Tuesday, March 20, 2018

California's population decline continues despite strong economy

The state ranks near the top in cost of living which is driving out lower and middle class families. And with the highest taxes in the country even those who can afford to live there are looking for greener pastures, or at least a state that doesn't treat them as human ATMs for politicians constantly looking for more money.


Friday, March 16, 2018

Romanian court tells man he is not alive

In a case reminiscent of a Kafka novel, a Romanian court has ruled that a 63-year-old man is dead despite what would appear to be convincing evidence to the contrary: the man himself appearing alive and well in court.

Constantin Reliu asked the court in the town of Barlad to overturn a death certificate obtained by his wife after he had spent more than a decade in Turkey, during which time he was out of contact with his family. The court told him he was too late, and would have to remain officially deceased.

“I am officially dead, although I’m alive,” a bemused Reliu told local media outlets. “I have no income and because I am listed dead, I can’t do anything.”
Reliu left Romania for Turkey in 1992, apparently to seek employment. He last returned to the country in 1999, and appears to have cut off all contact with his family. After years of silence from her estranged husband, Reliu’s wife obtained a backdated death certificate for him.

The Romanian daily Adevarul said Reliu’s wife had argued in court that having heard nothing from her husband since 1999, she had assumed he had died in an earthquake while in Turkey. The paper said Reliu believes she sought the death certificate in order to annul the marriage and allow her to remarry.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Attempted Murder of Sergei Skripal: How do we stop an out of control Putin?

By now, it really should not come as much of a surprise that yet another Russian has been attacked in Britain. Opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin have been showing up dead in and around London for more than a decade. In some cases, the trail clearly leads back to Moscow, as with the use of such gruesome chemical agents as polonium (Alexander Litvinenko in 2006) or, in the most recent incident, a nerve agent (Sergei Skripal and his daughter, who both survived the poisoning but remain in serious condition). In other cases, the evidence is subtler (e.g., Boris Berezovsky, found dead under suspicious circumstances in 2013).

While Britain is not the only place where those who have run afoul of Putin have died, a troublingly high number of such deaths have happened there. We can quickly dispense with the blathering of Russian officials about the latest case as just that: blathering. Putin’s public policy plan for this type of thing can be summed up as, “Lie bigger, lie harder. Sooner or later, the West will forget.”

It’s a plan that often works.

Read the rest here.

There was a time when this sort of thing would have been treated as an act of war. Alas, in an age where the perpetrator of what looks like a campaign of targeted assassinations has his finger on the launch button for a lot of nukes that is probably not a realistic course of action. But this really cannot be tolerated. The question is, does the West have the intestinal fortitude to collectively stand up to this murderous thug? I hope I am wrong, but my gut tells me not to hold my breath.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Feds are suing California over their sanctuary laws

And about time. There has not been a lot that this administration has given me cause to cheer over, but they do seem to be serious about getting a handle on illegal immigration. And of course the open border advocates have all suddenly discovered states rights. Except they really haven't.

Here's the deal. California is part of a union governed by a contract between members. Members have broad discretion in most things, but there are areas where everybody agreed to cede authority to the central government in order to ensure mutual protection and avoid chaos. One of those areas is immigration. If a state (hello California) wants to set a statewide maximum speed limit of 30 mph, tax every gallon of gas and every cup of soda at $5 a pop and outlaw smoking statewide, well that's their business. I think they would be nuts. But again it's their call. But passing laws clearly aimed at obstructing Federal laws, is not.

California is in breach of its obligations to the other 49 states. Worse they are deliberating acting in a way that might endanger not only their own people and property, but the people and property of the other states as well as the economic well being of the union as a whole. And this needs to stop.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Quote of the day...

Tradition is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death.

-G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

For whom does this bell toll?

 A village church in Germany recently discovered that one of its three bells has a dark past. It is inscribed with a swastika and an inscription that roughly translates as "Everything for the Fatherland  Adolf Hitler."

The church is described as Protestant which I am sort of assuming means Lutheran. After a rather heated debate that has drawn global interest (and commentary) they appear to have decided to leave the bell alone for now although there are plans to add some kind of plaque.

I am not unsympathetic to the conflicting views. After the war, first the Allies and then both East (Communist) and West Germany went on something of a campaign to eradicate monuments and buildings that it was feared might serve as some kind of rallying point for Nazi sympathizers. Laws were passed that forbade the public display of Nazi symbols and salutes. While a few structures with ties to the Third Reich survive, most were demolished or at least had any symbols stripped away.

But it has been almost three quarters of a century since the end of the war and many Germans are wondering if it isn't time to approach their past with out the kind of fear that, justifiably IMO, motivated their parents and grandparents to eradicate almost all physical reminders of that evil regime.

The options considered in this case were to leave the bell alone, move it to some kind of museum or simply melt it down. While I understand the emotional argument in favor of destroying the bell, I think its historical value would make some kind of preservation desirable. But as a Christian (forget Orthodox for the moment), I cannot conceive worshiping in a church with a Nazi bell ringing. It just beggars the imagination. The swastika along with the hammer and sickle are the two political symbols that I most closely associate with the demonic. To me it simply has no place in a church.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Wilbur Ross wants to turn the moon into a gas station

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Thursday the future of commercial space projects depends on colonizing the moon.

"I think a lot depends upon how successful we are in turning the moon into a kind of gas station for outer space," Ross told "Squawk Box." "The plan is to break down the ice [there] into hydrogen and oxygen, use those as the fuel propellant."

Rockets would not need as much thrust leaving Earth if they only had to get to the moon, he said. "Then at the moon, you have very low gravity so you don't need so much thrust to go from the moon to Mars, for example, or another asteroid."

Ross, a former private-equity investor with more than 55 years experience, has emerged as the point man for promoting commercial space projects. President Donald Trump has previously emphasized federal efforts to spur private space projects.

The Trump administration is also pushing to get Americans back to the moon. Additionally, the administration announced plans earlier this month to have private entities take over operations in low Earth orbit from the International Space Station.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Fr. Hunwicke asks...

How to respond to a Pope who is demanding assent to something clearly contrary to the Catholic Faith.

See here for the discussion.

Here is my answer... If I were a convicted Roman Catholic and confronted with a Pope who was, at the least, a material heretic intent on subverting the Deposit of the Faith my answer would be that you resist. You follow the lead of the great French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. That is to say you commemorate him at mass, you pray for him ceaselessly, you obey him in all matters not contrary to the faith (also excluding changes to immemorial discipline intended to undermine Catholic Faith), and in all other matters you ignore him until he either repents or God calls him to judgement.That may in some instances require some adjustment in your relationship with your local ordinary. Consider Byzantine Rite parishes or the SSPX. The bottom line is you do what you need to do.

As an Orthodox Christian obviously my answer is in fact different, but that's my advice to Catholics who aren't ready to consider other possibilities. And for the record, I also agree with Fr. H in his rejection of sedevacantism. A Catholic cannot logically subscribe to that without accepting that Rome has fallen. Once you cross that bridge the game is over.

If you want an idea of what kids are getting taught in college today...


The patriarchal race to colonize Mars is just another example of male entitlement

I could never make this up even if I had a gift for satire. The sheer bone-crushing level of narcissism on the part of people who produce this kind of fertilizer defies words.


The Rev Billy Graham has reposed. I was not always a fan of his, and it goes without saying that I do not agree with his theology, but he was certainly one of the great figures of American Protestantism. Memory eternal.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

On the eve of the Great Fast...

Please forgive me for any injury I have caused, especially through this blog.

Five Killed at Russian Orthodox Church

Five women were shot dead in an apparent Islamist attack on an Orthodox church in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Dagestan on Sunday.


Memory eternal.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Expanding the Military Budget Is Wasteful and Unnecessary

Gordon Adams comments on the massive giveaway to the Pentagon:
The United States is back to defense spending, in constant dollars, that is higher than the peak spending levels under Ronald Reagan [bold mine-DL]. Only in 2010, at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was defense spending higher.
Support for expanding an already bloated, excessive military budget is broad and bipartisan, but it is also profoundly misguided. For one thing, much of this spending has had and will have little or nothing to do with actually defending the United States or its allies, and most of it isn’t necessary for that purpose. The U.S. spends this much on a military this large in order to police and attack other parts of the world, and the only reason to increase that spending for an even larger military is to do more of those things. We should call it military spending or hegemony spending or imperial spending, but we should stop the bad habit of referring to it as spending on defense.

There is no security threat comparable to the Soviet Union today that would begin to justify spending more than at the height of the Reagan build-up. Reagan’s splurging on the military was also excessive, but he could at least point to a major rival that posed a serious threat as the reason for doing it. Threats to the U.S. today are not remotely on the same scale and don’t require anything like the same outlays on the military. We are frittering away resources on a much more expensive military at a time when we don’t need one and can’t afford one. Jacking up military spending at the same time as cutting taxes makes the new expenditure that much more irresponsible, and compounding the fiscal irresponsibility is the fact that there is no good reason to do it.
Adams notes that the surge in military spending is happening only because the military is demanding it and our representatives and president have no interest in rejecting that demand:

Read the rest here.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

California discovers the complexity of creating a single payer health care system

California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon may have expected to torpedo the idea of a statewide single-payer healthcare system for the long term last June, when he blocked a Senate bill on the issue from even receiving a hearing in his house.

He was wrong, of course. His shelving of the Senate bill created a political uproar (including the threat of a recall effort), forcing him to create a special committee to examine the possibility of achieving universal health coverage in the state. On Monday and Wednesday, the Select Committee on Health Care Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage held its final hearings.
The panel ended up where it started, with the recognition that the project is hellishly complex and politically daunting but still worthwhile — yet can't happen overnight. "I'm anxious to see what it is that we can actually be working on this year," committee Co-Chair Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) said toward the end of Wednesday's seven-hour session. "Some of the logistics and the challenges we have to deal with are multiyear challenges."

Little has changed since last year, when a measure sponsored by the California Nurses Assn., SB 562, passed the Senate in June and was killed by Rendon (D-Paramount) in the Assembly. The same bill, aimed at universal coverage for all residents of the state, including undocumented immigrants, is the subject of the select committee's hearings and the template for statewide reform.

Backers of the Healthy California program envisioned by the bill feel as if they're in a race with federal officials intent on dismantling healthcare reforms attained with the Affordable Care Act, and even those dating from the 1960s with enactment of Medicare and Medicaid.

In just the last few weeks, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has approved adding a work requirement to Medicaid in Kentucky and begun considering a plan to place lifetime limits on Medicaid benefits — profound changes in a program traditionally aimed at bringing healthcare to needy families.

The Republican-controlled Congress effectively repealed the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. That is likely to drive up premiums for unsubsidized middle-income insurance buyers and has prompted California and other states to consider implementing such a mandate on their own. (Idaho is moving distinctly in the opposite direction from California, proposing to allow "state-based health plans" that allow insurers to discriminate against applicants with pre-existing conditions.

Read the rest here.

Friday, February 09, 2018

The G.O.P. Is Flirting With Fiscal Disaster

In August 2015, the leading Washington budget watchdog predicted that the federal deficit would total about $600 billion the next year.

Now, just about two and a half years later, the projected gap for 2019 has grown to $1.2 trillion, in large part because of a boisterous round of tax cuts and spending increases. And if history is any guide, when the books close, the final number will be higher.

That amounts to a shortfall that will rival the deficits of a decade ago, when the economy was struggling to recover from the financial crisis and ensuing recession.

But while fiscal stimulus to restore economic growth has merit, staggering deficits in the ninth year of a recovery, with unemployment down to 4.1 percent, make no sense.

In addition to piling more debt onto the current $20 trillion of outstanding obligations, today’s mounting gap between revenues and expenses is already contributing to higher interest rates and the shakiness in the stock market.

Leading the charge into rising amounts of red ink have been the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress.

Yes, blame for what is likely to be $15 trillion of added debt over the next 10 years should be placed squarely on the self-proclaimed party of fiscal responsibility.

“The level of national debt is dangerous and unacceptable,” the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said in 2016. Referring to President Obama’s stimulus program, he added, “We borrowed $1 trillion and nobody could find that it did much of anything.”

That was then and this is now.

Read the rest here.

Unreality and Incoherence Reign at the Vatican

Back in the 1920s and 1930s, it was fashionable for Progressive and left-wing intellectuals to travel to the Soviet Union to find out what was “really” going on in the world’s first great experiment in communism. “The entire British intelligentsia,” the editor of the left-leaning New Statesman Kingsley Martin breathlessly exclaimed in 1932, “has been to Russia.”

The vast majority came back wide-eyed and deeply impressed by what they had seen. Following his visit to Russia in 1919, for example, the American progressive journalist Lincoln Steffens famously wrote, “I have seen the future, and it works.”

There were, however, realities about Soviet communism which few such individuals ever got around to mentioning. They rarely referred to, for instance, the Bolsheviks’ destruction of freedom; the cults of personality surrounding Lenin and then Stalin; the regime’s use of systematic terrorism against real but mostly imaginary opponents; the dynamiting of churches; the herding of peasants into collective farms; the murder of thousands of Orthodox and other Christian clergy; the Great Famine that killed millions in the Ukraine; the show-trials, purges and executions; the labor camps; and the relentless propaganda which assured everyone that everything was fine and that any problems were the work of saboteurs, kulaks, class-traitors, Czarist reactionaries, evil Western capitalists, and British Intelligence.

I was reminded of all this recently when reading a strange interview of Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo. He is the Argentine-born and Vatican-based long-time Chancellor of what are called the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Having recently visited China, the bishop described the one-party communist state as “extraordinary.”

Why extraordinary, you might ask? Well, according to Bishop Sanchez, China has “no shanty-towns” and “young people don’t take drugs.” Moreover, he said, China takes climate change so much more seriously than most other nations. That’s hard to square with China’s relentless emphasis on economic growth. But, above all, the bishop exclaimed, “those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese.”

Read the rest here.
HT: Fr. Z

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Antifa’s Handbook: A Primer on Violent Illiberalism

Keith Ellison, the deputy director of the Democratic National Committee and congressman from Minnesota, recently ignited a Twitter firestorm when he tweeted out a picture of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, a book, he declared, that would “strike fear in the heart of” Donald Trump. Upon reading Antifa, it’s easy to see why the tweet generated so much controversy.

Since its release last August, the handbook, by Dartmouth lecturer Mark Bray, has garnered attention as one of the few windows available into the mind of the newly prominent Antifa movement. Bray makes clear from the beginning that the book isn’t an attempt at a neutral rehashing of facts, but rather “is an unabashedly partisan call to arms” for the purpose of equipping activists “with the history and theory necessary to defeat the resurgent Far Right.” He articulates clearly the revolutionary ideology of the far left and defends using violence in its service, from street brawls to kidnappings to assassinations. For those who do not desire to see the world reborn in the flames of global anti-capitalist revolution, the popularity of The Anti-Fascist Handbook should prove alarming.

Antifa’s somewhat obvious immediate goal is the eradication of (what Bray considers to be) fascism. However, conveniently for Antifa, Bray argues that anti-fascist action is not merely limited to academic and historical definitions of fascism. Instead, “anti-fascism is an illiberal politics of social revolutionism applied to fighting the Far Right, not only literal fascists.” This meaning speaks to the broader end of the revolutionary left that Bray sees Antifa as a part of. This end, Bray explains, is the total destruction of the current capitalist order via a violent “international popular uprising.”

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Benedict XVI: ‘I am on a pilgrimage Home’

The Pope Emeritus has written to an Italian newspaper to say he is “on a pilgrimage Home” in this “final period of my life”.

In a nine-line letter to Corriere della Serra, Benedict XVI thanks the paper’s readers for their concern, and assures them he is surrounded “by a love and a goodness that I could not have imagined”.

“I was moved that so many readers of your newspaper want to know how I am spending this last period of my life,” he said.

“I can only say in this regard that, in the slow decline of physical strengths, inwardly I am on a pilgrimage Home,” he added, capitalising the Italian word ‘Casa’.

Read the rest here.

May his remaining days be filled with peace and love.

America's States Of (Fiscal) Siege

America's states and municipalities should be awash in good budget news. Unemployment remains below 5%, inflation is tame, and the stock market rose more than 20% in 2017 — the ninth year of a bull market. Yet many local governments faced intense struggles last year to balance their books.

Localities have confronted unrelenting fiscal pressure since 2008, a result of the  weakest recovery since World War II of tax revenues combined with ever-escalating costs. Many states and localities have had to rewrite budget books in ways that leave taxpayers paying more — and receiving less.

"U.S. states have entered a new era characterized by chronic budget stress," the financial analyst Gabriel Petek, a managing director in the U.S. Public Finance group at S&P Global Ratings, wrote last April.
President Trump has promised $1 trillion in infrastructure spending that could provide some help to localities, but what governments across the country really need is a return to economic growth rates of 3% or higher.

Tax reform passed in December looks like it will help but states and cities will also need to become more efficient and innovative in delivering basic services, or else face a future of tax hikes and service cuts to keep up with their mounting bills.

Local governments got a sense that something might be different starting in 2009, when state tax revenues, hammered by the steep recession, collapsed by nearly 9% — only the second time in the postwar era that state revenues had declined from one year to the next.

Then revenues slumped again in 2010, by 4% this time, leaving governments tens of billions of dollars short of where they'd been just two years earlier.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

The Donald's Parade (no not Disney World)

Apparently the narcissist in chief was much impressed with the military show staged by the French on Bastille Day and now he wants one too. And so the order has been given. My personal suspicion is that it's less the French he wants to upstage than the dictator of North Korea who is also fond of public displays of military power and pomp. The irony of course is that this martial spectacle will presumably be reviewed by the draft dodging patriarch of a family, from which to the best of my knowledge, no one has served in uniform... ever.

And the hits just keep on coming

China is the best implementer of Catholic social doctrine,’ says Vatican bishop

Words fail.
HT: Leroy Huizenga via email.