Cremation has a history of being used by religions/creeds anathema to Christianity. Scripturally fire was used as a tool of judgement. Christian principles and conduct were/are set by Jeus Christ and He, as well as others of that belief chose burial as an example. On the practical, cremation destroys ALL evidence of the individual as being murdered while those buried, on the basis of new evidence have been exhumed and found to have been murdered and the perpetrator identified on the basis of forensic evidence from the remains of the deceased victim.
I do scoff at the excuses given by the so called environmental crowd that burial contaminates the soil from chemicals used in coffins, yet they ignore the fumes in cremation entering the atmosphere. As to the "not enough room" argument, that is not applicable here and further, there seems to be lots of room to erect foolish monuments to false religions by the building of their temples and of course, lots of room for things like golf courses, stadiums, etc
Cremation is the preferred method of those with an anti-God perspective and I choose not to be identified with that crowd.
Much more of course but this is enough, I fear there is not enough band width to indicate all the reasons I am opposed.
Statistics: Posted by singular — Tue Jun 18, 2013 6:32 am
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Are The Gold Bugs Wrong?
Jeff Clark, Senior Precious Metals Analyst
June 15, 2013
What a ride the precious metals have been on recently. Gold and silver prices have fallen off a cliff, while gold stocks were thrown on the rocks and left for dead. GLD has seen record outflows.
Popular financial news shows featured guest after guest who proclaimed gold is now "officially" in a bear market, emboldened by the fact that in spite of its recent bounce, the price has languished below its September 2011 peak for 20 months. As a group, gold stocks are down an abysmal 54% over that same period. The capitulation process has been brutal.
So, were we wrong? Is it time to admit defeat, sell our positions, slink into a cave, and lick our wounds?
The only thing that changed over the past 60 days was the price of gold, and perhaps the mainstream’s perception of our industry. The realities of the fiscal and monetary state of the world, however, did not.
What has struck our industry was not the consequence of a shift in fundamentals, but rather a number of transient factors, including: (i) growing belief in the general investment community that inflation will not result from global money-printing efforts; (ii) claims the global economy is improving; (iii) Europeans fleeing their economic troubles buying US dollars (which makes the dollar look strong and hence gold less appealing to some); and (iv) a very large gold sale that caused the gold price to breach "technical support levels" and trigger a cascade of further selling. All of this – and a lot of commentary based more on opinion than fact – has led to the misguided conclusion that gold is a has-been asset.
Casey Research readers know we think inflation is inevitable, but even if deflation were more likely, it is the fallout from a world living beyond its means in which most major central banks are massively debasing their currencies in an attempt to prop up ailing economies that worries me.
These stimulus policies are unprecedented in scale, entirely unsustainable, and induce financial-system instability. And somehow, it is widely believed that the same policymakers who concocted this mess can get us out of it. Our views haven’t changed – yet suddenly, we’re contrarians again.
It takes patience and courage to stay the course amid a groundswell of proclamations that the "gold trade is dead," but our positive outlook isn’t based on stubbornness. The evidence from history is very clear: you cannot solve debt problems with more debt, nor strengthen an economy by destroying your currency. Eventually, these sins catch up to you.
Today’s ongoing economic and fiscal crises cannot end smoothly or without unpleasant consequences. Since none of the excesses that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis have been fixed, another round of crisis is baked in the cake and will likely inflict even greater damage. When that happens, gold will again be seen as the refuge it is, regardless of current popular opinion.
We’re not alone in this thinking. As you’ve undoubtedly read, in response to the crash, global demand for physical metal soared at both the retail and wholesale levels. This reaction is extremely important: we can’t identify a single crash, collapse, or crisis that ended with retail investors stampeding to buy the asset that had just been crushed. Not one.
In our view, the gold story is not over. Far from it. The reasons for owning it are just as important now as they’ve ever been since the bull market started in 2001. I can’t be sure the price is done falling – but I’m sure it’s not done climbing.
What is going on with gold? Was it overvalued before the recent drop? Or is the price being manipulated? Is now the time to get in, and if so, how? These are just a few of the questions investors want answered. And while no one has a crystal ball that issues definitive answers, some people have been around long enough to have keen insights on what’s happening and what’s likely to happen from here.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sat Jun 15, 2013 3:08 pm
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Daniel J. Mitchell
As a long-time advocate of tax reform, I’m not a fan of distortionary loopholes in the tax code. Ideally, we would junk the 74,000-page internal revenue code and replace it with a simple and fair flat tax – meaning one low rate, no double taxation, and no favoritism.*
The right kind of tax reform would generate more growth and also reduce corruption in Washington. Politicians no longer would have the ability to create special tax breaks for well-connected contributors.
But we won’t get to the right destination if we have the wrong map, and this is why a new report about “tax expenditures” from the Congressional Budget Office is so disappointing.
As you can see from this excerpted table, CBO makes the same mistake as the Tax Policy Center and assumes that there should be double taxation of income that is saved and invested. As such, they list IRAs and 401(k)s as tax expenditures, even though those provisions merely enable people to avoid being double-taxed.
The CBO report says that tax expenditures will total about $12 trillion over the next 10 years, but about one-third of that amount (which I’ve marked with a red X) doesn’t belong on the list.
By the way, at least the Tax Policy Center has an excuse for putting its thumb on the scale and issuing a flawed estimate of tax expenditures. It’s a project of the Brookings Institution and Urban Institute, both of which are on the left side of the political spectrum. So it’s hardly a surprise that they use a benchmark designed to promote punitive tax policy.
But what’s CBO’s excuse?
To be fair, at least CBO admitted in the report that there’s a different way of seeing the world.
…tax expenditures are measured relative to a comprehensive income tax system. If tax expenditures were evaluated relative to an alternative tax system—for instance, a comprehensive consumption tax, such as a national retail sales tax or a value-added tax—some of the 10 major tax expenditures analyzed here would not be considered tax expenditures. For example, because a consumption tax would exclude all savings and investment income from taxation, the exclusion of net pension contributions and earnings would be considered part of the normal tax system and not a tax expenditure.
But admitting the existence of another approach doesn’t let CBO off the hook. At the very least, the bureaucracy should have produced a parallel set of estimates for tax expenditures assuming no double taxation. That’s basic competence and fairness.
By the way, the Government Accountability Office is worse than CBO. When GAO did a report on corporate tax expenditures, that bureaucracy didn’t even acknowledge that there was an alternate way of looking at the data.
*Actually, the ideal approach would be to dramatically reduce the burden of government spending, shrinking the size and scope of the federal government back to what the Founding Fathers had in mind. Under that system, there presumably wouldn’t be a need for any broad-based tax.
P.S. This new report is not even close to being the worst thing produced by CBO. The bureaucrats on several occasions have asserted that higher taxes are good for growth, even to the point of implying that the growth-maximizing tax rate is 100 percent! And CBO is slavishly devoted to Keynesian economics, notwithstanding several decades of evidence that you can’t make an economy richer by taking money out of one pocket and putting it in another pocket.
Yet for inexplicable reasons, Republicans failed to deal with CBO bias back when they were in charge.
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Why the technical chartists will be wrong again on gold and silver
Posted on 25 April 2013
While we like to consult the technical charts when making forward predictions on asset prices these charts do only tell you the past story and have limited use in trying to discern the future.
We recall at the end of last year when the charts showed an imminent price collapse for silver that actually turned out to be a price rebound. So often these graphs prove misleading, and ArabianMoney reckons that is again the case now for gold and silver.
Technical analyst Clive Maund is particularly gloomy at the moment and can see gold falling back below $1,000 and silver goodness knows where. But which chartist spotted the price plunge coming this month? None of them.
How could they when the central banks of the US and Japan did it deliberately as an adjustment to allow the Bank of Japan to launch its $1.4 trillion-a-year money printing program?
Then again can chartists account for the reaction of the general public to this totally artificial price reduction in gold and silver? What we have now is a battle royale over price setting between the Comex futures market and the man-and-woman-in-the-gold-shop.
We looked amazed last night at buyers in a shop in Kowloon in Hong Kong where canny local dealers have increased their premiums for physical gold by 2.5 times in a week. Is the retail buyer just late to the bull market for gold or still getting in on the ground floor at a bargain price?
That’s a dilemma for serious investors counting their profits after a 12-year bull market and wondering if they might sustain further losses. Perhaps they ought to reflect on why all these retail buyers are snapping up bullion.
People fear inflation is coming and they also know that there has been far more inflation of general prices than anybody is admitting. They not unreasonably fear this is going to get worse before it gets better, and that the same central banks that gave them bargain gold this week are going to make it happen.
Bank of Japan
Back to Japanese money printing, that was the biggest thing to hit financial markets this year. Sure the central banks acted appropriately to dampen gold and silver prices temporarily to fool us on inflation. But how long can this last? The money printing is only accelerating.
The retail gold shops of the world are about to get a great deal busier and only when we see queues down the road and gold at $5,000 an ounce in a huge price spike will all this be over. We are not there yet.
Besides the chartists ought to know that such investment bubbles end in a huge price spike and then a plunge, not an artificially manipulated price slump after a sideways movement.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Thu Apr 25, 2013 1:01 pm
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The wrong question to ask about offshore banking
by SIMON BLACK on MARCH 22, 2013
Reporting from Santiago, Chile
Sometimes I wake up and I’m just astounded at how quickly things are unraveling.
Just look at a few big picture points:
The Russians are now wagging their fingers at Europe, comparing the EU to the Soviet Union for trying to plunder Cypriot bank accounts. This on the heels of a wealthy celebrity ‘defecting’ from the high-tax West to low-tax Russia.
Even the chairman of the Federal Reserve acknowledges that, while the US stock market is at an all-time high, adjusted for inflation it is “some distance from the high…”
The price of Bitcoins has soared 500% year to date when denominated in both dollars and euros. Since Cyprus announced its intended bank levy on Saturday, Bitcoins are up nearly 50%.
Spanish youths are fleeing the country in droves; here in Chile, the number of immigrants from Spain has jumped 16.4% in the last two years… and in Ecuador, it’s a whopping 51.6%.
Japan, traditionally an export powerhouse, has posted a trade deficit for eight months in a row… the longest streak in 33 years.
After the German government announced its intention to repatriate their gold holdings from the US back to Germany, a Swiss political party is pushing for a vote to do the same.
Military detention and citizen assassination are now perfectly legal in the Land of the Free… meanwhile the national debt has just hit $16.74 trillion, 108% of the country’s GDP.
Frankly, our Offshore Tactics Workshop that’s going to take place next week down here in Chile couldn’t come at a better time. And I have no doubt that the 400+ attendees will arrive energized and motivated.
I’m about to head off to the farm to spend the weekend gathering my thoughts before the big event. But before I go, I wanted to answer the most frequently asked question we received this week–
“Given what happened in Cyprus, how safe is offshore banking?”
We received this dozens of times this week… but the real question to ask is, “How safe is BANKING, of any kind, anywhere in the world?”
Most banks in the West are already technically insolvent. They have very little cash as a percentage of deposits (typically less than 2%), and their books are loaded up on toxic debt owed by sovereign governments that have no hope of paying.
If they weren’t getting money for free from central banks, most commercial banks wouldn’t exist right now.
And herein lies the problem.
Insolvent commercial banks are backed up by insolvent government insurance agencies, funded by central banks that conjure money out of thin air.
Yet most people don’t think twice about where they put their money. They believe, foolishly, that their money is ‘safe’ because it’s guaranteed by the government.
If history has taught us anything, it is that government promises are not worth the paper they’re printed on.
Consequently, people should conduct EXTENSIVE due diligence, not only on their bank, but also on the jurisdiction. You wouldn’t just hand your hard-earned savings to some guy on the street… why should a bank be any different?
In our regular conversations and writings to premium members, I’ve long advocated banking at strong institutions in stable jurisdictions– places like Singapore (which has NEVER had a banking failure), or Hong Kong. Not Cyprus… England… or the US.
Be very cautious about parking your money anywhere that has a significant debt burden. They will print. They will inflate. They will confiscate. Savers will lose. This has been a long-standing tradition in history, and one that everyone should heed.
Bottom line, pay close attention to where you put your money, and in what currency. Because a 10% haircut from the government is the same as a 10% loss of purchasing power from inflation.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:41 pm
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Euromonitor International wrong to see China overtaking the US as world’s largest economy by 2017
Posted on 04 March 2013
Macroeconomic forecasting is notoriously difficult. ArabianMoney recalls how Japan was supposed to ovetake the US economy in the 90s. We just about remember the end of the dollar forecasts of the 1970s. But are the Euromonitor International predictions this month for real?
It has China set to become the world’s largest economy in terms of GDP in PPP terms by 2020 and India roaring up to third slot! Russia will overtake Germany as the fifth largest economy by that date…
Can this forecast be correct? We doubt it, such forecasts are usually wrong. They take the recent past and project it forward. But reality seldom moves in a straight line. It is the reason why economists make such lousy investment advisers.
For China to top the US in 2017 there has to be stagnation or decline in the US economy coupled with continued high growth in China. Euromonitor admits ‘rising labour costs, pollution, a potential real estate bubble and rapid ageing arising from the government’s one child policy’ are problems for China going forward.
We would add a stalling global economy just cannot be good news for the world’s largest exporter. There’s the rub. China cannot rise above us if we are falling in a global recession. We would also not underestimate the US economy’s capacity for self-renewal with the cheap energy of shale gas, for example.
Economies move in cycles, not straight line projections. You might have thought economists would have spotted that by now. Of course they have, but as they cannot agree on the cycles they stick with the straight lines. So you get utter nonsense like India as a great economic power.
You cannot get to the top of the economic league table simply by expanding your population. That is not the way China did it. If you over grow your population then you can end up with a Malthusian crisis and declining per capita GDP. India’s bureaucratic democracy, infrastructure and educational system will simply never support a high income economy.
That said sheer population might well help Russia to overtake Germany in the economic league table. Russia is already a middle income country thanks to its huge hydrocarbon revenues and with twice the population of Germany only a relatively small advance is needed to tip total GDP in its favor.
However, probably what renders these forecasts completely unreliable is that they cannot discount major national crises. For example, the debt ridden Japanese economy looks very vulnerable to a bond crisis, falling exports and internal financial meltdown.
By contrast Russia and China hold huge financial reserves and debts are far lower than in Japan or the US. Then again India most likely holds the most gold of any country and if the gold price roars ahead in an era of high inflation that is another economic wild card.
ArabianMoney’s reckoning for the top nations in 2020 would be, respectively: USA, China, Russsia, Germany and Japan. The advance of Russia would be the biggest surprise. China and India are the past shock, not the future.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Mon Mar 04, 2013 9:51 am
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What Could Go Wrong with the Housing Recovery in 2013? Plenty.
February 27, 2013
Federal subsidies and Federal Reserve policies enabled a vast expansion of debt that masked the stagnation of income. Now that the housing bubble has burst, this substitution of housing-equity debt for income has ground to a halt.
What could go wrong with the housing recovery in 2013?
To answer this question, we need to understand that housing is the key component in household wealth. As a result, Central Planning policies are aimed at creating a resurgent "wealth effect": When people perceive their wealth as rising, they tend to borrow and spend more freely. This is a major goal of U.S. Central Planning.
Another key goal of Central Planning is to strengthen the balance sheets of banks and households. The broadest way to accomplish this is to boost the value of housing. This then adds collateral to banks holding mortgages and increases the equity of homeowners.
Some analysts have noted that housing construction and renovation has declined to a modest percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP). This perspective understates the importance of the family house as the largest asset for most households and housing’s critical role as collateral in the banking system.
The family home remains the core asset for all but the poorest and wealthiest Americans. Roughly two thirds of all households "own" a home, and primary residences comprised roughly 65% of household assets of the middle 60% of households – those between the bottom 20% and the top 20%, as measured by income. (The U.S. Census Bureau typically divides all households into five quintiles; i.e., 20% each.)
Since housing is the largest component of most households’ net worth, it is also the primary basis of their assessment of rising (or falling) wealth (i.e., the "wealth effect.") No wonder Central Planners are so anxious to reflate housing prices. With real incomes stagnant and stock ownership concentrated in the top 10%, there is no other lever for a broad-based wealth effect other than housing.
Given the preponderance of housing in bank assets, household wealth, and the perception of wealth, the key policies of Central Planning largely revolve around housing: keeping interest rates (and thus mortgage rates) low, flooding the banking sector with liquidity to ease lending, guaranteeing low-down-payment mortgages via FHA, and numerous other subsidies of homeownership.
At least three aspects of this broad-based support are historically unprecedented:
1) The purchase of $1.9 trillion of mortgage-backed securities (MBS) by the Federal Reserve.
The Fed purchased $1.1 trillion in mortgages in 2009-10 and it recently launched an open-ended program of buying $40+ billion in mortgages every month. Recent analysis by Ramsey Su found that Fed purchases have substantially exceeded the announced target sums; the Fed is on track to buy another $800 billion within the next year or so. This extraordinary program is, in effect, buying 100% of all newly-issued mortgages and a majority of refinancing mortgages.
Never before has the nation’s central bank directly bought 15%+ of all outstanding mortgages this raises the question: Why has the Fed intervened so aggressively in the mortgage market? There is no other plausible reason other than to take impaired mortgages off the books of insolvent lenders, freeing them to repair their balance sheets.
Regardless of the policy’s goal, the Fed now essentially controls a tremendous percentage of the mortgage market.
2) After the insolvency of the two agencies that backed many of the mortgages originated in the bubble years (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), the minor-league backer of mortgages (FHA) suddenly expanded to fill the void left by Fannie and Freddie.
Many of these mortgages require only 3% down in cash, just the sort of risky “no skin in the game” mortgages that melted down in 2008.
Given this mass issuance of low-collateral loans to marginal buyers, it is no surprise that the FHA will soon require a taxpayer bailout to cover its crushing losses from rising defaults.
In 2010, 97% of all mortgages were backed by government agencies, an unprecedented socialization of the mortgage market. (Source)
This raises two questions: Where would the mortgage and housing markets be if Central Planning hadn’t effectively socialized the entire mortgage market? What will happen to the market when Central Planning support is reduced?
3) Official measures of inflation are viewed by many with a healthy skepticism, but even this likely-understated rate has recently exceeded 2.5% annually.
In this context, it is unprecedented that one-year Treasury bonds have near-zero yields, effectively costing owners a 2%+ annual fee for the privilege of owning short-term Treasurys.
Even more astonishing, rates for conventional 15-year mortgages are comparable to official inflation (the Consumer Price Index, or "CPI"). Lenders are earning near-zero premiums on these mortgages. How sustainable is this imbalance of risk and return?
The enabler of these extremes is, once again, the Federal Reserve, which has purchased hundreds of billions of dollars in Treasury bonds and flooded the banking sector with zero-interest “free money.”
This formidable Central Planning support of housing has placed a bid (i.e., a floor) under housing, resulting in two bounces since the housing bubble popped in 2007-9.
The first heavily subsidized rise faltered. Will the latest pop also reverse? Or is the much-desired “housing bottom” in, from which prices will continue their ascent?
In the macro context, what housing bulls are counting on is the emergence of an “organic,” self-sustaining recovery in housing, based not on Central Planning subsidies but on private demand and non-agency mortgages.
Housing skeptics are looking for signs of what will happen when unprecedented support and intervention in the mortgage and housing markets is reduced or withdrawn.
The Foundation of Housing: Debt and Federal Subsidies
About two-thirds of all homeowners have mortgages. As I noted in The Rise and Fall of Phantom Housing Collateral, mortgage debt doubled from about $5 trillion in 1997, before the housing bubble, to $10.5 trillion in 2007, at the top of the bubble.
This reliance on debt informs the Central Planning policies of lowering interest rates and guaranteeing mortgages via Federal agencies such as the FHA. The only way debt can increase is if incomes rise or the costs and qualification standards of borrowing decline. Since income for 90% of households has been stagnant for decades, the only way debt can expand is by lowering interest rates and reducing the risk exposure of debt issuers via Federal guarantees.
These policies have been pushed to the maximum. As a result, the policy tool bag to further boost housing is now empty.
Now there is only one direction left for interest rates (up) and for housing subsidies and guarantees (down).
Another support of housing recovery is the restriction of homes on the market. Lenders are limiting the inventory of homes for sale by keeping many distressed/foreclosed homes in the off-market shadow inventory. This artificial restriction, coupled with low rates and government subsidies, has supported the modest recovery shown on this chart (courtesy of Lance Roberts) of total housing activity:
While housing has recovered to 2010 levels, what is not visible is the collapse in housing’s share of net worth displayed in this chart:
Housing equity as a percentage of total net worth declines when the stock market rises strongly while housing gains at a much lower rate (for example, during the Bull markets of 1952-1968 and 1982-2000) and rises as stock equity falls (for example, 1969-1981) while housing rose. In the 2001-2008 era, both equities and housing both climbed sharply, but since housing is the larger share of most households’ net assets, housing’s rise overshadowed the expansion of stock net worth, causing home equity to rise as a percentage of total net worth.
The collapse of the housing bubble and the stock market pushed home equity as a percentage of net worth to new lows. The subsequent doubling in the stock market has had little effect on the bottom 90% of households, as the top 10% of households own 85% to 90% of all stocks. (Source)
In broad brush, the wealth of middle class of homeowners has been influenced by four trends:
The stagnation of real income
A rapid rise in mortgage and other debt
The use of debt to fund consumption
The collapse of housing equity as the basis of debt-based consumption
In other words, Federal subsidies and Federal Reserve policies enabled a vast expansion of debt that masked the stagnation of income. Now that the housing bubble has burst, this substitution of housing-equity debt for income has ground to a halt.
This created a reverse wealth effect: The 70% between the bottom 20% and the top 10% have seen their net worth plummet while their debt load remains stubbornly elevated.
Americans saw wealth plummet 40 percent from 2007 to 2010, Federal Reserve says. (Source)
This chart is nominal rather than real (adjusted), but the relative expansion of debt is clearly visible:
While charts like this lump all household debt and income together, this masks the reality that there is a clear divide between the top 10% and the bottom 90% in terms of income and debt. The debt load of the top 10% is considerably lighter than that of the bottom 90%, while income and wealth gains have flowed almost exclusively to the top 20%.
The top quintile accrued 89% of the total growth in wealth, while the bottom 80 percent accounted for 11%. (Source)
Unsustainable Pricing Will Introduce the "Poverty Effect"
If we put all this together, we get a picture of a middle class squeezed by historically high debt loads, stagnant incomes, and a net worth largely dependent on housing.
In response, Central Planners have pulled out all the stops to reflate housing as the only available means to spark a broad-based “wealth effect” that would support higher spending and an expansion of household debt.
This returns us to the key question: Are all these Central Planning interventions sustainable, or might they falter in 2013?
Once markets become dependent on intervention and support to price risk and assets, they are intrinsically vulnerable to any reduction in that support.
Should these supports diminish or lose their effectiveness, it will be sink-or-swim for housing. Either organic demand rises without subsidies and lenders originate mortgages without agency guarantees, or the market could resume the fall in valuations Central Planning halted in 2009.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Wed Feb 27, 2013 1:21 am
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Catholic Church in the spotlight, for all the wrong reasons
Rows of chairs are put in place in St Peter’s Square ahead of Pope Benedict XVI’s last public audience, Feb. 25, 2013, in Vatican City, Vatican. / GETTY
VATICAN CITY The process of electing Pope Benedict XVI’s successor to is turning out to be the most complex, and in many ways disputatious, of any in modern history.
As soon as Benedict announced his resignation, the Italian press erupted with tales of scandal, infighting and sexual misconduct supposedly revealed by the Church’s own investigation into the so-called "Vatileaks" scandal.
A report by three cardinals appointed by the pope to look into the theft of documents by his personal butler, and their subsequent publishing by an Italian journalist, was widely reported to have contained information on purported sex scandals inside the Vatican. Lurid tales of a "gay lobby" of homosexual clerics were splashed across newspapers and on TV.
The Vatican press office went on the offensive, deriding what it termed, "a diffusion of news that is often unverified, unverifiable and actually false, with serious damage to people and institutions."
A Vatican source said the unprecedented reaction was intended "to call the bluff" of the Italian media, and in fact, there was no rebuttal from the news organizations after the Vatican’s counter-punch.
The report into Vatileaks is said to run to up to 600 pages. It will be kept secret, left for Benedict’s successor to deal with as he sees fit. However, the three cardinals who compiled it — all of whom are over the age of 80 and therefore will not take part in the conclave — may be allowed to answer specific questions about it from cardinals who will be participating.
The conclave itself is turning into far more than the traditional secret gathering of the so-called "Princes of the Church" in the ornate confines of the Sistine Chapel.
The sexual abuse scandal prompted calls from some U.S. Catholics for Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles to be excluded from participating in choosing the next pope. The cardinal has said he intends to cast his vote, in spite of the pressure. At least two other U.S. cardinals, as well as one from Ireland and a European cardinal were also cited as being men who should recuse themselves over their handling — or mishandling — of the priests’ abuse of minors.
Then came the news that three priests and a former cleric had accused Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland of inappropriate behavior with them, three decades ago.
O’Brien denied the charges, but said in a statement released Monday that he would not participate in the conclave because he doesn’t "wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me, but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his Successor."
That brings the number of voting cardinals down to 115. Shortly after the official announcement that Cardinal O’Brien had taken the unprecedented step of removing himself for personal reasons, Benedict issued an edict releasing the College of Cardinals from the obligation to wait a minimum of 15 days from the end of his papacy before starting the conclave.
No date can be set until Friday, the day after the Pope officially leaves office.
At a news briefing Monday, Vatican Press Secretary Father Tom Rosica said the meeting to decide the date for the conclave to kick off won’t even begin until March 1.
"We have no other information until the cardinals decide and the general congregation, when the conclave will come," he said. And he added: "Will they announce that at the first meeting? They might not. We have to wait a few days before that happens."
If a week is a long time in politics, the last week here has shown that even a few days can be a long time in the Vatican.
© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Mon Feb 25, 2013 2:00 pm
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Matt Zwolinski, in his most recent essay, merges two different philosophical issues in a way that obscures the difference between them. One, the problem of initial appropriation of land, is a hard problem, at least for libertarians: How do people get ownership rights over uncreated property, such as the surface of the earth, sufficient to give them a right to prevent others from using it. One is, at least for libertarians, an easy problem: How do individuals get ownership over created property, such as a railroad train, sufficient to prevent others from using it. Merging the two is a particularly unfortunate philosophical move since the easy problem provides a possible solution to the hard one.
To see why the second is an easy problem, try applying Zwolinski’s argument to what libertarians view as the most fundamental property claim, my ownership of my own body. You have a rifle and enjoy shooting things. I am standing between you and one of the things you would like to shoot. That’s no problem—you have a very powerful rifle, capable of putting a bullet through my body en route to your target. Is Zwolinski prepared to argue that if I forcibly prevent you from doing so, you “lack precisely the kind of negative freedom that libertarians purport to be concerned with—freedom from liability to physical interference by other human beings?” If he is not, why is he willing to make that argument when what I forcibly prevent you from using or damaging is not my body but my created property, objects which exist only due to the application of human effort to the (at this point in my argument) commonly available uncreated property? He puts his argument in terms of the efforts of “men with guns,” policemen, but nothing in it depends on whether other people forcibly defend my rights or I do it for myself.
Part of his response is that “But lack of money would be no obstacle to a solitary man on a desert island. And this is because money is an essentially social device. It derives its value from a system of norms that are socially recognized and socially enforced.” But the existence of money is in no way central to the existence of property rights. What is being enforced when a woman who cannot afford a ticket is ejected from a train is not a social convention about money but the right of the owner of the train to control who uses it. A solitary man on a desert island, like the woman ejected from the train, is constrained by the absence of objects he has a right to use; in the former case things he would like to use are physically absent, in the latter they are physically present but belong to someone else.
I started this comment by suggesting that rights to created property provided a possible solution to the problem of rights to uncreated property. The argument, from an old piece of mine, goes as follows:
You wish to stand on a certain piece of common property. I am there already. You have the same right as I do to stand there, but you do not have a right to move or injure me, hence you cannot exercise your right to stand there without acting unjustly. I have not appropriated the land I am standing on in the usual sense of the term, but I have “de facto” appropriated it for as long as I stand there, not by altering the nature of your right to the land but by making it impractical for you to exercise it without violating other rights.
You have (somehow) acquired a rifle and ammunition, and wish to engage in target practice. The whole world is your target range. But you cannot fire in my direction—because you do not have the right to injure me. My existence and my present location decrease the value of your rights to you without violating or reducing those rights. You still have a right to shoot anywhere you like. You do not have a right to shoot me. If in some ingenious way you can exercise the former right without violating the latter prohibition (for example, by using a weapon shooting harmless water drops or a radar controlled gun which will not go off when it is pointing exactly at me) you may do so. …
… I plant wheat in a field. You come and want to plant wheat in the same field. I point out to you that the field is common property which you are welcome to use, but the wheat I have planted is my property (the result of my labor in gathering seeds, watering them so they would sprout, etc.) and you do not have the right to disturb it. Any way you can figure out to exercise your right to the field without violating my right to the wheat is fine with me.
This example can, perhaps, be expanded into a full justification for “property rights” in uncreated property. Seen from this viewpoint the original right of freedom of action need never have been infringed. When I “mix” my labor with the land I make it inconvenient for you to use the land without violating my right to my labor. If you figure out a way of doing so, fine. You still have the right of freedom of action, and that right is still limited, as it always was, by my right not to have my private property violated. …
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Daniel J. Mitchell
This means the politicians can increase spending, but simultaneously claim they are cutting spending because the budget could have expanded at an even faster pace.
Sort of like saying your diet is successful because you’re only gaining two pounds a week rather than five pounds.
Anyhow, some people get deluded by this chicanery. Paul Krugman, for instance, complained in 2011 that “the government of Prime Minister David Cameron chose instead to move to immediate, unforced austerity, in the belief that private spending would more than make up for the government’s pullback.”
This was nonsense. There have not been any genuine budget cuts in the United Kingdom. Heck, just compare what’s happening today in the United Kingdom and what happened in Canada in the 1990s to see the difference between gimmickry and real fiscal restraint.
Now we have some new numbers that confirm that the UK economy is suffering because of a heavy burden of government spending.
Here’s some of what Allister Heath, the Editor of City A.M., wrote for the UK-based Telegraph.
The public finances are deteriorating again, making a mockery of the Coalition’s core purpose. Osborne’s fatal problem is that he is proving unable to deliver any meaningful reduction in the size of the state. The extent of his failure will come as a shock to many. Remarkably, public spending actually went up last year as a share of our national income… public spending hit 49pc of UK GDP last year, a shocking increase on the 48.6pc of GDP spent by the state in 2011. Even with a stagnant economy, this implies that Osborne has lost control of public spending.
Gee, doesn’t sound like much budget cutting to me.
Heck, the burden of government spending is worse than it is in Germany (45 percent of GDP). Or even Spain (44 percent) or Portugal (47.4 percent).
Perhaps the most shocking number is the one showing that the UK has radically veered in the wrong direction this century.
Public spending as a share of GDP hit a trough of just 36.6pc in 2000.
Allister hits the nail on the head.
…after all the rows about “slashing spending to the bone”, and following almost three years of coalition government, the state is still spending around half of national income. …it beggars belief that a government that remains so large, so bloated cannot provide much better quality services, and that we have a public debate in this country that exaggerates beyond all recognition the extent of the state’s downsizing.
But there has been some “austerity,” but only for taxpayers.
…real austerity is only biting on the tax side: total UK government revenues increased from 40.3pc of GDP in 2011 to 42.4pc in 2012, the OECD estimates. It’s getting increasingly hard for the Chancellor to extract revenues, with taxes on income and wealth falling to £194.3bn over 2012 as a whole, 2.7pc lower than in 2011, when they stood at £199.7bn, according to separate figures from the Centre for Economics and Business Research.
That last sentence, by the way, shows the Laffer Curve in action. The supposedly Conservative government of Cameron and Osborne has raised the tax burden, yet revenues aren’t materializing.
Allister also echoes the argument of Veronique de Rugy about choosing the right kind of austerity and reining in the public sector.
Not all kinds of austerity were created equal: cutting current expenditure, such as benefits, is good for growth; but hiking taxes is bad for it… There is also lots of evidence that elevated levels of public spending and large government debts are bad for GDP; no wonder, therefore, that growth is failing to materialise.
And until Cameron and Osborne are willing to tackle that problem, don’t expect much positive from the United Kingdom.
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