog to catch the earlier ones. I meant to bump this earlier but Holy Week was not the time for that kind of discussion.

You know you have a problem when...

The lawyers arguing their case take the Fifth.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Remembering the Lusitania

On this date in 1915 the RMS Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by a German U Boat. Endless controversy has surrounded this atrocity ever since. For the record the British aided and abetted by the Wilson Administration lied through their teeth and tried to whitewash the fact that the ship was carrying war contraband from supposedly neutral America. Not that it was a massive amount, but it was there. And of course that doesn't excuse the German's who attacked an unarmed passenger ship that they knew damn well was packed with civilians including women and children. But that's not the point of today's commemoration, which I expect to get a lot more attention in two years.

Today I want to pay tribute to the ship itself.

At the turn of the 20th century steam ships were what connected the globe in the way airplanes do today. Then as now speed, and for those who could afford it, comfort were paramount. Lusitania was a  product of the intense rivalry between Germany and Great Britain in the decades preceding the Great War. Through most of the 19th century Britain had held a more or less unchallenged position as the world's principal maritime power, both in terms of her navy and her commercial fleet. This changed with the accession of Kaiser William II who was a huge maritime enthusiast. Quickly he began dedicating significant resources towards challenging Britain's supremacy, and in 1897 this paid off with the launch of the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse. Germany's new Atlantic grey hound stunned Britain and the world by seizing the record for the fastest crossing and with her four giant funnels she established a new era in which the "four stacker" became synonymous with size, speed, luxury and safety.

For the next ten years, while Britain fumed, the Germans built a seemingly endless series of ships, each bigger faster and more luxurious than the one before, and they had a monopoly on the coveted "Blue Riband." Adding insult to injury, on the other side of the Atlantic the great American financial wizard J. P. Morgan had set his eyes on establishing a monopoly over transatlantic shipping. In 1902 his new conglomerate, the International Mercantile Marine, absorbed the White Star Line, then the second largest British shipping company.

This turned British annoyance into outright alarm.

Wasting little time, the Cunard Line, Britain's largest shipping firm and White Star's chief rival, quickly warned the British government that they too might be bought out unless something drastic changed. Such an eventuality was unthinkable and the Admiralty quickly approved a huge loan to Cunard that was to be used to build two new transatlantic liners. But there were conditions attached. The ships had to be fast and they had to be built to naval specifications in case they were needed in a war.

With cash in hand Cunard set about planning the construction of two ships so revolutionary they would effectively end the transatlantic speed race for two decades. Those ship's were the Lusitania and her sister ship the Mauritania. They were built in different yards and fitted out separately including in their decor. But in terms of their engineering and general layout the two were near twins.

Lusitania was finished first and in 1907 on her second voyage she smashed the German speed record and seized the Blue Riband. In 1908 the Mauritania took the record and excepting a brief period in 1909 when Lusitania regained it, she would prove to be the slightly faster of the twin steamers.

When completed Lusitania was 787 feet long and 87 feet wide with the requisite four stacks. She had a gross registered tonnage of 31,500 tons that propelled by four brand new and very revolutionary turbine engines geared to four screws could move her at the near blinding speed of 28 knots with a service speed of 25 knots. The race for speed records was over and Lusitania's slightly faster sister would hold the record unchallenged from 1909 to 1928. Externally her appearance was such that she resembled an oversized racing yacht with her raked back funnels and sleek lines. Mauritania by contrast had a rather cluttered appearance on her top decks owing to a large number of ventilation funnles. On the Lusitania these were designed to be smaller and blend in more with the overall appearance of the ship.

But Lusitania had a flaw. When she left for her first sea trials the engines caused a severe vibration in the back of the ship which was intended for the second class passengers. The ship was redocked and major changes were made to her second class accommodations to reduce the vibration. Later in her career she would twice have additional adjustments made to her propellers to further reduce it. Even so, the vibration, while greatly diminished, was never completely conquered.

More so than in their outer appearance, it was in their interiors that the two ship's were most distinguished from one another. While their layout was nearly identical the Lusitania had a lighter and somewhat more informal air about her. Mauritania on the other hand was very much furnished in the classical Edwardian style with tons of dark wood paneling  In this respect Lusitania was somewhat more progressive in her decor.

What follows are some photographs of a ship universally regarded as one of the great liners. Sadly most of the images are black and white which generally fail in conveying the elegance of her interior accommodations. One simply cannot grasp the often bright and very colorful decor in her public rooms and cabins. Most of the pictures are large and detailed but the blog automatically reduces them so they fit. If you want to see them full sized click on the image and then right click on the expanded picture, click view image and you can enlarge it to full size.

Lusitania being launched.

During sea trials.

Arriving in New York on her maiden voyage.

This a massive and very detailed panoramic photo of her arrival in New York in September 1907. The contrast between the sleek modern liner and the sea of horse drawn cabs waiting on the pier is stark. You will definitely need to enlarge the photo.

After a rough crossing. Note the paint has been blasted off her by the North Atlantic.

Scenes from the boat deck. As originally configured the Lusitania, like most steamers of the period, carried the minimum number of lifeboats required by law. That was sixteen, four less than what the Titanic carried in 1912. After the Titanic disaster additional lifeboats were added for everyone on board. But many were of the "some assembly required" kind. And they proved utterly useless when needed in a hurry on May 7th 1915.

The first class dining room. There were two tiers and a stained glass dome.

Some views of the lounge and music room.

The first class entrance foyer with stairs and electric elevator.

The first class foyer off the Promenade deck.

The promenade deck. During Atlantic crossings, weather permitting, the deck was filled with passengers lounging in steamer chairs. Tea and bullion were served on trollies every day at four.

First class smoking room. Sorry ladies. Gentlemen only please.

First class reading and writing room. Quiet please.

Second class entrance foyer.

Second class dining room. While the cabins (see below) in the second class were much smaller than in first, the public rooms were well appointed and quite comfortable. The passengers here also enjoyed generally very good food (see the menu below). For many years Cunard openly advertised that second class was the best way to travel for the money.

Second class lunch menu. Click to enlarge and read.

Second class lounge.


Second class smoking room. Again, men only.

Second class ladies withdrawing room.

The purser's office.

The verandah cafe. There were huge sliding glass doors that were opened to the back of the first class promenade deck when the weather was agreeable.

Some views of first class state rooms.

First class state room deluxe with adjoining bedrooms.

Some views of the two first class regal suites. These came with such astonishing amenities as separate bedrooms, a sitting room/parlor, a private dining room, a trunk room and room (probably closet sized) for one's personal servants. And the ultimate in sea going luxury for which one would pay out the nose... a private en suite water closet and bathroom. Prior to the Second World War private bathrooms were a rare, and expensive luxury at sea. Even millionaires typically had to put on their slippers and bathrobe when nature called in the middle of the night and hoof it down the hall. Those wishing to take a bath would first have to make an appointment with the ship's bath steward. These rooms also had sinks with both hot and cold running water. Most staterooms had only cold water. Hot water for shaving or washing up was delivered at appointed times, usually in the morning and when the dressing gong was sounded for dinner. It could also be requested at anytime via your cabin steward.

A second class cabin. Unlike in first class those traveling in the second class got rooms that were small and would be considered cramped by today's standards. Typically they came with the more traditional berths and in a two berth cabin one would see a small sofa and a chair. They also had a sink with running water, an armoire, and space to stow a couple of suitcases or a small trunk. In those days people often traveled with more than they do today. But on a ship space was limited so you would tag all of your luggage before boarding  indicating "wanted" or "not wanted." Not wanted was sent to the baggage hold until arrival. Also in second class you were likely to be sharing your cabin with someone unless you booked all of the berths. These cabins were usually two or four berths (for families traveling together). Bed curtains on ships of this period were more than decorative. They also served to offer some privacy if you were sharing your cabin and even in first class they helped keep the heat in and the chill out. Outside of the public rooms, central heating was rare on pre Great War ships. And the North Atlantic is notoriously unpleasant most of the year. Passengers embarking on a transatlantic voyage were well advised to pack warm clothes and long underwear even in the summer.

Third class cabin. Contrary to popular belief it was the third class or "steerage" who provided the profit for the big steamship companies in the pre-war years. They required the least service and the fewest amenities and could be packed in to much more cramped spaces. On the Lusitania the third class cabins were generally quite spartan but still liveable. There were no dormitory style steerage quarters. All third class passengers had cabins which had between two and six berths. Each cabin had a sink with running water. As in the second class, you could pretty much guarantee that you were going to have roommates. Also there were no "bath" facilities on most ships for the third class though Lusitania did have generally decent lavatory and washrooms.


Third class dining room. The dining room was located forward and meals were served in two sittings. Food in the third class was generally edible and for many probably better than what they were used to. Unlike in some other immigrant ships of the period, here the third class appear to have been treated as paying customers rather than human cargo. They ate off real plates, with flatware and actual glasses for drinking. It wasn't first class but they were treated better than most immigrants during that time. The third class also had their own smoking room, ladies room and a piano in the dining room which doubled as a social hall in the evenings.

The officer's lounge and smoke room.

The bridge and wheelhouse.

The great liner today.