Saturday, December 31, 2011

Canada's Suddenly Monarchist Prime Minister

MONTREAL — Hanging a portrait of the head of state in embassies and consulates abroad is the sort of thing most countries do as a matter of routine. For Canada, though, the move has proved controversial, not least because the country’s head of state lives thousands of miles away, in London.

Don’t fret if you didn’t know that, thanks to a quirk of incomplete decolonization, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain moonlights as Canada’s head of state: most Canadians don’t know it either. A 2008 survey (pdf) found that just 24 percent of them did, with 42 percent thinking that the head of state was the prime minister (in fact, merely head of government) and another 33 percent that it was the governor general (only the queen’s ceremonial stand-in in Ottawa).

The monarchy isn’t exactly a hot topic in Canada. But the conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, having decreed such ignorance unacceptable, has decided to raise the monarchy’s profile in Canadian life.

First, there was the order to display of the queen’s picture in diplomatic missions abroad; then, plans were announced for elaborate celebrations for her 60th anniversary on the throne (that’s Feb. 6). Paintings by a prominent contemporary Quebec artist were replaced with the queen’s portrait at the Department of Foreign Affairs. And the word “royal” was inserted in the Canadian air forces’ name. Only after the announcement was made in English did the government realize that the French version — Force Aérienne Royale Canadienne — would share an acronym with FARC, the Colombian rebel army, sending military officials scurrying for an alternative. (They eventually settled on Aviation Royale Canadienne, ARC.)

Some think that snafu shows the government’s blithe disregard for opinion in Quebec. I go further: I think Harper’s newfound enthusiasm for the monarchy is all about irking the one quarter of the country that speaks French.

In English-speaking Canada, the monarchy symbolizes the kind of traditional authority and deference to a settled social order that conservative voters warm to. To French speakers in Quebec, having a British grandma as head of state rankles: it’s another reminder of the long history of animosity between the region’s largely Francophone, working-class population and its Anglophone, colonial (and, later, commercial) elite. Royal visits to the province are infallibly protested by a hardcore separatist fringe. They bring grimaces even to the “soft nationalists,” a resurgent force in Quebec politics – they’re for independence but instead of shouting that from rooftops work at minimizing the federal government’s role in Quebec’s day-to-day life.
Read the rest here.

I think this is one of the sillier op-eds I have read in a while. That said I am pleased by the undeniable deference Mr. Harper is showing to Canadian heritage, and yes, that includes the monarchy. Part of me almost wishes this was being done to spite the Quebecois. I have been there on a number of occasions and can't remember a trip where I didn't get the feeling that my presence was at best tolerated and that they were looking down their noses at me. Not all of them to be sure. But a lot of them are insufferable prigs who really don't like Anglophones, and have no qualms about making that known.
Double click on image to enlarge.

From: The Young Fogey who has several excellent related links.

252 Years Ago Today: Arthur Guinness signs a 9000 year lease on his brewery

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Telegraph: Ron Paul gaining support of Iowan Democrats and independents

Ron Paul, the eccentric 76-year-old Texas congressman, is threatening to cause an upset in Iowa by winning the Republican caucus thanks to the support of independent and even Democratic voters.

Dr Paul, a three-time presidential hopeful credited as being the Father of the Tea Party, is gathering late momentum among Iowan conservatives after persuading Michele Bachmann's state chairman to defect.

But he also stands to benefit from state rules dictating that everyone may vote in the party contest. "If you are not a Republican, you can register at the door," said David Fischer, Dr Paul's Iowa co-chairman, at a rally at a speedway stadium in Newton.

Thousands of members of Barack Obama's Democrats, disenchanted but with no contest of their own, are set to turn out at caucus sites on Tuesday to do just that.

Almost one in four caucus-goers is expected to be an independent or Democrat, according to a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey.

Polls here indicate that while Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, leads the field among registered Republicans, he is overtaken by Dr Paul when everyone who intends to caucus is taken into account.
Read the rest here.

I draw the reader's attention to the comments on this article at the linked site.  This is a British newspaper, editorially right of center, and it is quite interesting to see what at least some Brits think of Ron Paul, who if elected would radically alter our relationship with Great Britain and most of the rest of the world.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Feast of the Martyred Holy Innocents and Thomas Becket

Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents and I am reminded by my Godfather, also of Thomas Becket of Canterbury in the Western Church.

A Catholic priest reflects on the recent brawl in the Church of the Nativity

The video below is sad and disturbing. More on that in a minute

One of the more surprising, and personally saddest things I have encountered in my trips to the Holy Land, is the encounter with Orthodox clergy. While I had been trained to expect tensions between Jews and Arabs, my experience involving the Orthodox clergy was actually the most tense and shocking. It also surprised me since, speaking for myself, I have always had great admiration for the beautiful liturgies of the Orthodox. And, while I know little of the internal realities of those Churches, I have always hoped for reunion. My experiences in the Holy Land showed me very clearly how difficult and unlikely such a reunion may be. A few personal stories.

1. Mass at the Calvary – On my last trip, two years ago I was given the magnificent privilege of celebrating Holy Mass with my parishioners right up on the Calvary, at the Latin Altar in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (See photo at upper right). It remains one of the highlights of my entire life. There I was celebrating Mass just feet away from where the cross had once stood, and over the sight of the nailing.

I had reported to the Latin sacristy at 5:30 AM and vested for the 6:00 AM Mass. One of the Franciscan Friars spoke to me in a kind but firm way about the rules that must be observed. He warned me that under no circumstances was I to set foot outside of the sacristy once I had vested. To do so, he warned me, would likely provoke a violent response from the Orthodox clergy, standing twenty feet away near the entrance to the supulchre. When I smiled in stunned wonderment, he reiterated, “Father I am very serious, if you do so you will provoke an international incident.”

The only way we could get to the Calvary Altar at the other end of the Church was to be led there by an approved escort. Any singing was also forbidden during the Mass, a restriction that made sense given the need not to disturb other liturgies underway.

We were also warned severely not to stray from the Latin Chapel with while wearing our Roman vestments. During the Mass, which was a beautiful experience otherwise, the deacon with me strayed just a little too far to my left and the Orthodox priest standing guard at the Greek altar, wildly gestured that he must step back. Following the Mass, we clergy had, once again, to be carefully escorted back to the sacristy.

Read the rest here.

Some quick thoughts on those newsletters

Anyone who has been paying any attention to political news is probably aware that critics of Ron Paul are dredging up some newsletters published under his name decades ago. There is no way to describe some of the things written in them except as racist and repulsive trash.   Now this is not "news" per se since this all came out about twenty years ago.  Dr. Paul immediately disavowed the letters and repudiated the offensive commentary.  He has since said he did not author them.

As I see it there are two possibilities here.  One is really bad and the other is simply embarrassing.  The first is that he DID author the letters, which would also mean he is lying now.  If that were proven to my satisfaction I would withdraw my endorsement of Ron Paul.  Not because I think he is a racist.  I don't.  But the lie would be something I could not overlook.

A lot of white men raised in the South when he came of age had some really bad beliefs instilled in them  Most have since come to realize they were wrong and have renounced them.  But I have simply seen no credible evidence to suggest Ron Paul is or ever really was some sort of racist.  And there is plenty of anecdotal evidence as also his voting record that strongly suggests otherwise.  Racism is something that is very difficult to square with libertarianism which promotes respect for individuals and their rights.  By contrast racism  promotes a philosophy that is based on group identity, stereotypes and unequal rights. 

So no, I don't believe he is a racist and I seriously doubt he ever was though I concede that I could be wrong. 

The second possibility is that he is substantively telling the truth when he says he did not author the newsletters and doesn't really know who did.  That's not as far fetched as some in the media are making it out.  A lot of politicians give their blessing to people to write stuff on their behalf and under their name.  And many don't keep close tabs on who is doing the writing or exactly what's being sent out.  In Congress staff members usually vet that sort of thing.  Of course that is not an excuse, it's an explanation.  Irrespective of whether Ron Paul gave his blessing directly to someone or his staff dropped the ball or some combination of the two, the fact remains that person or persons unknown wrote some pretty vile stuff under his name.  And this was not a one or two time deal, it went on for years.

As noted earlier Dr. Paul repudiated the comments close to twenty years ago and shut down the newsletters. And while I do think this was a bad case of poor judgment, staff work and or supervision; no I don't think it calls into question his fitness for office.  I don't know of anyone running who doesn't have more serious negatives (especially on the pressing issues of the moment) in their backgrounds.  But yea, this is and should be hugely embarrassing.

Correction:  Via The Young Fogey Dr. Paul is a native of Pennsylvania, not the south.

The diminishing value of Bishop Spong’s evolving Bible

Retired Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong, who has made a career of rejecting fundamental Christian doctrines, takes aim at some “misconceptions” about the Bible in a CNN commentary.

  1. The Bible isn’t accurate, says the prelate who denies the Virgin Birth.
  2.  The Bible isn’t the Word of God, declares the man who rejects the physical Resurrection.
  3.  And—wait for it—there’s more:
 The third major misconception is that biblical truth is somehow static and thus unchanging. Instead, the Bible presents us with an evolutionary story, and in those evolving patterns, the permanent value of the Bible is ultimately revealed.
So you see the Bible is a “living document,” to be interpreted by those erudite scholars who can determine the vector of its evolving message. You’ve heard the same argument from liberal jurists, who say that the US Constitution should be interpreted in light of contemporary thinking, not just the thinking of the Founding Fathers. In constitutional law, the argument for a “living document” can be stretched to suggest that the Constitution means whatever a panel of judges says that it means.

In the case of the Bible, the argument for adhering to the “original intent” is stronger, since believers traditionally hold that the author is the Almighty. But Bishop Spong has dismissed that possibility (see #2 above).

Which leaves us with a question: If it’s not the Word of God, and it’s not accurate anyway, why should we care what the Bible says—or what Bishop Spong says that it says?

150 Years Ago: President Lincoln avoids a war

On Christmas morning 1861, the steps of all three Lincoln sons could be heard pounding on the floorboards of the White House. The eldest, Robert, had recently arrived home from Harvard, to join his brothers, 8-year old Tad and 11-year-old Willie. The reunion of the Lincoln clan was a bright spot on what was proving to be a less than cheery Christmas. The Union had lost several key battles, while the Confederacy seemed no closer to collapse. Then, before the president could sit down to Christmas dinner with his family, he had yet another matter to attend to: deciding whether the Union could risk war with Britain.

At 10 a.m., Lincoln’s cabinet filed into the White House, shaking off the damp cold that had descended on Washington. They had left the bosoms of their families to debate whether the Union could sustain a war against both Britain and the Confederacy. Correction: An invigorated Confederacy. If hostilities broke out, Britain would likely renounce its neutral stance and side with the South, extending it both economic and military assistance.

The root of the crisis was an incident that occurred in the blue waters of the Bahamas some six weeks earlier. On Nov. 8, the American frigate San Jacinto, acting without authorization, had stopped the Trent, a British mail packet, bound for Britain. A boarding party removed two Confederate envoys, James Mason and John Slidell, who were bound for London and Paris to lobby for the Rebel cause. Rather than seize the Trent, as would have been custom under prize law, the captain of the San Jacinto sent her on her way and headed for Union waters with his prisoners.

The Union greeted the capture with glee — finally, good news for a country desperately in need of it. Needless to say, the British saw things differently. London newspapers called for war. “In one month, we could sweep all the San Jacintos from the sea, blockade Northern ports, and turn to a direct and speedy issue the tide of the war now raging,” wrote the London Morning Post. The British government thrashed through options for responding, most of them bellicose. Lord Palmerston, the prime minister, set the tone for discussion when he opened up the emergency Cabinet meeting called to discuss the Trent by throwing his hat on the table and declaring, “I don’t know whether you are going to stand this, but I’ll be damned if I do!”
Read the rest here.

Nigerian churches call Christmas bombings 'declaration of war'

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) -- Nigeria's Christians are losing faith that the government will protect them from attacks by Islamic extremists and will "respond appropriately" to future killings, the country's leading church group warned Wednesday.

In a public message to President Goodluck Jonathan, the Christian Association of Nigeria called the Christmas Day targeting of churches in several cities "a declaration of war on Christians and Nigeria as an entity." The group also criticized its Muslim counterparts for failing to condemn the Islamic militants blamed for Sunday's attacks, calling their responses "unacceptable."

"The Christian community is fast losing confidence in government's ability to protect our rights to religious liberties and life," its president, Pentecostal pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, said in the statement. "The consensus is that the Christian community nationwide would be left with no other option than to respond appropriately if there are any further attacks on our members, churches and properties."
Read the rest here.

Va. GOP to require loyalty oath in presidential primary


The state Republican Party will require voters to sign a loyalty oath in order to participate in the March 6 presidential primary.

Anyone who wants to vote must sign a form at the polling place pledging to support the eventual Republican nominee for president. Anyone who refuses to sign the pledge will be barred from voting.

During a brief meeting Wednesday at the state Capitol, the State Board of Elections voted 3-0 to approve three forms developed by the election board’s staff to implement the loyalty pledge requested by the state GOP.

The board also held a drawing that determined Texas Rep. Ron Paul will appear first on the primary ballot, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the only other candidate who qualified for the ballot. The state GOP previously announced that Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich did not amass enough valid signatures to qualify.
Read the rest here.

Beyond the obvious, that this is aimed at Ron Paul supporters, I think it says a lot about what the GOP has become. If I had any reservations about my decisions to disaffiliate from the Republican Party, this pretty much confirmed my judgment.  I wonder how well the Mitt Romney loyalty oath is going to go over with the rest of the GOPers.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Kent Sorenson, Bachmann’s Iowa chair, defects to Ron Paul

Talk about fairweather friends. Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson (R), who was Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s state campaign chairman, endorsed Texas Rep. Ron Paul Wednesday night.

At a rally in Des Moines, Sorenson told the crowd, “We’re going to take Ron Paul all the way to the White House.”

He did not tell Bachmann of his decision until he was en route to the Paul rally, billed as an event for veterans.

“This is hard,” he said of his decision to leave Bachmann, explaining that he felt obligated to defend Paul against the Republican establishment. He elaborated in a statement, saying he felt Paul was the most conservative candidate who had a realistic shot at defeating former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Read the rest here.

Idaho teen forgoes cancer treatment to save unborn son

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) — Jenni Lake gave birth to a baby boy the month before her 18th birthday, though she was not destined to become just another teenage mother.

That much, she knew.

While being admitted to the hospital, she pulled her nurse down to her at bed level and whispered into her ear. The nurse would later repeat the girl's words to comfort her family, as their worst fears were realized a day after Jenni's baby was born.

"She told the nurse, 'I'm done, I did what I was supposed to. My baby is going to get here safe,'" said Diana Phillips, Jenni's mother.

In photographs, the baby's ruddy cheeks and healthy weight offer a stark contrast to the frail girl who gave birth to him. She holds the newborn tightly, kissing the top of his head. Jenni, at 5 feet and 4 inches tall, weighed only 108 pounds at the full term of her pregnancy.

A day after the Nov. 9 birth, Phillips learned that her daughter's decision to forgo treatment for tumors on her brain and spine so she could carry the baby would have fatal repercussions. The cancer had marked too much territory. Nothing could be done, Phillips said.

It was only 12 days past the birth — half spent in the hospital and the other half at home — before Jenni was gone.
Read the rest here.

For Bishops, a Battle Over Whose Rights Prevail

Catholic Charities in Illinois has served for more than 40 years as a major link in the state’s social service network for poor and neglected children. But now most of the Catholic Charities affiliates in Illinois are closing down rather than comply with a new requirement that says they can no longer receive state money if they turn away same-sex couples as potential foster care and adoptive parents.

For the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops, the outcome is a prime example of what they see as an escalating campaign by the government to trample on their religious freedom while expanding the rights of gay people. The idea that religious Americans are now the victims of government-backed persecution is now a frequent theme not just for Catholic bishops, but also for Republican presidential candidates and conservative evangelicals.

“In the name of tolerance, we’re not being tolerated,” said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., a civil and canon lawyer who helped drive the church’s losing battle to retain its state contracts for foster care and adoption services.

The Illinois experience indicates that the bishops face formidable opponents who also claim to have justice and the Constitution on their side. They include not only gay rights advocates, but also many religious believers and churches that support gay equality (some Catholic legislators among them). They frame the issue as a matter of civil rights, saying that Catholic Charities was using taxpayer money to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Tim Kee, a teacher in Marion, Ill., who was turned away by Catholic Charities three years ago when he and his longtime partner, Rick Wade, tried to adopt a child, said: “We’re both Catholic, we love our church, but Catholic Charities closed the door to us. To add insult to injury, my tax dollars went to provide discrimination against me.”
Read the rest here.

I am posting this because it is one of the few stories in the MSM discussing the issue. That said this is a rather poor piece from a journalistic perspective. It is fairly dripping with the NY Times bias.

Israel: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Demands On Women Stir Controversy

BEIT SHEMESH, Israel — A sign outside a row of synagogues directing women to walk on the other side of the street has turned this town near Jerusalem into a front line of a raging national debate about the imposition of strict social codes by ultra-Orthodox zealots.

A community of 86,000 about a half-hour’s drive from Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh has a growing ultra-Orthodox population. The town has become a cauldron of tension in recent days, with crowds of black-cloaked men assaulting television crews and facing off with police, pelting them with rocks and eggs.

The trigger for the violence was a wave of Israeli media reports about ultra-Orthodox Jews in the town who had put up the controversial sign and hounded local religious schoolgirls, spitting and hurling abuse at them for what they deemed insufficiently modest dress.

The plight of one frightened girl, 8-year-old Naama Margolese, was highlighted Friday in a prime-time television report, along with the sign ordering sidewalk segregation, fueling the debate in Israel over attempts to limit the public visibility of women — a growing trend that has generated an angry backlash.

On Tuesday night, thousands of Israelis gathered in Beit Shemesh to protest religious coercion and the attempts to sideline women. Some held up signs that said: “Exclusion of women is my red line.”
Read the rest here.

Ron Paul Retains Lead In Latest Iowa Poll

The latest PPP poll (from the 27th of Dec) has Ron Paul in first with 24% and Mitt Romeny in second with 20%. Former Speaker Gingrich has dropped to a distant third with 13%. Click here for details.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

GOP Establishment Candidates Target Ron Paul

MASON CITY, Iowa — The Republican presidential candidates sharpened their criticism of Representative Ron Paul on Tuesday in an effort to keep his support from growing among voters who are frustrated with government and may be inclined to send a message to the Washington establishment by supporting him in the Iowa caucuses.

Newt Gingrich said Mr. Paul, of Texas, was a “protest” candidate, and that he could not vote for the congressman if he won the party’s nomination. In a television interview, Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker, declared that Mr. Paul’s “views are totally outside the mainstream of virtually every decent American.”

Rick Santorum warned conservative voters to carefully study Mr. Paul’s record, telling a crowd here: “Think about having a guy running for president who is going to be on the left of Barack Obama on national security.”

A week before the Iowa caucuses open the Republican nominating contest, the candidates are in a final push to win over undecided voters. With Mr. Paul facing attacks, an army of his supporters began arriving to bolster an aggressive ground operation and persuade voters across Iowa to attend the Jan. 3 caucuses.
Read the rest here.

They are getting nervous... :-)

Quote of the day...

Any man who is above college age and considers a t-shirt proper attire for anything other than manual labor or physical fitness activities needs to grow up.

-From here (read this thread and the comments).

Men take note.  Women are not impressed with men who think it is the height of fashion to dress for dinner in a nice restaurant like they were on their way home from the gym and stopped off as an afterthought.

Iran Threatens to Block Oil if West Sets New Sanctions

Iran issued a blunt warning on Tuesday that it would block the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil transit point, if Western powers attempt to impose an embargo on Iranian petroleum exports in their campaign to isolate the country over its suspect nuclear energy program.

The warning, issued by Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, came as Iran’s naval forces were in the midst of a 10-day war games exercise in a vast area of the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman. The Strait of Hormuz, a narrow passage that connects the Gulf of Oman to the Persian Gulf, is the route for one third of the world’s oil-tanker traffic.

“If Iran oil is banned not a single drop of oil will pass through Hormuz Strait,” Mr. Rahimi was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency at a conference in Tehran.
Read the rest here.

Iran seems determined to play into the hands of the neo-imperialists.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Iran Considers Commuting Woman's Sentence Of Death By Stoning... To Hanging

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- A woman sentenced to die by stoning will be executed, Iranian officials said Monday, but the method of execution is still being debated, according to an Iranian media report.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani's case drew international attention after she was sentenced to die by stoning for adultery.

"This lady is accused of two crimes," Hojatoleslam Sharifi, the judiciary chief of Eastern Azarbaijan province, said at a news conference Monday, the semi-official Iran Student's News Agency reported. "One is adultery, which is punishable by stoning to death, and the other is assisting in her husband's murder. She is currently serving 10 years for helping to kill her husband."

He said "we did not have the needed facility for stoning," so officials asked the then-head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, for advice, Sharifi said. "He was too busy at the time, and this issue was left for his successor to handle."
Read the rest here.

What Iran does inside its own borders is not the business of the US Government. But there is nothing that says private citizens can't express an opinion. FWIW mine is that these people are barbarians.

Feds Falsely Censor Popular Blog For Over A Year, Deny All Due Process, Hide All Details...

Imagine if the US government, with no notice or warning, raided a small but popular magazine's offices over a Thanksgiving weekend, seized the company's printing presses, and told the world that the magazine was a criminal enterprise with a giant banner on their building. Then imagine that it never arrested anyone, never let a trial happen, and filed everything about the case under seal, not even letting the magazine's lawyers talk to the judge presiding over the case. And it continued to deny any due process at all for over a year, before finally just handing everything back to the magazine and pretending nothing happened. I expect most people would be outraged. I expect that nearly all of you would say that's a classic case of prior restraint, a massive First Amendment violation, and exactly the kind of thing that does not, or should not, happen in the United States.

But, in a story that's been in the making for over a year, and which we're exposing to the public for the first time now, this is exactly the scenario that has played out over the past year -- with the only difference being that, rather than "a printing press" and a "magazine," the story involved "a domain" and a "blog."
Read the rest here.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Christmas Martyrs of Nigeria

At least 25 killed and scores wounded in Christmas bombings of churches in Nigeria.  I know most if not all of these victims were not Orthodox, but they were Christians and God knows His own.


A very Merry  Christmas to you and yours!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Five myths about Margaret Thatcher

Britain in the early 1970s was decayed, ungovernable and globally irrelevant, done in by the cumulative effect of postwar socialist reforms. Margaret Thatcher, who came to power as the nation’s first female prime minister in 1979, returned Britain to the realm of the great powers. Worshiped, feted, loathed and mocked, she is one of the most controversial figures of the 20th century. And now Thatcher, as interpreted by Meryl Streep, will be coming to a theater near you in the movie “The Iron Lady,”opening Dec. 30.

But even those most sympathetic to her tend to misunderstand her personality, her governing style and her accomplishments. Let’s examine these misconceptions.

1. The Iron Lady never backed down.

Not true. Her genius was her gift for choosing her battles wisely and avoiding those she couldn’t win. In 1981, for example, the National Union of Mineworkers — Britain’s most powerful union — threatened to strike. Despite urgent warnings from her advisers, Thatcher had made no preparations to withstand a conflict with the miners, and she capitulated immediately to their demands. She spent the next three years preparing to take them on: Her government stockpiled coal, devised schemes to smuggle strategic chemicals into power stations, changed the trade union laws and infiltrated MI5 spies into the miners’ inner circle.

When another strike loomed in 1984, she was ready. Previous mining strikes had ended after only weeks. Not this one. Over the course of a year, as Britain waited to see who would break first, Thatcher proceeded to crush the strike with a brutal, calculating ruthlessness that stunned the public. Neither labor nor the unions ever recovered.

2. Thatcher was prim, dowdy and moralistic.

Not at all. As a number of her colleagues told me, she has a ribald sense of humor and was quite unconcerned when her ministers got themselves into sordid adultery flaps. One of her civil servants, for example, remembered desperately trying to finesse a compromise between Thatcher and her chancellor, the Cabinet minister responsible for the economy, during a dispute over the budget.

His delicate diplomacy was upended when Thatcher came back to No. 10 Downing St. from the House of Commons, apparently quite drunk, and discovered her chancellor holding a secret strategy meeting. She strode in uninvited, kicked off her shoes, tucked her heels under herself and declared, “Well, gentlemen, let’s just settle this now, shall we?” She “held court like a queen bee,” the civil servant said — and thus was it settled in her favor.

Afterward, the others could be heard muttering among themselves, “Phwoar, wasn’t she sexy tonight?” French president Francois Mitterand is said to have called her Brigitte Bardot with Caligula’s eyes.
Read the rest here.

Easily the most important woman in British politics since the first Queen Elizabeth.

The Nation(!): Why Do GOP Bosses Fear Ron Paul?

Via the Young Fogey...
Ron Paul represents the ideology that Republican insiders most fear: conservatism.

Not the corrupt, inside-the-beltway construct that goes by that name, but actual conservatism.

And if he wins the Iowa Republican Caucus vote on January 3—a real, though far from certain, prospect—the party bosses will have to do everything in their power to prevent Paul from reasserting the values of the "old-right" Republicans who once stood, steadily and without apology, in opposition to wars of whim and assaults on individual liberty.

Make no mistake, the party bosses are horrified at the notion that a genuine conservative might grab the Iowa headlines from the false prophets. Already, they are claiming a Paul win won't mean anything. If Paul prevails, says Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, "People are going to look at who comes in second and who comes in third. If [Mitt] Romney comes in a strong second, it definitely helps him going into New Hampshire and the other states."

The party's amen corner in the media is doing its part. Republican-insider radio and television programs have begun to go after Paul, the veteran congressman from Texas who is either leading or near the top in recent polls of likely caucus goers. Rush Limbaugh ridicules Paul on his radio show, while Sean Hannity's Fox show has become a nightly Paul-bashing fest, with guests like former Education Secretary Bill Bennett trashing the congressman with lines like: "his notion of foreign policy is impossible."

Actually, Paul's notion of foreign policy is in line with that of conservatives used to believe. The congressman is often referred to as a libertarian, and he has certainly toiled some in that ideological vineyard. But the truth is that his politics descend directly from those of former Ohio Senator Robert "Mr. Republican" Taft and former Nebraska Congressman Howard Buffett—old-right opponents of war and empire who served in the Congress in the 1940s and 1950s and who, in Taft's case, mounted credible bids for the party's presidential nomination in 1940, 1948 and finally in 1952. In all three campaigns, Taft opposed what he described as the "Eastern establishment" of the party—the Wall Streeters who, he pointedly noted, had little in common with Main Streeters.

Taft was a steady foe of American interventionism abroad, arguing very much as Paul does today that it threatens domestic liberty. Indeed, just as Paul joined US Senator Russ Feingold in opposing the Patriot Act, spying on Americans and threats to freedom of speech and assembly in the first days of what would become an open-ended "war on terror," so Taft warned during the cold war that "criticism in a time of war is essential to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government."

"The maintenance of the right of criticism in the long run will do the country...more good than it will do the enemy," explained Taft, who challenged President Truman's attempts to use war powers as an excuse to seize domestic industries and otherwise expand what Dwight Eisenhower would eventually define as the military-industrial complex.

Buffett, the father of billionaire Warren, opposed military interventionism during the cold war era, declaring on the floor of the House: "Even if it were desirable, America is not strong enough to police the world by military force. If that attempt is made, the blessings of liberty will be replaced by coercion and tyranny at home. Our Christian ideals cannot be exported to other lands by dollars and guns. Persuasion and example are the methods taught by the Carpenter of Nazareth, and if we believe in Christianity we should try to advance our ideals by his methods. We cannot practice might and force abroad and retain freedom at home. We cannot talk world cooperation and practice power politics."
Read the rest here.

A remarkably good piece from a staunchly leftist publication. Wonders never cease.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Romanian Christmas Carol

"From heavenly skies, I hear the songs divine,

"The three Magi, with presents to take,

to the frail body of our Savior..."

Agni Parthene(Old Slavonic)

A Bank Even I Could Like

Long time readers of this blog know I am not a fan of banks in general.  But I concede the occasional exception.  Here is one.
Cattaraugus, N.Y.
As winter approached, a retired secretary here named Carol Bonner was putting snow tires on her car when she noticed that her back-right rim was bent. Ms. Bonner took the car to Otto’s Auto Body Shop and got bad news: the work was going to run her $244 — more than half of her $417 monthly pension check.

Without a credit card or enough saved up to replace the rim herself, Ms. Bonner, who is 61 and cares for her sister Jane, who is disabled, did the only thing she could do: she went down to the Bank of Cattaraugus and took out a $300 loan. The bank, in a reversal of the usual process, had bailed her out before. A few years ago, when Ms. Bonner fell behind on her property taxes and was forced to sell her home, the bank’s president, Patrick J. Cullen, who held the mortgage on the house, had his son Thomas buy it. Thomas Cullen, who lives in Chicago, never intended to live there. Ms. Bonner and her sister were able to stay as renters.

“The whole thing was incredible,” Ms. Bonner said the other day, a single pine branch hanging in her living room in lieu of a full Christmas tree, which she could not afford. “I just didn’t realize there were people like that in the world, people who would help you.

“Especially,” she said, “a banker.”

This has not exactly been a time of great love for bankers. Amid the continuing foreclosure crisis and Occupy Wall Street’s campaign against “the 1 percent,” it is easy to forget that not all banks are complicated giants, trading in derivatives and re-hypothecating valueless collateral. The Bank of Cattaraugus, for example, is by asset size the state’s smallest bank (one branch, eight employees, no credit default swaps) and yet it plays an outsize role in this hilly village an hour south of Buffalo: housing its deposits, lending to its neediest inhabitants and recently granting forbearance on a mortgage when the borrower, a bus mechanic, temporarily lost his job after shooting off his finger while holstering his gun.

If it sounds old-fashioned, it is. It’s not the kind of bank you’ll find anymore in New York City, where multiple branches and capitalizations counted in 10 figures are the norm. With $12 million in total assets, the Bank of Cattaraugus is a microbank, well below the $10 billion ceiling that defines small banks. It exists in a seemingly different universe from the mammoth banks-turned-financial-services-conglomerates, like Citigroup ($1.9 trillion in assets) or JPMorgan Chase ($2.25 trillion).

With obvious exceptions, business at the Bank of Cattaraugus hasn’t changed much since 1882, when 20 prominent residents — among them a Civil War surgeon and a cousin of Davy Crockett — established the bank to safeguard townsfolk’s money and to finance local commerce.

In its 130-year history, the bank has rarely booked a profit for itself in excess of $50,000. Last year, Mr. Cullen said, it made $5,000. He and his officers are industry anomalies: bankers who avoid high-risk and high-growth tactics in order to reinvest in their community’s economy.

“My examiners always ask me, ‘When are you going to grow?’ ” said Mr. Cullen, a Cattaraugus native who is 64 and has the prosperous stoutness of a storybook banker. “But where is it written I have to grow? We take care of our customers. The truth is we probably couldn’t grow too much in a town like this.”

While it faces many of the same regulations that govern larger banks, it operates according to an antiquated theory of the business: that a bank should be a utility, like the power company, and serve as a broker between savers and borrowers in its community.
Read the rest here.

I wonder if they open accounts for non-residents.

H.R.H. Prince Philip Is Hospitalized With Chest Pains (updated)

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II's husband has been taken to the hospital after experiencing chest pains, British royal officials said Friday.

Buckingham Palace said Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was taken from Sandringham, the queen's sprawling estate in rural Norfolk, to the cardiac unit at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge for "precautionary tests."

A hospital spokeswoman referred all calls to the palace.

The BBC reported that it was not clear whether Philip, who is 90 years old, would stay in the hospital overnight. The Press Association said Papworth describes itself as the UK's largest specialist cardiothoracic hospital, treating more than 22,800 inpatient and day cases and 53,400 outpatients each year.
Read the rest here.

Update: H.R.H. was rushed by helicopter to hospital.  He underwent coronary surgery for a blocked artery which the palace is reporting was successful. 

Quote of the day...

It is my heart-warmed and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us, the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage (every man and brother of us all throughout the whole earth), may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss, except the inventor of the telephone.  

~Mark Twain

I feel the same way, only about cell phones.

A Frightening Debate

If you want to read some opinions that should scare the bleep out of anyone who cares about the rule of law and the preservation of something resembling a constitutional republic, then take a peek at some of the comments on this thread over at Midwest Conservative Journal.  That there are people who think like this is chilling beyond words.  Even more frightening, is that I seem to be the only one over there who thinks that maybe there is something wrong with giving our government carte blanche authority to murder its own citizens.  Our country is in really deep trouble.

Soldiers’ Choice

So this is Christmas, season of peace, time to reflect on the people coming home from a war that most Americans say was not worth it, and those still fighting in another war that raises new doubts by the day.

Many of the service members returning from Iraq — where nearly 4,500 American lives were lost, 100,000 Iraqi civilians were killed and about 600,000 Christians were forced to flee the country with other refugees — are paying close attention to the campaign to decide who will be commander in chief.

What would they think of a candidate who says:

“Far from defeating the enemy, our current polices provide incentive for more people to take up arms against us.”

And, “We have an empire. We can’t afford it.”

And, “Acting as the world’s policeman and nation-building weakens our country, puts our troops in harm’s way, and sends precious resources to other nations in the midst of an historic economic crisis.”

The men and women in uniform probably wouldn’t support this proponent of limited engagement. So goes the conventional wisdom, which holds that those in the military support a leader itching for a fight.

But in fact, Representative Ron Paul, the congressman who favors the most minimalist American combat role of any major presidential candidate and who said all of the above quotes, has more financial support from active duty members of the service than any other politician.

As of the last reporting date, at the end of September, Paul leads all candidates by far in donations from service members. This trend has been in place since 2008, when Paul ran for president with a similar stance: calling nonsense at hawk squawk from both parties.

This year, Paul has 10 times the individual donations — totaling $113,739 — from the military as does Mitt Romney. And he has a hundred times more than Newt Gingrich, who sat out the Vietnam War with college deferments and now promises he would strike foes at the slightest provocation.

What seems, at first blush, counterintuitive makes more sense upon further review. There’s a long tradition of military people being attracted to politicians with Paul’s strict interpretation of the Constitution.

Not even a full 1 percent of Americans are active-duty military. The troops have become props for politicians who shower them with fulsome praise, while dreaming up schemes to send them into harm’s way.

Yet, these soldiers, sailors, air men and women, and assorted boots on the ground know the cost — in trauma, in lives ruined, in friends lost, in good intentions gone bad — of going to war far more than the 99 percent not currently serving. Where they put their money in a campaign, paltry though it may be in comparison to the corporate lords who control a majority of our politicians, says a great deal.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

House GOP caves on 2 month payroll tax cut

House Speaker John Boehner announced Thursday that he had agreed with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on a two-month extension of a package including a payroll tax cut and an extension of unemployment benefits.

Boehner said in statement he and Reid "reached an agreement that will ensure taxes do not increase for working families on Jan. 1 while ensuring that a complex new reporting burden is not unintentionally imposed on small business job creators."

He said the Senate "will join the House in immediately appointing conferees, with instructions to reach agreement in the weeks ahead on a full-year payroll tax extension. We will ask the House and Senate to approve this agreement by unanimous consent before Christmas.”
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

For Christmas, Your Government Will Explain Why It's Legal to Kill You

Ha! Just kidding! It won't tell you that. That's classified!
Plaintiffs The New York Times Company, Charlie Savage, and Scott Shane (jointly, "NYT"), by their undersigned attorney, allege for their Complaint:
1.  This is an action under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") ... seeking the production of agency records improperly withheld by Defendant United States Department of Justice ("DOJ") in response to requests properly made by Plaintiffs.
4.  Given the questions surrounding the legality of the practice [of "targeted killing"] under both U.S. and international law, notable legal scholars, human rights activists, and current and former government officials [i.e., Democrats and Republicans] have called for the government to disclose its legal analysis justifying the use of targeted lethal force, especially as it applies to American citizens.
11.  Both before and after the death of [Anwar] al-Awlaki [who was blown up in Yemen], NYT duly filed FOIA requests seeking memoranda that detail the legal analysis behind [blowing people up]. To date, DOJ has refused to release any such memoranda or any segregable portions, claiming them to be properly classified and privileged and in respect to certain memoranda has declined to say whether they in fact exist.
35.  On September 30, 2011, the Washington Post described a [DOJ] "secret memorandum authorizing the legal targeting" of al-Awlaki, an American citizen accused of coordinating the Al-Qaeda operations in the Arabian peninsula. The article said that officials refused to disclose the exact legal analysis" such as "how they considered any Fifth Amendment right to due process." It also quoted a "former senior intelligence official" as saying the C.I.A. "would not have killed an American without such a written opinion."
44.  On October 7, 2011, Mr. Savage submitted a FOIA request [to] DOJ OLC seeking a copy of "all Office of Legal Counsel memorandums analyzing the circumstances under which it would be lawful for United States armed forces or intelligence community assets to target for killing a United States citizen who is deemed to be a terrorist."
45.  By letter dated October 27, 2011, [DOJ] denied Mr. Savage's request.
  • The government dropped a bomb on a U.S. citizen,
  • who, though a total dick and probably a criminal, may have been engaged only in propaganda,
  • which, though despicable, is generally protected by the First Amendment;
  • it did so without a trial or even an indictment (that we know of),
  • based at least in part on evidence it says it has but won't show anyone,
  • and on a legal argument it has apparently made but won't show anyone,
  • and the very existence of which it will not confirm or deny;
  • although don't worry, because the C.I.A. would never kill an American without having somebody do a memo first;
  • and this is the "most transparent administration ever";
  • currently run by a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Merry Christmas!
From Lowering the Bar which is fast becoming one of my favorite blogs. He really needs to open it up for comments though.

Of the seven Republicans and one Democrat currently running for President of the United States, all but one think this is just fine. Guess which one thinks it's Bull $&^#?

Serial Murder Victim Found... Alive (25 yrs later)

BEAVERTON, Ore. (CBS) — Another man who had been believed to be a victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy has been found alive, announced Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart on Wednesday.

Theodore "Ted" Szal had been missing since 1977, but was found alive and living in Beaverton, Ore., Dart said in a news release.

Szal, 59, left the Chicago area and the state of Illinois in March 1977 when he was 24, Dart said.

Szal's sister, Marcia Carlson, contacted the sheriff's office on Oct. 18, after Dart said he was working to identify the remaining unidentified Gacy victims. On Nov. 4, Carlson told a sheriff's detective that when her brother disappeared, he was living with his wife in Glen Ellyn and was going through a divorce.

Szal was never reported missing, because he had previously stopped talking to his family and turned up again, Dart said.
Read the rest here.

Baroness Trumpington flips off snarky lord

Really.  You would think a Peer of the Realm would know better than to make disparaging comments about a lady's age, especially on the floor of the House of Lords!  Baroness Trumpington was the object of a cutting, and most ungentlemanly reference to her age and appearance from Lord King on the floor of the upper House.  The Baroness, who is 89 and the last serving veteran of World War II in the Lords, responded with an inverted "V" for victory hand salute, which is considered rather akin to a similar hand signal on our side of the pond.

Many Years to her Ladyship!

Huge demand for ECB's three-year loans

Eurozone banks have rushed to take out cheap three-year loans offered by the European Central Bank, borrowing 489bn euros ($643bn; £375bn).

The central bank had originally hoped to lend up to 450bn euros to stop another credit crunch crippling the banking system.

Over 500 banks raced to borrow from the scheme, which was far beyond market expectations.

The euro rose sharply on the news, but then fell back later.

When the plan was announced, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said banks could use the money to invest in eurozone sovereign debt.

However, analysts were uncertain if banks will use the money in this way.

"The very heavy take-up of the ECB's three-year, long-term refinancing operation provides some encouragement that banks' liquidity needs are being amply met," said Jonathan Loynes at Capital Economics.

"But while this might help to address recent signs of renewed tensions in credit markets and support bank lending, we remain sceptical of the idea that the operation will ease the sovereign debt crisis too as banks use the funds to purchase large volumes of peripheral government bonds."
Read the rest here.

Trailer for The Hobbit is out

I don't hit a lot of movies but this one is on my "must see" list.

Washington Post: Ron Paul becoming serious contender in Republican presidential race

This is  a surprisingly good piece, from the front page no less.
As the first votes in the Republican presidential race approach, Rep. Ron Paul has become a serious force with the potential to upend the nomination fight and remain a factor throughout next year’s general-election campaign.

Although few think the congressman from Texas has a realistic shot at winning the GOP nod, he has built a strong enough base of support that he could be a spoiler — or a kingmaker.

In a muddled field, Paul could win the Iowa caucuses. While other candidates have been hesitant to commit to the state or have had trouble sustaining their initial bursts of support, Paul has been methodically building an organization and a growing corps of followers.

Over the past week, he has spent more than $600,000 on attack ads that are cutting into support for a fellow front-runner, former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.). And Paul has built an organization that will allow him to remain in the race well beyond the early-voting states and amass convention delegates.

Perhaps most fearsome to Republican leaders is Paul’s refusal to rule out a third-party presidential bid that would steal votes from the Republican nominee and make President Obama’s path to reelection considerably easier.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll, for instance, indicates that Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney would be locked in a dead heat in a one-on-one contest. But in a three-way race with Paul, Obama would hold a wide advantage. The survey also suggests that Paul on his own would pose at least as much danger to Obama as Gingrich would.

“The reality is Ron Paul is poised to become a major figure in the Republican Party if his momentum continues and he’s able to win in Iowa,” said GOP strategist Steve Schmidt, who managed the campaign of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the party’s 2008 nominee. “The open question is: How much durability does he have over the balance of the race?”
Read the rest here

Ron Paul and the media's code of silence

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Can Ron Paul Win?

As I noted when I announced my support for Ron Paul, he is not the perfect candidate.  But he is by far the best.  I have a few issues with him, but in general he is right on the important things.  For the detractors though the question they keep asking is... Can he realistically win?  To be honest, I doubt it.  I like to think of myself as a political realist even when I feel strongly on a subject.

But to my mind that's not the point.  If he wins in Iowa (a very real possibility) and if he places a respectable 2nd in New Hampshire (also a real possibility) he will be impossible for the GOP establishment to ignore.  It will be a strong declaration that the hard core social cons and neo cons no longer have a lock on the party.  They will have to take him and his very loyal supporters into consideration when framing party platforms etc.  If they don't then they risk kissing off possibly 15+% of the people voting in the GOP primaries come the general election.  That would be akin to political suicide.

What Ron Paul and his supporters are trying to do here is to change the culture of the GOP and more broadly the country.  It is not going to happen all at once.  But as Fr. Z. is want to say "brick by brick." It is sufficient for now to let the GOP establishment know that libertarian leaning voters exist and that we make up a sizable percentage of the party's voting block.  And further that we are no longer going to allow our votes to be taken for granted.

Seriously, given a choice between Obama and just about any of the other GOP candidates, where is the difference?  They all are global interventionists and supporters of perpetual war, none have any credibility on the subject of debt reduction, they are terrifying on the subject of civil liberties, and they are big government statists.  The only difference between the GOP and Obama lies in exactly which aspects of our lives they think the government should dictate.  Obama and the GOP are just two sides of the same coin.

I have no inclination to vote for George Bush's fourth term in office which is what the GOP's other candidates are offering.  If Ron Paul doesn't win the nomination, and barring a serious change of tune from the GOP on a number of important subjects, I will write his name in come November 2012.

Gary Johnson is bolting the GOP for the Libertarian Party

The Young Fogey has the story.
Ever had that sinking feeling in your stomach when you look at your bank balance and wonder if you have enough to cover things til payday?  I guess everybody has their own threshold for when they get nervous.  Seriously though, memo to the 1% of the 1%: Bank accounts are only insured up to $250k.  Try an ultra-short term T-Bill fund.  They will usually let you write checks against your account as will some Money Market Funds.

A Russian Rite Catholic Ordination

Joseph over at Byzantine Texas has a video up of a priest being ordained into the Russian Rite of the Catholic Church.  The Russian Rite is among the smallest of Rome's various uniate churches and the last I heard they had no bishops of their own.  There is a Russian Rite parish in San Francisco not far from ROCOR's cathedral.  I have always meant to visit but never seem to have gotten around to it.  The title of the post suggests that some people will be upset by it since the newly ordained priest is formerly Orthodox.  Personally, it's not something that I am getting worked up over, though I do take exception to the term "Orthodox in communion with Rome."  See my comment there.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Oh No! Panic! Unable to ignore him any longer the media is talking about Ron Paul

What if Ron Paul wins Iowa? - Christian Science Monitor

Ron Paul's Iowa surge triggers GOP anger at his supporters (VIDEO)- Washington Times

Can Ron Paul win Iowa? Yup. - Washington Post

What if Ron Paul wins in Iowa? - CNN

Polls Show Ron Paul Rising In Iowa As Gingrich Swoons - NPR

Ron Paul And The Republican Future - Daily Beast

Ron Paul thrashes Mitt Romney, wins 2nd Iowa poll - The State Column

Ron Paul: The Tortoise Now Leads The Hares - Nolan Chart LLC

Can Ron Paul Win New Hampshire? - RealClearPolitics

Ron Paul 2012: A Remarkable Rise to First Place in Iowa - International Business Times

Is The China Bubble About To Burst?

Consider the following picture: Recent growth has relied on a huge construction boom fueled by surging real estate prices, and exhibiting all the classic signs of a bubble. There was rapid growth in credit — with much of that growth taking place not through traditional banking but rather through unregulated “shadow banking” neither subject to government supervision nor backed by government guarantees. Now the bubble is bursting — and there are real reasons to fear financial and economic crisis.

Am I describing Japan at the end of the 1980s? Or am I describing America in 2007? I could be. But right now I’m talking about China, which is emerging as another danger spot in a world economy that really, really doesn’t need this right now.

I’ve been reluctant to weigh in on the Chinese situation, in part because it’s so hard to know what’s really happening. All economic statistics are best seen as a peculiarly boring form of science fiction, but China’s numbers are more fictional than most. I’d turn to real China experts for guidance, but no two experts seem to be telling the same story.

Still, even the official data are troubling — and recent news is sufficiently dramatic to ring alarm bells.
Read the rest here.

Second Poll Says Ron Paul Is Leading In Iowa

The Inside Advantage Poll conducted yesterday and released today has Ron Paul in first place in Iowa with 24%, Romney is in second with 18% and Gingrich is in third with 13%.  Two quick observations.  First Gingrich's support is collapsing.  And secondly in this poll Paul has a 6 point lead which is outside the margin of error.

See here for the poll details.

Latest Poll: Ron Paul leads in Iowa

It seems Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul is now the leading Republican presidential candidate in Iowa, according to the latest Public Policy Polling survey released late Sunday.

The Texas Republican, who has for weeks witnessed a surge in support, is leading the Republican field with 23 percent support. Mr. Paul is followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at 20 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 14 percent, former Pennsylvania U.S Senator Rick Santorum at 10 percent, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann at 10 percent, Texas Governor Rick Perry at 10 percent and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman at 4 percent.
Read the rest here.
See the actual poll report here.

Not sure how this poll stacks up with other recent ones. But those I saw a week ago had Paul in a statistical tie with Gingrich for first place.  Maybe Gingrich is slipping.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Breaking News: North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Il Is Dead

Various sources are reporting that North Korea's Stalinist dictator Kim Jong Il has died.  It is really hard to feel any sympathy at all in this situation.  May God have mercy on the monster.

UPDATE: It has been confirmed.

EU demands £25bn lifeline from the UK

David Cameron will come under pressure today to resist demands to contribute more than £25 billion to a new eurozone bail-out.

European finance ministers will aim to agree a new €200 billion (£167.7 billion) loan to the International Monetary Fund as part of a deal to save the single currency.

Three quarters of the money is expected to come from eurozone members, but Britain will also be asked to provide funds.

Figures suggest European Union officials expect British taxpayers to be the second largest contributor. The Prime Minister has repeatedly promised not to provide any extra funding for the IMF for the specific purpose of saving the euro and Britain is already liable for £12 billion of loans and guarantees to Ireland, Greece and Portugal.

Earlier this month, EU countries set today as the deadline to raise up to €200  billion in new loans for the IMF to deal with the eurozone crisis.

Finance ministers will hold a conference call in an attempt to reach agreement on the war chest.
Read the rest here.

Supporters worry Julian Assange could be handed over to the US

Julian Assange faces being extradited to the US if British authorities agree to Swedish extradition, his supporters have claimed in a letter to the Daily Telegraph.

Signatories including Prof Noam Chomsky, the academic, and film director Ken Loach said that once in Sweden Mr Assange could be handed over to America without the "appropriate legal processes that accompany normal extradition cases."

The WikiLeaks founder was this month given permission by the Supreme Court to appeal against his extradition to Sweden where he could face rape and sexual assault charges.

But his supporters claim that sending him to Sweden would place him under "temporary surrender", putting him at threat of a fast-track extradition to the US, where prosecutors are considering charging him over the release of confidential documents.

In the letter published in the Daily Telegraph 74 prominent supporters write: "The chances of Mr Assange receiving a fair trial in the United States appear remote.

"A number of prominent political figures have called for him to be assassinated, and Joe Biden, the Vice-President, has called him a 'high-tech terrorist'. Given this atmosphere of hostility, we hold serious concerns about his safety once in American custody."

Russian Orthodox Church Asserts Role in Civil Society

MOSCOW — Just over 20 years ago, any religious education outside church walls was still banned in the Soviet Union. Today, churches are being built on state university campuses, theology departments have opened around Russia, and the Russian Orthodox Church has built its own educational network with international contacts and even become something of a model for the secular system.

Still, state universities struggle on many levels to integrate into the international system; the Bologna Process, an agreement streamlining higher-education standards across Europe, has upset many Russian academics who contend that it undermines the achievements of the Soviet system, where a standard specialist degree required five years of study.

But the Russian Orthodox Church, which started building its education system virtually from scratch in the post-Soviet era, has applied international standards from the outset, said Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun, deputy chairman of the church’s education committee. Speaking of the state education system, Father Hovorun said, “It is more concerned about finding compromises between the old Soviet system and the new European standards.”

At the same time, the church is proposing its vision of educational reform.

“Education is not a personal matter but a sphere of public life on which the existence of society and the state depend,” Patriarch Kirill I, the church’s leader, said in September in a speech at Voronezh State University. “It is the backbone of the existence of society, and that’s why the transfer of education exclusively into the sphere of rendering of market services is, in my view, a big mistake.”

Yulia Rehbinder, 30, who received a degree in social pedagogy this year from St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University, which was founded in Moscow in 1992 as a theological institute, said she had chosen the university because she thought it offered a more sophisticated humanities program than state universities. It received state accreditation as a university in 2004.

“In Soviet times, everything connected with Christianity, its history and culture, was purposely removed from humanitarian education,” said Ms. Rehbinder, who is now working with orphans and doing graduate research on Russian émigré teaching methods in France. “As a result, it ended up that specialists couldn’t understand the essence of works of art, of many historical events, or the motives of human actions, since a Christian worldview was alien to them.”

While the church has helped create over 30 theology faculties at secular state universities, Father Hovorun said, the state education authorities still refuse to recognize theology as a stand-alone doctoral-degree subject.

Archpriest Vladimir Vorobiev, rector of St. Tikhon’s, told Pravoslavie i mir, an Orthodox news Web site, that he objected to the state authorities’ refusal to recognize theology as a social science at the doctorate level. He asserts that some people in high levels of Russian academia are still influenced by a Soviet mind-set that cannot accept a social “science about God.”

“In Europe, they would only laugh at the phrases we have heard here about theology not being a science,” Father Vorobiev said. “To them, it’s the equivalent of saying that math is not a science.”
Read the rest here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens outspoken author is dead at 62

Christopher Hitchens, the author, essayist and polemicist who waged verbal and occasional physical battle on behalf of causes on the left and right and wrote the provocative best-seller "God is Not Great," died Thursday night after a long battle with cancer. He was 62.

Hitchens' death was announced in a statement from Conde Nast, publisher of Vanity Fair magazine. The statement says he died Thursday night at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston of pneumonia, a complication of his esophageal cancer.

"There will never be another like Christopher. A man of ferocious intellect, who was as vibrant on the page as he was atthe bar," said Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. "Those who read him felt they knew him, and those who knew him were profoundly fortunate souls."

A most-engaged, prolific and public intellectual who enjoyed his drink (enough to "to kill or stun the average mule") and cigarettes, he announced in June 2010 that he was being treated for cancer of the esophagus and canceled a tour for his memoir "Hitch-22."

Hitchens, a frequent television commentator and a contributor to Vanity Fair, Slate and other publications, had become a popular author in 2007 thanks to "God is Not Great," a manifesto for atheists that defied a recent trend of religious works. Cancer humbled, but did not mellow him. Even after his diagnosis, his columns appeared weekly, savaging the royal family or reveling in the death of Osama bin Laden.

"I love the imagery of struggle," he wrote about his illness in an August 2010 essay in Vanity Fair. "I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient."

Eloquent and intemperate, bawdy and urbane, he was an acknowledged contrarian and contradiction -- half-Christian, half-Jewish and fully non-believing; a native of England who settled in America; a former Trotskyite who backed the Iraq war and supported George W. Bush. But his passions remained constant and enemies of his youth, from Henry Kissinger to Mother Teresa, remained hated.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Army Pfc. Manning to face pretrial hearing in WikiLeaks case

Not long after allegedly passing a massive trove of U.S. government secrets to WikiLeaks, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning told an acquaintance on an Internet chat that he just wanted “people to see the truth,” to prompt “worldwide discussion, debates and reforms” over war and foreign policy.

“We’re human . . . and we’re killing ourselves . . . and no-one seems to see that . . . and it bothers me,” he typed to Adrian Lamo, a convicted computer hacker whom Manning appeared to consider a kindred spirit, in May 2010.

Instead, Lamo contacted authorities with suspicions that Manning, an intelligence analyst with a top-secret clearance, had committed one of the largest national security breaches in U.S. history.

These exchanges between Lamo and Manning, a baby-faced tech savant who joined the Army in a bid to turn around a troubled life, could be among key evidence in a pretrial hearing starting Friday at the Military District of Washington courtroom at Fort Meade. Investigators also have forensic evidence from computers used by Manning and data from the WikiLeaks Web site.

Manning, who turns 24 Saturday, has been accused of aiding the enemy, violating the Espionage Act and several lesser charges — enough to send him away for life. Aiding the enemy carries a potential death sentence, but Army officials have said they will not seek it. At the Article 32 hearing, which is likely to last for several days, an investigating officer will determine whether the prosecution has enough evidence to send Manning to trial. It will be up to a convening authority whether to refer the case to court-martial.
Read the rest here.

Jewish extremists burn Mosques in occupied West Bank

JERUSALEM — Defying a crackdown on Jewish extremists ordered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, vandals set fire to a mosque in the West Bank and defaced it with Hebrew graffiti Thursday after Israeli forces tore down structures in an unauthorized settlement outpost.

The arson in the village of Burqa, near Ramallah, was the latest in a string of similar attacks on Palestinian mosques in the West Bank and came a day after an unused mosque was torched and defaced in a Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem.

The wave of extremist violence, which included a rampage by militant Jewish settlers at a West Bank army base Tuesday, has brought expressions of alarm from across the Israeli political spectrum and prompted the government to announce measures to curb it.
Read the rest here.

Iraq War is finally (mostly) over

BAGHDAD — America’s war in Iraq came to an unspectacular and deeply uncertain end Thursday at a ceremony held amid fortified concrete blast walls at Baghdad’s international airport, not far from a highway where U.S. troops first fought their way into the capital more than eight years ago.

There were speeches paying tribute to the fallen, promising that America would not abandon Iraq and warning of challenges ahead. A brass band played, and the flag that had flown over the headquarters of the U.S. mission here was lowered for the last time.

And that was it. No pronouncements of victory, no cheers or jubilation — only a profound sense that the war’s real reckoning is yet to come even as America’s part in it draws to a close.
Read the rest here.

Joint Christmas Carols Between Muslims and (who else?) Anglicans

One grim finding for Anglicans in the new British Social Attitudes survey is how few find religion after not being born into it. So says the ‘concerned’ Nick Spencer in The Guardian.

But even grimmer for Anglicans are ‘inclusive’ Christmas carols services – you know, the sort that bend over backwards to be all things to all people in order that by any means possible none may be offended. In fact, it is these sort of gospel-lite and theology-free services which are largely responsible for people not finding Christ – even at Christmas.

Royal Holloway College, in the University of London, held its Christmas carol service in its own College Chapel, presided over jointly by the College's Chaplain – an Anglican vicar, the Rev'd Cate Irvine, and a Roman Catholic chaplain from the local church, Fr Vladimir Nikiforov.

And what did the assembled festive throng hear? The prophecy of of Isaiah? 'For unto us a child is born...'? The Gospel of Luke? 'There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus...'? A reading from Micah, perhaps? 'But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be Ruler in Israel'?

No, none of the above. Instead, they got the Qur'an:
Read the rest here.

HT: Blog reader John L.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An Endorsement for President of the United States

After careful, and prayerful consideration, I have decided to endorse Congressman Ron Paul of Texas for President of the United States. This endorsement is not unqualified. There are a number of points where I have concerns and respectful disagreements with the Congressman. But in general I think he is the best of the candidates now running. Point in fact, with the possible exception of John Huntsman, there are no other candidates running that I feel certain I could in conscience vote for. Ron Paul is not the perfect candidate. But he is the best one out there.

First my points of concern and disagreement with the Congressman from Texas. Rep. Paul is an economic anarchist. That is to say he is not merely in favor of reducing government regulation of business, Wall Street, and private enterprise, he wants to eradicate it. Giving a blank check to the same people who, thanks to the abandonment of the regulatory reforms following the crash of 1929, bear a great deal of responsibility for the current economic crisis is unwise. He also favors completely dismantling the social safety net and returning to a purely Darwinist society where the poor either pull themselves up by their own bootstraps or are left to depend upon the often arbitrary and unreliable mercy of private charity. Fortunately, neither of these things will happen if he is elected. He would require the assent of Congress to undertake such a radical reversal of American economic and social policy which will not be forthcoming no matter who wins the election. At times Congressman Paul has hinted at sympathy for some of the bizarre conspiracy theories that I routinely lampoon on this blog, such as Birtherism and 9-11 Trutherism. Finally there is the question of his age. Ron Paul will be 77 on Jan 20th 2013. One should reasonably assume that he would be a one term president purely on that basis. Also more care than normal would have to be given to his selection of a Vice-Presidential running mate.

Reservations aside however, Paul is the only candidate who has demonstrated a consistent record of principled constitutional conservatism. Just a few of the reasons why I am supporting him include...
  • He is the only candidate committed to ending the incestuous relationship between the War Department and private business which has lead to a policy of perpetual war for perpetual profit, otherwise known as the Military Industrial Complex.
  • In line with the above he will end America's post World War II policy of interventionism and enlightened imperialism. The Cold War is over, and we won. It's time to give up the cold war mentality and move on. We need to learn to mind our own business.
  • He is the only candidate who grasps that bombing people is a lousy way to make friends but a very good way to make enemies. Likewise when almost every bomb dropped on Muslims has “Made in America” stamped on it, irrespective of who is dropping it, this does great harm to our country's image in the world. The world has enough bombs. We don't need to add to the supply.
  • He will end foreign aid except for the purely humanitarian kind. It's time to take care of our own first. And it is again time to stop meddling in other people's affairs.
  • Based on his track record one may reasonably assume that he is the only man running for President who really will wield the veto ruthlessly in an effort to cut spending and end legislative pork. It is possible that some of his proposed spending cuts will exceed the tolerances of the American people. Again however we will know we have reached that point when Congress says “no” and votes with a bipartisan super-majority to override a veto. The constitution provides wonderful checks and balances.
  • He is the only man running for office who grasps the dangers of our out of control monetary policy. And while I am dubious about efforts to return to a rigid gold standard, I think we can count on a President Paul to clip the wings of the FED.
  • Ron Paul is committed to ending the undeclared wars at home as well as abroad, including the war on our civil liberties. He will move to repeal the USA Patriot Act (one of the most noxious pieces of legislation passed in the last 100 years). He will end the unconstitutional spying by the government on its own citizens and the illegitimate suspension of Habeus Corpus along with the government sponsored murder of American citizens.
  • Ron Paul will end the domination of American Foreign and Domestic Policy by persons committed to governing based on religious belief. To whit he will end the modern American version of prohibition, meaning our disastrous so called “war” on drugs. That war is over, and we lost. And while people's personal domestic living arrangements may make a very good topic for a sermon in church, they are not an appropriate subject for intrusive legislation. Likewise the blank check support for Israel demanded by the religious right on Biblical grounds will go away. Theo-cons and social-cons beware. Ron Paul is your worst nightmare.

All in all Ron Paul is the best, if perhaps not the perfect candidate for President of the United States. While I am not able to vote for him in the primary, having disaffiliated myself from the Republican Party, I nonetheless express my support for his candidacy and would encourage others to consider doing the same.