Monday, April 30, 2012

Man proved innocent after spending 16 years in prison for murder and rape

A man sentenced to life in prison for the rape and killing of a Colorado woman was freed on Monday based on advanced DNA testing that exonerated him.

Robert "Rider" Dewey, 51, who had been imprisoned since his 1996 conviction, appeared before a Colorado judge on Monday in Grand Junction for a post-conviction hearing in his case. He was ordered released shortly after that hearing.

"I kind of want to kick back, ride my bike and be with my family," Dewey said after he was freed. "I always knew of my innocence and proclaimed my innocence."

Dewey was convicted and sentenced to life without parole for the rape and murder of Jacie Taylor, 19, in the western Colorado town of Palisade. Taylor's partially clothed body was found in her bathtub in June 1994. She had been beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled with a dog leash.
Read the rest here.

Further evidence of our flawed legal system and why I am opposed to capital punishment.  I hope this guy gets a very fat (tax free) check from the state of Colorado.

So Much For Liberal Democracy

Monarchists and political parties favoring a monarchist restoration have been banned from participating in elections in Greece. In fairness if I were a republican with the track record of the Greek government I would probably do something like that too. For the record several overtly Communist parties were also barred from the elections.

Details here.
HT: Wilson Unplugged

An Encyclical Against Evangelical Protestants

My Beloved Christians,

Christ is Risen!

With the help of God we celebrated this year again the great days of the salvific Passion and the glorious Resurrection of our Lord.

However, despite the great blessings of these days, temptations were not absent. Thus, during Holy Week, the so-called Jehovah's Witnesses launched in the region of Mesogeion and Lavriotiki proselytizing activity among Christians, with the purpose of confusing and acquiring unsuspecting followers.

What is even more unfortunate is that along the same lines others were moving, purporting to be preachers of the Gospel and self-proclaimed Christians, that is, followers of the Lord Jesus; people that we are supposedly in dialogue with for mutual understanding, were the same "deceiving and deceived", in the middle of Renewal Week, in the area of Pallini and Pikermiou, sent phone messages by SMS, in an effort to attract "friends" who belong to the blessed body of our holy Church, to possibly include them in their religious organization, what they call "Abundant Life", in order to, as they write, "save people".

These, known by the name Evangelicals, have replaced theology with arbitrary reflection, the Mysteries and worship with sermons and religious songs, and prefer a Christianity that is based more on human reason than divine revelation.

They deny the Panagia and our Saints, the Mysteries and Icons, our blessed Tradition and Worship. They invite the Orthodox to celebrate without the Lamentation Hymns and the Epitaphios, without the Akathists' and the Paraklesis', without Holy Communion and the words of the Fathers, without honor towards the Martyrs and the righteous Ascetics, replacing all these things with dry religious rhetoric.
Read the rest at Mystagogy.

In Holland Evidence of Europe's Resurgent Right

AMSTERDAM — Europe’s most controversial politician lives in a government safe house fitted with a panic room and guarded round the clock. A self-avowed foe of Islam who compared the Koran to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and called for a ban on Muslim immigrants, he travels by bulletproof car and rarely talks with journalists — choosing instead to funnel messages directly to supporters via Twitter and a personal blog.

But when Geert Wilders — dubbed “Mozart” for his bleached-blond bouffant hair – brought down the Dutch government last week in an extraordinary show of force by Europe’s resurgent far right, it wasn’t over his high-profile war on Islam. Instead, it was part of his emphasis on another belief he and his Freedom Party now see as almost equally dangerous: an integrated Europe.
Read the rest here.

Democratic infighting threatens Wisconsin recall effort

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Democrats organized the protests that gripped the state. They turned Gov. Scott Walker’s plans to strip public unions of their collective bargaining rights into a national Democratic cause. They got the signatures they needed to force a recall election, and then some.

They are now just a little more than a month away from the big showdown with Walker they have been craving for over a year — but rather than excitement, there is growing fear within the party that they just might blow it.
Read the rest here.

Hollande's 'Growth Bloc' spells end of German hegemony in Europe

For two years Germany has had its way in Europe, treating historic nations much as Bismarck treated Bavaria – sovereign only in name.

The French-led counter-attack and rumblings of revolt through every branch of the EU institutions last week have brought this aberrant phase of the eurozone crisis to an abrupt end.

"It’s not for Germany to decide for the rest of Europe," said François Hollande, soon to be French leader, unless he trips horribly next week. Strong words even for the hustings.

"If I am elected president, there will be a change in Europe's construction. We’re not just any country: we can change the situation," he said.

European allies are flocking to his cause from left and right, he claims. Not even Austria supports Germany’s austerity drive any longer.
Read the rest here.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Australian Billionaire to Build New Titanic

I wish this was a joke...
Australian billionaire Clive Palmer plans to build a 21st-century version of the Titanic with the help of a Chinese shipyard, with the cruise ship’s maiden voyage from England to North America scheduled in late 2016.

Palmer said he had invited the Chinese navy to escort Titanic II on its maiden voyage to New York, according to an e- mailed statement. The initial pact with China’s CSC Jinling Shipyard also includes plans for a fleet of luxury liners.

The original Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg in the Atlantic on April 15, 1912, costing the lives of 1,514 passengers and crew, according to the statement. Mining magnate Palmer, 58, has a fortune of A$5.05 billion ($5.3 billion) and was Australia’s fifth-richest person, according to BRW magazine estimates in May.

“It will be every bit as luxurious as the original Titanic but of course it will have state-of-the-art 21st century technology and the latest navigation and safety systems,” Palmer said. “The Chinese ship building industry with our assistance wants to be a major player in this market.”
Read the rest here.

Setting aside the monumentally bad taste I have doubts about the practicality of this. The Titanic was built with a lot of hand crafted luxuries at a time when there were no labor laws and the expense of duplicating such today would be staggering.  Beyond which replicating the ship will be difficult while being in compliance with modern safety regulations. All that elaborate wood working in those dark Edwardian staterooms and public lounges?  Wood and just about anything else that's even remotely flammable is prohibited on modern passenger ships.

If he wants he could probably get a ship that externally would resemble the Titanic.  But as for the details and decor, color me highly skeptical.

Wave of suicides have Greeks on edge

(Reuters) - On Monday, a 38-year-old geology lecturer hanged himself from a lamp post in Athens and on the same day a 35-year-old priest jumped to his death off his balcony in northern Greece. On Wednesday, a 23-year-old student shot himself in the head.

In a country that has had one of the lowest suicide rates in the world, a surge in the number of suicides in the wake of an economic crisis has shocked and gripped the Mediterranean nation - and its media - before a May 6 election.

The especially grisly death of pharmacist Dimitris Christoulas, who shot himself in the head on a central Athens square because of poverty brought on by the crisis that has put millions out of work, was by far the most dramatic.

Before shooting himself during morning rush hour on April 4 on Syntagma Square across from the Greek parliament building, the 77-year-old pensioner took a moment to jot down a note.

"I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life so I don't find myself fishing through garbage cans for sustenance," wrote Christoulas, who has since become a national symbol of the austerity-induced pain that is squeezing millions.
Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

This is why austerity will fail. It is not politically sustainable. No combination of higher taxes and austerity will save them (or us). In the end Greece will default. I am frankly surprised they haven't already done so.  The US is a different situation.  Our debt is denominated in our own currency so there is no question of overt default. We will continue to monetize the debt and print our way out of the hole.

Attack on Christians in Nigeria kills at least 15

KANO, Nigeria - Gunmen killed at least 15 people and wounded many more in an attack on a university theater being used by Christian worshippers in Nigeria's northern city of Kano on Sunday, a witness said.

It was the latest in a spate of attacks on churches and on Christian holidays in the north of the country, which Nigerian authorities and diplomats believe are part of an attempt to stoke a religious conflict.

Security sources said there was sporadic gunfire in other parts of the city which they believe was from attackers who were fleeing from the army at the university. "I counted at least 15 dead bodies. I think they were being taken to the Amino Kano teaching hospital," the witness, who did not wish to be identified, said, adding that he saw many more people being treated for injuries.
Read the rest here.

Battle for control of Congress tightens considerably

The battle for control of Congress this fall will be more closely fought than many Republicans had predicted in the heady days following their 2010 midterm landslide victories, according to those most closely involved in the campaign.

House Speaker John Boehner’s comments this week that the GOP has a “one-in-three” chance of losing the House sent shockwaves through the political establishment. “We've got a fight on our hands and our hands need to be prepared,” Boehner told reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, doubling down on his warning.

While the Ohio Republican’s admonition was mostly meant to guard against complacency among donors and lawmakers, it reflects a more grim assessment of the GOP’s chances in the House and Senate.
Read the rest here.

Unexpected support from Islamists for liberal upends race in Egypt

ABU HOMOS, Egypt  — Egypt’s most conservative Islamists endorsed a liberal Islamist for president late Saturday night, upending the political landscape and confounding expectations about the internal dynamics of the Islamist movement.

The main missionary and political groups of the ultraconservatives, known as Salafis, threw their support behind Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a dissident former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood known for his tolerant and inclusive view of Islamic law.

The endorsement goes a long way toward making Mr. Aboul Fotouh the front-runner in a campaign that could shape the ultimate outcome of the revolt that ousted the former strongman, Hosni Mubarak.

Mr. Aboul Fotouh’s liberal understanding of Islamic law on matters of individual freedom and economic equality had already made him the preferred candidate of many Egyptian liberals.
Read the rest here.

Former Libyan oil minister found floating in Danube

A high-ranking former Libyan official who served under Moammar Gadhafi was found dead in the Danube River, in Vienna, the BBC reported Sunday, citing Austrian police.

Shukri Ghanem, 69, initially defected to Rome from Libya in June 2011, amid the uprising that ultimately ousted Gadhafi, the Tripoli Post reported. He told the Italian Ansa news service that  he left "to fight for a democratic country."
Read the rest here.

Catholic Bishop Warns Dissenters to Knock It Off

Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino has moved to quell a backlash against a group of conservative priests in Platteville by warning parishioners they risk formal church censure unless they stop spreading "rumors and gossip."

The action by Morlino, which two Catholic scholars called highly unusual, appears to include the possibility of offenders being prohibited from taking part in church sacraments such as communion, confession and burial.

The warning came in a five-page letter Wednesday from Morlino to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Platteville. The congregation has been roiled by opposition to the traditionalist priests, who began serving the parish in June 2010.

Within months, church donations fell by more than half, and about 40 percent of the church’s 1,200 members signed a petition seeking the priests’ ouster. The church’s 77-year-old school is set to close June 1, a loss many parishioners tie directly to the collapse of donations.

The letter, in which Morlino raises the prospect of invoking the church’s Code of Canon Law against dissenters, has stunned many parishioners.

"There’s almost shock and awe," said Myron Tranel, a member of the church’s finance council. "But mostly, there’s a lot of disappointment that the bishop has decided to deal with it this way."

Others applaud the bishop’s move, saying decisive action was needed because criticism had gotten out of hand.

"This is a warning shot across the bow — you either want to be a Catholic or you don’t," said Gregory Merrick, a member of the church’s pastoral council.
Read the rest here.

Secret Service will now have chaperones

Embarrassed by a prostitution scandal, the Secret Service will assign chaperones on some trips to enforce new rules of conduct that make clear that excessive drinking, entertaining foreigners in their hotel rooms and cavorting in disreputable establishments are no longer tolerated.

The stricter measures, issued by the Secret Service on Friday for agents and employees, apply even when traveling personnel are off duty.
Read the rest here.

This is waaayyy over the top. These guys are the only people in the world trusted with loaded firearms near the President of the United States and we are now going to assign them nannies to make sure they are in bed on time (and alone)? I'm sorry but people need to get a grip here. Yes, some agents behaved badly and brought disrepute on themselves and embarrassed their boss.  Most of them have been fired and rightly so. But as far as I know there is no suggestion of anything illegal occurring or any compromise in security.  If things have reached the point where the President's bodyguards need a chaperone then it's time to find new bodyguards.  And no, I don't think we are anywhere near that point. 

The press has taken a garden variety scandal involving a handful of agents behaving like jerks and blown it completely out of proportion.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Strictly for Conspiracy Buffs

Normally I have little use for the modern fetish with conspiracy. But this is so bizarre that even I am wondering...
LONDON — Britain, home to the MI6 spy agency that inspired the James Bond stories and the billion-dollar film franchise, has been wrestling this week with one of the country’s strangest real-life spy mysteries in a generation, one that has become known popularly as the case of the spy in the bag.

An inquest held just across the Thames from MI6’s headquarters here has brought forth details of the bizarre and lonely death in August 2010 of Gareth Williams, a 31-year-old rising star in supersecret counterterrorism work. He was found in a fetal position, arms crossed on his chest, locked inside a duffel bag resting in an unfilled bathtub at the government flat assigned to him in the upscale Pimlico district of London.

His naked body had been in the bag for a week before it was discovered, so badly decomposed that the police and pathologists have been unable to determine whether he was murdered in what his family’s lawyer has suggested to the court was a plot by others skilled in the “dark arts” of spy work.

That theory has played prominently here, with Mr. Williams depicted alternately as a victim of Russian secret service hit men, extremists with Al Qaeda, or a multitude of other potential assassins working in the murky world of espionage who poisoned him with potassium cyanide or an overdose of a powerful sedative drug, GHB, a theory pathologists said could not be effectively tested because of the advanced decomposition.
Read the rest here.

Ron Paul & Paul Krugman

HT: Wilson Unplugged

Friday, April 27, 2012

At 92, a Bandit to Hollywood but a Hero to Soldiers

MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. — One of the world’s most prolific bootleggers of Hollywood DVDs loves his morning farina. He has spent eight years churning out hundreds of thousands of copies of “The Hangover,” “Gran Torino” and other first-run movies from his small Long Island apartment to ship overseas.

“Big Hy” — his handle among many loyal customers — would almost certainly be cast as Hollywood Enemy No. 1 but for a few details. He is actually Hyman Strachman, a 92-year-old, 5-foot-5 World War II veteran trying to stay busy after the death of his wife. And he has sent every one of his copied DVDs, almost 4,000 boxes of them to date, free to American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With the United States military presence in those regions dwindling, Big Hy Strachman will live on in many soldiers’ hearts as one of the war’s more shadowy heroes.

“It’s not the right thing to do, but I did it,” Mr. Strachman said, acknowledging that his actions violated copyright law.

“If I were younger,” he added, “maybe I’d be spending time in the hoosegow.”
Read the rest here.

Dutch court upholds ban on foreign tourists buying pot

AMSTERDAM — A Dutch court on Friday upheld a new law that will prevent foreign visitors from buying marijuana in coffee shops across the Netherlands, potentially ending the decades of “pot tourism” for which this city and others became universally known.

A group of coffee shops had challenged the government plan, launched after southern cities in the Netherlands complained of increased levels of drug-related crime. The decision means that coffee shops in the south must stop selling cannabis to foreign tourists by May 1, while Dutch and foreign residents will be eligible for a “weed pass” that allows them to purchase it legally. The plan is to be rolled out to other Dutch cities, including the popular tourist center of Amsterdam, by next year.
Read the rest here.

That's OK. California will happily take the tourism.

GDP growth slows to 2.2%

The U.S. economic recovery slowed in the first three months of the year, with growth falling to an annual rate of 2. 2 percent, as government spending declined and businesses invested less, the Commerce Department said Friday.

The number fell below expectations. The economy had been growing at a rate of 3 percent in the last three months of 2011, and economists had been anticipating growth of 2.5 percent or more, surveys showed.

The report on gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in the United States, is one of the most closely watched measures of the economy, particularly in an election year. Friday’s announcement — of growth, but not rapid growth -- will likely be addressed by both presidential campaigns.
Read the rest here.

Church Discipline and Pastoral Practice

Over at Byzantine Texas there is a post up on recent developments in the Orthodox Church here in N. America that in my opinion is worth taking note of.  See here.  The problem of often sharply differing disciplines on a wide range of pastoral subjects is one of the byproducts of our balkanized jurisdictionalism here in the United States and Canada.  I don't obsess over uniformity the way Catholics tend to.  But the degree of divergence in practice, and the abuses that the current system is susceptible to, are a legitimate problem.  If they accomplish little else, the Bishop's Assembly will have done a great service for the church if they can get that mess under some sort of control.

Arizona (tea party) close to passing anti-UN-sustainability bill

Arizona lawmakers appear close to sending to Gov. Jan Brewer a tea party-backed bill that proponents say would stop a United Nations takeover conspiracy but that critics claim could end state and cities’ pollution-fighting efforts and even dismantle the state unemployment office.

A final legislative vote is expected Monday on a bill that would outlaw government support of any of the 27 principles contained in the 1992 United Nations Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, also sometimes referred to as Agenda 21.

Senate Bill 1507 was passed by the state Senate last month and received an initial House affirmation Wednesday. It is sponsored by state Sen. Judy Burges, R-Sun City West, who also sponsored a state birther bill that Brewer vetoed last year.

"The bill is designed to protect the rights of Arizona citizens and prevent encroachment on those rights by international institutions," Burges told in an email. "We have three branches of government and when one branch preempts the process through executive orders, the balance of power is lost in the process. It is that simple -- no more, no less."

At a March 15 hearing on the bill, Burges said an executive order signed by then-President Bill Clinton in 1993 started the implementation of Agenda 21 after the Senate refused to pass a treaty ratifying it.

"Any way you want to describe it, Agenda 21 is a direct attack on the middle class and working poor" through "social engineering of our citizens" in "every aspect" of their lives," she told the hearing.

But House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, has a different view.

“It’s the most poorly crafted bill in this state,” Campbell told “It’s so broad and overreaching, we’re not sure what it could impact.”
Read the rest here.

US to move 9,000 Marines out of Okinawa

WASHINGTON -- The United States and Japan announced on Thursday a revised agreement on streamlining the U.S. military presence on Okinawa that will shift 9,000 Marines from that southern Japanese island to Guam and other Asia-Pacific sites.

The new plan, unveiled days before Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda visits President Barack Obama, helps the allies work around the still unresolved, core dispute over moving the Futenma air base from a crowded part of Okinawa to a new site that had vexed relations for years.

Under the agreement, 9,000 U.S. Marines will relocate off Okinawa: 5,000 to Guam and the rest to other locations such as Hawaii and Australia, U.S. officials said.
Read the rest here.

How about the rest? Seriously. Is Japan, a nation that once managed to conquer half the Pacific, unable to defend itself?

Many Years

To His Majesty Louis Alphonse (Louis XX) King of France and Navarre and Duke of Anjou, a belated (it was yesterday) happy birthday and many years! Vive le Roi!

Neoconservative Marco Rubio wants to rule the world

Nobody usually cares when a Senator gives a speech on foreign policy to the Brookings Institute, but the US media was all over Marco Rubio’s Wednesday effort. It mattered because Rubio is top of Romney’s list to be the Vice Presidential nominee – and the press was struck by its statesmanlike tone and attempt to bridge the partisan divide. But while the sound of the talk was moderate, its content was not. This was the most hawkish speech since John Wayne told that Mexican lady in The Alamo what he was fighting for: “There’s right and there’s wrong. You gotta do one or the other. You do the one and you’re living. You do the other and you maybe walking around, but you’re dead as a beaver hat…”

While Rubio did list some Democrats that he likes (Roosevelt, Truman, Scoop Jackson), he really seemed to want to send a message to the Republicans that he dislikes. This is the relevant section:

“Until very recently, the general perception was that American Conservatism believed in a robust and muscular foreign policy … But when I arrived in the Senate last year I found that some of the traditional sides in the foreign policy debate had shifted. On the one hand, I found liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans working together to advocate our withdrawal from Afghanistan, and staying out of Libya. On the other hand I found myself partnering with Democrats … on a more forceful foreign policy … I recently joked that today, in the US Senate, on foreign policy, if you go far enough to the right, you wind up on the left.”
Rubio’s target is obvious: Ron Paul, Rand Paul, and those elements of the Tea Party Right that dissented on Libya. Given that it barely scraped 20 percent in most primaries, it’s amazing how much the Paulite revolt seems to have upset the Republican establishment. In fact, Rubio’s entire speech (and it’s a long one) reads like a step-by-step rebuttal of the Paulite critique of neoconservative foreign policy – the belief that America has a moral duty and a strategic interest to promote global democracy.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Charles Taylor, former Liberian leader, found guilty of war crimes

THE HAGUE — Charles Taylor, the U.S.-educated guerrilla leader who fought his way to the presidency of Liberia, was convicted Thursday of war crimes and crimes against humanity — including murder, rape and slavery — for his role in assisting a bloody rebel movement in neighboring Sierra Leone.

The conviction, in the U.N. Special Court for Sierra Leone, was hailed by chief prosecutor Brenda J. Hollis as a triumph for the idea that political leaders should be held accountable for their deeds in “the new reality” of an international justice system composed of a half-dozen U.N. courts headquartered in this verdant Dutch city.
Read the rest here.

Illinois is running out of time and money

After trying to tax Illinois to governmental solvency and economic dynamism, Pat Quinn, a Democrat who has been governor since 2009, now says “our rendezvous with reality has arrived.” Actually, Illinois is still reality-averse, so Americans may soon learn the importance of the freedom to fail in a system of competitive federalism.

Illinois was more heavily taxed than the five contiguous states (Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin) even before January 2011, when Quinn got a lame-duck legislature (its successor has fewer Democrats) to raise corporate taxes 30 percent (from 7.3 percent to 9.5 percent), giving Illinois one of the highest state corporate taxes and the fourth-highest combination of national and local corporate taxation in the industrialized world. Since 2009, Quinn has spent more than $500 million in corporate welfare to bribe companies not to flee the tax environment he has created.

Quinn raised personal income taxes 67 percent (from 3 percent to 5 percent), adding about $1,040 to the tax burden of a family of four earning $60,000. Illinois’ unemployment rate increased faster than any other state’s in 2011. Its pension system is the nation’s most underfunded, and the state has floated bond issues to finance pension contributions — borrowing money that someday must be repaid, to replace what should have been pension money that it spent on immediate gratifications.

Quinn’s recent flirtation with realism — a plan to raise the retirement age to 67 and cap pension cost-of-living adjustments — is less significant than the continuing unrealistic expectation that some of Illinois’ pension investments will grow 8.5 percent annually. Although the state Constitution mandates balancing the budget, this is almost meaningless while the state sells bonds to pay for operating expenses (in just 10 years the state’s bonded debt has increased from $9.4 billion to $30 billion), underfunds pensions and other liabilities, and makes vendors wait (they are owed $5.6 billion).
Read the rest here.

Ron Paul Guest Hosts on CNBC

French Monarchists Endorse Leftist For President

Details here.  I am a legitimist so I don't have much use for the Orleanists anyways.  But this certainly doesn't help their cause in my book.

Holy Cow

The best team in major league baseball by a mile... is the smoking hot Washington Nationals with a record of 14-4 (.778)!  I heard someone on the radio saying that the last time a major league ball club from Washington started off this hot was back when they were the Senators, and Herbert Hoover was president.

A Traffic Stop

From my sister I got the following report (no link sorry) that she read in the newspaper.  A lady of some 84 years was pulled over by a state trooper for having a break light out.  The officer explained the problem and let her know that he was just going to give her a warning to get it fixed, but as was checking her license he noticed something shiny sticking out of her purse. Whereupon something along the following lines transpired...

Trooper: Mam what is that object in your purse?
Lil old lady: Oh that's just my 9mm pistol.
Trooper: Ummm OK. Mam would you mind taking that out of your purse and setting it on the passenger seat where it is in plain view?
Lil old lady: Not at all officer. (reaches into purse removes chrome 9mm pistol and sets it on seat.)
Trooper: Thank you mam. I need to ask you if you have any other weapons in the vehicle or on your person?
Lil old lady: Yes officer.
Trooper (slightly discomfited): Could you set it on the seat as well please?
Lil old lady: Of course officer (reaches into glove box and removes .38 snub revolver and sets it on seat).
Trooper: Thank you again mam. Just to be sure, are there any other weapons in the car or on your person?
Lil old lady: Yes. Would you like me to put that on the seat as well?
Trooper (eyes rolling): Yes mam, if you would please.
Lil old lady: (Reaches under passenger seat and pulls out .357 magnum revolver and sets it on the seat.)
Trooper: Is that all of the weapons mam?
Lil old lady: Yes sir, that's all of them.
Trooper: Mam, can I ask you a question? What on earth are you afraid of?
Lil old lady: NOT A DAMN THING!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Politics of the Ukrainian Mess

There is an interesting discussion here related to the ongoing mess that is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  Not counting the Uniate church there are at least three good sized churches all claiming to be the Ukrainian Orthodox Church plus a couple of smaller splinter groups.  I agree with the observations made in a couple of the comments to the effect that unlike many of the Old Calendarist - "True Orthodox" schisms, the situation in the Ukraine looks be mostly political in nature.

HT: Bill (aka The Godfather)

Military To Sack Marine For Online Attack On Obama

SAN DIEGO — A sergeant will be discharged for criticizing President Barack Obama on Facebook in a case that called into question the Pentagon’s policies about social media and its limits on the speech of active duty military personnel, the Marine Corps said Wednesday.

Sgt. Gary Stein will get an other-than-honorable discharge and lose most of his benefits for violating the policies, the Corps said.
Read the rest here.

The Marine Corps is doing the right thing here. Members of the armed forces don't have the right to attack the chain of command anymore than civilians can say crude things to or about their employers and not expect to be fired.

War Crimes Verdict Expected for Charles Taylor

THE HAGUE—For the thousands of young men who had their limbs hacked off, the verdict will come way too late. Too late as well for the teenage boys sent into battle high on dope. And for the pubescent girls turned into sex slaves for rebel warriors, who will harbor unspeakable memories until they die, no matter what the court decides.

But on Thursday morning, a full decade after the vicious Sierra Leone war was quelled, the U.N. Special Court for Sierra Leone will hand down a verdict on the responsibility of former Liberian president Charles Taylor in promoting and financing the butchery in faraway West Africa.

Even though it is too late for many victims in Sierra Leone, the decision handed down by the court in a leafy suburb of the Hague marks an important milestone in an accelerating and sometimes controversial effort to create an international justice system.

Taylor will become the first sitting or former head of state to be judged for conduct in a war that was considered — by still-emerging international standards — so treacherous as to be illegal. Prosecutors allege that he used his power as president of neighboring Liberia to advise and provide resources and weapons to Sierra Leone rebels, whose uprising he viewed as similar to the guerrilla movement he had led in his own country.
Read the rest here.

Supreme Court seems receptive to parts of Arizona anti-immigration law

The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed receptive to the argument that Arizona’s tough plan to have state and local law enforcement play a much more active role in identifying illegal immigrants was a valid exercise of its power to protect its borders.

Hearing final oral arguments in the case, justices seemed skeptical of the Obama administration’s claim that a requirement that police check the immigration status of those arrested or detained was an impermissible intrusion on Congress’s power to set immigration policy and the executive branch’s ability to implement it.
Read the rest here.

Newt Gingrich to quit race, endorse Romney

No surprise here...
Newt Gingrich is expected to suspend his presidential campaign within the next week and endorse former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a spokesman said..

Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said that Romney called the former House speaker this morning to say he would welcome his endorsement, should Gingrich choose to end his campaign.

The two campaigns are “working out the details” of the endorsement, Hammond said.

“Over the next few days we're going to look realistically at where we're at,” Gingrich said in a speech in Concord Tuesday night. He said he would assess the race “as somebody who's a unifier and somebody who's realistic.”
Read the rest here.

Bill would require Federal workers to contribute more for benefits

Federal employees would have to pay 5 percent of salary more toward their retirement benefits, phased in over five years starting in 2013, under legislation to be considered Thursday in the House committee that handles employee benefit issues.

Under the bill before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, current employees would pay 1.5 percent of salary more next year, an additional 0.5 percent in 2014 and yet another 1 percent each year over 2015-2017.

Those hired into the government in 2013 and later, and who had fewer than five years of prior federal service would start paying the entire 5 percentage point increase from the beginning of their employment.
Read the rest here.

Israel Legalizes Three Settlements in Occupied Palestine

JERUSALEM — The Israeli government on Tuesday retroactively legalized three Jewish settlement outposts in the West Bank, and moved to delay the scheduled evacuation of a fourth, in a provocative move that some critics said marked the first establishment of new settlements in two decades.

But while antisettlement advocates saw it as a significant shift in policy that could undermine the prospects for a two-state solution — and the United States and other foreign governments immediately raised concerns about the move — a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued that it was simply a matter of resolving technical problems such as improper permits and mistakenly building on the wrong hill.

“One can be critical of the Israeli settlement policy, that’s everybody’s right, but you can’t tell me that the Israeli government has built new settlements, and you can’t tell me this is legalizing unauthorized outposts,” said the Netanyahu spokesman, Mark Regev. “These decisions are procedural or technical. They don’t change anything whatsoever on the ground.”

As with most matters in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is disagreement over the basic facts concerning the three settlements, where 188 families live. Mr. Regev cited government decisions regarding two of them, Bruchin and Sansana, going back to 1983, and a 1991 authorization for the third, Rechelim, and denied that they were “outposts,” the most fiercely fought-over category of settlements.

Michael Sfard, a legal adviser to Yesh Din, a human rights group that helped bring the legal cases against the settlements, pointed to two of the government’s own reports on illegal outposts that listed the three as problematic.

“The question is whether you can retroactively legalize it,” he said. “This government only now reaches the crossroads, the dilemma: it has to choose between the rule of law and ideology.”
Read the rest here.

California ponders abolition of the death penalty

If California voters suspend the death penalty in November, they will have removed one-quarter of the nation's current death row population.

The initiative -- which got enough signatures Monday to be placed on the ballot -- could return the state's 723 death row inmates to the general prison population, the Los Angeles Times reported. Their sentences would be reduced to life without parole and they would be expected to work; their earnings would go to crime victims.

California’s death row ballooned in size because, simply put, the state rarely executes its inmates, said Richard Dieter, executive director of Death Penalty Information Center.

Compare California to Texas, for example – both states sentence about 20 people to death every year, Dieter said. But while Texas executes one inmate a month, sometimes even one per week, California hasn't executed anyone since 2006.

The Times reported that California has executed 13 inmates since 1976, when the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, and that death row inmates are far more likely to die of old age.

“California is very ambivalent about the death penalty,” Dieter said.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Over 800,000 Photos of Old New York City Are Posted Online

Painters on the Brooklyn Bridge circa 1914. OSHA would have a coronary.
The two men were discovered dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft in a 12-story Manhattan building, as if dumped there, one man sprawled on top of the other.

The rare crime scene photograph from Nov. 24, 1915, is one of 870,000 images of New York City and its municipal operations now available to the public on the Internet for the first time. The city Department of Records officially announced the debut of the photo database Tuesday. A previously unpublicized link to the images has been live for about two weeks.

Culled from the Municipal Archives collection of more than 2.2 million images going back to the mid-1800s, the photographs feature all manner of city oversight — from stately ports and bridges to grisly gangland killings.

The project was four years in the making, part of the department's mission to make city records accessible to everyone, said department assistant commissioner Kenneth Cobb.

"We all knew that we had fantastic photograph collections that no one would even guess that we had," Cobb said.
Read the rest here.

Here is the link to photo archive.  Unfortunately the publicity has caused so many hits that the site has semi crashed.

Detroit may let abandoned buildings burn

Cash-strapped, arson-prone Detroit could let fires in vacant buildings and homes burn themselves out to save the city Fire Department money.

The fiery notion from Detroit’s Executive Fire Commissioner Donald Austin surfaced as the documentary “Burn,” chronicling a year of Motor City firefighters’ camaraderie in the face of declining budgets and increasing fire calls, made its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

“We are in no way looking to 'let the city' burn, this is about saving lives and money,” Austin said, according to a report Tuesday by NBC station WDIV in Detroit. “My department is strapped, the budget is strapped, and it’s time to look at a new way of doing things.”
Read the rest here.

Feds arrest BP engineer for destroying evidence in oil spill

A former BP drilling engineer was arrested Tuesday on charges of intentionally destroying evidence sought by federal authorities in the wake of the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, the Justice Department said.

The two charges of obstruction of justice filed against Kurt Mix, in the Eastern District of Louisiana, are the first criminal charges connected to the oil spill that resulted from a blowout on BP’s Macondo well. If found guilty, Mix could face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines for each count. 
Read the rest here.

Profile: Architects of "Make Them So Miserable They Leave " Immigration Policy

They were a mismatched pair who have somehow managed to rearrange the national immigration debate and the half-shadow world where illegal immigrants live and work in America.

One, Kris Kobach, was a telegenic law professor who was worried about foreign terrorists. The other, Michael Hethmon, was a bookish lawyer afraid that immigrants would overburden the environment.

Over the last six years the couple have become the most successful propagators of a powerful idea: that state and local governments can make life so miserable for illegal aliens that those people would choose to deport themselves.
Read the rest here.

To Dodge US Sanctions; China Will Buy Iranian Oil With Gold

Beijing is planning to avoid U.S. financial sanctions on Iran by paying for oil with gold.  China’s imports of the metal are already large, and you can guess what additional purchases are going to do to prices.

On the last day of 2011, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.  The NDAA, as it is called, attempts to reduce Iran’s revenue from the sale of petroleum by imposing sanctions on foreign financial institutions conducting transactions with Iranian financial institutions in connection with those sales.  This provision, which essentially cuts off sanctioned institutions from the U.S. financial system, takes effect on June 28.
Read the rest here.

BBC: The Golden Age of the Ocean Liner

Monday, April 23, 2012

Western Rite Orthodoxy

There is an excellent overview here of the Orthodox Western Rite and its history.

HT: Dr. Tighe

Moleben in Defense of the Faith

Over the weekend a moleben was offered in Moscow in defense of the Faith and in reparation for various acts of sacrilege.  There have certainly been some very nasty anti-Christian crimes and various acts of sacrilege (take note of the defaced icons in the procession).  But this strike me as at least partly a response to recent criticism of the Church for its overt intervention in the recent elections on behalf of Vladimir Putin and perceptions of worldly corruption.

On a side note the crowd was good sized. And judging from the multitude of banners and flags it looked like a very significant display of pro-monarchist sentiment.  Most of the flags were monarchist.

A tough day on Wall Street

French voters effectively reject austerity; Holland's government collapses. Crude oil and gold fall. Netflix shares tumble after hours. Wal-Mart shares slump on Mexican bribery allegations. Apple falls ahead of earnings.
Read the rest here.

In blow to property rights Supreme Court rejects rent control case

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a constitutional challenge to New York City’s famed rent-control ordinance, a post-World War II housing measure that limits the rents of more than a million apartments.

The court’s action is a setback for property-rights activists, who had hoped a more conservative court would protect landlords and a free market in rentals. For decades, critics have said rent-control laws deny property owners the right to fully profit from their investment. 

The justices, four of whom grew up in New York City, turned away an appeal from James and Jeanne Harmon, who own a five-story brownstone building on West 76th Street in Manhattan. The couple says they have no choice but to rent three apartments on the upper floors for less than half of their market value. 

They also say that one of their tenants can pay a $1,500-a-month mortgage on a Long Island house because he pays only $951 a month to rent a unit in Harmon’s building.
Read the rest here.

More Saber Rattling From North Korea

SEOUL — North Korea's military Monday threatened "special actions" soon to turn parts of the South Korean capital to ashes, accusing Seoul's conservative government of defaming its leadership.

The North has for months been criticising the South's President Lee Myung-Bak in extreme terms and threatening "sacred war" over perceived insults.

There have been no incidents but the language has become increasingly vitriolic. Some analysts said they believe a military provocation is likely.

"The special actions of our revolutionary armed forces will start soon to meet the reckless challenge of the group of traitors," said a statement on the official news agency.

The North said its targets are "the Lee Myung-Bak group of traitors, the arch criminals, and the group of rat-like elements including conservative media destroying the mainstay of the fair public opinion".

It said the actions "will reduce all... to ashes in three or four minutes... by unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style".
Read the rest here.

North Korea would be a joke if it weren't for the fact that they are so delusional they probably believe their own propaganda.  One major problem with the North Koreans is that there have never been any meaningful consequences for their outrageous actions in the past.  The best way to stop a bully is to give him a bloody nose.  But no one has had the nerve to do that despite the most extreme provocations. Sadly all this has done is to encourage the North to ever greater aggression.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Consecration of the Naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Kronstadt.

Times have definitely changed in Russia.

France: Far Right Scores Big In Elections

Marine Le Pen secured the highest score for the far-Right in French presidential election history on Sunday, in a third-place finish that will present a major challenge to the two mainstream candidates Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande, left in the race.

According to official forecasts, the 43-year-old daughter of the founder of the National Front (NF) secured between 18.2 and 20 per cent of the vote, performing even better than Jean Marie Le Pen’s shock result in 2002, when he won 17 per cent.

At her press conference on Sunday night she burst into a rendition of La Marseillaise in front of delirious supporters waving the national flag.

“Whatever happens over the next two weeks, the battle for France has only just begun,” she said.
Read the rest here.

Connecticut: Democratic Politicians Support Federal Mandate Requiring Catholic Hospitals to Perform Abortions

Via Fr. Z...
On Sunday, some Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate said they'd favor the concept of a federal law requiring even Catholic hospitals to perform abortions. 

Now, the state's Catholic bishops are objecting.
Connecticut's Catholic bishops—including Bishop William Lori, who announced in March that he is leaving the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport to become archbishop of the Baltimore Archdiocese—have issued a statement expressing their dismay after all five Democratic candidates said during Sunday's "Face the State" debate that they would support legislation forcing Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.
Read the rest here.

Orthodox Unity

Go hear for a very well written and somewhat contrarian perspective on the much debated topic of Orthodox unity in N. America.

HT: Another blogger who asked not to be referenced.

Many Years

To H.M. The Queen on her 86th birthday, many years and God Save The Queen!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Vatican crackdown on U.S. nuns was 40 years in the making

(Reuters) - When Pope John Paul II arrived in the United States in 1979, the president of the nation's most powerful organization of nuns met him with a challenge.

In a bold welcoming address, Sister Theresa Kane called on the pope to include women "in all ministries of our church," including the priesthood. The pope sat silent, his expression stony.

That moment did not change Vatican policy.

But it unveiled growing tensions between the Vatican and American nuns. The conflict would continue to mount for the next three decades, until this week the Vatican finally moved to reassert control over the aging but still ferociously independent conference of Catholic sisters.

Read the rest here.

This was a petty surprising story. No, I don't mean all of the details about decades of radical nuns thumbing their nose at Rome. That is hardly a news bulletin for Catholics of either the conservative or liberal stripe. Rather I am shocked, indeed almost stunned, by the at least somewhat balanced tone in the story. I can't imagine how it got by the editor.

Phil Humber Pitches Perfect Game!

SEATTLE (AP) Phil Humber threw the first perfect game in the majors in almost two years, leading the Chicago White Sox to a 4-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

It was baseball's 21st (really 22nd including Armando Gallaraga) perfect game and first since Philadelphia's Roy Halladay threw one against the Florida Marlins on May 29, 2010. It was the third in White Sox's history, joining Mark Buehrle against Tampa Bay on July 23, 2009, and Charles Robertson against Detroit on April 30, 1922.

With the White Sox lined up on the top step of the dugout, Humber fell behind 3-0 to Michael Saunders leading off the ninth. But he rebounded to strike him out. John Jaso then flied out before Brendan Ryan, another pinch-hitter, struck out to end the game.
Read the rest here.

Wal-Mart hushed up vast Mexico bribery case

In September 2005, a senior Wal-Mart lawyer received an alarming e-mail from a former executive at the company’s largest foreign subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico. In the e-mail and follow-up conversations, the former executive described how Wal-Mart de Mexico had orchestrated a campaign of bribery to win market dominance. In its rush to build stores, he said, the company had paid bribes to obtain permits in virtually every corner of the country.

The former executive gave names, dates and bribe amounts. He knew so much, he explained, because for years he had been the lawyer in charge of obtaining construction permits for Wal-Mart de Mexico.

Wal-Mart dispatched investigators to Mexico City, and within days they unearthed evidence of widespread bribery. They found a paper trail of hundreds of suspect payments totaling more than $24 million. They also found documents showing that Wal-Mart de Mexico’s top executives not only knew about the payments, but had taken steps to conceal them from Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. In a confidential report to his superiors,
Wal-Mart’s lead investigator, a former F.B.I. special agent, summed up their initial findings this way: “There is reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and USA laws have been violated.”
The lead investigator recommended that Wal-Mart expand the investigation.

Instead, an examination by The New York Times found, Wal-Mart’s leaders shut it down. 
Read the rest here.

Chuck Colson has died

Charles W. Colson, who served as a political saboteur for President Richard M. Nixon, masterminded some of the dirty tricks that led to the president’s downfall, then emerged from prison to become an important evangelical leader, saying he had been “born again,” died Saturday. He was 80.

The cause was complications resulting from a brain hemorrhage, according to a statement from Prison Fellowship Ministries, which Mr. Colson founded in Lansdowne, Va.

Mr. Colson had brain surgery to remove a clot after becoming ill on March 30 while speaking at a conference, according to Jim Liske, the group’s chief executive.

Mr. Colson was sent to prison after pleading guilty to obstructing justice in the Watergate affair. After having what he called his religious awakening behind bars, he spent much of the rest of his life ministering to prisoners, preaching the Gospels and helping to forge a coalition among Republican politicians, evangelical church leaders and Roman Catholic conservatives, helping to change the very dynamics of American politics.

It was a remarkable reversal. 
Read the rest here.

Memory eternal.

Military cancels Ted Nugent show citing anti-Obama comments

Citing inflammatory language while expressing his displeasure with President Barack Obama, the military has uninvited rock star and conservative political activist Ted Nugent from performing at Fort Knox in Kentucky, according to the U.S. Army post’s Facebook page.

“After learning of opening act Ted Nugent’s recent public comments about the president of the United States, Fort Knox leadership decided to cancel his performance on the installation," it's Facebook posting says.

So far, the June 23 concert remains on the Fort Knox schedule, with REO Speedwagon and Styx listed as “co-headliners,” but army personnel said they will grant requests for refunds in light of their decision to nix the opening act.
Read the rest here.

Gingirch hints that the end may be near

WILMINGTON, Del. -- The future of Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign seems to hinge on the Delaware primary early next week.

"Tuesday is a big day," a source close to the Gingrich campaign told NBC News. "Newt is just waiting to see what happens on Tuesday."
Up until now, Gingrich has promised to take his campaign all the way to the Republican convention in Tampa at the end of the summer, although the odds are not in his favor.

The former House speaker has been spending the majority of his time the past three weeks in the First State. Gingrich has made at least 12 campaign stops in Delaware thus far while the presumptive GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, has held just one event there.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Quote of the day...

"On the field of battle his [Napoleon Bonaparte's] hat is worth 50,000 men. But it doesn't matter. He is not a gentleman."

- Arthur, 1st Duke and Marquess of Wellington, Marquess Douro, Earl of Wellington, Viscount Wellington and Baron Douro, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Knight Grand Cross of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, One of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, and Field Marshal and Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty's Forces. Field Marshal of the Austrian Army, Field Marshal of the Hanoverian Army, Field Marshal of the Army of the Netherlands, Marshal-General of the Portuguese Army, Field Marshal of the Prussian Army, Field Marshal of the Russian Army, and Captain-General of the Spanish Army. Prince of Waterloo, of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo and Grandee of Spain of the First Class. Duke of Victoria, Marquess of Torres Vedras, and Count of Vimiera in Portugal. Knight of the Most Illustrious Order of the Golden Fleece, and of the Military Orders of St. Ferdinand and of St. Hermenigilde of Spain. Knight Grand Cross of the Orders of the Black Eagle and of the Red Eagle of Prussia. Knight Grand Cross of the Imperial Military Order of Maria Teresa of Austria. Knight of the Imperial Orders of St. Andrew, St. Alexander Newski, and St. George of Russia. Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Portuguese Military Order of the Tower and Sword. Knight Grand Cross of the Royal and Military Order of the Sword of Sweden. Knight of the Order of St. Esprit of France. Knight of the Order of the Elephant of Denmark. Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order. Knight of the Order of St. Januarius and of the Military Order of St. Ferdinand and of Merit of the Two Sicilies. Knight Grand Cross of the Supreme Order of the Annunciation of Sardinia. Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Military Order of Maximilian Joseph of Bavaria. Knight of the Royal Order of the Rue Crown of Saxony, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Military Merit of Wurtemberg. Knight Grand Cross of the Military Order of William of the Netherlands. Knight of the Order of the Golden Lion of Hesse Cassel, and Knight Grand Cross of the Orders of Fidelity and of the Lion of Baden.

200 Years Ago: War is brewing

The usurper and megalomaniac Napoleon Bonaparte.

The great thief of Europe was preparing for the invasion of Russia with his Grande Armée of nearly a half million men. And on this side of the world; Congress and President Madison were finally reaching the end of their patience with Britain's policy of stopping US flagged ships on the high seas and abducting American merchant sailors under the pretext (usually, though not always, false) that they were deserters from the Royal Navy. The first war would become one of the most famous military campaigns in history. The second has been largely forgotten in both America and Britain.

NYPD Reopens 33 Year Old Missing Child Case

NEW YORK, April 19 (UPI) -- Police and FBI agents will spend the next few days searching a New York City basement for signs of a long-missing boy, law enforcement officials said Thursday. Searchers Thursday began going through the basement in SoHo where 6-year-old Etan Patz vanished in 1979 while walking to his school bus stop.

Etan later had the sad honor of being among the first missing children to have their photo printed on milk cartons in hopes someone would recognize them.

Law enforcement sources told The New York Times a cadaver dog had sniffed around the basement in recent weeks and indicated the possible presence of human remains.
Read the rest here

Inside the foreclosure factory; they are still playing by their own rules

In a quiet office in downtown Charlotte, N.C., dozens of Wells Fargo’s foreclosure foot soldiers sit in cubicles cranking out documents the bank relies on to seize its share of the thousands of homes lost to foreclosure every week.

They stare at computer screens and prepare sworn affidavits that are used by lenders in courts across the country to seize homes. Paid $30,700 to start, these legal process specialists, the title that goes with the job, swear an oath under penalty of perjury that they're corporate vice presidents. They're peppered with e-mails from managers to meet daily quotas of at least 10 or 11 files day. 

If they fall short, they face a verbal warning. Then written. Two written warnings could cost them the paycheck that supports a family. As more than one source for this story told, "I can't afford to lose this job."
Read the rest here.

Banks are the enemy.

Senate struggles to save the Post Office

The Senate struggled Thursday to push forward a bill to restructure the U.S. Postal Service, but still lacked accord on which amendments the senators would be allowed to offer.

“We’re really very, very close to getting something done,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid Thursday afternoon. “Our main issue now is whether there will be a 50-vote hurdle or a 60-vote hurdle,” he said.

The Postal Service is headed for financial collapse and perhaps for a taxpayer bailout. Whether Congress can avert this outcome and save it is the question that the Senate has been debating this week as it considers a bipartisan agency restructuring bill.
Read the rest here.

For the record

The new Blogger posting page sucks.  It is a pain in the bleep and no where near as user friendly as the old one.  I haven't found a feedback link yet but if/when I do they will very definitely be getting my views on this subject.  In the meantime I am tired and am going to bed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rome orders crackdown on US nuns

The Vatican orthodoxy watchdog [sic] announced Wednesday a full-scale overhaul of the largest umbrella group for nuns in the United States, accusing the group of taking positions that undermine Roman Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality while promoting "certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

An American archbishop was appointed to oversee reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which will include rewriting the group's statutes, reviewing all its plans and programs -- including approving speakers -- and ensuring the organization properly follows Catholic prayer and ritual.

The Leadership Conference, based in Silver Spring, Md., represents about 57,000 religious sisters and offers programs ranging from leadership training for women's religious orders to advocacy on social justice issues. Representatives of the Leadership Conference did not respond to requests for comment.
Read the rest here.

The usual suspects are having a seizure over this.

Citigroup shareholders nix massive CEO bonus

Citigroup (C 0.00%) shareholders dealt a harsh blow to CEO Vikram Pandit on Tuesday, rejecting his $15 million pay package at Citi's annual meeting in Dallas.

The vote is non-binding -- meaning that Citi's board of directors could ignore it -- but it's still a rare slap in the face for the head of a major U.S. company, and the directors say they're going to take another look at pay for Pandit and four other senior executives.

What brought about this unprecedented display of investor rancor? Here, a guide.
Read the rest here.

Employees fighting for overtime pay

Everyone from pharmaceutical reps to home health care aides to waiters and waitresses in fancy restaurants are sick of working off the clock, and they’re looking to finally punch in.

This week, the Supreme Court is reviewing a case involving pharmaceutical representatives who claim they’re owed overtime pay even though their employer, GlaxoSmithKline, contends they’re sales people and not entitled to it.

Last month, a case involving celebrity chef Mario Batali’s restaurants and unpaid overtime and tips for employees was settled for $5.2 million. And earlier this year, Swiss drugmaker Norvartis AG agreed to settle a class action overtime suit for $99 million brought by its sales representatives.
Read the rest here.

Warren Buffet has cancer; full recovery is likely

(Reuters) - Berkshire Hathaway Inc Chief Executive Warren Buffett said he has stage 1 prostate cancer but his condition "is not remotely life-threatening or even debilitating in any meaningful way."

Buffett, the world's third-richest man, will begin a two-month treatment consisting of daily radiation treatments starting in mid-July, he said in a statement on Tuesday. This will limit his ability to travel during that time, Buffett added.

The news from the 81-year-old "Oracle of Omaha" is likely to intensify the already brewing debate about the succession plan at Berkshire Hathaway, a conglomerate that employs more than 270,000 people in more than 70 businesses around the world.
Read the rest here.

RIP: Dick Clark

Famed music aficionado Dick Clark as died at 82.

Three are out in Secret Service scandal

Secret Service agents guarding President Reagan in 1981. The Secret Service has protected every president since Theodore Roosevelt.
Two U.S. Secret Service personnel involved in the Colombia prostitution scandal have agreed to leave the department, officials said Wednesday, as the agency moves to manage the fallout of the embarassing episode.

One has agreed to resign and the other, a supervisor, intends to retire, the agency announced in a statement. A third, who is also a supervisor, has been recommended for firing, but he will have an opportunity to appeal, officials said.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

More SSPX News

An Italian journalist is reporting that Bishop Fellay (the Superior General of the SSPX) has indicated his substantial assent to a doctrinal preamble from the Vatican.  If true, this would be a major step towards regularizing the SSPX and restoring them to full communion with the Roman Church.

Details at Rorate.

In Record Numbers US Citizens Living Abroad Are Renouncing Citizenship

A year ago, in Action Comics, Superman declared plans to renounce his U.S. citizenship.

"'Truth, justice, and the American way' — it's not enough anymore," the comic book superhero said, after both the Iranian and American governments criticized him for joining a peaceful anti-government protest in Tehran.

Last year, almost 1,800 people followed Superman's lead, renouncing their U.S. citizenship or handing in their Green Cards. That's a record number since the Internal Revenue Service began publishing a list of those who renounced in 1998. It's also almost eight times more than the number of citizens who renounced in 2008, and more than the total for 2007, 2008 and 2009 combined.

But not everyone's motivations are as lofty as Superman's. Many say they parted ways with America for tax reasons.

The United States is one of the only countries to tax its citizens on income earned while they're living abroad. And just as Americans stateside must file tax returns each April — this year, the deadline is Tuesday — an estimated 6.3 million U.S. citizens living abroad brace for what they describe as an even tougher process of reporting their income and foreign accounts to the IRS. For them, the deadline is June.

The National Taxpayer Advocate's Office, part of the IRS, released a report in December that details the difficulties of filing taxes from overseas. It cites heavy paperwork, a lack of online filing options and a dearth of local and foreign-language resources.

For those wishing to legally escape the filing requirements, the only way is to formally renounce their U.S. citizenship. Last year, IRS records show that at least 1,788 people did, and that's likely an underestimate. The IRS publishes in the Federal Register the names of those who give up their citizenship, and some who renounced say they haven't seen their name on the list yet.
Read the rest here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Printing money does not lead to inflation, argues Argentine central bank president

I swear I am not making this up...
The president of Argentina’s Central Bank (BCRA), Mercedes Marcó del Pont, stressed the importance of the recently approved bank’s charter reform and denied that printing currency leads to the creation of an inflationary state “since inflation is rooted in other causes”.

“The new charter will provide the government with more tools to deepen the development model and to give priority to investment credit” said Marcó del Pont in a Sunday interview with two pro-government local newspapers Página 12 and Tiempo Argentino.

The banker added that “it is totally false to say that printing more money generates inflation, price increases are generated by other phenomena like supply and external sector’s behaviour”.
Read the rest here.

Iceland eyes Canadian Dollar for its currency

Iceland’s newfound love for the loonie is sparking a wave of controversy, from Reykjavik to Ottawa.

For 150 years, the rest of the world has shown scant interest in the Canadian dollar – the poor cousin to the coveted U.S. greenback.

But now tiny Iceland, still reeling from the aftershocks of the devastating collapse of its banks in 2008, is looking longingly to the loonie as the salvation from wild economic gyrations and suffocating capital controls.
Read the rest here.

SSPX: Rumors are flying

The Catholic blogosphere is buzzing with rumors based on thinly sourced news reports from Europe that a reconciliation of the Society of St. Pius X with Rome is near at hand.  Rorate has been covering most of the recent developments (or rumors of developments). For my part, I've seen these sorts of rumors before and am adopting a wait and see attitude. Although I have been an occasional critic of the SSPX, I do hope for their return to full communion with Rome.  If it is handled right it would be a win win situation.  But Rome needs to know what they are doing and they need to make it clear that there are some points on which no compromise will be possible.

If Rome does not require the SSPX to expressly accept Vatican II's declaration repudiating the age old charge of Deicide against the Jews they are going to have serious problems. The Society has an established record of being far too accommodating to clergy and religious who are virulent anti-Semites. That needs to be dealt with very firmly or Rome is going to have a PR disaster on their hands.  They claimed to have been caught off-guard by the Bishop Williamson business. That excuse won't fly again.

Romney begins Veep search

With the GOP primary contest essentially over, now begins one of Washington’s great mating rituals: the Dance of the Possible Vice Presidents. In which politicians who want the country’s second-highest office of trust must first prove that they can lie about it.

“I’ve made it clear I don’t want” the job, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in 2008. “I’m satisfied where I am right now.”

“I have absolutely no desire to go back to government,” Richard B. Cheney, then an oil field company executive, said in 2000.

Both men later accepted the vice presidential nod they had said they didn’t want. In Cheney’s case, he led the search effort that eventually led to ... him.

This is expected. The first unwritten rule of the “veepstakes” is that the American vice presidency is like a bronze medal or a day-old doughnut.

Sure, you might enjoy having it. But it is deeply unseemly to want it.

The dance is expected to begin in earnest now that Mitt Romney is the de facto Republican nominee. On Monday, Romney said he had named Beth Myers, his longtime senior adviser, to lead his vice presidential search committee, even though he claimed it is “way too early to begin narrowing down who the potential vice presidential nominees might be.”

For any nominee, the selection of a running mate is a vitally important political calculation: It could help swing a key state or voting demographic or reassure voters that a capable second is ready to take over if something happens.

And in most cases, it is the first big executive decision made under the kind of public scrutiny that presidents face every day. For that reason, it is crucial not to crowd the decider — or to seem like you’re stealing his airtime.
Read the rest here.

Job candidates' purgatory

Job seekers expect to have two or three interviews with an employer before they land a position. But 10 interviews?

Ebonee Younger’s interview odyssey began in September when she embarked on her quest to land an HR manager’s position at a rental truck company.

Ten interviews and a lot of sweat equity later, Younger, who lives in Birmingham, Ala., ended up not getting the gig.

“The whole experience cost me two new suits, a new pair of shoes, $40 in stationery and postage -- I wrote handwritten notes to almost everyone I spoke with -- two paid time-off days, and $200 plus in taxi fare,” she explained.

“I'm not so much irritated that I didn't get the job, I was just disappointed in the candidate experience,” she noted. “I really believe they could have, and should have, made a decision earlier in the process.”

Unfortunately, Younger’s interview purgatory is not unusual. Employers are increasingly putting applicants through a seemingly endless cycle of interviews these days, a byproduct of the tight labor market. Some hiring managers feel they have the upper hand because unemployment, at over 8 percent, is still relatively high so they can put candidates through a hiring rigmarole. Others are just too inept to trust their own judgment, or are fearful a wrong hire will get them in hot water.
Read the rest here.

As with so many things in life, baseball provides a very good rule for this sort of thing. Three strikes and you're out.  Or alternatively ball four and walk.  Unless your interviewing for an extremely important or sensitive position there is no justification for endless interviews. Three should be the maximum that anyone is required to go through for all but a handful of jobs. If you haven't persuaded someone to hire you after three interviews (or four at the most) then you just politely explain that you are withdrawing your name from consideration.

More than three interviews strongly suggests several  things.  First would be that if you can't persuade someone to hire you in three interviews you are probably not the right person for the job.  Secondly, even if you did eventually get the job your new employer will have clearly demonstrated that they don't have confidence in their decision to hire you. Your position there may be weak.  And third it demonstrates poor and indecisive management on the part of your prospective employer.  Remember job interviews are a two way street.  They are interviewing you.  But you are also interviewing them.

I have some considerable sympathy with those in a really bad job market having some experience with fruitless job hunting myself.  And I do know what it's like to interview several times for a job (though I have not had more than three for any position) and not get the job.  But unless your applying with the CIA or for a six figure salaried management position there is no justification for more than three interviews.  Frankly you might even improve your odds by showing a little backbone with your perspective employer and politely declining to do the endless interviews.