Friday, June 29, 2012

Banks are the enemy

...Nobody ever seems to have to give up anything, and nobody ever seems to lose a job, and nobody ever seems to even get prosecuted, provided they are bankers. It's like the job gives them immunity for all but insider trading, and they would probably have immunity from that, too, if we didn't have a tough and fair U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

This immunity is just one more injustice, not unlike the immunity that all of the bankers at Lehman or Bear Stearns or AIG or Countrywide received. It's not unlike the immunity the bankers received from the robo-signings. These bankers were the proximate cause of so many of our ills, yet somehow they evaded the law.

That's because banking is a lawless profession. To me these people are embezzlers, fraudsters and perhaps even gangsters in pinstripes. Their immunity makes a mockery of justice, and it explains why so many simply calculate that it's worth it, because even if they get caught, all that happens is shareholders pay. What a sweet deal they have on the rest of us.
-Jim Cramer from here.
A blessed Feast to all

Why Roberts Did It

It’s the judiciary’s Nixon-to-China: Chief Justice John Roberts joins the liberal wing of the Supreme Court and upholds the constitutionality of Obamacare. How? By pulling off one of the great constitutional finesses of all time. He managed to uphold the central conservative argument against Obamacare, while at the same time finding a narrow definitional dodge to uphold the law — and thus prevented the court from being seen as having overturned, presumably on political grounds, the signature legislation of this administration.

Why did he do it? Because he carries two identities. Jurisprudentially, he is a constitutional conservative. Institutionally, he is chief justice and sees himself as uniquely entrusted with the custodianship of the court’s legitimacy, reputation and stature.

As a conservative, he is as appalled as his conservative colleagues by the administration’s central argument that Obamacare’s individual mandate is a proper exercise of its authority to regulate commerce.
Read the rest here.

Stockton files for bankruptcy

Stockton, California, became the largest city to file for bankruptcy in U.S. history on Thursday, after years of fiscal mismanagement and a housing market crash left it unable to pay its workers, pensioners and bondholders.

The filing by the city of 300,000 people followed three months of confidential talks with its creditors aimed at averting bankruptcy.

"We are now a Chapter 9 debtor," Marc Levinson, the lawyer who filed the city's voluntary petition in the Eastern District of California, in Sacramento (Case 12-32118) told Reuters.

Pleadings in support of Stockton's eligibility for Chapter 9 bankruptcy will be filed on Friday, Levinson said.
Read the rest here.

Quote of the day...

The real story of the Greece, NY bus outrage is not the old news that 13-year-olds are often monsters but, as I wrote earlier, that the victim and bus driver, both adults, did nothing to stop it. Well-meant crap like No Place for Hate™ is worthless. (Again, if anything it would cause a backlash from the kids.) Those little brats need the ‘board of education’ or a British rattan cane (the discipline that honed natural talent, which built an empire). One to three strapping men are the only ‘Bullying and Violence Response Team’ you need. (The whiny psychologizing is Christian ethics without Christ so it’s emasculated.)

-The Young Fogey

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Some things are just wrong

And I agree with Dave B that this is one of them. I have heard of incidents of violence by ultra-Orthodox against leftists and secularists in Russia and a Bulgarian Orthodox priest made the news recently by encouraging people to throw rocks at gays marching in Sophia. Seriously, this sort of crap is not Orthodox. It is not even Christian.

Scenes From The Patriarchal Liturgy On The Feast of St. Jonah

June 28 2012 (NS) in Moscow's Assumption Cathedral in the Kremlin

House of Representatives holds Attorney General in contempt

Republicans in the House voted Thursday to cite Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt of Congress in a politically-charged vote stemming from an investigation into alleged gun-running by the U.S. government.

The House voted 255-67, with one member voting "present," to cite Holder for criminal contempt. Most Democrats, led by the Congressional Black Caucus, abstained from the vote and staged a walk-out. But 17 conservative moderate and Democrats voted in favor of the resolution; two Republicans broke ranks to oppose it.
Read the rest here.

Britain's High Court blocks extradition of child molestor to US

One of America’s most wanted paedophiles has been spared extradition from Britain by the High Court on human rights grounds.

Shawn Sullivan faced spending the rest of his life behind bars under a controversial sex offenders’ programme in the US, but two senior judges said this would amount to a “flagrant denial” of his rights.

As a result the 43 year-old – who married a Ministry of Justice official while in jail on remand – will not be put on trial for abusing three young girls almost 20 years ago, and can live freely in London.
Read the rest here.

The Real Result of the Supreme Court Decision

From here.

Supreme Court Upholds Obama Health Care Reform

I have to admit, I'm a little surprised. It will be interesting to read the opinions when I get some time later today.

Update:  Once again the court surprises me. Before the oral arguments I had them upholding by a 6-3 vote just because striking it down would call into question 70 years of jurisprudence on Federal authority. After arguments I, like most people, figured they would kill it on a narrow ideological vote 5-4. Whatever I was expecting, this wasn't it. This is a huge blow to conservatives who were so confident of victory that they had the champagne on ice this morning while waiting for the announcement. Now on the more radical websites like Free Republic half of them are slitting their wrists declaring the end of the republic and the others are reaching for their guns.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What a surprise!

Members of Congress routinely engage in insider trading.

Exhibits From An Execution

For the first time, Russians have the chance to examine the evidence surrounding the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and his family following the Russian Revolution almost 100 years ago.

An exhibition on their detention, killings and the subsequent investigations into them has opened at the Russian State Archives in Moscow.

It comes as Russians continue to reassess the reputation of their last tsar.

He and his family and four members of staff were killed without trial by Bolsheviks in the early hours of 17 July 1918, in the cellar of a house in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.

The Soviet authorities drew a veil over what had happened.

The exhibition's curator, Marina Siderova, says Russians now want to know more about the subject. 
Read the rest here.

Bill Keller offers more advice for liberal Catholics

The same guy who suggested that liberal Catholics should head for the exits (advice I concur with though for different reasons) has written another article reflecting on the plight of his former coreligionists.

Stockton California prepares for largest municipal bankruptcy in history

STOCKTON, Calif. — The long, slow slide into financial collapse is nearly complete for this Central Valley community.

On Tuesday night, City Council members approved a new budget that will guide city operations during bankruptcy and amend a $26 million budget shortfall. With that vote out of the way, city officials could file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy as early as Wednesday, which would make Stockton the country’s largest city to go bankrupt.

The new budget will suspend debt payments, cut employee pay and reduce retiree benefits, allowing this city of about 292,000 residents to continue providing essential services through the bankruptcy process.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Three Eastern Orthodox Saints That Every Catholic Should Read...

From the blog Ascending Mount Carmel.

The Permanent Portfolio And Its Returns

As long time readers of this blog may be aware, I almost never give specific investing advice despite my obvious interest in economics. One of the very few exceptions I have made to that rule is my strong endorsement of the Permanent Portfolio investment strategy devised by the late libertarian economist and two time presidential candidate Harry Browne. This portfolio strategy has two key components. First is an assumption that at all times the economy is experiencing one of four conditions. Those being
  • Prosperity
  • Deflation
  • Inflation
  • Tight Money - Recession
The second assumption is that while it may be amusing to prognosticate on future events, in reality the future is unknowable. Which is to say that most people are wrong, most of the time, when predicting the future.  This is especially true when the subject is economics. With these two assumptions accepted, Harry Browne set out to create a permanent portfolio (PP) that would adopt an agnostic approach towards future events and at the same time would function in any of the four economic conditions mentioned above. By "function" I mean that it would first preserve the wealth or capital in the portfolio from any dramatic losses and secondly give a reasonable positive return over time that would keep the investor ahead of inflation.

This portfolio is designed in such a way as to be exceedingly easy to construct while remaining very "low maintenance." Indeed you can build a PP in about 15 minutes using online investing tools or in a short call with your broker. Index funds and or ETFs (exchange traded funds) can be used for most or even all of the PP which has the added advantage of keeping your expenses very low.* Once set up it requires no tinkering or adjusting other than a once or twice a year peak to make sure it has not gotten out of balance.

The PP simply consists of taking four asset classes and putting one quarter of your money in each one. The PP is then left alone unless one or more of the assets rises or falls by 10% of the aggregate value of the portfolio, i.e. becoming 35% or 15% of its total value. Only then would you rebalance the portfolio by selling the assets that have done well and buying up those that have underperformed so that once again you are at 4 x 25%. In normal circumstances rebalancing events are rare, occurring perhaps once every two or three years.

Within the PP each asset class functions independently of the other three and is designed to protect you in one of the four conditions listed above. Specifically...
  •  Stocks rise dramatically during periods of prosperity.
  • Long Term US Government Bonds rise dramatically during periods of deflation.
  • Gold rises dramatically during periods of inflation/currency debasement and also protects you against catastrophic events like war or civil unrest.
  • Cash is the only neutral asset and it provides a cushion against periods when central banks tighten the money supply creating a recession and also allows you to handle unexpected emergencies in life without having to sell other assets, possibly at a disadvantageous time.
In each economic scenario one or more of the asset classes is likely to be falling. But the one correlated to that condition will normally rise so violently that it outpaces any losses from the other asset classes. The only exception to this is during periods of a deliberately induced tight money supply created by the central bank. In that scenario there is nowhere to hide other than in cash. But history has shown that such conditions are rare and usually can only last a brief period of time.

Now if you are like me, and in my experience most other people when first reading about the PP, you are probably thinking that this is nuts. That certainly was my initial reaction. In particular the idea of keeping a quarter of ones money in gold, which has no internal rate of return was something I had a really hard time with. But the true test of an investment strategy is to back test it and see how it performed in previous years. The farther back you can go the better. It is however rare for people to be able to back test many strategies going back more than a decade.

Happily that is not the case with the Permanent Portfolio.

Thanks to a gentleman named Craig Rowland who has been something of a one man band trying to keep alive the legacy of the late Harry Browne, we have detailed returns for the PP going all the way back to the early 1970's! During this time frame of four decades we have experienced every one of the four economic conditions mentioned above. We had high inflation in the 1970's, a brief but brutal recession in the early 80's when the FED jacked interest rates to break the runaway inflation, a long period of general prosperity (with a few hiccups) running from roughly the mid 80's through the late 90's and we had the financial crisis of 2008-09 and the years following where for the first time since the Great Depression we have seen the specter of deflation.

In every one of those conditions except the two brief periods of tightened money supply the PP delivered positive returns or basically broke even. In only three years out of forty (1981,1994 and 2008) was there a negative return. In each case the losses were relatively minor and were followed by violent up years. Even in 2008, which was the worst year for the stock market since the early 1930's the PP posted a loss of less than 1%. I have seen some other figures showing a very slight gain. But it's so close either way that I would basically call it break even in a year where the broad stock market was down near 40%.

Further an examination of these returns against each asset class individually and a 50/50 split in stocks and bonds generally delivered very good long term returns with virtually no volatility. Note the chart here. While both a total stock portfolio and a 50/50 split in stocks and bonds delivered statistically near identical returns as the PP over the forty year period (1971-2011), the increased volatility was dramatic. And there were very long periods where both stocks and bonds seriously underperformed. By contrast on the chart the PP is represented by something very close to a straight line, without any of the jagged rises and dips in stocks, bonds and gold on their own.

The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the Permanent Portfolio over the last forty years has been an astonishing 9.7% with only three very slight down years.

Does this mean that the PP is indestructible? No. But barring a truly catastrophic event... is hard to conceive of what could inflict especially severe losses on a permanent portfolio. And if you can come up with such an event, what sort of portfolio do you see as being safe and that will still cover you just in case the world doesn't end on your schedule?

Nor is this a blanket declaration that there are no other legitimate forms of investing. Anyone who decided to adopt a Jack Bogle type portfolio with a 50/50 split in stocks and bonds using index funds would probably be OK in the long run. As long as you can handle the more dramatic ups and downs and you have a long term investment horizon that's fine. Though I would note that such a portfolio might be especially vulnerable to inflation.

Some people of course are addicted to trying to outsmart the financial markets. In my experience which I believed is backed up by mountains of statistical evidence this is a fools game. Market timing is folly. There is no bell that rings telling you when to buy and that then rings again when it is time to sell. Such systems invariably ignore the joker in the deck, which is simply unexpected events. 9-11, Pearl Harbor, JFK's assassination, 1914, the crashes of '29, '73, '87, '08-09, the abandonment of the gold standard in 71 and so on. You can't predict the future.

Even if you are able to predict the future with some degree of accuracy (and you can't), in order to beat the market over the long term you have to keep climbing a mathematical wall, that gets steeper and taller every year. That wall is called fees, expenses and taxes.

Every trade you make you have to pay someone a fee. If you are selling a security at a profit you are creating a taxable event. If you are using an actively managed mutual fund or hedge fund you are paying fees and expenses to the fund manager. And here is the dirty little secret of Wall Street (at least one of them). Those fees don't just get paid once. The money you hand over in fees and taxes this year, is gone from your portfolio next year as well. And it is gone the year after that and the one after that. In fact it is gone every year for the rest of your investing life, where it might have been making more money for you. And then you have to remember that fees and expenses are paid every time you trade or annually to your fund/portfolio managers. So this just keeps snowballing and compounding. In other words, fees expenses and taxes are a form of negative compound interest on your long term returns.

All of which means that actively managed portfolios are at a huge mathematical disadvantage when trying to beat low cost index funds that just track the broader market and charge you next to nothing. This is especially true if you are reinvesting dividends. It has been repeatedly proven in numerous studies that adjusting for fees and expenses less than 10% of active fund managers (professional Wall Street money men) will beat their respective indices over any given ten year period. Over a twenty year period that figure drops below 1%. And all the while they are underperforming they charge their clients obscene amounts of money for their non-services. If they can't do it, what makes you think you are going to be in that 1%?

Even so the urge to speculate is pretty strong. And Harry Browne even said it was fine as long as you obeyed a couple of basic rules to which I have added two of my own.
  • Never speculate with money you can't afford to lose.
  • Never dip into your permanent portfolio or designated retirement money to cover losses from speculations that go bad.
  • Never speculate in an investment you don't understand.
  • Never speculate in any manner that can leave you exposed to losses greater than your original investment. This applies especially to investing on margin.
Harry referred to money you were prepared to gamble with as a variable portfolio as opposed to a permanent portfolio for that part of your wealth or assets you are unable or unwilling to take risks with. Within the limits listed above his attitude was to go for it and have fun if you want to try and beat the market.

This post is by no means an exhaustive discussion of the topic. For further reading or research on this subject I recommend...

*I note that Harry Browne generally advised holding at least some of the gold in the form of physical bullion or 1 oz coins. Most supporters of the PP concept agree with this advice although for convenience many people also use a bullion backed ETF.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Homily From Aaron Kimel's Funeral

Read it here. Warning, have the tissue box close at hand.

HT: Blog reader Dave B.

A review of the new Ukrainian Catholic (uniate) catechism

Read it here.

An odd kind of ecumenism

Stop the presses! The three religious groups that split control of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem actually agree on something. They don't want the church declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I have some suspicions as to motive here but I won't post them as they are not very charitable.

Read the story here.

They really don't like people saying this...

But it's true. Annulment is just the Catholic word for divorce.

In Rebuke Supreme Court Reverses Montana High Court

This doesn't happen very often. The US Supreme Court accepted a case on appeal from Montana and then without hearing any arguments or accepting any new briefs issued a summary judgement. In a 5-4 decision the SCOTUS overturned a decision by the Supreme Court of the State of Montana in which they had held that the US Supreme Court's decision in Citizen's United did not apply to Montana state law. The Citizen's United case was the one where the SCOTUS had ruled that any entity can donate as much money as it wants to political parties PACs and campaigns.

For the record I think that was one of the worst decisions in the last couple of decades. No entity that doesn't have the vote should be allowed to donate any money to political campaigns or causes. But I digress.

In Montana the state's Supreme Court tried to say that the case was not applicable to state law and that Montana's century old  prohibition on corporate campaign donations was valid. As a matter of law that proposition was absurd on its face. This was the Montana Supreme Court thumbing their nose at the US Supreme Court. And today the US Supreme Court basically slapped them down and told them to behave. The entire decision of the SCOTUS consisted of two painfully brief paragraphs.

Purely on points of law the SCOTUS was right today. Unfortunately they were right in defense of a wrongly decided case.

Supreme Court says no life without parole sentences for children

A divided Supreme Court on Monday said states may not impose on juvenile murderers mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole.

The 5 to 4 ruling said such mandatory sentences offend the constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, and follow a trend at the court of treating even the worst juvenile offenders differently from adults.
Read the rest here.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Parts of Arizona Immigration Law

The Supreme Court on Monday said states may play a limited role in enforcing laws on illegal immigration, upholding part of Arizona’s controversial law but striking other portions it said intruded on the federal government’s powers.

The justices let stand for now the part of the law that requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they detain or arrest if they have “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country illegally. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) declared that decision, on the part of the law that had generated the most controversy, a victory.
Read the rest here.

Romney Hijacks Massachusetts Delegation

It looks like Mitt Romney wins elections the old fashioned way... he steals them. Here in brief is the story on the Mass delegation. Ron Paul supporters read the rule book (something Romney's people apparently didn't bother with) and made sure they had enough people elected to the state convention to take it over. Once in control of the state convention (legally) they packed the state delegation to the national convention in Tampa with Ron Paul supporters.

Not surprisingly Romney's people cried foul. They pointed out, fairly enough, that he won the popular vote in the Bay State's primary. But what they failed to grasp is that state conventions are often the last word in party rules and the assigning of delegates. Embarrassed to have lost his home state to a cleverly organized coup de main he promptly set about figuring out how to retake the state delegation. Except that he couldn't, at least not legally.

So Romney being Romney, he simply ordered it to be done and so it has been. A Republican committee assigned to oversee things like delegate selection disqualified 17 Ron Paul delegates from the Bay State. Their rational; the delegates had failed to deliver in a timely manner a sworn affidavit, signed under penalty of perjury, promising to vote for Romney. The only problem being that nowhere is there any rule requiring such an affidavit. Nor has such an affidavit ever been required in the past.

The GOP chair would not explain why affidavits were required this year. He also declined attempts by the Boston Globe to interview him. But according to the Globe the chairman sent out an email saying that Governor Romney had the right to reject delegates for "just cause."

Oh really? Where is that right found in the GOP's bylaws and rules?

Giving credit where it is due, Romney has reversed Ron Paul's brilliant (and legal) take over of a large part of the Massachusetts delegation. My only quibble is that he did it using the playbook straight from Tammany Hall.

"It doesn't matter how many votes you win. What matters is who counts the votes."
-Joseph Stalin

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jury: Jerry Sandusky Guilty On 45 Of 48 Counts

Well as I said before, even the most vile dirtbag is entitled to his day in court. Sandusky had that day. And now his victims will have theirs when the creep is sentenced to what will certainly amount to life in prison.

Calif. used 9/11 scholarship funds to close budget gap

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Some Californians who lost parents or spouses in the Sept. 11 attacks were unaware of a scholarship program funded by fees from a specialty memorial license plate, while millions of dollars from the plates went to plug the state's persistent budget deficits.

An aspiring lawyer and an unemployed single mother are among those who say they would have signed up to receive a $5,000 scholarship had they known the program existed.

Other parents say they were told their children did not qualify for the funds, although they appear to have met the criteria.

After the September 11 attacks, lawmakers in California, where all four jetliners were bound when they were hijacked, established a special memorial plate emblazoned with the words, "We Will Never Forget."

The money raised through the sale of the plates was to provide scholarships to the children of California residents who perished in the attacks and to help fund anti-terrorism efforts.

The Associated Press reported in May that only $20,000 of the $15 million collected since lawmakers approved the "California Memorial Scholarship Program" has been paid out in scholarships...

...In the years since the program closed to new applicants, Gov. Jerry Brown and his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, borrowed $3 million of memorial license plate money to help plug the state's budget deficit.

Neither loan has been repaid.

Millions more raised by the plates have been spent on budget items with little relation to direct threats of terrorism, including livestock diseases and workplace safety.
Read the rest here.

NSA: We can't tell you who we spy on, it would violate their privacy

Read it here. Some things you just can't make up.

Puerto Rico: Jehovah's Witnesses claim gated communities violates their freedom of religion

Hard to proselytize going door to door if your not allowed in...

Read the reports here.

Ark. Supreme Court declares execution law unconstitutional

The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state's execution law Friday, calling it unconstitutional.

In a split decision, the high court sided with 10 death row inmates who argued that, under Arkansas' constitution, only the Legislature can set execution policy. Legislators in 2009 voted to give that authority to the Department of Correction.

The 2009 law says a death sentence is to be carried out by lethal injection of one or more chemicals that the director of the Department of Correction chooses.

Death row inmate Jack Harold Jones Jr. sued the head of the correction department in 2010, challenging the constitutionality of the law. Nine other inmates have since joined the suit, asking that the law be struck down.
Read the rest here.

Near 1 in 5 say they will not vote for a Mormon

PRINCETON, NJ -- Eighteen percent of Americans say they would not vote for a well-qualified presidential candidate who happens to be a Mormon, virtually the same as the 17% who held this attitude in 1967.
Read the rest here.

Feds Sue Towns Dominated By Polygamous Cult

The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against two towns dominated by a polygamous sect on Thursday, accusing officials of failing to protect nonmembers and enforcing the edicts of leader Warren Jeffs above the law.

The complaint filed in Arizona’s U.S. District Court accuses the twin towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, of "operating as an arm of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints," for at least 20 years. It marks a departure for the federal government, which has until now steered clear of filing cases against FLDS members.

There are nearly two dozen allegations in the lawsuit, many involving the police agency the towns share. The earliest incident dates back to 2000, when attorneys say Colorado City town marshals confronted a sect member in an attempt to return an underage bride to her husband’s home after she fled.

Other accusations include police helping euthanize the town’s dogs at Jeffs’ order, keeping a woman in jail overnight on an inaccurate underage alcohol charge and threatening arrest of non-FLDS children if they continued to play at a city park.

The lawsuit also accuses town water and power utilities of refusing to provide housing permits and utility hookups to nonmembers or to allow them to move into homes.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Moody's downgrades credit rating for 15 major banks

Ratings agency Moody's downgraded the long-term credit ratings of 15 major U.S., Canadian, and European banks today after markets in New York closed.

Of the 15 firms downgraded this afternoon, none were hit more than Moody's originally said was possible when it placed them on review in February.

The action will likely force many of the banks targeted post additional collateral against trades held on their books.

Below, a summary of the major ratings action taken.

Cut One Notch:

    HSBC downgraded to Aa3 from Aa2
    Lloyds TSB downgraded to A2 from A1
    RBS downgraded to Baa1 from A3
    Societe Generale downgraded to A2 from A1

Cut Two Notches:

    Bank of America downgraded to Baa2 from Baa1
    BNP Paribas downgraded to A2 from Aa3
    Barclays downgraded to A3 from A1
    Citigroup downgraded to Baa2 from A3
    Credit Agricole downgraded to to A2 from Aa3
    Goldman Sachs downgraded to A3 from A1
    JP Morgan Chase downgraded to A2 from Aa3
    Morgan Stanley downgraded to Baa1 from A2
    RBC downgraded to Aa3 from Aa1
    UBS downgraded to A2 from Aa3

Cut Three Notches:

    Credit Suisse downgraded to (P)A2 from (P)Aa2

In February, Moody's also placed Nomura and Macquarie credit ratings on watch for downgrade. However, the agency took action before today, lowering Nomura and Macquarie by one level each, to Baa3 and A2, respectively.
Read the rest here.

This is really bad news for the banking sector which was already weak.

In case there was any doubt... to just how bad things have gotten with dissident Roman Catholic nuns and their supporters, this should settle the matter.

HT: The Crescat

Yea, I am Orthodox, so that means I have some issues with the Catholic Church, though of course I don't pretend to be Roman Catholic. But that aside Benedict XVI is the best thing to hit Rome in centuries. My fear is that it will take decades to clean house over there. May God grant him many many years!

When Billionairs Need to Get Away

The rich really are different from you and me. We go to Hawaii. They buy Hawaii.
Read the rest here.

Ron Paul 'Revolution' strikes at GOP state parties

Ron Paul’s third campaign for president may not lead to the Texas Congressman being nominated at the Republican Convention in Tampa this August -- notwithstanding a lawsuit filed by supporters in attempt to make that happen -- but, from Maine to Alaska, the “Paul Revolution” has swept state Republican parties.

Out of the national spotlight, Paul activists have mastered obscure local party rules to win key positions of power at state conventions, infiltrating the Republican establishment across the country, including in the key swing states of Iowa and Nevada.

n Massachusetts, they even beat out many prominent pro-Mitt Romney supporters to win spots as Romney delegates. They are informally bound by party rules to vote for Romney still, but the open secret in both parties, is no one is really bound – one of the issues at the heart of the Paul supporters’ lawsuit against the national party.
Read the rest here.

Jury begins deliberations in trial of Jerry Sandusky

Jurors in Bellefonte, Pa., began their deliberations Thursday in the child sexual abuse trial of former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky after hearing two starkly different descriptions of the case against him.

In closing arguments, the prosecution and the defense clashed over defense attorney Joseph Amendola's suggestion that the entire case — in which two grand juries accused Sandusky of having abused 10 young boys over 15 years — was a conspiracy among police, prosecutors and the alleged victims and their lawyers, in hopes of a big payday in future civil trials.
Read the rest here.

Stocks get hammered on economic worries

Stocks tumbled Thursday on weak manufacturing data in the United States and around the globe and after Goldman Sachs made a bearish call on the S&P 500 index.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed the day down 251 points, while the Nasdaq composite lost 71 points and the S&P 500 declined 30 points.

All three major indexes lost their gains for the week. The day's decline was the worst since June 1 when the S&P 500 fell 2.5 percent.

The selloff accelerated as Goldman Sachs recommended that its clients build short positions in the S&P 500, which it expects to fall further. All three major stock indexes are on track to post their worst daily loss since June 1.
Read the rest here.

A Disturbing Legal Trend

Public officials are increasingly refusing to uphold laws they disagree with, from presidential "signing statements" to refusal to defend laws in open open court that they are politically opposed to. This needs to stop. When you assume an office of public trust you don't have the right to decide which laws you will or will not obey. Nor if you are a lawyer on the public payroll, do you have the right to decide what laws you will defend in court. If I were a tax paying citizen of Illinois I would file an ethics complaint with the state bar association alleging failure to zealously defend the interests of their client.

If your conscience will not allow you to defend a law then you should either not have taken the job, or you should do the honorable thing and resign.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Canada: RIP freedom of press, speech and religion

In what they are touting as a “world first,” a Quebec homosexual activist group has launched a “registry of homophobic acts” with support and funding from the Quebec Government’s Justice Department.  Standing alongside Montreal Police Chief Johanne Paquin and Commander Alain Gagnon, the leadership of the group Gai Ecoute launched the anonymous tipster registry at a press conference today.

Included in the definition of actions classified as “homophobic” and deemed worthy of reporting to the registry are: “any negative word or act toward a homosexual or homosexuality in general: physical abuse, verbal abuse, intimidation, harassment, offensive graffiti, abuse, injurious mockery, inappropriate media coverage and discrimination.”

A press release from the group says that anyone who has experienced or witnessed an act of homophobia “must” report it to the registry of homophobic acts.

Funding and support for the venture comes from the Quebec Justice Ministry’s department of “The Fight Against Homophobia.” The Justice Ministry was tasked with fighting homophobia in 2008 and last year pledged $7 million to ‘anti-homophobia’ activities.
Read the rest here.
HT: The Crescat

Protestant Ecclesiology and the Problem of Heresy

...Circling back to the charges of “heresy” or “heretical” teaching, then, I find it difficult to quantify what men like Mohler and Truett actually intend by such accusations—and whether they could really bear any impact on individuals or on the convention as a whole. If the only standard for Protestant (and Southern Baptist) dogma is an appeal to the scriptures (or even their “right understanding”), how can one ever convincingly argue that one doctrine or another is heresy? What Mohler and Truett are both appealing to is a certain understanding of Church history and tradition, and not scripture alone...

...At the end of the day, the word heresy—for those with an anti-ecclesiology (and for most Protestants, really)—is little more than an insult. It carries no weight and it has no ecclesiastical authority or demand to it. Indeed, I think this is why some are offended when they hear members of the Orthodox Church using terms like heterodox or heretic in theological discussions. They assume we mean what they mean by those words—insults. But we actually have specific, technical meanings attached to such terms, and the means by which to address them.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange seeks asylum in Ecuador

WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange has taken refuge in the Ecuador Embassy in London and has asked for political asylum, Ecuador's foreign minister said on Tuesday.

"Ecuador is studying and analyzing the request," Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters in the capital Quito.

The Ecuador Embassy issued the following statement:

    This afternoon Mr Julian Assange arrived at the Ecuadorian Embassy seeking political asylum from the Ecuadorian government.

    As a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights, with an obligation to review all applications for asylum, we have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito.

    While the department assesses Mr Assange's application, Mr Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorian Government.

    The decision to consider Mr Assange's application for protective asylum should in no way be interpreted as the Government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden.
Read the rest here.

Good luck with that. The last time I checked "rape" was not classified as a political crime anywhere in the world. Nor is Sweden a country that is likely to prosecute someone on trumped up charges just to make the US happy. If anything Sweden has a more sober and fair legal system than ours. So I say pack him off to Sweden and let him have his day in court.

Russian ship bound for Syria heads for home after insurance is cancelled

LONDON — British Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament on Tuesday that a Russian ship believed to be carrying helicopters and weapons had aborted its journey to Syria after losing insurance coverage.

The British government informed the Standard Club insurance company that continuing to insure the MV Alaed ship would violate European sanctions against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if the ship were found to be carrying weapons or other forbidden material, news services reported.

“We were made aware of the allegations that the Alaed was carrying munitions destined for Syria, which would be a clear breach of our club rule,” Standard Club said in a statement. “We consequently informed the ship owner that their insurance cover ceased automatically in view of the nature of the voyage.”

The ship then changed course and was set to return to Russia, its cargo intact, Hague said.
Read the rest here.

New Western Rite (ROCOR) Parish in Northern Virginia

The Holy Family Orthodox Church will bring something new to the area as it is the only Western Rite Orthodox church in the northern Shenandoah Valley.

The Rev. Richard Reed was recently ordained in New York, and is in the process of establishing the parish. He is holding liturgies at 10 a.m. on Sunday mornings in a temporary chapel in his Woodstock home.
Read the rest here.

Visit their website here.

Ron Paul Wins Iowa

Ron Paul won Iowa! At the Iowa GOP convention over the weekend, supporters of the Texas libertarian walked away with 23 of the state’s 28 national convention delegates. Under state Republican rules, those delegates are unbound, meaning they can vote for Congressman Paul in August in Tampa, Fla., if they please. It’s another example of how Paul’s strategy of getting his people organized at the grass-roots level has (somewhat) paid off in the end.
Read the rest here.

And Dr. Paul also raised another nearly $2 million for his campaign last month, AFTER HE CONCEDED THE NOMINATION. Not bad.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Niall Ferguson: Runaway debt is mortgaging our future

Critics of Western democracy are right to discern that something is amiss with our political institutions. The most obvious symptom of the malaise is the huge debts we have managed to accumulate in recent decades, which (unlike in the past) cannot largely be blamed on wars.

According to the International Monetary Fund, the gross government debt of Greece this year will reach 153 per cent of GDP. For Italy the figure is 123, for Ireland 113, for Portugal 112 and for the United States 107.

Britain’s debt is approaching 88 per cent. Japan – a special case as the first non-Western country to adopt Western institutions – is the world leader, with a mountain of government debt approaching 236 per cent of GDP, more than triple what it was 20 years ago.

Often these debts get discussed as if they themselves were the problem, and the result is a rather sterile argument between proponents of “austerity” and “stimulus”. I want to suggest that they are a consequence of a more profound malaise.
Read the rest here.

States face huge retirement fund deficits

State governments face a gap of more than $1 trillion between what they say they will provide public workers in retirement benefits and what they actually have in their coffers, according to a study released Monday.

The report, from Pew Center on the States, finds that the gap has widened considerably in recent years, as states have been slammed by investment losses stemming from the 2008 financial crisis and budget crunches caused by the recession.

As of the 2010 fiscal year, the study found that states have about $757 billion less than they need for pension obligations. The states have about $2.31 trillion set aside, the report found, but their liability is about $3.07 trillion.
Read the rest here.

Roger Clemens not guilty of perjury

WASHINGTON - Roger Clemens was acquitted Monday on all charges that he obstructed and lied to Congress in denying he used performance-enhancing drugs to extend his long career as one of the greatest and most-decorated pitchers in baseball history.

Fierce on the pitching mound in his playing days, Clemens was quietly emotional after the verdict was announced. "I'm very thankful," he said, choking up as he spoke. "It's been a hard five years," said the pitcher, who was retried after an earlier prosecution ended in a mistrial.
Read the rest here.

Germany's Merkel faces growing pressure at home, abroad

WEIMAR, Germany -- Time is running out for Angela Merkel.

The German chancellor -- Europe’s last, best hope for staving off financial and economic ruin -- is running out of options to save the euro zone’s common currency.

Sunday’s cliffhanger Greek elections may have postponed Athens’ departure from the common currency, along with the risk of a wider euro zone recession that would threaten Germany’s export-reliant economy. But Athens has yet to form a new government willing to accede to Germany’s demands for continued, painful spending cuts.
Read the rest here.

In Greece pro-Europe party wins

ATHENS — Greece’s conservative New Democracy Party prevailed in elections Sunday, giving it the chance to form a new coalition government that would try to comply with the difficult terms of the country’s bailout and secure its spot in the euro zone.

After weeks of uncertainty, the outcome of the parliamentary elections could reassure international leaders and investors, who have nervously watched developments in Greece, fearful that its exit from the euro zone would rock the global economy.
Read the rest here.

Egypt: Islamists claim election victory as military tightens grip on power

CAIRO — Egypt’s military leaders issued a constitutional decree Sunday that gave the armed forces sweeping powers and degraded the presidency to a subservient role, as the Muslim Brotherhood declared that its candidate had won the country’s presidential runoff election.

The bold assertion of power by the ruling generals followed months in which they had promised to cede authority to a new civilian government by the end of June. Instead, activists and political analysts said, the generals’ move marked the start of a military dictatorship, a sharp reversal from the promise of Egypt’s popular revolt last year.
Read the rest here.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

To all fathers,both blood and spiritual, have a great day!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Prayers Requested for Fr. Kimel and Family

Please keep Fr. Al Kimel (Western Rite Orthodox) and his family in your prayers. I have just learned via T-19 that his second son Aaron died earlier this week apparently by his own hand.

Lord have mercy!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Living in the Past Is a Full-Time Gig

MICHAEL ARENELLA is at an open-air flea market in Lambertville, N.J., his fedora-topped head leaning over a gramophone. He winds the crank, lifts the arm and places the needle on a 78. Out of the old oak box comes a voice from the past: Arthur Fields singing “In My Tippy Canoe” in 1921. Mr. Arenella stands silently, hands in his pockets, taking in every crackly note.

Other shoppers stop to figure out where the music is coming from. To their delighted surprise, they see Mr. Arenella, a 34-year-old jazz musician and bandleader from Brooklyn who looks as if he had stepped through some wormhole in the space-time continuum. He is 6-foot-1 and dressed in windowpane-checked pants, a blue paisley ascot, a red-and-white checked shirt, a herringbone vest, a blazer with a blue pocket handkerchief, cap-toe faux-crocodile ankle boots, a pinkie ring and a brown fedora. A few people wander over to check him — and the gramophone — out. But most just stare, smile and walk on, this vision of the ’20s brightening a mundane, modern New Jersey day.
Read the rest here.

Reminds me in some ways of friend of the blog The Young Fogey, though I believe his preference is for the 50's and 60's. But seriously, who can blame him? If you had access to a time machine, would you not at least be tempted to ditch this rather miserable and coarse age we live in? Of course one needs to be careful about looking at the past through rose colored glasses. I love the 20's. But they had their problems. Racism was rampant. Prohibition (which we tend to overly romanticize) was in effect. There was no social safety net, so if you were down on your luck you had to depend on family or charity, or you starved. And of course the 20's were followed by the 30's.

Still, if anyone has a time machine I can borrow drop me a line. I will take Calvin Coolidge over Barack Obama and a Pierce Arrow over a Ford F150 any day. Just gotta remember to sell that RCA stock no later than September of '29.

Gruesome photos put spotlight on China's one-child policy

Feng Jianmei  says she was manhandled by seven people, some of them local family planning officials, some of whom she didn’t know.

Feng, 22 years old and seven months pregnant, was dragged out of her relative’s home, carried and shoved into a van that headed straight to a hospital on June 2, she told NBC News in phone interview.

She was blindfolded, thrown on a bed, and forced to sign a document that she couldn’t read with the blindfold still on her eyes. Then two shots were injected into her belly. Thirty hours later, on the morning June 4, she gave birth to a dead baby girl.

Feng is one of the many Chinese women who have been forced to have abortions under China’s strict one-child-only policy started in late 1970s to contain the country’s fast growing population, which has now topped 1.3 billion people.
Read the rest here.

Barter takes hold in depression wracked Greek economy

VOLOS, Greece -- Residents of this town in northeastern Greece are resorting to an age-old solution to deal with a desperate new problem –- using barter instead of cash for essentials.

"I want to use euro but it's very expensive and I believe trade is better," said 30-year-old Artemis Zafiriou, who works at an agency helping immigrant workers but hasn’t been paid in months.

The port town of Volos is like countless other communities in Greece, where millions are strapped for cash amid crushing European Union-imposed austerity measures. A steady flow of people come and go at the unemployment office, but most find no work.

So Zafiriou and her partner Kostas Christou, 40, have joined a small but growing network of people who trade goods and services without cash.
Read the rest here.  

Germans on edge as Greeks prepare to vote

BERLIN - For  travel agent Holger Schneider, Europe’s financial crisis is finally hitting home.

Germans famously love to travel. But the deepening crisis on the continent -- and calls for greater German financial help from Greece and Spain -- has prompted many would-be vacationers to stay home and keep a tighter grip on their money.

“People give their money to the bank to save,” said Schneider. “But the banks give it to these weak countries and maybe the people will never get it back.”

So far, the recession that is sweeping across the rest of the continent has not arrived in Germany. That may help explain why opinion polls here show that Germans still oppose bailouts of Greece and Spain by roughly two to one.
Read the rest here.

Obama Administration Won't Deport Most Young Illegal Immigrants

The Obama administration announced on Friday that it would no longer seek the deportation of most young illegal immigrants, and would instead allow them to apply for work permits, a significant policy shift with potentially major electoral implications.

The Department of Homeland Security said that, effective immediately, the government would no longer seek the deportation of illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, and would allow them to apply for work permits if they meet certain criteria.

“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Read the rest here.

200 SSPXers sign petition calling Benedict XVI a heretic and protesting a return to Rome

...We also must confess ourselves confused, to say the least, regarding your recent statements about Benedict XVI. It has been said that nobody in the SSPX has a right to refuse if the Pope insists on a canonical accommodation. You yourself have spoken of him in terms of his being our leader in the fight for Tradition:

“But we are not alone in working to defend the Faith … It’s the Pope himself who does it; that’s his job. And if we are called to help the Holy Father, then so be it.” (CNS, May 2012)

May we remind you that this is the very same man (as Cardinal Ratzinger) whom Archbishop Lefebvre felt he could not trust in 1988? That this is the same man who has professed heresies that he has never retracted, as Bishop Tissier de Mallerais has pointed out on several occasions? That in the mind of this same Benedict XVI, the idea ‘defending the Faith’ appears to include speculating about the non-existence of Limbo, about the possible moral probity of contraception when used by the depraved, and that he appears to believe that conversion, baptism or the confession of Christ are not necessary for Jews to be saved?
Read the rest here

This is exhibit A for why it is imperative that the SSPX regularize itself with the Roman Church without further delay. The people who signed this are schismatics. And it is the nature of schism that the longer it lasts the harder it is to end. I really and firmly believe that this is the last chance for the SSPX. They either go back now or they might as well just declare themselves their own little true church like our various old calendarist schismatics. As it stands it's very likely that the three bishops will bolt. And I expect them to take a good chunk of the clergy and hard core lay people with them.

In Greece, the money flowed freely, until it didn’t

ATHENS — The torrent of money that flooded into Greece when it joined the euro zone paid for roads, boosted wages and helped Constantine Choutlas build a major construction company. But all that cash did not build a competitive economy.

When the rest of the world discovered that and the money drained away, so did Choutlas’s business.
Read the rest here.

Obama's big speech; even libs are calling him a liar

I had high hopes for President Obama’s speech on the economy. But instead of going to Ohio on Thursday with a compelling plan for the future, the president gave Americans a falsehood wrapped in a fallacy.

The falsehood is that he has been serious about cutting government spending. The fallacy is that this election will be some sort of referendum that will break the logjam in Washington.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Birth Control and the Church

Abbot Tryphon on birth control with an editorial comment from ByzantineTexas.

I for one think this is an excellent short commentary. Catholics who typically have an all or nothing approach and a rather restricted understanding of economia view any concession as a sell out. But while I disagree with that, it is indisputable that the Church here in N. America has become far too permissive on the subject of ABC. Use of BC is an exception to a rule granted for good reasons. It is not a "choice" within marriage. And any form of abortificient birth control is always morally inadmissible. Far too many priests don't raise the issue before a wedding, but the teaching of the Church is clear. If you don't want kids, then you can't marry. Not every sexual act has to be open to procreation. But every marriage does.

Hans Küng is at it again and flirting with sedevecantism

What on earth is Hans Küng up to now? He has mounted yet another assault on the Pope (every time he does this, he simply confirms one’s view that the Pope is right about whatever it is) over his willingness to heal the breach with the SSPX. But his tactics this time are very strange indeed. He says that since the SSPX bishops were invalidly ordained (not illicitly, invalidly) to accept them back into the mainstream of the Church would make him a schismatic pope, and that since, according to Catholic teaching a schismatic pope loses his office, he is very close to deposing himself. He is, in other words, arguing exactly like an extreme reactionary schismatic: it’s a kind of liberal sedevacantist argument.
Read the rest here.

One of those days

Ever have one of those days where nothing goes quite right? A man threatens to commit suicide. The police, always helpful, fire 33 rounds at him. Of the 33 shots discharged, only four or five hit. No more donuts for you. And as of last word, the poor man is still alive.

Read the story here.

Joe Scarborough: Why I voted for Ron Paul

I operate on instinct. So I should not have been surprised by my own gut reaction to the absentee ballot that lay before me on the kitchen table.

I scanned the list for Republican primary candidates and let instinct take over.

Mitt Romney? Not on your life. A big government Republican who will say anything to get elected.

Rick Santorum? No way. A pro-life statist who helped George W. Bush double the national debt.

Newt Gingrich? Ideologically unmoored. A champion of liberty one day, a central planner the next.

Ron Paul? Yep. I quickly checked his name and moved on to a far more complex task: fixing my daughter a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Read the rest here.

Southern Baptists set to elect 1st black president

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Four months ago, two African-American pastors stood in a hallway of the Southern Baptist Convention's Nashville headquarters looking at a row of white faces.

The portraits of the 56 convention presidents since the denomination's 1845 founding are in large picture frames holding several portraits each. The final frame holds empty slots.

"They got a space for Fred, right there," one of the men said. "Got a space picked out for him."

"Fred" is the Rev. Fred Luter Jr., the man poised to become the first African American president of the nation's largest Protestant denomination when convention delegates vote next week in New Orleans.
Read the rest here.

From an historical point of view this is breathtaking. The Southern Baptist Convention was founded partly in defense of slavery and was for many decades firmly on the record in favor of race segregation. It is still an overwhelmingly white Protestant denomination. Moments like this, even with all the crap going on in the world, that make me think there is hope.

It may be a little premature but many years to Rev. Luter!

SSPX decision imminent - Fellay in Rome

Multiple sources are reporting that Bishop Fellay, the superior of the Society of St. Pius X, is in Rome to receive the formal response of the Holy See to proposals for the reintegration of the traditionalist religious order into the Roman Catholic Church. This appears to be decision day. Both in Rome and within the SSPX there have been groups strongly opposed to any accord and who have been working to scuttle a potential deal.

Rorate is posting reports as they become available.

Europe braces for Greek exit

Legal advice on capital controls, including limits on withdrawals from Greek bank accounts, and emergency border restrictions, has been provided by the European Commission to eurozone governments drawing up plans for Greece to leave the euro.

Commission officials confirmed on Tuesday that "these elements" of contingency planning for a Greek exit from the single currency have been discussed by the "euro working group" (EWG) of Treasury officials and junior finance ministers over the last six weeks.

"There are indeed discussions, and we are asked to clarify what is foreseen in the EU treaties," said a Commission spokesman. "Some people are working on scenarios. We are providing information on EU law as guardian of the treaties."

Greek newspaper Ekathimerini reported bank withdrawals in Greece have hit a rate of up to €500m per day, a level expected to accelerate in the aftermath of Greek elections on Sunday.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I am calling bullbleep on a web rumor (updated)

There is a story spreading like wildfire on the web that a major Italian bank (Bank Network Investments SpA (BNI)) has suspended payments and closed up for a 1 month "bank holiday" causing chaos. And further that there is some sort of news blackout going on. (See here.)

As of right now I suspect this is just an internet hoax that has gotten some traction. Not only can I not find a single reputable news source reporting the story, I also can't find a website for this alleged bank. A Google news search came up blank. But so did a subject search seeking any reference to this so called bank other than the web rumors being reported over the last 2 days or so. You would think even a small bank would have some kind of online reference to its existence... somewhere.

Pending evidence to the contrary I am calling bullshit on this story.

Update: See Michael's comment. I am still looking for more information. If the story checks out I will post a retraction.

Ecumenism done right

Metropolitan Hilarion, responsible for the external relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, pointed out the joint tasks of members of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches in a world characterized by materialism and consumerism at a meeting on Pentecost with the Executive President of the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

“We must not wait for unity of the churches to take action,” stated Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, who is Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow. “The Eucharistic union will not come about within a few years.”

Today, however, there is already a “strategic alliance in fields of common interest,” said Hilarion at the meeting in Moscow.
Read the rest here.

HT: A blog reader.

Another 'vampire' skeleton found in Bulgaria

Another centuries-old skeleton of a man who was subjected to a ritual to stop him from turning into a vampire was unearthed in central Bulgaria Tuesday, archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov said.

"The skeleton was tied to the ground with four iron clamps, while burning ambers were placed on top of his grave," Ovcharov told AFP.

The bones of a man in his thirties have yet to be dated but are at least several centuries old, said the archaeologist.

"This man is not a vampire but was subjected to this pagan superstition-driven ritual to prevent him from becoming one after his death," he explained.

The bones were found during excavations in a monastery courtyard in the central town of Veliko Tarnovo, where Ovcharov had already unearthed another skeleton with tied hands and subjected to similar rites a few years ago.
Read the rest here.

"This man is not a vampire..."
Well of course he isn't after they did all that stuff. Silly scientists...

Damning testimony in Penn State child abuse case

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — The young man identified in court documents as “Victim 1” sobbed in court Tuesday as he testified that Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulted him multiple times in the basement of Sandusky’s home.

The witness, now 18 and just five days removed from his high school graduation, said the abuse occurred when he was in middle school, and that Sandusky was enraged when he cut off contact.
Read the rest here.

I almost feel bad for the defense lawyers. This case is so lopsided it is the epitome of the term "open and shut case." Still even a sick @#$% like Sandusky is entitled to his day in court. But if the man had an ounce of decency he would have pleaded guilty and spared his victims from the trauma of having to recount his perverted crimes in an open court room. Purely on an emotional basis this makes me regret my opposition to capital punishment. It's not very Christian. But this creep is a walking advertisement for the gallows.

US: Russia is selling attack helicopters to Syria

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton accused Russia on Tuesday of selling attack helicopters to the Syrian government, asserting that Moscow was lying about the lethal support it provides to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In an unusually direct rebuke, Clinton dismissed as “patently untrue” Russian claims that it is no longer providing the weapons used in Assad’s brutal assault against the country’s 15-month-old uprising.
Read the rest here.

Vatican tight lipped on meeting with dissident nuns

ROME - What do American nuns do when they are accused of being radical feminists? They respond as radical feminists might: by challenging the male authority face-to-face. 

Sister Pat Farrell, head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the umbrella group that represents 80 percent of the U.S.'s 57,000 Catholic nuns, traveled to Rome to confront accusations that her organization promotes "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

Farrell met American Cardinal William Levada, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on Tuesday.  The gathering was aimed at reconciling their differences, but it has the potential to permanently alienate many American nuns from the Holy See.
Read the rest here.

Fifty Years Ago; The great escape from Alcatraz

ALCATRAZ ISLAND, Calif. — For 20th-century crime buffs, few capers match the intrigue and ingenuity of the "Escape from Alcatraz," the 1962 prison break that three inmates pulled off with stolen spoons, dummy heads and a raincoat raft. For Marie Widner and Mearl Taylor, the fabled flight from the Rock is all about family.

The two Florida women are the younger sisters of John and Clarence Anglin, who along with fellow prisoner Frank Morris, disappeared from the federal prison on Alcatraz Island 50 years ago. Whether the three men perished in chilly San Francisco Bay, as prison officials and federal agents insisted at the time, remains a subject of hot speculation because their bodies were never found.

Out of the 36 Alcatraz inmates who tried to flee before the prison was closed in March 1963, the three are the only ones who remain unaccounted for, according to the U.S. Marshals Service, which maintains active arrest warrants on Morris and the Anglins.
Read the rest here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

One New York Judge Is Holding Her Ground Against The Biggest Names In Government

On May 16 U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest upheld her decision to block the controversial indefinite detention provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012, and the Obama Administration made a request for a more detailed explanation.

The defendants — Barack Obama, Leon Panetta, John McCain, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor — argued that the order only stopped the government from indefinitely detaining the journalists and activists who brought the lawsuit.

But Judge Forrest has now clarified the injunction in a 8-page memorandum released Wednesday so as to "leave no doubt" that U.S. citizens cannot be indefinitely detained without due process.
Read the rest here.

Report shows carnage downturn caused to families' net worth

WASHINGTON -- Americans suffered a record decline in wealth between 2007 and 2010 as home values tumbled, according to a Federal Reserve report on Monday that underscored the severity of the recent recession.

The median family's net worth dropped 38.8 percent during the three-year period, the Fed said in its latest report on changes in U.S. Family Finances, derived from a survey of consumer finances. Fed economists told reporters that this was the biggest drop in net worth since the survey started in 1989.

The median net worth, which is the value of assets minus debt, plunged to $77,300 in 2010 from $126,400 in 2007. Net worth in 2010 was at levels last seen in 1992.
Read the rest here.

Sci-Fi and the campy world of 1970's TV

Ray Bradbury passed away this week. He was in many respects one of the founding fathers of modern science fiction. When I was growing up sci-fi was very popular both in movies and on TV. After reading articles on his influence I had sudden flashbacks to the 1970's when our lives seemed to revolve around TV to a degree that most parents would find laughable today. A lot of it seems corny now but back then how could we know that silver mini-skirts and purple hair were not going to be the fashion in 1980...

Nor could we know that platform shoes and bell bottom pants would not still be around in 1999...

Battlestar Galactica made the near annihilation of the human race seem like a grand adventure unlike its recent remake which was much darker and brilliantly acted...

Of course none of those shows gained the cult like following of Star Wars or Star Trek. But I remember them and for a kid they seemed pretty cool at the time. And to my mind it beat The Dukes of Hazzard.

In Maine an independent and moderate leads in Senate race

...With the balance of power in the Senate so tenuously decided, King’s unwillingness to commit to one side or the other has scrambled the calculus in Washington and brought him a lot of attention.

“I’ve come to realize that an unencumbered U.S. senator is a profound threat to the whole system,” he said. “It’s somebody that they can’t put in a box and say, oh, well, we know how this guy is going to vote. That has raised the stakes, frankly.”

And the stakes were already pretty high.

On Tuesday, six Republicans and four Democrats will face off in Senate primaries for a chance to represent their party this November. But polls show the independent King with a wide lead over any of his potential challengers in the race to succeed the retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe.
Read the rest here.

From the you can't make this up file...

A jury has awarded a Georgia woman $3 million over her husband's heart attack, finding that his doctor should have warned the Atlanta cop against strenuous activity like the three-way sex he was having at the time he died, WXIA-TV reports.

William Martinez, a 31-year-old Atlanta police officer, collapsed and died while he and a male friend were having sex with a woman who was not his wife at an Atlanta airport motel in 2009.
Read the rest here.

Santorum braces for convention battle with Ron Paul

Rick Santorum plans to lead a strong pro-Romney effort at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., that can serve as a counterweight in case Representative Ron Paul and his supporters “are looking for a platform fight,” he said in an interview that was broadcast on Sunday.

Mr. Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, had sharp differences with Mitt Romney when both were seeking the presidential nomination, but since bowing out of the race, Mr. Santorum has thrown his support behind the presumptive nominee and has papered over their differences.

The same cannot be said of Mr. Paul, the Texas libertarian who is still technically a candidate and who will be bringing  more than 200 delegates to Tampa. Mr. Santorum, appearing on the ABC News program “This Week,” suggested that fireworks with the Paul group were a distinct possibility.

Asked about his own interest in influencing the Republican platform, Mr. Santorum said, “I like the platform that we have right now.”

He then added: “I’m concerned that Ron Paul and some of his supporters out there are looking for a platform fight. And I want to make sure that we have strong, principled conservatives there who stood with me in our primary fight to go there and counterbalance the effect of the Paul folks.”

Mr. Santorum, who often sparred with Mr. Paul in the Republican debates, did not elaborate on what shape a platform fight might take.
Read the rest here.

Commerce Secretary Accused in Hit and Run Accident

Police are investigating two traffic collisions allegedly caused by U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson that left him injured and unconscious, authorities in the Los Angeles area said Monday.

One of the crashes was under investigation as a felony hit and run, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department and the San Gabriel Police Department said.

Jennifer Friedman, director of public affairs for the Department of Commerce, confirmed that Bryson was involved in a traffic accident over the weekend and said he had "suffered a seizure."

Bryson was taken to the hospital for examination and remained overnight for observation, Friedman said. He was released and has returned to Washington. 
Read the rest here.

Pledges forgotten, local governments repurpose federally funded parks

The government promised that the public would get parks where citizens could exercise and stay strong – shared open spaces that would be theirs forever, places that would inspire and invigorate.

But one park became a Las Vegas hotel. Another was almost turned into a beachfront McDonald’s. Another is being converted into an upscale private resort in Oklahoma.  And in New York City, the National Park Service allowed the New York Yankees, the nation’s richest baseball franchise, to build a parking garage atop public ball fields that needy kids at the local schools didn’t see replaced for six years.

Forty-eight years after Congress and President John F. Kennedy promised parks to the public, the budget-battered National Park Service program that awarded $3.9 billion-plus to state and local governments to buy or improve those parks has routinely allowed the land to be converted to other uses. Frequently, critics contend, these transactions violate federal law and regulations requiring that federally funded recreational acreage be replaced by lands of equal value.
Read the rest here.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A golden idea to save (or doom) the euro

Gold is back in the news, big time, and not just because the price may be on the verge of another upswing or that Peter Munk is turning Barrick, the world’s biggest gold company, into a CEO meat grinder. It’s because Germany, it appears, wants to make gold the effective currency of the euro zone before the region plunges to the bottom of the seas like a concrete U-boat.

The weakest euro zone countries are tapped out financially and economically. But a few of them are brimming with gold reserves. Take Italy, the euro zone’s third-largest economy. The Italians love gold and it’s stashed everywhere, in their central bank and in their jewellery and safe deposit boxes. (I once saw a religious-festival parade of children in a mountain town, with each child groaning under the weight of heavy gold necklaces and other baubles). At last count, the central bank had 2,451 tonnes of gold, valued at close to €100-billion ($128-billion). That’s not a fortune compared to Italy’s €1.9-trillion national debt, but it’s not bad when Rome is raiding the pantry to pay its ever-rising debt.

Germany’s idea is coyly named the European Redemption Pact and it is nothing if not creative. While details are scant, here is roughly how this gilded baby would work. Countries with debts greater than 60 per cent of gross domestic product – the (ignored) limit under the European Union’s Maastricht Treaty – would transfer those debts into a redemption fund, which would be covered by joint bonds. The scheme has been called “euro bonds lite.”

Here’s the catch. Countries using the scheme (most would, including Germany, because of generally high debt-to-GDP ratios) would have to cover 20 per cent of their debt with collateral, payable in gold or currency reserves. Default on the payments and you lose your gold. The “sinking” fund would retire the debt over 20 years.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Quote of the day...

I am fond of saying that they should take Vatican II out into the woods with a shovel and a pistol, then tell everyone it went to live on a farm. By, this, I mean undo the changes, but do it quietly and discreetly, without a lot of fanfare that will make the old libs want to march out for one last Donnybrook. From what I read, that seems to be BXVI's approach, too.
-An anonymous comment from here.

Friday, June 08, 2012

A Friendly Response To Metropolitan Jonah

A friendly response to Metropolitain Jonah who apparently suggested to the ACNA Provincial Assembly today that we “fix” the western Creed by removing the filioque clause:
Your Beatitude, we’ll reconsider the filioque clause when the Orthodox Church in America affirms the doctrines of original guilt, sola fide, sola scriptura, and “fixes” its calendar.
-Matt Kennedy from here.
HT: Dr. Tighe

Well, I agree with him about the calendar... ;-)