Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Admin Note: Commenting on old posts

Every now and then I get comments for posts that are old. Sometimes really old. Someone tried to post a comment yesterday on a post I put up in 2006! For sometime I have had comment moderation on for posts that are older than 10 days. The main reason for this is that most comments on old posts are SPAM. But some are quite legitimate and even good. The problem is that once a post disappears from the front page of the blog, the odds of anyone besides me reading your comment are negligible. And if you are responding to someone's earlier comment it's not very fair if they don't even know you are talking to them.

So in general I would prefer that people not post comments on older threads. If you think yours is really insightful by all means drop me a line. But once a post drops off the front page I am probably going to treat the comments as closed.

South Carolina Episcopal Bishop Hints At Secession

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina has released a letter in the wake of the mass apostasy that was their sect's General Convention. In it they state that before walking out of the convention Bishop Mark Lawrence addressed his fellow bishops [sic] and told them that by their actions they were crossing a line that he was not sure he could follow. It also states that he is entering a period of prayerful reflection over the next several weeks as he decides what to do.

Read the letter over at T-19.

Prop 8 Supporters Ask For Supreme Court Review

Backers of California's Proposition 8, intended to ban same-sex marriage in the state, asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to take up their appeal after two lower federal courts found the measure unconstitutional.

The justices now face two gay rights issues: the Prop 8 appeal and two challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Voters in California approved Prop 8 in 2008, less than six months after the state’s Supreme Court approved same-sex marriage. The measure was immediately challenged.
Read the rest here.

It has long been my belief that the government should get out of the marriage business entirely and require everyone who wants their particular domestic arrangements recognized to do so via a civil union and leave "marriage" as an entirely religious institution. But that aside; the matter is clearly a state's rights issue from a constitutional perspective. As such Prop 8 is fully legal and constitutional. And by the same rational DOMA is an unconstitutional usurpation of non-delegated powers by the Federal Government.

Prop 8 should be upheld and DOMA should be struck down. Moving on...

98 Years Ago: The world blows up

July 31 1914 was the last day of technical peace. Austria had already declared war on Serbia but frantic negotiations and trading of telegrams were still underway. Although by the end of the day all of the major powers except Britain had ordered general mobilization, none had as yet declared war on one another. That would end the next day.

Michael Phelps Wins Record 19th Olympic Medal

LONDON — Michael Phelps broke the Olympic medals record Tuesday with his 19th as the United States romped to a dominating win in 4x200-meter freestyle relay at the London Games.

With 19 career medals spanning three Olympics, Phelps moved one ahead of Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who got her haul in 1956, 1960 and 1964. And he finally got his first gold of these games, bouncing back from the disappointment of settling for silver when he glided at the end of the 200 butterfly earlier Tuesday.
Read the rest here.

Congratulations to Mr. Phelps!

Congressman Steve LaTourette:Announces Retirement - Blames Partisan Extremism

Rep. Steve LaTourette, a key ally of House Speaker John A. Boehner and one of a dwindling number of congressional GOP moderates, issued a broadside against an increasingly polarized House on Tuesday, as he formally announced he will not seek a 10th term.

News of the Ohio Republican’s decision had leaked on Monday and he acknowledged at a news conference in his Painesville district that he was leaving local Republicans in the lurch by stepping out with only 100 days left before the November election.
Read the rest here.

Race Hucksters

I read, with the joy that I usually reserve for recurrent migraines, that Precedent Obama will establish an Office of African-American Education, thus furthering the racial Balkanization of the country, providing makework jobs for useless bureaucrats and, predictably, accomplishing nothing. I read also that the NAACP has filed complaint with the Department of Education against Fairfax County, Virginia, just outside of Washington, because its high school for the very bright, Thomas Jefferson High, doesn’t have enough blacks.

Probably I should give up reading.

It never ends. Charges of discrimination, demands for special privilege, endless laws, wringing of teeth and gnashing of hands, lowered standards, no positive results, and start over again.
Read the rest here.

Caution: As usual brother Fred does not mince words or pull punches. This essay WILL offend some people.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Indian Court Nullifies Some Arranged Marriage Contracts

Arranged marriages remain fairly common in various parts of the world including India. The Delhi High Court has now said that such contracts made on behalf of minors are voidable by the bride or groom under certain circumstances.

'Hobbit' movie adaptation to be a trilogy

Peter Jackson's film adaptation of "The Hobbit" will be split into three movies, the director and the studios behind the venture said on Monday.

Jackson said that given the richness of the story -- which is set 60 years before "The Lord of The Rings" -- he decided after wrapping up shooting recently in New Zealand that what was originally planned as two movies would now be a trilogy.
Read the rest here.

It's all about the buck.

Defining Religious Liberty Down

THE words “freedom of belief” do not appear in the First Amendment. Nor do the words “freedom of worship.” Instead, the Bill of Rights guarantees Americans something that its authors called “the free exercise” of religion.

It’s a significant choice of words, because it suggests a recognition that religious faith cannot be reduced to a purely private or individual affair. Most religious communities conceive of themselves as peoples or families, and the requirements of most faiths extend well beyond attendance at a sabbath service — encompassing charity and activism, education and missionary efforts, and other “exercises” that any guarantee of religious freedom must protect.
Read the rest here.

Another outstanding article by Mr. Douthat. I seriously cannot believe this guy writes for the NY Times.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Son of Kenya's Prime Minister Is Baptized And Then Married

Read the story at Mystagogy.

Quote of the day...

“In Orthodoxy, communicants in the sacramental mysteries are not only obliged to be steadfast in the Christian faith and perpetually repentant over their failures, they are also obliged to take full responsibility for the Church’s teachings and practices, and to be ready, at least in intention, to defend them unto death. For this reason, those who publicly affirm and promote homosexual behavior (like those who publicly advocate abortion) cannot be sacramental communicants in the Orthodox Church”
Fr Thomas Hopko (Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction, 108)
HT: Fr. Peter

Parents Ask State to Oust 5 Orthodox Jews on School Board

SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. — In the East Ramapo Central School District here, the children of Caribbean and Latin American immigrants have filled the classrooms in recent years. About 85 percent of the students are black or Hispanic, and only 7 percent are white.

But on the school board, seven of the nine seats are held by Orthodox Jews.

Now, after years of increasingly bitter discord between parents and the board, the parents are trying to force the state to intervene.

A public-interest law firm, acting on behalf of 14 residents, filed a petition last week with the State Education Department, seeking the removal of five of the Orthodox Jewish board members and the appointment of a special monitor to oversee the district. The parents say that the five Orthodox Jewish board members have improperly aided private schools, which are mostly Orthodox yeshivas.
Read the rest here.

Is Algebra Necessary (for everyone)?

A TYPICAL American school day finds some six million high school students and two million college freshmen struggling with algebra. In both high school and college, all too many students are expected to fail. Why do we subject American students to this ordeal? I’ve found myself moving toward the strong view that we shouldn’t.

 My question extends beyond algebra and applies more broadly to the usual mathematics sequence, from geometry through calculus. State regents and legislators — and much of the public — take it as self-evident that every young person should be made to master polynomial functions and parametric equations.

There are many defenses of algebra and the virtue of learning it. Most of them sound reasonable on first hearing; many of them I once accepted. But the more I examine them, the clearer it seems that they are largely or wholly wrong — unsupported by research or evidence, or based on wishful logic. (I’m not talking about quantitative skills, critical for informed citizenship and personal finance, but a very different ballgame.)
Read the rest here.

Where was this guy 30 years ago when I was daily slitting my wrists before algebra class?

Friday, July 27, 2012

San Francisco Catholics Get A Jolt

Pope Benedict XVI sent tremors through a city known for sitting on an earthquake fault line when he today appointed Salvatore Cordileone, 56, as the new head of the San Francisco Archdiocese. Cordileone is currently the head of the diocese of Oakland and has a reputation as one of the more conservative Roman Catholic bishops in the United States. As the bishop of Oakland he has been a staunch champion of Roman Catholic doctrinal orthodoxy and tradition including the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass. He was also a vocal supporter of Proposition 8 and has characterized homosexual marriage as being of demonic origin.

The new archbishop, who is known for running a tight ship in matters of church discipline, will be taking the helm in one of the most culturally and politically left leaning cities in the United States. That liberalism has on multiple occasions manifested itself at the parish level in San Francisco with a widespread tolerance of doctrinal dissent.

It goes without saying that the reaction in San Francisco has been less than enthusiastic and in some cases downright chilly.

If I believed in karma I would say the man must have done something especially horrible in a previous life to deserve such a podvig. May God support him in his new assignment.

Olympics Open Amidst Pageantry And Royal Humor

The opening ceremonies in London included lots of very British pageantry and a little royal spoof with The Queen heading off to the games escorted by James Bond, the iconic super spy.

Obama and the lunatic fringe

There are Obama doubters and haters out there who claim with righteous anger that they are “vetting” the president, something they say the mainstream media never did. Some of them have said that my new biography — unwittingly, they argue, for I am too dumb to understand what my research has unearthed — proves that Barack Obama’s defining memoir is phony and that his entire life is a fraud. My intent is not to defend Obama or his book; he can take care of himself, and I have my own questions about “Dreams From My Father,” which I make clear in my book. But when comparing the liberties Obama took with composite characters and compressed chronology — which he acknowledged in the introduction to his memoir — to the stretches his most virulent detractors have taken in building their various conspiracies, I believe that they are the frauds and fabricators.

Not all of them are “birthers,” but the notion that the president was not born in the United States remains at the epicenter of the anti-Obama mythology. Here is the conspiracy that would have had to exist if Barack Hussein Obama II were not born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Aug. 4, 1961:
Read the rest here.

As longtime readers of this blog will know I have little use for Mr. Obama's politics. But I have less for the right-wing conspiracy nuts out there who think he is the anti-Christ or something similar.

Many (more) Years

A few months after the Titanic sank in 1912, Monsignor Vincent J. Topper was born.

Like the Titanic, Topper came across as charming, strong and unsinkable.

Unlike the Titanic, Topper never sank.

A century after his birth, Topper is the oldest and longest-serving priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Facing election, Hugo Chávez ruthlessly consolidates his power

NOT FOR THE first time, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has declared himself cancer-free and ready to resume a full schedule. The announcement should be treated dubiously; the government has refused to release details of the strongman’s illness, and numerous reports have said he suffers from an incurable malignancy. But Mr. Chávez’s claim does make clear that he intends an all-out push to win reelection in an Oct. 7 vote.

Having the caudillo at the top of the ticket makes a big difference: While most polls show Mr. Chávez leading opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, they also indicate that the opposition would trounce any of Mr. Chávez’s potential successors. The president’s personal popularity lingers with some Venezuelans, who do not fault him for the soaring inflation, power and food shortages and world-beating murder rate that have emerged during his 13 years in office.
Read the rest here.

Orthodox - Catholic Ecumenism Done Right

It is a contrast evident not only in the capital; it is a part of the system. The poverty in Moscow and St Petersburg is glimpsed only from afar, guessed at in the giant concrete slab apartment blocks. But just a few kilometres outside Moscow the roads end in tracks, then lead through alleys of wooden houses. Even in the rich and glittering Saint Petersburg, with its golden domes and magnificent buildings, the Hermitage and the splendid cathedrals – even here there are the soup kitchens. Down a winding back alley in a narrow courtyard, aid workers of the Maltese Cross provide 300 to 400 people with a hot meal each day. Open, friendly faces, clean benches and tables – here the poor can experience the warmth of a practical, living Christianity. "We can learn from the experience of the Catholic welfare organisations, from their work in social issues", says the rector of the Orthodox seminary in Saint Petersburg, Episcopal Vicar Ambrosij (Ambrose) of Gatshina. Certainly, in the new social issues there are many major challenges for the Orthodox Church in Russia. They have begun to approach them systematically. Seminarians help to care for the poor and the handicapped, and visit prisoners in the jails. And marriage and family issues will now find a place in the general curriculum for their training. "Almost four out of five families break up", Bishop Ambrose estimates. Another related social problem is that of single mothers.
Read the rest here.

Lots of emphasis on charity without the push for inter-communion. That is refreshing and helpful.

7 habits of highly ineffective government

Stephen Covey, the management guru who died this week, would have had a hard time selling his books in Benjamin Franklin’s America, or Abe Lincoln’s. His bestseller 7 Habits of Highly Effective People would have been considered a self-evident truth, one drummed into earlier Americans by schools, churches, and the Puritan ethic.
Read the rest here.
HT: Bill (aka The Godfather)

Some Excellent Posts

From the Young Fogey...

Pius XII and the sedia gestatoria. Theological differences aside, Catholics had a definite class in the 50's that is now sadly gone.

Otto von Bismarck remarked at the end of the 19th century that the most significant event of the 20th century would be “The fact that the North Americans speak English”.

The road less travelled: Anglo-Catholics who consider converting to Orthodoxy

It is just possible that reports of the death of chivalry may have been premature. Men who took a bullet for their women.

Patriarch Kyril announces new information on the murdered Imperial Family

Kiev, July 26, Interfax - The Moscow Patriarchate might reconsider its attitude toward what is widely believed to be the remains of Russia's last Emperor Nicholas II and members of his family and entourage, which were found at the site of their shooting near Yekaterinburg and were buried at the Imperial Burial Vault at the Cathedral of the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg in 1998.

"I would like to announce very important information we have received from New York, which is related to the circumstances of the royal family's death. I believe these circumstances will help us determine our position, among other things, on the so-called Yekaterinburg remains. I will provide you with the relevant materials, and we will have to discuss this and make the necessary decision," Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said in opening a conference of the Russian Orthodox Church's Holy Synod in Kiev on Thursday.

Patriarch Kirill also said that the participants in the conference should consider the convention of the Bishops' Council. "We are approaching a time when it is desirable to hold a council assembly," he said.

Eleven people, including members of the Russian Imperial Family and people from their entourage, were shot at the Urals regional council presidium's order in the early hours of July 17, 1918.

A grave with nine bodies was found on Staraya Koptyakovskaya Road near Yekaterinburg in July 1991. The remains were identified as those of Emperor Nicholas II, his 46-year-old wife Alexandra Fyodorovna, their daughters Olga, 22, Tatyana, 21, and Anastasia, 17, and their servants Yevgeny Botkin, 53, Anna Demidova, 40, Aloizy Trupp, 62, and Ivan Kharitonov, 48.

The remains of two more people were discovered during archaeological excavation works 70 kilometers south of the first grave on July 26, 2007. The remains have still not been buried, but numerous expert analyses indicate that the remains were most likely those of Crown Prince Alexey and his sister Maria.

The Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court ruled to rehabilitate Nicholas II and his family members on October 1, 2008.

The Investigative Committee said in January 2011 that it had completed an investigation into the death of Nicholas II, his family members and entourage and closed the criminal case.

The Russian Orthodox Church has still not recognized the remains interred in Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral as those of Nicholas II and his family members and entourage, claiming that it was not convinced by the proof of their authenticity that was presented.

News Flash

Bishop Williamson of the SSPX is a nut.

In Defense of Israeli Imperialism

WHATEVER word you use to describe Israel’s 1967 acquisition of Judea and Samaria — commonly referred to as the West Bank in these pages — will not change the historical facts. Arabs called for Israel’s annihilation in 1967, and Israel legitimately seized the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria in self-defense. Israel’s moral claim to these territories, and the right of Israelis to call them home today, is therefore unassailable. Giving up this land in the name of a hallowed two-state solution would mean rewarding those who’ve historically sought to destroy Israel, a manifestly immoral outcome.
Read the rest here.

Caveat: I vehemently disagree with this twaddle. But I am posting it for a contrary opinion and discussion purposes. Israeli occupation of the disputed territories and its claimed annexation of East Jerusalem are illegal under international law. There is nothing moral or just here, unless your idea of moral and just is reflected by the Treaty of Versailles. And we all know how that ended.

ECB Chief Vows Action To Save The Euro

NEW YORK — Stocks soared in the U.S. and Europe Thursday after the European Central Bank president vowed to “do whatever it takes” to keep the continent’s monetary union intact.

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 211 points, or 1.7 percent, to 12,887 as of 3:20 p.m., following European markets sharply higher. Benchmark stock indexes surged 6 percent in Spain and Italy and 4 percent in France.
Read the rest here.

Translation: The ECB chief is threatening massive monetary intervention.. in other words money printing.

Rapidly Spreading Drought Grips Much Of US

The drought ruining crops, shrinking water supplies and exacerbating wildfires intensified dramatically over the last week, U.S. forecasters reported Thursday.

The weekly Drought Monitor shows "widespread intensification" in the central U.S., the National Drought Mitigation Center said in a statement.

Across the contiguous U.S., the total area under all kinds of drought grew only slightly but the most severe categories -- extreme and exceptional -- rose from 13.5 percent to 20.5 percent -- the highest level since 2003.
Read the rest here.

Scientology is not a religion; it is a dangerous authoritarian cult

...In 1952, Hubbard decided to merge his bunk scientific claims with his science fiction and market the mixture as a religion. He called it Scientology, or, “the science of knowing how to know answers.” According to Church defectors, and now infamous thanks to South Park, Scientology’s theology is essentially a discarded Hubbard novel. Human beings are the composition of spirits (“thetans”) cast off from the bodies of space aliens detonated 75 million years ago in volcanoes on the planet Teegeeack (also known as Earth) by a galactic warrior named Xenu. Man’s problems today are attributable to “engrams,” or the mental memory of painful experiences caused by the presence of thetans on our humanly bodies, which one can get rid of only through a process of spiritual “auditing,” a sort of counseling session performed on a low-rent lie-detector machine called an “E-Meter.” Those who join Scientology often end up spending vast sums on auditing and other Church gimmicks, leading detractors to characterize Scientology as a pyramid scheme in which members pay ever-vaster sums of money to ascend the Church’s “Operating Thetan levels.” A typical story involves the grief-stricken, 73-year-old widow who took on a $45,000 mortgage to pay for auditing after Scientologists preyed upon her following the death of her husband.

A 1972 directive from Hubbard titled “Governing policy,” cited by the German government in its position against the Church, clearly characterizes Scientology as a commercial enterprise. “MAKE MONEY. MAKE MONEY. MAKE MORE MONEY. MAKE OTHER PEOPLE PRODUCE SO AS TO MAKE MONEY,” Hubbard wrote. In 1967, the IRS revoked the Church’s tax-exempt status, a decision reasserted by each and every American court to which the Church brought challenges over a subsequent 25-year-period. A 1984 U.S. Tax Court ruling, for instance, found that the Church “made a business out of selling religion” and that Hubbard and his family had diverted millions of dollars to their personal accounts. The Los Angeles Superior Court, meanwhile, deemed Hubbard “a pathological liar” driven by “egotism, greed, avarice, lust for power and vindictiveness and aggressiveness against persons perceived by him to be disloyal or hostile.”

Desperate for legitimacy, in 1973 Scientology launched Operation Snow White—a covert operation aimed at infiltrating governments. Scientology agents broke into IRS headquarters, bugged its offices, and dispatched private investigators to spy on individual agents—all in hopes of blackmailing officials. All this was permitted under Scientology’s “Fair Game” doctrine, which, according to Hubbard, demands that Church critics “be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.” The plot was uncovered in 1977, and Hubbard’s wife and 10 other Church officials were sentenced to jail. Hubbard was named an unindicted co-conspirator.

But in 1993, Scientology finally did achieve tax-exempt status from the IRS—a massive victory in the Church’s quest for mainstream acceptance. It did so, according to the New York Times, only “after an extraordinary campaign orchestrated by Scientology against the agency and people who work there” that included the hiring of “private investigators to dig into the private lives of I.R.S. officials and to conduct surveillance operations to uncover potential vulnerabilities.” Scientology even set up a front group, the National Coalition of IRS Whistle-blowers, to battle the agency. As if to emphasize the capriciousness of the IRS’s decision, just a year before the agency’s reversal, a decision by the U.S. Claims Court rejected Scientology’s case for tax-exemption, citing “the commercial character of much of Scientology,” its virtually incomprehensible financial procedures” and its “scripturally based hostility to taxation...”

...Around the world, a handful of politicians have urged their governments to prosecute Scientology as a criminal conspiracy. Three years ago, a Paris court found the Church guilty of fraud and fined it $900,000. That same year, a member of the Australian Senate, Nick Xenophon, delivered a speech in which he described Scientology as “criminal organization that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs.” After calling for an investigation into the Church’s tax-exempt status during a television interview, he began to receive letters from ex-Scientologists across Australia detailing what he described as “a worldwide pattern of abuse and criminality,” including torture, forced confinement, and coerced abortions. (Xenophon’s call for a parliamentary inquiry into the Church was ultimately rejected by the Australian government.) In 2007, following a 10-year investigation, a Belgian prosecutor called for the Church to be labeled a criminal organization and recommended that up to 12 Church officials face charges for the illegal practice of medicine, violation of privacy, and use of illegal contracts. The State Department criticized the move, stating that the United States would “oppose any effort to stigmatize an entire group based solely upon religious beliefs and would be concerned over infringement of any individual’s rights because of religious affiliation.”
Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Europe is sleepwalking towards imminent disaster

 The euro has completely broken down as a workable system and faces collapse with “incalculable economic losses and human suffering” unless there is a drastic change of course, according to a group of leading economists.

Europe is “sleepwalking towards disaster”, according to the 17 experts, who warned that over the past few weeks “the situation in the debtor countries has deteriorated dramatically”.

“The sense of a neverending crisis, with one domino falling after another, must be reversed. The last domino, Spain, is days away from a liquidity crisis,” said the economists. They include two members of Germany’s Council of Economic Experts and leading euro specialists at the London of School of Economics, all euro supporters.

“This dramatic situation is the result of a eurozone system which, as currently constructed, is thoroughly broken. The cause is a systemic failure. It is the responsibility of all European nations that were parties to its flawed design, construction and implementation to contribute to a solution. Absent this collective response, the euro will disintegrate,” they added in a co-signed report for the Institute for New Economic Thinking.
Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

Former Citigroup CEO Weill: Break up the banks

Sandy Weill, the former Citigroup chairman and CEO credited with building the bank into a financial superpower, now says big banks should be split up.

In a wide-ranging CNBC interview, Weill suggested investment banks should be split from banks that provide retail and commercial banking services.

That’s an unusual outlook from Weill, who pushed the government to overturn the Glass-Steagall law that requires deposit-taking institutions to separate from risky investment banks.

The law was put in place after the 1929 stock market crash.

Citigroup became one of the nation’s problems during the financial crisis -- a poster-child for “too big to fail” with the government spending $45 billion trying to keep it afloat.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

George Orwell and the N.C.A.A.

On Monday, the National Collegiate Athletic Association made a remarkable — and disturbing — decision. As one of the sanctions against Pennsylvania State University, it determined that all of Penn State’s football victories from 1998 to 2011 were to be “vacated.” Whoosh! As a result, Joe Paterno no longer holds the major college coaching record for career wins. Someone else now has that honor. George Orwell would be amused.

In his magnificent dystopia, “1984,” Orwell understood well the dangers of “history clerks.” Those given authority to write history can change the past. Those sweat-and-mud victories of the Nittany Lions — more points on the scoreboard — no longer exist. The winners are now the losers.

One might wonder whether the N.C.A.A.’s rush to judgment — a rush that ignored its own procedures of examining each case through the sanctions committee — was truly necessary. And one might question a set of sanctions whose human victims were not involved in the crimes. But let us put aside these niceties. Surely Penn State the institution deserves sanctions for the deplorable actions of authorities. Sometimes organizations are treated as people.

The more significant question is whether rewriting history is the proper answer. And while this is not the first time that game outcomes have been vacated, changing 14 seasons of football history is a unique and disquieting response. We learn bad things about people all the time, but should we change our history? Should we, like Orwell’s totalitarian Oceania, have a Ministry of Truth that has the authority to scrub the past? Should our newspapers have to change their back files? And how far should we go? Should we review Babe Ruth’s records? Or O. J. Simpson’s? Should a disgraced senator have her votes vacated? Perhaps we should claim that Joe McCarthy actually lost his elections. Or give victory to John Edwards’s opponent?
Read the rest here.

Is The Fed Warming Up The Printing Press?

WASHINGTON — A growing number of Federal Reserve officials have concluded that the central bank needs to expand its stimulus campaign unless the nation’s economy soon shows signs of improvement, including job growth.

The question is expected to dominate the agenda when the Fed’s policy-making committee meets next week, with some members pushing for immediate action while others seek to delay a decision at least until the committee’s next meeting in September, so they can see a few more weeks’ worth of economic data.

The Fed’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, told Congress last week that the options under consideration included a new round of asset purchases, or “quantitative easing,” often described as QE3. As part of any such program, officials increasingly favor expanding the Fed’s holdings of mortgage-backed securities for the first time since 2010.
Read the rest here.

RIP: Sherman Hemsley

NYC: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Stores Impose Dress Codes

If your visiting New York City, especially in some of the very Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, you better tighten up on your manner of dress. A lot of the businesses run by Ultra-Orthodox Jews are getting a bit tired of people walking into their establishments half naked and are starting to require would-be patrons to dress modestly. Some of the locals are irritated by the very idea of a dress code, though I hasten to add that New York is also one of the last cities where one can still find restaurants that require a coat and tie after six.

It goes without saying that my sympathy level is pretty low.

If you don't like the dress code then the answer is simple, DON"T SHOP THERE! Just take your business elsewhere. This is a good opportunity for a little free market correction. If the dress code is unreasonable in the minds of most of the patrons then they will lose business or be forced to modify their rules.

There is no law against a dress code provided that it is not being erected in an effort to discriminate on the basis of race, gender or ethnicity which is clearly not the case here. If an effort were being made to extend a dress code to public venues or streets and sidewalks that would obviously be a different story. In Israel that has been a problem in some of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods. But this situation applies to privately owned businesses. In such a case the owners are, within reason, free to do as they wish...

Just as patrons are free to take their money and skimpy dress elsewhere.

Monday, July 23, 2012

French City Demands Britain's Crown Jewels For Executed Royal

A French city which produced 14 English kings is demanding the Crown Jewels as compensation from the Queen for the murder of its last pretender to the throne.

Angers, which is in the Loire Valley west of Paris, was once the capital of the Anjou province and the House of Plantagenet.

It ruled England from 1154 until 1485, providing some of the greatest monarchs in British history, including Richard the Lionheart and Henry V.
Read the rest here.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair: Hanging bankers won't help

 Public anger over the financial crisis is wrong and must not lead Britain to “hang bankers at the end of the street,” Tony Blair says today.

 In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the former prime minister launches a defence of the free market and liberal economic rules established by the Thatcher government.

The approach promoted by Baroness Thatcher’s government is not to blame for the recent financial and economic crisis, Mr Blair says, warning against taking vengeance on bankers and increasing State intervention in the private sector.

We must not start thinking that society will be better off “if we hang 20 bankers at the end of the street”, Mr Blair says.
Read the rest here.

I don't know anyone arguing for a lynching. But strict enforcement of the law and the criminal prosecution of persons and entities (banks) publicly known to have engaged in fraud, price and rate rigging, and securities manipulations needs to happen if confidence in the integrity of the financial system and markets is to be restored. To the best of my knowledge there has not been a single significant criminal prosecution of any of those responsible for the vast mortgage frauds, manipulation of commodities markets, rate fixing, and rampant naked short selling. The only significant criminal prosecutions against bankers over the last four years that I can recall have been a handful of truly egregious insider trading cases.

Eurozone danger mounts as Spain spins out of control

 Spain is battling to avert a fully-fledged sovereign rescue after borrowing costs spiralled out of control, with dangerous knock-on effects in Italy and Eastern Europe.

 The yields on closely-watched two-year debt surged by 78 basis points to a modern-era high of 6.42pc, leaving it unclear how long the country can continue funding itself. Italy’s two-year yields vaulted to 4.6pc.

“We can’t keep going like this for another 15 days,” said Prof Miguel Angel Bernal from Madrid’s Institute of Market Studies. “The European Central Bank has to bring out its heavy artillery.”
Read the rest here.

Italy: Ten cities at risk of bankruptcy

Italy's financial outlook darkened on Monday amid warnings that 10 cities are at risk of bankruptcy and schools may not be able to open in the autumn because of drastic spending cuts.

The cities at risk of running out of money include Naples, Palermo in Sicily and Reggio Calabria, on the toe of the Italian boot, according to the Italian press.

"The situation is becoming worse by the day," said Graziano Del Rio, the president of a national association of municipal councils.
Read the rest here.

NCAA Slams Penn State With Crippling Sanctions

The NCAA on Monday announced a series of unprecedented sanctions against the Penn State football program for its involvement in the sexual abuse scandal that centered on former coach Jerry Sandusky.

The penalties include a $60 million fine, a four-year postseason ban, an annual reduction of 10 scholarships over a four-year period and five years of probation.
Read the rest here.

Greek Prime Minister Compares Economy To The Great Depression

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece is in a "Great Depression" similar to the American one in the 1930s, the country's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told former U.S. President Bill Clinton on Sunday.

Samaras was speaking two days before a team of Greece's international lenders arrive in Athens to push for further cuts needed for the debt-laden country to qualify for further rescue payments and avoid a chaotic default.
Read the rest here.

LIBOR scandal: What is it and why you should care

The latest banking fraud is centered in Britain, where the financial firm Barclays will pay half a billion dollars in fines for efforts to manipulate a benchmark interest rate. Other banks must have been involved, though, and the full range of the scandal has yet to emerge. Here's a quick look at what is known and why it matters.

What is LIBOR?

LIBOR stands for London Interbank Offered Rate. It's supposed to measure the average interest rate that banks charge when they lend to each other. LIBOR is also used as a foundation for other rates (such as the reset of adjustable rate mortgages) and a reference point for complex financial derivatives.

By one measure, some $300 trillion in loans or derivative contracts are pegged to LIBOR. That's 20 times the size of one year's economic output in the United States.

The LIBOR rates are determined by major banks. The banks report interest-rate estimates to the British Bankers Association, and the firm Thomson Reuters averages them to provide daily LIBOR numbers. The catch: The banks provide the numbers on an honor system. That's different from gathering data on observable transactions.
Read the rest here.

Banks are the enemy.

China Ratchets Up Military Tension In South China Sea

 BEIJING – The Central Military Commission, China’s most powerful military body, has approved the deployment of a garrison of soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army to guard islands claimed by China in the South China Sea, the state-run Xinhua news agency said Sunday.

 The announcement came as Chinese authorities told state media that 45 legislators elected over the weekend to govern the 1,100 people who live on the island groups of the Spratlys, the Paracels and the Macclesfield Bank — known in Chinese as the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands — met for the first time on Monday.

The new legislators would not only govern the island groups, many of them consisting of rocks and atolls, but also two million square kilometers of the South China Sea over which China claims jurisdiction, according to state media.
Read the rest here.

San Francisco Mulls Tax On Driving

A California transportation agency recently proposed what could become the most unpopular tax of all time: A tax for simply driving your car.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission of San Francisco is behind the idea and has said that the tax would work by installing GPS units into cars to track the miles that they travel. The vehicle owners would then be charged accordingly, with low-income drivers exempted.

The hope is that a VMT (vehicle miles traveled) tax would cut down on pollution and traffic congestion, while raising funds for things like road construction and surface repair.
Read the rest here.
A New York City hotel room sign, circa 1890. Click to view full size.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Is there a right to plead "insanity?"

There’s no doubt John Joseph Delling knew what he was doing. His carefully planned 2007 crime spree lasted weeks, covered 6,500 miles and culminated in two people dead and one seriously wounded.

He had his reasons, too. Delling, then 21, had become “a type of Jesus,” he later explained, and the men he attacked, two of them former classmates he had not seen in years, were stealing his “energy.” An MRI of his brain would have revealed the damage the men had already caused, he told authorities.
Read the rest here.

If it is possible for a human being to be so mentally ill that he/she really doesn't grasp what they are doing or the morality of it then yes, I do think that they or their lawyers have the right to raise that in court. Insanity is a very rare defense and it is almost always an "affirmative defense." By which the law means that the burden of proof shifts to the defense. I don't know of any jurisdiction where the prosecution is required to prove the defendant was sane.  Normally as a condition of pleading insanity the defense has to first in effect concede that their guy did it and then they try to prove that he was several fries short of a happy meal and didn't know the difference between right and wrong. Since this is a very hard thing to prove usually an insanity defense only comes into play when when the evidence of guilt is so overwhelming that the defense basically goes for a legal "hail marry" pass. Or in those extremely rare cases where the defendant really is completely off his nut.

The insanity defense is a popular bugaboo. But the reality is that it is rarely attempted and then its success rate is extremely low.

NCAA Prepared To Impose Severe Sanctions On Penn State

It looks like the NCAA is getting ready to come down hard on Penn State in the wake of the child molestation scandal. IMHO it would have been better if Penn State showed some class and voluntarily shut down their football program for a few years while they get their priorities straight. On a positive note though, at least one prime symbol of Penn State's idolatry has come down.

Friday, July 20, 2012

12 Dead Scores Wounded In Movie Theater Massacre

Twelve people were killed and at least 50 others wounded early Friday when a gunman wearing a bullet-proof vest opened fire during a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie near Denver, authorities and witnesses said.

The victims being treated in at least six hospitals included a 6-year-old. The youngest person treated was a 4-month-old baby, who has been released. The oldest reported patient is 45.

Authorities said the gunman had appeared at the front of the theater during the film and released a canister of tear gas. Witnesses told reporters that the gunfire erupted during a shootout scene in "The Dark Knight Rises."
Read the rest here.
Note: This is breaking news so the text at the linked site will likely change as the story is updated.

Prayers for all involved.

I didn't know...

...that the Lutherans (ELCA) were marrying homosexuals too. I must have missed that doctrinal revision. But there have been so many it's really hard to keep up.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Years of Unraveling, Then Bankruptcy for a City

 STOCKTON, Calif. — This inland port on the San Joaquin River recently became the largest city in the country to declare bankruptcy, but evidence of its unraveling has been mounting for years.

 It is visible in the rising domestic violence rates, booming private security businesses and a seemingly unstoppable stream of foreclosures. And it can be seen in smaller form too — at a struggling piñata shop, on the once-yellow fire hydrants faded to gray, in a case of stolen koi.

“The police don’t respond to anything unless there’s blood involved,” said Marlene Hinson, 51, who, after living here for 22 years without incident, was burglarized three times in four months, including the fish theft from her pond in a neighborhood of lush lawns and towering shade trees.
Read the rest here.

NBC: Is liberal Christianity signing its own death warrant?

The Rt. Rev. Mark Joseph Lawrence, the Episcopal bishop of South Carolina, fears for the future of his church.

One week after the U.S. Episcopal Church overwhelmingly voted to approve a provisional rite for blessing gay unions and the ordination of transgender people, Bishop Lawrence said in an interview with NBC News that his denomination is moving too far out of the mainstream.

"Do I think that these two decisions will cause further decline? I believe they will," Bishop Lawrence said. "I think we've entered into a time of sexual and gender anarchy."

Lawrence's comments come amid a growing debate over the future of so-called mainline Christian churches: Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, some Lutherans and more. These denominations, which are generally more liberal than their evangelical counterparts, have been in decline for decades, a trend some observers attribute to their supposed leftward drift.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Australia: New law may require priests to reveal some confessions

THE prospect of government forcing priests to report what was said in confession is the sign of a "police state mentality", says a priest and law professor.

Hundreds of years of Catholic tradition in the confessional could be overturned by Victoria's inquiry into child sex abuse.

Priests would be ordered to reveal crimes told to them in private confessions under one proposal before the inquiry.

But priests say they will resist being forced to reveal secrets of the confessional.

Priest and law professor Father Frank Brennan said the move would be a restriction on religious freedom.
Read the rest here.

Catholics are understandably up in arms about this. But we should be as well. The Orthodox tradition regarding the confidentiality of confession is the same.

Bernanke Calls Ron Paul Audit Bill "A Nightmare"

WASHINGTON U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday rebutted Republican lawmakers pushing a bill that would give Congress the ability to review monetary policy decisions, saying it could compromise central bank independence.

Bernanke said it would be a "nightmare scenario" if politicians decided to second-guess monetary policy.

"That is very concerning because there's a lot of evidence that an independent central bank that makes decisions based strictly on economic considerations and not based on political pressure will deliver lower inflation and better economic results in the longer term," Bernanke told the U.S. House of Representatives' Financial Services Committee.
Read the rest here.

Syria: Bomb kills top government officials

Syria's defense minister and President Bashar Assad's brother-in-law were killed in a Damascus bomb attack on Wednesday, state television reported, the most serious blow to Assad's high command in the country's 16-month-old rebellion.

The bomber -- said by a Reuters security source to be a bodyguard assigned to Assad's inner circle -- struck during a meeting attended by ministers and senior security officials in the Syrian capital as battles raged within sight of the presidential palace.
Read the rest here.

Bulgaria: Bomb kills four Israeli tourists

SOFIA, Bulgaria -- An explosion on a bus carrying Israeli tourists at an airport in Burgas killed at least four people and injured at least 30 others, Bulgarian authorities said.

Bulgarian officials could not confirm the deadly blast was terror-related but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran.

"Iran is responsible for the terror attack in Bulgaria, we will have a strong response against Iranian terror," said Netanyahu in a statement, according to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.
Read the rest here.

I'm going out on a limb here...

But I am going to guess that skin cancer was not as prevalent back in 1910 as it is today.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Blog Bump

From time time I add new blogs to the sidebar so do check it out as I don't always announce changes. I do however want to draw your attention to a newly discovered blog that will either leave you deeply fascinated (me) or bored to tears. If you are a history enthusiast read on. It's called Shorpy and the blogger posts historic photographs showing scenes of life or subjects of interest from roughly 1850-1950ish. The photos are often taken directly from glass negatives and can be enlarged to offer breathtaking detail.

Click here to see a super detailed photo of what appears to be the boardwalk in Rockaway New York circa summer 1903. Is it just me or do the two kids in the lower left look like they are trying to break into the machine? Note the advertisements for five cent ice cream and lemonades and ten cents for a box of fresh peanut brittle, and the sign post warning that "Nuisances Prohibited."

These sort of photos that were taken of people going about their ordinary lives in another era allow one to almost feel like you could reach through time.

 P.S. See this page for information about, and photos of, the blog's namesake.

HSBC allowed money laundering that likely funded terror, organized crime

A "pervasively polluted" culture at HSBC allowed the bank to act as financier to clients moving shadowy funds from the world's most dangerous and secretive corners, including Mexico, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria, according to a scathing U.S. Senate report issued on Monday.

The report [link to PDF here] which comes ahead of a Senate hearing on Tuesday, said large amounts of Mexican drug money was likely to have passed through the bank.

HSBC's U.S. division provided money and banking services to some banks in Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh believed to have helped fund al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, according to an Al-Jazeera story on the report.

While the big British bank's problems have been known for nearly a decade, the Senate probe detailed just how sweeping the problems have been, both at the bank and at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a top U.S. bank regulator which the report said failed to properly monitor HSBC.
Read the rest here.

Banks are the enemy.

No Relief In Sight For Cash Strapped States

WASHINGTON — The fiscal crisis for states will persist long after the economy rebounds as states confront financial problems that include rising health care costs, underfunded pensions, ignored infrastructure needs, eroding revenues and expected federal budget cuts, according to a report issued here Tuesday by a task force of respected budget experts.

The severity of the long-term problems facing states is often masked by lax state budget laws and opaque accounting practices, according to the report, an independent analysis of six states released by a group calling itself the State Budget Crisis Task Force. The report said that the financial collapse of 2008, which caused the most serious fiscal crisis for states since the Great Depression, exposed a number of deep-set financial challenges that will grow worse if no action is taken by national policy makers.
Read the rest here.

Democrats threaten to go over ‘fiscal cliff’ if GOP fails to raise taxes

Democrats are making increasingly explicit threats about their willingness to let nearly $600 billion worth of tax hikes and spending cuts take effect in January unless Republicans drop their opposition to higher taxes for the nation’s wealthiest households.

Emboldened by signs that GOP resistance to new taxes may be weakening, senior Democrats say they are prepared to weather a fiscal event that could plunge the nation back into recession if the new year arrives without an acceptable compromise.
Read the rest here.

See also this related story.

Major Israeli Party Quits Coalition Government Over Military Draft

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s massive coalition government shrunk back to a slim majority Tuesday as the centrist Kadima party quit amid feuding over proposals to draft religious students into the military.

The defection ended one of the largest coalitions in Israel’s history, a little more than two months after Kadima rocked Israeli politics by joining Netanyahu’s hawkish government. That union rescued Netanyahu’s coalition, which had been on the verge of collapse over the draft issue, and Tuesday’s split revived the possibility of early elections.

Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz, a former military chief, had pledged to push through a new military draft law that would end exemptions for ultra-Orthodox seminary students. On Tuesday, Mofaz accused Netanyahu of pandering to smaller religious factions in the coalition by blocking a solution that would sharply accelerate recruitment of the religious students. That gave Kadima “no choice” but to abandon the alliance, Mofaz said.
Read the rest here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bishop Matthias Explains The Reasons For Met. Jonah's Resignation

Home for lunch and found an email from a blog reader with the tip. Read the Archpastoral Letter here. It is extremely sad, but more or less comports with what I had been hearing for sometime. Please exercise restraint and charity in any comments. This is not an "I told you so" moment.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Was Oil Manipulated Too?

Concerns are growing about the reliability of oil prices, after a report for the G20 found the market is wide open to “manipulation or distortion”.

Traders from banks, oil companies or hedge funds have an “incentive” to distort the market and are likely to try to report false prices, it said.

Politicians and fuel campaigners last night urged the Government to expand its inquiry into the Libor scandal to see whether oil prices have also been falsely pushed up.

They warned any efforts to rig the oil price would affect how much drivers pay at the pump, which soared to a record high of 137p per litre of unleaded earlier this year.
Robert Halfon, who led a group of 100 MPs calling for lower fuel prices, said the matter “needs to be looked at by the Bank of England urgently”.
Read the rest here.

Egyptian Christians Snub Hillary Clinton

Prominent Christian Egyptians snubbed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday because they feel the U.S. administration favors Islamist parties over secular and liberal forces in society at the expense of Egypt's 8 million Christians.

The critical theme was repeated by others Sunday in Cairo and Alexandria despite Clinton denying U.S. interference in Egyptian elections.

The politicians, businessmen and clerics who snubbed Clinton were supposed to take part in meetings between Clinton and influential members of civil society.

Coptic Christian businessman and politician Naguib Sawiris and three other Coptic politicians said in a statement they were objecting to Clinton's policies in solidarity with the mainstream Egyptian.
Read the rest here.

More On Douthat's Article

Chris Johnson over at MCJ has a good take on the previously posted NY Times essay "Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?"

In Britain Hostility To The EU Nanny State Is Rising Sharply

LONDON –Like so many others in this fiercely independent island nation, Steve Baker, a dashing English engineer, is fed up with the long hand of the European Union in British life.

The E.U., he said, has meddled for years in British legal affairs and labor laws. But now the 27-nation body had gone too far by interfering with his pride and joy: the retrofitted KTM 950 motorcycle he rides on the country lanes of Buckinghamshire. Proposed new pan-European rules would forbid motorcycle owners from doctoring bikes themselves, outraging tens of thousands of British bikers and becoming the latest symbol here of continental authority run amok.

Baker is also the wrong biker to mess with. An elected member of the British Parliament, he is part of a growing rank of furious politicians ratcheting up the pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron to hold a national referendum on a once unthinkable notion here: leaving the E.U.
Read the rest here.

US Mulls Criminal Charges Against Banks In Rate Fixing Scandal

(Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department is building criminal cases against several financial institutions and their employees related to the manipulation of interest rates, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

Citing government officials close to the case who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Times said traders at Barclays Plc were among the individuals against whom Justice was building cases. Authorities expect to file charges against at least one bank later this year, the newspaper reported.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?

IN 1998, John Shelby Spong, then the reliably controversial Episcopal bishop of Newark, published a book entitled “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” Spong was a uniquely radical figure — during his career, he dismissed almost every element of traditional Christian faith as so much superstition — but most recent leaders of the Episcopal Church have shared his premise. Thus their church has spent the last several decades changing and then changing some more, from a sedate pillar of the WASP establishment into one of the most self-consciously progressive Christian bodies in the United States.

As a result, today the Episcopal Church looks roughly how Roman Catholicism would look if Pope Benedict XVI suddenly adopted every reform ever urged on the Vatican by liberal pundits and theologians. It still has priests and bishops, altars and stained-glass windows. But it is flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes.

Yet instead of attracting a younger, more open-minded demographic with these changes, the Episcopal Church’s dying has proceeded apace. Last week, while the church’s House of Bishops was approving a rite to bless same-sex unions, Episcopalian church attendance figures for 2000-10 circulated in the religion blogosphere. They showed something between a decline and a collapse: In the last decade, average Sunday attendance dropped 23 percent, and not a single Episcopal diocese in the country saw churchgoing increase.
Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

Quote of the day...

In some ways, Bastille Day is a very appropriate holiday for a republic to have. Republics, after all, tend to be based on a minority telling lies to the majority, pretending to be looking out for their best interests, and the majority pretending to believe them, going along with the charade even though they know perfectly well they are being lied to. One side pretends to care, the other pretends to believe them and all go along with it because they want to believe the narrative and don’t wish to be confused with the facts. In the same way, Bastille Day is, like Napoleon himself said about history, “a set of lies agreed upon”.

-The Mad Monarchist

Sources: SSPX Says "No" To Rome

Caveat: The report posted on Rorate has NOT been confirmed.

Via Rorate word that the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) will inform Rome tomorrow that they are declining the Pope's offer of a personal prelature in exchange for the their reintegration into the Catholic Church. Long time readers of this blog will know that I have been skeptical about the likelihood of the SSPX ever submitting to Rome. They have been separated for too long and have developed a very strong schismatic mindset. That said, if this report is true then I am saddened and disappointed. It was a very close thing.

If true, what does this portend for the future?

It probably means that a de-facto schism will to some degree become more formal and hardened. The Pope is in his 80's and it is most unlikely that anyone who might be elected to succeed him will treat with the SSPX on such generous terms. Benedict felt keenly the pain of the events of 1988 in which he was a significant player and he wanted to end the breach if it was at all possible. But it is looking increasingly unlikely that this will happen.

Nor can I envision the circumstances under which the SSPX would get terms more favorable than what they have been offered, and have reportedly rejected. A more likely scenario is that the Society will drift into formal schism and for all intent and purposes become their own little church. It is not at all beyond the realm of possibility that the Holy See may respond with formal sanctions, perhaps even reinstating the excommunications of the four bishops.

This is a great loss for the Roman Church. But in the end it is the Society's hardened heart that has set the course.

Wall Street sleaze keeps growing

Just when you thought Wall Street couldn't sink any lower - when its excesses are still causing hardship to millions of Americans and its myriad abuses of public trust have already spread a miasma of cynicism over the entire economic system - an even deeper level of public-be-damned greed and corruption is revealed.

Sit down, and hold on to your chair.

Consider the most basic services banks provide you: You put your savings in a bank to hold in trust, and the bank agrees to pay you interest on it. Or, you borrow money from the bank and agree to pay the bank interest on the loan.

We trust that the banking system is setting interest rates based on its best guess about the future worth of the money. And we assume that guess is based, in turn, on the cumulative market predictions of lenders and borrowers all over the world (including central banks) about the future supply and demand for the dough.

But suppose our assumption is wrong. Suppose the bankers are manipulating the interest rate so they can place bets with the money you lend or repay them - bets that will pay off big for them because they have inside information on what the market is really predicting, which they're not sharing with you.
Read the rest here.

It must be a chilly day in the sulpherous pit because I actually agree with Robert Reich about something. I supported the repeal of Glass Steagall back in the 90's because it was anti-free market. I now accept that I was wrong. Institutions that are as big and powerful as the major banks have become are a threat to liberty and the financial security not just of the United States but quite possibly of the world. Glass Steagall needs to be reinstated and existing antitrust legislation needs to be strengthened to allow the Feds to break up any bank or other corporation that is "too big to fail."

The banks in particular have in just the last four years demonstrated an absolutely breathtaking disregard for the law, and have suffered almost no significant consequences. There has been a shocking parade of one bank related scandal after another. At some point one must conclude that we have a systemic problem when such  institutions are permitted to operate with near impunity while thumbing their noses at the law.

Enough! Reinstate Glass Steagall and break up the mega banks.

Ron Paul Comes Up Short in Nebraska

The failure to gain a plurality of delegates means that it will be all but impossible to put Ron Paul's name in nomination from the floor of the GOP convention. While no one with even one foot planted in the real world believed Dr. Paul was going to magically dethrone Mitt Romney, such a move would have given him a 15 minute speaking slot and it would have forced some open debate on topics the GOP would rather not discuss.

I still expect some fireworks at the convention. But they will not be as bright.

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

The National Border Patrol Council Local 2544 in Tucson, Ariz., is just a little angry. Local 2544, which is the largest Border Patrol union local with over 3,300 dues-paying members, tags itself as "the real border security experts". What are they angry about? Apparently, the current administration's Department of Homeland Security (DHS) senior officials have created what agents call "virtual brainwashing videos". Their website states that Border Patrol agents have been forced to take a virtual learning course on "active shooters" where the bottom line is that if they encounter an active shooter, as in Fort Hood, the Giffords shooting, or Columbine, they — as law enforcement officers — are to "run away" and "hide".

The site goes on, "If we are cornered by such a shooter we are to (only as a last resort) become 'aggressive' and 'throw things' at him or her." As if the Border Patrol is not law enforcement, they are then advised to "call law enforcement and wait for their arrival …. Multiple quizzes throughout the course and a final test ensure repeatedly that we know that we only have three options … 1. Run away; 2. Hide; and 3. Only put up a fight as a last resort by acting aggressively and throwing things at the shooter. Not one mention anywhere of 'if you are carrying a gun and you have the opportunity take the shooter out'."
Read the rest here.

It appears that having the IQ of a house plant is now a requirement for being put in charge of law enforcement training.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Debris Found Possibly Linked To Amelia Earhart

This is very significant news. A coral atoll in the South Pacific has yielded pieces of women's cosmetics jars and cases. They have even identified the specific products and manufacturers, all American and all from the 1930's. The tiny island lies between Australia and Hawaii more or less on Earhart's projected flight path. According to the report (read it here) skeletal human remains were found there around 1940. Unfortunately they have since been lost. Experts are now scouring the waters around the island looking for any evidence of a plane wreck.

Turkey's oldest Christian monastery at risk

ANKARA, JULY 12 - The Mongolians failed to destroy it 700 years ago despite the massacre of 40 friars and 400 Christians. Yet the existence of the oldest functioning Christian monastery in the world, the fifth century Mor Gabriel Monastery in the Tur Abdin plane (the mountain of God's servants) near the Turkish-Syrian border, is at risk after a ruling by Turkey's highest appeals court in Ankara.

Founded in 397 by the monks Samuel and Simon, Mor Gabriel in eastern Anatolia has been the heart of the Orthodox Syrian community for centuries. Syriacs hail from a branch of Middle Eastern Christianity and are one of the oldest communities in Turkey.

Today the monastery is inhabited by Mor Timotheus Samuel Aktash, 3 monks, 11 nuns and 35 boys who are learning the monastery's teachings, the ancient Aramaic language spoken by Jesus and the Orthodox Syriac tradition.
Read the rest here.

WSJ: What Ails the Episcopalians

Episcopalians from around the country gathered here this week for their church's 77th triennial General Convention, which ended Thursday. Although other Protestant denominations have national governing councils, the Episcopal Church's triennial gathering stands apart. For starters, it's one of the world's largest such legislative entities, with more than 1,000 members.

General Convention is also notable for its sheer ostentation and carnival atmosphere. For seven straight nights, lavish cocktail parties spilled into pricey steakhouses, where bishops could use their diocesan funds to order bottles of the finest wines.

During the day, legislators in the lower chamber, the House of Deputies, and the upper chamber, the House of Bishops, discussed such weighty topics as whether to develop funeral rites for dogs and cats, and whether to ratify resolutions condemning genetically modified foods. Both were approved by a vote, along with a resolution to "dismantle the effects of the doctrine of discovery," in effect an apology to Native Americans for exposing them to Christianity.

But the party may be over for the Episcopal Church, and so, probably, its experiment with democratic governance. Among the pieces of legislation that came before their convention was a resolution calling for a task force to study transforming the event into a unicameral—that is, a one-house—body. On Wednesday, a resolution to "re-imagine" the church's governing body passed unanimously.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

When Scientologists Split

Though Katie Holmes has not addressed reports that Scientology was a reason she split with Tom Cruise, a former Church of Scientology spokesman said some families, including his own, were torn apart when one spouse wanted to leave the religion.

“My wife, my son, my daughter, my mother….they disconnected from me.  They will not communicate with me,” said Mike Rinder in an interview with Kate Snow airing on Thursday, July 12 at 10pm/9c on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams.

Rinder joined the church as a child in Australia and rose to be Scientology’s international spokesman before he left the church in 2007.

He said he had been unhappy inside the church for a long time, but was afraid to leave because he said the church encouraged members to cut ties with relatives who want to leave.

“Part of that environment is keeping track of how people think…it’s a crime to …think bad thoughts about what’s going on and people will turn you in. Even your spouse will turn you in or your children will turn you in and then you’ll be in trouble,” he said.
Read the rest here.

Scientology is a dangerous manipulative cult. Some of the things they have been involved in makes me wonder why a RICO investigation hasn't been done on them.

Liberal Catholics Revolt As Bishops Demand Oath And Orthodoxy

Kathleen Riley knows her beliefs on the male-only priesthood and contraception put her at odds with leaders of her church. But as a fifth-generation Catholic who went to a Catholic school and grew up to teach in one, Riley feels the faith deeply woven through her. So when her Arlington parish asked for volunteers last summer to teach Sunday school, she felt called by the Holy Spirit to say yes.

A year later, the 52-year-old computer scientist feels the same spirit calling her to say no.

Last month, Riley joined at least four other Sunday school teachers and resigned from her post at St. Ann’s parish after a letter arrived at her home requiring her — and all teachers in the Arlington Catholic Diocese — to submit “of will and intellect” to all of the teachings of church leaders.
Read the rest here.

Looks like the Romans are trying to root out the Episcopal wannabes from important positions. Good for them.

Independent Inquiry Slams Penn State

Former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno and the senior leadership at the university covered up incidents of child sexual abuse on the Penn State campus by a former assistant football coach, showing “total disregard for the safety and welfare of the victims,” a team of investigators concluded in findings released Thursday morning.

Former FBI director Louis Freeh, who along with his law firm conducted an independent review of the circumstances surrounding the scandal, blamed Paterno and university officials in his report for “catastrophic failures” that were reinforced by a Board of Trustees that had failed to create an environment of accountability.
Read the rest here.

Get Over It! We Are Not All Created Equal

"No one questions why there aren't any females in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, etc. Olympic athletes are the elite of the elite. No one questions why the women compete against women and men against men. Those are great sports and achievements. But lives and missions aren't on the line. In our world, if you move slower one day, you don't get bumped off the medal stand, you could die or get someone else killed." 

-An anonymous female US Marine from this excellent article.

See also this outstanding related article.

SOS For America's Only Super Ocean Liner

PHILADELPHIA — Caretakers for the SS United States, the legendary ocean liner moored on the Delaware River since 1996, are renewing and expanding their emergency distress call for the beleaguered piece of American maritime history.

In an eleventh-hour reprieve that spared the ship a date with the scrap yard, a local philanthropist's $5.8 million gift allowed the SS United States Conservancy to buy it and keep it afloat until November 2012. With that date looming, the nonprofit conservancy launched a "Save the United States" fundraising rally Wednesday to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the ship's maiden voyage on July 3, 1952.
Read the rest here.

If this country allows its maritime flagship and the last purpose built ocean liner still around to be scrapped then we just suck.

Salvation Army loses discrimination case

It sounds rather complicated but this may be a legal blip due to the wording of a particular statute.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The latest from the Episcopal Organization, Transgender clergy, gay marriage and communion of non-Christians

The High Church wing of Unitarianism, sometimes known as the Episcopalians, are holding their General Convention and have approved three significant new resolutions.

1. They have forbidden any discrimination against transgendered persons seeking ordination.
2. They have approved rites for homosexual unions.
3. They have approved communing persons who have not been baptized, albeit with the caveat that baptism should normally precede  the reception of Holy Communion. But they made it clear that the act is now permissible.

I wish I could say that I am shocked, but I'm not. The TEO  ceased to be Christian in all but name sometime ago. They jumped off the cliff in the late 70's and have been in free fall ever since. But that fall is now gaining speed. We can bicker about some of Metropolitan Jonah's actions but one thing I think almost all Orthodox can agree on is the wisdom of his decision to sever all ecumenical dialogue with that body.

I have said this in the past, with as much delicacy as I could muster. The time for delicacy is over. If you are a member of the Episcopal Organization... GET OUT!