Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Carju nebesnij (King of Heaven), composed by Josif Marinković

Celebrating Secession Without the Slaves

ATLANTA — The Civil War, the most wrenching and bloody episode in American history, may not seem like much of a cause for celebration, especially in the South.

And yet, as the 150th anniversary of the four-year conflict gets under way, some groups in the old Confederacy are planning at least a certain amount of hoopla, chiefly around the glory days of secession, when 11 states declared their sovereignty under a banner of states’ rights and broke from the union.

The events include a “secession ball” in the former slave port of Charleston (“a joyous night of music, dancing, food and drink,” says the invitation), which will be replicated on a smaller scale in other cities. A parade is being planned in Montgomery, Ala., along with a mock swearing-in of Jefferson Davis as president of the Confederacy.

In addition, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and some of its local chapters are preparing various television commercials that they hope to show next year. “All we wanted was to be left alone to govern ourselves,” says one ad from the group’s Georgia Division.

That some — even now — are honoring secession, with barely a nod to the role of slavery, underscores how divisive a topic the war remains, with Americans continuing to debate its causes, its meaning and its legacy.

“We in the South, who have been kicked around for an awfully long time and are accused of being racist, we would just like the truth to be known,” said Michael Givens, commander-in-chief of the Sons, explaining the reason for the television ads. While there were many causes of the war, he said, “our people were only fighting to protect themselves from an invasion and for their independence.”
Read the rest here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Zong Massacre: 229 years ago today

The master of the slave ship Zong determined that a large number of his "cargo" were so ill from malnutrition and illness that they would not fetch a decent price at market. He therefore cast 122 slaves (including women and children) into the sea. After which he filed an insurance claim against the "loss of cargo." The insurer's disputed the case and the resulting trial and appeal created a legal sensation.
What is this claim that human people have been thrown overboard? This is a case of chattels or goods. Blacks are goods and property; it is madness to accuse these well-serving honourable men of murder. They acted out of necessity and in the most appropriate manner for the cause. The late Captain Collingwood acted in the interest of his ship to protect the safety of his crew. To question the judgement of an experienced well-travelled captain held in the highest regard is one of folly, especially when talking of slaves. The case is the same as if wood had been thrown overboard.
-John Lee KC (Solicitor General for the Crown)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

S. Korea on high alert

South Korea has issued a civil defense "red alert" for Yeonpyeong Island residents. Air raid sirens have sounded and civilians are being ordered to shelters amid concern of a possible N. Korean artillery attack. Meanwhile reports are making the rounds that N. Korea has mobilized large numbers of anti-aircraft missile batteries along its coasts and borders. And the Independent is reporting that upwards of 20,000 N. Korean slave laborers working in Russia's far east (under close supervision of the N. Korean secret police) have suddenly and without notice returned to North Korea.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Card. Koch; Ecumenism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy and Ecclesiology

Via Dr. Tighe...
An interesting discussion of Cardinal Koch's recent address to the Roman Catholic Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Reference is made to several recent comments by Chris Jones (an occasional commenter here and on other blogs). Please leave your comments there.

Metropolitan Hilarion; a meeting between the Pope and Patriarch Kyril is getting closer

Moscow, November 26, Interfax - The meeting between the Moscow Patriarch and the Pope is getting nearer each day, the Russian Orthodox Church said.

"Each day brings us closer to this meeting between the Pope and Patriarch," head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, told journalists in Moscow.

"Right now we are not prepared to make known the date, nor are we engaged in any concrete preparations for the meeting, but we are certainly getting closer to it. It is a calendar and astronomical fact," he said.

The work carried out by the Russian Church with the Catholic Church is aimed "improving the general climate and achieving a higher level of mutual understanding," he added.

Sovereign debt crisis is gaining momentum

LONDON - The debt crisis in Europe escalated sharply Friday as investors dumped Spanish and Portuguese bonds in panicked selling, substantially heightening the prospect that one or both countries may need to join troubled Ireland and Greece in soliciting international bailouts.

The draining confidence in Western Europe's weakest economies threatened to upend bond markets, destabilize the euro and drag out the global economic recovery if it is not quickly contained. It also underscored the mounting problems facing countries that over the past decade have both over-borrowed and overspent, and are now in danger of losing investor faith in their ability to make good on their massive piles of debt.

The perceived risk of debt defaults in Portugal and Spain drove their borrowing costs to new highs Friday, with the interest rate demanded on Portuguese bonds soaring to a point where it could effectively cut the Lisbon government off from raising fresh cash to run the country.

As a result, Portugal was coming under pressure to immediately request a bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Officials in Lisbon responded by pushing through a painful round of budget cuts meant to reassure investors and rejected claims that they needed an emergency lifeline. Italian and Belgian borrowing costs also rose Friday.

The bigger fears, however, surrounded eroding confidence in Spain, whose faltering economy is more than twice the size of the Greek, Irish and Portuguese economies combined - meaning that a bailout there could run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
Read the rest here.

A Wall Street big-shot's last testament; "I was wrong."

BURLINGAME, Calif. — There are no one-handed push-ups or headstands on the yoga mat for Gordon Murray anymore.

No more playing bridge, either — he jokingly accuses his brain surgeon of robbing him of the gray matter that contained all the bidding strategy.

But when Mr. Murray, a former bond salesman for Goldman Sachs who rose to the managing director level at both Lehman Brothers and Credit Suisse First Boston, decided to cease all treatment five months ago for his glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, his first impulse was not to mourn what he couldn’t do anymore or to buy an island or to move to Paris. Instead, he hunkered down in his tiny home office here and channeled whatever remaining energy he could muster into a slim paperback. It’s called “The Investment Answer,” and he wrote it with his friend and financial adviser Daniel Goldie to explain investing in a handful of simple steps.

Why a book? And why this subject? Nine years ago, after retiring from 25 years of pushing bonds on pension and mutual fund managers who were trying to beat the market averages over long periods of time, Mr. Murray had an epiphany about the futility of his former customers’ pursuits.

He eventually went to work as a consultant for Dimensional Fund Advisors, a mutual fund company that rails against active money management. So when his death sentence arrived, Mr. Murray knew he had to work quickly and resolved to get the word out to as many everyday investors as he could.

“This is one of the true benefits of having a brain tumor,” Mr. Murray said, laughing. “Everyone wants to hear what you have to say.”
Read the rest here.

I can think of other things I would be focusing on were I given advance notice of my impending death. That said, I think this is something worthwhile from a man with his background.

Update on priest sacked for disobedience

The priest who was dismissed by Met. Philip for disobedience has entered communion with a schismatic group. Read the details here.

Note: This post has been modified. The original version referred to the priest as having been suspended for wearing a cassock. This was an error. See the comments for the correction.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Miracle: Three teens feared lost are found after 50 days at sea

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Three teenagers survived 50 days adrift in a tiny boat in the South Pacific by drinking rainwater and eating raw fish and a seagull before being rescued by a passing trawler, a senior crewman on the fishing vessel said.

The trio — Samuel Pelesa and Filo Filo, both 15, and Edward Nasau, 14 — had been given up for dead on their coral atoll in the Tokelau islands, where a memorial service was held for them after extensive searches failed to find them.

The boys set off on Oct. 5 in their aluminum dinghy from their home island to one nearby. It's not known how they went missing, but the outboard motor on their boat may have broken down at sea.

Worried family members reported them missing and the New Zealand air force launched a sea search. No sign of the tiny boat was found.
Read the rest here.

Probable terrorist bomb factory discovered in California

So much for a quiet Thanksgiving...
(CNN) -- Authorities have found a second homemade explosive and more of a type of explosive previously discovered in a house in an unincorporated area near Escondido, California, officials said Thursday.

The house occupied by George Djura Jakubec, a computer software consultant who is now under arrest, has been described by authorities as a bomb-making factory. They say it holds the largest cache of the two homemade explosives ever discovered in one spot in the United States.

San Diego County authorities confirmed Thursday they have found pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN, a favorite of al Qaeda bomb-makers that is now the target of new U.S. airport body scans and pat downs.

They also found more hexamethylene triperoxide diamine, or HMTD, in a bottle inside the house, but the two types of homemade explosives were not immediately removed because they are too volatile and the house is too cluttered to negotiate safely, Assistant Sheriff Ed Prendergast said.

Authorities had already recovered 8 or 9 pounds of HMTD, an explosive powder that suicide bombers use, authorities said.

The search of the house also turned up items "suggestive of armed robberies," Prendergast said in a written statement.
Read the rest here.

OCA: Archbishop Seraphim is charged with sexual assault

WINNIPEG — A former Archbishop of Canada in the Orthodox Church whose career has taken him around the world has been arrested by Winnipeg police on two charges of sexual assault.

Kenneth William Storheim, 64, surrendered to police Wednesday after an investigation into sexual abuse allegations dating back 30 years led to charges.

It's been alleged previously that the abuse took place in the 1980s, when two boys — both ten years old at the time — were visiting Winnipeg. At the time, Storheim would have been a priest.

Last month, the Orthodox Church in America said it had launched an internal investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct.

On Thursday, police said a publication ban is in effect, and that no further information will be provided, in order to protect the identities of the victims involved.

Storheim, based in the eastern Ontario rural community of Spencerville, has been on a leave of absence since the start of October.

Born in Edmonton, Storheim began his religious career as an Anglican priest, but later converted to the Orthodox Church and became a monk.

He was ordained as a priest in New York in 1979, and became a bishop in Edmonton in 1989. He became the Archbishop of Ottawa and of Canada in March 2007.

He has also served in Winnipeg, Moose Jaw, Sask., London, Ont., and in locations in Europe and the United States.

Storheim has been released on a recognizance with a cash surety to appear in court at a later date.

The Orthodox Church in America is thought to have more than one million members and is the 24th largest Christian denomination in North America.

Sad news for Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Holiday break; barring something really important little or no posting over the next few days. Wishing the joy of the feast to you and yours...

(Ad Orientem)

Meet Allen West (R-FL)

Allen West, a 22-year Army veteran, is preparing for Washington a bit like he would for a battlefield. His "high and tight" hairstyle will be one of the only buzz cuts in Congress. He plans to carry a camouflage bag, not a briefcase.

And on a recent morning, while others in the Republican Party's large incoming freshman class jockeyed for office space, he declared himself largely indifferent.

"I've lived in tents," said West, who in January will become the first black Republican to represent Florida since 1876.

Since its last black lawmaker retired from the House in 2003, the GOP has been eager to elect high-profile African Americans. The party's desire to demonstrate inclusiveness has been especially pressing since the election of Barack Obama and the rise of the predominantly white tea party movement.

West is one of two black Republicans elected to the House this year. The other, Tim Scott, a longtime politician in South Carolina, was quickly drafted into the GOP leadership as a representative of the freshman class.

West brings to the party a strong personality and, with repeat appearances on Fox News and a spot this past Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," a profile that many incoming members of Congress would covet. But he's also an unpredictable force, inclined to be an outsider - even within the GOP.

In an interview, he said he doesn't admire anyone in Washington.

On the campaign trail, West found support among anti-establishment groups, including the tea party and motorcycle clubs. He briefly hired as his chief of staff Joyce Kaufman, a local conservative talk radio commentator. She resigned amid controversy over inflammatory comments she made, including disparaging illegal immigrants and referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as "garbage."

West responded by saying he is "even more focused that this liberal, progressive, socialist agenda, this left-wing, vile, vicious, despicable machine that's out there is soundly brought to its knees."
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Russian Approach to Piracy

The ten Somali pirates captured by the Russian navy last week may have perished after their release. Marines seized them during an operation to free a hijacked Russian oil tanker far from shore. Russia initially said the 10 pirates would be taken to Moscow to face criminal charges, but, and at Western officials’ surprise, were released instead. Now there is even more surprise, the pirates were set adrift in the Indian Ocean to make their own way home.

The tanker, the Moscow University, was seized on the 5th of May, some 350 km off the Yemeni island of Socotra, as it sailed for China. And the Marines from the Russian warship stormed the Tanker the following day, freeing the 23 Russian crew members who had locked themselves in a safe room after disabling their ship. “The Russian navy had been within its rights to release the suspects”, the spokesman for the E.U “Navforce” in Somalia said.

He suggested also that the loss of navigational equipment would not necessarily be critical if there was an experienced mariner among the 10 men on the boat, noting that pirates had been known to operate up to 2200 km from the Somali coast.

Ummm yea (cough cough)

Shamelessly stolen from here.

Update on alleged forgery of synodal decree

Allegations of distortions in translations and photo-shopped signatures...
One week after charging the Antiochian Archdiocese website posted a “forgery” of the Damascus Synod’s August decision regarding bishops in North America in its English translation of the offical Arabic text, Archimandrite Touma (Bitar), abbot of the St. Siloun the Athonite monastery in Douma, Lebanon, has explained himself, suggesting the English text is guilty of “distorting the meaning” and “distorting the form” of the Arabic original.

Distortion of Meaning

In a message posted November 20 on his website, the noted Lebanese spiritual writer states: “ ...as appears to happen again and again on the website of the Archdiocese of North America”, the English text posted on the Archdiocesean website “... is not a literal translation of the Arabic text of that passage. Rather, it is a distortion, or one could say, an interpretive version.”
Read the rest here.

North Korean artillery shells South Korean island

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea shot dozens of rounds of artillery onto a populated South Korean island near the countries' disputed western border Tuesday, and South Korean troops returned fire, military officials said.

South Korea's YTN television said two people were injured, several houses were on fire and that shells were still falling on Yeonpyeong island. Yonhap news agency, quoting a military official, said four soldiers were wounded. The reports couldn't be immediately verified.

YTN said between 1,200 and 1,300 people live in the island, citing an island resident. TV pictures showed black and white smoke rising from the island.

A South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff official said dozens of rounds of artillery landed on the island and in the sea. The official says South Korea fired back. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of JCS rules, said South Korea's military is on alert. He had no other details.
Read the rest here.

This is breaking news and the linked story may change.

Taliban Leader in Secret Talks Was an Impostor

KABUL, Afghanistan — For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.

But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little.

“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”
Read the rest here.

Irish debt crisis brings down government

DUBLIN — The Irish government faced imminent collapse on Monday, only a day after it signed off on a $100 billion bailout, setting the stage for a new election early next year and injecting the threat of political instability into a European financial crisis that already has markets on edge.

Confronted with high-level defections from his governing coalition, Prime Minister Brian Cowen said he would dissolve the government after passage of the country’s crucial 2011 budget early in December.

His announcement capped a grim day for Ireland, as protesters tried to storm the Parliament building in Dublin, and Moody’s Investors Service, the ratings agency, lowered the rating on Irish debt by several notches.

In agreeing to new elections, Mr. Cowen seemed sure to become the first political casualty of the debt crisis in the 16-member euro zone.

The developments sent a chill through financial markets and political circles in the euro zone, where the severe austerity measures imposed to keep the currency union from fracturing have yet to be tested in general elections.

The impending collapse of the Irish government after an expensive bailout seemed only to reconfirm fears that the financial crisis was far from contained.
Read the rest here.

Notre Dame silent on teen's death

I normally shy away from sensationalist news. But this one really bothers me.
A 19-year-old Northbrook woman died of an apparent suicide nine days after telling University of Notre Dame police that she had been sexually attacked by a football player in a dorm room, the Tribune has learned.

Elizabeth "Lizzy" Seeberg, a freshman at neighboring St. Mary's College who had battled depression, apparently overdosed on prescription medication in her own room during the third week of classes in September. The player, meanwhile, has remained on the field.

More than two months later, Notre Dame refuses to publicly acknowledge the case, and what actions university officials have taken to investigate her allegation remain largely unknown.

Campus authorities did not tell the St. Joseph County Police Department investigating Seeberg's death about her report of a sexual attack, county officials said. Nor did they refer the case to the county's special victims unit, which was established to handle sex offenses, according to prosecutors.

Former federal prosecutor Zachary Fardon, who tried ex-Gov. George Ryan, has been hired by Seeberg's parents to look into circumstances surrounding her allegations and Notre Dame's investigation.

"At this time, we're not prepared to make any comment about Notre Dame's investigation," he said Friday.

In the months since Seeberg's death, the university and its police force have denied formal requests for information from the Tribune, asserting it is not bound by open records laws that make public reports filed at other Indiana police departments.
Read the rest here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

In Britain’s Saudi-Backed Islamic Schools, Objectionable Lessons

LONDON — A British network of more than 40 part-time Islamic schools and clubs with 5,000 students has been teaching from a Saudi Arabian government curriculum that contains anti-Semitic and homophobic views, including a textbook that asks children to list the “reprehensible” qualities of Jews, according to an investigation by a BBC television documentary unit to be broadcast on Monday .

A Web site article and accompanying video clip released in advance of the 30-minute Panorama program quoted the textbook as saying that Jews “looked like monkeys and pigs”. The article quoted a separate part of the curriculum — for children as young as six — saying that someone who is not a believer in Islam at death would be condemned to “hellfire”.

A commentary on the video said the textbooks had been obtained by an “undercover” Saudi Arabian researcher from one of the schools and clubs, which meet in the evenings and on the weekend in a network overseen by the cultural bureau of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London.
Read the rest here.

In European Debt Crisis, Some Call Default Better Option

DUBLIN — Ireland has finally taken its medicine, accepting the financial rescue package European officials have been pushing for several weeks.

But even as Europe moved to avert this latest debt crisis, economists and policy experts are increasingly debating whether it would be better, and fairer, for the Continent’s weakest economies to default on payments to lenders.

Many experts now say that bailouts only delay the inevitable. Instead of further wounding their economies with drastic budget slashing, the specialists assert, governments should immediately start talks with bondholders and force them to accept a loss on their investments.

The risk, of course, is an investor panic that would seize financial markets at a time when the global economy remains on tenterhooks.

But an organized restructuring of debt that would reduce the amount of money troubled countries owed, especially in conjunction with a financial aid package, might provide a quicker path to recovery and avoid the trauma of a forced default down the road, some economists argue.

“Policy makers face the same dilemma as in any crisis with respect to haircutting bonds, and the real-life decisions are always extremely difficult,” said Robert E. Rubin, the former Treasury secretary, who faced just such a quandary in 1994, when he helped arrange a $47 billion rescue package for the Mexican government as it teetered on the verge of default.
Read the rest here.

47 Years Later: Admissions of pain and guilt

President and Mrs Kennedy in their open touring car. Clint Hill is on the back of the limousine

A number of the surviving members of President Kennedy's Secret Service protection detail are starting to open up about what happened on that sad day and how they have coped with their sense of failure to protect the President. Of course President Kennedy seems to have had little regard for the dangers of his office and was notorious for keeping his bodyguards at a distance.

Pope Benedict XVI might resign if his health failed

In a book of interviews, the 83-year Pontiff challenged centuries of Catholic Church tradition by saying that he would not hesitate to relinquish his post if no longer felt "physically, psychologically and spiritually" up to the job.

The papacy has traditionally been seen as a job for life, with pontiffs expected to remain at the helm of the Church until death. The last pontiff to resign willingly was Celestine V in 1294.

But in the book, "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times", Benedict said: "Yes, if a Pope clearly realises that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation, to resign."
Read the rest here.

20 Years Ago Today: A very British coup

Twenty years ago this morning, having slept on the matter, Margaret Thatcher got up and decided to resign. At 7.30, she rang her principal private secretary and got the process rolling.

At 9am, in a tearful session, she announced her resignation to the Cabinet. The news was put out at 9.25, and the Cabinet then turned to normal business. At 12.45, she went to see the Queen.

And then, in great British parliamentary tradition, Mrs Thatcher had to continue almost as if nothing had happened. It was a Thursday, so the then twice-weekly Prime Minister’s Questions fell that afternoon. They followed pretty much the same random pattern as usual. The first question she answered was about whether she had any plans to visit Belfast South. She would, she said, but ''perhaps in a slightly different capacity’’.

Once Questions were over, she had to speak for the government from which she had just resigned in a no-confidence debate called by the Opposition before her fall. To the delight of the House, she batted away interruptions. After a friendly tease from the veteran Labour Left-winger, Dennis Skinner, suggesting that she should now become Governor of an independent Bank of England, she agreed with him and exclaimed: ''I’m enjoying this.’’ In another great parliamentary tradition – good old British humbug – the massed ranks of those who had just assassinated her cheered her to the echo.

What was it all about? The decision to force out a party leader is normally a punishment for failure. But Mrs Thatcher had won all her three elections, and been Prime Minister for longer than anyone else in the 20th century. (She had even won the first ballot of the leadership contest, though not by a big enough margin to prevent a second.) On the fateful weekend when the votes of her colleagues had stacked up against her, she had been away in Paris, at a conference marking the victory in the Cold War which she had done so much to win. Where was the failure?
Read the rest here.

Quantitative Easing Explained

H/T Wilson unplugged

S&P Warns on New Zealand Ratings And Currency Skids

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Standard & Poor's warned on Monday that New Zealand's foreign currency rating could be downgraded if the country continues to pile up more foreign debt, sending its currency reeling by a full U.S. cent.

The ratings agency said it was revising New Zealand's foreign currency outlook to negative from stable, citing a widening current account deficit and credit risks in its banking sector. An actual cut in the AA+/A-1+ rating could well lead to an increase in borrowing costs for the country and its banks.

"The outlook revision on the foreign currency ratings reflects our recognition of the risks stemming from New Zealand's projected widening external imbalances in the context of the country's weakened fiscal flexibility," said S&P sovereign ratings credit analyst Kyran Curry.

Curry said the negative outlook meant there was around a one-in-three chance of the rating actually being downgraded. He also emphasized that there would be no change anytime soon and this was a change in the medium-term view which covered the next two to three years.

The agency said increased fiscal savings by the National-led government would be crucial in avoiding a downgrade.

That was a point acknowledged by New Zealand Finance Minister Bill English, who said it underlined the importance of cutting back on foreign debt. The country has net foreign liabilities of more than NZ$160 billion.

"This is a long-standing problem for New Zealand and has left us vulnerable as a country," English said, adding that the government was taking steps to reduce this external vulnerability and was committed to returning the budget to surplus by 2016.

Indeed, English was confident that action already under way on the budget and debt would be enough to avoid a downgrade.

Investors, however, were not so optimistic and knocked the New Zealand dollar down over a cent to $0.7733, while pushing government bond yields higher.
Read the rest here.

I have to admit this surprised me. I had the NZ dollar pegged as a fairly safe currency bet in a world where that is not real common.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Update on Bishop Williamson

Rorate Caeli is reporting a source close to the bishop has indicated he will comply with the ultimatum given by Bishop Fellay.


Comments have been placed on moderation for the time being due to the undesired attentions the preceding post has gotten from Nazi sympathizers - Holocaust deniers and the like. I apologize for the inconvenience. To those concerned. Please crawl back under the rock from which you have emerged and take your evil fantasies with you.

SSPX: Bishop Williamson is given an ultimatum, threatened with expulsion

The Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay, has learnt by the press of Bishop Richard Williamson’s decision, just ten days before his trial, to dismiss the lawyer charged with his defense, in favor of a lawyer who is openly affiliated to the so-called neo-Nazi movement in Germany, and to other such groups.

Bishop Fellay has given Bishop Williamson a formal order to go back on this decision and to not allow himself to become an instrument of political theses that are completely foreign to his mission as a Catholic bishop serving the Society of Saint Pius X.

Disobedience to this order would result in Bishop Williamson being expelled from the Society of Saint Pius X.

Menzingen, november 20 of 2010.

Fr. Christian Thouvenot, general Secretary

As alluded to in the above statement, it is widely reported that Williamson has sacked his attorney and hired one with well established connections to the extreme right (neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers). I have long suspected that Williamson was a closet sedevacantist and would eventually bolt the SSPX. Perhaps I will yet be proved wrong. But the evidence thus far suggests otherwise.

A quick reminder... this post is NOT an invitation to debate the historical accuracy of the Holocaust which is an established fact that is not open for discussion on this blog. Any comments even hinting at that will be deleted and the poster banned without further warning.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Britain's Royal Family in the news

Prince Charles has created a minor tiff by failing to rule out that his wife Camilla (the Duchess of Cornwall) might become Queen after he succeeds to the throne. The Royal Family had made strong representations to the effect that she would be styled as the "Princess Consort." Camilla's popularity has risen somewhat in recent years but she still lingers in the shadow of the late Princess Diana.

On a more sanguine note, Prince William and his fiance Miss Middleton are busy planning their wedding. At present they are hoping to marry on a weekend with the view to creating a Bank Holiday for the population. No dates are firm but the couple are eying late April as a possible time frame. Among other considerations favoring this is that it would place the wedding safely after Easter and Lent. H.M. The Queen follows the rather old fashioned custom of not entertaining or attending major functions during the Great Fast.

A sober sign of Kate Middleton's transition from royal girlfriend, to prospective future Queen was also visible in the last couple of days. She is now being accompanied by plainclothes police officers whenever in public. As a member of the Royal Family she will have to get use to around the clock protection. In Britain royal security is usually a bit less heavy-handed than what we are use to in the United States. Scotland Yard has a special squad of armed officers who discreetly watch over all the members of the Royal Family.

Feds prepare massive prosecution of insider trading on Wall Street

NEW YORK — U.S. officials are preparing insider trading charges against a host of financial players, including investment bankers and hedge fund managers, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the matter.

The charges could surpass any previous investigations on Wall Street, and examine whether certain players garnered tens of millions of dollars in illegal profits, according to the newspaper.

The three-year investigation could expose "a culture of pervasive insider trading in U.S. financial markets", especially in ways private information is transmitted to traders through connected insiders, the newspaper said, citing federal authorities.

While the scope of the investigation is unclear it is said to focus on the use of so-called expert network firms, businesses that command big fees from hedge funds to match them up with experts in particular industries.

There has been concern for years that some experts may be passing on confidential information about public companies to traders.
Read the rest here.

British Foreign Secretary questions long term survival of the Euro

William Hague, the foreign secretary, has raised doubts about the future of the euro, saying it was impossible to know whether the currency would collapse.

The Foreign Secretary, a vociferous and long-standing critic of European monetary union, said he "hoped" that the euro would survive, but added: "Who knows?"

His comments came as talks continued about the possible need to bail out debt-ridden Ireland, the latest crisis-hit eurozone member.

Asked whether the euro could collapse, Mr Hague told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Well I hope not.
Read the rest here.

In a major reversal Pope Benedict XVI approves prophylactics in some cases

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI says in a new book that the use of condoms can be justified in some cases, such as for male prostitutes seeking to prevent the spread of HIV.

The pontiff makes the comments in a book-length interview with a German journalist, "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times." The Vatican newspaper ran excerpts of the book Saturday.

Benedict said that for male prostitutes — for whom contraception isn't a central issue — condoms are not a moral solution. But he said they could be justified "in the intention of reducing the risk of infection."

Roman Catholic Church teaching has long opposed condoms since they are a form of artificial contraception. The Vatican has been harshly criticized for its position given the AIDS crisis.
Read the rest here.

Pope Benedict XVI creates 24 new Cardinals

ROME — Pope Benedict XVI elevated 24 new cardinals in a festive ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday, bestowing quadrangular red hats on the new members of a group that will one day elect his successor.

Two Americans were among the newly elected. Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., is seen as a bridge-builder and was greeted with waves of applause from the hundreds of supporters who came for Saturday’s ceremony. Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, a former archbishop of St. Louis, is now the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, a Vatican court, and is known for his outspoken criticism of President Obama and of Catholics who are abortion rights supporters.

Dressed in heavy golden vestments, Benedict called on the new cardinals to devote themselves entirely to humble service to the church, whose force, he said, is “not the logic of supremacy, of power according to human criteria, but the logic of bowing down to wash feet, the logic of service, the logic of the cross which is at the base of every exercise of power.”

Cardinals from around the world had come to Rome for Saturday’s consistory, and on Friday they convened for a daylong meeting to discuss pressing issues facing the church, including the sexual abuse crisis, religious liberty, the liturgy and a new rite for allowing Anglicans to convert en masse to Catholicism.

At the meeting, Cardinal William J. Levada, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that the Vatican would soon issue new guidelines to help local bishops’ conferences deal with abuse cases, taking into consideration the need to protect children and cooperate with civil authorities.

The guidelines have not been completed, but it appears that they will be a significant step toward clarifying longstanding and widespread confusion about the Vatican’s own rules for handling abuse cases.

The cardinals devoted half of their daylong meeting to issues of religious liberty, a particularly pressing issue after it emerged last week that China planned to ordain a bishop without the pope’s consent on Saturday, its first such ordination since 2006.
Read the rest here.

Serbian Orthodox Church deposes bishop

BELGRADE, Serbia - The Serbian Orthodox Church stripped a former Kosovo bishop of his ranks on Friday after he tried to regain control over monasteries and openly challenged the church leadership.

The church said in a statement that it made "this very hard and painful decision" because its former bishop, Artemije, openly broke the church laws.

The dispute between ex-Bishop Artemije and the church leaders is the most serious clash within the Serbian church in years. It reflects the divisions between the moderates and the hardliners in this Balkan nation.

Artemije is staunchly anti-Western and conservative. The church removed him from the post in February amid allegations that millions of dollars in church and state funds had been embezzled under his leadership.

Artemije has denied any wrongdoing and has refused the church's orders to retire. He has gathered his followers and demanded that he be given back his post in Kosovo.

On Friday, Artemije defied the church by breaking into a monastery in northern Kosovo and holding a liturgy there with his followers.

Serbian media reported later Friday that Artemije and his followers also tried to take control of other monasteries in Kosovo.

The church statement said police have detained at least two of Artemije's supporters outside the Crna Reka monastery in southern Serbia, close to Kosovo.

There was no immediate comment from the police.

While serving as the spiritual leader of Serbs in Kosovo, Artemije had ordered his clergy to cease contact with Kosovo's ethnic Albanian authorities and the EU mission there after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

The decision to demote Artemije to the position of a monk was brought during the ongoing gathering of the church elders Friday. The church also said it would file criminal charges against Artemije over the attempted takeover of the church property.

The current Serbian Patriarch, Irinej, is considered to be a moderate. He took over the church's helm after the death last year of his predecessor, Patriarch Pavle.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Israel suspected in highly sophisticated cyber attack on Iran's nuclear weapons program

Experts dissecting the computer worm suspected of being aimed at Iran’s nuclear program have determined that it was precisely calibrated in a way that could send nuclear centrifuges wildly out of control.

Their conclusion, while not definitive, begins to clear some of the fog around the Stuxnet worm, a malicious program detected earlier this year on computers, primarily in Iran but also India, Indonesia and other countries.

The paternity of the worm is still in dispute, but in recent weeks officials from Israel have broken into wide smiles when asked whether Israel was behind the attack, or knew who was. American officials have suggested it originated abroad.

The new forensic work narrows the range of targets and deciphers the worm’s plan of attack. Computer analysts say Stuxnet does its damage by making quick changes in the rotational speed of motors, shifting them rapidly up and down.

Changing the speed “sabotages the normal operation of the industrial control process,” Eric Chien, a researcher at the computer security company Symantec, wrote in a blog post.

Those fluctuations, nuclear analysts said in response to the report, are a recipe for disaster among the thousands of centrifuges spinning in Iran to enrich uranium, which can fuel reactors or bombs. Rapid changes can cause them to blow apart. Reports issued by international inspectors reveal that Iran has experienced many problems keeping its centrifuges running, with hundreds removed from active service since summer 2009.

“We don’t see direct confirmation” that the attack was meant to slow Iran’s nuclear work, David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks nuclear proliferation, said in an interview Thursday. “But it sure is a plausible interpretation of the available facts.”

Intelligence officials have said they believe that a series of covert programs are responsible for at least some of that decline. So when Iran reported earlier this year that it was battling the Stuxnet worm, many experts immediately suspected that it was a state-sponsored cyberattack.
Read the rest here.

I have often been a sharp critic of Israeli policies. This however strikes me as a very clever and non-violent method of dealing with a direct threat to their national security. Let's be frank here. Iran is trying build atomic bombs and missiles that can deliver them to Israel. Cyber sabotage is a brilliant way to deal with the problem, at least in the short term. And it let's Iran know that Israel is not going to just wait for the mushroom cloud to rise over Tel Aviv.

Russian Orthodox Church "can not" lift excommunication of Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy’s excommunication from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1901 can’t be overturned because the writer never publicly renounced his “tragic spiritual aberrations” a church official said.

“The decision of the Most Holy Governing Synod merely stated an accomplished fact,” said Archimandrate Tikhon Shevkunov, executive secretary of Patriarch Kirill’s council on culture. “Count Tolstoy excommunicated himself from the church, he broke with it entirely. He not only didn’t deny this, but emphasized it vigorously at every opportunity.”

Shevkunov was responding to an open letter to the patriarch from Sergei Stepashin, a former prime minister, on the occasion of the centenary of Tolstoy’s death on Nov. 20. Stepashin, as head of the Russian Book Union, asked the patriarch to explain the church’s position on Tolstoy and to make a “public display of compassion in some form.”

Shevkunov’s and Stepashin’s letters were published today by Rossiiskaya Gazeta, the government’s newspaper of record.

Tolstoy was Russian literature’s most “tragic personality,” whose attacks on the church were “horrifying for the Orthodox consciousness.”

In the last decades of his life, Tolstoy’s activities were “truly destructive for Russia, which he loved,” Shevkunov said. “They brought misfortune upon the people whom he so wanted to serve.”

Rowan Williams says women priests should not impede communion with Rome

VATICAN CITY (RNS) A week and a half after losing five Anglican bishops to the Catholic Church, the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion reaffirmed his dedication to ecumenical relations between the two churches -- and his belief that female Anglican priests should not be an impediment to union.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams spoke Wednesday (Nov. 17) at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Vatican's ecumenical office. Dozens of senior Catholic leaders attended, including the church's No. 2 official, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

While reflecting on progress in Anglican-Catholic relations, Williams admitted to "intractable difficulties" in two areas: disputes over the authority of the pope, and a failure of the two churches "to recognize each other's ministries fully."

Catholics insist on an all-male priesthood, while several parts of the Anglican Communion -- including the Church of England, the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada -- ordain women.

Williams echoed a statement from his Nov. 2009 address to a Vatican ecumenical conference, when he asked rhetorically "in what way" the ordination of women priests could "compromise the purposes of the church."

The issue has provoked tension not only between Rome and Canterbury, but within the Church of England itself.

Earlier this month, five Church of England bishops announced plans to join the Catholic church under a Vatican program that permits them to retain many traditional Anglican forms of worship and governance in special Catholic dioceses. The Vatican designed the program to facilitate the conversion of Anglicans upset by their churches' growing acceptance of homosexuality and women priests.

In his speech on Wednesday, Williams did not refer to the bishops' conversion or to the Vatican's overture to Anglican converts. Williams is scheduled to meet Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday.
H/T Dr. Tighe who writes in response to Dr. Williams' drivel...
Evidently he has run out of things to say on the subject, so now he contents himself with the mere repetition what he said in Rome in October 2009. But to what point, really? Rome made it clear already, in the correspondence between Paul VI and Coggan the AbC in 1975 and 76 that from the Catholic perspective WO would form an "insuperable obstacle" to Anglican/Catholic "reunion," and this was reenforced by Inter Insigniores in 1977, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis in 1994 and the CDF statement on OS in 1995. To put it bluntly, the Catholic teaching is that "the Church has no authority to ordain women," and that the status of this teaching is that it is "irreformable" (unchangeable). And when Williams goes on to argue that the question of who can preside at the Eucharist is not an essential or first-order issue, he sets himself at odds with the whole Catholic Tradition, East and West, as well as the position of the Catholics, the Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox and the Assyrians, and so one can see that his "Catholic Anglicanism" has resolved itself into nothing more than ritualistic Liberal Protestantism. And so the "Church that Elizabeth Built" has returned back to its Protestant and Reformed origins of 1559, albeit bedizened with a medley of feathers filched from other fowl in its farings.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A quiet revolt against Rome is spreading in Belgium

BUIZINGEN, Belgium — Willy Delsaert is a retired railroad employee with dyslexia who practiced intensively before facing the suburban Don Bosco Catholic parish to perform the Sunday Mass rituals he grew up with.

“Who takes this bread and eats,” he murmured, cracking a communion wafer with his wife at his side, “declares a desire for a new world.”

With those words, Mr. Delsaert, 60, and his fellow parishioners are discreetly pioneering a grass-roots movement that defies centuries of Roman Catholic Church doctrine by worshiping and sharing communion without a priest.

Don Bosco is one of about a dozen alternative Catholic churches that have sprouted and grown in the last two years in Dutch-speaking regions of Belgium and the Netherlands. They are an uneasy reaction to a combination of forces: a shortage of priests, the closing of churches, dissatisfaction with Vatican appointments of conservative bishops and, most recently, dismay over cover-ups of sexual abuse by priests.

The churches are called ecclesias, the word derived from the Greek verb for “calling together.” Five were started last year in the Netherlands by Catholics who broke away from their existing parishes, and more are being planned, said Franck Ploum, who helped start an ecclesia in January in Breda, the Netherlands, and is organizing a network conference for the groups in the two countries.

At this sturdy brick church southwest of Brussels, men and women are trained as “conductors.” They preside over Masses and the landmarks of life: weddings and baptisms, funerals and last rites. Church members took charge more than a year ago when their pastor retired without a successor. In Belgium, about two-thirds of clergymen are over 55, and one-third older then 65.

“We are resisting a little bit like Gandhi,” said Johan Veys, a married former priest who performs baptisms and recruits newcomers for other tasks at Don Bosco. “Our intention is not to criticize, but to live correctly. We press onward quietly without a lot of noise. It’s important to have a community where people feel at home and can find peace and inspiration.”
Read the rest here.

Despite objections Russian Orthodox Church to take possession of former Roman Catholic Church

Moscow, November 16, Interfax - The Moscow Patriarchate urges Catholics to give an unbiased opinion of transferring the former Catholic Church to the Russian Orthodox Church.

"First of all, I would like to assure everyone that the decision made by the regional Duma deputies (to transfer this and several other buildings to the Orthodox Church - IF) should not be in any way viewed as a hostile effort by the Kaliningrad Diocese," Dimitry Sizonenko, an acting secretary for inter-Christian relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, told Interfax-Religion.

He denies the allegations of Archbishop Paolo Pezzi who earlier stated this draft law had been "insidiously lobbied".

According to Father Dimitry, some publications about the Russian Church laying claim on the building have been posted in Internet as far back as few months ago.

"It was no secret. Addressing the issue of the building transfer, the regional administration made it a condition that the philharmonic hall continued its work without charge. Thus, the final decision was made in favour of the bidder who met this quite reasonable requirement," Fr. Dimitry said.

He also denies any assumptions that the decision to transfer the former Catholic church to the Orthodox Church has shown disrespect for the lawful rights of the Catholic believers - the descendants of the postwar migrants who had arrived to Kaliningrad from across the Soviet Union.

"It should be remembered that the legal owners of Holy Family Church have left the city for good when it was included within the USSR. The postwar migrants, therefore, have no direct interest in this building," Fr. Dimitry stated.

He recalled that the building was neglected for many years, and "it is quite evident" that the Catholic descendants of those migrants were not the only ones who had done the renovation started in early 1970s by the head of the city council. The building was renovated to open the organ hall by a joint effort of all citizens and now it is their "common heritage".

According to Fr. Dimitry, "the way the Catholic Church treats this challenge today reveals many contradictions inherent to the Russian Catholic Church," and Catholics "unreasonably position themselves in this dispute as a religious minority." However, they make their statements on behalf of the Church which counts more than a billion believers globally.

Fr. Dimitry is convinced that it is possible to come up with a reasonable solution, because "the Russian Orthodox Church has always tried to decide such delicate matters in a way suitable for all."

This is not right. If the reverse were happening the Orthodox Church would (rightly) be raising cain over it.

President Obama awards first Medal of Honor to living combat veteran since Vietnam

Prince William is engaged to marry

LONDON — Years of fevered anticipation and premature speculation ended on Tuesday morning when Prince William, the heir to the heir to the British throne, said that, yes, he does plan to marry his girlfriend of many years, Kate Middleton.

In a brief statement, William’s father, Prince Charles, said that he was “delighted” to announce the engagement of William and Miss Middleton, both 28, and that they would be married next spring or summer.

“Prince William has informed the queen and other close members of his family,” the statement said. “Prince William has also sought the permission of Miss Middleton’s father.”
Read the rest here.

Financial markets tumble over spreading debt crisis

Worries about Europe’s debt crisis and possible moves by authorities in Asia to slow fast-paced growth there swept the world’s markets on Tuesday and pushed stocks in the United States sharply lower.

As finance ministers from the 16 countries that use the euro met in Brussels to discuss the problems in Ireland, investors worried that the debt crisis could spread across the Continent to Portugal, and even to Spain.

“There is a worry about the state of things overseas. It is the European debt crisis that is causing this,” said Zach Pandl, economist at Nomura in New York.

Stocks, which have been grinding lower since the Federal Reserve announced its asset purchase program to stimulate the economy, fell for the seventh consecutive day.

The Dow Jones industrial average briefly fell below 11,000 for the first time since early October. At the close it was at 11,023.50 down 178.47 points, or 1.59 percent on the day.

The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index fell 1.62 percent, and the Nasdaq composite dropped 1.75 percent.
Read the rest here.

Lance Armstrong Inquiry Intensifies

Federal investigators and antidoping officials from the United States, including the federal agent Jeff Novitzky, have elevated their investigation of Lance Armstrong and are in France to meet with antidoping officials and members of Interpol, according to a person briefed on the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity.

United States officials have been scrutinizing Armstrong’s suspected links to doping for several months. Interpol is an international police organization that helps authorities from different countries work together on investigations.

The presence of United States investigators in France was first reported Tuesday by The Associated Press, which cited unnamed sources.

The investigation of Armstrong began earlier this year and has focused on whether he used performance-enhancing drugs to defraud sponsors while he was a member of the United States Postal Service cycling team.

Since the summer, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles has been hearing evidence about Armstrong, a seven-time winner of the Tour de France.
Read the rest here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Calif. court upholds in-state tuition for illegal immigrants

SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court weighed in Monday on the politically charged immigration fray when it ruled that illegal immigrants are entitled to the same tuition breaks offered to in-state high school students to attend public colleges and universities.

While the ruling applies only to California, the case was closely watched nationally because nine other states, including New York and Texas, have similar laws.

Republican congressmen Lamar S. Smith of Texas and Steve King of Iowa filed a so-called friends of the court brief urging that illegal immigrants be denied the reduced rate.

The lawsuit considered by the court was part of a broader legal assault led by immigration legal scholar Kris Kobach, who has filed numerous cases across the country seeking to restrict the rights of illegal immigrants.

He represented a group of U.S. students who filed the lawsuit seeking to invalidate the California law.
Read the rest here.


For those of us on the New Calendar today marks the beginning of the Nativity Fast (Advent in the West). In terms of its strictness it is probably the easiest of the four Fasts. But it is the one I tend to struggle with the most. Please pray for me.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Debating the Gold Standard

With gold having broken $1400 oz. it is once again in the news. A number of people outside of the usual suspects (so called gold bugs) are starting to whisper or even openly talk about something not seriously discussed since the 1970's, namely reverting to some system where money would be tied to gold, i.e. a gold standard. (See the preceding post.) It might surprise readers to learn this, but I am actually not wild about a rigid gold standard.

Although a sharp critic of the lax monetary policies of the Federal Reserve (which greatly contributed to the current mess we are in), I do actually believe that central banks need some flexibility to deal with emergencies that a rigid gold standard would deny. And of course it is worth noting that no country faced with a major crisis allowed itself to be wrecked (although we came close in the early 30's) by a strict adherence to gold as money. Nations confronted with an urgent need for money that they could not back with gold simply cheated. Or they abandoned the gold standard altogether until the emergency had passed. The United States is no exception. We (both sides) printed money during the Civil War, which gave us a decade of brutal inflation lasting well into the 1870's. And we did it again for a much shorter period during the First World War. The inflation there was short lived and less severe as we quickly returned to gold after the war was over. And of course we abandoned gold during the height of the Great Depression and stayed away from it until the early 1950's.

The combination of brutal depression era unemployment followed by the rationing of the war years kept inflation in check until the late 40's when we began to pay for all of the money printed and the massive debt accumulated. Post war inflation was eventually brought under control by the so called Bretton Woods Agreement which established a modified Gold Standard. Bretton Woods though proved unworkable in the cold war era as a consequence of the large defense budgets most nations had to maintain. There was widespread cheating and the United States kept backing away from gold as our true debts (masked as usual by Washington bookkeeping games) from cold war spending, the so called war on poverty, and the Vietnam War began to rise drastically.

By 1970 it was clear that the illusion could no longer be maintained. In 1971 President Nixon ended the last farcical ties to the old gold standard and the world shifted to a system of free floating paper (fiat) currencies. What followed was predictable. As the FED under then chairman Arthur Burns kept interest rates low (but not nearly as low as Greenspan and Bernanke have) the price of gold, now freely traded on the open market began to rise against paper money. By the mid-late 1970's we began to see the effects of more than a decade of loose money policies with a sharply rising CPI. The Great Inflation which had been building arguably since the Kennedy Administration finally exploded and by 1980 we had CPI at near 12%.

Throughout that period gold (and silver) rose faster than either the stock market or the bond market. Beginning in the early 80's following the appointment of Paul Volker the FED moved to crush the inflation with massive interest rate hikes. This temporarily plunged the United States into the worst post war recession until the current one. But it started to pass by 1983 (just in time for Reagan’s famous 1984 re-election campaign). The inflation was broken and for the next fifteen years the United States enjoyed a period of relative prosperity with only a minor recession in the early 90's. During most of this period inflation remained tame and gold after peaking in 1981 entered a twenty year bear market.

The lesson from all of this is that gold when adopted formally as currency is both unreliable (nations cheat at will) and undesirable (it denies any flexibility to central bankers to deal with legitimate emergencies). That doesn't mean I am against gold. I am not. Rather I believe gold is more or less where it should be today in terms of function.

Today gold is essentially an extra-national reserve currency. It is the one form of money not tied to any central bank and impervious to the depredations of the printing press. Investors can buy and hold it at will, or leave it alone if they think paper money is being managed wisely, and collect the interest on bonds. (Gold of course famously pays no dividends and has no yield.) By keeping government hands off gold private citizens in effect have their own safety net that they can add to or subtract from at will according to their confidence level in fiat currency.

Gold is the ordinary man's means of protecting himself from foolish actions on the part of governments and casting a "no confidence" vote when it looks like the FED is getting a little too hinky with the printing press. In this respect it also functions much as it did in the early 1970's when first opened up for public trading, in effect as a sort of early warning system. Gold today is pretty much where it was in the mid-70's (adjusting for inflation) and it is sending the same message. "We are in trouble."

In the final analysis gold is the canary in the coal mine. Gold does not trade at $1400 oz unless something is seriously wrong in Central Bank land and the halls of Congress.

A final observation for those who despise gold or or who are confirmed gold bugs. Gold has had a good run over the last decade thanks to Mr. Greenspan and Mr. Bernanke. But it won't last. At some point Washington will get its act together and we will swallow the bitter pills and stop printing money and racking up staggering deficits. This current policy is unsustainable, just as it was in the 1970's. When that happens gold will correct downward again as confidence in currency returns. I think we may be some years from that point though, and it is quite possible, even likely, that things will get much worse before hand.

Of the last four decades gold hugely outperformed the bond markets and stock markets for two of them. But gold also smelled like last week's trash left to ferment in 90+ degree temperatures during most of the 80's and 90's when stocks and bonds did extremely well. The lesson: Put not your faith in any one asset class. They all have their cyclical swings. Stay diversified and be prepared for whatever the future might bring. And be careful about predicting future events. If there is one consistent lesson that has been proven over and over again, it is that prognosticating on financial markets is a loosing game. If in doubt on that you are encouraged to read any of Jack Bogle's books.

Jim Grant (NY Times): It's time to go back on the Gold Standard

BY disclosing a plan to conjure $600 billion to support the sagging economy, the Federal Reserve affirmed the interesting fact that dollars can be conjured. In the digital age, you don’t even need a printing press.

This was on Nov. 3. A general uproar ensued, with the dollar exchange rate weakening and the price of gold surging. And when, last Monday, the president of the World Bank suggested, almost diffidently, that there might be a place for gold in today’s international monetary arrangements, you could hear a pin drop.

Let the economists gasp: The classical gold standard, the one that was in place from 1880 to 1914, is what the world needs now. In its utility, economy and elegance, there has never been a monetary system like it.

It was simplicity itself. National currencies were backed by gold. If you didn’t like the currency you could exchange it for shiny coins (money was “sound” if it rang when dropped on a counter). Borders were open and money was footloose. It went where it was treated well. In gold-standard countries, government budgets were mainly balanced. Central banks had the single public function of exchanging gold for paper or paper for gold. The public decided which it wanted.
Read the rest here.

Congratulations: You have just become dictator for a day...

Now go fix the Federal Budget. I did it in about 5 minutes. Even managed to get a modest "surplus" to start paying down the actual debt. Isn't it wonderful when you don't have to deal with Congresses, and a thousand and one special interest groups? Hamilton was right. We should have been a monarchy.

Fraud alleged in recent Holy Synod decree regarding Antiochian Archdiocese of N. America

A bombshell may have just detonated in the Middle East. The fathers of Holy Trinity Monastery have posted a direct accusation that at least part of the recent decree of the Holy Synod of Antioch which purportedly gave autocratic authority to Metropolitan Philip was forged. Arab Orthodox blogger Samn! has the translation from the Arabic posted on his website. Met. Philip has been wielding this new found authority very aggressively recently, removing at least one troublesome bishop and two priests.

H/T Bill (the Godfather)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Episcopal Diocese of Maryland sends gay priest to Anglo-Catholic parish converting to Rome

Last Sunday the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland sent in another priest to celebrate an unscheduled Service of Holy Communion at Calvary Episcopal Church. This decision on the part of the Diocese was made following the parish's overwhelming vote to disassociate with The Episcopal Church and begin the conversion process to Roman Catholicism.

The Rev. Jesse Leon Anthony Parker, rector at St. John's-in-the-Village, celebrated a 9 am Eucharist at Mount Calvary, wedging his service in between Mount Calvary's scheduled 8 am Low Mass and 10 am Solemn High Mass. Only a handful of loyal Episcopalians attended the impromptu service.

Fr. Parker is the only priest at St. John's which is about two and a half miles away. He has been rector at that parish since 1991.

Mount Calvary's rector, the Rev. Jason Catania said that it was "no surprise" that Fr. Parker showed up. The Diocese of Maryland communicated its intension to Fr. Catania beforehand. The visiting Episcopal priest is an openly homosexual relationship.

Although Fr. Parker started his service late, which caused it to run overtime, Fr. Cantania said there were "no incidents and everyone was polite." However, the Mount Calvary rector is speaking with the Diocese of Maryland to insure that there is not another unscheduled Service of Holy Communion celebrated at his altar.

The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland officially refused to comment about the incident.
Read the rest here.

That's what I've always liked about the Episcopalians. They are so classy.

Poliics, football and the Democratic Party

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — After a junior year in which he almost won the Heisman Trophy, Heath Shuler was picked in the first round of the 1994 National Football League draft by the Washington Redskins. In less than two seasons — and after a few too many interceptions — he was replaced as the team’s starting quarterback. ESPN described him as one of the all-time draft busts.

He might be expected to play down such a distinction. But Mr. Shuler, 38, who just won a third term as the congressman representing North Carolina’s 11th District, has turned it into metaphor.

“It’s no different than me as a quarterback,” he said in an interview here on Thursday. “I didn’t play very good. So what they’d do? They benched me.”

The Redskins in this instance are the Democrats in Congress. The dismal season is the trouncing they received at the polls two weeks ago. And the quarterback is Nancy Pelosi, the soon-to-be former speaker of the House.

Since surviving that election, Mr. Shuler has emerged as one of most prominent voices in the debate about the Democratic Party’s immediate future. He was among the first to call for Ms. Pelosi to step down from her leadership role in the new Congress and said he would run for minority leader himself if no alternative emerged (though he admitted that he would be an underdog).

The Democrats’ achievements in the last Congress, Mr. Shuler said, are unpopular with the public because the party’s leadership has been too reflexively partisan. He says a more moderate approach is needed.

“It’s my guys that worked probably harder than any group in Washington, did all the right things, voted the right way and still got beat for the simple fact that you’ve got the far edges running the Congress,” Mr. Shuler said.

His guys are the members of the Blue Dog coalition, a group of conservative Democrats who came together after the Republican sweep of 1994, and, boy, did they ever have a bad Election Day this year. Twenty-four of the bloc’s 58 members were defeated, including two of its four leaders (Mr. Shuler is the coalition’s whip). Four other Blue Dogs are retiring this year.
Read the rest here.

Mr. Shuler has some points. Nancy Pelosi was a great lightning rod for the GOP. But the real problem IMO is that Shuler is a conservative in a liberal party. Back in 1946 the Democrats got handed their south ends in the congressional elections and the Republicans took control of Congress for the first time since Hoover was president. After the dust settled the party leadership urged Harry Truman to tack to the right and abandon a lot of the New Deal and some of his own liberal agenda including civil rights. Truman declined noting "given a choice between a Republican and a Republican, the people will vote for the Republican every time."

And that ladies and gentlemen is what just happened to the Blue Dog Democrats.

On a side note Truman ran against seemingly hopeless odds in 1948 against the Republican 80th Congress (which Truman castigated as the "do-nothing" Congress) and he won re-election and returned the Congress to a Democratic majority. If the GOP has any clue about history they will keep the 80th Congress's fate in mind as they settle down in their new majority.

Alaska: Efforts to steal election waning

JUNEAU, Alaska – The lawyers have started leaving.

That is perhaps the surest sign that Joe Miller’s chances of becoming the next senator from Alaska are evaporating. With each passing day that election workers here in the state capital manually count write-in votes cast for Senator Lisa Murkowski, it appears increasingly likely that Alaskans spell too well for Mr. Miller’s math to work.

Assisted by lawyers sent by the Republican National Senatorial Committee, the Miller campaign set out to challenge every smudge, stray mark and misspelling they could find (and, often, only they could find) on write-in votes that appeared to be for Ms. Murkowski.

The plan was to question enough votes to close the 11,000-vote margin by which he trails – and then to convince the courts that those challenged votes should be discounted.

Alaska law says write-in votes will be counted if the name or last name is written “as it appears” on the candidate’s declaration form. But state election officials, citing legal precedent in the state, said they would count all votes in which they could determine “voter intent,” misspellings aside.

Now the dispute could become irrelevant. After three days of counting, the state has determined that 98 percent of write-in ballots were cast for Ms. Murkowski – and 90 percent of those were cast so cleanly that they have survived even the sometimes bafflingly strict scrutiny applied by monitors working for Mr. Miller.
Read the rest here.

Municipal Bonds Take a Hit

That is the question investors are asking after munis — those old faithfuls of investing — took their biggest hit since the financial collapse of 2008.

Concern over the increasingly strained finances of states and cities and a growing backlog of new bonds for sale overwhelmed the market last week. After performing so well for so long, munis and funds that invest in them fell hard. One big muni fund, the Pimco Municipal Income Fund II, for instance, lost 7.5 percent. The fund is still up 6.75 percent so far this year.

While the declines were relatively small given the remarkable gains in these bonds over the last two years, the slump was swift enough to leave investors wondering if this was a brief setback or the start of something worse. For months, some on Wall Street have warned that indebted states and cities might face a crisis akin to the one that brought Greece to its knees.

“I think it’s too early to say that it’s more than a correction,” said Richard A. Ciccarone, the chief research officer of McDonnell Investment Management.

“The facts just don’t support a serious conclusion that the whole market’s going downhill,” he said. “They could. We’ve got some serious liabilities out there.”

The causes of the week’s big decline are clouded by unusual factors like the looming end of the Build America Bonds program, which has prompted local governments to race new bonds to market before an attractive federal subsidy is reduced.

But the big question confronting this market is how state and local governments will manage their debts. Many are staggering under huge pension and health care obligations that seem unsustainable.

Certainties are impossible because governments do not have to disclose the pension payouts they will have to make in the coming years, as they do for bond payouts.

California, for example, will have to sell nearly $14 billion of debt into the falling market this month, because of its record delay in getting a budget signed this year. The warnings keep coming. On Friday, Fitch, the credit ratings agency, issued a report saying that ratings downgrades for municipal bonds outnumbered upgrades for the seventh consecutive quarter.
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I.R.S. Sits on Data Pointing to Missing Children

For parents of missing children, any scrap of information that could lead to an abductor is precious.

Three years into an excruciating search for her abducted son, Susan Lau got such a tip. Her estranged husband, who had absconded with their 9-year-old from Brooklyn, had apparently filed a tax return claiming the boy as an exemption.

Investigators moved quickly to seek the address where his tax refund had been mailed. But the Internal Revenue Service was not forthcoming.

“They just basically said forget about it,” said Julianne Sylva, a child abduction investigator who is now deputy district attorney in Santa Clara County, Calif.

The government, which by its own admission has data that could be helpful in tracking down the thousands of missing children in the United States, says that taxpayer privacy laws severely restrict the release of information from tax returns. “We will do whatever we can within the confines of the law to make it easier for law enforcement to find abducted children,” said Michelle Eldridge, an I.R.S. spokeswoman.

The privacy laws, enacted a generation ago to prevent Watergate-era abuses of confidential taxpayer information, have specific exceptions allowing the I.R.S. to turn over information in child support cases and to help federal agencies determine whether an applicant qualifies for income-based federal benefits.

But because of guidelines in the handling of criminal cases, there are several obstacles for parents and investigators pursuing a child abductor — even when the taxpayer in question is a fugitive and the subject of a felony warrant.
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Despite setback opponents of prohibition remain hopeful

SAN FRANCISCO — Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana in California, received more votes than the Republican nominee for governor, Meg Whitman.

It also received untold news coverage, bringing the debate a new level of legitimacy in the eyes of many supporters. And while it lost — with 46 percent of the vote — its showing at the polls was strong enough that those supporters are confidently planning to bring it back before voters in California, and perhaps other states, in 2012.

“We’re going to win,” said Aaron Houston, the executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a nonprofit group in Washington. “And we’re going to win a whole lot sooner than anybody thinks.”

But for all that heady talk, proponents of legalization still face a series of stiff challenges, including winning over older members of the electorate — who overwhelmingly rejected the measure — as well as wary elected officials from both political parties. And while most advocates say that Proposition 19 was a high-water mark for the movement, many admit that the road to legalization will also require new campaign ideas, more money and a tighter, more detailed message to overcome persistent cultural concerns about the drug.
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Friday, November 12, 2010

ROCOR to receive 10 Western Rite parishes

His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of New York is in the process of receiving ten new parishes and eighteen new clergy into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, blessed to belong to the Western Rite.

They have existed for some years under the name of the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church of America (HOCACA), an independent group yet studying and seeking to live the Orthodox Faith under the headship of Mr Anthony Bondi, who has served as the group's archbishop. He and his assistant bishop will be received, ordained, and elevated to the rank of archimandrite. The ordinations of all of the clergy are hoped to be completed over the next few weeks, by the invocation of the Holy Spirit and at the hands of Metropolitan Hilarion of New York and Bishop Jerome of Manhattan. As is generally the case with these unions, the joy of union is the focus rather than the separation of the past and it seems that, as it right and proper, there will be no pressure for these new clergy and faithful to relinquish their previous understanding of their situation.
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Olbermann, O'Reilly and the death of real news

To witness Keith Olbermann - the most opinionated among MSNBC's left-leaning, Fox-baiting, money-generating hosts - suspended even briefly last week for making financial contributions to Democratic political candidates seemed like a whimsical, arcane holdover from a long-gone era of television journalism when the networks considered the collection and dissemination of substantive and unbiased news to be a public trust.

Back then, a policy against political contributions would have aimed to avoid even the appearance of partisanship. But today, when Olbermann draws more than 1 million like-minded viewers to his program every night precisely because he is avowedly, unabashedly and monotonously partisan, it is not clear what misdemeanor his donations constituted. Consistency?

We live now in a cable news universe that celebrates the opinions of Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly - individuals who hold up the twin pillars of political partisanship and who are encouraged to do so by their parent organizations because their brand of analysis and commentary is highly profitable.

The commercial success of both MSNBC and Fox News is a source of nonpartisan sadness for me. While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, the trend is not good for the republic. It is, though, the natural outcome of a growing sense of national entitlement. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's oft-quoted observation that "everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts," seems almost quaint in an environment that flaunts opinions as though they were facts.
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