Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Yesterday's Vote

Move over Ronald Reagan. I am convinced that the modern Republican party has a new idol. Or more correctly three. Smoot, Hawley and Hoover. I think we would have to go back a long ways to find such a dedicated act of political pettiness and suicide. The only thing more scarce than bank credit right now is true leadership in the GOP. These people don't have a clue about economics. What's worse is that a lot of them seem to know it and still don't care. Their almost glib sound bite comments keep referring to party principals and fiscal conservatism (where were these principals over the last eight years?). The GOP is setting itself up for one of the most crushing electoral defeats in history, and rarely has a party been more deserving of it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Time to Kill the Happy Talk

To ward off panics, financial media organizations are keeping Un-Happy Talk to a minimum. "We're very careful not to throw words around like 'meltdown' and 'free fall'," CNN correspondent Ali Velshi, who is getting mucho face time thanks to the meltdown and free fall, told The New York Times. The Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal is engaging in un-Murdochian restraint, banishing words like "crash" and "pandemonium." Maybe I have a limited vocabulary, but I'm not sure how else to characterize a month in which the country's largest financial institutions, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, had to be nationalized; Lehman Brothers, the fourth largest investment bank, filed for Chapter 11; AIG, a component of the Dow Jones industrial average, turned over most of its stock to the government in exchange for an $85 billion loan; the Treasury Department had to guarantee money-market funds to stop people from hoarding cash under their mattresses; gigantic Washington Mutual collapsed, the largest bank failure in U.S. history; and the nation's greatest financial minds have declared that a bailout the size of the Netherlands' GDP is needed to stop the bleeding. Yes, we have to be careful about crying "fire" in a crowded theater. But calling Wall Street's meltdown a meltdown is more like crying "fire" in a crowded inferno.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Background on a photograph

One year ago today I attached the above photograph to a post about the anticipated visit to New York City by the ocean liners Queen Elizabeth 2, Queen Mary 2, and the brand new Queen Victoria at the same time. It turns out that the caption I put up was wrong. A reader sent me an email earlier today with the correction. I am copying it below for those interested.

Your Photo of the three queens is incorrect. You may have received plenty of posts about this before but if not here is the scoop on your photo. The ship you're identifying as the Queen Mary is actually the Berengaria. Next to her is probably the Georgic or maybe he Britannic. Then the Normandie, then either the Rex or the Conte Di Savoia, then either the Bremen or Europa.

This photo had to be taken in 1935, Nornamdie's first year but before the Queen Mary's maiden voyage of 1936.

Thank you Bob for your fascinating background information.

President Obama & Vice President Palin?

The nightmare scenario of more than a few is not beyond the realm of possibility.

President Obama, with Vice President Palin? President Biden? President Pelosi? Call them the "Doomsday" scenarios -- On Nov. 5, the presidential election winds up in a electoral-college tie, 269-269, the Democrat-controlled House picks Sen. Barack Obama as president, but the Senate, with former Democrat Joe Lieberman voting with Republicans, deadlocks at 50-50, so Vice President Dick Cheney steps in to break the tie to make Republican Sarah Palin his successor.

"Wow," said longtime presidential historian Stephen Hess. "Wow, that would be amazing, wouldn't it?"

"If this scenario ever happened, it would be like a scene from the movie 'Scream' for Democrats," said Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh. "The only thing worse for the Democrats than losing the White House, again, when it had the best chance to win in a generation, but to do so at the hands of Cheney and Lieberman. That would be cruel."

Sound impossible? It's not. There are at least a half-dozen plausible ways the election can end in a tie, and at least one very plausible possibility - giving each candidate the states in which they now lead in the polls, only New Hampshire - which went Republican in 2000 and Democratic in 2004, each time by just 1.5 percent - needs to swap to the Republican column to wind up with a 269-269 tie.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Quote of the day...

Haue you not reason then to bee ashamed, and to forbeare this filthie noueltie, so basely grounded, so foolishly receiued and so grossely mistaken in the right vse thereof? In your abuse thereof sinning against God, harming your selues both in persons and goods, and raking also thereby the markes and notes of vanitie vpon you: by the custome thereof making your selues to be wondered at by all forraine ciuil Nations, and by all strangers that come among you, to be scorned and contemned. A custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomlesse.

H.M. James I of England (VI of Scotland) from his A Counter-Blast to Tobacco (AD 1604) .

Friday, September 19, 2008

Did We Just Dodge A Bullet?

I think we did.

Mr. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. had made an urgent and unusual evening visit to Capitol Hill, and they were gathered around a conference table in the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“When you listened to him describe it you gulped," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York.

As Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, put it Friday morning on the ABC program “Good Morning America,” the congressional leaders were told “that we’re literally maybe days away from a complete meltdown of our financial system, with all the implications here at home and globally.”

Mr. Schumer added, “History was sort of hanging over it, like this was a moment.”

When Mr. Schumer described the meeting as “somber,” Mr. Dodd cut in. “Somber doesn’t begin to justify the words,” he said. “We have never heard language like this.”

“What you heard last evening,” he added, “is one of those rare moments, certainly rare in my experience here, is Democrats and Republicans deciding we need to work together quickly.”

Although Mr. Schumer, Mr. Dodd and other participants declined to repeat precisely what they were told by Mr. Bernanke and Mr. Paulson, they said the two men described the financial system as effectively bound in a knot that was being pulled tighter and tighter by the day.

Read the rest here.

An Old Believer Village in Alaska

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Large Scale Federal Intervention On the Way?

As I am typing the chairman of the Federal Reserve, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the bi-partisan leadership from both houses of Congress are preparing for an historic (and emergency) meeting in Washington. The meeting appears to be for the purpose of hammering out some sort of plan for a large scale Federal Government intervention aimed at stabilizing the crisis now gripping the nations financial markets.

Details are all but nonexistent at the moment and likely will change during the course of the meeting anyways. But the very general thrust seems to be in favor of creating some sort of Federal Gov't entity that would relieve Wall Street banks of the mountains of bad debt that have accumulated, mostly from sub-prime mortgages. This debt is crushing the banks and depriving them of the ability to issue credit. Which in turn is having wide spread effects on the rest of the economy both here and around the world.

Lets not kid ourselves here. We are in the midst of the most serious financial crisis since at least the crash that precipitated the Great Depression. We can't keep rescuing some banks and letting others succumb (though in truth they deserve to). Twice in the last year the Feds have almost certainly prevented a for real no joke full blown stock market crash. The first time was with their emergency rate cut of .75% and the second was two days ago when the U. S. Government effectively nationalized AIG less than 12 hrs before it would have gone under. In the absense of those interventions I (and most analysts that I have read) believe we would have seen losses of between 1000 and 2000 points on the DOW in a single day.

The danger is not over.

This is where Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson earn their salaries. We are living in historic times. A hundred years from now economics students will study the Panic of '08. The question is will they study it as an example of how to deal with and tame a panic in the financial markets like J. P. Morgan's intervention that arrested the panic of 1907? Or will they view it the way we look back on the build up that ultimately lead to the crash of 1929?

History is being written even as we all type. I find that a rather humbling thought.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Record That Will Not Be Broken

Those who have read this blog for a while or who may know me personally will be aware that I am not a fan of the other team from New York. That said I am obliged to take note of a record set tonight by one of baseball's greats. Derek Jeter broke Lou Gehrig’s seven decade old record for the most hits in Yankee Stadium by a player with his two base hits against the White Sox. Although the occasion was certainly one for the history books it must also have been bittersweet for both Jeter and the many Yankee fans present. This record will never be broken.

Yankee Stadium closes forever after this Sunday's game.

Read the story here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Warning Unheeded?

From June 19th 2008

The Royal Bank of Scotland has advised clients to brace for a full-fledged crash in global stock and credit markets over the next three months as inflation paralyses the major central banks.

"A very nasty period is soon to be upon us - be prepared," said Bob Janjuah, the bank's credit strategist.

A report by the bank's research team warns that the S&P 500 index of Wall Street equities is likely to fall by more than 300 points to around 1050 by September as "all the chickens come home to roost" from the excesses of the global boom, with contagion spreading across Europe and emerging markets.

Read the rest here.

Right after this came out it got a lot of play for a few days in the media as various talking heads dismissed the RBS warning as alarmist. I seem to recall one commenter calling it irresponsible and likening it to yelling "FIRE!" in a crowded theater.

But what if the theater was really on fire?

Interesting that RBS predicted that things would start coming to a head in September...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Islamic Law in Britain

ISLAMIC law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases.

The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence.

Rulings issued by a network of five sharia courts are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court.

Previously, the rulings of sharia courts in Britain could not be enforced, and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims.

It has now emerged that sharia courts with these powers have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester with the network’s headquarters in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Two more courts are being planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Read the rest at the Times of London.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wall Street Bracing

From today's New York Times

Nation’s Financial Industry Gripped by Fear
Fear and greed are the stuff that Wall Street is made of. But inside the great banking houses, those high temples of capitalism, fear came to the fore this weekend.

As Lehman Brothers, one of oldest names on Wall Street, appeared to unravel on Sunday, anxiety over the bank’s fate — and over what might happen next — gripped the nation’s financial industry. By late afternoon, Merrill Lynch, under mounting pressure, entered into talks to sell itself to Bank of America.

Dinner parties were canceled. Weekend getaways were postponed. All of Wall Street, it seemed, was on high alert.

In skyscrapers across Manhattan, banking executives were holed up inside their headquarters, within cocoons of soft rugs and wood-paneled walls, desperately trying to assess their company’s exposure to the stricken Lehman. It was, by all accounts, a day unlike anything Wall Street had ever seen.

In Frantic Day, Wall Street Banks Teeter

In one of the most extraordinary days in Wall Street’s history, Merrill Lynch is near an 11th-hour deal with Bank of America to avert a deepening financial crisis while another storied securities firm, Lehman Brothers, hurtled toward liquidation, according to people briefed on the deal...

Update at 2200 PDLT: Lehman Bros has filed for bankruptcy protection.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What's wrong with this picture?

Hat tip to Ken over at Hallowed Ground.

Yes. That's an Orthodox bishop in a Romanian Orthodox Church.

For the record, I have a rather high opinion of the late Pope. I am not unaware that he is widely regarded as a saint within the Roman Church. He may well be a saint. I don't decide those things. But I do know one thing. Neither he nor George H. W. Bush (a true gentleman and a better than average president), nor Mikhail Gorbachev were or are Orthodox. Two of the three depicted in iconography are still alive and one is I believe an avowed atheist!

I am sorry if this is seen as lacking in the appropriate ecumenical spirit. I really don't dislike any of the men depicted. But commemorating in a church, and in iconography, non-Orthodox persons is a no-no. The priest apparently felt that these men deserved to be commemorated for their contributions in bringing down Communism. Again this is without doubt worthy of honor. But that doesn't make you an Orthodox saint. This is frankly more than a little scandalous. I wonder if the bishop is the same fellow who recently got in trouble for communing at a uniate Mass?

Update: See the comments for Fr. Andrew's explanation of this.

Lest we forget...

May the memory of those lost on 9-11 be eternal.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

An Appeal for Charity

Fellow blogger Perry Robinson of Energetic Procession (listed in the sidebar) is in dire financial straits. This seems to be going around. My own situation is, to put it mildly, strained. I however, have no family to support. Perry does. If there is anyone out there who can lend a hand to one of the authors of what must rank at or near the top of the most intellectual Orthodox blogs on the web, it would be greatly appreciated. Also if you have any leads on employment of any kind in the St. Louis area please drop him an email. I know from personal and very painful experience what it's like to be dependent on the kindness of others when in a jam.

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."
~ (1 John 3:17-18)

The odd choices in Barack Obama's career

It's time to throw my hat in the ring as regards predicting the election results. So here it is: Barack Obama will be defeated. Seriously and convincingly defeated. Not due to racism, not due to the forces of reaction, not even due to Karl Rove sending out mind rays over the national cable system. He will lose for one reason above all, one that has been overlooked in any analysis that I've yet seen. Barack Obama will lose because he is a flake.

I'm using the term in its generally accepted sense. A flake is not only a screwup, but someone who truly excels in making bizarre errors and creating incredibly convoluted disasters. A flake is a "fool with energy", as the Russian proverb puts it. ("A fool is a terrible thing to have around, but a fool with energy is a nightmare".)

Barack Obama is a flake, and the American people have begun to see it. The chief characteristic of a flake is that he makes choices that are impossible to either understand or explain. These are not the errors of the poor dope who can't grasp the essentials of a situation, or the neurotic who ruins things out of compulsion, or the man suffering chronic bad luck.

The flake has a genius for discovering solutions at perfect right angles to the ordinary world. It's as if he's the product of a totally different evolutionary chain, in a universe where the laws are slightly but distinctly at variance to ours. When given a choice between left and right, the flake goes up -- if not through the 8th dimension. And although there's plenty of rationalization, there's never a logical reason for any of it. After awhile, people stop asking...

- J. R Dunn

I strongly recommend this article in its entirety which may be read at the website of the American Thinker.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Scientology On Trial For Fraud

The Church of Scientology in France will be tried in court for "organised fraud", according to legal sources.

From the BBC

Media Bias? What Media Bias?

When the New York Times(!) calls you out for leftward slanted news coverage you know the game is up.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Robert Novak: Dealing With Terminal Cancer

Many people have asked me how I first realized I was suffering from a brain tumor and what I have done about it.

The first sign that I was in trouble came July 23, when my 2004 black Corvette struck a pedestrian on 18th Street while I was on my way to my office downtown.

I did not realize I had hit anyone until a young man on a bicycle, who I thought was a bicycle messenger, jumped in front of my car to block the way. In fact, he was David A. Bono, a partner in the high-end law firm Harkins Cunningham. He shouted at me that I could not just hit people and drive away. Bono called the police, and an officer soon arrived.

While Bono and other bystanders were taking on aspects of a mob, shouting "hit-and-run," the investigating officer listened to me about what had happened and issued a right-of-way infraction against me, instead of a hit-and-run violation, which would have been a felony. Following his instructions, I promptly paid the $50 fine at 3rd District police headquarters.

The person I hit, identified by police as Don, with no fixed address, was taken to George Washington University Hospital. A D.C. fire department spokesman said there were "no visible injuries."

The next day, there were more clues that something was seriously wrong. I lost my way to my dentist's office in Montgomery County and never found it. I also had trouble finding my way back to my office. After returning from a speaking engagement in North Carolina that week, I found it difficult to locate my office in the 13-story building where I have been a tenant since 1964.

My wife, Geraldine, and I went to spend the weekend with our daughter, Zelda, and her husband, Christopher Caldwell, and their children in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. When Geraldine noticed that I was having trouble following her in the Boston airport, she suggested I go to a hospital emergency room. The CT scan at Salem Hospital showed a brain mass. I left the hospital and went into seizure the next day.

I suffered another seizure in the ambulance, the second of three that day. I was admitted to the high-quality Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, where a biopsy showed a large, grade-IV tumor. In answer to my question, the oncologist estimated that I had six months to a year to live.

Being read your death sentence is like being a character in one of the old Bette Davis movies.

Read the rest here

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The beginning of the end...

I am not going to dwell on this. However since I have taken note of the unfortunate problems in the OCA's central administration and have also been an occasional critic of Met. Herman I think I should take note of some very important and IMO positive developments in the OCA.
  • There has been a joint meeting of the Metropolitan Council (MC) and Holy Synod.
  • A very frank report was presented to both bodies describing in painful detail the systemic failures on the part of the church administration and prominent persons in the church that permitted gross corruption to occur for years in the Central Administration.
  • Names were named in what reads almost like an indictment.
  • The Holy Synod promptly published this report in its entirety for all to read.
  • Metropolitan Herman has been granted retirement "at his request" effective immediately.
  • Former Metropolitan Theodosius has been sanctioned by the Holy Synod at the request of the MC for his role in the scandals.
  • Archbishop Dimitri of Dallas and the South has been named as locum tenens for the now vacant Metropolitan See.
I do not think this is the end of the problems confronting the OCA. But I do feel that this is the beginning of the end. There remain some other issues that need to be cleaned up. But at long last we can start looking forward instead of backwards. The Holy Synod and the MC have acted decisively and with firmness. I believe they have also acted correctly.

I wish former Metropolitan Herman a peaceful retirement.

The details of the recent activities may be found on the OCA website including the report in its entirety.

Gov. Palin's Speech

First thoughts on the Governor's speech...

My suggestion for the Obama campaign and their liberal fellow travelers...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Case Against the Case Against Palin

A very good friend, who is a lifelong Alaskan and one of the smartest people I know, offers this word of caution to those (yes, like me) inclined to take Sarah Palin lightly:

At the end of 2005, a close friend called to say that he begun writing speeches and talking points for a certain gubernatorial candidate.

"Remind me," I asked. "Who is Sarah Palin?"

I was dismayed at my friend’s choice of political entree. Why was he wasting his time on a relative nobody, trying to beat an incumbent governor (and former three term senator) in the Republican primary? It was utter folly. "Wait until the big money starts coming in for Murkowski," I said. "Wait until the party machinery goes to work on Palin. They will eat her for lunch."

Murkowski, for his part, expressed a similar view. "If I decide to," he said, "I will run and I will win. It's that simple."

The folly, of course, turned out to be my own (and Murkowski's), as Palin slaughtered the incumbent in the primary--posting a 30 point margin of victory--and went on to win the general (over a former Democratic governor) without seeming to break a sweat. She then quickly fulfilled an implicit campaign promise by slapping down ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips in negotiations over a proposed Alaska natural gas pipeline, even though they, too, by all accounts, were well prepared to dine on her tender little frame. Not bad for a lightweight.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Defending Traditional Values

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani lawmaker defended a decision by southwestern tribesmen to bury five women alive because they wanted to choose their own husbands, telling stunned members of parliament this week to spare him their outrage.

"These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them," Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents Baluchistan province, said on Saturday. "Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid."

The women, three of them teenagers, were shot and then thrown into a ditch. They were still breathing as their bodies were covered with rocks and mud, according to reports, which said their only 'crime' was that they wished to marry men of their choosing.


Monday, September 01, 2008

The limits of politics

It has been publicly announced that the daughter of the Governor of Alaska and presumptive Republican Vice-Presidential nominee is in the family way. While I was at work I received a rather disturbing number of emailed comments and more than a few requests for a comment on this subject, especially from friends, acquaintances and readers who do not share my political (and religious) views. So what's my opinion?

No comment. Gov. Palin's daughter is not running for public office. Until someone can persuade me otherwise, it's none of my business or anyone else's outside of their family. This is a Christian blog, not the gossip page of the New York Post. There are limits even to politics, and this is one of them.

Since a public announcement was made I will extend my best wishes and prayers to the expectant mother and her family.

Comments are off.