Monday, October 31, 2011

GOP condemns anti-Obama image showing gunshot wound

The Republican Party of Virginia on Monday strongly condemned an e-mail sent by Loudoun County’s GOP committee that shows President Obama as a zombie with part of his skull missing and a bullet through his head.

The e-mail, first reported on the blog Too Conservative, has “Halloween 2011” in the subject line and has several other images, including one of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whose face has been made to look deformed with one eye bulging from its socket.

“The disgusting image used today on a mass e-mail has no place in our politics. Ever,’’ said Pat Mullins, chairman of the state party. “The Republican Party of Virginia condemns the image and its use in the strongest possible terms.”

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) said through a spokesman that the e-mail is “shameful and offensive.’’
Read the rest here.

Further evidence of the radicalization of our politics. Those we disagree with are no longer political opponents. They have become "the enemy."

Obama at odds with Catholics

A contentious battle between Catholic groups and the Obama administration has flared in recent days, fueled by the new health-care law and ongoing divisions over access to abortion and birth control.

The latest dispute centers on a decision by the Department of Health and Human Services in late September to end funding to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to help victims of human trafficking, or modern-day slavery. The church group had overseen nationwide services to victims since 2006 but was denied a new grant in favor of three other groups.

The bishops organization, in line with the church’s teachings, had refused to refer trafficking victims for contraceptives or abortion. The American Civil Liberties Union sued, and HHS officials said they made a policy decision to award the grants to agencies that would refer women for those services.

The bishops conference is threatening legal action and accusing the administration of anti-Catholic bias, which HHS officials deny.

The fight escalates an already difficult relationship between the government and some Catholics over several issues. The bishops fiercely oppose the administration’s decision in February to no longer defend the federal law barring the recognition of same-sex marriage. Dozens of Catholic groups also have objected in recent weeks to a proposed HHS mandate — issued under the health-care law — that would require private insurers to provide women with contraceptives without charge.
Read the rest here.

Episcopalians move to 'rehabilitate' Pelagius

The Diocese of Atlanta has been asked to rehabilitate Pelagius.

Delegates to the diocesan convention will be asked to reverse the condemnation of the Council of Carthage upon Pelagius, and to explore whether the Fifth century heretic may inform the theology of the Episcopal Church.

Resolution R11-7 before the convention states in part:

“Whereas the historical record of Pelagius’s contribution to our theological tradition is shrouded in the political ambition of his theological antagonists who sought to discredit what they felt was a threat to the empire, and their ecclesiastical dominance, and whereas an understanding of his life and writings might bring more to bear on his good standing in our tradition;”

“And whereas his restitution as a viable theological voice within our tradition might encourage a deeper understanding of sin, grace, free will, and the goodness of God’s creation, and whereas in as much as the history of Pelagius represents to some the struggle for theological exploration that is our birthright as Anglicans, Be it resolved, that this 105th Annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta appoint a committee of discernment overseen by our Bishop, to consider these matters as a means to honor the contributions of Pelagius and reclaim his voice in our tradition.”
Read the rest here.

HT: T-19

Happy All Hollows Eve

When a kid, like probably most children, I was somewhat partial to horror movies.  For the most part they didn't really bother me too much.  Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr, and of course the immortal Bella Lugosi were all regulars on the late night Chiller Theater every Saturday night on WPIX channel 11 out of New York City.  I can still remember the corny opening for the program showing a hand coming out of the ground and one by one pulling each of the letters in CHILLER into the ground.  Remember this was the 1970's.

So anyways it wasn't until the summer of 1979 that I was cured of my thing for horror flicks.  That was the summer that Stephen King did something really really bad.  You see up until then I could care less about werewolves vampires and such, because they all existed in some never clearly defined world, called Transylvania or such more than a hundred years ago.  What Mr. King did was to eliminate that psychological safety zone.  In short, Stephen King took his vampires, and moved them in next door to me.

I remember watching Salem's Lot (based on the novel of the same name) with my best friend David who lived two houses down a typical suburban street from me.  A two minute walk, three if I was taking my time.  Right off we could tell there was a problem.  The story was set in a small normal middle class town IN THE HERE AND NOW.  It went down hill from there.  And it really didn't help that some of the main characters (and victims) were normal kids... just like me and my buddy.  To this day, more than thirty years later I can still hear the sound of one of the vampire kids scratching on the window whispering "it's me Danny... let me in" as he floats outside the 2nd floor bedroom window of one of the main characters, another kid.

Of course the program ended in due course.  And then I had to walk home.  Alone.  At night.  Did I mention alone?  I am not sure exactly how long it took me to get home.  But had I been timed I feel confident I would have qualified for the US Olympic track team. Today I suspect that the 1979 version of Salem's Lot would be considered fairly tame, if not actually lame, by aficionados of the horror genre.  But it scared the $^#& out of at least one 12-13 year old back then.  I have heard that a few years back Rob Lowe starred in a remake of the film.

Maybe one day... (emphasis on 'day'), but I don't think this is it.

Going out with class, LaRussa retires on top

In the last few days of his tenure as the Cardinals’ longtime manager, Tony La Russa went about his business with an air of serenity, even as his upstart team sought to nail down a World Series championship. La Russa’s often grumpy demeanor with reporters dissolved into friendly, almost comedic, banter, and he took a genuinely inquisitive tone at times, when in the past he could be dismissive.

Now there would seem to be an explanation for that sudden burst of relaxation for a manager more commonly thought of as relentless. On Monday morning, three days after he captured the third title in his long managing career, and less than a day after St. Louis celebrated with a victory parade, La Russa, 67, announced that he was retiring.

So, it turns out, that amid all the World Series tension of the last week, and all the uncertainty of Friday night’s Game 7, La Russa had his own finish line firmly in view.

La Russa made his disclosure at a news conference in St. Louis. After 16 years as the manager of the Cardinals and 33 years over all in the job, La Russa is done marching relievers in and out of games and outthinking most of his counterparts. His next destination is surely the Hall of Fame.

“It’s just time to do something else,” he said.

With 2,728 victories, La Russa ends his career with the third most victories of any manager, behind Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763). He is only the ninth manager to win at least three World Series titles, and his résumé also includes six league championships, three each with the Oakland Athletics and the Cardinals.
Read the rest here.

OCA: Met. Jonah vs The Metropolitan Council and the Synod

I haven't posted on this subject because I try to avoid church politics, and that is pretty much what this is.  There are no real allegations that I am aware of that rise to the level of scandal.  That said there has been a nasty round of backbiting and intrigue in the higher levels of the OCA.  Of course when has there not been in the 2000 year history of the Church?  The Fathers repeatedly warn and complain about bad bishops.  Sigh. 

Anyway for those not familiar with the saga my suggestion is just skip this post and move on.  There is nothing edifying here.  However for those who have been following things and or those who can't avert their eyes from the proverbial car wreck, you may click here to read the AAC report from the Diocese of the West.  The salient parts run from pages 3 to 4.  There have been a lot of efforts on the part of some to make this out to be Jonah fighting for the soul of the OCA against creeping quasi-Episcopalian liberalism.  Rubbish.  The problem is (mainly) that His Beatitude does not play and get along well with others.  He needs to learn to do so, or his tenure as our primate is going to be one very long headache.

HT: Bill (aka The Godfather)

Largest two schismatic Ukrainian churches talk unification

(RISU) - On 27 October, in a session hall within the Golden Dome Monastery of St. Michael, the first joint session of the committees set up by the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the Hierarchical Council of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) to conduct the dialogue on unification was held.
Read the rest here.

Russian Orthodox Church revival "colossal" over 20 years - Moscow Patriarchate

Moscow, October 31, Interfax - The Russian Orthodox Church has made colossal achievements in its revival over the past 20 years, the Moscow Patriarchate said.

"In 1991, the Russian Orthodox Church had 12,000 parishes, 117 monasteries and convents, two theologian academies, seven theologian seminaries, 16 theologian colleges and four schools. In 2011, we have 30,675 parishes, 29,324 priests, 3,850 deacons and 805 monasteries and convents. The number of theologian educational establishments has increased, too," Vladimir Legoida, the head of the Synodal Information Department, said at a news conference at Interfax on Monday.

"Twenty years is not much in the history of a Church on the one hand, but on the other, the achievements made since 1991 are colossal," he said.

Spiritual revival is only at its start, he also said.

The spiritual revival of present-day Russia will be in the center of an exhibition and forum, Orthodox Rus, to be held in Moscow on November 4-7, he said.

Iran demands US apology, cash over assassination plot charges

Iran is pushing back against U.S. efforts to strengthen sanctions against Tehran in response to an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington, demanding a public apology and unspecified monetary damages, an Iranian diplomat tells NBC News.

The Iranian demands were contained in a recent letter to the U.S., according to the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. It calls on the U.S. to apologize publicly to both the Islamic republic and officials of the Al Quds Force for “material and moral damages” caused by “this baseless accusation,” which it argues violated "international rules and regulations."

The letter states that such deception has become "a permanent part of statecraft in the U.S.," according to the source, citing as an example the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which it says was “based on such false information.”

"After killing hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and U.S. soldiers and wasting billions of dollars from the U.S. citizens' pocket, the U.S. has no other way out except leaving Iraq," the diplomatic source said, recounting the argument made in the letter.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A tough day

Ever have one of those days that starts out very promising and ends with an urgent desire for something a little stronger than root beer?  I just did.  My parents are snowed in.  No. I am not kidding. My Godson is ill.  Yes the same one who was severely injured in a car wreck several months ago.  The illness is not serious, but it is very painful.  And my car landed in the shop after a very close call with possible disaster.  The starter got stuck and would not turn off, even when the key was removed from the ignition.  Not surprisingly it quickly fried and cooked a significant amount of electrical wiring in the process.  There was smoke poring from the engine when I opened the hood and rapidly disconnected the battery.  I and the mechanics fixing the mess think that another minute or two of power running into the melted wiring could have started an electrical fire that might have destroyed the car.

In the words of the late WC Fields "All in all, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."

Friday, October 28, 2011

Officers Jeer and Curse as Colleagues Are Arraigned on Ticket-Fixing Charges

A three-year investigation into the police’s habit of fixing traffic and parking tickets in the Bronx ended in the unsealing of indictments on Friday and a stunning display of vitriol by hundreds of off-duty officers, who converged on the courthouse to applaud their accused colleagues and denounce their prosecution.

As 16 police officers were arraigned at State Supreme Court in the Bronx, incensed colleagues organized by their union cursed and taunted prosecutors and investigators, chanting, “Down with the D.A.” and “Ray Kelly, hypocrite.”

As the defendants emerged from their morning court appearance, a swarm of officers formed a cordon in the hallway and clapped as they picked their way to the elevators. Members of the news media were kept behind metal barricades at the ends of the hallway by court officers, and the assembled police officers blocked cameras from filming their colleagues.
Read the rest here.

Corruption is corruption and it can't be condoned.  That said I do smell the distinct odor of hypocrisy and selective prosecution here.  If we sacked every cop who ever fixed a ticket for mom or a buddy... or in more than a few cases for a public prosecutor... we would be in deep trouble.  Seriously folks.  Ticket fixing is a slap on the wrist offense as long as that's ALL we are talking about and they don't make a habit out of it.  I do understand from the article that some of the officers are facing more serious charges.  That's a whole different ballgame.  They get their day in court like anyone else and let the chips fall where they will.

But hooking up mom cuz she was late for work and double parked?  Give me a break.  To my mind that's a couple days of the most boring clerical work the duty officer can invent and maybe a day or two of docked pay with a written "Don't do it again" warning. These guys deal with the dregs of society day in and day out and the kind of crap 90% of us would not put up with for any money.  I think a little perspective is in order here.

Peter Schiff and Cornell West on CNN

Admin Note

Just a quick FYI to let people know that if there seems to be less posting on weekends it's because... there usually is.  I try to keep a little time away from the computer and especially on Sundays not to spend a large part of my day staring at a monitor.  I do check email and try to take note if something has happened that is important.  But in general I am making an effort to set some boundaries in my life and to get out and spend time doing other things.  I also note that there is less traffic to my blog on weekends.  And yes, that's a good thing.

So go out and enjoy your weekend.  :-)

British Commonwealth nations agree to changes in Royal Succession

PERTH, Australia — British Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday that the 16 Commonwealth countries for which Queen Elizabeth II is monarch have agreed to remove gender discrimination in the order of succession to the throne.

Commonwealth national leaders also agreed at a summit in the west coast city of Perth to lift a ban on monarchs marrying Roman Catholics, he said.

Any one of the former British colonies could have vetoed the changes to the centuries-old rules that ensure that a male heir takes the throne ahead of older sisters.

"Attitudes have changed fundamentally over the centuries and some of the outdated rules — like some of the rules of succession — just don't make sense to us any more," Cameron told reporters in Perth.
Read the rest here.

Investigative committee declares Imperial Family remains ‘authentic’

The Russian Investigative Committee confirmed on Thursday that the remains of Russia’s tsar family buried in St. Petersburg’s St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, as well as the bodies of Tsar Nicholas II’s children Alexei and Maria, which still remain unburied, were authentic.

“As a result of a probe, the Investigative Committee has come to the categorical conclusion that the remains are authentic,” investigator Vladimir Solovyov told journalists in Moscow, adding that the conclusion was based on “summarized data including court documents, genetic analysis, and historical and other materials.”

The authenticity of the remains of the tsar's family, who were murdered by Bolsheviks in 1918, has been repeatedly challenged despite positive results of forensic tests conducted by a dozen organizations in Russia and abroad.

Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, their four daughters and son, and several servants, were shot dead in a cellar in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg in the early hours of July 17, 1918. Remains of the murdered family, except Alexei and Maria’s bodies, and the servants, were discovered in 1991. In 1998, they were authenticated and buried in the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral.

Alexei and Maria’s bodies were discovered in 2007 near Yekaterinburg. Their authenticity has also been proven by DNA tests.

The Russian Orthodox Church, which canonized the murdered Romanovs in 2000, has not recognized the remains.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Embracing Faith, Facing Death (a must read)

I am not going to excerpt this one. Just click here and read it all.

G.O.P. Pushes Military Custody for Terror Suspects

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans increasingly reject any use of the civilian criminal justice system for handling cases involving Al Qaeda, hardening their stance in a dispute with the Obama administration over whether such suspects should be held and prosecuted exclusively by the military.

Republican senators are pushing to include a provision in a 2012 military authorization bill that would require Qaeda suspects accused of plotting attacks and who are not American citizens to be held in military custody — even people arrested in the United States. The White House opposes such a blanket rule.
Read the rest here.

Muslims say crosses at Catholic University Violate “Human Rights”

The Washington, D.C. Office of Human Rights confirmed that it is investigating allegations that Catholic University violated the human rights of Muslim students by not allowing them to form a Muslim student group and by not providing them rooms without Christian symbols for their daily prayers.

The investigation alleges that Muslim students “must perform their prayers surrounded by symbols of Catholicism – e.g., a wooden crucifix, paintings of Jesus, pictures of priests and theologians which many Muslim students find inappropriate.”

A spokesperson for the Office of Human Rights told Fox News they had received a 60-page complaint against the private university. The investigation, they said, could take as long a six months.
Read the rest here.

HT: Fr. Z

This is just grandstanding and trying to stick their finger in the eyes of Catholics. The complaint should be immediately dismissed as frivolous and the students should be told that they will not be allowed to return next semester and to plan on transferring to another school. The professor should be disciplined, though I fear his tenure will protect him from any consequences for his outrageous actions.

Financial Markets Rally on Good News From Europe and US Economy

The economy's pace picked up in the third quarter, but it's still not fast enough to make a dent in unemployment.

U.S. economic growth increased at its fastest in a year in the third quarter as consumers and businesses set aside fears about the recovery and stepped up spending, creating momentum that could carry into the final three months of the year.
Read the rest here.

BRUSSELS — European leaders clinched a deal Thursday they hope will mark a turning point in their two-year debt crisis, agreeing after a night of tense negotiations to have banks take bigger losses on Greece's debts and to boost the region's weapons against the market turmoil.

After months of dawdling and half-baked solutions, the leaders had been under immense pressure to finalize their plan to prevent the crisis from pushing Europe and much of the developed world back into recession and to protect their currency union from unraveling.

World stock markets surged higher Thursday on the news. Oil prices rose above $92 per barrel while the euro gained strongly — a signal investors were relieved at the outcome of the contentious negotiations.

"We have reached an agreement, which I believe lets us give a credible and ambitious and overall response to the Greek crisis," French President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters after the meeting ended early Thursday. "Because of the complexity of the issues at stake, it took us a full night. But the results will be a source of huge relief worldwide."
Read the rest here.

What's So Patriotic About The Patriot Act?

Not a damned thing!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

George Weigal on the situation in the Ukraine

Summary: The Ukrainian Greek Catholic (uniate) Church is the repository of Ukrainian nationalism trying to fend off Putin and his puppet Russian Orthodox Church from stamping out Ukraine's independence.  Read the article here if you are so inclined. 

Weigal's Russophobia and pronounced hostility to the Orthodox Church is becoming tiresome.  Speaking of which, Mr. Weigal now lays the blame for the suppression of the UGRCC on the Russian Orthodox Church co-equally with Stalin's secret police. As though the window dressing that was the above ground Russian Church could so much as take a bathroom break without Stalin's prior direction.  That said the Russian Church keeps handing ammunition to Weigal and others like him by their obstinate refusal to disavow the sham union of 1946-47.

Russian businessman donates 70 icons worth around $1m to the Church

MOSCOW. A Russian businessman has donated more than 70 icons with an estimated value of Ru 30m (around $1m) to the Russian Orthodox Church. Property mogul Sergei Shmakov has spent over a year tracking down the icons—which were taken out of Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution and during the first world war—at auctions, antique stores and flea markets abroad. The icons include a rare mid-18th-century icon, St John the Theologian in Silence, which depicts the apostle with his fingers over his lips and an angel peering over his shoulder as he contemplates the gospel he is composing.
Read the rest here.

Perry: Obama is an American citizen (Says he was just kidding in birther comments)

Seeking to end three days of distractions from his campaign, Texas Gov. Rick Perry says in an interview to air Sunday that he has no doubt that President Obama is an American citizen, saying he was only kidding around about the issue when he raised doubts about where Obama was born.

The St. Petersburg Times reported today that Perry told the newspaper, when asked if he thinks Obama is an American citizen, "I have no doubt about it." (See transcript at the end of this story.)

Though Perry has repeatedly called the so-called "birther" talk a "distraction," he has continued the sideshow by refusing to answer questions about whether he believes Obama was born in the United States. It has had a negative impact on his campaign, overshadowing at times the tax and entitlement reform proposals he unveiled on Monday and Tuesday. And it raised the question of potential pandering by the Perry campaign to extremists in the Republican Party who maintain that Obama's origins are suspect in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Read the rest here.

Stick a fork in him.  Perry is (well) done.

Europe's looming calamity

There are plenty of reasons to be freaked out by the banking and sovereign debt crisis now reaching a crescendo in Europe. But one factor that’s gotten little attention could turn this Very Bad Situation into a True Calamity.

It’s this: Regulators here and in Europe have no idea — repeat, no idea — of the full extent of the derivatives exposure that could be triggered by an “official” Greek default, or by the failure of a major French bank. And if the people in charge have no clue as to the fallout from what may be trillions of dollars in side bets waiting to be triggered in a catastrophic cascade, they’re basically flying blind.
Read the rest here.

Senate Democrats offer $3 trillion debt deal

Congressional Democrats are urging the debt-reduction supercommittee to pursue a far-reaching agreement to slice $3 trillion from the federal budget over the next decade through significant cuts to federal health programs, including Medicare, and as much as $1.3 trillion in new taxes.

At a closed-door meeting Tuesday, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) told his colleagues on the panel that they should pick up where President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) left off in negotiations this summer during a bitter battle to raise the federal debt limit, according to congressional aides in both parties familiar with the meeting. Obama and Boehner were discussing a plan that included provisions to raise taxes, raise the Medicare eligibility age and use a less generous measure of inflation to calculate Social Security benefits.
Read the rest here.

I draw your attention to the part about government manipulating the measuring of inflation. Inflation is already severely under-reported by the government.

How the Patriot Act stripped me of my free-speech rights

Sometime in 2012, I will begin the ninth year of my life under an FBI gag order, which began when I received what is known as a national security letter at the small Internet service provider I owned. On that day in 2004 (the exact date is redacted from court papers, so I can’t reveal it), an FBI agent came to my office and handed me a letter. It demanded that I turn over information about one of my clients and forbade me from telling “any person” that the government had approached me.

National security letters are issued by the FBI, not a judge, to obtain phone, computer, and banking information. Instead of complying, I spoke with a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union and filed a constitutional challenge against the NSL provision of the Patriot Act, which was signed into law 10 years ago Wednesday.

A decade later, much of the government’s surveillance policy remains shrouded in secrecy, making it impossible for the American public to engage in a meaningful debate on the effectiveness or wisdom of various practices. The government has used NSLs to collect private information on hundreds of thousands of people. I am the only person from the telecommunications industry who received one to ever challenge in court the legality of the warrantless NSL searches and the associated gag order and to be subsequently (partially) un-gagged.

In 2004, it wasn’t at all clear whether the FBI would charge me with a crime for telling the ACLU about the letter, or for telling the court clerk about it when I filed my lawsuit as “John Doe.” I was unable to tell my family, friends, colleagues or my company’s clients, and I had to lie about where I was going when I visited my attorneys. During that time my father was battling cancer and, in 2008, he succumbed to his illness. I was never able to tell him what I was going through.

For years, the government implausibly claimed that if I were able to identify myself as the plaintiff in the case, irreparable damage to national security would result. But I did not believe then, nor do I believe now, that the FBI’s gag order was motivated by legitimate national security concerns. It was motivated by a desire to insulate the FBI from public criticism and oversight.
Read the rest here.

The Patriot Act (there is nothing patriotic about it) was quite possibly the biggest single legislative step towards establishing a police state in the history of this country since the Sedition Acts.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Last American Nuclear Super-Bomb Is Dismantled

AMARILLO, Texas — The last of the nation's most powerful nuclear bombs has been taken apart in Texas.

Technicians at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo removed the uranium Tuesday from the last of the nation's largest nuclear bombs, a Cold War relic known as the B53.

The bomb put into service in 1962 was 600 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, that killed as many as 140,000 people at the end of World War II.
Read the rest here.

Happy Birthday

To H.M. King Michael I of Romania who is 90 today.

HT: Wilson Unplugged

Lebanese patriarch urges vigilance to avoid 'Arab Winter'

New York City, N.Y., Oct 25, 2011 / 04:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The leader of Lebanon's Maronite Catholic Church says the world must not let the “Arab Spring” turn into a “winter” of civil war and minority oppression.

“The so-called 'Arab Spring' sweeping the Middle East holds much promise, yet we must remain vigilant. The Church abhors the use of violence to meet any goal,” said Patriarch Bechara Rai of Antioch, in an Oct. 20 conference at the Catholic Near East Welfare Association's U.S. headquarters.

“We do not wish to see happening in these countries what happened in Iraq, where the country now is in the middle of a civil war,” said the leader of 3.2 million Eastern Catholics of the Maronite tradition. “In such a situation, this will not be a 'spring.' It will be rather a 'winter.'”
Read the rest here.

120th anniversary of the repose of St. Ambrose of Optina

Dear Netflix — I told you so

Netflix, I hate to add insult to the loss of 800,000 customers, but I just wanted to say: “I told you so.” It’s not just that Qwikster is a stupid name, and that the subdivision of services was a stupider idea.

This was never rocket science.

If you hike up people’s prices without providing any increase in service, hoping they won't notice, they'll notice. "The trouble was that we didn't explain this well enough," Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said. No, Reed. The trouble was that you decided you could provide us less value without our noticing or leaving. Only Facebook can pull a stunt like that, because Facebook has pictures of our college indiscretions, records of our musical tastes and images of our babies. And it's free.

Netflix never had quite the captive audience it thought it did. Blockbuster does exist. Sure, most of its stores have been converted into museums and Vacant Lots Where You Are Pretty Sure You Could Obtain Meth If Only You Knew What To Ask For. And what was the idea behind dividing into Netflix (“for people who get the Internet”) and Qwikster (“for morons who cling to the old ways”)?

Don't divide the baby. It indicates to the baby that you do not love it. The DVD rental artist formerly known as Netflix — now Qwikster? Bisquick? Netflix again? — plummeted in our estimation, taking its stock price with it.

You were doing so well. You had us. You had us at “Hello, here are infinite videos for a fixed monthly rate, both physical DVDs and streaming.”

But then you pulled a Mel Gibson. You took all the accumulated goodwill that you had built up slowly over the past decade and squandered it on a meaningless, vague and at least slightly insulting diatribe. And did I mention that Qwikster is a terrible name? If not, it’s a terrible name.

If you’d watched any of the movies you were so busy shipping to us in brightly colored envelopes and allowing us to stream, this whole crisis might have been averted. Never mind that all the movies you suggested I watch next were vaguely insulting — although I appreciated your suggestion that “if you liked ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,’ bludgeon yourself with a blunt object and go rethink your life.”

If “The Talented Mr. Ripley” taught us anything, it is that no one is ever quite irreplaceable. Also, never wear turtlenecks, or your lover will strangle you.

Armenians in Turkey convert back to Christianity

A group of Armenians, raised as Sunni Muslims, were baptized on Sunday, as Armenian Orthodox Christians in the Church of S. Giragos (Surp Giragos), in the South-Eastern province of Dyarbakir. The church was reopened on 22 October after two years of restoration work. The group that was baptized were of Armenian origin, and their ancestors had been converted after the Genocide of 1915.

Among them is Gaffur Türkay, who contributed to the restoration of the church. Türkay was very excited, as reported in a local newspaper. "It is amazing to be here, along with people from all over the world, with whom I share my origins," he said. "We have been ostracized by both Armenians and Sunni Muslims, said Behcet Avci, also known as Garoda Sasunyan. "It is an emotional moment for me." The ceremony was held behind closed doors, neither visitors nor foreign journalists were allowed to be present. It was carried out by ​​the deputy patriarch, Aaram Atesyan.

There were guests from Armenia and the United States, including the American Ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone and the former Armenian Foreign Minister Raffi Hovhannesian, as well as Archbishop Vicken Ayvazian, of the Armenian Orthodox Diocese of America. The restoration was funded by the Armenians of Istanbul and the diaspora. The main sponsors of the initiative were Vartkes Ergün Ayık, a businessman of Armenian origin from Dyarbakir and Raffi Bedrosyan, a former citizen of Istanbul who now lives in Canada.

"We had over 2600 churches and monasteries in Anatolia in the past. Unfortunately, only a handful of sacred places remain. My request to Turkey, as a spiritual leader, is that the churches be returned to the Armenian community, better if they are used for religious services rather than museums." Ayavzian said to have been born in Turkey, in the South-Eastern province of Şırnak and speaks fluent Turkish. "Like many Armenian Americans, we also speak Turkish at home," he said, adding that his parents were forbidden to speak Armenian. On the cold relations between Turkey and Armenian American, he said: "The reason is obvious and clear. There was a genocide. A heartfelt apology would be a step forward and could completely erase this dispute."

Monday, October 24, 2011

The World Series

This is turning into one of the better ones in quite a few years.  I have no dog in this fight (Mets fan here) but am kinda pulling for Texas just because they have never gotten the title before.

"We've lost the art of chivalry," says Downton Abbey Actress

It was an era in which females had few rights and an advantageous marriage was the only measure of success.

But women in the Downton Abbey days had it better in one respect: they lived in an age of chivalry, according to Michelle Dockery, the actress who plays Lady Mary.

Dockery said that 21st century equality of the sexes had led to the demise of old-fashioned manners. She suggested that modern men should watch the period drama and pick up tips on how to treat a lady.

“We take so many of our freedoms for granted nowadays - I can travel where I like, I can have a baby when I like, I can do any job I want - but I do think chivalry has been lost a little bit,” said Dockery, 29, when asked to consider how the role of women had changed since the Edwardian era.

“Those old manners - such as men standing when women arrive at the dinner table or opening doors for you - are lovely, and it’s lovely when you see a man doing that. But young men wouldn’t think about that for a second because it’s not the culture any more.”
Read the rest here.

On a side note I strongly recommend the series for those who like period drama. It's on the same level quality wise as Mad Men, though the period and plot lines are dramatically different.

Low on cash, Wikileaks scales back operations

LONDON -- The anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks says it will be scaling back operations so that it can focus on raising money.

For months, WikiLeaks has been prevented from receiving donations through VISA, Mastercard and other firms that process financial transactions. Those firms severed their relations with the organization after American officials described its release of classified documents as damaging to U.S. national security interests.

On Monday, founder Julian Assange told reporters in London that WikLeaks would “temporarily suspend all publishing operations in order to direct all our resources to fighting the blockade and raising funds,” adding that the “blockade” had wiped out 95 percent of WikiLeaks’ revenue.
Read the rest here.

Rick Perry’s birther Parade

If at first you don’t secede, try the birther movement.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who more than once has dipped his cowboy boot into the secessionist swamp, has found a new outlet for his fringe instincts. The Republican presidential candidate has revived questions about President Obama’s birth certificate.

The controversy pretty much died in the spring when Obama, hounded by “carnival barker” Donald Trump, released his long-form birth certificate confirming his birth in the United States and, therefore, his eligibility for the presidency. But Perry, in an interview in Sunday’s Parade magazine, showed that he marches to a different drummer:
Read the rest here.

H.S.H. Prince Hans-Adam II Discusses The Role Of The State In The Third Millennium

A fascinating discussion of the role of government and the state in the modern world.

HT: The Mad Monarchist

U.S. pulls ambassador out of Syria, citing threats

DAMASCUS, Syria — U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford has been pulled out of Syria because of concerns for his safety, embassy officials said Monday, citing “credible threats” to the security of the envoy who has led American criticism of Syrian efforts to crush a seven-month-old uprising.

Ford, whose high-profile visits to activists and protests had made him a controversial figure in Syria, returned to the United States at the weekend and will remain there indefinitely until “the situation improves on the ground,” said Haynes Mahoney, the charge d’affaires at the embassy in Damascus.
Read the rest here.

Sharia law for Libya?

Mustafa Abdel Ja­lil, Libya’s interim leader, declared Sunday that post-Gaddafi Libya will be run as an Islamic state with legislation based on sharia law.

According to The Washington Post reporter Mary Beth Sheridan, Jalil declared to a crowd in Benghazi, “’We are an Islamic state,’ and pledged to get rid of regulations that didn’t conform to Islamic law.”

Among the Islamic changes Jalil mentioned in his speech

— ”Libya’s new constitution “will not disallow polygamy’” (

— “The interest [on loans] will be ruled out,” in accordance with Islamic prohibition on charging interest.

Sharia law, as Post religion reporter Michelle Boorstein wrote in 2010, in recent months has become “shorthand for extremism” among critics of Islam in the United States. For Muslims, it is a code of conduct for daily life, similar to Jewish law, but concern over its role in politics have shadowed the Arab Spring.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdel Aziz dies in New York

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The heir to the Saudi throne, Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdel Aziz, died Saturday in the U.S. after an illness. He was 85 years old.

The death of the crown prince — who was the half brother of the ailing Saudi King Abdullah — opens questions about succession.

NBC News reported that Sultan died at a hospital in New York City. He is expected to be buried Tuesday in Riyadh.
Read the rest here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Louisiana Bans Cash

The political geniuses in Louisiana have decided they hate poor people so much, they passed House Bill 195—near unanimously! (One nay in the senate.)

It bans cash on all second-hand transactions. Now, when a good Louisianian holds a garage sale after a bout of spring cleaning, if they accept cash for their old vinyl collection, they’ve broken the law.

Swap meets. Church bazaar sales. Antique stores. Buying used skis off Craigslist. You can’t use cash in the Pelican State. Their stated reasoning is to prevent the sale of stolen goods—their view is cash transactions make it easy for criminals to sell their booty. Fair enough! No one wants to encourage dastardly behavior. Which must be very widespread, because one owner of a second-hand shop reports he had come in possession of hot goods once in eight years. (That he knows about! Cue ominous music.) And we all know how church ladies are regular fencers at their sinister fund-raising events.
Read the rest here.

You just know Jeff Foxworthy is going get at least a dozen jokes off of these clowns.

Cash strapped Greeks increasingly demand the Church pay its share

As with any disaster, humans regularly turn to God for help and it seems the Greek government is no different.

The Greek Orthodox church – Greece's second largest landowner after the government – has come under fire for not paying enough in taxes on its assets.

One group to join the protests in Athens against austerity measures is Make the Church Pay. Its members are fed-up with the inadequacy of the church administration to support their country in its hour of need. A similar Facebook group – Tax the Church – has 100,000 supporters.

"They simply don't pay. They are so rich, and yet their contribution is minimal," says Theodora, one of the protesters.

The scale of the Greek Orthodox Church's assets shed light on this resentment. The exact value of the Church of Greece, including land, property, artifacts, commercial revenue and shares in government companies, is unknown but experts estimate the 500-plus monasteries, 7,945 parishes, 130,000 hectares of land and 1.5pc stake in the Bank of Greece is worth €7bn to €15bn.
Read the rest here.

Russia’s parliament adopts law restricting abortions to 12 weeks

MOSCOW — Russia’s parliament adopted a law Friday limiting abortions but rejected even tougher restrictions backed by the country’s conservative Orthodox Church.

Health officials say Russia’s abortion rates are among the world’s highest, contributing to a fertility rate of only 1.4 children per woman — far below the 2.1 needed to maintain the existing population. The country’s birth rate has become a serious concern for Russia as it fights to stem a steep population decline.
Read the rest here.

Republicans criticize Obama over Iraq withdrawal

Mitt Romney issued a scathing rebuke Friday of President Obama's decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by year's end, joining a chorus of Republicans critical of the president's decision.

Romney sharply criticized the announcement this afternoon by Obama that all troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011, fulfilling one of Obama's main promises from the 2008 campaign, that he would end the war in Iraq.

“President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women," Romney said in a statement. "The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government."

Romney's sentiment is in tune with what Republicans have said Friday afternoon; most GOP voices have expressed concern that the withdrawal would imperil progress made after almost nine years' worth of war in Iraq.
Read the rest here.

The party of perpetual war speaks.

Hertz fires 26 Muslim shuttle drivers who refused to clock out for prayer breaks

After a continued refusal to clock out when taking a break to pray, Hertz axed more than two dozen employees at one of America's busiest airports.

A Hertz spokesman said he was disappointed that 26 Muslim drivers at Sea-Tac Airport chose to be fired rather than clock out for prayer breaks.

One of the fired employees, Ileys Omar, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: 'We feel like we're being punished for what we believe in.'
Read the rest here.

Clinton warns Pakistan: 'You can't keep snakes in your backyard'

ISLAMABAD — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that the United States had held a preliminary meeting with representatives of the Haqqani network, a group of militants Washington has blamed for a series of attacks in Afghanistan.

The revelation came soon after Clinton, in Islamabad with a heavyweight team of U.S. military and intelligence leaders, warned that tough action would have to be taken against Afghan and Pakistani militants if they did not cooperate in efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and pursue peace.

"We think that Pakistan for a variety of reasons has the capacity to encourage, to push, to squeeze ... terrorists, including the Haqqanis and the Afghan Taliban, to be willing to engage in the peace process," she said.
Read the rest here.

Well it's Oct 21... no Rapture so far

I am highly annoyed with Mr. Camping who keeps picking fast days for the end of the world thereby killing a perfectly good excuse for a nice steak dinner with a bottle of good red.

Obama declares war over, orders final pullout of US troops from Iraq

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday declared an end to the Iraq war, one of the longest and most divisive conflicts in U.S. history, announcing that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from the country by year's end.

The president made the announcement at a White House briefing following a private video conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“As promised the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, the war in Iraq will be over,” Obama said.

"Today I can say that troops in Iraq will be home for the holidays," Obama said.

More than 4,400 American military members have been killed, and another 2,000 wounded since the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003.
Read the rest here.

Cunard; famed ocean liner company to sever last ties with Britain

The luxury cruise operator Cunard has confirmed that its ships will no longer be registered in Britain for the first time in its 171-year history.

Cunard’s vessels will instead be registered in Bermuda, enabling it to take advantage of the lucrative market for weddings at sea – ceremonies which are not recognised under British law.

This means the home port of Southampton, which is currently displayed on the stern of the company’s three ships, Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, is likely to be replaced by Hamilton, the capital of Bermuda.
Read the rest here.

Sad but not terribly surprising. Most Western countries have laws on the books that make it very difficult for ships to fly the true flag of their home country.  Cunard is probably the last link to the glory days of travel when if you wanted to go somewhere it was either by train or boat, and "getting there was half the fun."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bosnia, Cyprus and Kosovo: America and Islamism in the Balkans

The conflicts that engulfed the former Yugoslavia still remain unresolved in the political arena and open to Western political shenanigans and covert meddling from Turkey and Saudi Arabia in Bosnia and Kosovo. Orthodox Christianity faces many attacks and only a naïve individual would claim that America and the hands of Turkey and Saudi Arabia are clean.

America and other Western nations did little to stop Turkey invading Cyprus in 1974 and creating a de-facto nation and altering the demographics of northern Cyprus and using this area for military purposes.

Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of Cyprus you have no vindication of allowing a foreign army to invade another nation and then altering the ethnic and religious nature of the society that was invaded. However, the response by America to this Turkish and Islamic invasion was not only minimal but it clearly wasn’t important enough to the elites who pull the strings.

The invasion was both nationalist in nature and religious because what is left of Orthodox Christianity in northern Cyprus? Also, are Orthodox Christian religious leaders free to convert and spread the faith in northern Cyprus?

In Turkey ethnicity and religion is fused together by the current leader of Turkey but anti-Christian themes run deep within the psyche irrespective of the leader. After all, Turkey is the cradle of Orthodox Christianity and “old Byzantium” but this “cradle” was destroyed by constant Islamic invasions, Turkish migration and Islamization which enslaved and sold European Christian slaves for many centuries.

The one uniting theme of the 1915 Turkish genocide which is still denied by modern day Turkey is that millions of Armenian/Assyrian/Greek Christians were slaughtered and just like “old Byzantium” and modern day northern Cyprus and Kosovo – you have very few traces of Orthodox Christianity.

Therefore, in northern Cyprus, Kosovo and “old Byzantium” the virtual 100% Christian lands have become a graveyard because of past Islamic invasions and because of recent factors. These recent factors apply to the combined forces of America, Turkey, Islamic terrorists, Saudi Arabian funding, and other important areas alongside a distorted media which is anti-Orthodox Christian.

In many Western academia circles and according to Islamic apologists we are told that Islam means peace, but in truth it means “a piece of Christianity to swallow” and then to Islamize. How do virtual 100% Christian areas become “Orthodox Christian graveyards?”
Read the rest here.

Copts reject new law on places of worship

On Wednesday, the Egyptian government approved amendments to four articles of the Unified Draft Law on Places of Worship proposed by the Orthodox Church. The amendments minimize the area required for houses of worship and delegate responsibility for issuing permits to local municipalities.

The long-anticipated move came in response to repeated calls by Egypt’s Copts for an anti-discrimination act to accompany the existing law on building mosques. Last Sunday, the House of the Egyptian Family, an ad hoc committee formed by both Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayyeb and Pope III Shenouda, rejected the draft law.

Some have attributed the rejection to widespread public criticism, especially from Coptic activists who regarded the bill as “discriminatory and restrictive.”
Read the rest here.

Quote of the day...

"I am more Christian every day.  Socialism is the road to Christ."

-Venezuelan Dictator Hugo Chavez after telling his people that he had beaten cancer.  Source.

With the Rise of Militant Secularism, Rome and Moscow Make Common Cause

The European religious press is abuzz over recent developments in Orthodox – Catholic relations that indicate both Churches are moving closer together. The diplomatic centerpiece of the activity would be a meeting of Pope Benedict and Patriarch Kyrill of the Russian Orthodox Church that was first proposed by Pope John Paul II but never realized. Some look to a meeting in 2013 which would mark the 1,700th anniversary of the signing of the Edict of Milan when Constantine lifted the persecution of Christians. It would be the first visit between the Pope of Rome and Patriarch of Moscow in history.

A few short years ago a visit between Pope and Patriarch seemed impossible because of lingering problems between the two Churches as they reasserted territorial claims and began the revival of the faith in post-Soviet Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere. The relationship grew tense at times and while far from resolved, a spirit of deepening cooperation has nevertheless emerged. Both Benedict and Kyrill share the conviction that European culture must rediscover its Christian roots to turn back the secularism that threatens moral collapse.

Both men draw from a common moral history: Benedict witnessed the barbarism of Nazi Germany and Kyrill the decades long communist campaign to destroy all religious faith. It informs the central precept in their public ministry that all social policy be predicated on the recognition that every person has inherent dignity and rights bestowed by God, and that the philosophical materialism that grounds modern secularism will subsume the individual into either ideology or the state just as Nazism and Communism did. If Europe continues its secular drift, it is in danger of repeating the barbarism of the last century or of yielding to Islam.

The deepening relationship does not portend a union between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Roman Catholics are more optimistic about unity because they are less aware of the historical animus that exists between Catholics and Orthodox. Nevertheless, while the increasing cooperation shows the gravity of the threat posed by secularism, it also indicates that the sensitive historical exigencies can be addressed in appropriate ways and times and will not derail the more pressing mission.

The cooperation has also caused the Churches to examine assumptions of their own that may prove beneficial in the long run. The meaning of papal supremacy tops the list.

On the Orthodox side the claims to a universal jurisdictional supremacy of the Patriarch of Rome have been rejected since (indeed, was a cause of) the Great Schism of 1054 (see here and here). That said, the Orthodox see the Pope of Rome as the rightful Patriarch of the Church of Rome and could afford him a primacy of honor in a joint council but not jurisdiction.

On the other side, the Orthodox do not have a Magisterium, a centralized Church structure that speaks for all the Orthodox in the world. This has led to some fractious internal wrangling throughout the centuries although doctrine and teaching has remained remarkably consistent.
Read the rest here.

EU Weighs Credit-Ratings Bans for Nations Getting Bailouts

Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- The European Union may ban credit- ratings companies from making assessments of nations receiving European or international bailouts as part of plans for tougher regulation of the industry.

“We are actively considering suspending or banning ratings” in cases where nations are making “full efforts” to implement assistance programs, Michel Barnier, the EU's financial services commissioner, told reporters in Brussels today. The measure may be included in a draft law that Barnier will present in November.

The EU may also force the companies to disclose the internal analyses they use when they decide to cut a government's rating, according to Barnier, who said that he wanted to ensure “there is a clear method” behind such downgrades.
Read the rest here.

Jewish leaders denounce traditionalist's remarks on 'deicide' (Bp. Williamson again)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jewish groups have called on the Vatican to suspend reconciliation talks with a traditionalist group after one of its bishops argued that the Jewish people were responsible for the death of Jesus.

"Comments like these take us back decades to the dark days before there was a meaningful and mutually respectful dialogue between Jews and Roman Catholics," Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said in a statement Oct. 19.

"We call upon the Catholic Church to suspend negotiations with extremist Catholic tendencies until it is clear that these groups show a clear commitment to tackling anti-Semitism within their ranks," he said.

He was referring to comments by Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of the Society of St. Pius X, who said recently in his online newsletter that the killing of Jesus "was truly deicide, the killing of God" and that "only the Jews (leaders and people) were the prime agents of the deicide" because they clamored for his crucifixion.
Read the rest here.

Anne Frank, a Mormon?

At an appearance at George Washington University here Saturday night, Bill Maher bounded into territory that the news media have been gingerly tiptoeing around.

Magic underwear. Baptizing dead people. Celestial marriages. Private planets. Racism. Polygamy.

“By any standard, Mormonism is more ridiculous than any other religion,” asserted the famously nonbelieving comic who skewered the “fairy tales” of several faiths in his documentary “Religulous.” “It’s a religion founded on the idea of polygamy. They call it The Principle. That sounds like The Prime Directive in ‘Star Trek.’ ”

He said he expects the Romney crowd — fighting back after Robert Jeffress, a Texas Baptist pastor supporting Rick Perry, labeled Mormonism a non-Christian “cult” — to once more “gloss over the differences between Christians and Mormons.”

Maher was not easy on the religion he was raised in either. He referred to the Roman Catholic Church as “an international child sex ring.”

But atheists, like Catholics and evangelical Christians, seem especially wary of Mormons, dubbed the “ultimate shape-shifters” by Maher.
Read the rest here.

Not a fan of either Dowd or Maher.  But as the old saying goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Pa. Gov. Corbett moves toward Harrisburg takeover

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Gov. Tom Corbett is taking steps toward assuming control of the finances in Pennsylvania's troubled capital under a state law freshly signed on Thursday aimed at giving him unprecedented power to force Harrisburg to pay off its staggering debt.

The steps by the Republican governor are, for now, running alongside a City Council petition - filed in defiance of Corbett - seeking federal bankruptcy protection in hopes of forcing creditors to forgive a substantial portion of Harrisburg's debt.

Corbett expects as early as next week to declare Harrisburg to be in a state of fiscal emergency, which ultimately could result in the appointment of a receiver who would have the power to sell city assets, approve contracts and file for federal bankruptcy protection, but not raise taxes.
Read the rest here.

Clinton issues blunt warning to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Pakistan on Thursday to eradicate terrorist safe havens inside its borders, saying there would be a “very big price” for inaction against militant groups staging attacks in Afghanistan.

Clinton’s tough words for Pakistani leaders came as an unusually large delegation of U.S. officials, led by Clinton, converged on the capital to urge Pakistani officials to take on the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based Afghan militant group blamed for assassinations of Afghan leaders and a brazen attack last month on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
Read the rest here.

Moammar Gaddafi is dead

TRIPOLI, Libya — Former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi was killed Thursday when revolutionary fighters overran his last loyalist stronghold, setting off raucous celebrations of victory in an eight-month war backed by NATO.

Gaddafi, 69, the long-entrenched autocrat who was driven from power in Tripoli two months ago, died as the revolutionaries ended loyalist resistance in Sirte, his home town and tribal power base, the new government announced.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Among those who will be present at the Assisi III inter-religious pantheist quasi-pagan love fest...

...will be 17 delegations from the "Eastern Churches." (Source: Rorate Caeli) At the risk of having my ecumenical dialogue license revoked, this is just wrong.  Really.  There comes a point where someone should have said, "thank you, but we have a previous engagement."  This sort of nonsense makes me wonder if our Old Calendarist brothers and sisters don't have a point.

Dialogue with the non-Orthodox, with whom we have some things in common, on specific issues is fine. Showing up at a pan-theistic convention where equal billing is given to every weird cult on the face of the Earth is a different matter.  I really like Pope Benedict XVI.  In general I think he is the best thing to hit Rome in a very long time and he is trying to fix a lot of the problems that have infected the Western Church.  But this is a mistake.  It was a mistake when John Paul II did it (twice!). And it remains so today.

I think our participation in this violates both the letter and the spirit of the church canons which forbids joint prayer and services with those outside the Church.  Frankly, this is scandalous.

Obama's teleprompter, lectern stolen in Va.

A van containing President Obama's teleprompter and lectern were stolen from a Virginia hotel parking lot on Monday, according to NBC12 in Richmond.

The truck was parked at the Virginia Center Commons Courtyard Marriott near Richmond before the president's scheduled Wednesday appearance in Chesterfield, the station reported. In addition to the teleprompter, $200,000 worth of audio equipment and presidential seals mounted on Obama's podium were inside the stolen vehicle.
Read the rest here.

Good grief! Someone needs to be called on the carpet over this.

The alarm bells behind Iran’s alleged assassination plot

Amere moment or two after the Obama administration announced it had discovered and thwarted a plot by Iran to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States by bombing a Washington restaurant, the doubters started to air their doubts. Columnists and experts, even some columnists who were not experts, said the Iranians would never be so sloppy as to commit a virtual act of war by setting off a bomb in the nation’s capital. The alleged plot was crazy, they said. I agree. But so is Iran.

It’s not as if the Iranian intelligence services, particularly the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, usually operate deftly and leave no fingerprints. This is a regime that commenced what amounts to mass murder soon after it came to power. It executed not only its opponents but also its critics. It even went after exiled Iranians. In 1991, it murdered the former prime minister, Shapour Bakhtiar, in Paris. He was stabbed to death — how’s that for sloppy? — and in 2010, when France freed one of Bakhtiar’s killers, he was given a hero’s welcome in Tehran.

Iran was blamed by Argentine prosecutors for the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish center that killed 85 and wounded at least 300. It has been implicated in the 1996 bombing of a housing complex in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. airmen and wounded another 372 people. It is the chief sponsor of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Both are terror organizations that Iran has used as proxies.

More recently, Iran is suspected of playing a role in the 2005 assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, five times prime minister of Lebanon and an immensely wealthy and effective businessman. He was killed when a bomb detonated as his car went by. This may well have been a group endeavor — Syria, Hezbollah and, in training and aid, Iran. Hariri was not only a force for stability but he was extremely close to the Saudi royal family and maintained a home in Riyadh. The Saudis took his death personally.
Read the rest here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Modern Stylite

Wow!  The first Stylite in 600 years.  See here and here for more details.

HT: Mystagogy

Bureaucracy in Greece Defies Efforts to Cut It

ATHENS — Stories of eye-popping waste and abuse of power among Greece’s bureaucrats are legion, including officials who hire their wives, and managers who submit $38,000 bills for office curtains.

The work force in Greece’s Parliament is so bloated, according to a local press investigation, that some employees do not even bother to come to work because there are not enough places for all of them to sit.
Read the rest here.

Racially explicit appeals made to Afro-Americans to support Obama

For several months, radio host Tom Joyner has pleaded with his 8 million listeners to get in line behind the first black president.

“Stick together, black people,” says Joyner, whose R&B morning show reaches one in four African American adults.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, an ally of President Obama who has a daily radio show and hosts a nightly cable television program, recently told the president’s black critics, “I’m not telling you to shut up. I’m telling you: Don’t make some of us have to speak up.”

Even as Obama and his campaign play down the suggestion that support among African Americans is flagging, a cadre of powerful allies is snapping back at critics in the black community and making explicit appeals for racial loyalty.

“Let’s not even deal with the facts right now. Let’s deal with just our blackness and pride — and loyalty,” Joyner wrote on his blog. “We have the chance to re-elect the first African-American president, and that’s what we ought to be doing. And I’m not afraid or ashamed to say that as black people, we should do it because he’s a black man.”
Read the rest here.

Ron Paul proposes $1 Trillion in specific budget cuts

Ron Paul’s opinions about cutting the budget are well-known, but on Monday, he got specific: The Texas congressman laid out a budget blueprint for deep and far-reaching cuts to federal spending, including the elimination of five Cabinet-level departments and the drawdown of American troops fighting overseas.

There’s even a symbolic readjustment of the president’s salary to put it in line with the average American salary.

“Our debt is too big, our government is too big, and we have to recognize how serious the problem is,” Paul said during an afternoon speech in Las Vegas ahead of Tuesday’s GOP debate there.

The plan, Paul said, would cut $1 trillion in spending his first year in the White House and create a balanced federal budget by the third year of his presidency.
Read the rest here.

Tensions Flare as G.I.’s Take Fire Out of Pakistan

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan — American and Afghan soldiers near the border with Pakistan have faced a sharply increased volume of rocket fire from Pakistani territory in the past six months, putting them at greater risk even as worries over the disintegrating relationship between the United States and Pakistan constrain how they can strike back.

Ground-to-ground rockets fired within Pakistan have landed on or near American military outposts in one Afghan border province at least 55 times since May, according to interviews with multiple American officers and data released in the past week. Last year, during the same period, there were two such attacks.

May is also when members of a Navy Seals team killed Osama bin Laden in the house where he lived near a Pakistani military academy, plunging American-Pakistani relations to a new low. Since then, the escalation in cross-border barrages has fueled frustration among officers and anger among soldiers at front-line positions who suspect, but cannot prove, a Pakistani government role.
Read the rest here.

Scientists crack Black Death's genetic code

Pieter Bruegel's The Triumph of Death
(Reuters) - Scientists have mapped out the entire genetic map of the Black Death, a 14th century bubonic plague that killed 50 million Europeans in one of the most devastating epidemics in history.

The work, which involved extracting and purifying DNA from the remains of Black death victims buried in London's "plague pits," is the first time scientists have been able to draft a reconstructed genome of any ancient pathogen.

Their result -- a full draft of the entire Black Death genome -- should allow researchers to track changes in the disease's evolution and virulence, and lead to better understanding of modern-day infectious diseases.
Read the rest here.

Doctor: Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez may be dying

Caracas - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is traveling to Cuba to undergo a series of "rigorous" medical tests as part of his cancer treatment. Chavez's former doctor said that the Latin American leader may only have two years left to live.

Over the course of the summer, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez revealed that he is suffering from cancer. In a television address, Chavez described his diagnosis and said that doctors had removed “cancerous cells” from his body. He then vowed to fight cancer.
Read the rest here.

Ohio copes with Amish crime wave

BERGHOLZ, Ohio — Myron Miller and his wife, Arlene, had been asleep for an hour when their 15-year-old daughter woke them and said that people were knocking at the door.

Mr. Miller, 45, a stocky construction worker and an Amish bishop in the peaceful farmlands of eastern Ohio, found five or six men waiting. Some grabbed him and wrestled him outside as others hacked at his long black beard with scissors, clipping off six inches. As Mr. Miller kept struggling, his wife screamed at the children to call 911, and the attackers fled.

For an Amish man, it was an unthinkable personal violation, and all the more bewildering because the attack was meted out by other Amish.
Read the rest here.

Pakistan leans toward talks with Taliban, not battle

ISLAMABAD — Amid growing American frustration with Pakistan’s handling of Islamic militancy, the government here appears less willing than ever to challenge insurgent groups and is more inclined to make peace with them.
Read the rest here.

Supreme Court to review free speech issue on lying about military honors

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will review whether a federal law that makes it a crime to lie about receiving a military honor violates free speech rights.

A sharply divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled this year that the Stolen Valor Act passed overwhelmingly by Congress was unconstitutional. The chief judge of the circuit, Alex Kozinski, said it would be “terrifying” to permit the government to decide which sorts of lies could be prosecuted.
Read the rest here.

Only the 9th Circuit could conclude that lying is protected speech.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

California Medical Assn. calls for legalization of marijuana

Reporting from Sacramento—
The state's largest doctor group is calling for legalization of marijuana, even as it pronounces cannabis to be of questionable medical value.

Trustees of the California Medical Assn., which represents more than 35,000 physicians statewide, adopted the position at their annual meeting in Anaheim late Friday. It is the first major medical association in the nation to urge legalization of the drug, according to a group spokeswoman, who said the larger membership was notified Saturday.
Read the rest here.

Oh my. You just know the prohibitionists are going to go nuts.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

New grounds for divorce... Opera

What a shallow existence.
SID R. BASS, the billionaire investor, certainly did not give the impression of an unhappy husband on the night of Sept. 26, when he attended the black-tie opening of “Anna Bolena” at the Metropolitan Opera. Whenever a photographer took a picture of his wife of nearly 23 years, Mercedes T. Bass, the philanthropist and fashion plate whose name appears on the Met’s Grand Tier, Mr. Bass was there by her side, his white pocket square complementing her Oscar de la Renta dress.

Though it was not entirely obvious that night, there was a message in their harmonious appearance together, even as Mr. and Mrs. Bass were finalizing the details of their impending divorce, which had been rumored for months and would be announced the following week. In a joint statement to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Oct. 6, the couple said they had “mutually agreed to end their marriage” and that they “continue to love each other and remain good friends.” It was all very amicable, you know.

“They were putting out there to the public that it is O.K.,” said David Patrick Columbia, who reported the possibility of a Bass split in December on New York Social Diary, the online chronicler of gilded soirées, “and that they are O.K.”

Peculiar as the grounds for divorce may sound, the story is that Mr. Bass, 69 and a resident of Fort Worth, had taken up painting and had tired of the social circuit, the longtime domain of Mrs. Bass, 67, who is the vice chairwoman of the Metropolitan Opera and one of its biggest financial supporters. Mr. Bass, it is said by friends of the couple, never really liked opera.
Read the rest here.

Bankruptcy may just be the start of Harrisburg's headaches

Even if it’s legal (and it’s not certain that it is), Harrisburg, Pa.’s, decision to file for bankruptcy protection is certain to be a long, arduous and costly process, experts say.

That’s why so few municipalities have chosen what could be a scorched-earth option for their credit rating since the law was enacted in 1937, after the Great Depression.

“The experience that many cities have had in Chapter 9 is not a pleasant one,” said Paul Maco, a partner at the law firm Vinson & Elkins and a former director the office of municipal securities at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “It tends to be much more drawn out and expensive than they may have at first thought. Essentially, there’s a lot to reveal itself here.”

Indeed, experts say that filing for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 9 should be a last resort for a cash-strapped municipality because doing so is very expensive, and can be fatal to the general reputation of a community and its credit rating. The lower a city’s credit rating goes, the higher its borrowing costs will rise.
Read the rest here.

US abandons plans to keep troops in Iraq next year

BAGHDAD — The Obama administration is abandoning plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past a year-end withdrawal deadline, The Associated Press has learned.

A senior administration official in Washington confirmed Saturday that all American troops will leave except for about 160 troops attached to the U.S. Embassy. The Pentagon had considered leaving up to 5,000 troops to train security forces and hinder Iranian influence.

A senior U.S. military official said the withdrawal could allow future, limited U.S. military training missions if requested.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Iraqi political leaders have rejected giving legal immunity to U.S. troops — a deal-breaker to Washington.
(Breaking news.  Text at linked source is likely to change. )

This is very good news.

Sitting Up With Uncle Cleve

On a lighter note after the previous post...

Actions Have Consequences (Warning: langauge violence)

This post is Rated 'R'

There is a YouTube video making the rounds that was created by a patron at a McDonald's  You can view it here (gutter language and graphic violence warning).  For those who have chosen to pass on the video I will give you a quick rundown of the salient facts.

It shows two youngish Afro-American females at a McDonald's  who are clearly irate.  They are verbally abusing the clerk (an Afro-American male) at the register with vulgar and menacing language.  One of them strikes the clerk on the face.  The two females then climb over the counter and attack the clerk who retreats.  Both females chase the clerk behind the counter who grabs a metal rod and then proceeds (pardon my own frank language) to lay down an absolutely epic ass whooping.  He beats both of these miscreants senseless causing serious bodily injury to them both.

Sadly we all know that this is not the end of the story.

The register clerk has been arrested and charged with felony assault.  And he is nose deep in the brown stinky stuff and sinking for several reasons.  First this happened in New York City.  Secondly he is a male and the two miscreants are females.  No it doesn't matter that they hit him first, threatened him and abused him verbally, jumped over the service counter to attack him and chased him when he tried to retreat.  That's utterly irrelevant.  He is a male and they are women.  Then there is the fact that he laid into them rather vigorously with the metal pole.  And finally, this man has a serious criminal record.  He did prison time.  I think that is or should be a non-issue based on what I saw, but we just know that it will be raised and used against him.  Never mind that he was working an honest, and rather menial job in an effort to get his life back together.  Let's be honest here.  If the dude was robbing people or dealing drugs he would not be working a register at McDonald's.

Now an argument could be made that he overdid it once he had them down.  The video does not show the two women behind the counter so I can't say if they were lying still or trying to get back up.  If the latter though, then I think he was totally justified in beating them into total and complete submission.

Sorry if that offends anyone.  But far too many years ago when I was a fresh kid in the Navy I got some important tips from a salty old Boatswains Mate named Jimmy Sandsbury on how to survive a bar room brawl.  His first advice was to walk away if I could and run away if I had to.  But if neither was possible he told me to deal ruthlessly with the first SOB who came at me.  Go for the throat, the eyes and the family jewels.  (He did not use the words "family jewels.")  His point was that a bar room fight was not a boxing match and Marquise of Queensbury Rules do not apply.  Once I had the aggressor down he told me to beat him, stomp him, and kick him until I was 300% sure that there was no possibility of him getting back up to resume hostilities, and that everyone in the room, including the bloody lump on the floor understood exactly and without doubt who had just won and who had lost the fight and that the fight was now over.

I think the same rules apply to the above situation.  Those women attacked him and jumped over the service counter to go after him.  I don't give a flying bleep that they were women.  Women can and routinely do inflict grave bodily harm on men.  And far too often they get away with it.  In the same situation I would have reacted in a similar manner.  Who could know if they had a knife?  And even if they were not armed there were plenty of potential weapons behind the counter, like cooking utensils and scalding hot frying oil.

Here is my bottom line.  They started a fight and the guy finished it.  In today's society we put up with just waaay too much crap and expect other people to do the same.  ANYONE who goes over the counter in a retail or service establishment in attack mode is an automatic candidate for a beat down.  No exceptions.  There is no excuse for their behavior.  None at all.  I have worked retail and dealt with my share of irate customers.  In a few cases even highly belligerent customers.  As long as they stayed on their side of the counter and didn't get physical everything was fine.  But these two crossed a big line.

If you go through life acting like an ass sooner or later your gonna run into someone who is not going to put up with it.  However this ends for the poor register clerk, I would bet more money then I have that those two women will never ever pull a stunt like that again.  Actions have consequences.

Thus endeth the lesson.