Sunday, December 30, 2012

Venezuelan Strongman Hugo Chavez's Health Declines - VP Rushes to Cuba

CARACAS, Venezuela — Hugo Chavez has suffered “new complications” following his cancer surgery in Cuba, his vice president said Sunday, describing the Venezuelan leader’s condition as delicate.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro did not give details about the complications, which he said came amid a respiratory infection. Maduro spoke in a televised address from Cuba.

Maduro had arrived in Havana on Saturday in a sudden and unexpected trip to visit Chavez. He said Sunday that he had met with Chavez and he “referred to these complications.”
Read the rest here.

Early flu season could be severe, experts warn

Flu season in the United States is having its earliest start in nearly a decade and health officials say this season could be a bad one.

Although flu is always unpredictable, the early nature of the cases and the predominant type circulating this year could make this a severe flu season, said officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Read the rest here.

Based on five days of personal experience I concur.

On the road again

Tomorrow I am leaving for California. If all goes according to plan (not holding my breath) I should have internet hooked up at the new house sometime on Thursday. I have no idea how much blogging will occur between now and then given that I STILL HAVE THE BLOODY FLU(!) and am therefor not likely to be heading out to wifi friendly locals too much.

On a final note I wish to offer my most sincere apologies to the unfortunate strangers who do not yet realize they are to be my seat mates on the flying aluminum tube for five hours tomorrow. For what you are about to endure please forgive me.

Attack on Coptic church building in Libya kills two

TRIPOLI, Libya --  A bombing on Sunday at a building belonging to a Coptic church in western Libya killed two Egyptian men and wounded two others, a military spokesman said.

Attackers threw a homemade bomb at an administration building belonging to the Egyptian Coptic church in Dafniya, close to the western city of Misrata, said Ibrahim Rajab of the Misrata military council.

The Egyptian consul in the city, Tareq Dahrouj, said he visited the church and the building where the two church workers were killed early on Sunday
Read the rest here.

Muslim Brotherhood calls on Egyptian Jews to come home

A high-ranking Muslim Brotherhood official called on Jews who immigrated to the Jewish state from Egypt to return to their native country and leave Israel to the Palestinians, Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported on Friday.

Senior Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood official Essam el-Erian said in an interview to television station Dream TV that every Egyptian has the right to live in Egypt, and Egyptian Jews living in Israel were contributing to the occupation of Arab lands, according to the newspaper.
Read the rest here.

My still slightly feverish brain reels.

For the Record

Her Majesty The Queen has conferred a life peerage on Dr. Rowan Williams who retired today as the head of the Anglican Communion. If this is to honor his decision to step down I might find some merit in the honour. If however it is intended to commemorate his tenure, I am more than a little dubious.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Evidence In A Very Cold Case

(Reuters) - The Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses III, whose death has puzzled historians for centuries, had his throat slit in a succession plot concocted by his wife and son, a new analysis suggests.

New CT scans have revealed a deep and wide cut that was hidden by the bandages covering the throat of the mummified king, which could not be removed in the interests of preservation, researchers said on Tuesday.

"Finally, with this study, we have solved an important mystery in the history of ancient Egypt," said Albert Zink, a paleopathologist at the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Italy, which led the investigations.
Read the rest here.

Optimism Rises On 11th Hour Fiscal Cliff Deal

President Obama and Senate leaders were on the verge of an agreement Friday that would let taxes rise on the wealthiest households while protecting the vast majority of Americans from historic tax hikes set to hit in January.

The development marked a breakthrough after weeks of paralysis. After meeting with Obama at the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said they would work through the weekend in hopes of drafting a “fiscal cliff” package they could present to their colleagues on Sunday afternoon.
Read the rest here.

Let's all play another round of kick the can!

Congress again broadens the power to spy

WASHINGTON — Congress gave final approval on Friday to a bill extending the government’s power to intercept electronic communications of spy and terrorism suspects, after the Senate voted down proposals from several Democrats and Republicans to increase protections of civil liberties and privacy.

The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 73 to 23, clearing it for approval by President Obama, who strongly supports it. Intelligence agencies said the bill was their highest legislative priority.

Critics of the bill, including Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democrat, and Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Republican, expressed concern that electronic surveillance, though directed at noncitizens, inevitably swept up communications of Americans as well.

“The Fourth Amendment was written in a different time and a different age, but its necessity and its truth are timeless,” Mr. Paul said, referring to the constitutional ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. “Over the past few decades, our right to privacy has been eroded. We have become lazy and haphazard in our vigilance. Digital records seem to get less protection than paper records.”
Read the rest here.

My Trip to New York Is Now Complete

I have been rained, sleeted, iced and snowed on. I have been in sub-zero wind chill. And now I have the flu.

California here I come.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

'Militant Islam' Greatest Threat to Middle Eastern Christianity

A British think tank has released a lengthy report claiming that militant Islam is the greatest existential threat to Middle Eastern Christianity, bringing Christian communities in the region "close to extinction."

The London-based Civitas, also known as the Institute for the Study of Civil Society, published the report in December. "Christianity is in serious danger of being wiped out in its biblical heartlands because of Islamic oppression," reads a statement from the group issued Sunday.

"But Western politicians and media largely ignore the widespread persecution of Christians in the Middle East and the wider world because they are afraid they will be accused of racism."

Titled "Christianophobia" and written by reporter and Religion Editor for The Times Literary Supplement Rupert Shortt, the report details the persecution of Christians in Burma, China, Egypt, India, Iraq, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
Read the rest here.

Britain: Defying law thousands ride to the hounds

Despite heavy rainfall the number of people attending some local hunts rose by a fifth after a cabinet minister admitted that David Cameron cannot repeal Labour's ban on foxhunting.

Tim Bonner, campaigns director for the Countryside Alliance, said people wanted to send a "direct message" to the Prime Minister that the law needs to be repealed.

However the League Against Cruel Sports said hunting is a "sickening blood sport" and that the majority of people do not want the ban lifted.

The animal rights campaigners yesterday employed former police officers and professional investigators to monitor fox hunts across the country.

Earlier this month Mr Cameron's local hunt, the Heythrop Hunt in Oxfordshire, was prosecuted by the RSPCA.
Read the rest here.

Let it snow let it snow

Hunkered down for the storm. Looks like we are going to get around a foot of the white stuff. I have to go home every few years in the dead of winter to remind myself that there are some (not many) advantages to living in California.

U.S. will hit debt limit on Dec. 31, Treasury Department says

The U.S. government will hit the $16.4 trillion federal debt limit on Monday and turn to “extraordinary measures” to continue borrowing, the Treasury Department said Wednesday, beginning a countdown until Congress either passes legislation to allow for more borrowing or the government defaults on its debt.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said in a letter to senior lawmakers that the Treasury would begin to undertake “extraordinary measures” in order to forestall default. Geithner said the measures could create about $200 billion in additional funding available to the government – giving Congress two months before it must raise the debt limit.
Read the rest here.

Former President George Bush (41) Is Seriously Ill

Former president George H.W. Bush spent Christmas in a Houston hospital with a rising fever, his office confirms.

Spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement Wednesday evening that doctors have put Bush in the intensive care unit and on a liquid diet.

“Following a series of setbacks including a persistent fever, President Bush was admitted to the intensive care unit at Methodist Hospital on Sunday where he remains in guarded condition,” McGrath said. “Doctors at Methodist continue to be cautiously optimistic about the current course of treatment. The President is alert and conversing with medical staff, and is surrounded by family.”

The 88-year-old has been in and out of Methodist Hospital since early November, battling a severe cough. In recent days, he has been undergoing physical therapy to rebuild his strength. Doctors expected he would be able to go home for Christmas, but Bush developed a fever that has left him weak.
Read the rest here.

Rumors fly on fate of QE2

No, not more money printing. There are rumors that the famed ocean liner has been sold to a Chinese scrap yard.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

A blessed Nativity to everyone! No blogging for a couple of days.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The truth is that politicians are lying to us

Was 2012 the year when the democratic world lost its grip on reality? Must we assume now that no party that speaks the truth about the economic future has a chance of winning power in a national election? With the results of presidential contests in the United States and France as evidence, this would seem to be the only possible conclusion. Any political leader prepared to deceive the electorate into believing that government spending, and the vast system of services that it provides, can go on as before – or that they will be able to resume as soon as this momentary emergency is over – was propelled into office virtually by acclamation.

So universal has this rule turned out to be that parties and leaders who know better – whose economic literacy is beyond question – are now afraid even to hint at the fact which must eventually be faced. The promises that governments are making to their electorates are not just misleading: they are unforgivably dishonest. It will not be possible to go on as we are, or to return to the expectations that we once had. The immediate emergency created by the crash of 2008 was not some temporary blip in the infinitely expanding growth of the beneficent state. It was, in fact, almost irrelevant to the larger truth which it happened, by coincidence, to bring into view. Government on the scale established in most modern western countries is simply unaffordable. In Britain, the disagreement between Labour and the Conservatives over how to reduce the deficit (cut spending or increase borrowing?) is ridiculously insignificant and out of touch with the actual proportions of the problem. In the UK, the US, and (above all) the countries of the EU, democratic politics is being conducted on false premises.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Math Lesson

* U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
* Fed budget: $3,820,000,000,000
* New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
* National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
* Recent budget cuts: $ 38,500,000,000
Let’s now remove 8 zeros and pretend it’s a household budget:
* Annual family income: $21,700
* Money the family spent: $38,200
* New debt on the credit card: $16,500
* Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
* Total budget cuts so far: $38.50

From here.

On Major Issues Washington Is Paralyzed

WASHINGTON — If Friday’s memorial service for one of this country’s long-serving senators was a somber recollection of a bipartisan era that once was, the rest of the day was a frenetic reminder of the political gridlock that now grips the capital.

At the National Cathedral, the nation’s political leaders eulogized Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, who died this week at 88 after more than 50 years in Congress. President Obama said he learned from Mr. Inouye “how our democracy is supposed to work.”

Across town, democracy was, at best, showing its gritty side as it ground along angrily, noisily and slowly: A weary Speaker John A. Boehner admitted failure in his efforts to avert a fiscal crisis with a bill to increase taxes on millionaires but asserted that his job was not at risk; a top National Rifle Association official bluntly challenged Congress to embrace guns at schools, not control them; and Mr. Obama bowed to the reality that Republicans had blocked his first choice to be the next secretary of state.
Read the rest here.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Future looks bleak for Egypt’s Coptic Christians

Now, after the election of Egypt’s new Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, the Copts are terrified about their fate in Egypt. Since the Maspero attack, not one member of the Egyptian armed services has been convicted. In fact, the Egyptian panel responsible for leading the investigations closed the case because of a supposed “lack of identification of the culprits.” Even a simple YouTube search reveals how Egyptian army personnel carriers rammed into crowds of unarmed protesters during the demonstrations. Friends and relatives of the Maspero victims have vowed to continue fighting for justice and even considered taking the case to international courts.

Coptic Christians in Egypt have long suffered discrimination and violence. During a 2011 New Year's Eve service at a Coptic church in Alexandria, for instance, a bomb explosion killed more than 20 and injured 70. The brutal attacks in Alexandria and in Cairo’s Maspero section occurred shortly before the fall of the Mubarak regime and during the subsequent interim military government.

Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, succinctly described the plight of the Copts in Egypt, especially after the Arab Spring: “I think the problem is ever since the [Arab] uprising, there is still no accountability. We’ve had churches bulldozed, we’ve had churches burnt down, we’ve had Christians killed, we’ve had villages torched, and it’s almost the same as it was before. No one’s been brought to justice, no convictions, and so therefore, no justice at all.” The impunity with which the attacks against Coptic Christians were carried out is striking and deeply troubling.
Read the rest here.

Amidst Protests NRA Defends Guns

In his first extensive public remarks since last week’s mass shooting at a Connecticut school, the head of the National Rifle Association called Friday for lawmakers to take action to put police officers in all schools in an effort to curb such violence.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said at a news conference in Washington.

LaPierre called on Congress “to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school in this nation.”

The NRA’s posture could set off a national debate over two starkly different views about curbing gun violence. On one side stand those like LaPierre, who believe that arming more citizens is the answer; on the other, gun-control advocates pressing for tighter restrictions on firearms.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

'Plan B' collapses and GOP goes home on vacation

The House called off a vote Thursday evening on House Speaker John A. Boehner’s plan to extend tax cuts on income up to $1 million — known as Plan B — because he could not muster enough votes from fellow Republicans to pass the measure.

“Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff,” a statement from Boehner’s office said. “The House has already passed legislation to stop all of the January 1 tax rate increases and replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts that will begin to address our nation’s crippling debt. The Senate must now act.”

The move leaves unclear the next step in the negotiations over the fiscal cliff set to hit the country’s economy on the first of the new year. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the House has adjourned until after Christmas.
Read the rest here.

UBS Admits To Criminal Fraud

UBS, the Swiss bank, scrambled until the last minute to avoid that fate. A week ago, in a bid for leniency over interest-rate manipulation, the bank’s chairman traveled to Washington to plead his case to the Justice Department, according to people briefed on the matter. Knowing the long odds, the chairman, Axel Weber, asked the criminal division for a lighter punishment.

But the government did not budge. With support from Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., the agency’s criminal division decided the bank’s actions were simply too egregious, people briefed on the matter said.

On Wednesday, UBS announced it would plead guilty to one count of felony wire fraud as part of a broader settlement. With federal prosecutors, British, Swiss and American regulators secured about $1.5 billion in fines, more than triple the only other rate-rigging case, against Barclays. The Justice Department also filed criminal charges against two former UBS traders.
Read the rest here.

So in two decades this is the first instance where a major bank has been held to account for blatant criminal conduct. I don't know whether to scream or applaud.

Banks are the enemy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Obama calls for new gun restrictions

President Obama on Monday began the first serious push of his administration to attempt to reduce gun violence, directing Cabinet members to formulate a set of proposals that could include reinstating a ban on assault rifles.

The effort will be led by Vice President Biden, according to two people outside the government who have spoken to senior administration officials since Friday, when a gunman killed his mother and rampaged through Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 children, six adults and himself.
Read the rest here.

No one should be able to legally buy a gun without undergoing a criminal background check. To the extent that this is not the case, it needs to be fixed. Beyond that I seriously doubt the efficacy of any proposed laws.

Obama and GOP inch towards a deal

House Speaker John A. Boehner said Tuesday that he will introduce legislation — opposed by Democrats— to raise taxes only on households earning $1 million or more, as a backup plan for avoiding the “fiscal cliff” if his attempts to forge a broader spending agreement with the White House fail.

Negotiations between Boehner and President Obama have made significant progress in recent days, with Boehner agreeing to the idea of raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, and Obama saying he could accept tax increases for households earning $400,000 or more per year. That threshold is a concession from the president’s campaign pledge to raise rates on those earning at least $250,000, but it remains unacceptable to many Republicans.
Read the rest here.

Let's all play another round of kick the can!

The Compromise

From the right coast

Well I made it to New York after one of the most unpleasant trips I've ever taken. I will be spending the day recovering, digging out the email and catching up on news and blogging.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Obama: I’ve got ‘bigger fish to fry’ than pot smokers

In an interview with ABC News, President Obama told Barbara Walters that recreational pot smoking in states that have legalized the drug is not a major concern for his administration.

“We’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Obama said of marijuana smokers in Colorado and Washington, the two states where recreational use is now legal.

“It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal,” he said.
Read the rest here.

Memory Eternal

The English language contains no words capable of conveying the horror attendant upon the deliberate massacre of small children. May God save us and have mercy on all those affected by this barbarous crime.

Blog Note

Today will probably be the last day for blogging until early next week as I will be traveling on Sunday-Monday.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

BIS Warns of Bond Market Bubble

The Bank of International Settlements was one of the few global financial institutions to correctly warn of the 2008 credit bubble that brought us the Great Recession. Now the Switzerland-based BIS is warning that another bubble has formed in the bond market, the largest liquidity pool on the planet.

With the interest paid on bonds at the lowest levels for 30 years this is self evident. Bonds are valued most when their yields are lowest. When yields rise bond prices fall. Are we about to reach such a tipping point?
Read the rest here.

US 7th Court of Appeals Recognizes Broad Gun Rights

Going further than the Supreme Court has explicitly gone, a federal appeals court in Chicago ruled Tuesday that the Second Amendment protects a broad public right to carry a ready-to-use gun in public, for self-defense.  The Seventh Circuit Court’s ruling in Moore v. Madigan (Circuit docket 12-1269) found that right in what it considered to be indications in prior Supreme Court rulings on the amendment’s breadth.  The decision struck down an Illinois law that the court called “the most restrictive gun law of any of the 50 states.”

In an unusual gesture, however, the Circuit Court postponed putting its decision into effect for 180 days, to give the Illinois legislature a chance to “craft a new gun law that will impose reasonable limitations” on publicly carrying a gun, so long as new restrictions do not violate the newly declared right.   The case could be headed to the Supreme Court, since the ruling appears to conflict with a recent decision by the Second Circuit Court in New York City.
Read the rest here.

On this day in 1929

In 1929, the Empire State Building was a long way from completion when an announcement was made on this day. The building's sponsors unveiled their plans to top the skyscraper with a mooring tower, because it seemed likely that there would be regular worldwide zeppelin service in the near future. One zeppelin did actually tie up briefly, but the tower's major effect was that it gave the building a good deal more height - and another observation deck.

The point of this is that the next time you are opining on the certainty of what lies in the future just take a look at that pointy needle on top of the Empire State Building, and ask yourself where all the zeppelins went.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Our Take on the Gay Marriage Cases Going to the SCOTUS

Old news... the Supreme Court is going to decide on the constitutionality of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and Prop 8 from California. For what it's worth here is my take on the two distinct cases based purely on the law.

DOMA should be struck down. The Feds have no authority to define marriage. That one isn't even a close call.

Prop 8 should probably be upheld (reversing the decision of the 9th Circuit). Whatever one may think of gay marriage the Constitution is silent on the subject. It is NOT a fundamental right. That leaves it as a states rights issue. California voted and it's not the place of the courts to act as a super legislature.

Holiday Travel

I am leaving on Sunday for the right coast to spend Christmas with the family for the first time in years. The computer will be coming along and I expect to blog periodically while home. And with a little bit of luck Santa will leave me an internet hookup for when I get back. For the next week or so blogging and email will continue to be on a when I get a chance basis.

I wish everyone a blessed Nativity Fast.

Dems are bent over Michigan's "right to work" law

Michigan's congressional delegation met Monday with Gov. Rick Snyder, asking him to veto or at least delay a vote on a "right to work" law moving through the state's legislature.

Democrats and organized labor groups have launched an all-out blitz they are hoping might halt legislation that would establish workers' rights to employment in a workplace without having to join a union. The Republican-held state legislature passed versions of the legislation last week, and are set to bring it up for final consideration as soon as Tuesday.
Read the rest here.

HSBC Pays $1.9 Billion For Money Laundering

Dec. 10 (Bloomberg) -- HSBC Holdings Plc will pay at least $1.9 billion to settle U.S. probes of money laundering allegations involving Europe’s largest bank, a person familiar with the matter said, making it the largest such accord ever.

The bank, whose top executives were accused of lax oversight by a U.S. Senate subcommittee in July, has been the target of investigations run by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Controls, the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Manhattan District Attorney.
Read the rest here.

Banks are the enemy.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Happy 21st Amendment Day

The best blog post of the day may be read here.

Syria: US expresses alarm over chemical weapons

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Thursday that intelligence about Syrian chemical weapons "raises serious concerns" that the regime of Bashar Assad may use them against the country's own citizens.

"The whole world is watching, the whole world is watching very closely," Panetta said. "And the president of the United States has made it very clear, there will be consequences — there will be consequences if the Assad regime makes the terrible mistake by using these chemical weapons on their own people."

His comments came a day after U.S. officials told NBC News that the Syrian military had loaded the precursor chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into aerial bombs that could be dropped from dozens of fighter-bombers. The defense chief, who was speaking at a news conference at the Department of Veterans Affairs, would not elaborate on what the potential consequences would be.
Read the rest here.

Again not our business. But if Assad does go down that road he should certainly be treated as a war criminal under international law.

Egypt: Tanks are called up against protestors

CAIRO — The Egyptian military’s elite Republican Guard deployed tanks and barbed-wire barricades around the presidential palace to restore order Thursday after violent clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi rocked his fledgling government.

Thousands of Morsi supporters from the powerful Muslim Brotherhood organization heeded the Guard’s mid-afternoon deadline to withdraw from the area, but scores of opponents — kept at a distance by the barricades — continued to demonstrate across the street from the palace, chanting slogans against the Islamist president.
Read the rest here.

Rooting for the protestors... but from the sidelines. It's not our fight.

A Neo-Conservative Icon Leaves The Senate

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a leading conservative voice in the Senate, will resign his seat in January to become the next president of the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, a sudden move with far-reaching implications.

“It’s been an honor to serve the people of South Carolina in the United States Senate for the past eight years, but now it’s time for me to pass the torch to someone else and take on a new role in the fight for America’s future,” DeMint said in a statement Thursday morning.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Patriarch Ignatius IV Suffers Stroke (Memory Eternal)

Word that the Patriarch of Antioch is in critical condition after suffering what looks like a massive stroke. Prayers please...

Update: Patriarch Ignatius IV has reposed. May his memory be eternal.

Obama: Higher taxes on wealthy are nonnegtiable

President Obama flatly rejected on Tuesday a Republican proposal to avoid an end-of-the-year fiscal crisis through spending cuts and limiting tax deductions, insisting that he would agree to no deal that did not include an increase in marginal tax rates on the wealthy.
Read the rest here.

Poll: GOP is taking the blame in Fiscal Cliff fight

A majority of Americans say that if the country goes over the fiscal cliff on Dec. 31, congressional Republicans should bear the brunt of the blame, according to a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll, the latest sign that the GOP faces a perilous path on the issue between now and the end of the year.
Read the rest here.

Many Years

...To the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who are expecting their first addition to the family. As there is strong support in Parliament to amend the law making royal succession based on pure primogeniture (gender neutral), the baby would be in direct line of succession to the throne after William, even if it's a girl.

Move Update

OK the move is complete. The TV was hooked up yesterday as promised. And sooo predictably the internet was not. They now are saying it will be two weeks before they can come and complete that. In the meantime I am stuck with Starbucks and the public library. The library is free but I will admit that the large hot chocolate that I am cheating on the fast with really hit the spot.

The bottom line is that blogging will be sporadic and responses to email will also occur on a when I can get to it basis for a while.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Liberal Campaign Against Freedom of Speech on College Campuses

In 2007, Keith John Sampson, a middle-aged student working his way through Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis as a janitor, was declared guilty of racial harassment. Without granting Sampson a hearing, the university administration — acting as prosecutor, judge and jury — convicted him of “openly reading [a] book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject.”

“Openly.” “Related to.” Good grief.

The book, “Notre Dame vs. the Klan,” celebrated the 1924 defeat of the Ku Klux Klan in a fight with Notre Dame students. But some of Sampson’s co-workers disliked the book’s cover, which featured a black-and-white photograph of a Klan rally. Someone was offended, therefore someone else must be guilty of harassment.

This non sequitur reflects the right never to be annoyed, a new campus entitlement. Legions of administrators, who now outnumber full-time faculty, are kept busy making students mind their manners, with good manners understood as conformity to liberal politics.
Read the rest here

Friday, November 30, 2012

Roman Catholic Traddies Dreaming On The Feast of St. Andrew

What if for the Feast of St. Andrew (patron of Constantinople), the Pope had restored the Patriarchate of Constantinople? By appointing a Catholic as Patriarch, that is what Pope Leo XIII did for the venerable Church of St. Mark in Alexandria: "We ... from the plenitude of apostolic power restore the Catholic Patriarchate of Alexandria and establish it for the Copts. ... To us it is most desired that the dissenting Copts look upon the Catholic Hierarchy in truth before God; that is to say the hierarchy which on account of communion with the Chair of Peter and his successors alone can legitimately restore the Church founded by St. Mark, and alone is heir of the entire memory, whatever has been faithfully handed on to the Alexandrian Patriarchate from those ancient forebears." (Acta Sanctae Sedis 28, p. 257-260, anno 1895-1896)
Read the rest here.

Some of the comments are quite revealing.

Pretty much everything you eat is associated with cancer, so relax and dig in

It is, perhaps, one of the most common health-care headlines: A new study linking a new food with a cancer risk. Search for “foods associated with cancer” and Google returns 196 million results, including new studies this month on salt, aspartame and high-carb diets.

Well, good news! You probably don’t have to pay much attention to any of those studies: The vast majority of studies purporting to link foods to cancer have incredibly weak associations, often insignificant, according to new research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Read the rest here.

Move Update

Good news (for a change); we have been promised that internet will be up and running sometime Monday at the new domicile. Of course we will have to see. But if true, it would mean a very short down time for the blog and email.

Christians, liberals left out as Islamists back Egypt's draft constitution

CAIRO -- Islamists approved a draft constitution for Egypt early Friday without the participation of liberal and Christian members, seeking to pre-empt a court ruling that could dissolve their panel with a rushed, marathon vote that further inflames the conflict between the opposition and President Mohammed Morsi.

The vote by the constituent assembly advanced a charter with an Islamist bent that rights experts say could give Muslim clerics oversight over legislation and bring restrictions on freedom of speech, women's rights and other liberties.

The draft, which the assembly plans to deliver to the president Saturday, must be put to a nationwide referendum within 30 days. Morsi said Thursday it will be held "soon."
Read the rest here.

Two-thirds of millionaires left Britain to avoid 50% tax rate

Almost two-thirds of the country’s million-pound earners disappeared from Britain after the introduction of the 50p top rate of tax, figures have disclosed.

In the 2009-10 tax year, more than 16,000 people declared an annual income of more than £1 million to HM Revenue and Customs.

This number fell to just 6,000 after Gordon Brown introduced the new 50p top rate of income tax shortly before the last general election.

The figures have been seized upon by the Conservatives to claim that increasing the highest rate of tax actually led to a loss in revenues for the Government.

It is believed that rich Britons moved abroad or took steps to avoid paying the new levy by reducing their taxable incomes.
Read the rest here.

Senate Votes to Protect Some From Military Imprisonment

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted late on Thursday to prohibit the government from imprisoning American citizens and green card holders apprehended in the United States in indefinite detention without trial.

While the move appeared to bolster protections for domestic civil liberties, it was opposed by an array of rights groups who claimed it implied that other types of people inside the United States could be placed in military detention, opening the door to using the military to perform police functions.

The measure was an amendment to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, which is now pending on the Senate floor, and was sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and Mike Lee, Republican of Utah. The Senate approved adding it to the bill by a vote of 67 to 29.
Read the rest here.

After UN Vote Israel Authorizes New Settlements In Disputed Lands

JERUSALEM — As the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to upgrade the Palestinians’ status Thursday night, Israel took steps toward building housing in a controversial area of East Jerusalem known as E1, where Jewish settlements have long been seen as the death knell for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A senior Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said on Friday that the decision was made late Thursday night to move forward on “preliminary zoning and planning preparations” for housing units in E1, which would connect the large settlement of Maale Adumim to Jerusalem and therefore make it impossible to connect the Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem to Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Israel also authorized the construction of 3,000 housing units in other parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the official said.

The prime minister’s office refused to comment on whether the settlement expansion — first reported on Twitter by a reporter for the Israeli daily Haaretz — was punishment for the Palestinians’ success in upgrading its status from nonmember observer entity to nonmember observer state at the United Nations, but it was widely seen as such. The United States, one of only eight countries that stood with Israel in voting against the Palestinians’ upgrade, has for two decades vigorously opposed construction in E1, a 3,000-acre expanse of hilly parkland where a police station was opened in 2008.
Read the rest here.

Someone explain to me why we are arming a nation engaged in aggressive policies of colonialism and territorial annexation?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Moving - Limited Posting For a While

This weekend I am relocating and anticipate that there will be a period of extremely limited blogging until I get internet service up and running at the new domicile. Likewise expect delays in response to email. Making matters even more fun is that we are expecting some perfectly dreadful weather over the weekend. Why would I have even hoped for anything else?

So yeah, Friday will likely be the last day of regular blogging for a little while. Tomorrow night I am probably going to set all comments for moderation in order to prevent abusive or SPAM posts. Again please be patient if your comment takes a couple of days to get through.

Top 10 Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained

10. A man’s place is in the army.
9. The pastoral duties of men who have children might distract them from the responsibility of being a parent.
8. The physique of men indicates that they are more suited to such tasks as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do ministerial tasks.
7. Man was created before woman, obviously as a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment rather than the crowning achievement of creation.
6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. Their conduct at football and basketball games demonstrates this.
5. Some men are handsome, and this will distract women worshipers.
4. Pastors need to nurture their congregations. But this is not a traditional male role. Throughout history, women have been recognized as not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more fervently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.
3. Men are prone to violence. No really masculine man wants to settle disputes except by fighting about them. Thus they would be poor role models as well as dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.
2. The New Testament tells us that Jesus was betrayed by a man. His lack of faith and ensuing punishment remind us of the subordinated position that all men should take.
1. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep sidewalks, repair the church roof, and perhaps even lead the song service on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the church.
From blog reader Eric.

White House Sends Leftward Budget Proposals To Congress

WASHINGTON — House Republicans said on Thursday that Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner presented the House speaker, John A. Boehner, a detailed proposal to avert the year-end fiscal crisis with $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years, an immediate new round of stimulus spending, home mortgage refinancing and a permanent end to Congressional control over statutory borrowing limits.

The proposal, loaded with Democratic priorities and short on detailed spending cuts, was likely to meet strong Republican resistance. In exchange for locking in the $1.6 trillion in added revenues, President Obama embraced $400 billion in savings from Medicare and other entitlements, to be worked out next year, with no guarantees.

He did propose some upfront cuts in programs like farm price supports, but did not specify an amount or any details. And senior Republican aides familiar with the offer said those initial spending cuts might well be outnumbered by upfront spending increases, including at least $50 billion in infrastructure spending, mortgage relief, an extension of unemployment insurance and a deferral of automatic cuts to physician reimbursements under Medicare.
Read the rest here.

Britain: Judge issues damning report on the press

LONDON — The leader of a major inquiry into the standards of British newspapers triggered by the phone hacking scandal offered an excoriating critique of the press as a whole on Thursday, saying it displayed “significant and reckless disregard for accuracy,” and urged the press to form an independent regulator to be underpinned by law.

The report singled out Rupert Murdoch’s defunct tabloid The News of the World for sharp criticism.

“Too many stories in too many newspapers were the subject of complaints from too many people with too little in the way of titles taking responsibility, or considering the consequences for the individuals involved,” the head of the inquiry, Lord Justice Sir Brian Leveson, said in a 46-page summary of the findings in his long-awaited, 1,987-page report published in four volumes.

“The ball moves back into the politicians’ court,” Sir Brian said, referring to what form new and tighter regulations should take. “They must now decide who guards the guardians.”
Read the rest here

UN upgrades Palestinian status, bolstering statehood claim

The U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution on Thursday giving implicit recognition to Palestinian statehood despite threats by the United States and Israel to punish the Palestinian Authority by withholding funds for the West Bank government.

The resolution, which lifts the Palestinian Authority's U.N. observer status from "entity" to "non-member state," like the Vatican possesses, easily passed the 193-nation General Assembly with 138 nations voting in favor, and nine opposed, including the United States. Forty-one countries abstained, including the United Kingdom.
Read the rest here.

China Mafia-Style Hack Attack Drives California Firm to Brink

During his civil lawsuit against the People’s Republic of China, Brian Milburn says he never once saw one of the country’s lawyers. He read no court documents from China’s attorneys because they filed none. The voluminous case record at the U.S. District courthouse in Santa Ana contains a single communication from China: a curt letter to the U.S. State Department, urging that the suit be dismissed.

That doesn’t mean Milburn’s adversary had no contact with him.

For three years, a group of hackers from China waged a relentless campaign of cyber harassment against Solid Oak Software Inc., Milburn’s family-owned, eight-person firm in Santa Barbara, California. The attack began less than two weeks after Milburn publicly accused China of appropriating his company’s parental filtering software, CYBERsitter, for a national Internet censoring project. And it ended shortly after he settled a $2.2 billion lawsuit against the Chinese government and a string of computer companies last April.

In between, the hackers assailed Solid Oak’s computer systems, shutting down web and e-mail servers, spying on an employee with her webcam, and gaining access to sensitive files in a battle that caused company revenues to tumble and brought it within a hair’s breadth of collapse.
Read the rest here.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Coming Soon: An American 'Downton Abbey'

Julian Fellowes, the creator of the British period drama “Downton Abbey,” has concluded a deal to create a new period drama for NBC based on the Gilded Age of New York City, the network announced on Tuesday.

The new television drama will be produced by the NBC Universal television studio.

In its release, NBC described the series, which will be called “The Gilded Age,” as an “epic tale of the princes of the American Renaissance, and the vast fortunes they made — and spent — in late 19th century New York.”

Mr. Fellowes said in a statement, “This was a vivid time with dizzying, brilliant ascents and calamitous falls, of record-breaking ostentation and savage rivalry; a time when money was king.”
Read the rest here.

I suppose it was inevitable, but I have doubts about this. It's an interesting period in history to be sure. My fear though is that this will just be a sort of "Dallas" set in the 1880's instead of a serious exploration of Gilded Age Society. Yes, money and greed were big factors but there were other issues too. It was the age of the industrial revolution and a massive gulf between the plutocrats of Fifth Avenue and the slums and tenements of the Lower East Side. It was the age of remarkable social reform movements from Temperance to Women's Suffrage. And it was also the period when you saw the first wave of political radicalism in the Anarchist movement and later the early Marxists.

The track record of Americans when it comes to period drama is spotty at best. We have had some great ones like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire. But we also routinely produce lackluster period pieces that can't seem to confine themselves to the era they are supposed to be in or they try to be hybrid soap operas or sitcoms. I remember that an attempt was made to create an the American Upstairs Downstairs in the 70's and it flopped badly.

We will have to see if this is more Edith Wharton or J.R.Ewing in top hat and frock coat.

Now Touring, the Debt Duo, Simpson-Bowles

WASHINGTON — Theirs is an improbable buddy act that is making for unlikely entertainment from campuses to corporations on a most serious subject: the federal debt. The proof of their appeal: some business groups pay them $40,000 each per appearance. Really. To discuss budgets and baselines.

Ladies and gentlemen, coming soon to your city or town (if they have not been there already, and maybe even if they have) are the latest odd couple of politics: the 67-year-old Democratic straight man, Erskine B. Bowles of Charlotte, N.C., and his corny 81-year-old, 6-foot-7 Republican sidekick, Alan K. Simpson of Cody, Wyo.

Since the perceived failure two years ago next week of the bipartisan fiscal commission they led for President Obama, they have been on the road, sometimes solo but often together, perfecting a sort of Off Broadway show that has kept their panel’s recommendations alive, and made them a little money as well.
Read the rest here.

BP Is Barred From Taking Government Contracts

WASHINGTON — The United States government has temporarily banned the British oil company BP from new federal contracts, citing the company’s “lack of business integrity.”
Read the rest here.

Islamists Drafting Egypt’s Constitution Vow Quick Finish

CAIRO — Leaders of the assembly drafting a new constitution said Wednesday that they would complete their work by the next morning, a move that appeared aimed at trying to defuse a political crisis that has gripped Egypt since the president issued an edict that put his decisions above judicial scrutiny.

If successful, the assembly could make moot the power struggle between President Mohamed Morsi and the courts because the president’s expanded powers were set to expire with the implementation of a new constitution.

But given the heated environment, it seemed just as likely that a draft constitution — one adopted over the objections of the opposition — would instead inflame an escalating political battle between Mr. Morsi and his critics. On Tuesday, the opposition brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets to denounce his attempt to assert a power above the courts and over the Islamist domination of the assembly drafting the national charter. 
Read the rest here.

Europe sees US debt crisis as dire as its own

Now it’s Europe’s turn to worry about U.S. economy.

American officials have been wringing their hands for the past two years about the heavy burden of government debt piling up in Europe. On Tuesday, Europe’s Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development warned that the U.S. "fiscal cliff" threatens prospects for the eurozone’s economic recovery.

“We’re talking here about the medium and long-term viability of the United States economy,” OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria told CNBC. “Not only to avoid the fiscal cliff but then get to a moment where (U.S.) debt stops rising and the debt to GDP starts coming down to an area where we call all breathe more comfortably.”
Read the rest here.

Yes, the modern world sucks

Asbury Park Summer 1905. The golden age of straw boaters, parasols and the art of the promenade. Click here for full screen size.

Paris at the Exposition Universelle of 1900

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Egyptians stage mass protests against Morsi edict

CAIRO — Egyptian opposition forces rallied across the country Tuesday in the biggest show of dissent against the country’s first democratically elected leader since he precipitated a political crisis last week with an apparent bid to assume near-absolute power.

A loose coalition of rights groups, liberals and secularists poured into Cairo’s Tahrir Square and other public spaces, urging President Mohamed Morsi to rescind a decree he issued Thursday that granted him the authority to legislate without judicial oversight.
Read the rest here.

Lottery Fever (again)

Yep, the Powerball is up to $500,000,000.00. And that has millions of people queuing up to spend large sums of money that in far too many cases they can't afford to part with. Look, here's my take. If you want to drop a buck or two on the lottery, fine. I've done it myself in the past. You can write that off as cheap entertainment. For a couple of bucks you get to daydream about how you would spend a ridiculous amount of money. But it's a lousy retirement plan. Which is to say if your spending more than a couple of bucks then you are just throwing away money.

As someone much wiser than I once observed, the lottery is a tax on the mathematically challenged.

France to Support Palestinian UN Status

PARIS — France will vote in favor of the Palestinians’ request to heighten their profile at the United Nations, the French foreign minister told Parliament on Tuesday, embracing a move that Israel and the United States oppose.

The support of France, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, is the most significant boost to date for the Palestinians’ hopes to be granted nonmember observer status and thus greater international recognition. Russia and China, two other permanent members, have also thrown their support behind the Palestinian bid.
Read the rest here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cautiously, Japan Raises Military Profile as China Rises

TOKYO — After years of watching its international influence eroded by a slow-motion economic decline, pacifist Japan is trying to raise its profile in a new way, offering military aid for the first time in decades and displaying its own armed forces in an effort to build regional alliances and shore up other countries’ defenses to counter a rising China.
Read the rest here.

Being on the Wrong Side of History

Via The Young Fogey...
Despite the historical record, a peskily persistent fallacy is argumentum ad populum, the idea that the majority is right. The mob, no matter where it’s headed, whom it’s beheading, or what it’s burning down, has always deemed itself to be on the right side of history. So whenever I hear some smug, smirking, smarm-coated snarkmonster bleating that they are on “the right side of history,” what I hear is, “I feel safe within the crowd.” I don’t sense that they fear being on the “wrong” side of history so much as they’re afraid of being on the “losing” side. They don’t want to be on the wrong side of superior force. Many of them exhibit the shallow and neurotic herd-animal fear of being deemed uncool or out of step. In far too many cases, being “on the right side of history” amounts to nothing more than being trendy. Many of these types used to ally themselves with alleged “oppressed minorities,” but now that they appear to be on the “right side of history,” they openly mock the newly marginalized minorities. Once the victims of bullying, they now fear being on the wrong side of peer pressure and are the world’s neo-bullies. Others are the type who wait until there’s critical mass behind any social movement before joining it. Many of them have no core and will fellate power wherever it leads them and consider themselves bold for doing so. And at least as it concerns liberal white males, I’ve never seen people so eager to surrender to the very historical forces that seem destined to march right over their necks. 
Read the rest here.

Some Republicans Back Away From "No Tax" Pledge

Four big-name Republicans have broken with Grover Norquist in recent days, saying they won’t be bound by their Norquist-sponsored pledges to oppose any and all tax increases.

The moves by Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) and Rep. Peter King (N.Y.) represent the opening steps of a delicate dance for the GOP — and one that could come to define the just-begun talks over the looming “fiscal cliff.”

The question from here is whether this represents a simple trial balloon or the beginning of a movement in which a large segment of the GOP embraces a tax increase as an unhappy reality.

If that were to occur, it would both mark a significant shift in party orthodoxy and also threaten to make the tea party primaries of 2010 and 2012 seem tame.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Senior Democrat in No Hurry to Avert "Fiscal Cliff"

As chair of her party’s Senate campaign arm, the architect of surprising Democratic gains and the incoming chair of the powerful Senate Budget Committee, Murray now occupies a place of special influence in the Senate.

And so what Murray has to say about the “fiscal cliff,” a combination of tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect in January, may be of particular importance. In a town consumed by talk of the apocalyptic consequences of failing to resolve the budgeting crisis, Murray has been arguing that missing the deadline for a deal — going over the cliff — could actually make getting a deal easier.
Read the rest here.

Personally I am not all that horrified by the fiscal cliff.  If we go over the cliff we will cut spending in both the welfare and warfare state and finally end the ill-conceived Bush tax cuts. The deficit would be cut in half at a stroke. I don't see any other proposals out there that even come close to a meaningful attack on the national debt.

Sure, if I was dictator for a day I would be a bit more discriminating in how I cut the budget deficit. But I have no confidence in the congressional clowns' capacity for anything other than finding some way to kick the can down the road again. Fasten your seat-belts folks. We need to go over the cliff.

RIP: Larry Hagman

A highly talented actor and philanthropist who will always be best remembered for playing one of TV's most iconic villains. I remember a political bumper sticker from 1980 that proudly claimed "A Republican Shot J.R."
HT: Bill (tGf)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

On the list of things for which we should be thankful...

San Francisco has passed, albeit narrowly, the Weiner ban.

Time to Kill the Turkey Pardon?

Of all the indignities a president must endure, officiating at the annual turkey pardon is perhaps the most unbecoming. Being mocked by late-night comedians or spit up on by a baby or called a liar by a member of Congress? Those things happen. But they pale next to this bizarre spectacle — sort of the turkey population’s version of the “Hunger Games” — in which the leader of the world stays the execution of two overweight birds while another 45 million or so shuffle off to the chopping block.

Every year in late November, the disbelieving eyes of the world turn to Washington to watch the White House’s current occupant exercise this presidential prerogative. And on Wednesday they weren’t disappointed as President Obama gamely feigned interest in the fate of the fowl in front of him.
Read the rest here.

Waaaay overdue.

Egypt's Islamist President Seizes Dictatorial Powers

CAIRO – Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi declared extensive political powers for himself Thursday, taking broad and sweeping control of his country a day after he won international praise for fostering a cease-fire in Gaza.

Under the terms of Thursday’s decree, Morsi said that all of the decisions he has made since he took office — and until a new constitution is adopted — were final and not subject to appeal or review. He declared the retrial of high officials accused of the deaths of protesters during the country’s 2011 revolution, a measure that appeared targeted at former leader Hosni Mubarak. And he dismissed Egypt’s Mubarak-era prosecutor general, immediately swearing in a new one.
Read the rest here.

I feel badly for the people of Egypt. But it is of course not the concern of the United States.

Fred Reed on the death of language and culture

...My grade schools of the Fifties still taught grammar and required the diagramming of sentences, now regarded with horror as a sort of linguistic water-boarding. We learned tense, mood, voice, subjunctives and parallelism and appositives. Equally important, we learned to listen to the language as well as its content, without which decent writing is nigh impossible.

With us, the written language was primary, the spoken derived from the written. In Spanish, if I know how “ajolote” is spelled, the word is mine. Otherwise it never quite is. Today among the literarily unwashed, the spoken language becomes primary. Note how “iced tea” becomes “ice tea,” ”boxed set” becomes “box set,“ presumably a set of boxes. The people who use these confusions don’t read, perhaps barely can, and do not know how the words are spelled. Participles? Huh? Wha’?

English once had its equivalents of Lecciones de Castellana. There were Fowler’s The King’s English and American English Usage, and of course Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. These today are as well known to our gilded peasantry as the Gilgamesh Epic.

An attention to meaning existed. We knew that “sensuous” does not mean “sensual,” nor bellicose, belligerent; nor alternate, alternative; nor uninterested, disinterested; nor envious, jealous; nor historic, historical; nor philosophic, philosophical; nor it’s, its.

From The Elements of Style  we learned the all-important “Omit needless words”, from Fowler:

Prefer the familiar word to the far-fetched.
Prefer the concrete word to the abstract.
Prefer the single word to the circumlocution.
Prefer the short word to the long.
Prefer the Saxon word to the Romance.

But that was then. Today usage nose-dives from the merely infelicitous to the downright annoying. Note the increasing penetration of language by that form of mispronunciation, once the marker of the lower middle class and below, in which emphasis falls on the first syllable of words. HOtel, INsurance, DEEfense, REEsources, DEEtail. It is the linguistic parallel of a facial tattoo.
Read the rest here.

Happy Thanksgiving

I wish each of you the joy of the feast!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Many Years

To John and Ann Betar on their 80th(!) wedding anniversary.

Read their story here.
HT: Fr. Z

Food for thought

One of SP's great shots at American Orthodox culture...

And yes, for the record I will be feasting tomorrow.

90 Years Ago: Rebecca Latimer Felton becomes the first woman US Senator

Rebecca Ann Latimer Felton (June 10, 1835 – January 24, 1930) was an American writer, lecturer, reformer, and politician who became the first woman to serve in the United States Senate. She was the most prominent woman in Georgia in the Progressive Era, and was honored by appointment to the Senate; she was sworn in on November 21, 1922, and served one day, the shortest serving Senator in U.S. history. At 87 years old, 9 months, and 22 days, she was also the oldest freshman senator to enter the Senate. As of 2012, she is also the only woman to have served as a Senator from Georgia. She was a prominent society woman; an advocate of prison reform, women's suffrage and educational modernization; and one of the few prominent women who spoke in favor of lynching. 
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Senate bill lets Feds read your e-mail without warrants

A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans' e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law, CNET has learned.

Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns, according to three individuals who have been negotiating with Leahy's staff over the changes. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans' e-mail, is scheduled for next week.

Leahy's rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies -- including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission -- to access Americans' e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge.
Read the rest here.

Write your Senators... while it's still legal.

Shades of 1559?

This comment from Dr. Tighe is worth attention...
I frequently invoke the example of the Church of Sweden and its long debilitating strife over WO as a kind of “Eram quod es, sum quod eris” (to quote a commonplace on medieval tomb inscriptions) mirror for the Church of England, but, in legal theory at least, the Erastian circumstances of the Church of England are far more thoroughgoing than those which prevailed in Sweden when the Church of Sweden was an established church (it was disestablished in 2000, but in way that left the liberal establishment totally in control of its governing structure). In Sweden, when the Church Assembly unexpectedly rejected WO in 1957 (with a majority of its bishops voting against it), the proponents were initially stymied, as Swedish law then required BOTH the Church Assembly AND the Swedish Parliament to approve any “ecclesiastical legislation” before it could become law. Not to worry, though: the Swedish Parliament rushed through legislation authorizing WO (which would apply to bishops as wellas to priests), and then called new elections for a Church Assembly session to meet in 1958. In those elections, Swedish political parties put forward their own candidates for election as lay delegates to the Church Assembly, and the election campaign was attended by threats to disestablish the church and confiscate its assets. The strategy worked: in 1958 WO was approved (a number of bishops switched sides from the previous year’s vote), and the first women were (purportedly) ordained in 1960.

The legislation was attended by a “conscience clause” intended to benefit opponents of WO, but in 1983 that clause was revoked, and in 1994 (and since 2000 in the disestablished church) the ordination as deacons or priests of anyone opposed to WO has been forbidden, and the selection as bishops of any clergy opposed to WO likewise.

This could be the Church of England’s future as well, and, if I recall correctly, in England Parliament retains full authority to legislate “unilaterally” on church matters, should it choose to do so.

Those interested may wish to consult this legal case:

This 1997 case is a subsidiary to an earlier 1994 case, but I cannot find a report of the former case online. What is clear from it, however, is that it is still “settled law” in England that “the doctrine of the Church of England is whatever Parliament declares it to be.” So Erastianism rules okay.

The real parallel to England is Denmark, where the Danish Parliament legislated for WO in 1947 despite the opposition at the time to WO of eight of the ten bishops of the Danish State Church.
From here.

In Stunning Decision Church of England Narrowly Rejects Women Bishops

The Church of England has been plunged into its biggest crisis for decades after the General Synod rejected women bishops despite overwhelming support for the change.

In a knife-edge decision at a special sitting of the Synod in London, bishops and clergy voted through the change by large majorities.

But the measure failed to secure the required two thirds support among representatives of the laity by just 6 votes.

Although 324 members of the Synod voted in favour of the change, 124 voted against and 11 abstained.

The result was met with dismay in the Synod chamber at Church House in Westminster.
Read the rest here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Egypt's Coptic pope enthroned amid concern for Christian minority

CAIRO — Amid months of sectarian unease, Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church enthroned its new pope Sunday in an ornate, three-hour ceremony attended by top officials from the nation’s Islamist-led government.

Tawadros II, 60, was chosen the church's 118th pope this month in long-awaited elections following the death in March of Pope Shenouda III, who was patriarch for four decades. The cathedral of St. Mark, the church’s founding saint, erupted in applause when the papal crown was placed on Tawadros’ head.

Politicians, including Prime Minister Hesham Kandil, journalists and Coptic intellectuals, attended the ceremony. Tawadros did not address the congregation; instead, his written speech was read aloud by a member of the church. Tawadros pledged to work for harmony between Christians, who make up about 10% of Egypt's population, and majority Muslims. 
Read the rest here.

Moody's downgrades French credit rating

The credit ratings agency Moody's has downgraded France from its top rating.

The country's debt has been reduced from AAA to AA1 and has kept its negative outlook, meaning it could be downgraded again.

In a statement, Moody's blamed the risk of a Greek exit from the euro, stalled economic growth and the chances that France will have to contribute to bailing out other countries.

Rival agency Standard & Poor's downgraded France in January.
Read the rest here.

Church of England Warned To Approve Women Bishops

The Church of England will face a battle in Parliament and the prospect of legal challenges if it fails to approve women bishops on Tuesday, MPs said on Monday.

Special legal privileges and even its position as the established Church could be called into question if the General Synod rejected the plan, they warned.

The Synod will vote on whether to admit women to the episcopacy at a special sitting in London. Despite strong support throughout the Church for the move, the outcome was described as on a “knife-edge” because of the need to secure two thirds support in all three of its branches: bishops, clergy and laity.
Read the rest here.

Everything you need to know when answering the question, why aren't you an Anglican, is in this story.

Many Years

To H.M. The Queen and H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh on their 65th wedding anniversary.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Petraeus scandal puts four-star general lifestyle under scrutiny

Then-defense secretary Robert M. Gates stopped bagging his leaves when he moved into a small Washington military enclave in 2007. His next-door neighbor was Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, who had a chef, a personal valet and — not lost on Gates — troops to tend his property.

Gates may have been the civilian leader of the world’s largest military, but his position did not come with household staff. So, he often joked, he disposed of his leaves by blowing them onto the chairman’s lawn.

“I was often jealous because he had four enlisted people helping him all the time,” Gates said in response to a question after a speech Thursday. He wryly complained to his wife that “Mullen’s got guys over there who are fixing meals for him, and I’m shoving something into the microwave. And I’m his boss.”
Read the rest here.

Yes, there are some fair points here. But I wouldn't put too much stock in it. One of the oldest expressions in the military is R-H-I-P (rank has its privileges). Every general or admiral in history has had staff including enlisted men who effectively function as personal servants. Even junior officers and some senior enlisted people rate a certain amount of deference and waiting on. The military is more hierarchical than Downton Abbey. On some level we inherited that from the Brits. The main difference being that the military is mainly a meritocracy and neither the rank nor the deference is hereditary. If that is really a huge hangup then you probably should not join.

Private executive jets and motorcades sounds over the top to me. But speaking as someone who never rose above the naval equivalent to sergeant I am not going to begrudge a man who has stars on his shoulder from the respect, and yes privileges, that come with rank. Admirals have better things to do than shine their own shoes, press their own uniforms or even cook their own meals. And though it rated only a sentence in the article, it's worth reiterating that the military has a lot of pomp and tradition which civilians usually just don't get.

Lastly, and with all due respect to former Secretary Gates, it is a hell of a lot harder to earn four stars than to be named Secretary of Defense.

Does San Francisco have any limits? Maybe...

San Francisco may be getting ready to shed its image as a city where anything goes, including clothing.

City lawmakers are scheduled to vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would prohibit nudity in most public places, a blanket ban that represents an escalation of a two-year tiff between a devoted group of men who strut their stuff through the city's famously gay Castro District and the supervisor who represents the area.

Supervisor Scott Wiener's proposal would make it illegal for a person over the age of 5 to "expose his or her genitals, perineum or anal region on any public street, sidewalk, street median, parklet [sic] or plaza" or while using public transit.
Read the rest here.

Sorry, even my generally libertarian sensibilities have limits. No one gets to bare their all anywhere they might be seen by little kids. That this is even remotely controversial is beyond creepy.

Friday, November 16, 2012

George Weigel: The Church should get out of the civil marriage business

A further threat comes from the gay insurgency, which will press the administration to find some way to federalize the marriage issue and to compel acceptance of the chimera of “gay marriage.” Thus it seems important to accelerate a serious debate within American Catholicism on whether the Church ought not pre-emptively withdraw from the civil marriage business, its clergy declining to act as agents of government in witnessing marriages for purposes of state law.
Read the rest here.

He is partly right though for the wrong reasons. It is the state that should get out of the "marriage" business and instead adopt a uniform code regulating civil unions. Marriage would then be a purely religious institution. This would effectively pull the "fairness" rug out from under the gay mafia and ensure that the state could not meddle in church doctrine.