Friday, June 28, 2013

SSPX Issues Declaration Formally Condemning Vatican II - Ends Dialogue With Rome

VATICAN CITY — On the 25th anniversary of the illicit ordination of four bishops by traditionalist Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Society of St. Pius X indicated a definitive break of talks with the Catholic Church.

In a statement June 27, three of the four bishops originally ordained expressed “their filial gratitude towards their venerable founder, who, after so many years spent serving the Church and the Sovereign Pontiff, so as to safeguard the faith and the Catholic priesthood, did not hesitate to suffer the unjust accusation of disobedience."

The document — titled “Declaration on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the episcopal consecrations (30th June 1988 – 27th June 2013)” — is signed by Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais and Alfonso de Galarreta.
Read the rest here.

My Five Day Forecast...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Top Senators Propose to Scrap Tax Code and Start Over

The Senate’s chief tax writers plan to scrap the entire code and start from scratch in their push for tax reform, and on Thursday they gave lawmakers a month to make a case for preserving some of the $1.3 trillion in breaks on the books.

In a letter sent to all 98 of their colleagues, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and his Republican counterpart, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), said they would take a “blank slate” approach to the tax code that assumes the elimination of thousands of popular perks, including such sacrosanct policies as the deduction for mortgage interest, the child credit, and the lower rate for dividends and capital gains.
Read the rest here.

This is the best news out of DC in a long time. If they actually pull this off (highly doubtful) it would go a long ways towards redeeming Congress in my eyes.

Reports: Nelson Mandela On Life Support - Near Death

There have been multiple reports that the South African ex-President and anti-Apartheid leader has been placed on life support. South Africa's current president Jacob Zumahas has cancelled travel plans and family members are said to be bracing for Mandela's death and funeral.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Clinton Buddy and ex-Fugitive Marc Rich is Dead

Marc Rich, who has died aged 79, was the godfather of global commodity trading — and for many years a fugitive from US justice, until he was granted a pardon in the controversial last act of Bill Clinton’s presidency.

In the early 1970s Rich pioneered large-scale speculative buying and selling in the spot market for crude oil — “spot” meaning for immediate, rather than future, delivery. Contacts with the royal family of Iran enabled him to acquire huge quantities of Iranian oil in anticipation of the Opec embargo in 1973, which precipitated a tripling of the barrel price.

The potential winnings were enormous, but Rich’s then employer, the relatively conservative New York trading firm of Philipp Bros, could not stomach such exposures and was not prepared to pay him what he felt he deserved. So the following year he and two colleagues left to set up on their own in the minimally-taxed Swiss township of Zug. Within two years they were said to have made more than $300 million in profit. 
Read the rest here.

Episcopalians celebrate defeat of DOMA

The bells at the National Cathedral of the Episcopal Church of the United States, located in Washington DC, pealed for an hour at noon on June 26 following the decision of the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. Bells tolled at other places of Christian [sic] worship, including those of other Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Unitarian and other Christian churches.

The National Cathedral, which has seen numerous solemn occasions in American history, has also scheduled a prayer service for male and female homosexuals, bisexuals, transgenders and their families for the evening of June 26.

The dean of the cathedral, Rev. Gary Hall said in a statement that the Supreme Court's decision rang his bells. He said that his church is glad “to celebrate the extension of federal marriage equality to all the same-sex couples modeling God’s love in lifelong covenants.” He added that the ruling should make Christian embrace same-sex marriage.
Read the rest here.

More bad news

I have received the following email from the Hermitage of the Holy Cross.
At around 6:00 AM on Pentecost Sunday, a fire burned down the Convent of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary as well as the attached candle factory, which were located on the grounds of the Hermitage of the Holy Cross. By the grace of God, the fire caused no injuries to Mother Theodora or to any of the Hermitage community members, although the damage to the Convent is totally irreparable and nearly everything in it was destroyed. It is not yet clear what started the fire, but in the words of Mother Theodora, "God has allowed this so that we will repent for our sins." We will post updates to this page and to the main Hermitage website as more information becomes available.

In the meantime, Mother Theodora is left with no cell, no means of livelihood and only the clothes on her back. She is in great need of everyone's prayers as well as whatever financial assistance you are able to give. You may make your donations on the Hermitage web site or by mailing a check with "Convent Rebuilding Fund" in the memo line to:

Hermitage of the Holy Cross
Attn: Gift Shop
505 Holy Cross Road
Wayne, WV 25570-5403

Thank you, and may God reward you for your prayers and kindness!

A Bad Day at the Supreme Court

DOMA was struck down today, not a bad thing in itself. But the court cited all the wrong reasons for killing it. They should have killed it on 9th and 10th amendment grounds, and upheld Prop 8 on the same basis. Instead they cited the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment, which was never intended to apply to anything like this, in a ruling that is certain to be seen by lower courts as indicative of sympathy for gay marriage by the SCOTUS. Meanwhile Prop 8, which should never have seen the inside of a Federal Courthouse as it's a state's rights issue, has been effectively overturned on a technicality.

All in all it was a sad day for the rule of law.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Our Slide Into an Authoritarian State

How does one tell whether one is living in a dictatorship, or almost? The signs need not be so obvious as having a squat little man raving from balconies. Methinks the following indicators serve. In a dictatorship:

(1) Sweeping laws are made without reference to the will of the people. A few examples follow. Whether you think these laws desirable is not the point. Some will, others won’t. The point is that they were simply imposed from above. Many of them would never have survived a national vote.

Start with Roe vs. Wade, making abortion legal, and subsequent decisions allowing late-term abortion. Griggs versus Duke Power, forbidding employers from using tests of intelligence, since certain groups scored poorly. Brown versus the School Board and its offspring requiring forced integration, forced busing, racial quotas, and so on. (I disagree with Fred on the Brown case A/O.) The decision that Creationism cannot be mentioned in the schools. Decisions forbidding the public expression of Christianity. The decision that citizens can be stopped and searched without probable cause. The opening of the borders to mass immigration.

These are major, major laws grossly altering the social, legal, and constitutional fabric of the country. All were simply imposed, mostly by unelected judges against whom there is no recourse.

Note that there is no practical distinction between a decision by the Supreme Court, a regulation made by an executive bureaucracy, and a practice quietly adopted by the intelligence agencies and federal police. None of these requires public approval.

For that matter, consider the militarization of the police, the creation of Homeland Security’s Viper teams that randomly search cars, the vast and growing spying on Americans by government, and the genital gropings by TSA. Consider the endless undeclared wars that one finds out often only after the troops have been sent. All simply imposed from above
Read the rest here.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Jimmy Carter Condemns All Male Priesthood

Not going to excerpt it. Go here if you really must read his drivel.

Lawmakers demand more oversight of secret court

Wedged into a secure, windowless basement room deep below the Capitol Visitors Center, U.S. District Court Judge John Bates appeared before dozens of senators earlier this month for a highly unusual, top-secret briefing.

The lawmakers pressed Bates, according to people familiar with the session, to discuss the inner workings of the United States’ clandestine terrorism surveillance tribunal, which Bates oversaw from 2006 until earlier this year.
Read the rest here.

Snowden Flees Hong Kong; Maybe Heading for S. America

MOSCOW — Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who leaked top-secret documents about U.S. surveillance programs, fled Hong Kong for Moscow on Sunday with the assistance of the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks, landing at Sheremetyevo International Airport aboard an Aeroflot flight, according to Russian media reports and a WikiLeaks spokesman.

Snowden’s ultimate destination was unknown, but Ricardo Patiño Aroca, Ecuador’s foreign minister, tweeted Sunday afternoon that his government had received a request for asylum from Snowden. WikiLeaks released a statement saying Snowden was “bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum.”
Read the rest here.
Note: This is a developing story and the text at the linked site is likely to change.


Moldavia: Orthodox Church Bars Pro-Gay Pols From Communion

CHISINAU -- Moldova’s Orthodox Church says it has banned government officials from taking Holy Communion because of their stance on gay rights.

In a statement issued after Orthodox leaders met in Chisinau, the church said on June 21 that it would call for nationwide protests unless the government amended a law protecting homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgender people from discrimination.

The church also wants new laws against what it calls "immoral propaganda" and a ban on "homosexual, lesbian, transsexual, bisexual, pedophilic, zoophilic, incestuous, and perverse behavior."

Earlier this week, the Council of Europe's Venice Commission ruled that a Russian law against "homosexual propaganda," as well as similar local laws in Ukraine and Moldova, are illegal and should be repealed.

Moldova’s Orthodox Church is formally subordinated to the Russian Orthodox Church.
HT: Dr. Tighe and several blog readers.

Friday, June 21, 2013

US Charges Snowden With Espionage

Federal prosecutors have filed a sealed criminal complaint against Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked a trove of documents about top-secret surveillance programs, and the United States has asked Hong Kong to detain him on a provisional arrest warrant, according to U.S. officials.

Snowden was charged with espionage, theft and conversion of government property, the officials said.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Lawyers demand secret NSA files for crime and divorce cases

The National Security Agency has spent years demanding that companies turn over their data. Now, the spy agency finds the shoe is on the other foot. A defendant in a Florida murder trial says telephone records collected by the NSA as part of its surveillance programs hold evidence that would help prove his innocence, and his lawyer has demanded that prosecutors produce those records. On Wednesday, the federal government filed a motion saying it would refuse, citing national security. But experts say the novel legal argument could encourage other lawyers to fight for access to the newly disclosed NSA surveillance database.

"What's good for the goose is good for the gander, I guess," said George Washington University privacy law expert Dan Solove. "In a way, it's kind of ironic."
Read the rest here.

On corrective baptism and closed communion

There are many topics that occasionally result in raised eyebrows among the Orthodox and sometimes irritate the non-Orthodox. Two near the top of any list would be the subjects of baptizing converts who say they were already baptized, and our discipline of closed communion. Fr. John Whiteford (ROCOR) has a couple of really good posts up that address these topics, here and here.

A Royal First at Ascot

H.M. The Queen's horse Estimate won the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot today. She is the first reigning monarch to win the prize in the more than 200 year history of the horse race. Something tells me that dinner conversation at the palace tonight will not be about all the crazy hats women wear.

Judges tell California to cut prisoner count by 10,000

(Reuters) - A panel of federal judges ordered California on Thursday to ease overcrowding in state prisons by reducing the number of inmates by about 10,000 this year, and criticized what they described as foot-dragging in dealing with the matter.

California has been under court orders to reduce the population in its 33-prison system since 2009, when the same three-judge panel ordered it to relieve overcrowding that has caused inadequate medical and mental healthcare.

Earlier this year, the judges rebuffed a request by California Governor Jerry Brown to vacate the 2009 order that had argued that the state had fixed the crowding problem and that further prisoner releases would harm public safety.

The judges said if current efforts to reduce overcrowding does not result in the state reaching a prison population target of 137.5 percent of capacity by the end of the year, the state must then release prisoners from a list of inmates at low-risk of recidivism.

"Failure to take such steps or to report on such steps every two weeks shall constitute an act of contempt," the judges said in their ruling.
Read the rest here.

Anarchy in Congress as House Republicans Seem Unable to Govern

The House Republican conference simply cannot be led.

That reality hit home — hard — this afternoon when the House failed to pass a farm bill. The bill failed 234-195 with 62 Republicans voting against it and just 24 Democrats voting for it.

Republican insiders immediately tried to foist the blame on Democrats, insisting that 40 “yea” votes had been promised and the vote count was dependent on those votes being delivered.  (Worth noting: The administration made clear in a statement Monday that President Obama would veto the bill if it passed, a declaration that undoubtedly had a chilling effect on Democratic votes in favor of the legislation.)

But, here’s the simple political reality: The majority party in the House should never — repeat NEVER — lose floor votes on major (or, really, minor) pieces of legislation. Republicans, literally, write the rules governing the debate — and, as the majority, must ensure that even in the worst case scenario that they can get the “yeas” they need from their own side. That didn’t happen as a number of conservatives revolted, believing that the cuts proposed in the bill were insufficient.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I don't like the way this looks

George Zimmer has been fired. Yes, you know who he is. He's the ever dapper "You're gonna love the way you look, I guarantee it" guy. The founder and Executive Chairman of the Men's Warehouse was summarily dismissed by the board of director's today, one day before a scheduled shareholder's meeting which was abruptly cancelled. No official explanation was offered.

Now the company is publicly traded and Mr. Zimmer is reported to hold a little over 3% of the stock which would make him a wealthy man by itself. But why would a very well known, and by all accounts successful business sack the founder and public face of the company in such an extremely abrupt manner?

Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in the company. I don't really believe in owning individual stocks and have never been a customer of the company. But this seems bizarre. It's almost like KFC firing Colonel Sanders without any explanation. WHY? What could be the motive?

If you have differences between a CEO and the board you normally ease the CEO out quietly. In the case of a man as well known as Zimmer who also founded the company, you throw him a retirement party and hand him a gold Rolex along with the keys to a beachfront condo.

Are there reasonable grounds for treating someone this curtly? Sure. If there is credible evidence of moral turpitude, i.e. some gross violation of ethics or maybe criminal misconduct then you absolutely hit the eject button. But as far as I know that is not alleged.

But what else could it be?

Getting back to my Colonel Sanders analogy, I suspect that either the colonel was caught messing around in the hen house or the Board of Directors has been hijacked by PETA.

RIP: James Gandolfini

LOS ANGELES — James Gandolfini, whose portrayal of a brutal, emotionally delicate mob boss in HBO’s “The Sopranos” helped create one of TV’s greatest drama series and turned the mobster stereotype on its head, died Wednesday in Italy. He was 51.

In a statement, the cable channel, and Gandolfini’s managers Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders, said he died Wednesday while on holiday in Rome. No cause of death was given.
Read the rest here.

A very talented actor. I am shocked. Memory eternal.

FED hints at end to stimulus; stocks bonds fall

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Wednesday that the central bank expects to begin scaling back its massive economic stimulus later this year and end the program by mid-2014 if the recovery continues apace.

The Fed has been spending $85 billion a month to buy long-term bonds and boost the economy. The effort has been credited with propping up the housing market and fueling record highs in the stock markets...

...Stock markets, however, were not as enthusiastic as investors took the remarks as a sign that the Fed is preparing to tighten its policy stance after years of easy money. Major stock indexes dropped when Bernanke began the press conference, then kept sliding. The Dow Jones average and Standard Poor’s 500-stock index closed down nearly 1.4 percent Wednesday, with the Dow dropping more than 200 points. The yield on 10-year Treasuries jumped nearly 8 percent amid a selloff in the bond market.
Read the rest here.

The Greatest Legal Letter Ever

Hands down. I was laughing so hard I had trouble breathing. Go here.

Firefox Web browser to move ahead with ‘Do Not Track’ option

The maker of the popular Firefox browser is moving ahead with plans to block the most common forms of Internet tracking, allowing hundreds of millions of users to eventually limit who watches their movements across the Web, company officials said Wednesday.

Firefox made the decision despite intense resistance from advertising groups, which have argued that tracking is essential to delivering well-targeted, lucrative ads that pay for many popular Internet services. When Firefox’s maker, Mozilla, first suggested in February that it might limit blocking, one advertising executive called it “a nuclear first strike” against the industry.
Read the rest here.

OK so your web browsing might no longer show up in Walmart's daily advertising report. That's a plus. Now if we could only get an opt out for Obama's NSA briefing.

Turkey's War on Christians Continues As Churches Become Mosques

While unrest in Turkey continues to capture attention, more subtle and more telling events concerning the Islamification of Turkey — and not just at the hands of Prime Minister Erdogan but majorities of Turks — are quietly transpiring. These include the fact that Turkey’s Hagia Sophia museum is on its way to becoming a mosque.

Why does the fate of an old building matter?

Because Hagia Sophia — Greek for “Holy Wisdom” — was for some thousand years Christianity’s greatest cathedral. Built in 537 A.D. in Constantinople, the heart of the Christian empire, it was also a stalwart symbol of defiance against an ever encroaching Islam from the east.

After parrying centuries of jihadi thrusts, Constantinople was finally sacked by Ottoman Turks in 1453. Its crosses desecrated and icons defaced, Hagia Sophia — as well as thousands of other churches — was immediately converted into a mosque, the tall minarets of Islam surrounding it in triumph.

Then, after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, as part of several reforms, secularist Ataturk transformed Hagia Sophia into a “neutral” museum in 1934 — a gesture of goodwill to a then-triumphant West from a then-crestfallen Turkey.

Thus the fate of this ancient building is full of portents. And according to Hurriyet Daily News, “A parliamentary commission is considering an application by citizens to turn the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque…. A survey conducted with 401 people was attached to the application, in which more than 97 percent of interviewees requested the transformation of the ancient building into a mosque and afterwards for it to be reopened for Muslim worship.”

Even lesser known is the fact that other historic churches are currently being transformed into mosques, such as a 13th century church building — portentously also named Hagia Sophia — in Trabzon. After the Islamic conquest, it was turned into a mosque. But because of its “great historical and cultural significance” for Christians, it too, during Turkey’s secular age, was turned into a museum and its frescoes restored. Yet local authorities recently decreed that its Christian frescoes would again be covered and the church/museum turned into a mosque.

Similarly, the 5th century Studios Monastery, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is set to become an active mosque. And the existence of the oldest functioning Christian monastery in the world, 5th century Mor Gabriel Monastery, is at risk. Inhabited today by only a few dozen Christians dedicated to learning the monastery’s teachings, the ancient Aramaic language spoken by Jesus, and the Orthodox Syriac tradition, neighboring Muslims filed a lawsuit accusing the monks of practicing “anti-Turkish activities” and of illegally occupying land which belongs to Muslim villagers. The highest appeals court in Ankara ruled in favor of the Muslim villagers, saying the land that had been part of the monastery for 1,600 years is not its property, absurdly claiming that the monastery was built over the ruins of a mosque — even though Muhammad was born 170 years after the monastery was built.

Turkey’s Christian minority, including the Orthodox Patriarch, are naturally protesting this renewed Islamic onslaught against what remains of their cultural heritage — to deaf ears.
Read the rest here.
HT: A blog reader

Is Rand Paul Going Mainstream or the GOP Going Libertarian?

Rand Paul seems to be crossing over to the mainstream — or maybe, it’s the other way around.

When Kentucky’s junior senator arrived in Washington just over two years ago, he seemed destined to inhabit the role of perpetual outlier. But now, he’s in the mix on just about everything that is happening, and talked about as a credible Republican presidential contender in 2016.
Read the rest here.

My take is that Rand understands something that his father, a great man of principle, never seemed to grasp. Ron Paul's flaw, one  that has been a major reason libertarians have never been more than a blip on the political radar screen, was failing to realize that you can have all the principles in the world, but if you don't win elections the other people will dictate policy.

Rand is a moderate libertarian. That is of course anathema to a lot of the hard core libertarians. But while his father must be given credit for shining a light on libertarianism, he never had a shot at winning a national election. Rand does. Great politicians are never ideologues. They are men like LBJ and Reagan who understand the art of the deal and how to get a good chunk of what they want by negotiation and compromise with the understanding they can go after the rest later on.

I don't know if I can support Rand Paul for president. It's too soon for that. But I will say that he is clearly a far savvier politician than his father.

Attention conspiracy theorists

Here's an old one that hasn't gotten much love in recent years that looks set for a comeback.
The producers of an upcoming documentary on TWA Flight 800—which exploded and crashed into the waters off Long Island, N.Y., on July 17, 1996, killing all 230 people on board—claim to have proof that an explosion outside the Paris-bound flight caused the crash. And six former investigators who took part in the film say there was a cover-up and want the case reopened.

"There was a lack of coordination and willful denial of information," Hank Hughes, a senior accident investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters. "There were 755 witnesses. At no time was information provided by the witnesses shared by the FBI."
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

1 Year Later: Wikileaks Assange to Remain in Embassy

(Reuters) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he will not leave the sanctuary of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London even if Sweden stops pursuing sexual assault claims against him because he fears arrest on the order of the United States.

In an interview with Reuters and others to mark the one-year anniversary of taking refuge in the cramped diplomatic building, Assange said he remained hopeful he might be able to leave but offered little evidence to suggest he would be finding new living quarters anytime soon.

"I wouldn't say I wouldn't leave," he said. "(But) my lawyers have advised me I shouldn't leave the embassy because of the risk of arrest in relation to the risk of arrest and extradition to the United States."

When asked whether he would remain inside even if Sweden dropped the investigation against him, Assange said: "That's correct."
Read the rest here.

Memo to the G8: You are heads of state, not bachelors at a stag party

Mention the lack of ties at the #G8 on Twitter and you get a torrent of replies from those who think it's all gone a bit too far (and the odd slacker moaning about the patriarchy's insidious phallic symbol). Turns out George Osborne explained the "smart casual" dress code earlier (I missed it) after being asked about Dave's rolled-up sleeves/lumberjack look. He told the BBC: "Basically I am doing what I was asked to do, which is turn up in smart-casual wear. I have followed to the letter: I got out my jacket and my blue shirt." His statement troubles me. For a start, who set the dress code? The Foreign Office? And why should he follow it? He's the Chancellor: nothing about him should be casual.

G8 summits are notorious for their sartorial excesses: matching floral shirts, ponchos, stetsons, it has become a commonplace for the host country to rope the visitors into trying on some sort of local dress. Yet what happens when the world's most powerful men (sic) gather in the UK? We make them dress like bachelors emerging into the bleary dawn after a vigorous stag party. We might as well ask them to wear jeans. What's wrong with a bit of understated English tailoring, as a way of plugging one of our more successful exports? In fact, it's London Fashion Week. There's all kind of natty pastel numbers available, rather than the blue blazers. But for my money, they should tie one on to show they take the taxpayer – and their responsibilities – seriously. (emphasis mine A/O)
From here.

Can I have an "Amen!" please?

551 Years Ago Today: A Great Victory Against Islamic Invaders

Vlad III (Dracula)
...Finally, Mehmed trapped his enemy in a mountain pass and set up siege, determined to wait till Vlad and his followers starved or surrendered. Recognizing his peril, the Wallachian prince determined to meet death in a manner befitting the temper of his blood. He laid his plans on that June evening, and waited till nightfall.

The Ottoman camp lay in silence. Suddenly, a trumpet blast brayed out. The rumble of rushing feet and roaring voices swelled over the tents as Vlad III lead a surprise attack in the dead of night, blades gleaming in the torchlight. The prince threshed a path toward Mehmed’s tent, spreading chaos and carnage with the ferocity of his invasion. The panicked Turks reeled beneath the blow, until the Janissaries rallied themselves. Encircling the Sultan, they drove the Wallachians back into the gloom—only after fifteen thousand Turks had been butchered.

This famous skirmish of June 17, 1462, allegedly left Mehmed II petrified. With his forces in tatters and demoralized, he abandoned the chase of Vlad Dracul, allowing the Wallachians to return to Targoviste. Soon afterwards, however, Mehmed repented pulling away and marched on the capital after Vlad. Another surprise awaited him there. The gates of the city stood open. No resistance was offered.

And twenty thousand dead Turks surrounded the city, impaled on stakes.
Read the rest here.

Barking Mad

The US Military wants to let women into the special forces.

Urban Exploration: America's Crumbling Buildings in Photos

A fascinating look at some of our older buildings as they decay and crumble.

HT: Bill TGF

Monday, June 17, 2013

'We were told to lie'

Bank of America routinely denied qualified borrowers a chance to modify their loans to more affordable terms and paid cash bonuses to bank staffers for pushing homeowners into foreclosure, according to affidavits filed last week in a Massachusetts lawsuit.

"We were told to lie to customers," said Simone Gordon, who worked in the bank's loss mitigation department until February 2012. "Site leaders regularly told us that the more we delayed the HAMP [loan] modification process, the more fees Bank of America would collect."

In sworn testimony, six former employees describe what they saw behind the scenes of an often opaque process that has frustrated homeowners, their attorneys and housing counselors.

They describe systematic efforts to undermine the program by routinely denying loan modifications to qualified applicants, withholding reviews of completed applications, steering applicants to costlier "in-house" loans and paying bonuses to employees based on the number of new foreclosures they initiated.

The employees' sworn testimony goes a long way to explain why the government's Home Affordable Modification Program, launched in 2008 during the depths of the housing collapse, has fallen so far short of the original targets to save millions of Americans from being tossed from their homes.

Bank of America denied the allegations in the affidavits, which were filed in a Massachusetts lawsuit on behalf of dozens of Bank of America borrowers in 26 states.
Read the rest here.

Banks are the enemy.

Conservatives likely to write most remaining decisions in Supreme Court’s term

It’s time for the conservative justices on the Supreme Court to get to work.

That’s not an accusation of sloth but a reflection of reality. As the court heads into the crucial final weeks of the term, it is apparent that the great majority of remaining decisions will be authored by the court’s most consistent conservatives.

It’s a conclusion drawn from a numbers game that is unique to the Supreme Court and easy enough even for journalists and lawyers, who often joke that they chose their professions on the promise that there would be no math or hard science.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Judge: Obama sex assault comments 'unlawful command influence'

Two defendants in military sexual assault cases cannot be punitively discharged, if found guilty, because of “unlawful command influence” derived from comments made by President Barack Obama, a judge ruled in a Hawaii military court this week.

Navy Judge Cmdr. Marcus Fulton ruled during pretrial hearings in two sexual assault cases — U.S. vs. Johnson and U.S. vs. Fuentes — that comments made by Obama as commander in chief would unduly influence any potential sentencing, according to a court documents obtained by Stars and Stripes.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Fulton approved the pretrial defense motions, which used as evidence comments that Obama made about sexual assault at a May 7 news conference.

“The bottom line is: I have no tolerance for this,” Obama said, according to an NBC News story submitted as evidence by defense attorneys in the sexual assault cases.

‘I expect consequences,” Obama added. “So I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this, they’ve got to be held accountable — prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”

The judge’s pretrial ruling means that if either defendant is found guilty, whether by a jury or a military judge, they cannot receive a bad conduct discharge or a dishonorable discharge. Sailors found guilty under the Uniform Code of Military Justice’s Article 120, which covers several sexual crimes including assault and rape, generally receive punitive discharges.
Read the rest here.

Life in a Socialist Paradise

...“We Venezuelans have always been very creative,” said Claudia Sucre, who was once kidnapped but managed to fool her abductors into thinking she wasn’t affluent. “We’ve reinvented things so we can live our lives feeling like we’re in a safe place, so as to not lose our enthusiasm.”

So young people invited to parties take their pajamas, staying over to sleep once festivities end and avoid the lonely drive home at night, when they could be kidnapped.

Maria Blasini, 47, spoke of how when she leaves the bank she waves around her deposit slip to ensure that lurking robbers see that her money is in the vault. Many take to the streets with decoy phones — say, the cheap state-made Vergatarios — to avoid losing a $400 smartphone.

Some drive low-key cars because they fear kidnappers target those in fancier vehicles. Soccer moms now install bulletproof plating in their SUVs.

Lately, those who want to attend a wedding or to enjoy a leisurely dinner hire bodyguards — for just a few hours.
Read the rest here.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Post Office and the Missing $1300 Laptop

A woman in California recently sold a laptop computer of hers on eBay for $1,300, but it never arrived at the buyer’s house. The seller had paid the U.S. Postal Service for insurance and delivery confirmation on the package, so she should be able to get her money back and see who signed for the package. Not quite.

She tells CBS Sacramento’s Kurtis Ming that USPS denied her insurance claim because the package was delivered and signed for as requested, but when she asked to see the proof of signature, the box was blank. So either the recipient had signed in invisible ink or no one had signed at all because the package was lost or stolen in transit.

Nope, insisted USPS, that’s a signature. She appealed her claim twice and no one would admit that there was absolutely no proof that the package had been delivered. In fact, all evidence seemed to show that the package had not arrived.
Read the rest here.

Detroit’s Creditors Asked to Accept Pennies on the Dollar

DETROIT — An emergency manager who was sent to reverse the fortunes of this financially troubled city asked some of its creditors on Friday to accept pennies on the dollar as he laid out his plan for tackling Detroit’s staggering debt, kick-starting negotiations that could determine whether the city is headed to bankruptcy court. 
Read the rest here.

CBS: Somebody (cough cough) broke into one of our computers

...“A cyber security firm hired by CBS News has determined through forensic analysis that Sharyl Attkisson’s computer was accessed by an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasions late in 2012. Evidence suggests this party performed all access remotely using Attkisson’s accounts. While no malicious code was found, forensic analysis revealed an intruder had executed commands that appeared to involve search and exfiltration of data.

This party also used sophisticated methods to remove all possible indications of unauthorized activity, and alter system times to cause further confusion.

...CBS News is taking steps to identify the responsible party and their method of access.”
Read the rest here.

The left turns compliant on violating civil liberties

Where have all the liberals gone?

President Obama, who as a Democratic senator accused the Bush administration of violating civil liberties in the name of security, now vigorously defends his own administration’s collection of Americans’ phone records and Internet activities.  of Americans’ phone records and Internet activities.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said he thinks Congress has done sufficient intelligence oversight. His evidence? Opinion polls.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi defended the programs’ legality and said she wants Edward Snowden prosecuted for leaking details of the secret operations.

Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, accused Snowden of treason and defended false testimony given to her committee by the director of national intelligence, who in March had denied the programs’ existence.

With some exceptions, progressive lawmakers and the liberal commentariat have been passive and acquiescent toward the secret spying programs, which would have infuriated the left had they been the work of a Republican administration.
Read the rest here.

Eugene Robinson: Scalia was right

The Supreme Court’s ruling last week, allowing police to compel DNA samples from persons arrested for serious offenses, will solve cold cases around the country and put dangerous criminals behind bars. But despite this clearly beneficial impact, the court’s 5 to 4 ruling was wrong — and may be more far-reaching than we can now imagine.

The words “Antonin Scalia was right” do not flow easily for me. But the court’s most uncompromising conservative, who wrote a withering dissent, was correct when he issued a dire-sounding warning from the bench: “Make no mistake about it: As an entirely predictable consequence of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.”
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Another Jurisdictional Food Fight

This crap is getting old.

The Scowling Face of the State

In the fall of 1996, at the campaign’s climax, Democrats filed with the Federal Election Commission charges against Salvi’s campaign alleging campaign finance violations. These charges dominated the campaign’s closing days. Salvi spoke by telephone with the head of the FEC’s Enforcement Division, who he remembers saying: “Promise me you will never run for office again, and we’ll drop this case.” He was speaking to Lois Lerner.

After losing to Durbin, Salvi spent four years and $100,000 fighting the FEC, on whose behalf FBI agents visited his elderly mother demanding to know, concerning her $2,000 contribution to her son’s campaign, where she got “that kind of money.” When the second of two federal courts held that the charges against Salvi were spurious, the lawyer arguing for the FEC was Lois Lerner.
Read the rest here.

Hip Hip... whatever

According to the ACNA’s Provincial Meeting Journal, the most recent draft liturgies reduce the filioque to a footnote. Joel Wilhelm does an admirable job (as usual) of summarizing:
    ACNA’s Provincial Meeting Journal is out and it shows ACNA talking out of both sides of its mouth on the filioque, a doctrine central to all of Western Christendom. The draft liturgies in this document contain a Nicene Creed that reads:

        We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.

    The footnote to this reads:

        The filioque clause “and the Son” may be added here. It is not included in the text above for ecumenical purposes, in accordance with the 1978 Lambeth Conference, though the ACNA does not disagree with the theology of the filioque.
Read the rest here.
HT: Dr. Tighe

Let's see. They don't doctrinally affirm the first seven Ecumenical Councils. (We can leave #s 8 & 9 aside for now.) They permit and to some degree embrace Calvinism. And they claim to ordain women. But they want us to know that they are thinking about dropping the Filioque.

Sorry guys. You are still Protestants.

Joe Biden on Government Spying (when Bush was president)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

ACLU Sues Over Vast Spying

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of the U.S. government’s surveillance program that collects from U.S. phone companies the call records of tens of millions of Americans.

It is the first substantive lawsuit following reports in The Washington Post and the Guardian last week detailing two sweeping surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency under laws authorized by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Read the rest here.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Limited Posting This Weekend

Catching up on some reading over the next few days and taking a break from the keyboard. Urgent stuff may be posted, otherwise see you on Monday. In the meantime please enjoy the musical intermission.

The Red Carpet Treatment

The New York Central Railroad's Twentieth Century Limited gave us the modern expression "the red carpet treatment' from their use of a red carpet on their trains. The Limited was an overnight all First Class express train that ran between New York and Chicago until the late 1960's. Each night at exactly the same time a train departed each city, one westbound and one eastbound. The Limited's exacting standards of luxury and service made it the preferred mode of transport for film and stage stars, millionaires, political big shots and just about anyone who wanted to see and be seen in high society. The above infomercial was produced in 1935.



It's almost impossible to imagine what it was like on the home front June 6, 1944. But you can get an idea by listening to some of the wall to wall news coverage that was broadcast periodically interrupted by patriotic music and prayer from famous clergy and FDR. It must have been gut wrenching for families with loved ones in the service. Radio coverage...
 HT: Shorpy

Prayers Please

Word has come via Fr. Aidan (Al) Kimel that Fr. Stephen Freeman has suffered a serious illness. Please keep him and his family in your prayers.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Greeks Furious Over IMF Apology

(Reuters) - Greeks reacted with an air of vindication and outrage at the International Monetary Fund's admission it erred in its handling of the country's bailout, berating an apology that comes too late to salvage an economy and countless lives in ruins.

Anger was palpable on the streets of Athens, where the EU-IMF austerity recipe that the Washington-based fund says it sharply misjudged has left rows of shuttered stores and many scrounging for scraps of food in trash cans.

"Really? Thanks for letting us know but we can't forgive you," said Apostolos Trikalinos, a 59-year old garbage collector and a father of two.

"Let's not fool ourselves. They'll never give us anything back. I'm sorry for all the people who killed themselves because of austerity. How are we going to bring them back? How?"
Read the rest here.

Prince Phillip Admitted to Hopsital Again

The Duke of Edinburgh is expected to spend up to a fortnight in hospital after undergoing an abdominal operation on Friday in a development that has prompted fresh concerns for his health.

The Duke, who will turn 92 on Monday, attended the London Clinic by previous appointment for an exploratory operation to be carried out under general anaesthetic [sic].
Read the rest here.

U.S. intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.

The highly classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before. Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy. Even late last year, when critics of the foreign intelligence statute argued for changes, the only members of Congress who knew about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.
Read the rest here.

China Hacked Obama and McCain Campaigns

The U.S. secretly traced a massive cyberespionage operation against the 2008 presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain to hacking  units backed by the People’s Republic of China, prompting  high level warnings to Chinese officials to stop such activities,  U.S. intelligence officials tell NBC News.

The disclosure on the eve of a two-day summit between the U.S. and Chinese presidents highlights what has become a persistent source of tension between the two global powers: Beijing’s aggressive, orchestrated campaign to pierce America’s national security armor at any weak point – in this case the computers and laptops of top campaign aides and advisers who received high-level briefings.
Read the rest here.

Obama's Dragnet

Within hours of the disclosure that the federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.

Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability.

The administration has now lost all credibility. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. That is one reason we have long argued that the Patriot Act, enacted in the heat of fear after the 9/11 attacks by members of Congress who mostly had not even read it, was reckless in its assignment of unnecessary and overbroad surveillance powers.
Read the rest here.

Obama has violated his oath of office and should be impeached.

Putin to Divorce Wife

MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin announced on Thursday that he plans to divorce his wife of 29 years, Lyudmila, who for years has barely appeared in public, prompting widespread chatter about the secretive leader’s private life.

The couple made the announcement to a television crew after attending a ballet performance at the Kremlin together — an unusual event in itself, since in recent years Lyudmila Putin has appeared in public only rarely.
Read the rest here.

US Engaging in Massive Domestic Spying

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is secretly carrying out a domestic surveillance program under which it is collecting business communications records involving Americans under a hotly debated section of the Patriot Act, according to a highly classified court order disclosed on Wednesday night.

The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in April, directs a Verizon Communications subsidiary, Verizon Business Network Services, to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis” to the National Security Agency all call logs “between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.” 
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Two Intervenionists Move Up in the White House

WASHINGTON — In naming Susan E. Rice and Samantha Power to key national security posts, President Obama has turned to two prominent advocates of liberal interventionism, a foreign-policy credo that calls for the United States to act aggressively to defend human rights – by military means, if necessary. 

Both are veterans of his 2008 campaign and have strong personal relationships with Mr. Obama. But they will be working for a president who has consistently resisted intervening in the most dire human-rights calamity of the day, the civil war in Syria. Given Mr. Obama’s fixed views, it is not clear whether even Ms. Rice and Ms. Power could prod him into action. 
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Group calls criminalizing drug use "Human Rights violation"

On the eve of a major conference on drug problems in the Western Hemisphere, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that jailing people for personal drug use constitutes a human rights violation and called for abolishing criminal penalties.

“To deter harmful drug use, governments should rely instead on non-penal regulatory and public health policies,” the organization said in a statement released at a news conference in Guatemala, where the annual general assembly of the Organization of American States this week will focus on the drug policies of member governments. “Subjecting people to criminal sanctions for the personal use of drugs, or for possession of drugs for personal use, infringes on their autonomy and right to privacy.”
Read the rest here.


Unbelievably stupid? Yes.
Human Rights violation? Not even close. These people are trivializing a very weighty legal concept.

Obama Picks 3 for Top Appeals Court, Setting Up Battle

WASHINGTON — President Obama set a confrontation with Senate Republicans in motion on Tuesday morning by naming a slate of judges to a top appeals court and daring his rivals to block their confirmations. 
Read the rest here.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Remembering the Fall of Constantinople and Turkey's Continuing Siege Against Christians

Today marks the 560th anniversary of the fall and capture of the magnificent Christian city of Constantinople, the eastern capital of the Roman Empire, to the forces led by the Ottoman Turkish Sultan, Mohammed (Mehmet) II. Mehmet took the title "the Conqueror" for himself, as a sign of the Turks' conquest of what was Europe's most glorious city of the Middle Ages and as recognition of the Ottoman jihadi victory over Christianity.

Nearly half a millennium later, the government of the Republic of Turkey continues to celebrate the fall of the city, today's Istanbul, with religious, sports, and media festivities. Kemalist governments long understood the fall of Constantinople as a signature event for Turkish nationalism. Visitors to Istanbul on May 29th could hardly mistake the nationalist message of the city draped in Turkish flags for as far as the eye could see, and under the current Islamist government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, secular nationalism has been augmented with a religious message about the fall of Constantinople as a sign of Islam's triumph over Christianity.

Last year, Erdogan floated the idea of designating May 29th as a Turkish national holiday. More recently, he suggested the possibility of a referendum on the conversion of the historic Byzantine Christian Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, captured by Mehmet when he rode on horseback through the colossal entry doors into the heart of the sanctuary, from its current status as a museum into a functioning mosque.

Ankara has consistently critiqued the European Union as a Christian Club keeping Turkey at arm's length because of religious prejudice against Islam. Yet, the fall of Constantinople on May 29th in 1453 began an unrelenting, centuries-long pattern of persecution and discrimination against the city's Christian population. This policy of religious cleansing lays bare the lie of the Ottoman Empire as a benign, multi-cultural polity, and also highlights the violations of human rights and religious freedom that are the hallmark of Turkey's treatment of its Christian minority populations. The anniversary of the fall of Constantinople is a reminder that the siege against Turkey's Christians continues to this day -- most egregiously, against the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the tiny Greek Orthodox Christian community (fewer than 2,000 in number), as well as against the small Armenian Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Christian communities (their combined numbers total about 80,000). All of these Christians are survivors tracing their roots to Constantinople when it fell to the Ottoman Turks.
Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

Many (more) Years!

Sixty years on and still showing up for work every day. God Save The Queen!