Friday, August 30, 2013

100 Years Ago Today

Here we are at the end of August and 100 years ago...

Nothing of any great importance was going on.

In Congress Democrats were calling for higher taxes on the wealthy. They were insisting on a tax bracket of five (5) percent for the very wealthy under the new income tax code made possible by the recent ratification of the 16th Amendment. In Great Britain a pack of wannabe women voters attacked Prime Minister H.H. Asquith and physically dragged him over a stretch of golf course until he was rescued. Meanwhile the United States is rattling sabres with foreign countries. President Wilson is threatening Mexico and a fleet of nine battleships has been dispatched to cruise off their coast. (Some things don't seem to have changed much.)

In sports news The Boston Red Sox beat the Washington Senators in eleven innings 1-0. Washington's ace pitcher, Walter "the big train" Johnson, shut down the Sox for the first ten innings but finally gave up the winning run in the eleventh. In other sporting news The Brooklyn Dodgers beat the Boston Braves and the New York Giants fell before the Phillies. Also it is reported that an agreement has been reached establishing the rules for the official America's Cup Sailing  competition, with the first race set for 1914.

For those seeking to escape the brutal heat of New York in August (in a world without AC) the Pennsylvania Railroad is advertising a $2.50 round trip excursion ticket to Atlantic City and it's cool beaches. Excursion boats are also advertising. For those seeking a longer term escape numerous ocean and lake front hotels and resorts are advertised (most made of wood and highly combustible). If travel is in your plans you can find the railroad schedules and also the sailing schedules for all of the ocean liners sailing to distant ports. The German liner SS Imperator plans to sail tomorrow morning despite damage from a recent fire. And for those in a rush to Europe, the Lusitania is sailing on September 3rd (less than six days to cross the Atlantic!).

In business news stocks were higher on active trading both in the New York and the Curbside Exchanges. And it was reported that over the first three months of the year only 158 people died and a further 3628 persons were injured in train related accidents. This is universally seen as a sign of progress in railroad safety.

In other words nothing of great importance was going on at the end of August 100 years ago. It will be six years before I will be able to write those words again.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Britain: Government in crisis as Parliament rejects attack on Syria

In a stunning rebuke, the House of Commons has voted decisively not to endorse a military strike on Syria. Significant numbers of Conservative (Tory) MPs joined the opposition Labor Party in voting against authorization for armed intervention. This is being seen as a major revolt on the part of Tory backbenchers and it has called into question the viability of Mr. Cameron's Government. After the vote, Mr. Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, asked the Prime Minister if he would give his assurance to the House that he would not invoke the Royal Prerogative and attack without the support of Parliament. To which the Prime Minister answered in the affirmative saying he understood and respected the sentiment of the House.

This is a HUGE blow to the Prime Minister and there is a sense of political crisis as open questions are now being raised about the degree of support Mr. Cameron has within his own party. It is also worth noting that the Tories do not have a majority in the House of Commons but are governing in a Coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

The bottom line is that the British Government is not going to be joining any attack on Syria anytime soon and that Mr. Cameron's position as Prime Minister is almost certainly no longer safe. Calls for his resignation and or the dissolution of Parliament with an early election are expected imminently.

Prayers please

Your prayers are kindly requested for my Godson Basil as he prepares to leave for seminary in Jordanville.

RIP: Gus - New York's iconic (and slightly weird) polar bear

There are not a huge number of ways to become famous as a polar bear. Gus somehow managed to do it by behaving like a perfectly ordinary New Yorker: he was neurotic. He became the Neurotic Polar Bear...

...Polar bears are among the most beloved animals, but Gus was something else. In 1994, notice was drawn to his peculiar swimming protocol. He would plop into the pool and swim lap after lap in figure-eight patterns, pawing his way through the water with powerful backstrokes. He did this for as many as 12 hours a day. Every day. Every week. Every month.

Zoo visitors found the repetitive swimming by the 700-pound polar bear mesmerizing. Zoo ticket sales shot up. Tourists and New Yorkers alike flocked to glimpse what had become a novelty act: the endlessly swimming bear.

But zoo officials became increasingly worried. Why was he doing this? Was it something physical? Was it woman problems? Was he having a nervous breakdown?
Read the rest here.

Breaking up is never easy

Kim Jong-un's ex-girlfriend was among a dozen well-known North Korean performers who were executed by firing squad nine days ago, according to South Korean reports.

Hyon Song-wol, a singer, rumoured to be a former lover of the North Korean leader, is said to have been arrested on Aug 17 with 11 others for violating laws against pornography.

The reports in South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper indicate that Hyon, a singer with the Unhasu Orchestra, was among those arrested on August 17 for violating domestic laws on pornography.

All 12 were machine-gunned three days later, with other members of North Korea's most famous pop groups and their immediate families forced to watch. The onlookers were then sent to prison camps, victims of the regime's assumption of guilt by association, the reports stated.
Read the rest here.

I am going to take an educated guess that no "red lines" have been crossed here and that we won't be bombing North Korea anytime soon.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Missouri State Legislature Ponders Insurrection

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Unless a handful of wavering Democrats change their minds, the Republican-controlled Missouri legislature is expected to enact a statute next month nullifying all federal gun laws in the state and making it a crime for federal agents to enforce them here. A Missourian arrested under federal firearm statutes would even be able to sue the arresting officer. 
Read the rest here.

This needs to be called what it is, a declaration of armed insurrection against the United States Government. These clowns are threatening arrest, and by implication... violence, against any officer or employee of the US Government who attempts to carry into execution the laws of the United States.

THAT IS INTOLERABLE.

And these illiterate herbs, who seemingly can neither read the plain language of the Constitution nor hold any regard for 200 years of settled case law apparently want to play armed anarchist. Andrew Jackson called  nullification what it was. Treason. The President should put them on notice that if any Federal officer is arrested or attacked while carrying into execution the laws of the Republic that he will arrest each and every member of the state legislature who votes for this constitutional abortion.

Enough is enough!

Here we go again

Getting ready to attack yet another country, intervening in a civil war where there are no good guys, and almost certainly making things worse for the already severely persecuted Christian minority. See Dr. Adam DeVille's post here. Why doesn't Obama just bomb the Phanar and or the Vatican and get it over with? If there has ever been an administration with a foreign policy so overtly hostile to persecuted Christians I can't remember it.

Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary


Services for the Feast held in the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Kremlin.

A great speech is remembered with a very exclusive party

So today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's most famous speech, which I will not quote here out of deference to the copyright, jealously guarded by his family. While conceding the flaws of the messenger, the message was an important one. And I join the vast majority of American's in expressing my gratitude for his courage and eloquence in a great and noble cause. And it is entirely appropriate that the occasion should be commemorated.

To which end there have been a series of events going on all week in Washington, culminating in an endless procession of speeches and orations by some of our country's great luminaries, including three US Presidents.

All of them Democrats.

Come to think of it, I am trying really hard to name any Republicans at any of these events. Now a number of possibilities come to mind. Maybe the two Presidents Bush were unable to make it. Maybe the entire Republican Party really despises Dr. King and they quietly boycotted the event. Maybe there were lots of Republicans there and they just got blacked out by MSNBC and CNN.

Or maybe, none were not invited.

Charity dictates I give some weight to the first few possibilities. But my gut strong suspects the latter. If anyone has evidence to the contrary I will be more than happy to be proven paranoid in my suspicions of racial politics at such an important anniversary.

Anglican Archbishop urges Christians to ‘repent’ over ‘wicked’ attitude to homosexuality

The Most Rev Justin Welby told an audience of traditional born-again Christians that they must “repent” over the way gay and lesbian people have been treated in the past and said most young people viewed Christians as no better than racists on the issue.

Archbishop Welby, who as a young priest once opposed allowing gay couples to adopt children, said the church now had to face up to what amounted to one of the most rapid changes in public attitudes ever.

While insisting that he did not regret voting against same-sex marriage in the House of Lords, he admitted that his own mind was not yet “clear” on the wider issues which he was continuing to think about.

And he admitted that, despite its strong official opposition to allowing same-sex couples to marry, the Church is still “deeply and profoundly divided” over gay marriage.
Read the rest here.

New York Times Website Hacked

The website of the New York Times is still down almost 24 hrs after a foreign based cyber attack carried out by self proclaimed allies of Syrian dictator Bashir Al-Assad.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Vigil for the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos


Fred Reed on a College Education

In 1964 Hampden-Sydney College, in Southside Virginia, was fairly typical of American schools and particularly of the small, good Sothern schools of the region: Randolph-Macon College for men in Ashland, co-ed William and Mary in Williamsburg, and Randolph-Macon Women´s College in Lynchburg among others.

H-S, as we called it, was entirely male, both as to students and professors. This had the great advantage that we could concentrate on the job at hand, as for example learning things, instead of pondering the young lovely at the next desk. These latter were available at Longwood State Teachers College (now of course Longwood University), seven miles away.

Hampden-Sydney was not MIT. Average SATs were perhaps 1150 if memory serves. The students were chiefly drawn from the small and pleasant towns of rural Virginia, and would go on to become doctors, attorneys, and businessmen. Yet H-S embodied (and may still) a, by today´s standards, a remarkable philosophy of education, and showed that reasonably but not appallingly bright young can be educated. So did most colleges.
It was then believed that higher education was for the intelligent and the prepared, for no more than the upper twenty percent, perhaps fifteen ore even ten percent of graduates of high school.

At Hampden-Sydney, “Prepared” meant “prepared.” It was assumed that students could read perfectly and knew algebra cold. There were no remedial courses. The idea would have been thought ridiculous if anyone had thought it at all. If you needed remediation, you belonged somewhere else. Colleges were not holding tanks for the mildly retarded.
Read the rest here.

A Reflection on the Lifespan and Fragility of National Governments

Government survivability are the odds of a government continuing into the future intact (it’s a type of political risk). Gold is a hedge against this kind of threat. Let’s discuss.

Governments Are Fragile

When I look back over the last 100 years there are maybe just seven or so governments that still exist more or less intact (meaning their debts, currency, markets, etc. haven’t gone to the black hole). So off the top of my head those are: Canada, U.S., Australia, New Zealand, U.K., Sweden, and Switzerland. There may be a couple more, but you get the idea. It ain’t many. And notice I say “governments” and not “countries.” France still exists as a geographic area, but it has had multiple governments the past 100 years. Same for Japan, Italy, China, Russia, etc. Geographically the countries are (more or less) the same, but the management has had high turnover. And with this turnover, so goes the currency and debt promises made. Many countries had far more unsavory things happen than just losing money, but for our purposes we won’t go into them.

So let’s be generous and say 10 countries out of hundreds on the planet still have the same government and currency from 100 years ago. In fact, many governments you see today probably weren’t in existence even 75 years ago. Those are really bad odds! That means in the average person’s lifetime, if trends hold, they could likely experience their government having a major problem (up to and including vanishing and being replaced with something entirely different kind of major problem).

Does that also mean the United States falls under the same rules of history? Whether you want to believe it or not, it does. In fact, there should be a voice in the back of your head that is always giving a gentle reminder: The U.S. government is old.

Now when I say the U.S. government is old, I don’t mean in a way that it’s going to blow up tomorrow. It’s just that the longer we go on a timeline, the odds of the same government existing gets worse, not better. Governments are not a fine wine. They don’t get better with age. Governments are fragile and get more fragile the older they are. Think about it in human terms. A 20 year old has a much better chance of waking up tomorrow than a 100 year old. Age catches up with everything, even governments.
Read the rest here.

This is really good and thought provoking post. Please leave comments there.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Riddle me this...

Q: What do you call a man whose professional resume is starting to resemble Elizabeth Taylor's personal life?

A. Keith Olbermann.

After six budget showdowns, big government is mostly unchanged

After 21 / 2 years of budget battles, this is what the federal government looks like now:

It is on pace, this year, to spend $3.455 trillion.

That figure is down from 2010 — the year that worries about government spending helped bring on a tea party uprising, a Republican takeover in the House and then a series of ulcer-causing showdowns in Congress.

But it is not down by that much. Back then, the government spent a whopping $3.457 trillion.

 Measured another way — not in dollars, but in people — the government has about 4.1 million employees today, military and civilian. That’s more than the populations of 24 states.

Back in 2010, it had 4.3 million employees. More than the populations of 24 states.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Telegraph: It's left wing prats who are defending our freedom

A few weeks ago, a British national newspaper was visited by a detachment of national security agents who demanded that its computers and hard drives be destroyed. The security men then stood over its staff while they smashed their equipment to pieces. In the peace-time history of a free country, this incident is about as shocking as it gets. And yet, a remarkable consensus has grown up, including – I’m sorry to say – many on my side of the political fence, to the effect that this is no big deal.

The reasons that this scene – which looks, on the face of it, like something out of East Germany in the 1970s – is apparently perfectly acceptable seem to be: a) the data in the computers was a threat to the national security of this country and to that of our American allies; b) this information was stolen from the US government and published illegally by people who are narcissistic/eccentric/of dubious political judgment, and c) the newspaper in question was the Guardian, which is full of annoying Left-wing prats. Let’s consider these points in order of importance.
Read the rest here.

Unfortunately on this side of the pond, I see little evidence of any revolt by our own left wing prats against Dear Leader. But yeah, she does have a point. The Guardian has been on the front-line, and (gasp!) the right side of this fight.

A Coptic Monument to Survival is Destroyed

No one knows exactly when the Virgin Mary Church was built, but the fourth and fifth centuries are both possible options. In both cases, it was the time of the Byzantines. Egypt's Coptic Church—to which this church in modern-day Delga belonged—had refused to bow to imperial power and Rome's leadership over the nature of Christ. Constantinople was adamant it would force its will on the Copts. Two lines of popes claimed the Seat of Alexandria. One with imperial blessing sat in the open; the other, with his people's support, often hid, moving from one church to the other. Virgin Mary Church's altar outlasted the Byzantines. Arabs soon invaded in A.D. 641. Dynasties rose and fell, but the ancient building remained strong, a monument to its people's survival.

Virgin Mary Church was built underground, a shelter from the prying eye. At its entrance were two ancient Roman columns and an iron door. Inside were three sanctuaries with four altars. Roman columns were engraved in the walls. As in many Coptic churches, historical artifacts overlapped earlier ones. The most ancient drawing to survive into the 21st century: a depiction, on a stone near the entrance, of two deer and holy bread. Layers and layers of history, a testament not only to the place's ancient roots but also to its persistence. Like other Coptic churches, the ancient baptistery was on the western side, facing the altar in the east. Infants were symbolically transferred through baptism from the left to the right. The old icons were kept inside the church, the ancient manuscripts transferred to the Bishopric in modern times.

Once there were 23 other ancient churches next to it, all connected through secret passages. Only Virgin Mary Church remained. Decline and survival, loss and endurance, the twin faces of the story of the Copts who built it.
Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

'Sovereign Citizens' wage war of paper against government and enemies

MINNEAPOLIS — One of the first inklings Sheriff Richard Stanek had that something was wrong came with a call from the mortgage company handling his refinancing.

“It must be a mistake,” he said, when the loan officer told him that someone had placed liens totaling more than $25 million on his house and on other properties he owned.

But as Sheriff Stanek soon learned, the liens, legal claims on property to secure the payment of a debt, were just the earliest salvos in a war of paper, waged by a couple who had lost their home to foreclosure in 2009 — a tactic that, with the spread of an anti-government ideology known as the “sovereign citizen” movement, is being employed more frequently as a way to retaliate against perceived injustices.
Read the rest here.

The best way to deal with this is to criminalize the intentional filing of false leans or other claims. These nut jobs can whine all they want to about the false government from behind bars.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Class

Class circa 1949
From here

A Catholic Conservative Breaks Ranks on Gay Marriage

 HOT SPRINGS, S.D. — In the past couple of years, conservative opposition to same-sex marriage has clearly started to erode. Prominent Republicans like Senators Rob Portman and Lisa Murkowski and former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell have come out in support of gay marriage. Even David Blankenhorn, the expert witness in the Proposition 8 trial in California and a Democrat, announced that he had changed his mind.

They are, for the most part, moderate conservatives using secular, democratic arguments. None come from the Christian right. Among religious conservatives, opposition to same-sex marriage has remained essentially unquestioned.

Which is why “The Things We Share: A Catholic’s Case for Same-Sex Marriage,” an essay by Joseph Bottum, published Friday on the Web site of Commonweal magazine, is something new in this debate.
Read the rest here.

No surprise he is getting front page coverage from the NY Times.

Ft. Hood Shooter is Guilty of Murder x 13

He may face the death penalty. Of course I am on the record as being against capital punishment. However I have no real moral qualms about executing people like that, especially when there is zero doubt of their guilt. Here are the problems in this case...

* No one has been executed by the military since the early 1960's.
*Most legal experts believe the death penalty system in the military is so dysfunctional that it effectively doesn't exist.
* If appeals are filed it is going to cost a fortune and take decades to kill this evil SOB, if it is even possible.
* Hasan is currently a crippled killer who knows he is going to die in prison no matter what. He desperately wants a glorious martyrdom as opposed to a life of solitary confinement in a supermax prison while confined to a wheelchair.

I have no interest in giving him what he wants.

The worst thing we could do to him would be to toss him in the deepest darkest cell we can find and throw the key away. Let him languish there for a hundred years as just another sociopath who got his fifteen minutes of fame at the expense of other peoples' pain and suffering. For him that would be akin to torture. And of course if we kill him, he is likely to become a hero to extremists both in this country and abroad.

So however emotionally satisfying it would be to see him out of this world with the proverbial blindfold and cigarette, I say let the bastard rot in jail until the Second Coming.

Mounting Evidence of Syrian Gas Attack

Conspiracy theories from Assad apologists notwithstanding, the evidence that the Syrian dictator's forces launched a deadly attack using poison gas is mounting. In addition to France, both Turkey and Britain have stated that they believe the attack happened along with several independent human rights groups. But perhaps most damning is that sources in Israel, which greatly fears the fall of the Assad regime and the dangers that would pose for their national and regional security, also clearly believes the allegations. The Israeli government is avoiding formal comment because they do not support the rebels, but cabinet level sources say Mossad is convinced it happened.

Even the Russians, while not officially conceding the attack, are offering no defense of Syria. Their comments have been extremely guarded and limited to calling on Syria to allow international observers into the area. So far Syria is refusing.

None of which means it's any of our business. From my perspective we have two groups of people who both hate the West trying to slaughter each other. While I feel badly for the innocent victims I see no reason to meddle in this.

More Unitarian Claptrap From the NCC

From the MCJ. How long must we endure membership in this overtly anti-Christian body? Props to the Antiochianss who walked out a few years ago and shook the dust from their sandals.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Quote of the day...

The White Man’s Burden
The United States in the Middle East – 2010

Give up the White Man’s burden–
It isn’t worth the game.
You’ll lose your sons and daughters;
The world will be the same.
You cannot save the heathen
Or civilize the wild.
Your gritty foes survive you
And breed another child.

Give up the White Man’s burden—
And turn the other way
When generals speak of glory
And politicians pray.
When duty calls, or danger,
For solid men and true,
The one to bear the burden
Will not be them, but you.

Give up the White Man’s burden—
The City on a Hill
Is yours to build and cherish,
But not the others’ will.
A world of bloody prophets,
Where fathers slay their own,
Will wear you down and kill you.
It’s better left alone.

Give up the White Man’s burden—
And save your time and breath:
You cannot reach the hearts of men
Who stone young girls to death.
They do not want your justice;
They love their cruel laws.
Your shining dreams of freedom
Will never be their cause.
Read the rest here. It's comment 18 by Winston.

Boston: St. John's Albanian Orthodox Church Destroyed By Fire

SOUTH BOSTON – Nearly 100 firefighters responded to a five-alarm fire that ripped through St. John the Baptist Albanian Orthodox Church Wednesday morning on West Broadway in South Boston.

The fire was reported near 9:00 a.m. but fire officials on the scene said that efforts to fully put out the fire could go on into the evening. “A lot of the structure is compromised, it may have burned through the roof and we can’t totally hit the hotspots from the inside,” said Deputy Fire Chief Robert Calabrisi, adding that the roof could collapse due to the intensity of the fire.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this point.
Read the rest here.

A Musical Interlude With Edith Piaf




On Eve of Retirement Pope Benedict XVI Ordered Changes to Baptismal Rite

From now on, at the end of the rite of reception, before signing with the cross the forehead of the child or of the children, the priest will longer say: "Magno gaudio communitas christiana te (vos) excipit," but instead: "Magno gaudio Ecclesia Dei te (vos) excipit".

In practice pope Joseph Ratzinger, as a sophisticated theologian, wanted that in the baptismal rite it should be clearly said that it is the Church of God - which subsists fully in the Catholic Church - that receives those who are being baptized, and not generically the “Christian community,” a term that also signifies the individual local communities or non-Catholic confessions, like the Protestants.

The decree published in “Notitiae" specifies that Benedict XVI “benevolently established” the aforementioned variation in the course of an audience granted to the prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, on January 28, 2013, just two weeks before the announcement of his resignation as pope.

The decree bears the date of February 22, 2013, the feast of the chair of St. Peter, and is signed by the cardinal prefect and by the secretary, Archbishop Arthur Roche. And it is said there that it went into effect on March 31, 2013, already under the reign of Pope was Francis, who evidently had nothing to object with regard to the decision of his predecessor.
Read the rest here.
HT: The Deacon's Bench

In New York Ultra-Orthodox Jews Wield Power In Battle Over Accommodation

Needing to abide by their tribe’s traditions of modesty, Hasidic women want the city to post a female lifeguard during a women-only swim session at a municipal pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and have lobbied a local councilman to take up their cause.

On another front, Hasidic matzo bakeries, citing ancient Jewish law, have insisted on using water from groundwater wells rather than from reservoirs in preparing the dough used for matzos and have found themselves tangling with health officials worried about the water’s purity.

And on a public bus service that plies a route between the Hasidic neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park, Brooklyn, men sit up front and women in the back, hewing to the practice of avoiding casual mingling of the sexes, even after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg condemned the arrangement.

While these episodes may not have reverberated beyond New York’s Hasidic enclaves, taken together they underscore a religious ascendancy confronting the city’s secular authorities in ways not seen in decades. 
Read the rest here.

Gay Lutheran Bishop Presides at Revisionist Worship Service

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) first openly gay bishop, Guy Erwin, presided over a highly heterodox worship service on August 14, 2013, during ELCA’s 2013 Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh.  Erwin’s subsequent dismissal of the service’s doctrinal significance notwithstanding, the bishop’s presence amidst such liturgical revisionism raises disturbing questions about proper theological formation in the ELCA.

This Festival Worship took place in the Omni William Penn Hotel’s Grand Ballroom after the ELCA assembly’s events had concluded that day in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center blocks away.  For the unsuspecting churchgoer, the service’s liturgical program printed by the gay Lutheran groups hosting the worship,ReconcilingWorks and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, was jarring.  The service’s “Thanksgiving for Baptism,” for example, invokes the “triune God” not under the formulation given by Jesus in the Gospels of “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost/Spirit,” but rather “Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit.”

Any adherent of orthodoxy like me, accustomed to the Anglican 1928 Book of Common Prayer (BCP), would be flabbergasted by the program’s “Affirmation of Faith.”  This apparent reworking of Christianity’s basic statement of faith, the Nicene Creed invokes again a non-gendered “God” as opposed to the creed’s “Father Almighty” in the 1928 BCP translation.  Likewise, the God who “came to us in human form—Jesus” receives no gender designation as the “only-begotten Son of God.”
Read the rest here.

Another Mainline Protestant denomination circles the drain...

Cyprus Bank’s Bailout Hands Ownership to Russians

LIMASSOL, Cyprus — When European leaders engineered a harsh bailout deal for this tiny Mediterranean nation in March, they cheered the end of an economic model fueled by a flood of cash from Russia. Wealthy Russians with money in Cyprus’s sickly banks lost billions.

But the Russians, though badly bruised, are now in a position to get something that has previously eluded even Moscow’s most audacious oligarchs: control of a so-called systemic financial institution in the European Union.

“They wanted to throw out the Russians but in the end, they delivered our main bank to the Russians,” said the Cypriot president, Nicos Anastasiades, in a June interview. 
Read the rest here.

France wants to get back in the Empire business

PARIS — As Western powers pressed the Syrian authorities to permit United Nations inspectors to examine the site of a claimed poison gas attack outside the capital, Damascus, France said on Thursday that outside powers should respond “with force” if the use of chemical weapons was confirmed.

At the same time, Israel said its intelligence assessments pointed to the use of chemical weapons.

“According to our intelligence assessments there was use of chemical weapons,” the Israeli minister of strategic and intelligence affairs and international relations, Yuval Steinitz, told Israel Radio, “and this of course was not for the first time.” 
Read the rest here.

For the record, I have no reason to doubt that Assad used lethal gas. The man has repeatedly demonstrated that he is a barbarian. But while I feel deeply for the suffering people of that country, including and especially the suffering Christian minority who are always the first casualties in any civil unrest, the fact is that it is none of our business. If France wants to take a trip down memory lane and send the Foreign Legion for a romp in her former colonies, good for them. I think they are nuts. But they will find that out in short order.

Syria is a country being ripped by a bloody civil war between a sociopathic dictator backed by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah (Iran's mercenary terrorist surrogates) on the one side and rebels mostly consisting of, and heavily backed by, Islamic religious extremists including Al Qaida who are fanatically anti-Western and anti-Christian on the other side.

What exactly do the French hope to gain from this? The problem with interventionists and enlightened imperialists like the French (and far too many Americans) is that they never grasp that some wars have no good guys involved. The supreme irony is that it was the French who warned Eisenhower to stay out of Vietnam.

Federal Court to Obama Administration - "Stop flouting the law"

Nowadays the federal government leavens its usual quotient of incompetence with large dollops of illegality. This is eliciting robust judicial rebukes, as when, last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia instructed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to stop “flouting the law.” Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh said: “It is no overstatement to say that our constitutional system of separation of powers would be significantly altered if we were to allow executive and independent agencies to disregard federal law in the manner asserted in this case.”
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

NSA Illegally Collected Thousands of Emails

The National Security Agency unlawfully gathered as many as tens of thousands of e-mails and other electronic communications between Americans as part of a now-discontinued collection program, according to a 2011 secret court opinion.

The 86-page opinion, which was declassified by U.S. intelligence officials Wednesday, explains why the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled the collection method unconstitutional.
Read the rest here.

Syria Uses Poison Gas

BEIRUT — Syrian activists accused the government Wednesday of launching a massive chemical weapons attack that killed scores of people in the Damascus suburbs and left makeshift hospitals packed with victims gasping for breath.

The death toll from the alleged attack — which the government strongly denied — varied vastly. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 100 people were confirmed killed, but that the number was likely to rise, while the Syrian Opposition Coalition claimed that at least 1,300 died. The opposition Damascus Media Office also put the toll at more than 1,000. 
Read the rest here.

Manning gets 35 years

With time served, good behavior and parole he could be out in ten years. This seems fair to me. Details here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Egypt's Ravaged Churches

In places such as Beni Mazar — a town on the Nile about 160 miles south of Cairo, in Minya province, which is riven by sectarian tensions — Christian residents made clear their sense of fear and anger. They said they believed Islamists had attacked the churches in retaliation for the police raids on Islamist protest camps in Cairo and also to punish Egypt’s Christian minority for its support of the July 3 coup that ousted president Mohamed Morsi. On the day of the raids, Islamists also attacked police stations across the country.

But in interviews Monday and Tuesday, many residents suggested that the police had been complicit, at least through a failure to respond.

“Until now, we have not heard about any real or serious investigation,” said Mina Thabet, an activist with the Maspero Youth Union, a Christian activist group, which has charted the attacks that have taken place nationwide since Aug. 14.

Some “five or six” bearded Islamists with assault rifles broke through the evangelical church gate in Beni Mazar around midday Aug. 14, the owner of a Christian bookstore next door said in an interview this week. But he also said those Islamists worked in coordination with dozens of “thugs” who arrived in pickup trucks and didn’t look like Islamists.

The accomplices carried off thousands of dollars’ worth of computer, video and audio equipment, as well as air conditioning units, before setting the church on fire, according to the owner, who for security reasons would only permit the use of his first name, Ayman.
Read the rest here.

Russia's Great Nyet to the West

From the Young Fogey. There is much that I admire about Russia's stand on a range of issues which put it in conflict with the post-Christian West. I will however express opposition to the occasional violence that has been reported against homosexuals and other dissenters. Not cool at all. Love the sinner, hate the sin. That's a concept that I suspect has eluded Pat Buchanan.

Manning to be Sentenced Wednesday

He had his day in court and now the bill is due. The Army is asking for sixty years. That seems high to me. My guess is somewhere between twenty and twenty-five years. But I would be shocked if he gets less than twenty.

Old Calendarist "Milan Synod" disbands - Appeals to Moscow for reconcilliation

I don't follow the convoluted and thoroughly byzantine (pun intended) Old Calendarist world, so apologies for missing this late July news. But I think it is significant. Details may be read here including the letter of repentance from their hierarchs to Patriarch Kyrill.

Disclaimer: The linked website is affiliated with the Old Calendarist movement and therefor schismatic.

Shock: Greece will need a third bailout

And a fourth and a fifth... until people decide to stop throwing good money after bad. Greece is the Detroit of the EU. They are broke. They owe more money than they can repay. Period. They have already defaulted on their debt. It's long past time to just let the country go bankrupt so they can begin rebuilding and healing. Yes, that will mean a lot more near term pain. But this is a situation where there are no good alternatives. Bankruptcy is the least bad and the only one that holds out the hope of eventual recovery.

See here for latest news.

Britain's direct attack on the free press

British agents of the GCHQ (their equivalent to our NSA) entered the offices of the Guardian newspaper and systematically destroyed all of the paper's computers that could in anyway have been connected to Edward Snowden and the NSA story. They even destroyed the back up hard drives in the basement. The editors have courageously declared they will continue to pursue the story and publish on it, although from outside of Great Britain.

See here for details. Absolutely chilling.

Monday, August 19, 2013

EU Steps in as Spain and Britain Square Off Over Gibraltar (yet again)

The commission’s intervention came as a British warship docked in Gibraltar on Monday morning, part of what the British authorities described as a long-planned military training operation, rather than a show of force aimed at Spain.

Still, the arrival of the warship, the Westminster, which was escorted by two smaller ships from the Royal Navy, came a day after Spanish fishermen confronted British police vessels to protest Gibraltar’s construction of an artificial reef that is limiting their access to the waters off the territory.

Although Spain has regularly challenged Britain’s 300-year-old control of Gibraltar, the territory’s decision to build the reef has heightened tensions considerably. Gibraltar created the reef this month by dumping 70 concrete blocks into the sea in an attempt to prevent overfishing. Spain retaliated by tightening controls at the border, forcing cars to wait for hours to enter or leave the territory. Spain has also said that it may charge 50 euros, or about $67, to cross the border, saying that the additional revenue could help compensate Spanish fishermen for their losses.
Read the rest here.

Britain: Furor over detention of Snowden leak reporter's partner

David Miranda, the homosexual partner of a prominent Guardian newspaper reporter, was detained for nine hours at London's main airport by British police. No explanation was given, but the defacto arrest was carried out under authority of British anti-terrorism laws which permit detention without charge or access to a lawyer for up to nine hours. Mr. Miranda is the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the reporter for the Guardian who broke the story about Edward Snowden and the NSA's vast domestic espionage operation.

Predictably this is causing a huge uproar. See here and here.

The Empire's reach has grown long indeed.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Reporter Dares to Challenge the Orthodoxy of Conspiracy


AS a veteran newspaper reporter, I’ve heard some things. I once sat in a Friendly’s restaurant in Connecticut with an earnest nun who, between sips of her Fribble, confided that an evil man who looked like Pope Paul VI — but who was not Pope Paul VI — had seized control of the Vatican in the 1960s. A papal double, she explained. And she had photographs to prove it.

I knocked back a double Fribble and asked for the check.

Journalists will entertain conspiracy theories because conspiracies, in fact, do take place, and at our best we seek out the stories behind the stories. But we also pay a price if we don’t buy into every one. If you write that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in the summer of 1969, some reader somewhere is guaranteed to call you a government dupe. Hey, Jimmy Olsen! Everyone knows that Armstrong took one giant leap on a secured movie lot. Sap.

Though I am not unfamiliar with being called a patsy, I still respect and admire those who challenge the conventional wisdom; this is how I was raised, as you will see. Even so, I was still cold-cocked by the response to a recent This Land column of mine that touched on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Holy Zapruder...
Read the rest here.

As a recovering JFK conspiracy theorist I feel for the guy. But at the risk of saying 60% of the American people are wrong, well... they are wrong. Oswald killed Kennedy and he did it alone. There has never been any credible evidence to the contrary. Read Bugliosi's book. He doesn't just knock down the conspiracy theories, he incinerates them in an irrefutable nuclear fireball of facts and logic. Or just watch this rare and honest examination of the case.

On the other hand, the Pope Paul VI double theory... that could explain a lot of things.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Thoughts on the Rebellion of 1861-1865

During the war, Northerners and Southerners sometimes used the uncapitalized phrase “civil war” as a declarative description of the mess in which they found themselves, but Civil War was not yet a proper noun. “Now we are engaged in a great civil war,” President Lincoln famously declared in the Gettysburg Address. Less famously, Lt. James Langhorne of the 4th Virginia Infantry lamented to his mother, “I think our country is doomed to a civil war of years duration.” Throughout the struggle Confederates likewise spoke of the “civil war,” or just “this war.”

But most often, Northerners referred to the war as a rebellion. They commonly used phrases like “this rebellion” and “the great rebellion.” Northerners followed the course of the war in Frank Moore’s popular Rebellion Record, which began to run in 1861, and Lincoln himself frequently used the word “rebellion” to describe the war in public and in private. Rebellion was simply what Union soldiers, and sometimes even Confederate ones, called the war. It seemed as natural as calling a tree “a tree.” The perpetually grouchy Massachusetts soldier Roland Bowen grumped that “we have not done much toward putting down this Rebellion yet,” for example, while the Floridian Roderick Gaspero Shaw worried that if Confederates did not kick the Yankees out of Georgia by the spring of 1864, the “Rebellion will tremble.” And of course, Northerners blasted Confederates as “rebels,” a label that many Confederates proudly adopted. But what did it mean to call the war a rebellion?

Lincoln understood the importance of semantics. “It might seem, at first thought, to be of little difference whether the present movement at the South be called ‘secession’ or ‘rebellion,’” he told Congress in July 1861. “The movers, however, well understand the difference.” Lincoln thought that secession was an act of rebellion against democratic self-government. A disgruntled minority had captured the reins of power in the South and rode it out of the Union because it did not like the way a presidential election turned out. This act defied the core principle of democratic self-government, for elections have validity only when all parties agree to abide by results, even when they don’t like them. If self-government was to survive, then the rejection of – rebellion against – a fairly and freely elected government had to be defeated. As Lincoln put it, “It is now for [us] to demonstrate to the world, that those who can fairly carry an election, can also suppress a rebellion.”
Read the rest here.

Feds Open Bribery Investigation of JP Morgan

Federal authorities have opened a bribery investigation into whether JPMorgan Chase hired the children of powerful Chinese officials to help the bank win lucrative business in the booming nation, according to a confidential United States government document.

In one instance, the bank hired the son of a former Chinese banking regulator who is now the chairman of the China Everbright Group, a state-controlled financial conglomerate, according to the document, which was reviewed by The New York Times, as well as public records. After the chairman’s son came on board, JPMorgan secured multiple coveted assignments from the Chinese conglomerate, including advising a subsidiary of the company on a stock offering, records show.

The Hong Kong office of JPMorgan also hired the daughter of a Chinese railway official. That official was later detained on accusations of doling out government contracts in exchange for cash bribes, the government document and public records show.
Read the rest here.

Banks are the enemy.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Quote of the day....

"Monarchy is the best guard against the power of idiots in large numbers."
-Uncertain, but widely attributed to Voltaire

Muslim Brotherhood denies attacks on churches

It's really just propaganda. And all the pictures and video are fake. From here.

NSA Repeatedly Violated Privacy Laws and Court Orders

The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.

Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What's up with the Old Calendarists?

Fr. John has a good post up that gives a basic overview of the controversy for the uninformed. It addresses a topic in more detail that I touched on in an earlier post.

The Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos

 A blessed feast to all.

A Morbid Anniversary

On this date 77 years ago Rainey Bethea gained the unhappy distinction of being the guest of honor at the last public execution in the United States which occurred in Owensboro Kentucky. An African American convicted (he confessed) of raping and murdering a 70 year old white woman, he was executed before a crowd of not less than 20,000 people. Adding to the rare spectacle of a public execution was the fact, astonishing for the time, that it was to be presided over by quite possibly the nation's first female sheriff. Florence Thompson had ended up with the job after her duly elected husband unexpectedly expired from pneumonia a few months earlier. And under state law it was the Sheriff's responsibility to handle these things.

Contrary to most of the highly sensational press reports at the time, the crowd was sober, orderly and subdued throughout the affair. Further the sheriff had taken the eminently sensible precaution of engaging two men to actually do the deed, one of whom was highly experienced.

The only real hitch occurred when the hangman, an ex cop from Louisiana, showed up immaculately attired in a white seersucker suit with a Panama hat... dead drunk. In due course Mr. Bethea was escorted quickly from the jail to the gallows and placed without difficulty on the trap door where his arms and legs were bound firmly with restraining belts by the assistant. There he declined to make any last statement but instead made a quick final confession to the attending Roman Catholic priest before the noose and a black hood were slipped over his head. At this point the signal was given to the ex-cop turned hangman to do the only thing he was required to do, and release the trap.

Alas, he was so plastered he couldn't get his hand to grasp the lever!

There followed several seconds of horrifying confusion as the signal was repeatedly given, and seemingly ignored, until finally an exasperated sheriff's deputy lunged forward and pulled the lever himself.

Thankfully, the assistant actually knew what he was doing and had made all of the preparations and arrangements exactly correct. The end result being that Mr. Bethea's neck was cleanly broken and he was pronounced dead only minutes later. But that is not what most of the country thought happened.

The press basically decided that facts were not important and the story that went out told of a massive, highly intoxicated crowd, only barely kept back from the gallows. The newspapers said that Sheriff Thompson fainted when the trap was released. There was talk of people staggering out of saloons to go and join the hanging. In short there was a national uproar.

The upshot of all of this was that when the state legislature met again in 1938, in those days it met only every two years, it passed a bill moving executions to the state prison which the governor quickly signed. But he later repented and expressed regret saying that he thought the state had become less safe with the abolition of public hangings.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Anti-Christian Pogroms Underway in Egypt

The Muslim Brotherhood's response to the military crackdown on their protests appears to include coordinated attacks on Christians and churches throughout Egypt. It is not known how many Christians have been beaten or murdered but at least 17 churches are reported to have been destroyed or gravely damaged. Among those believed destroyed was one dating to the fourth century. Most were Coptic Orthodox, though several were Catholic and at least one was Protestant. What follows is a partial list of churches attacked by the Muslims...
  • Church of the Virgin Mary and Anba Abram of the Copts Orthodox. the village of Daljah, the district of Deir Mawas, Minya province. Burning and demolishing the church.
  • The Church of St. Mina of the Coptic Orthodox. The neighborhood of Abu Hilal Kebly Minya province. Burning the church.
  • St. George Church. Coptic Orthodox archbishopric land, Sohag province. Burning the church.
  • Baptist Church. Status of  Bani Mazar, Minya province. Burning the church
  • Church of the Virgin Lady of the Copts Orthodox, Nazlah village, Yusuf the righteous district, Fayoum province. Burning the church…
  • Monastery of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd School. Suez. Burning.
  • Church of Franciscan fathers. Street 23. Suez. Burning.
  • Bible society friends, fayoum. Burning.
  • Church of Saint Maximus. 45th Street. Alexandria. Harassment.
  • Church of Prince Taodharos Elchatbi. Fayoum. Burning.
  • Church of the virgin Lady of the Coptic Orthodox. butchers street. Abu Hilal District. Minia province. Burning.
  • Church of Saint Mark. Catholic Copts. Abu Hilal District, Minya province. Burning.
  • Church of the Jesuit Fathers. Abu Hilal District, Minya province. Burning.
  • Church of the Virgin and Anba Abram. Sohag. Burning.
  • Church of Saint Mark, and the building of services. electricity Street. Sohag. Burning.
  • The house of Father Onjelios king. Pastor of the Church of the Virgin and Anba Abram in Daljah. Deir Mawas district. Minya province. Burning the house completely.
  • Burning the Greek Church in Suez.
Source.

Egypt: Hundreds Dead Amidst Military Crackdown and Civil Unrest

CAIRO — Egyptian security forces stormed two sprawling sit-ins by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi shortly after dawn Wednesday, killing or injuring hundreds of people and igniting a wave of violent clashes across the country.

Hours after the raids, Egypt’s military-backed interim president declared a state of emergency, imposing a nighttime curfew on Cairo and 10 provinces and allowing security forces to arrest and detain civilians indefinitely without charge. The state of emergency took effect at 4 p.m. local time (10 a.m. EDT).
Read the rest here.

A Succession of Sacrileges

A few news items getting scant attention in the last few days from the mainstream press and media...

President Obama's allies in Syria sacked and burned the Antiochian Orthodox church of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus. And in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood has similarly attacked and destroyed a number of Coptic Orthodox churches.

And here in the good old US of A two homosexual men had a fake wedding in a fake church, copying at least some pieces of the Orthodox wedding service. Predictably they are now announcing that theirs was the first gay Greek Orthodox wedding.

Lord have mercy!

Sources: Abducted Bishops Are Likely Dead

Disturbing reports from Samn!.

13 Wisconsin cops raid animal shelter to kill baby deer named Giggles

Two weeks ago, Ray Schulze was working in a barn at the Society of St. Francis no-kill animal shelter in Kenosha, Wis., when officials swarmed the shelter with a search warrant.

“[There were] nine [Department of Natural Resources] agents and four deputy sheriffs, and they were all armed to the teeth,” Mr. Schulze told WISN 12. “It was like a SWAT team.”

The agents were there to retrieve a baby deer named Giggles that was dropped off by a family worried she had been abandoned by her mother, the station reported. Wisconsin law forbids the possession of wildlife.

“I said the deer is scheduled to go to the wildlife reserve the next day,” Mr. Schulze told the station. “I was thinking in my mind they were going to take the deer and take it to a wildlife shelter, and here they come carrying the baby deer over their shoulder. She was in a body bag. I said, ‘Why did you do that?’ He said, ‘That’s our policy,’ and I said, ‘That’s one hell of a policy.’”
Read the rest here, if you have the stomach.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The "Non-Theistic" Dean of the National Cathedral

...“I describe myself as a non-theistic Christian,” Hall confided to Quinn, echoing infamous retired Episcopal John Shelby Spong, who once routinely regaled an approving Phil Donahue and other talk shows with his provocative disbelief of Christian orthodoxy. “Jesus doesn’t use the word God very much,” Hall insisted. “He talks about his Father.”

Hall asked: “Where I am now, how do I understand Jesus as a son of God that’s not magical? I’m trying to figure out Jesus as a son of God and a fully human being, if he has both fully human and a fully divine set of chromosomes.… He’s not some kind of superman coming down. God is present in all human beings. Jesus was an extraordinary human being. Jesus didn’t try to convert. He just had people at his table.”
Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

Patriarch Kyrill on the Legitimate Heir to the Russian Throne

H.I.H. The Grand Duchess Maria and her son Grand Duke George in audience with H.H. Pope (E) Benedict XVI

This is a bit dated but noteworthy. It comes from a Russian language source which as far as I can tell has received no notice in the English language press and media.
"Today, none of those persons who are descendants of the Romanovs are pretenders to the Russian throne. But in the person of Grand Duchess Maria Wladimirovna and her son, Georgii, the succession of the Romanovs is preserved — no longer to the Russian Imperial throne, but to history itself"
-Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow and All Russia 9 March 2013

Niall Ferguson Warns of Euro-American Decline

If you suffer from melancholia, or display other symptoms of clinical depression, you might want to skip reading Niall Ferguson’s The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die. For the rest of us, it is an essential grounding in the daunting realities facing the current and future generations of the Western democracies, especially the United States.

Ferguson, a Scottish transplant to Harvard and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, based this book on his 2012 Reith Lectures for the BBC. Warning: Things are even worse than you thought.

Ferguson’s short, articulate, and powerful book describes a quartet of pathologies plaguing the United States and most Western countries: “democratic deficits,” “regulatory fragility,” the “rule of lawyers” rather than the rule of law, and an “uncivil society.” Ferguson believes these conditions have contributed to making the US a “stationary state,” a term coined by his countryman, Adam Smith. This has led to “a shocking and perhaps unparalleled breach” of Edmund Burke’s partnership which the great Anglo-Irish conservative described as “not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” Ferguson relies heavily on contemporary scholarship but also draws on the intellectual legacy of the formidable triumvirate of Smith, Burke, and Alexis de Tocqueville.

In the 1770s Smith described China then as a stationary state because of economic stagnation resulting from corruption of its laws and institutions. Ferguson now believes that Europe, Japan, and America have experienced the same sort of downward spiral in in their governments and civil societies.

“Public debt --stated and implicit-- has become a way for the older generation to live at the expense of the young and the unborn,” says Ferguson. “Regulation has become dysfunctional to the point of increasing the fragility of the [market] system. Lawyers, who can be revolutionaries in a dynamic society, become parasites in a stationary one. And civil society withers into a mere no man’s land between corporate interests and big government.”
Read the rest here.
HT: Ethics Forum

The Bickersons Go To Court (again and again)

Former Couple's Legal Fight Now in Year Seventeen. Unbelievable.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Slow Posting

Apologies for the dearth of posting lately. I have been busy with some personal business and frankly there hasn't been a ton of stuff out there that has caught my eye. I'm also trying to catch up on a backlog of material from my "to read" list.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

2 Companies Close and Destroy Data Rather Than Reveal Files to Feds

The shutdown of two small e-mail providers on Thursday illustrates why it is so hard for Internet companies to challenge secret government surveillance: to protect their customers’ data from federal authorities, the two companies essentially committed suicide.

Lavabit, a Texas-based service that was reportedly used by Edward J. Snowden, the leaker who had worked as a National Security Agency contractor, announced the suspension of its service Thursday afternoon. In a blog post, the company’s owner, Ladar Levison, suggested — though did not say explicitly — that he had received a secret search order, and was choosing to shut the service to avoid being “complicit in crimes against the American people.”

Within hours, a fast-growing Maryland-based start-up called Silent Circle also closed its e-mail service and destroyed its e-mail servers. The company said it saw the writing on the wall — while also making it plain that it had not yet received any court orders soliciting user data.
Read the rest here.

I tip my hat to you sirs. It is remotely possible that true patriotism is not dead in corporate America.

Friday, August 09, 2013

A Bicentennial Resolution

OK, I will admit it. I am not a big fan of romance as a genre, either in film or literature. It's just not my thing. Some people really like it. Good for you. But it has been brought to my attention yet again, that this is the bicentennial of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Which even I know is the most famous work of the first truly great romantic novelist.

Oddly I have a site dedicated to her linked in the sidebar, mostly for it's great posts on late Georgian society and culture, but I have never read any of her books. Not one. But because of my love of period literature and fiction and in consideration of the anniversary, I am going to make a stab at it.

Any suggestions? Should I go for one of her other works or stick with Mr. Darcey and Miss Bennet?

Russian Orthodox Church still doubts authenticity of Russian royal family remains

Moscow, August 9, Interfax - The head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for Church and Society Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin has said that the Russian Orthodox Church still has doubts regarding secular experts' conclusions that the human remains found near the city of Yekaterinburg belonged to the Russian Imperial Family members.

"In my opinion, a very wide range of competent experts, not necessarily just Orthodox experts, should be allowed to study the discovered remains," Father Vsevolod said.

It is important both to compare the DNA of some individual fragment with the DNA of the remains of other Imperial Family members, assess the wholeness of the skeletons, establish whether or not all of the found human remains have the same DNA and confirm the presence of former injuries, for example the injury that was sustained by Tsar Nicholas II during his trip to Japan when he was the heir to the Russian throne, the archpriest said.

There is also a need to compare different theories describing how the bodies were disposed of and buried, he said.
Read the rest here.

Sigh...

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

IRS manual detailed DEA's use of hidden intel evidence

(Reuters) - Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years.

The practice of recreating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defense lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions about the procedure.

A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA's Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Read the rest here.

JP Morgan Faces Civil and Criminal Investigations

JPMorgan Chase disclosed on Wednesday that it faced a criminal and civil investigation into whether it sold shoddy mortgage securities to investors in the run-up to the financial crisis, the latest legal threat to the nation’s biggest bank.

JPMorgan acknowledged for the first time the existence of the investigation — one of several mortgage-related problems looming for the bank — in a quarterly regulatory filing. It said that the civil division of the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of California, which covers a stretch of land that includes Sacramento and Yosemite, has “preliminarily concluded” that JPMorgan flouted federal laws with its sale of subprime mortgage securities from 2005 to 2007. The parallel criminal inquiry, according to one person briefed on the matter, is in a more preliminary stage.
Read the rest here.

Banks are the enemy.

Some Clarity on the War on Drugs



Colorado Lawmakers Get License Plate Protection From Traffic Cams - Parking Tickets

There are rules for the common people and rules for their "leaders," and only in rare cases do the same rules cover both. Chris Morran at the Consumerist points out how politicians (yet again) are being allowed to ignore the same laws that affect their constituents. Colorado legislators are immune from speeding tickets and parking tickets thanks to the special plates issued to lawmakers -- ones that aren't included in the DMV database.
Read the rest here.
HT: Bill (tGf)

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

A Spanish town gives new meaning to "lost and found"

BRUNETE, Spain — In the worldwide battle to get dog owners to clean up after their pets, enter Brunete, a middle-class suburb of Madrid fed up with dirty parks and sidewalks.

Some cities hand out steep fines. But in these tough economic times, the mayor here, Borja Gutiérrez, didn’t much like that idea. Instead, this town engaged a small army of volunteers to bag it, box it and send it back to its owners.

“It’s your dog, it’s your dog poop,” Mr. Gutiérrez said. “We are just returning it to you.”

Until now, Brunete’s claim to fame, if it had one, was that it sustained heavy damage in the Spanish Civil War. But these days, this leafy hamlet has made headlines all over Spain. Residents say that strangers take note when they say they live in Brunete.

At a recent political event, Mr. Gutiérrez said, the mayor of Madrid sought him out.

“She said, ‘Well, it is not many mayors who think sending dog poop to voters is a good idea,'” Mr. Gutiérrez said. “'How did you dare?'”
Read the rest here.

Feds Sue Bank of America for Fraud

(Reuters) - The U.S. government on Tuesday filed two civil lawsuits against Bank of America for what the Justice Department and securities regulators said was a fraud on investors involving $850 million of residential mortgage-backed securities.

The Justice Department and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed the parallel suits in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, according to the court filings.

The securities date to about January 2008, the government said, putting them just at the beginning of the global financial crisis.

Bank of America responded to the lawsuits with a statement: "These were prime mortgages sold to sophisticated investors who had ample access to the underlying data, and we will demonstrate that.
Read the rest here.

Banks are the enemy.

Richard III to be buried as a Protestant

The Roman Catholic King Richard III is to be interred in a Protestant Cathedral, presumably using the rites of the Church of England. The local Catholic bishop has volunteered to participate in an ecumenical capacity.

From here.

Fixed the link.

When God Spoke Greek

Timothy Michael Law is a scholar interested in history, theology, and religion. Last month Oxford University Press published his book on the Septuagint, When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible. I recently got the chance to talk with Law about his new book and the importance of the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament to contemporary churches.

Where did your interest in the Septuagint begin?

One night in 2002, I was sitting with one of my best friends from college and seminary, Kyle McDaniel, and he threw (literally!) a big blue book at me from across the room. The book was Alfred Rahlfs’ handbook edition of the Greek Septuagint. We started talking about it, and both of us were uncertain whether we wanted to pursue more Hebrew or Greek, or more early Judaism or early Christianity in our graduate work. We loved all of it. We decided that one way to marry those interests was to study the Septuagint.

Why should today’s churches care about the Septuagint?

There are several reasons I think modern Christians should care about the Septuagint.

First, when a modern reader sees Paul quoting Isaiah, and then turns to Isaiah in an English translation, she notices the citation is different. Why? The Old Testament translation of almost every modern English version of the Bible is based on the Hebrew Bible, but the New Testament authors and the early Church most often used the Septuagint. Augustine and others throughout history even argued that if the New Testament authors used the Septuagint, the Church ought to affirm its authority as well. I unpack this in several chapters in the book.

Second, the Septuagint, and not the Hebrew Bible, explicitly shaped some early Christian theology. For example, it was the Septuagint version of Isaiah, not the Hebrew Bible’s version, that shaped the most theologically profound book in the history of Christianity, Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. The primacy of the Septuagint continues after the first century, and one could not imagine the development of orthodoxy without it. None of this would be terribly significant if the Septuagint were merely a translation of the Hebrew; however, the Septuagint in many places contains a different message. Sometimes the translators of the Septuagint created new meanings in their translations, but there is also another reason the Septuagint is often different.

An alternative, sometimes older, form of the Hebrew text often lies behind the Greek. When the Reformers and their predecessors talked about returning to the original Hebrew (ad fontes!), and when modern Christians talk about studying the Hebrew because it is the “original text,” they are making several mistaken assumptions. The Hebrew Bible we now use is often not the oldest form of the Hebrew text, and sometimes the Septuagint provides the only access we have to that older form.
Read the rest here.
HT: Dr. Tighe

Monday, August 05, 2013

Reuters: U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans

(Reuters) - A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence - information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

"I have never heard of anything like this at all," said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.

"It is one thing to create special rules for national security," Gertner said. "Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations."
Read the rest here.

This country is so screwed. Seriously. We might just as well run up the Hammer and Sickle right now. They won. We are a police state.

Russia's Dangerous Alliance Between Church and State

Russia officially celebrated Paratroopers Day on Friday. For more than 1.5 million men who serve or served as paratroopers, the day is a holiday, moreover one that is totally different than every other military holiday. On this day, paratrooper veterans have carte blanche to do strange things, which include getting drunk in the morning, fighting, and ritually bathing in the city fountains. On this day in provincial cities, careful mothers tend to lock their teenage daughters inside — and for good reason. Even Wikipedia warns that "the festivities are accompanied by fights, pogroms and public disorder."

But this year Paratroopers Day had a new twist. On all the billboards and posters in Moscow, the holiday had a dual title: "Paratroopers Day — ­Elijah's Day." The Orthodox Church does, in fact, commemorate the Prophet Elijah on Aug. 2. But it's hard to understand what the ascetic hermit Elijah — aka "the first virgin of the Old Testament," who certainly never jumped out of a plane in a parachute — has in common with paratroopers who, by definition, aren't what you'd call pacifists.

Nevertheless, this isn't the first attempt of the Russian Orthodox Church to interfere in the traditions of public and military holidays. Not long ago, the authorities in Voronezh region officially prohibited celebration of the ancient Slavic holiday of Ivan Kupala. A few days ago, the church pressured the Navy to drop several traditions from Navy Day. In the past, actors played Neptune, mermaids and other creatures who, in the words of an anonymous representative of the  Navy "were not on Noah's Ark during the Flood," as Interfax reported.

Declaring Neptune a persona non grata in the Navy may be comical, but it is indicative of the recent creep of clericalism into cultural and public life in Russia. Groups of aggressive Orthodox activists and Cossacks regularly attack art exhibitions showing "blasphemous" paintings and demand that theatrical performances be banned.
Read the rest here.

MLB Suspends A-Roid + 12 Others

In the biggest surprise since this morning's sunrise Major League Baseball handed out suspensions to 13 players including Alex Rodriguez for chemical cheating. Most copped to the charges and accepted the MLB version of a plea bargain that let them off with 50 game suspensions. But A-Roid was in the cross-hairs for his attempts to entice others into cheating, attempts to obtain and destroy evidence and directly lying to MLB when questioned on the matter. No plea bargain there. He was suspended for 214 (211) games which will commence after his appeals are exhausted.

It is overwhelmingly likely he will be out for the entirety of the 2014 and whatever part of the 2015 season is left over from when he starts to serve the suspension. Some experts opine that this may effectively end his career. The Yankees however are still on the hook for whatever part of his contract is not voided by the suspension. So he stands to walk away with tens of millions of dollars.

My take is that this is a good first step and probably as much as could be hoped for given the constraints of the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the Players Union. One really encouraging sign is that unlike in the 90's and early 2000's when most players resisted any testing and did everything in their power to obstruct inquiries into the rampant doping, the pendulum seems to have swung. Most players now see chemical cheating as dangerous to the integrity of the game itself and are loudly demanding stronger sanctions and more aggressive testing. There is almost no sympathy being expressed for those caught doping.

Players are actually pushing their union delegates to impose even more severe penalties than what MLB has asked for in the past. Among the more popular suggestions being floated by angry ballplayers is going to a two strikes and your out rule, with a first offense being a 100 game suspension. Second offenses resulting in a lifetime ban from professional baseball. And one innovative idea that might carry the most deterrent power of any I've heard of so far. The suggestion being that any player caught doping on a first offense, and proven beyond any doubt, would be liable to having his contract terminated by his club without further appeal. Given the kinds of long term contracts, frequently worth tens of millions of dollars, with a lot of pay back loaded, this could be the key to bringing an end to the era of chemical cheating.

Anyways MLB gets two and a half cheers for mostly handling this particular case right. A few too many leaks for my taste but all in all they didn't make a hash out of it. There was talk of invoking the MLB equivalent to the death penalty and slapping A-Roid with a lifetime ban. But as much as I don't care for the man that would have been overkill for what was technically a first offense. Likewise they didn't try to deny him his right to appeal. That would have looked bad and actually made the bum a sympathetic character. Besides there's really no need. By every account MLB has absolutely damning evidence against A-Roid. So let him file his appeal. It's just delaying the inevitable.

Morally of course, judgment has been rendered. He really would do well to just let the Yankees quietly pay him off and retire from baseball. There's just no point in trying to comeback in 2015. Nothing he can do will salvage his reputation and the doors to the Hall of Fame are forever closed to him.

Correction: I initially posted that A-Rod was suspended for 214 games. It was actually 211.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

2 Years After 116 Police Bullets, Few Answers

MIAMI BEACH — The last 90 seconds of Raymond Herisse’s life unfold on YouTube with chilling clarity.

The car Mr. Herisse, 22, is driving rolls down a South Beach street. Shots are heard in the distance as Hialeah police officers try to stop the car. About two blocks later, the car slows to a stop, standing idle for more than minute. Eight Miami Beach police officers cluster near the driver’s side. Then they unleash a barrage of more than 100 bullets, a volley so startling that the hands of the person recording the scene from his cellphone shake.

In all, 16 bullets hit Mr. Herisse, who was killed sitting behind the wheel. Four bystanders were wounded — two men and two women, part of a large crowd gathered on May 30, 2011, for the final day of Urban Beach Week, a raucous, yearly hip-hop and rap event in South Beach.

But in the two years since Mr. Herisse’s death, his family and the four other victims, increasingly troubled by delays and the police’s handling of the investigation, are still waiting to learn why the officers opened fire on a stopped car amid a throng of onlookers.
Read the rest here.

Friday, August 02, 2013

WAPO: Five myths about libertarians

The specter of libertarianism is haunting America. Advocates of sharply reducing the government’s size, scope and spending are raising big bucks from GOP donors, trying to steal the mantle of populism, being blamed for the demise of Detroit and even getting caught in the middle of a battle for the Republican Party. Yet libertarians are among the most misunderstood forces in today’s politics. Let’s clear up some of the biggest misconceptions.

1. Libertarians are a fringe band of “hippies of the right.”

In 1971, the controversial and influential author Ayn Rand denounced right-wing anarchists as “hippies of the right,” a charge still leveled against libertarians, who push for a minimal state and maximal individual freedom.

Libertarians are often dismissed as a mutant subspecies of conservatives: pot smokers who are soft on defense and support marriage equality. But depending on their views, libertarians often match up equally well with right- and left-wingers.

The earliest example of libertarian principles in partisan politics might have come in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,when Anti-Imperialist League Democrats rejected empire and war — and believed in free trade and racial equality at a time when none of that was popular. More recently, civil libertarians such as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) supported Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in his filibuster on domestic drones and government surveillance.
Read the rest here.

California: US Supreme Court Upholds Order to Release Thousands of Convicts

WASHINGTON — In a major setback for Gov. Jerry Brown, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday declined to block a court order that he release 9,600 inmates from state prisons, moving California a step closer to relocating or freeing those prisoners by the end of the year.

The state can still pursue its appeal — and the administration vowed to do so. But the court's 6-3 vote was a disappointment for Brown, who had launched a political crusade against a three-judge panel that has consistently ruled that overcrowded prison conditions violate the rights of inmates.

The panel has ordered Brown to bring the number of inmates in its prisons down to 112,164 by the end of the year.
Read the rest here.

On the other hand...

Churches cannot thumb their nose at the law.

Britain: Gay Couple Sue For Right to Church Wedding

This has been getting a lot of attention on the web and in the news, most of which is undeserved. Several points.

* Britain has nothing comparable to our First Amendment, so people screaming "we are next" are delusional.
* While they lack anything as strong as our First Amendment, British and EU law does clearly protect religious conscience. Not even the most wacky court (and they have more than a few) in Europe is going to order churches to start marrying gays.
* They (the complainants) know this. This is a stunt with two objectives, first to get some free publicity and secondly to get social conservatives to all start barking at the moon.

On which note... mission accomplished.

HT: Several blog readers. Thanks for the tips.