Friday, January 31, 2014

What's up with MSNBC?

OK, I know they are a lefty propaganda network. But lately it's like they are completely SOS (stuck on stupid). Granted, FOX has some serious bias but you can actually get real news with at least a passing effort at getting both sides of a story. Not so MSNBC. And now they are just going out of their way to show how generally mean and nasty liberals can be.

See here for the latest.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Feast of Charles the Martyr

Charles I of England Scotland and Ireland

Who’s ‘godless’ now? Russia says it’s U.S.

MOSCOW — At the height of the Cold War, it was common for American conservatives to label the officially atheist Soviet Union a “godless nation.”

More than two decades on, history has come full circle, as the Kremlin and its allies in the Russian Orthodox Church hurl the same allegation at the West.
Read the rest here.


So much for being able to disappear in a crowd.
HT: Molonlabe70

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Heads of all canonical Orthodox Churches to meet in Constantinople

Patriarch Bartholomew has invited the heads of all canonical Orthodox Churches to a meeting in Constantinople (Istanbul) on March 9 2014, for the planning of the organization of [the] Pan-Orthodox Council for the next year. As said by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the meeting should be a serious effort toward the unity of the Christian world and improve cooperation of the local Orthodox Churches. At the meeting will also be discussed the issue of uniformity of the calendar for all Orthodox Christians.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The State of the Union

For the love of God... STOP IT! It has slowly devolved from solemn state occasion to political theater to little more than a circus that is beneath the dignity of the Presidency and the Congress. We now have no less than four(!) responses coming from the opposition party. Every other member of Congress is giving seats in the gallery to politically charged "guests." Enough already. We need to go back to the old way and send the message up in writing. On which note, the modern custom is yet another legacy of President Wilson, the worst of the 43 men who have occupied the office.

Monday, January 27, 2014

What a surprise!

Bishop Williamson (formerly of the SSPX)...
Pope Francis merely expresses more blatantly than his five predecessors the madness of Vatican II. The question remains whether any of the six Conciliar Popes ... can really have been Vicars of Christ. The question is not of prime importance. If they have not been Popes, still the Catholic Faith and morals by which I must “work out my salvation in fear and trembling” (Phil. II, 12) have not changed one iota.
From here. I have been saying for years that in addition to being an all around nut, Williamson is a closet sede vacantist. It seems he is starting to inch out of the closet.

Quote of the day...

"By adhering to the monarchical principle we avoid one defect inherent in the Constitution of the United States. By the election of the president by a majority and for a short period, he never is the sovereign and chief of the nation. He is never looked up to by the whole people as the head and front of the nation. He is at best but the successful leader of a party. This defect is all the greater on account of the practice of reelection. During his first term of office he is employed in taking steps to secure his own reelection, and for his party a continuance of power. We avoid this by adhering to the monarchical principle – the sovereign whom you respect and love. I believe that it is of the utmost importance to have that principle recognized so that we shall have a sovereign who is placed above the region of party – to whom all parties look up; who is not elevated by the action of one party nor depressed by the action of another; who is the common head and sovereign of all."
- John A. Macdonald, speaking in 1865 about the proposals for the upcoming Confederation of Canada

Spy Agencies Scour Phone Apps for Personal Data

When a smartphone user opens Angry Birds, the popular game application, and starts slinging birds at chortling green pigs, spies may be lurking in the background to snatch data revealing the player’s location, age, sex and other personal information, according to secret British intelligence documents.

In their globe-spanning surveillance for terrorism suspects and other targets, the National Security Agency and its British counterpart have been trying to exploit a basic byproduct of modern telecommunications: With each new generation of mobile phone technology, ever greater amounts of personal data pour onto networks where spies can pick it up.
Read the rest here.

Roman Rights and Wrongs

Every January for over a century now, Christians have set aside a special week to pray for unity. This week, my friend the Orthodox priest and historian Oliver Herbel posted an excellent reflection in which he upbraided his fellow Orthodox for, as he powerfully put it, “spitting in the eye of Rome” every time she makes advances towards East-West unity. Father Oliver then went on to note some changes that he and his fellow Orthodox should make to respond better to Rome’s invitations.

Let me return the favor of my gracious friend. Speaking as an Eastern Catholic who tries to help East and West understand each other, let me offer a few reflections on the kind of changes Eastern Catholics and, perforce, Eastern Orthodox, want to see in very practical ways for unity to become a closer and more realistic possibility. However, I do not want to be thought querulous, so let me dwell briefly on areas where I think Roman practice is right and needs to be encouraged:
Read the rest here.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pope says judgments on annulments must be impartial and pastoral

...Pope Francis has said that church law on marriage is a topic that exemplifies a general need for mercy in the Church today, and that it will be among the subjects of discussion at this October’s extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.”

In his speech to the Rota, the Pope said a judge on a Church tribunal must sympathise with the “mentality and legitimate aspirations” of the community he serves, and thus render “justice that is not legalistic and abstract, but appropriate to the needs of concrete reality.”
Read the rest here.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Archbishop Seraphim guilty of sexual assualt

It's being widely reported but for those who may have missed it, the story is here.

Stocks take a beating; worst week in three years

 U.S. stocks fell sharply and Treasuries rallied on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbling triple-digits for a second session and posting its worst week since November 2011, as investors pulled money from emerging markets and other assets viewed as risky.

As Wall Street's faith in some of the world's largest developed countries unraveled, currencies of those nations were hit, with Turkey's lira falling to a record low against the dollar, and Argentina's peso down sharply against the U.S. currency.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Stop jerking Canada around

Fixated as we Americans are on Canada’s three most attention-getting exports — polar vortexes, Alberta clippers and the antics of Toronto’s addled mayor — we’ve somewhat overlooked a major feature of Canada’s current relations with the United States: extreme annoyance.

Last week, speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Canada’s foreign minister calmly but pointedly complained that the United States owes Canada a response on the Keystone XL pipeline. “We can’t continue in this state of limbo,” he sort of complained, in what for a placid, imperturbable Canadian passes for an explosion of volcanic rage.
Read the rest here.

Florida jury hits Baptist Convention with $12 M in damages in sex abuse case

This is ridiculous. Did the defense attorney bother to point out that the accused could not be guilty of this as he is not Catholic? [/s]

Read the story here.

Feast of the Holy New Martyrs of Russia

Monday, January 20, 2014

Spitting in Rome’s Eye: A Reflection on How Orthodoxy’s Sinfulness Prevents Reunion

In my previous post, I mentioned some of the internal problems besetting the Orthodox Church, causing dysfunction (which I termed “implosion”).  I noted how it affects the Great Commission and how our relationship with Rome is part of that larger picture (for a unified front between these truly-mega-churches would give strength in spreading the Gospel).  I noted how Moscow currently rejects the Ecumenical Patriarch’s (legitimate) claim to primacy, in wanting to convoke a pan-Orthodox council and in engaging in serious dialogue with Rome.  It doesn’t take a very long search for someone to see that many Orthodox Christians agree with Moscow, calling Rome heretical and, furthermore, expressing not a little invective (or at least heated rhetoric) when taking that stance.

An important factor in this is that the kind of careful historical and theological analysis (not to mention humility) that occurs within official Orthodox-Catholic dialogues is not seeping into the Orthodox groundwater.  Many Orthodox prefer to dismiss Catholicism and Protestantism as two sides of the same coin, as though Orthodoxy is completely separate from them.  If it weren’t for the fact that such an attitude is based on ignorance, it would be audacious in the extreme.  Take, for example the North American Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.  They haven’t skirted the issues that need to be addressed and yet they have produced helpful starting points, free from anti-Westernism (based, ironically, on rather Western models):
Read the rest here.

Please leave your comments there.

More trouble with the Episcopal Assembly

Possible resignation by Antiochians from Assembly of Bishops

A sign of the times

So, I just popped over to WAPO to see what's going on in the world and checked out the top five stories being recommended by readers. In order they are...

1. Falling temps tonight ahead of big snow storm
2. Significant snowstorm Tuesday with 4" or more
3. Forecast's first real winter storm has region on edge, plows ready and schools tracking storm
4. Major snowstorm Tuesday; live updates
5. How toilet paper explains the world

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Russians celebrate Theophany with a dip

Yes, that's ice. From here.

Eastern Europe’s Christian Reawakening

In Hungary, Croatia, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, a pro-family, pro-life revolution and a rediscovery of Christian roots is occurring. While few in the American media have noticed, this trend should challenge those who simply lament Europe’s moral malaise. Unnoticed in the shadow of a secularized west, religion’s public role has been growing in the east since the collapse of communism.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Battle over police pensions turns ugly

(Reuters) - A drive by some American cities to cut costly police retirement benefits has led to an extraordinary face-off between local politicians and the law enforcement officers who work for them.

In Costa Mesa, California, lawmaker Jim Righeimer says he was a target of intimidation because he sought to curb police pensions. In a lawsuit in November, Righeimer accused the Costa Mesa police union and a law firm that once represented them, of forcing him to undergo a sobriety test (he passed) after driving home from a bar in August 2012.

That followed a call to 911 by private detective Chris Lanzillo, who worked for the police union and the law firm that represented it, according to the suit. Lanzillo is also named as a defendant, accused of following Righeimer home from the bar.

Disputes such as these have intensified as Detroit and two California cities, Stockton and San Bernardino, have gone bankrupt in the past two years. Police pension costs were a major factor in the financial troubles facing all three. Now large cities, including San Jose and San Diego, say they have no choice but to alter pension agreements lest they end up in bankruptcy too.

Read the rest here.

Faced with drug shortage, some states look to firing squads

A Nazi spy about to be shot by firing squad during World War II
A shortage of a drug commonly used in executions has prompted lawmakers in at least two states to call for the return of firing squads.

Missouri state Rep. Rick Brattin, a Republican representing Harrisonville, introduced legislation Friday (.pdf) that would add five-person firing squads as an alternative to the state's current method of capital punishment, lethal injection.

Brattin cited the prolonged death Thursday of Dennis McGuire in Ohio as evidence that alternative methods were needed after manufacturers of pentobarbitol, the drug most commonly used in lethal injections, began withdrawing it from use in executions on ethical grounds.
Read the rest here.

Longtime readers of the blog know my view of capital punishment. I think it's usefulness, which is almost nonexistent, is outweighed by its many flaws. But that aside, I have also long held that if we are going to do it, this is one area where low tech is almost certainly better and more humane. Americans are by and large contradictory when it comes to the death penalty. Most still favor it, though those numbers are dropping rapidly. But it seems that when it comes down to the mechanics of killing another human being we are a little squeamish. We have been forever trying to find a new more technologically advanced way to kill other people without creating a mess or appearing too violent.

Unfortunately all of our innovations have failed to reliably shorten the process of making someone who is alive, dead, and or they appear to be positively barbaric as in the case of the electric chair. And what's with this obsession over lethal injection? There are just way too many documented cases of it taking over half an hour to kill the inmate using that method.

A lot of the problem stems from the fact that unlike European countries that had paid and professionally trained executioners, we never went for that. Consequently if you were sentenced to be hanged in the old West, it could be almost anyone who ended up with the job of seeing you into the hereafter. Predictably, this lead to botched hangings which in turn gave that method of execution a bad reputation. But the reputation was not deserved.

In Britain, which did have professional executioners on the civil service list who were required to be trained and apprenticed in their craft, a hanging typically took less than a minute from the time the executioner entered the condemned man's cell. He was pinioned and frog marched into an adjoining room where the gallows was kept, a hood was popped over his head followed by the noose and then the trap was released.

No reading of the death sentence, no hymn singing or pious sermons and no last words. Likewise a bullet to the back of the head is hard to beat for speed, simplicity and conclusive results. For those who just have to some level of tech involved, the French method also seems pretty quick and effective. So why don't we adopt one of these methods?

It has nothing to do with the condemned man, it is the sensibilities of the witnesses and guards who have to watch. Hanging, no matter how fast, is a violent act aimed at breaking a man's neck. Shooting and mechanical decapitation are also pretty violent, not to mention gory.

So my guess is that all of this talk is going nowhere.

A tough math equation for Republicans in 2016

A recent conversation with a veteran of GOP presidential campaigns raised this question: Which, if any, of the recent battleground states are likely to become more Republican by 2016? The consensus: very few.

That reality highlights one problem Republicans face as they seek to regain the White House after six years under President Obama. Lots of factors affect elections: the quality of the candidates, the state of the economy, the effectiveness of the campaigns. But in a country whose demographics continue to change, Republicans will begin this campaign with one significant disadvantage.
Read the rest here.

Why Millennials Long for Liturgy

America’s youth are leaving churches in droves. One in four young adults choose “unaffiliated” when asked about their religion, according to a 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll, and 55 percent of those unaffiliated youth once had a religious identification when they were younger. Yet amidst this exodus, some church leaders have identified another movement as cause for hope: rather than abandoning Christianity, some young people are joining more traditional, liturgical denominations—notably the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox branches of the faith. This trend is deeper than denominational waffling: it’s a search for meaning that goes to the heart of our postmodern age.

For Bart Gingerich, a fellow with the Institute on Religion and Democracy and a student at Reformed Episcopal Seminary, becoming Anglican was an intellectual journey steeped in the thought of ancient church fathers. He spent the first 15 years of his life in the United Methodist Church, where he felt he was taught a “Precious Moments” version of Christianity: watered down, polite, and unreal. His family joined a nondenominational evangelical church when Gingerich was 16. Some of the youth he met were serious about their faith, but others were apathetic, and many ended up leaving the church later on.
Read the rest here.
HT: Dr. Tighe

Brother Fred pens a love letter to Maureen Dowd

OK, there is more than a hint of misogyny in here. But I won't lie. I haven't laughed that hard in a while. Sometimes it just feels so good to VENT. And nobody vents like Fred Reed. As someone who has fantasized about Maureen Dowd in the hands of the Spanish Inquisition once or twice, I am bookmarking this one for whenever I am dumb enough to read her column.

Caution: Fred pulls no punches, so if you have any feminist sympathies you may just want to move on. Otherwise you may read his missive here.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Foot, meet gun

So arch-libertarian and gun rights activist Adam Kokesh actually carried out his long standing threat to openly carry a weapon in DC last year. He videotaped himself loading a shotgun in Freedom Plaza and broadcast it, with predictable results. He was arrested and charged with possession of an unregistered firearm with drug possession thrown in for good measure as he had some in the house when the cops came knocking.

Today this sad chapter in idiocy came to a close with Kokesh entering guilty pleas in exchange for a suspended sentence with probation, less time served (about four months in the clink). Of course, he also now has a felony criminal record. So no more guns for Mr. Kokesh... anywhere.

Last Japanese "holdout" soldier dies

TOKYO -- A Japanese soldier who hid in the jungle and refused to surrender until 29 years after the end of World War II died on Friday aged 91.

Hiroo Onada was one of the last of many so-called "hold-outs" dotted around Asia who refused to give themselves up after Japanese Emperor Hirohito surrendered to the Allies in 1945.

Onada died on Friday after a short stay at a Tokyo hospital, The Associated Press reported.
Read the rest here.

Report: Pope Benedict XVI deposed near 400 priests in two years

A document obtained by The Associated Press on Friday shows Pope Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests over just two years for sexually molesting children. 

The statistics for 2011 and 2012 show a dramatic increase over the 171 priests removed in 2008 and 2009, when the Vatican first provided details on the number of priests who have been defrocked. Prior to that, it had only publicly revealed the number of alleged cases of sexual abuse it had received and the number of trials it had authorized.
Read the rest here.

Don't hold your breath waiting for an apology from those who accused him of coddling child molesters.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Supreme Court skeptical of 'buffer zone' outside abortion clinics

A majority of Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical Wednesday of a Massachusetts law that establishes a 35-foot buffer zone to prevent protests outside clinics that provide abortions — a restriction the protesters say violates the First Amendment.

In an oral argument, some justices said they were concerned that the law restricts speech in a way that is not neutral among viewpoints: clinic workers can talk to patients inside the buffer, while those who object to abortion cannot.

The justices also appeared to worry that the 35-foot zone is too big, and some voiced general concern with the concept of restricting speech on a public sidewalk.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

And the Dominoes Just Keep Falling

A Federal judge in Oklahoma has struck down the state's ban on gay marriage. I think the time has come to start pondering an unpleasant reality. The ship is sinking.

Five or six years ago, I wrote one of my first really controversial blog posts suggesting that public opinion was shifting on this subject and that too many of the laws then being passed limiting gay rights in everything from power of attorney to spousal rights in hospitals were going to create a backlash, especially in the courts. And I opined  that the best course of action was to get the government out of the marriage business entirely. Strike the word "marriage" from the law books and replace it with "civil union" or something similar and require such things to be done before a duly empowered civil servant. Leave "marriage" as a purely religious matter.

That was also the first, though definitely not the last time I discovered the value of asbestos underwear in blogdom. After being burned at the ethereal stake for my heresy, I sat back and waited to see where things were going. Long story made short, here we are. A solid majority of Americans now support homosexual marriage. Even in some fairly red states we are seeing the scale tipping in that direction. And there is a legal avalanche gaining steam to the point where it seems like a week does not pass without another state law defending natural marriage being struck down. Unfortunately, it is now waaaay too late to try the civil unions for everyone plan. The other side has the upper hand and they know it.

So where are we and what's next?

The answer is that we are defending a fort whose walls have been irretrievably breached. I expect that by the end of this year the Federal Courts at the appellate level will hold that SSM bans violate the 14th amendment and when said ruling is appealed to the Supreme Court, it will be affirmed, probably without comment or further argument. So the next question is what do we do?

My advice is to divert what political resources are available and salvage what we can. Congress should be lobbied aggressively to pass the most strongly worded conscience protection bill that can be drafted to ensure that no one is forced to be a party to this against their religious convictions. If the price includes cutting a deal with liberals and granting Federal recognition of what everyone should by now realize is coming anyways, then so be it.

This battle is over and we have lost. It's time to make the best terms we can, while we can.

Monday, January 13, 2014

This explains a lot

On Sunday, the hard-line semi-official [Iranian] Fars News dropped one of its biggest bombshells yet: The United States government has been secretly run by a "shadow government" of space aliens since 1945. Yes, space aliens. The alien government is based out of Nevada and had previously run Nazi Germany. It adds, for timeliness, that the controversial NSA programs are actually a tool for the aliens to hide their presence on Earth and their secret agenda for global domination. This is all asserted as incontrovertible fact with no caveats.
Read the rest here.

Looks like the Birthers were right. Obama really is an illegal alien.

Dr. Adam DeVille Responds to the Russian Church's Statement on Primacy

Dr. DeVille has written a critical response to the MP's long awaited document on primacy. As I have said repeatedly, the document was only incidentally addressed to Rome. The real target was Constantinople, and it definitely got their attention. In all honesty I was not exactly bowled over by the Moscow document. It seems like a fairly cavalier and breathtakingly short document for such a weighty subject. And I don't think Adam is too far off the mark in his suggestion that Moscow is trying to reduce the Ecumenical Patriarch to an ecclesiastical equivalent to The Queen of England, i.e. a figurehead.

All of which lends further weight to my long held view that we have no business holding discussions aimed at ending a thousand year schism with Rome, until we have our own ducks in a row. Conversations with Rome should be limited to areas of mutual interest, such as charity and the collapse of western civilization before the twin threats of militant secularism and militant Islam while we sort out our internal issues.

I will be most interested to see what becomes of this much discussed but never quite materializing Pan-Orthodox Synod.

Vatican II

NLM has a piece up asking the question "Why is Vatican II so Vexing?"

My guess is that it's because the council was summoned without a clear purpose or urgent need. It produced documents that at least in some cases seem to dance near the edge of Catholic orthodoxy. And the whole thing was hijacked ex post facto by people who were determined to turn the Roman Church into a progressive social club. In fairness Rome has a lot of councils that it considers OEcumenical. In the grand scheme of things though only a handful merit more than a footnote in history. The majority were either of little long term importance, or in some cases were outright failures.

I suspect that the verdict of history will ultimately put Vatican II into one of the latter two categories.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Vatican: We don't extradite

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has told Polish prosecutors that its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, under investigation for alleged sex abuse, is covered by diplomatic immunity and that the Vatican doesn’t extradite its citizens, Polish officials said in the latest development in an embarrassing case for the Holy See.

Polish Archbishop Josef Wesolowski is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be investigated for alleged sex abuse, and his case has raised questions about whether the Vatican, by removing him from Dominican jurisdiction, was protecting him and placing its own investigations ahead of that of authorities in the Caribbean nation.
Read the rest here.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Prohibition Doesn't Work

US and India in diplomatic tiff

Tit for tat appears to be how this is being handled. We expelled one of their diplomats and now they are returning the favor. Here is the short version of whats going on for those who don't keep up with Foreign Affairs.

An Indian diplomat in the US was recently accused by her maid of not paying her fair wages. Apparently the maid, who is Indian, signed a contract agreeing to work for her boss in the US with the understanding she would be paid US minimum wage and given reasonable time off. This is required when foreign diplomats import labor from outside of the United States. She contends that she was subsequently forced by her employer to sign a new contract and was only paid about $3.00 an hour and required to work very long hours with no overtime and little time off. The diplomat denies this.

In any case New York treated it as a crime and arrested the Indian diplomat and not only handcuffed her but subjected her to a strip search and at least briefly to incarceration. The Indian government, fully backed by popular outrage, was livid.

My take: Up to a point India was absolutely right to be ticked off. This was a crystal clear violation of diplomatic immunity guaranteed under the Treaty of Vienna. Said treaty provisions are an extremely important article of international law and we DO NOT want to mess with it, even if it sometimes means dirtbags get to walk. The correct way to handle this would have been to declare her persona non grata, which in the end is what happened.

On a side note, most Indians seem to have little sympathy for the victim in all of this which I find unfortunate. Their view is that she being from India was making much more, even at her reduced wages, than most domestic workers ("servants" in traditional parlance) in India. Of course that is completely irrelevant. She was not in India. If Indian diplomats want to employ people at wages customary in their country, they may do so, IN THEIR COUNTRY.

This is not India and I frankly don't care where the poor girl came from. In this country if you hire someone you have to obey the relevant labor laws. If you can afford it I have no issue with engaging domestic help, as long as you pay them an honest and fair wage.

Part of me wonders if this lady diplomat didn't spend a little too much time watching Downton Abbey. Back in Lord Grantham's day a maid could reasonably expect a wage of perhaps £25.00 per annum with a half day off per week and a half day, gratis, on Boxing Day plus room and board. In exchange she could look forward to an average day of rarely less than 16 hours of backbreaking work.

Of course back then India was a British colony and a lot of those servants were Indians.


Yes, you must return stolen property.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Wall Street Predicts $50 Billion Bill to Settle U.S. Mortgage Suits

Tony West, the associate attorney general, helped broker the government’s settlement with JPMorgan Chase.

Wall Street could pay nearly $50 billion to buy peace from federal authorities who are taking aim at the banks over their role in the mortgage crisis, according to interviews and a confidential analysis of the industry’s potential legal exposure.

Bracing for a potential reckoning, the banks and their outside lawyers are quietly using JPMorgan Chase’s record $13 billion mortgage settlement in November to do the math and determine just how much each bank might have to pay to move beyond the torrent of government mortgage litigation that has dogged them since the financial crisis. Such calculations, people briefed on the matter said, have gained particular urgency among the banks’ board members.
Read the rest here.

In the face of rampant criminal fraud that nearly brought down the global economy and destroyed countless lives, a fine. And it will not even be the banksters who will pay the fine. It will be shareholders. Excuse me while I throw up.

Banks are the enemy!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Feds pretend to crack down, Wall Street pretends to care

The government today announced a probe into the possible mispricing of mortgage bonds leading up to and during the financial crisis of 2008. “We hope to end this probe with a series of fines and a press conference during which one or more officials will offer a brief summary of the offenses,” revealed an unnamed official.

Not really on the quote. I made that up entirely because in all candor it’s become very difficult to take these investigations seriously at this point. Yesterday it was announced that ex-Goldman Sachs (GS) V.P. Fabulous Fabrice Tourres was denied a new trial in his conviction on charges of being dumb enough to send an email overstating his role in the sale of a convoluted product also related to the pricing of mortgage bonds.

As Breakout’s Matt Nesto and I discuss in the attached clip, both of today’s headlines were dramatically overshadowed by the roughly $2 billion in fines paid by JPMorgan (JPM) for its part in the collective effort to ignore Bernie Madoff’s enormous Ponzi scheme for more than a decade.

I’ve taken some personal heat for referring to the endless series of fines paid by JPMorgan as examples of the government systemically “extorting” JPMorgan on Daily Ticker with Aaron Task earlier this week. That criticism is fair. Extortion is the criminal act of forcing a person or entity to pay out money through coercion. In return for said payments the person or entity dishing out the cash would avoid harm of some sort.

JPMorgan shares are hitting all-time highs despite the financial juggernaut having spent more than $31 billion in fines and legal fees since 2009. Clearly investors don’t see a credible threat of harm coming JPMorgan’s way anytime soon.

“Justice” certainly doesn’t work to describe what’s happening to JPMorgan. Justice suggests a punitive action that would dissuade future criminal acts and/or the righting of an egregious wrong committed against an aggrieved party. JPMorgan is dishing out shareholder money but shares are at record highs. Shareholders are happier than pigs in slop.

JPMorgan’s relationship with the government is more of a partnership or licensing deal. JPMorgan pays fines, the government gets funded, politicos get to say mean things and claim victory, and no one goes to jail.

In terms of stopping the criminal behaviors in question that happened by itself long ago.  C’mon. Do you really think anyone is buying or selling mortgage backed securities anymore? Wall Street moved on to other hustles years ago.
Read the rest here.

Christmas Day Vespers

Patriarchal Liturgy for Christmas

Part I

Part II

Great Compline Matins and the Divine Liturgy

Excuse me... what year is this?

I ask because I just read an op-ed piece that is so breathtaking in its anti-Catholic bigotry that I am wondering if I might not have been caught in some sort of time warp. The article in question would have been par for the course, in say 1928 when Al Smith was running for president and the Klan was sounding the alarm about the dual allegiance of those liquor loving papists. But that something like this could be written in our day and age, by a journalist for a respected weekly news magazine, AND get by the editor is shocking.

Honestly, some heads (plural) need to roll over this.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

50,000 Historic Books, Manuscripts Burned at Orthodox Library by Muslims

Two-thirds of a historic collection of 80,000 books have gone up in smoke after a library was torched in the Lebanese city of Tripoli amid sectarian tensions. The blaze was started after a pamphlet insulting Islam was reportedly found inside a book.

Firefighters struggled to subdue the flames as the decades-old Al-Saeh library went up in smoke on Friday in the Serail neighborhood of Tripoli. Despite firefighters’ best efforts, little of the trove of historic books and manuscripts was recovered from the wreckage.

“Two thirds of some 80,000 books and manuscripts housed there,” a security source told Agence France Press, referring to the items destroyed. The source added that the blaze was started after a manuscript insulting the Prophet Mohammed was found hidden in the pages of one of the library books.
Read the rest here.

Predictably, this has gotten almost no mention in the MSM.

Constantinople Responds to Moscow on Primacy

The Ecumenical Patriarchate has posted a response to the position paper from the Holy Synod of the Russian Church on primacy. As I noted in an earlier post, the Russian paper seemed to be directed more towards Constantinople than Rome, to whom it was ostensibly addressed.

Somebody needs to pay for my 15 kids

Words fail me.
HT: RuralEngineer

Anathematized for suggesting moderation on guns

This is from the NY Times, so it goes without saying there is an agenda here. But this really does seem like overkill. Metcalf is right on an important point; no right is absolute. That he should be treated this way for stating such an obvious truth is disturbing. Further this does not reflect well on the gun industry. For the record, my position on gun laws remains simple. No one should be allowed to buy or own a gun without passing a criminal background check. Moving beyond that, I have serious doubts about the wisdom or efficacy of 99% of the thousands of laws on the books.

Read the story here.

Christ is born!

A joyous Nativity to all those on the traditional church calendar.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Church of England removes devil from baptismal service

I am stunned. [/sarc]

US to rescue global warming scientists trapped in ice...

WASHINGTON  - The United States is sending a heavy icebreaker to help free a Russian ship and a Chinese icebreaker gripped by Antarctic ice, the Coast Guard said on Saturday.

The Polar Star is responding to a request for assistance from Australian authorities as well as from the Russian and Chinese governments, it said in a statement.

"The U.S. Coast Guard stands ready to respond to Australia's request," Coast Guard Pacific Area Commander Vice Admiral Paul Zukunft said. "Our highest priority is safety of life at sea, which is why we are assisting in breaking a navigational path for both of these vessels."

A Chinese icebreaker that helped rescue 52 passengers from a Russian ship stranded in Antarctic ice found itself stuck in heavy ice on Friday.
Read the rest here.

Further evidence that God has a sense of humor.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

More from Pope Francis

Pope Francis called for a reassessment of the way the Catholic Church deals with the children of gay couples and divorced parents, saying that an effort should be made to not push them away from the church.

"On an educational level, gay unions raise challenges for us today, which for us are sometimes difficult to understand," Francis said in an address to the Catholic Union of Superiors General in November, according to Agence France-Presse.

Fragments of his speech were published on Italian websites Saturday.
Read the rest here.

Farewell to Christmas

Today was the last day of the Christmas feast. Tomorrow, the eve of Theophany, is a fast day (wine and oil permitted in the Russian tradition, strict fast for the Greeks). Historically, Theophany was a much bigger feast than Christmas in both the East and West. Today it has been overshadowed by the Feast of the Nativity, I suspect in no small part due to the insane levels of commercialism and secularization we have seen. Even so Theophany retains a great deal of importance in the Orthodox Church and is commemorated in many different ways from the polar dips that many Russians indulge in to the young men diving for a gold cross that is popular among Greeks. (Russians celebrate Theophany on Jan 19th using the Julian Calendar.)

A blessed Theophany to all.

Francis Limits Title of 'Monsignor'

Word via The Deacons Bench that Pope Francis has ended the practice of honoring certain priests of the Latin Church with the title of Monsignor. The move does not appear to be retroactive so those already granted the honor retain it, for now. Henceforth the only title that will be granted to clergy will be "Chaplain to His Holiness" and that only on deserving priests over the age of 65.

Correction: The title may still be granted to those over 65 but unlike in previous years there will no longer be different grades within the title. "Chaplain to His Holiness" was formerly the highest grade and will now be the only one. I have adjusted the blog post title to clarify this.

Pope: Church must not turn priests into 'little monsters'

Pope Francis is calling for a change in the culture of seminaries, saying priests who are taught only to toe the line will become "little monsters."

The pontiff expressed his vision for a more open and joyful religious education system during a three-hour talk with the heads of the orders in November, but his remarks were not published until now in the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica.

Taking another swipe at clericalism — a term often used to express a very formal, elitist attitude by some priests — Francis said seminaries and "houses of formation" need to keep up with the cultural times.
Read the rest here.

Friday, January 03, 2014

The Russian Church Condemns Surrogate Motherhood

An official document has been issued by the Holy Synod strongly condemning the practice of surrogate motherhood and placing restrictions on the baptism of children born in this manner. You may read it here. I'd say this document is pretty definitive and leaves no room for confusion on the subject.

HT: Byzantine Texas

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Well that didn't take long

New York's newly inaugurated and self described Democratic Socialist mayor has announced that one of his first initiatives will be to outlaw the quaint horse drawn carriages that convey tourists around Central Park. He plans to replace them with all electric cars disguised as antiques. What an ass.

Read the story here.
HT: Pointedstick

The Last Voyage of the Normandie

An incredible documentary using newly discovered color film footage of a world (and ship) now long gone. It also has some magnificent shots of life in pre-war New York.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Looking back

2014 marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most fateful years in the history of the world. There are going to be a lot of events and commemorations as the months pass. For those interested in what was going on back then, one way to get a glimpse of that long vanished world is to read the newspapers of the time.

Starting today, Britain's Daily Telegraph will be posting online each day's paper from exactly 100 years ago. (Note: In those days British newspapers put the advertisements on the front page. The adverts can be amusing by themselves.) For those wanting an American view, we have the full run of the New York Tribune from 1866-1924, courtesy of the Library of Congress website. They seem to have done a pretty good job with the digitizing as most of the pages are perfectly readable when enlarged.

I have to say that on balance the papers of 100 years ago put most of the current ones to shame in the depth of their news coverage. Of course papers today are being killed by the TV news networks. Still, it's fascinating to see not just what was happening, but also get an idea of what was deemed important to people back then. And there is a great deal of very open bias in some of the political coverage that will be familiar to viewers of MSNBC and FOX News. The Tribune was a Republican newspaper. So for instance, if you glance at some of the issues from the 90's you will see their coverage promoting the GOP issues of that era such as the Tariff and Free Silver (bi-metalism). For the record, the GOP was wrong on both of those issues.

Try looking to see what was happening on your birthday 100 or even 110 or 120 years ago.

Supreme Court Justice delays health law’s birth control mandate

WASHINGTON — Only hours before the law was to take effect, a Supreme Court justice on Tuesday blocked implementation of part of President Barack Obama’s health care law that would have forced some religion-affiliated organizations to provide health insurance for employees that includes birth control.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s decision came after a flurry of efforts by Catholic-affiliated groups from around the nation. Those groups had rushed to the federal courts to stop Wednesday’s start of portions of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Read the rest here.

Happy New Year

Wishing you all a joyous and healthy 2014!