Monday, July 20, 2009

Financial Bailout Could Cost $23 Trillion

Bailouts could cost U.S. $23 trillion
By EAMON JAVERS | 7/20/09 3:19 PM

A series of bailouts, bank rescues and other economic lifelines could end up costing the federal government as much as $23 trillion, the U.S. government’s watchdog over the effort says – a staggering amount that is nearly double the nation’s entire economic output for a year.

If the feds end up spending that amount, it could be more than the federal government has spent on any single effort in American history.

For the government to be on the hook for the total amount, worst-case scenarios would have to come to pass in a variety of federal programs, which is unlikely, says Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the government’s financial bailout programs, in testimony prepared for delivery to the House oversight committee Tuesday.

The Treasury Department says less than $2 trillion has been spent so far.

Still, the enormity of the IG’s projection underscores the size of the economic disaster that hit the nation over the past year and the unprecedented sums mobilized by the federal government under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to confront it.

In fact, $23 trillion is more than the total cost of all the wars the United States has ever fought, put together. World War II, for example, cost $4.1 trillion in 2008 dollars, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Even the Moon landings and the New Deal didn’t come close to $23 trillion: the Moon shot in 1969 cost an estimated $237 billion in current dollars, and the entire Depression-era Roosevelt relief program came in at $500 billion, according to Jim Bianco of Bianco Research.

The annual gross domestic product of the United States is just over $14 trillion.

Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams downplayed the total amount could ever reach Barofsky’s number.

“The $23.7 trillion estimate generally includes programs at the hypothetical maximum size envisioned when they were established,” Williams said. “It was never likely that all these programs would be ‘maxed out’ at the same time.”

Still, the eye-popping price tag provoked an immediate reaction on Capitol Hill. “The potential financial commitment the American taxpayers could be responsible for is of a size and scope that isn’t even imaginable,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee. “If you spent a million dollars a day going back to the birth of Christ, that wouldn’t even come close to just one trillion dollars – $23.7 trillion is a staggering figure.”

Congressional Democrats say they will call for Treasury to meet transparency requirements suggested by the inspector general, said a spokeswoman for the Oversight committee. “The American people need to know what’s going on with their money,” said committee spokeswoman Jenny Rosenberg.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Economy Much Worse than Kept Economists Let On

The Economy Is Even Worse Than You Think
The average length of unemployment is higher than it's been since government began tracking the data in 1948. By Mortimer Zuckerman

The recent unemployment numbers have undermined confidence that we might be nearing the bottom of the recession. What we can see on the surface is disconcerting enough, but the inside numbers are just as bad.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary estimate for job losses for June is 467,000, which means 7.2 million people have lost their jobs since the start of the recession. The cumulative job losses over the last six months have been greater than for any other half year period since World War II, including the military demobilization after the war. The job losses are also now equal to the net job gains over the previous nine years, making this the only recession since the Great Depression to wipe out all job growth from the previous expansion.

Here are 10 reasons we are in even more trouble than the 9.5% unemployment rate indicates:

David Klein
.- June's total assumed 185,000 people at work who probably were not. The government could not identify them; it made an assumption about trends. But many of the mythical jobs are in industries that have absolutely no job creation, e.g., finance. When the official numbers are adjusted over the next several months, June will look worse.

- More companies are asking employees to take unpaid leave. These people don't count on the unemployment roll.

- No fewer than 1.4 million people wanted or were available for work in the last 12 months but were not counted. Why? Because they hadn't searched for work in the four weeks preceding the survey.

- The number of workers taking part-time jobs due to the slack economy, a kind of stealth underemployment, has doubled in this recession to about nine million, or 5.8% of the work force. Add those whose hours have been cut to those who cannot find a full-time job and the total unemployed rises to 16.5%, putting the number of involuntarily idle in the range of 25 million.

- The average work week for rank-and-file employees in the private sector, roughly 80% of the work force, slipped to 33 hours. That's 48 minutes a week less than before the recession began, the lowest level since the government began tracking such data 45 years ago. Full-time workers are being downgraded to part time as businesses slash labor costs to remain above water, and factories are operating at only 65% of capacity. If Americans were still clocking those extra 48 minutes a week now, the same aggregate amount of work would get done with 3.3 million fewer employees, which means that if it were not for the shorter work week the jobless rate would be 11.7%, not 9.5% (which far exceeds the 8% rate projected by the Obama administration).

- The average length of official unemployment increased to 24.5 weeks, the longest since government began tracking this data in 1948. The number of long-term unemployed (i.e., for 27 weeks or more) has now jumped to 4.4 million, an all-time high.

- The average worker saw no wage gains in June, with average compensation running flat at $18.53 an hour.

- The goods producing sector is losing the most jobs -- 223,000 in the last report alone.

- The prospects for job creation are equally distressing. The likelihood is that when economic activity picks up, employers will first choose to increase hours for existing workers and bring part-time workers back to full time. Many unemployed workers looking for jobs once the recovery begins will discover that jobs as good as the ones they lost are almost impossible to find because many layoffs have been permanent. Instead of shrinking operations, companies have shut down whole business units or made sweeping structural changes in the way they conduct business. General Motors and Chrysler, closed hundreds of dealerships and reduced brands. Citigroup and Bank of America cut tens of thousands of positions and exited many parts of the world of finance.

Job losses may last well into 2010 to hit an unemployment peak close to 11%. That unemployment rate may be sustained for an extended period.

Can we find comfort in the fact that employment has long been considered a lagging indicator? It is conventionally seen as having limited predictive power since employment reflects decisions taken earlier in the business cycle. But today is different. Unemployment has doubled to 9.5% from 4.8% in only 16 months, a rate so fast it may influence future economic behavior and outlook.

How could this happen when Washington has thrown trillions of dollars into the pot, including the famous $787 billion in stimulus spending that was supposed to yield $1.50 in growth for every dollar spent? For a start, too much of the money went to transfer payments such as Medicaid, jobless benefits and the like that do nothing for jobs and growth. The spending that creates new jobs is new spending, particularly on infrastructure. It amounts to less than 10% of the stimulus package today.

About 40% of U.S. workers believe the recession will continue for another full year, and their pessimism is justified. As paychecks shrink and disappear, consumers are more hesitant to spend and won't lead the economy out of the doldrums quickly enough.

It may have made him unpopular in parts of the Obama administration, but Vice President Joe Biden was right when he said a week ago that the administration misread how bad the economy was and how effective the stimulus would be. It was supposed to be about jobs but it wasn't. The Recovery Act was a single piece of legislation but it included thousands of funding schemes for tens of thousands of projects, and those programs are stuck in the bureaucracy as the government releases the funds with typical inefficiency.

Another $150 billion, which was allocated to state coffers to continue programs like Medicaid, did not add new jobs; hundreds of billions were set aside for tax cuts and for new benefits for the poor and the unemployed, and they did not add new jobs. Now state budgets are drowning in red ink as jobless claims and Medicaid bills climb.

Next year state budgets will have depleted their initial rescue dollars. Absent another rescue plan, they will have no choice but to slash spending, raise taxes, or both. State and local governments, representing about 15% of the economy, are beginning the worst contraction in postwar history amid a deficit of $166 billion for fiscal 2010, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and a gap of $350 billion in fiscal 2011.

Households overburdened with historic levels of debt will also be saving more. The savings rate has already jumped to almost 7% of after-tax income from 0% in 2007, and it is still going up. Every dollar of saving comes out of consumption. Since consumer spending is the economy's main driver, we are going to have a weak consumer sector and many businesses simply won't have the means or the need to hire employees. After the 1990-91 recessions, consumers went out and bought houses, cars and other expensive goods. This time, the combination of a weak job picture and a severe credit crunch means that people won't be able to get the financing for big expenditures, and those who can borrow will be reluctant to do so. The paycheck has returned as the primary source of spending.

This process is nowhere near complete and, until it is, the economy will barely grow if it does at all, and it may well oscillate between sluggish growth and modest decline for the next several years until the rebalancing of excessive debt has been completed. Until then, the economy will be deprived of adequate profits and cash flow, and businesses will not start to hire nor race to make capital expenditures when they have vast idle capacity.

No wonder poll after poll shows a steady erosion of confidence in the stimulus. So what kind of second-act stimulus should we look for? Something that might have a real multiplier effect, not a congressional wish list of pet programs. It is critical that the Obama administration not play politics with the issue. The time to get ready for a serious infrastructure program is now. It's a shame Washington didn't get it right the first time.

Mr. Zuckerman is chairman and editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

New Mass and Vatican II Condemned by Third Secret of Fatima

The Secret Warned Against Vatican Council II and the New Mass
An Exclusive Fatima Crusader Interview with Father Paul Kramer”

From the Fatima Crusader Issue 92 May 2009

“The Secret Warned Against Vatican Council II and the New Mass
An Exclusive Fatima Crusader Interview with Father Paul Kramer”

“...Question: Do you see a connection between the Third Secret of Fatima and the introduction of the New Mass?”

“[Fr. Kramer] Sister Lucy of Fatima, said that there would take place a diabolical disorientation in the Church. And there is nothing that could do more to bring that about than a liturgical revolution that would enshrine alien principles into a seemingly Catholic liturgy.
As a matter of fact, there is more substance to the question of a diabolical disorientation. I am referring to the part of the Third Secret of Fatima that has not yet been revealed. I know this to be a fact because I have personally spoken with a German theologian and a seminary Rector who is a longtime close fiend of Pope Benedict.
When Pope Benedict was still Cardinal Ratzinger, around 1990 he revealed to his friend that in the Third Secret of Fatima Our Lady warns not to change the liturgy: literally, not to mix extraneous foreign elements into the Catholic liturgy. Now, of course, with the new Mass of Pope Paul VI, that is exactly what was done. Elements of Protestantism, both in symbolism and in the wording of the liturgy, were brought into and mixed into a Catholic framework to the extent that the makers of the new Rite flatly stated that this is no longer the Roman Rite, it is a new creation.”

“…Our Lady also warned that there would be an evil Council in the Church that would cause great scandal. And of course, it was the documents of Vatican II-the Constitution on the Liturgy-which gave the impetus for Pope Paul VI to reform the liturgy in such a disastrous manner that caused such a loss of faith and confusion in the Church.”

“…Now after this took place, the German theologian who I am referring to went back to the country in South America where he was Rector of a seminary and he explained to a young priest what Cardinal Ratzinger had related to him. And precisely when he related that Our Lady warned against changing the Mass and there would be an evil Council in the Church, the both of them saw a plume of smoke coming up from the floor. Now it was a marble floor. This could not be anything of a natural phenomenon. Both the young priest and the old German Rector were so impressed they drew up a dossier and sent it to Cardinal Ratzinger.”

“…The elderly German priest, Ratzinger’s long-time personal friend, took note of the fact that when this vision of the Third Secret was published it did not contain those things, those elements of the Third Secret that Cardinal Ratzinger had revealed to him nearly ten years earlier. The German priest -Father Dollinger- told me that this question was burning in his mind on the day he concelebrated with Cardinal Ratzinger. Father Dollinger said to me, “I confronted Cardinal Ratzinger to his face” And of course he asked Cardinal Ratzinger, “how can this be the entire Third Secret? Remember what you told me before?”
Cardinal Ratzinger was cornered. He didn’t know what to say so he blurted out to his friend in German, “Wirklich gebt das der etwas” which means “really there is something more there,” meaning there is something more in the Third Secret. The Cardinal stated this quite plainly.”

“Question: This is an amazing story. Is Father Dollinger a credible witness?

[Father Kramer] I can say this much: We’re talking about an elderly priest, a long-time personal friend of Pope Benedict, a man who was a long-time personal acquaintance of St. Pio of Piertrelcina [Padre Pio]. In fact, he told me he had gone to confession to Padre Pio 58 times. This is a man who for many years was the Rector of a seminary in South America; a man who is highly esteemed, who is of great reputation in the Church.
I would also point out that in the diocese where he worked what I have said about the Third Secret, what Cardinal Ratzinger revealed to him, was common knowledge among the young priests who were seminarians and deacons at the time this man was Rector. They all know the story that Cardinal Ratzinger had told him.”
“As I have mentioned, they had even put together a dossier and sent it to Cardinal Ratzinger. So he is a man of great credibility, worthy of credence; a man of great seriousness who is not given over to making up fabulous stories, or exaggerating self-importance. The man had no need of such things; he’s a man of utmost credibility.”

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Euro-Rage: The Latest from the Continent

Euro Rage: Continental Winter 2009
By Dr. Peter Chojnowski
February 9, 2009
Iceland’s Prime Minister Geir Haarde found his car surrounded by a furious mob of egg and can hurdling fellow citizens outside his government office in Reykjavik, the capital city. This days riots, in which crowds spattered the Parliament building with paint and yogurt, yelled and banged pans, hurled fireworks and flares at government windows --- even attempting arson by starting a fire in front of the island nation’s seat of government, was simply one example of many to rock this island republic since the citizens realized exactly how hard the global financial crisis was going to hit them. In the Fall and early Winter of 2008, these demonstrations were weekly, since January 20th, 2009, the protests began to be staged daily. Riots in foreign countries are not normally taken to be of great note in the United States. It must be remembered, however, that these are the very first riots of such scale to take place in Iceland, since the anti-NATO riots in 1949; this "undemocratic" violence in, what is still, Europe’s oldest democracy, the national legislature, the Althing, having met since the tenth century.
What effectively happened to create this kind of popular wrath in this small stolid nation of 320,000 people? Nothing that has not happened in most every other country in the world since October of 2008, when the sub-prime mortgage bubble popped, along with the equity bubble in world markets. The financial system was fatally undermined when it was realized how many billions of dollars Icelandic banks were in debt to foreign financiers. The fundamental insolvency of its banking institutions caused a nationalization of the banking system and a collapse of the currency. The disappearance of easy credit and the collapse in value of Icelandic assets has caused the economy to shrink 10% over the past year (as much as Britain’s economy shrank during the Great Depression); unemployment has, consequently, surged. Not only has the besieged Prime Minister Haarde resigned and been replaced by the first Lesbian Prime Minister, but also, on account of the collapse in financial activity and resources, Iceland has been forced to accept a $10 million IMF rescue package and this, in a country that still acutely remembers the heavy hand of foreign invaders and, as witness the massive protests against the British occupation force of 1940, does not want to be saved by outsiders. Hence the paint and the yogurt.
According to many ancient sagas, Iceland was the entrance into Hell --- a not too surprising idea in view of the frequently spouting volcano Kirkjufell on Vestmannaeyjar; however, with the first collapse of a ruling government due specifically to the credit and financial crisis, Iceland appears to be only the first of many European nations descending into a political inferno. Indeed, the collapsing equity and credit markets, along with the straight-jacket monetary and financial regime imposed upon the member states of the European Union and the European Monetary Union, has caused a great ring of European states, stretching from the Baltics, through Russia and Ukraine, through the lower Balkan States, down across Club Med (i.e., Greece, Italy, Spain) and then up through Portugal and along the Celtic fringe, to be in the midst of or on the verge of a 1930s style depression.
Euro Rage and the Straight-Jacket Economy
The nations that are experiencing the most traumatic transformation from a boom to a bust economy are Latvia, Lithuania, and Ireland. All three of these states are part of the Euro Exchange Rate Mechanism, which can be seen as the Euro’s pre-detention cell. These countries must join Euroland, since it is written directly into their European Union contracts. The entrance of these nations into the monetary regime of the Western European Continental nations has meant that the economies of these nations have undergone massive overheating in the past few years. The obvious credit and monetary bubble created by low-interest rates, the lack of effective control over monetary policy by the national government, and exploding property values, has made for national catastrophes. In Riga, the capital of Latvia, during the boom years, property values surpassed those in the city of Berlin. Now due to the deflation of the national assets, prices of apartments have fallen 56% since mid-2007. The economy over-all has fallen 18% annualized over the last 6 months. Hoping to receive a financial rescue package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Latvia planned to devalue their currency, in response to an IMF demand. Brussels blocked this effort at devaluation, however. According to the EU bureaucrats, mortgage debt is, in Latvia, often in Euro’s and Swiss Francs, which would render impossible the lessening in value of the national currency. .
The credit starved Latvians are joined with their Lithuanian and Irish fellow-Europeans when it comes to being awash in debt and undergoing a dramatic drop in wages. Lithuania’s Trade Union Confederation organized the demonstrations that have denounced public sector wage cuts and increased taxes meant to make up for declining State revenue. The national debt has reached 12% of GDP (i.e., Gross Domestic Product), the economy is contracting by 4% annually and the computer company Dell has decided to move to Poland due to the inflated wage rates which became common place in the Ireland of the early 21st century. With the Irish government, on February 11, 2009, voting to approve a capital injection of $4.5 billion, Ireland became the first European Union country to take de facto control of all of its most important banks. In January, the government stepped in to nationalize the teetering Anglo Irish Bank, which was No. 3.
With disappearing bank credit, disappearing social services and reduced supplementary income payments, along with disappearing jobs, the European who has expected these things as that which would allow him to realize the dream of liberal democracy --- a life free of fear and free of any encumbrance to the fulfillment of individual want, has produced first a profound disappointment and, now an easily enkindled rage. What these Europeans are waking up to is the fact that their bankers, financial wizards, and their ever-accommodating politicians have bankrupted their nations. The enkindled rage of so many average Europeans has directed itself, primarily, against the central bankers and politicians who have bet their nation’s financial resources at the global Win/Win Capitalist Roulette wheel. The politicians and bankers bet it all on red. Black was called.
Deepening Slump, Rising Rage: The Streets 2009
What one continually reads about in the various reports from these very recent European riots, is that normally very stolid and, even, timid people, those naturally disinclined to provoke confrontation, are the ones who are demonstrating. On January 16th, we had an identical event to the one that would take place in Iceland the week after. Some 7,000 demonstrators in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, attacked the parliament building with stones, smoke bombs, eggs and ice, breaking windows and calling on the government to resign. Police were called in to disperse the crowd with tear-gas and rubber-tipped bullets --- while Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius called an emergency cabinet meeting. A crowd of young people, motivated by dimming career prospects and inspired by the Greek riots of January, broke away from a peaceful demonstration of around 10,000 people to express their frustration with their unresponsive government by overturning a police van and breaking windows in the finance ministry. While President Adamkus suggested that the Vilnius riot was organized by outside elements, Latvian diplomat Inese Allika told the EUobserver that these were simply demonstrations by citizens frustrated at the collapse of their economies. "It was just spontaneous, said Allika, "Latvians are normally very quiet, and people obviously are seeing what is happening in other countries in the rest of Europe, such as Greece, and they thought
‘Why are we so calm?’" "There had been a huge economic boom in recent years, then all of a sudden, everything stops." According to Dorothee Bohle, a political scientist at the Central European University in Budapest, the riots are not isolated events and are very much the product of the deepening economic crisis. "After a few years of relatively high growth and social advancement, it’s all come to an abrupt end and they’ve been slapped with a very harsh austerity package," said Bohle when referring to the IMF conditions necessary for the reception of loans and credits. "This is essentially a return to the ‘IMF’ riots we were used to from Latin America in the 80s and 90s." The global banker’s generosity in this crisis – which other global bankers created --- has a number of strings attached.
Europeans are currently comparing the unrest to events in the 60s and even the 1930s, when the Great Depression fueled political upheaval and clarified and intensified ideological conflicts. So far, however, no ideology has gained a distinct advantage from public anger. Other than wanting the latest government out of office, the protesters have not yet been taken up by any alternative vision of the future --- one which could serve as a substitute for the economic, social, and political Liberalism that has been the European norm since the 1991 self-destruction or transformation of the Soviet Union. Even though Europe is dealing with an ideological void, the people in the streets definitely know what they do not like. "The politicians never think about the country, about the ordinary people," said Nikolai Tikhomirov, 23, an electronics salesman who participated in the January 13th protest in Riga. "They only think about themselves." How unstable is the current political situation in Europe as a result of the economic decline? Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the IMF, has said that the financial crisis could cause further turmoil "almost everywhere," listing Latvia, Hungary, Belarus, and Ukraine as among the most vulnerable nations. "It may worsen in the coming months," he told the BBC. "The situation is really, really serious."
Putin Rides the Russian Bear
Since the economic system adopted under Vladimir Putin is no longer working due to the sharp decline in oil and gas prices and, hence, government revenues, the political system the former president and current prime minister put in place is rapidly approaching its end; this according to a leading Siberian political analyst Dmitry Tayevsky. In a lengthy commentary posted on the Internet, Tayevsky states that what will replace the current order is any one’s guess. What Tayevsky realizes, of course, is that Russia has always had a "thirst for the absolute," and has always favored a strong central regime as an "iron belt around the waist of an anarchical people." That the situation is becoming grave is indicated by the fact that within the past two months, there have been an estimated 1 million Russians who have lost their jobs. According to Tayevsky, this situation is likely to produce one or two scenarios in the near future. The second most likely scenario is "impoverishing the people without giving them a chance to express their anger within the system." To this possibility, Tayevsky indicates that since there are no "pretenders" to the role of a Lenin or Stalin on the political scene, such a situation would likely produce a social "explosion" and "a complete national tragedy." The second scenario is the one that Tayevsky sees as most likely. He calls it the "Latin American Option." "There are many people who don’t like the current regime and have the military capacity to change it," notes Tayevsky. "They might set up a military dictatorship, although it is not clear that they could run the country after taking over except by killing people in large numbers not only immediately by for a long time."
The increasing instability of the Russian system, in place since the Putin takeover in 2000, has been
demonstrated in recent weeks by both the violent, ideologically-tinged protests and riots in cities across the
Eurasian nation, but also, by the defiant nyet which has been uttered to Vladimir Putin by his own
appointees and sycophants. With ultra-right Nationalists rioting in Moscow and Communist-led street-demonstrations in Vladivostok, Russian Prime Minister Putin is facing the beginnings of an unexpected power struggle which neither he nor the Russian nation expected. It began in Vladivostok in mid-December of 2008. There thousands of workers rose up in protest due to the Putin government’s 80% tax on imported foreign cars. The decision, meant to protect Russia’s own inferior car industry, has been a source of extreme anxiety for the 100,000 people in the Russian Far East who are employed in the business of importing and revamping second hand cars from Japan and South Korea.
The protests over these potentially job-killing measures were ordered stopped by Putin. His own senior administrators, however, refused to intervene requiring, a week later, the central government to send a special detachment of riot police from Moscow to break up the protests. Furious that he was being disobeyed, Putin ordered Vladislav Surkov, his top ideologue, to sack the newly appointed head of internal affairs in the Vladivostok region. Having received the order from Moscow to resign, the official, General Andrei Nikolayev simply refused to resign and threatened to reveal corruption in the Kremlin if Putin pressed ahead with his plans. Such a gesture of defiance has been unheard of for the past 9 years, especially since it was supposed to be General Nikolayev who kept local officials under control for Moscow. General Nikolayev quickly found a patron in President Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s handpicked choice for Russian Head of State, who countermanded Putin’s order for Nikolayev’s dismissal. "The fight between Medvedev and Putin started over this issue and has been getting worse ever since," said a source close to the Kremlin.
Think 1931, not 1933….yet.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has pointed out that the instability and breakdown in the economic and political system that we are experiencing now, from Pacific California to Riga, Latvia, resembles the post-stock market crash year of 1931, rather than the political revolutionary year of 1933 (think the New Deal and the National Socialist Brown Revolution in Germany). The 44 % drop in the stock markets, the unprecedented drop in French and Spanish real estate prices, the 25% unemployment rate expected for Spain in the next couple of years are surely signs that an extended "crash" has already happened. All the consequences and implications have not, yet, been experienced. It was only in 1933, some 2 days after Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated as president, that the newspapers were splashed with the following headlines: "FDR closes the banking system – Invokes the Trading with Enemies Act," "Gold Ordered Confiscated," "Hitler Bloc Wins a Reich Majority," "Japanese Push On in Fierce Fighting," "City Scrip to Replace Currency." So far our own financial meltdown has not caused the underlying system to cease functioning. The first phases of depressions are like this. It is the second phase of a depression, what Europe and the United States experienced the last time in 1933, which causes the terror and real suffering. If we can remember how it was the last time in America that we fell into an extended depression: The economic machinery had broken down, the Stock Market was shut down, 32 states had shut their banks, and Texas had restricted bank withdrawals to $10 a day. In the "real economy," many states had stopped paying teachers. Schools were closed for months, armed farmers threatened revolution and laid siege to many a Prairie city, lawyers attempting to enforce foreclosures were shot, a mob had stormed the Minnesota capital before the year of 1933 was out.
Whether we experience the full force of the economic implosion, which in many ways is much worse --- from a financial aspect --- than the one experienced in the 30s, is still a question for the unfolding of the "history" of the next couple of years. It is certain, however, that the peoples of Europe, at least, have realized that the easy life the Nanny State Capitalism promised them, is not going to be their lot. Without this comfortable economic, ideological, and political cocoon any longer enshrouding them, they are coming to feel the chill of the materialistic, nihilistic, and godless lie that they have been living. I assume that not all of them will take this sitting down.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Carmelite Martyrs and the Infant of Prague

On July 17, 1794, the sixteen Carmelite nuns of Compiegne were guillotined in Paris, convicted of crimes against the state by the tribunal of the French Revolution.Mother Henriette de Jesus, renowned for her great beauty and strong personality, stood up to represent the other Carmelite sisters before the revolutionary tribunal.Since the prosecutor accused the Carmelites of being fanatics and counter-revolutionaries, she asked him to explain the meaning of those words. The irritated judge vomited a torrent of offenses against her, and then said: "It is your attachment to your Religion and the King". Hearing these words, she replied, "I thank you for the explanation". Then, addressing her companion Carmelites, she said: "My dear Mother and my Sisters, we must rejoice and give thanks to God for we die for our Religion, our Faith, and for being members of the Holy Roman Catholic Church".In particular, the Revolution hated the fact that they promoted the counter-revolutionary and royalist devotion to the Sacred Heart and to the Infant Jesus of Prague, a long-standing Carmelite devotion associated with royalty and nobility and the Order of Malta in Prague. In truth, however, they were devotions much beloved by the ordinary people - not least, of course, in Ireland where the Carmelites became very popular (I cannot suppress a chuckle to see Irish republican Catholics warmly attached to such royalist devotions!).She was the last one before the Prioress to mount the scaffold to die. To the end, she encouraged her Sisters to persevere. When a charitable person offered a glass of water to one of the Sisters, Mother Henriette told her: "In Heaven, my Sister, in Heaven we will soon have water aplenty to drink."
The late Brazilian Catholic scholar, politician and activist, Professor Plinio Correa de Oliveira comments upon this remarkable story:
"These Sisters knew that they were being put to death for their fidelity to the Catholic Church and the King, but they wanted the prosecutor to admit it out loud, because this would be a public witness of their martyrdom and an encouragement for them in face of the dangers of apostasy. This is why Mother Henriette was charged with asking that question.When the answer came, she was happy and transmitted it to her Mother and Sisters in religion. All of them shared that joy and went forward to die. Mother Henriette, who was very resolute, offered assistance to each of them until the end. Only the Prioress, Mother Teresa of St. Augustine, died after her, because she was the superior, and the Captain must always be the last one to leave the sinking ship...
You can contrast Mother Henriette de Jesus with an imaginary personage in a popular novel, The Dialogue of the Carmelites by George Bernanos. The character was called Blanche de la Force and was presented as a weak and timid Carmelite Sister. She is an imaginary personage, but it is worthwhile considering her, because she represents a common character type. In his novel, Bernanos presented her as a Sister who had panicked when the other Sisters were taken by the revolutionary soldiers and sentenced, and for this reason had apostatized from the Order. She was no longer living inside the Carmelite community, but she went to see the execution of her former companions who would suffer martyrdom that day. The Sisters were chanting the Veni Creator in chorus and, one by one, they walked up the steps to the scaffold to be guillotined. When she saw this, she was moved by a grace, stepped out of the mob and, singing, joined the cortege to be executed along with them.The two attitudes of both religious, Mother Henriette and Sister Blanche, express well the different paths of Divine Providence for different souls - the different marvels God works with His chosen ones. For some He chooses the glory of repentance; this is one of the glories attributed to the Apostles who fled during His Passion. For others He gives the strength that he gave to Mother Henriette of Jesus, that is, to view death from a distance and face it bravely, walking toward it joyfully. This was what He did with Mother Henriette, who helped all the others face their martyrdoms. These are two different paths God chooses to lead and direct souls. Seeing these two contrasting paths, you can admire the infinite beauty of God in the unity and variety of His ways. This is why the Saints are different from one another and why there are different schools of spirituality in the Catholic Church. It serves to show the beauty and richness of Holy Mother Church, a reflection of the beauty of the Heavenly Jerusalem".
The Veni Creator Spiritus is the hymn sung at Pentecost and after, calling upon the Holy Spirit to descend upon us and is often sung at the Ordination of a priest or the Reception of a sister into the convent. It, together with the Whitsun Sequence, Veni Sancte Spiritus, are two of the most ancient and beautiful chants sung by the Roman Church to the Holy Spirit.Here is the Veni Creator sung in Boulogne Cathedral: the best story told of these most holy Carmelites is that told by Gertrude von Le Fort, a German-French convert from Protestantism, who writes superbly well the Bernanos story of Blanche de la Force, the little marchioness who is afraid of her own shadow and flees the convent at the first sign of trouble but returns to watch the other sisters die at the scaffold. There courage suddenly comes to her, almost miraculously. The author tells the story as an observer of these momentous events:"I stood in the midst of the howling rabble. Never have I felt the hopelessness of our position so desperately as then. You know that I am not tall. Chaos surged above me. I was immersed in it. I could not see what happened, I could only hear. All my powers of perception centred in the sense of hearing and sharpened it incredibly.The Carmelites were coming to Revolution Square, singing, just as Sister Marie had expected. Their psalms could be heard from afar and penetrated the screams of the populace with strange clarity. Or did the tumult subside as the victims came in sight? I could scarcely distinguish the last words of the Salve Regina - sung, you know, at the deathbed of a nun - and soon after the first line of the Veni Creator. There was something light and lovely in their singing, something tender and yet strong and serene. Never would I have thought that such song could flow from the lips of those condemned to death. I had been deeply agitated, but when I heard this singing I grew calm. Creator Spiritus, Creator Spiritus - I seemed to hear these two words again and again. They cast anchor within me.The song flowed on full and clear. To judge by the sound, the cart must have been moving very slowly. Probably the crowd blocked the way. I had the feeling that the nuns were still far from the square. For this singing transcended all sense of time; it transcended space, even bloody Revolution Square. Creator Spiritus, Creator Spiritus! It effaced the Guillotine. It effaced even chaos. All at once I had the feeling of standing among human beings again...I was startled - Revolution Square was deathly still. Even at the execution of the King there had not been such utter silence. The song seemed fainter too. Probably the cart had gone on; perhaps it had already reached its goal. My heart began to pound. I was suddenly aware that a very high voice was lacking in the chorus - a moment later, another...I thought that the execution had not even begun and in reality it was almost over!Now only two voices sustained the song. For a moment they hovered like a shining rainbow over Revolution Square. Then one side extinguished. Only the other continued to glow...shimmering...fading - but quickly the song was taken up by another voice, thin, frail, and childlike. I had the impression that it was not coming from the height of the scaffold but from the thick of the crowd, just as if the people were making a response. Wondrous illusion!At the same moment the dense lines heaved and broke. A gap opened right in front of me, just as on that September night. And I saw - exactly as on that night - Blanche de la Force in the seething mass of those dreadful women. Her small pinched face broke forth from its surroundings and cast them aside like a wrap. I recognised her every feature, and yet I did not recognise her face - it was absolutely fearless. She was singing. In her small, weak, childlike voice she sang without a tremor, exulting like a bird! All alone across the great terrible square she sang the Veni Creator of her Carmelite sisters to the very end:Deo Patri sit gloriaEt Filio, qui a mortuisSurrexit, ac ParaclitoIn saeculorum saecula.Distinctly I heard the profession of faith in the Holy Trinity. The Amen I did not hear - the furious women struck her down on the spot.And now, my friend, the rainbow over Revolution Square had died away. And yet I had the feeling that the Revolution was over. As a matter of fact, the Reign of Terror collapsed ten days later."Indeed, it did!For ten days later the leading figure of the Terror, Robespierre, was himself arrested and taken to the Guillotine.The awful murder of the holy Sisters of Carmel had turned even the brutal Paris mob and they had, at last, become sickened. They now demanded the head of the chief terrorist himself.From Heaven, the holy sisters, now rejoined by the little Marquise de la Force, Sister Blanche once more, interceded most powerfully for the devastated vineyard that was France and the 13 month Reign of Terror at long last came to an end.Holy Carmelites of Compiegne, pray for us!...
Posted by Tribunus at 22:52
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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Soros Says Current Crisis Worse than Great Depression

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Renowned investor George Soros said on Friday the world financial system has effectively disintegrated, adding that there is yet no prospect of a near-term resolution to the crisis.
Soros said the turbulence is actually more severe than during the Great Depression, comparing the current situation to the demise of the Soviet Union.
He said the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September marked a turning point in the functioning of the market system.
"We witnessed the collapse of the financial system," Soros said at a Columbia University dinner. "It was placed on life support, and it's still on life support. There's no sign that we are anywhere near a bottom."
His comments echoed those made earlier at the same conference by Paul Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman who is now a top adviser to President Barack Obama.
Volcker said industrial production around the world was declining even more rapidly than in the United States, which is itself under severe strain.
"I don't remember any time, maybe even in the Great Depression, when things went down quite so fast, quite so uniformly around the world," Volcker said.
(Reporting by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa and Juan Lagorio; Editing by Gary Hill)

New Victories of State Sovereignty Movements in New Hampshire and Washington State

, February 05, 2009
New Hampshire and Washington legislators reaffirm states' rights UPDATE: 8 more states
I'm having difficulty deciding which recently-introduced legislation I like better: New Hampshire's House Concurrent Resolution 6 "affirming States’ rights based on Jeffersonian principles" or Washington State's House Joint Memorial 4009 "claiming state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment"
On initial inspection, the New Hampshire resolution is superior. It's a beautifully written document and by far the more radical. The preambulatory clauses tell the history of New Hampshire's contribution to the US Constitution's Ninth and Tenth Amendments and the active clauses lay out and affirm an effective, detailed, and well-explained case:
That the several States composing the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General Government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a General Government for special purposes, -- delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government
My favourite part of the resolution is the end, which asserts the doctrine of nullification and calls for a dissolution of the Union should the US Government extend its reach beyond certain limits:
That any Act by the Congress of the United States, Executive Order of the President of the United States of America or Judicial Order by the Judicatories of the United States of America which assumes a power not delegated to the government of United States of America by the Constitution for the United States of America and which serves to diminish the liberty of the any of the several States or their citizens shall constitute a nullification of the Constitution for the United States of America by the government of the United States of America. Acts which would cause such a nullification include, but are not limited to:
I. Establishing martial law or a state of emergency within one of the States comprising the United States of America without the consent of the legislature of that State.
II. Requiring involuntary servitude, or governmental service other than a draft during a declared war, or pursuant to, or as an alternative to, incarceration after due process of law.
III. Requiring involuntary servitude or governmental service of persons under the age of 18 other than pursuant to, or as an alternative to, incarceration after due process of law.
IV. Surrendering any power delegated or not delegated to any corporation or foreign government.
V. Any act regarding religion; further limitations on freedom of political speech; or further limitations on freedom of the press.
VI. Further infringements on the right to keep and bear arms including prohibitions of type or quantity of arms or ammunition; and
That should any such act of Congress become law or Executive Order or Judicial Order be put into force, all powers previously delegated to the United States of America by the Constitution for the United States shall revert to the several States individually. Any future government of the United States of America shall require ratification of three quarters of the States seeking to form a government of the United States of America and shall not be binding upon any State not seeking to form such a government;
The Washington resolution is much shorter, less elegant, and is directed towards the US President, not the several states like New Hampshire's. But there is much to be said for concision. Though the 18th century literate American provincial may have been at ease with the embellished language of the New Hampshire resolution, to the average 21st century reader it may pass from articulacy to prolixity; for him, NH HCR6 might as well be as incomprehensible and protracted as the USA PATRIOT Act or the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.
The preamble of the Washington resolution lays out a simple textual and historical case for a states' rights reading of the US Constitution that should be intelligible to any college graduate (but not to any Supreme Court Justice):
WHEREAS, The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States specifically provides that, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”; and
WHEREAS, The Tenth Amendment defines the total scope of federal power as being those powers specifically granted to it by the Constitution of the United States and no more; and
WHEREAS, Federalism is the constitutional division of powers between the national and state governments and is widely regarded as one of America’s most valuable contributions to political science; and
WHEREAS, James Madison, “the father of the Constitution,” said, “The powers delegated to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, [such] as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce. The powers reserved to the several states will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people.”; and
WHEREAS, Thomas Jefferson emphasized that the states are not ”subordinate” to the national government, but rather the two are “coordinate departments of one simple and integral whole. The one is the domestic, the other the foreign branch of the same government.”; and
WHEREAS, Alexander Hamilton expressed his hope that “the people will always take care to preserve the constitutional equilibrium between the general and the state governments.” He believed that “this balance between the national and state governments forms a double security to the people. If one [government] encroaches on their rights, they will find a powerful protection in the other. Indeed, they will both be prevented from overpassing their constitutional limits by [the] certain rivalship which will ever subsist between them.”; and
WHEREAS, The scope of power defined by the Tenth Amendment means that the federal government was created by the states specifically to be limited in its powers relative to those of the various states;
You can read each resolutions below the break and decide which you prefer for yourself.
UPDATE: A spate of these "10th Amendment resolutions" at the state level seems to have been sparked with last year's failed HJR 1089 [pdf] in Oklahoma "claiming sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over certain powers; serving notice to the federal government to cease and desist certain mandates; and directing distribution." The sponsor of that bill, Rep. Charles Key (R) is working on introducing similar legislation (HJR 1003) [rtf] this year which he says is likely to pass as a Republican-controlled Legislature convenes for the first time in state history. Also in 2009, "10th Amendment resolutions" have been introduced in Arizona (HCR 2024), Michigan (HCR 0004), Missouri (HR 212), while in Montana, HB 246 uses 10th, 9th, and 2nd Amendment reasoning for "an Act exempting from federal regulation under the commerce clause of the constitution of the United States a firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition manufactured and retained in Montana..."
With New Hampshire and Washington, that brings the total number of these resolutions introduced in 2009 to 7.
UPDATE 2: Dave Nalle writes, in "State Sovereignty Movement Quietly Growing":
As things stand right now it looks like Oklahoma, Washington, Hawaii, Missouri, Arizona, New Hampshire, Georgia, California, Michigan and Montana will all definitely consider sovereignty bills this year. They may be joined by Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Alaska, Kansas, Alabama, Nevada, Maine and Pennsylvania where legislators have pledged to introduce similar bills. Twenty states standing up to the federal government and demanding a return to constitutional principles is a great start, but it remains to be seen whether legislatures and governors are brave enough or angry enough to follow through. As the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress push for more expansion of federal power and spending that may help provide the motivation needed for the sovereignty movement to take off.
If you're keeping count, that brings us up to 10 states