Monday, July 30, 2012

What they eat in Vietnam

Just finished a great book -- review will follow -- called Catfish and Mandala (Picador 1999) by Andrew X. Pham. Mr. Pham is a "Viet-kieu", a Vietnamese-American, one of the many who came to the USA as a child in the 70s, in the aftermath of the Vietnam war.

After growing to manhood in California, this "boat person" decided to return to the land of his birth to discover his roots (as the cliche goes) and rediscover himself. Catfish and Mandala is thus an autobiography rather more than a travelogue, a journey not just in space but in time.

Pham bicycled -- alone -- from Ho Chi Minh City (the Saigon that was and still is) to Hanoi. Along the way he ate some thoroughly disgusting meals, even by third world standards. Here he describes a dish he was offered in Hoi An (not far from Hue) but declined. It's called "Gaping Fish" and here's how the Vietnamese chef said he would prepare it.

It is a dish I learned from a great Chinese chef when I went to Canton to study. I can make it with any sauce you want, garlic-lemon-butter, French tomato and mushrooms, or Chinese sweet-and-sour. Anything.

It's very hard to make. First, I must tell the fisherman that I need the fish alive so he'll keep it in a bucket for me. I take two bamboo sticks that I cut myself. They must be the right thickness and length [he explains, holding his hands about eight inches apart].

I stick them into the fish's mouth, piercing its brain just so. This paralyses the fish. It is alive but it cannot move. I don't gut it. I heat up oil just right. I put fish in hot oil, vertically so that the head is not in the oil. If the head gets in the oil, the fish dies right away. The fish is paralyzed so it doesn't flip around and splash oil. I don't want to get burned.

I cook fish just right. If the oil is too hot, the fish dies too soon. If the oil is not hot enough, not all the meat will be cooked. That's the real hard part. You must know when that is. You must be able to tell if it is about to die. You don't want it to die.

Some species of fish are tougher than others, and every fish is different. You must take everything into consideration: How big? When was it caught? Young fish or old fish? How you can tell is... you watch the eyes!

I put it on a plate covered with fresh lettuce, pour the sauce of your choice on top. Bring it to your table myself. Then I take the bamboo sticks out. And if the fish doesn't gape [he mouths the gaping part, making O's with his lips] if it's dead, you don't pay. Free. On the house.

I guarantee you that as you eat the cooked flesh of the fish, it is still alive! Alive and gaping!

Enjoy your lunch...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Correcting errors of Vatican II chief problem in SSPX-Rome talks

Sunday seems to be a good day to look at what's happening in and to the Roman Catholic Church. This week sees the confirmation of what Walt and so many others long suspected. According to leading Vaticanista Andrea Tornielli, the chief obstacle to the return of the Society of St. Pius X to the bosom of Holy Mother Church is the former's insistence on being free to criticise and correct the errors of Vatican II.

So says a letter from Fr. Christian Thouvenot, the SSPX Secretary General, to its District Superiors. Sr Tornielli says the letter, dated 18 July, was not intended for publication. He also says Fr. Thouvenot's views were confirmed by the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Müller, in an interview with the Catholic News Agency.

In his letter, Fr. Thouvenot revealed that the SSPX had set certain conditions for signing the "doctrinal preamble" that would allow for the "regularization" of the Society. First among these conditions was the insistence that the SSPX would remain free to "correct the promoters of the errors or the innovations of modernism, liberalism, and Vatican II and its aftermath."

The SSPX also demands the right to use the traditional Latin liturgy of 1962 exclusively. That should be no problem for the Vatican, since Pope Benedict XVI's moto proprio Summorum Pontificum allows for the use of the traditional liturgy.

However, the determination of the SSPX to correct the teachings of Vatican II poses a major problem in continued negotiations with the Vatican. Both Fr. Thouvenot's letter and the concluding communiqué published at the end of the Society’s General Chapter refer to the errors of modernism and the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.

But in the interview with CNA, Archbishop Müller said, "The assertion that the authentic teachings of Vatican II formally contradict the tradition of the Church is false." Note the use of the weasel word "authentic". What does that mean? Out of the other side of his mouth, the archbishop allowed that there is room for discussion of how the Vatican II documents should be properly understood. "The purpose of dialogue [with the SSPX]," he said "is to overcome difficulties in the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council."

Is the Prefect saying, then, that the "Doctrinal Preamble" -- a text that was debated and closely examined by cardinals of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and then approved by Pope Benedict -- is subject to further debate and change? Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

eBay seller screwed by scammer thanks to "buyer protection"

One of Walt's readers, who prefers to remain anonymous [but we know who you are! Ed.] has a complaint about eBay's one-sided, anti-seller "buyer protection". According to this disgruntled seller, it's far too easy for overseas scammers to use eBay's bias for buyers to screw sellers and get free stuff. Here's how the scam works.

The seller lists an item on eBay and offers to ship worldwide. An overseas buyer -- in India, let's say -- wins the item and pays for it, plus shipping and handling. If the buyer refuses to pay extra for registration and proof of delivery, the item is shipped by unregistered small packet airmail, for which there's no tracking number.

The buyer/scammer waits a couple of weeks, then lodges a claim with eBay's so-called Resolution Center, stating he did not receive the item and wants his money back. Of course he has no proof one way or the other, nor does the seller. You can't prove something did not happen. So it's up to eBay to decide who it believes.

eBay asks the seller to provide a tracking number. Here's the Catch-22. On shipments overseas -- let's say to India -- proof of delivery can't be obtained even if there is a tracking number, because of the vagaries of foreign postal systems. Not to mention theft by postal workers which is all too common in the third world.

In any case, all you can do with the tracking number is show that the item was entered in the mail in the USA or Canada. eBay will never receive a tracking confirmation from the destination post office, and thus will never get proof of delivery even if the item has arrived.

So... eBay's Resolution Center closes the case in favour of the buyer -- always in favour of the buyer -- because a tracking number cannot be supplied or proof of delivery obtained. eBay's response to the unhappy seller? "That's tough. You should have got a tracking number"... even if the cost of registering the item is more than the value of the item and the buyer won't pay for it.

Not only does eBay give the poor innocent buyer his money back, he gets the shipping and handling charge refunded too! The seller is cheated out of his item, plus the out-of-pocket S&H.

Walt has Googled "eBay buyer protection abuse" and found numberous complaints of this nature against eBay, its buyer protection policy and its Resolution Center. A real problem with the Resolution Center seems to be getting a real person to respond to e-mails.

The only way to speak to a real person seems to be by telephone -- yes, a toll-free number is provided -- but the standard response seems to be to stand on the buyer protection policy which is totally biased against sellers. No proof of delivery = seller loses.

This has been going on for years (judging by dates of complaints published on the Net) yet eBay still takes the buyer's side every time, even though it knows the system is being scammed.

Worse yet, since eBay and PayPal have common ownership, eBay can and does take the "refund" out of the seller's PayPal account before a case is decided, sometimes even before the seller is notified of a complaint.

And still worse, if eBay's charging the seller's PayPal account throws the account into the red, the seller can't close either his eBay account or his PayPal account until the situation is "resolved". There is no appeal, no recourse, nothing for an aggrieved seller to do but grit his teeth and pay up, just to get off the eBay/PayPal books!

Footnote: eBay has announced, just this month, that it is changing its policy to be a little more fair to sellers, and a little more sceptical about "didn't-get-my-stuff" claims from overseas buyers. Wonder if they'll make the new policy retroactive! Chances of that happening? Slim and none! Lifetime pct .986.

Postscript: Walt wonders why Agent 3 or some other lawyer isn't advertising for claimants for a class action lawsuit against eBay. Sue the bastards, I say!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Unholy row over corpse lands evangelical Africans in prison

Our man in Zimbabwe sends word of a brief recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe. The court dismissed an appeal from a High Court judgment in 2004, which upheld a still earlier ruling by a magistrate at Mutare, in Zimbabwe's eastern highlands.

The decision means a spell in the crowbar hotel for ten members of the Johanne Marange Apostolic Faith sect. Their crime? Fighting fighting over the dead body of Oliver Marange, son of the sect's founder.

This goes back just over 11 years, to July 2001, not long after Walt moved from Zimbabwe to a place offering longer life expectancy for whities. In the midst of Oliver Marange's funeral at Taguta village, in Chief Marange's district, a fight broke out over the question of who owned the corpse.

True believers started pelting each other with rocks. Then -- apparently figuring that sticks and stones may break bones, but the Word is mightier still -- they substituted Bibles. According to court records, things got really nasty when the coffin broke, dumping the body onto the ground, after which one of the brawlers set the casket alight. Armed police were called in to quell the ensuing riot.

The ten church members, all from the same Taguta family, were sentenced to 36 months in jail, each. The dismissal of their appeal means the magistrates court can now issue an arrest warrant for Samson, Titus, Ambrose, Ellakim, Esrom, Elmon, James, Zibert, Arizori and Stephen Momberume.

In upholding the lower court ruling, Justice Bhunu said, "Their conduct on that day was not only unlawful, but contrary to the norms, values and tenets of all Christian teachings and morality." So it would seem.

When asked why it took so long for the court case to be decided once and for all, our man said simply, "This is Africa."

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Government can't save us from all harm: Ron Paul

We don't hear anything about him in the lamestream media these days, but Ron Paul is still alive and out there, speaking out for liberty and freedom. Earlier this week he shared some wise words on can be done to prevent a repetition of the Aurora massacre. His advice? Don't look to government to deliver you from evil. Here's an excerpt:

We should...face the sober reality that government cannot protect us from all possible harm. No matter how many laws we pass, no matter how many police or federal agents we put on the streets, no matter how routinely we monitor internet communications, a determined individual or group can still cause great harm. We as individuals are responsible for our safety and the safety of our families.

Furthermore, it is the role of civil society rather than government to build a culture of responsible, peaceful, productive individuals. Government cannot mandate morality or instill hope in troubled individuals. External controls on our behavior imposed by government through laws, police, and jails usually apply only after a terrible crime has occurred.

Internal self-governance, by contrast, is a much more powerful regulator of human behavior than any law. This self-governance must be developed from birth, first by parents but later also through the positive influence of relatives and adult role models. Beyond childhood, character development can occur through religious, civic, and social institutions. Ultimately, self-governance cannot be developed without an underlying foundation of morality.

Click here to listen to the complete audio file.

Mr. Paul isn't going to win the Republican nomination. (Lifetime pct .984) But his campaign for liberty goes on. Click here to join the Ron Paul Revolution. Tell him Walt sent ya!

Remembering Romney's earlier presidential campaigns

As is well known, Walt is old, old! I'm so old I can remember Lincoln's Gettysburg address. 478 Oak Street, it was. [That joke is pretty old too. Ed.] And I remember interesting facts from previous races for the presidensity, stuff that many others have long forgotten.

For instance, I remember Romney's participation in the campaign of 1968. He was the one who nominated a pig for the office of president. When you consider the quality of the two major candidates that year, the pig seemed like a good bet, but, sadly, finished out of the running. Rumour has it that when the pig saw he couldn't even beat Hubert Humphrey, he went to Cargill's and turned himself in.

Nothing deterred, Romney organized -- perhaps "fomented" would be a better word -- the "Nobody for President" campaigns of the 70s and 80s. The theme resonates even more today as Obama and Romney square off.

"Who cares about the American people? -- NOBODY!"
"Who has the solution to America's problems? -- NOBODY!"
"Who should you vote for on election day? -- NOBODY!"

Many people don't know that Mr. Romney was also the official clown of the Grateful Dead, although he has not been able to fulfill his duties lately due to other engagements. A major film documentary on his life, Saint Misbehavin', was released in late 2010 by Ripple Effect Films, and received excellent reviews. Click here to see the trailer.

Oh... just in case there's any confusion, the "Romney" I'm referring to is Hugh Nanton Romney, aka Wavy Gravy, noted political activist and clown... not the other clown.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Syria: "it's a show about nothing!"

There's a scene near the end of Lawrence of Arabia in which British General Allenby (played by Jack Hawkins) and a British diplomat by the name of Dryden (Claude Rains) looking out a window at the commotion in a city which has just been liberated from the Turks by the Lawrence-led "Arab revolution". Fires are raging, there is no water, and as the characters speak, the lights go out. The city is Damascus, today the capital of Syria.

Although the British are nominally in charge, Allenby explains, the Arabs are running the show, and the city is rapidly descending into chaos.
"What do you propose to do?" asks Dryden.
"Nothing," replies Allenby. "Sometimes in a crisis, nothing is the best thing to do."

Nothing is exactly what the West is doing about what has been described for months now as the "civil war" in Syria. Once again Damascus is being shelled, fires are raging, refugees are streaming out -- the same scene only 94 years later.

The liberals, "progressive thinkers" and believers in the Useless Nations (and the Tooth Fairy) are screaming that Something Must Be Done about that awful Assad. "We" -- meaning the USA -- should attack Syria immediately, they cry, to make Syria and the Middle East safe for democracy, advance the human rights of the oppressed people, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Yes, "everyone" agrees. The leaders of the free world -- President O'Bama, Hellery Clinton, and, errr, others -- make solemn pronouncements and angry denunciations every day, and say that they'd do Something right sharpish, if it weren't for those damned Russkis and Chinks who won't let them do Anything. So, Nothing is what gets done.

Walt is beginning to suspect that inaction is the Prez's secret plan for dealing with the Syrian "crisis". Think about it! This is an election year. In his quest for a totally undeserved second term, President O doesn't want another unpopular and unwinnable war on his record.

On his watch, so far, the US has given up on the Bush war (Iraq), and is backing out of the Obama war (Afghanistan) with indecent haste. As for Libya, America pretty much sat out that little show, and let the Brits and French and Canucks struggle for 90 days to oust a madman who had no air force, and tanks with one speed forward and five in reverse.

Trouble is, all this fighting for democracy, freedom and civilization is costing a fortune! A good chunk of Obama's extraordinary budget deficit is attributable to the cost -- millions of dollars per hour -- of sustaining invasions of sand traps in the Middle East. And let's not forget about the cost in blood and lives.

The Prez and his handlers are anything but dumb. They can see that to embark on a fourth invasion of a Middle Eastern state -- one that would surely put up a better fight than Libya -- would pretty much write finis to the Democrats' campaign.

So... the smart thing to do would seem to be to sit back and wait. This time, let the Arabs sort each other out. Besides, who knows which is the right horse to back? There's a major problem with faulty intelligence about the Syrian government and the rebels. [You might call our intelligence half-Assad. Ed.]

The State Department, if it were capable of telling the truth, would admit that, despite their vast [or half-vast. Ed.] infrastructure of spies and satellites, they really don’t know very much about what goes on in the Middle East or anywhere else. For example, the American invasion of Iraq was based on the belief it had the capacity to unleash chemical and biological terror on the world with its so-called "weapons of mass destruction".

That turned out to be either a mistaken belief or a deliberate deception -- you choose -- yet many countries supported the invasion was based on that belief. So did the majority of the American people... at one time. But that was then and that was Iraq.

This is now, and this is Syria. It seems probable that Syria does have huge stores of poison gas and other deadly chemicals, not to mention fleets of aircraft, tanks and so on supplied by our friends the Russians. It would be insane to expect Assad not to throw everything he's got at any invading forces. So who wants to lead the attack this time?

Walt can almost hear Obama saying discretion is the better part of valour. Better to watch, wait to see how long Assad can hold out, and hope someone or something better will replace him. If that doesn't work, well, the election will be over by the time we find out.

How we check our grammar

Ed. here. Walt (shown here at his writing desk) receives the occasional compliment on "his" use of English -- proper yet at the same time creative. I'll give Walt the "creative" part, but it is my job to ensure the "proper".
An assiduous reader wants to know what reference works we -- I -- use to avoid any faux pas. Naturally we have Fowler as our final arbiter. Some might think that explains our "Victorian" vocabulary and syntax, but they would be wrong! The first edition of Fowler was not published until 1926, during the reign of George V. Surely that is modern enough, and I prefer it to the 1965 second editon. The world -- and English -- had gone to hell by 1965.

When overindulgence renders me incapable of picking Fowler off the library shelf, I have recourse to a newer and much lighter work, which I commend to all aspiring writers and editors. It is The Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed, by Karen Elizabeth Gordon (Times Books, New York, 1984).

William Safire, whose classic On Language is also on Walt's bookshelf, called The Transitive Vampire "a book to sink your fangs into". I imagine Ms Gordon's tongue stuck firmly and permanently in her cheek as she crafts rules and examples of proper usage like this one:

A pronoun in apposition to a noun or another pronoun has the same case as the word it identifies.
Two misfits, he and she, plighted their troth in this haphazard way.
Let's you and me get together and do away with some of the possibilities.
(You and me are in apposition with 's, which equals us, the object of let.)

Karen Elizabeth Gordon wrote a companion volume, The Well-Tempered Sentence, which is chiefly concerned with proper punctuation, including Walt's pet peeve, the misuse of the apostrophe! There are second editions of both works: The New Well-Tempered Sentence and The Deluxe Transitive Vampire. All these fine (and incidentally funny) books may be found at the usual riverine source.

An arsehole with an arsenal... more or less?

Walt is no bleeding-heart, let's-all-make-nice gun control advocate. I confess to a certain youthful fascination with firearms, often in combination with white-and-reds cocktails and loud music. Playing Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture on a stereo cranked up to "Mother" and supplying your own cannon-fire -- shotgun blasts will do nicely -- to augment the finale is an experience exhilirating to the point of being aphrodisiacal.

Such things should be done, though, out in the back 40... not in crowded cinemas. A Jamaican salute to the New Year or other holiday isn't cool if innocent bystanders get hurt or killed.

Which brings me to the Aurora Massacre, the reason why Walt has been MIA the last couple of days. I have been trying to think of something cogent and witty to say. I have failed.

What kind of mind, what kind of personality says to itself: I think today I'll go take in a flick, maybe blow away a dozen or so of those damn ordinary people, just to see what it feels like.

That's if there is a mind, a sentient human being applying some kind of thinking process to the concept. Which is doubtful. Did James Holmes really think this through? The facts revealed so far would seem to suggest he did.

He spent weeks ordering and receiving an arsenal of weapons. Somehow, somewhere he acquired the suit of body armor and other colour-coordinated accessories. Not to mention all the D-I-Y work required to booby-trap his apartment so as to take out a few law enforcement officers and perhaps himself in one final Götterdammerung. The last part is speculation, which brings us back to pondering what he had in mind.

If anything. The argument will surely be advanced that the man is sick, sick, sick. Out-to-lunch insane. Totally gonzo and not in the amusing way. That's what "progressive thinkers" always say. There are no bad people, just people who are "depraved on account of they're deprived" as Stephen Sondheim wrote.

Maybe James Holmes was attacked by a bat in his childhood. Maybe he was so under the influence of mind-altering substances that he saw it as his duty to blow away all the creatures in the bat-cave of a cinema. Who knows?

Nobody knows except James Holmes. And you can bet he's been advised by every attorney he's talked to to keep his mouth shut. Let us guess... yeah. This is a case where silence is going to be the best possible defence. Let the shrinks pick his orange wig all they like. What conclusion could they reach other than that his cheese done slipped off his cracker, just like that Percy Wetmore in The Green Mile.

End result? Holmes spends a few years in the laughing academy until another set of shrinks decide he's not a threat any more, and then they turn him loose. I hope they let us know where and when that happens.

As for making it a little harder for the average deranged American to get his hands on anything more powerful than a cap gun, don't count on anything happening anytime soon. The NRA is way too powerful. Besides, as Toronto police chief Bill Bliar would say, this is just another "isolated incident".

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Word of advice from Ed. to spammers

Ed. here, with a cautionary note to people who send comments containing links to other blogs or sites.

The platform we use here is Blogger, which is part of Google. When you submit a comment, Blogger detects the presence of a link, and automatically blocks it. Walt doesn't even see it! So don't bother.

However... if you've got a worthy product or organization or blog or website that you think Walt should know about, you're welcome to e-mail us. If you send us something good, it'll find its way into this space. If you do so regularly, you might become one of Walt's agents!

By the way, there's a spam-blocker in the e-mail system too. But you already knew that...

Another big block party, this time in Florida

Agent 17 commented on Walt's report of the multiple shootings at a "big black party" in Toronto. (Please note Ed.'s correction at the end of that piece. Of course it should be "big block party".) 17 points out that chaotic and violent "block parties" happen in the USA too. In fact, Jacksonville FL had its own incident last Saturday.

The Florida Times-Union website reports that the North Jacksonville cops -- obviously braver than their Toronto brothers in blue -- broke up a huge "house party" Saturday night. Their fun spoiled, hundreds of young blackish partygoers formed a flash mob and headed for a nearby Walmart Supercenter to get reparations for the injuries done to them by slavery and discimination.

Got some video for you here.

What you missed on the video was the shooting, but apparently that happened at the pre-riot house party. Nobody was killed so it wasn't a big deal. However, the sheriff's office said investigations into both are "active and ongoing," and they are expecting witnesses to come forward to rat [perhaps "rap"? Ed.] on their fellow yoofs. As if...

As for Walmart, their spokesthingy Dianna Gee said, "The actions of these teenagers was deplorable and put at risk the safety of innocent bystanders, staff and customers. We are committed to assisting law enforcement in any way we can to identify the people responsible for the commotion, including acts of vandalism and thefts at the store."

Ms Gee did not explain exactly how "the people responsible" will be identified. Tips from Walt's readers will doubtless be welcome.

Footnote: Would it be racist to observe that the mob seems to have headed straight for the watermelons?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

SSPX says Vatican II "reforms...tainted with errors"

Non-Catholic readers may wish to skip this somewhat lengthy post, but Catholics who doubt that the modern mainstream Church is being led into error should read this carefully. What follows is the Common Statement sent to the Vatican by the General Chapter of the Society of St. Pius X, as published today by DICI. Emphasis, where added, is mine. Walt

At the conclusion of the General Chapter of the Society of St. Pius X, gathered together at the tomb of its venerated founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and united with its Superior General, the participants, bishops, superiors, and most senior members of the Society elevate to Heaven our heartfelt thanksgiving, grateful for the 42 years of marvelous Divine protection over our work, amidst a Church in crisis and a world which distances itself farther from God and His law with each passing day.

We wish to express our gratitude to each and every member of our Society: priests, brothers, sisters, third order members; to the religious communities close to us and also to our dear faithful, for their constant dedication and for their fervent prayers on the occasion of this Chapter, marked by frank exchanges of views and by a very fruitful common work. Every sacrifice and pain accepted with generosity has contributed to overcome the difficulties which the Society has encountered in recent times.

We have recovered our profound unity in its essential mission: to preserve and defend the Catholic Faith, to form good priests, and to strive towards the restoration of Christendom. We have determined and approved the necessary conditions for an eventual canonical normalization. We have decided that, in that case, an extraordinary Chapter with deliberative vote will be convened beforehand.

We must never forget that the sanctification of the souls always starts within ourselves. It is the fruit of a faith which becomes vivifying and operating by the work of charity, according to the words of St. Paul: “For we can do nothing against the truth: but for the truth” (cf. II Cor., XIII, 8), and “as Christ also loved the church and delivered himself up for it… that it should be holy and without blemish” (cf. Eph. V, 25 s.).

The Chapter believes that the paramount duty of the Society, in the service which it intends to offer to the Church, is to continue, with God’s help, to profess the Catholic Faith in all its purity and integrity, with a determination matching the intensity of the constant attacks to which this very Faith is subjected nowadays.

For this reason it seems opportune that we reaffirm our faith in the Roman Catholic Church, the unique Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ, outside of which there is no salvation nor possibility to find the means leading to salvation; our faith in its monarchical constitution, desired by Our Lord himself, by which the supreme power of government over the universal Church belongs only to the Pope, Vicar of Christ on earth; our faith in the universal Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Creator of both the natural and the supernatural orders, to Whom every man and every society must submit.

The Society continues to uphold the declarations and the teachings of the constant Magisterium of the Church in regard to all the novelties of the Second Vatican Council which remain tainted with errors, and also in regard to the reforms issued from it. We find our sure guide in this uninterrupted Magisterium which, by its teaching authority, transmits the revealed Deposit of Faith in perfect harmony with the truths that the entire Church has professed, always and everywhere.

The Society finds its guide as well in the constant Tradition of the Church, which transmits and will transmit until the end of times the teachings required to preserve the Faith and the salvation of souls, while waiting for the day when an open and serious debate will be possible which may allow the return to Tradition of the ecclesiastical authorities

We wish to unite ourselves to the others Christians persecuted in different countries of the world who are now suffering for the Catholic Faith, some even to the extent of martyrdom. Their blood, shed in union with the Victim of our altars, is the pledge for a true renewal of the Church in capite et membris, according to the old saying sanguis martyrum semen christianorum.

"Finally, we turn our eyes to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is also jealous of the privileges of Her Divine Son, jealous of His glory, of His Kingdom on earth as in Heaven. How often has She intervened for the defence, even the armed defence, of Christendom against the enemies of the Kingdom of Our Lord!

"We entreat Her to intervene today to chase the enemies out from inside the Church who are trying to destroy it more radically than its enemies from outside. May She deign to keep in the integrity of the Faith, in the love of the Church, in devotion to the Successor of Peter, all the members of the Society of St. Pius X and all the priests and faithful who labour alongside the Society, in order that She may both keep us from schism and preserve us from heresy.

"May St. Michael the Archangel inspire us with his zeal for the glory of God and with his strength to fight the devil.
"May St. Pius X share with us a part of his wisdom, of his learning, of his sanctity, to discern the true from the false and the good from the evil in these times of confusion and lies."
(Prayer of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre: Albano, 19 October 1983)

Given at Écône, on the 14th of July of the Year of the Lord 2012.

Postscript: John Vennari, editor of Catholic Family News, has posted a reasoned (and brief) commentary on the General Chapter Statement. Click here to read his take on what he calls the SSPX's "diplomatic 'no'" to the Vatican.

White scamming and black shooting in Ontariariario

In spite of Walt's warnings, people are still buying chocolate bars from kids claiming the money goes to Help Kids Canada. We have a new comment today from someone in Kitchener who got conned, and Agent 3 reports being solicited in front of his bank by a girl of about 12 with braces on her teeth. She was lucky Agent 3 is not a dirty old man! [He's a dirty young man! Ed.]

Folks... the people who implore you to buy their chocolate bars do not work for Help Kids Canada. They are being "run" by managers or supervisors who are independent contractors, not employed by Help Kids Canada. Their business is selling chocolate bars. Period. This information comes from the Help Kids Canada website. As today's anonymous commenter said, it's hard to believe that the little waifs pushing the bars don't know what they're doing.

Elsewhere, what passes in Canada for a "big apple" -- talkin' `bout Toronto, folks -- had its fourth gunshot fatality in as many nights, in Lawrence Heights, a neighbourhood filled with "community housing". All four shootees were Jamaican, or should we say "Jamaican-Canadians". The shooters remain at large.

Also yesterday, in Pickering (also a part of the so-called Greater Toronto Area), a 17-year-old yoof was shot by the Old Bill (= police, for those who don't speak British English) while using a replica gun in an attempt to stick up a veterinary clinic. The poor at-risk yoof is black, but which island he came from is not known as of this writing.

What makes Walt laugh is that Toronto's mayor, Buffalo Bob Ford, and police chief, Old Bill Bliar, keep saying these are "isolated incidents", and that Toronto is a really really safe city, not at all like, say, Detroit. Four dead in four days -- not to mention over 20 injured in the crossfire -- doesn't sound "isolated" to Walt.

The lamestream media are howling for a solution to the Problem That Cannot Be Named. If you have a suggestion, kindly send it to the Canadian Minister of Immigration, Hon. Jason Kenney. If you're interested, Mr. Kenney has his own website on which he is soliciting your support for his great work in trying to deport criminals from Jamaica and, errr, other places.

You can also direct your suggestions to the Minister of Justice, Hon. Rob Nicholson. Tell them Walt sent ya!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Muslims at Friday prayers in Venice

Agent 6 is apparently taking his summer holidays in Venice, doubtless doing his bit to support the faltering Italian economy. He reports that Venice has the same problem as Paris, with a sudden influx of Muslim immigrants and only a few small mosques to accommodate their religious observances.

In the spirit of ecumenism and multiculturalism (he goes on), the Italian government has authorized the saying of Friday prayers al fresco... in the streets.

548 drowned so far.

Note from Ed.: We haven't been able to verify Agent 6's report yet, but believe he wouldn't josh about such a serious matter.

Toronto experiences benefits of immigration and multiculturalism

Not for nothing is Toronto known as the most multicultural city in North America. Maybe the world. Thanks to an influx of millions of third-world asylum-seekers, refugees (bogus and otherwise), and immigrants (some of them legal), Toronto is chock-full of vizmins, all rubbing along together in peace and harmony.

Well, sort of. Toronto does have its ghettos, or as the CBC calls them, "communities". The official term is "priority communities", and if you can convince any level of government that you're dark and violent enough to "need support and nurturing" from your hosts, they'll build basketball courts and community centres for you, and give you money for parades and multiculti events.

Even if you don't get big bucks from the federal or provincial Ministries of Multicult, there's always enough left over from welfare to throw a big block party every now and then. Such as the BBBBQ -- Big Black Barbecue -- in Scarborough last night.

Seems that, as sometimes happens at these things, there was a spot of trouble involving, errr, partygoers. Toll so far: 2 shot dead, 19 injured in the crossfire, and 3 trampled in the crush. Toronto police chief "Old Bill" Blair called it "The worst incident of gun violence … anywhere in North America". Ah yes, Toronto is definitely a world-class city... or at least continent-class!

The Globe and Mail has a slideshow this morning. Have a look and you'll notice the multiracial reality of Toronto. Ah yes, blacks and whites together. But, errr, the white people all seem to be cops. The others are, errr, not cops.

What Walt finds funny -- funny curious, not funny haha -- is that not one of three Toronto papers Walt has checked (so far) makes any mention of the fact that this was a black "community event". The victims are black, the perps are black, everybody's black except the cops.

That's the way it is in "Scarlam". Everyone knows there's a problem with gun violence in Toronto's "black community", but the lamestream media and ultra-PC polilticians absolutely refuse to talk about it.

Meanwhile, the more peaceful folks of Toronto's not-so-black communities must be wondering what they have to do to be safe during this latest summer of the gun. Walt has a suggestion. Move to Detroit!

Message for George Zimmerman: Could you please call Chief Blair. He wants you to come to Toronto as a consultant to the police.

Correction: It has come to our attention that "big black barbecue", as used above, is politically incorrect. The Toronto Star describes it as a "big BLOCK barbecue". So sorry.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Traditionalist SSPX defy leader, reject terms of "reunion" with Rome

Walt started the week by reading the brief and totally unilluminating press release emanating from the General Chapter of the Society of St. Pius X which met at the SSPX HQ at Écone this past week.

In its entirety it says:
The General Chapter of the Society of Saint Pius X ended this Saturday, July 14, 2012, in Econe (Switzerland). Gathered near Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s tomb, the capitularies have given thanks to God for the profound unity that prevailed among them during all these workdays.

The General Chapter will soon make a common statement to Rome, which will then be made public. The General Superior, Bishop Fellay, thanks deeply all the priests and faithfuls for their fervent prayers.

What really happened
Word travels fast in these days of the Internet, and Walt's agents heard just after Mass yesterday that the group opposed to the General Superior, Most Rev. Bernard Fellay, has forced him to back down from his proposed sellout to the Vatican's Ecclesia Dei, the commission charged with getting the traditionalists to bend the knee to the errors of Vatican II.

Bishop Fellay has been ordered, my sources say, to send a communiqué to Benedict XVI
rejecting the Pope's demand for "full acceptance" of the modernist Council as the price of entrance into "full communion" with the mainstream not-so-Catholic Church.

Just before the General Chapter convened, Bishop Fellay had already started changing his tune. He is said to have stated publicly that he would not accept any deal with Rome "at this time", given the content of the Holy Father's latest "evaluations."

Could it be that the SSPX's Moses has seen that he's leading his people in the wrong direction -- further into the desert of the "new Faith" as proclaimed by Vatican II? Did the penny drop when the pope appointed the Marxist Gerhardt Muller as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the hopeless modernist Joseph DiNoia as Vice-Prefect of Ecclesia Dei?

Or was the last straw the publication of the three SSPX bishops' letter criticizing Fellay's sellout programme, which was followed by some 30 of his own priests speaking out against him? Or how about the proposed canonization of Pope Paul VI, the pope who let "the smoke of Satan" into the Church?

Those were Paul VI's exact words: "The smoke of Satan has entered the Church." What Bishop Fellay is hearing from his fellow bishops, priests and faithful is that we prefer to remain outside... in the non-smoking section.

Recommended reading: "Archbishop Di Noia Admits:The Goal is to Convert SSPX to Conciliar Thinking", by John Vennari, in Catholic Family News.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Chris Hedges speaks on the death of liberalism (looooong video)

Chris Hedges was a foreign correspondent for nearly two decades for The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor and National Public Radio. He's the author of such books as War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2002), American Fascists (2007), I Don't Believe in Atheists (2008) and Empire of Illusion (2009). He is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and has taught at Columbia University, New York University and Princeton University.

His latest book, Death of the Liberal Class, was mentioned by Walt in "What's wrong with Obama? The Economist tells us". Mr. Hedges's theme, in that book and the speech which follows, is that liberal institutions are to blame for the downward spiral of the American political system.

He was invited to give one of the Big Thinking lectures at Congress 2012, he argues that the liberal class — the press, universities, liberal religious institutions, labour unions and the Democratic Party — have forsaken their core values and sold out to corporate interests.

Mr. Hedges explains why and how "the Leviathan of liberalism" has become so omnipotent that it cannot be challenged by Walt or the Tea Party or anyone else who believes that the message of "hope and change" presented by Barack Hussein Obama (successfully) or Michael Ignatieff (unsuccessfully) was and is nothing but a sham and illusion.

Warning: This is a full-length lecture! The video runs four seconds over an hour and 12 minutes. Listen to it when you're doing something else, so you don't just sit in front of the screen twiddling your thumbs. You don't really have to watch it. Just listen... and listen well!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Progress in Afghanistan

Never let it be said that Walt is an incurable pessimist. If the human condition is improving, if the world is becoming a better place, Walt will be the first to say so. Even if the place in question is Afghanistan and the people Afghan Muslims.

So, following my post today on how NATO is going to buy its way out of Afghanistan, I think it only fair to report a small sign of progress. I have some Reuters video for you, showing the public execution, earlier this month, of an Afghan woman. This happened in a small village in the Parwan province, about an hour's drive from the capital Kabul.

The woman, only 22 years old, was reportedly killed after two local Taliban strongmen accused her of adultery. She was an adulteress, they said, because she had had some kind of "relationship" with both of their accusers. Polygamy is OK for Muslims, but polyandry isn't.

Warning: the video contains graphic content. In the video, you'll see an old man reciting verses from the Koran and declaring, "We cannot forgive her, God tells us to finish her. Juma Khan, her husband, has the right to kill her." The burqa-clad woman is then shot dead at point-blank range, while some 150 men cheer her death and shout, "God is great", and "Long live mujahideen" -- which is what the Taliban call themselves.

Afghan government officials have blamed the Taliban for the execution. When the Islamic fundamentalist movement was in power from 1996-2001, public executions of adulterers were common in Afghanistan. Apparently the Taliban didn't see the video, however, as they have denied being involved in the killing.

The woman's execution has sparked an international outcry. In Afghanistan, democractically-elected president Hamid Karzai has condemned the killing as "un-Islamic and inhuman", and ordered police to find the culprits and bring them to justice. Whether anything has actually been done is not clear at this writing.

How do we get out of Afghanistan?

Walt's been reading A Short History of World War I, by James L. Stokesbury. (Quill, New York, 1981) Dr. Stokesbury was a professor of history at Acadian University. Like many historians, he developed a realistic and therefore somewhat jaundiced view of human nature. Here's a quote from the beginning of Chapter 8 of his book.

It is a rare people -- or state -- who, caught in a bad war, can have either sufficient sense or sufficient control over events to get out of it. Wars are meant to be won, and government do not readily confess to mistakes, especially after they have killed several million of their citizens in the making of them. As soon as it became apparent to the belligerents that they were not going to achieve victory by late 1914, they began a frantic search for some magic ingredient that would solve their problems.

Although millions of Western civilians have not been killed in NATO's adventure in Afghanistan, several thousand NATO troops (and a few civilians) have come home in body bags, and support for the war in Canada, France, Britain and even the USA is at an all-time low. So now the frantic search has begun in earnest. Plus ça change...

Trouble is, the "magic ingredient" is proving just as hard to find as it was in 1914-18. New technologies, which hastened the end of World War I, aren't prevailing against the backward but deadly devices of the Taliban: IEDs and suicide bombers, for instance. Today a suicide bomber blew himself up in a wedding hall in northern Afghanistan, killing more than 20 people including a well-known commander.

The only good thing about that attack is that no NATO troops got killed, unlike last week when six American soldiers were killed in the volatile Wardak region. What killed them? An IED. Who killed them? The Taliban.

Yes, gentle reader, the Taliban is still fighting the infidels, and the assorted Afghan tribes are still fighting with each other. Those people live in that country, and they're not going away. Plus ça change.

Only we Westerners are going away. The French are leaving (early) at the end of the year. The Canadians, in typical Canuck fashion, have left... except for the 1000 or so that are still there enjoying Tim Horton's coffee and donuts while they train the so-called Afghan army to, errr, kill other Afghans. Or whoever happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The magic ingredient that is so sorely needed is an exit strategy. Faut de mieux, NATO has decided to buy its way out of the sandpit. A week ago, Afghanistan's "democratically elected president" Karzai took his rather large begging bowl to an international donors’ conference in Tokyo. He came away with a pisspot ["begging bowl", surely! Ed.] full of "conscience money": $16,000,000,000 in pledges to be exact.

In exchange for the 16 billion -- only a fraction of the billions that have already been spent on the futile invasion of one of the poorest and most backward "nations" on earth -- Krazai pledged, amont other things, to step up the fight against the corruption for which his country and the prez himself are famous.

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Roland Paris, director of the Centre for International Policy Studies at the University of Ottawa, says we would be wrong to place too much faith in Karzai's commitment.
There is virtually no chance that the Afghan government will tackle corruption – and everyone knows it. President Hamid Karzai has made similar commitments for years, yet not a single high-level official has been convicted for graft, in a country whose public sector ranks as the third-most corrupt in the world, according to Transparency International.

The hope seems to be that ongoing international financial support for the Afghan government -- plus continuing occupation by a few thousand US troops -- will be sufficient to avert a sweeping military victory by the Taliban, or a return to the civil war that raged in the 90s.

What do the Afghans think? By all accounts, the country’s major parties are rewinding their turbans and quietly rearming themselves in anticipation of a collapse of the Afghan government and a return to civil war, about 37 seconds after NATO forces and the main body of Americans leave.

Roland Paris, again. The message to Afghanistan’s parties and factions seems clear: “We will continue to support and subsidize the Afghan government for many years. There is no need to prepare for a possible collapse. Remain calm.” It’s not clear whether Afghans find this message adequately convincing.

For taxpayers in donor countries, it is an even tougher sell, particularly at a time of fiscal retrenchment. Why should we continue to provide billions of dollars to a regime and country where corruption is not just a problem but an integral part of the governing system? Our governments have difficulty answering this question truthfully. For them, losing enormous sums of money to graft may be an acceptable price to avoid an even costlier repetition of history.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Obamacare in a bottle

Agent 6 says this little poke at Al O'Bama came from Scotland, but Ed. noticed it has a tag linking it to the RedState website. Agent 6 adds that Da Prez's approval ratings are so low now that Kenyans are accusing him of being born in the United States!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Marathon sex makes me slimmer, sez humongous woman

Meet Pauline Potter, declared "World's Fattest Woman" by Guinness World Records last September. This is a screencap of a YouTube video, presumably shot with a wide-angle lens. At the time, Ms Potter was said to weigh 643 pounds, although how she was weighed is a mystery.

When her morbid obesity got to the point where her teenage son had to help her go to the bathroom, Ms Potter decided she needed help. So she reported herself to Guinness, hoping that a doctor or nutritionist would see her picture and help her. But relief came from an unexpected source -- her ex-husband Alex, whom she left three years earlier.

Alex says he couldn't resist Pauline after she packed on the pounds. And so, risking his own health and safety, Alex rekindled the relationship. "I hadn't had sex in three years," Pauline told the UK magazine Closer, "but we did it six times. He took charge as I couldn't move much, but he was so attentive."

The unexpected bonus turned out to be weight loss! "I can't move much in bed, but I burn 500 calories a session. It's great exercise just jiggling around," said Ms Potter. "I sweat off loads of calories. I call it 'sexercise'. I tell Alex he needs to visit more so he can help me shed the pounds quicker."

Alex (picture and weight unavailable) says he enjoys their romps in the bedroom, but adds that they do have to be careful. "When she got on top, I couldn't breathe," he said.

Please notice that Walt has avoided (for the most part) any number of fat jokes which came to his mind. Nor shall we enquire too closely into the mechanics of Ms Potter's new weight loss programme. Some things are better imagined than described.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

"Be my guest", says Obama to Egyptian Islamist leader

William "Montgomery" Burns, Deputy Secretary of State of the US of A, had a little facetime yesterday with Mohamed Mursi, newly (and democratically) elected president of Egypt. At the news conference which followed, Mr. Burns made the usual motherhood-and-apple-pie statements about improving relations with America's longtime friend, yada yada yada. No news there.

But hold on. Reuters reports that Burns omitted a small detail of his interview with the new leader. We are indebted to one of Mursi's aides, Yasser Ali, for letting us know that during their little talk, Mr. Burns conveyed to Mr. Mursi a personal invitation from none other than Barack Hussein Obama to visit the United States in September.

"Yes sir," said Yasser, "Washington is cultivating stronger ties with the Islamists. Yes sir..." Until recently the folks at Foggy Bottom had been wary of Islamists. And of course the USA was a strong supporter of former president Hosni Mubarak. But with the election of a (purported) American president, who may himself be a Muslim, the wind has shifted, and now the Islamists are America's friends. Right?

None more so than the Muslim Brotherhood, the group behind Mursi's win. Mursi formally resigned from the group when he won the presidency. Whether Obama is still a member is unknown.

So Mursi is coming in September, when he'll be in the neighbourhood to address the General Assembly of the Useless Nations. That an election campaign will be in full swing at that time is just a coincidence. Don't let his visit influence your vote.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Three years

Ed. here. Walt was so busy celebrating not just one but two national holidays that he didn't hear me when I mentioned that July 3rd was our third anniversary.

Imagine that! Whoda thunk we'd have made it through three years. That's pretty good, considering that the average life of a blog is about 20 posts. We've put up over 1200. Not all of them were gems, but there have been scores which provoked both thought and comment. And that's the whole point.

Happy birthday to us, then. Next year I'll bake a cake.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Direct line to Heaven

An American on vacation was inside a church in Orlando taking photographs when he noticed a golden telephone mounted on the wall with a sign that read '$10,000 per call'. Being intrigued, he asked a priest who was strolling by what the telephone was used for. The priest replied that it was a direct line to heaven and that for $10,000 you could talk to God. The man thanked the priest and went on his way.

Next stop was Atlanta. There, at a very large cathedral, he saw the same golden telephone with the same sign under it. He wondered if this was the same kind of telephone he saw in Orlando and he asked a nearby nun what its purpose was. She told him that it was a direct line to heaven and that for $10,000 he could talk to God. "O.K., thank you," said the American.

He then traveled to Indianapolis, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and New York. In every church, he saw the same golden telephone with the same '$10,000 per call' sign under it. The American decided to travel up to Canada to see if Canadians had the same phone.

When he arrived in Canada, again there was the same golden telephone, but this time the sign under it read '50 cents per call'. The American was surprised, so he asked the priest about the sign.

"Father, I've traveled all over America and I've seen this same golden telephone in many churches. I'm told that it is a direct line to heaven, but in the US the price was $10,000 per call. Why is it so cheap here?"

The priest smiled and answered, "You're in Canada now, son. It's a local call."

Thanks and a tip of the red and white bathing cap to Agent 2.

Archbishop Sheen a step closer to being beatified

Some good news (for a change) out of the Vatican. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen has been declared “venerable” and may now be beatified if a miracle is attributed to his intercession.

On June 28th, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints announced the new honour as one of a series of decrees regarding candidates for beatification and canonization. The Congregation's statement says that Archbishop Sheen, whose television preaching made him one of America’s best-known public figures in the 1960s, had lived a life of “heroic virtue” and thus qualified for the title “venerable”.

As reported here almost 18 months ago, progress towards Archbishop Sheen's beatification had been slowed by a conflict between the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Peoria, with each claiming responsibility for the cause. The Peoria diocese finally completed a dossier on the prelate’s life and submitted it to the Vatican last year.

Walt has searched YouTube and came up with a talk by Archbishop Sheen on a subject dear to my heart: the Church's condemnation of Communism and the Message of Our Lady of Fatima. Here's the first of three parts.

And here's Part II.

The last part of Archbishop Sheen's talk contains an excerpt from the MGM movie "The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima". If you haven't time to watch all three clips, this is the one you must see!

Archbishop Sheen was silenced by death. We can say that God was merciful to him, not allowing him to see how, in the wake of the "reforms" of Vatican II, the Church has not just forgotten about Fatima, but -- led by Cardinals Sodano and now Bertone -- has tried to suppress Our Lady's Message.

Is Benedict XVI himself part of the conspiracy? Is that the terrible secret Bertone is using to cling to power in the Vatican? Walt feels we are in the last times of which Our Lady spoke. She told us that in the end Her Immaculate Heart would prevail. We need to keep praying "So let it be."

Click here to see the complete MGM movie "The Miracle of Fatima" on YouTube. It's in colour, by the way; the only reason it's shown in black and white in the clip above is that Archbishop Sheen's TV show was in black and white.

Management shakeup coming at the Vatican?

On Wednesday Walt wondered "What has Cardinal Bertone got on Benedict XVI?". I was trying to decode the pope's public letter of support for his Secretary of State, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone. Perhaps, I thought, Bertone has something -- documents or worse -- which he's holding over the pontiff's head, to keep his (Bertone's) job and maintain himself as the eminence grise, the power behind the Throne of Peter.

The only thing wrong with that notion is that Bertone does not appear to have much control ovr the Roman curia, although he may like to think he does. The proof is that other powerful cardinals are now seen as conspirators against the prelate -- the mutineers on the barque of Peter, as Sandro Magister puts it in Chiesa today.

As for Benedict's letter, if I were an Italian, and the head of my family publicly thanked me for my loyal support and expressed his confidence in me, I would keep my eyes fully open so as not to step in any buckets of wet cement. Of course the pope is not Italian. Well, not fully Italian...

Sr Magister seems to think the concrete -- the whole nine yards of it -- is being mixed at Castel Gandolfo (the pope's summer residence) as we speak. In today's article he writes of "an absence of management, which has allowed the growth within the Roman curia of the hidden rebellion of some of its civil servants....The Vatican Secretariat of State [Cardinal Bertone, officer "in charge". Walt] which from the time of Paul VI forward has also been the main engine of the central government of the Church, is inevitably also the main culprit of this disorientation."

"Benedict XVI is so aware of this", the noted Vaticanista continues, "that, in order to bring order back to the Sacred Palaces, he has not called upon his prime minister, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, but for the consultation of a college of adepts among those farthest from him: to begin with, cardinals Ruini, Ouellet, Tomko, Pell, Tauran."

Sr Magister's conclusion? "For a change of management in the Vatican curia, the moves are already underway." Stay tuned.

Note from Ed.: Walt and I are aware that we have many non-Catholic readers who couldn't care less what goes on in the Vatican. And some Catholics who should care, don't. Allow us to comment on this subject occasionally for Father Bill and those who do care, and we'll devote equal or more space and outrage to secular issues.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

What has Cardinal Bertone got on Benedict XVI?

The Catholic Faith -- the traditional faith handed down to us through the Apostles and great doctors of the Church -- is full of mysteries. That's what the priest used to tell us when we asked a difficult question, like the nature of the Holy Trinity. "It's a mystery..." is what he'd say.

The Church Herself is full of mysteries too. One of them is why Pope Benedict XVI keeps Cardinal Bertone on as his Secretary of State in spite of Bertone's obvious incompetence, manifest apostasy, and the Vatileaks scandal swirling around him. It's like a president or prime minister retaining a cabinet minister who's been caught out once too often and should have fallen on his sword (in this case his crozier) ages ago.

Instead of building the gangplank off which the prelate might be expected to walk, the captain of the good ship Vatican has just confirmed Bertone's position as First Mate. On Wednesday, the Vatican released a letter from the Holy Father to the cardinal, in which he said: "I wish to express my profound appreciation for your discreet support and your enlightened counsel which I have found of particular help in recent months.... Having noted with regret the unjust criticism raised against you, I want to renew the expression of my personal faith in you... which remains constant."

This ringing endorsement comes following the arrest of Paolo Gabriele, the pope's butler, which climaxed ten terrible days in May, during which the head of the Vatican bank was also fired and a new book alleged cronyism and corruption in a Holy See riven by conflict between plotting cardinals. Vaticanistas can't figure out if Cardinal Bertone is the plotter or the plottee. Benedict's statement seems to suggest that the pope believes the latter.

Unless of course Bertone has some sort of inside knowledge which, if made public, could embarrass or even destroy Benedict's pontificate. For instance, that Benedict, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, not only colluded in but directed the conspiracy to bury forever the Third Secret of Fatima, widely believed to predict corruption and apostasy in the very highest places in the Vatican.

Church experts say the "Vatileaks", involving embarrassing details about officials Bertone has appointed or removed or projects he has promoted, suggested a concerted effort to force him out of his job. If he's made to go, he won't go alone, and he won't go quietly. At least, that's what Walt thinks, and that would explain the pope's unctuous expression of support.

Vaticanistas suggest a rival "diplomatic wing" including Bertone's predecessor, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, is involved in the plot against the secretary of state. Bertone likes to portray himself as a theologian and canon law expert, not a diplomat. He has been unpopular in some quarters for what is seen as an authoritarian style and his closeness to Italian politicians.

Meanwhile, Benedict relies on his secretary of state to run the daily business of the Vatican and its embassies abroad while he devotes much of his time to doctrinal issues and writing a three-book study of Jesus Christ. Sort of like the piano player in a brothel. "I don't know what goes on upstairs but I have the greatest confidence in the madam."

To all Walt's friends in the US of A: Happy Independence Day!

A big Wide World of Walt 4th of July greeting to all my friends and followers in the Excited States of America! "Excited" because Americans always seem to be all hyped up about something, even when the weather suggests a nice snooze in a hammock.

Walt has a little present for you Americans, a gift from your friends on the north side of the world's longest undefended border.

Walt sincerely regrets the graphic, knowing that soccer (or "football", as the foreigners call it) is not really an American game -- nor Canadian either. The singer, however, is the late, great Roger Doucet, who for years sang the national anthems at the old Montréal Forum. I have heard a lot of singers attempt the Star-Spangled Banner -- not an easy tune -- and fail. I have never heard anyone sing it better than M Doucet.

One last word. The USA is about four months away from a Very Important Election. When you vote, please don't forget the concept represented by that lady at the right of the picture. The USA is about nothing, if not LIBERTY. Don't give up any more of it!

PS - Click here to hear Roger Doucet sing both national anthems. In the video clip, which I think dates from 1976, you'll catch a glimpse of Walt's old friend, Don Cherry, behind the Boston Bruins' bench.

Are Nigerian scammers really that stupid?

Today Walt got an urgent e-mail from one "Kingsley Moghalu", whose e-mail address seems to belong to an Ellen Raez, but never mind. According to the "re" line, Kingsley wants me to "RESPOND VERY URGENTLY TO DEPUTY GOVERNOR CBN / OPEN THE ATTACHED AND READ‏". Walt didn't open the attachment, and neither should you, gentle reader. You know that, right?

Sometimes, though, you don't have to open an attachment. Right there in your in-box is a letter from a distraught widow, or a suffering orphan, or a conniving employee of a reputable international bank. (CBN = Central Bank of Nigeria, by the way. Yesterday I got one from the "Shanghai Bank Corporation", which must be the same as the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corp., of which I've heard.)

The letter -- one of many variations of "the Spanish prisoner letter", which is even older than Walt -- tells you the suffering orphan (or whoever) needs your help to access a fabulous sum of money which was (for instance) left to her by her late father (a trusted confidant of Moammar Gadhafi, or whoever) but which for some reason she needs to park in your bank account for awhile. For helping her, you will get a percentage of the fabulous sum.

Sounds too good to be true, right? And so it is. But you would be tipped off, wouldn't you, by the poor English, the dubious phone numbers (e.g. a cell phone for the office of the Bank of Scotland), and the obviously African names. How could anyone fall for this old con game? And why would the scammers be so stupid as to send out such obviously bogus e-mails? (They still come by snail-mail too, by the way.)

These questions have been puzzling Cormac Herley, one of Bill Gates's minions. In his paper "Why do Nigerian scammers say they are from Nigeria?", he argues that the scammers make their appeals so blatantly ludicrous to weed out smart people -- like Walt's readers -- who will not be so easily taken in. Anyone foolish enough to take these ludicrous letters at face value is thus the most promising mark for their scam. If they're stupid enough to believe this letter, they'll believe anything!

Another motive could be Nigeria's dreadful reputation for corruption. When a high official of the Central Bank of Nigeria tells you he's sitting on $30 million which was paid as a bribe to facilitate an illegal transaction, it seems quite plausible and you -- if you're greedy as well as stupid -- want to get the cut that is offered to you.

So... you and I know about the "419" and related scams, and won't be taken in. But 1000s of others aren't as smart as we are. Millions, perhaps billions of dollars are lost every year to these Nigerian (and non-Nigerian) fraudsters. Other than send the junk to your spam-box, is there something you can do? Eve Edelson says YES.

In Scamorama, a book based on her website of the same name, Ms Edelson suggests a little bit of public-spirited scam-baiting. That means playing the fraudsters' game, wasting their time and resources by pretending to be a potential victim. On the website and in the book, you'll find instructions on how to play along, and examples of hilarious correspondence between the would-be scammers and members of Eve's internet posse. It's a great site, worth having a look at even if you don't want to play.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Afghanistan: exemplar of the failure of post-colonial policy

In 2002, a Scottish lad by the name of Rory Stewart walked, west to east, across the centre of Afghanistan, from Herat to Kabul. Why anyone would do this, especially in the middle of a shooting war, is beyond me. Stewart himself seems to have lost the point of the exercise, as he admits towards the end of The Places in Between (Picador, 2004).

If it was poppies the lad was looking for, he was disappointed. All he saw was sand, rocks, snow and the occasional mud building. The book has pictures, in black and white, which rather surprised me until I read the author's description of the dun monochrome he looked at from dawn till dusk. No point in spending extra on four-colour printing for that.

It turns out Mr. Stewart is a historian or ethnologist or a bit of both. He wanted to follow the path taken in the 16th century by the great Babur (it means "tiger") a descendant of Timur the Lame, who succeeded in laying the basis for the Mughal dynasty in the Indian subcontinent and became the first Mughal emperor.

Of Babur's mighty works in Afghanistan, virtually nothing remains. Stewart didn't even see ruins. What he saw were ruins of ruins, such as what's left of the Bamiyan Buddha, a world heritage site dynamited by the Taliban just before Stewart got there. Something similar happened in Timbuktu (Mali) last week. No competing religions allowed in Muslim countries, you know.

All in all, The Places in Between is, like the journey it describes, tedious and depressing. I did, however, find a nugget, a footnote to the chapter headed "". I present it here for the stone truth the author tells about the failure of Western foreign aid -- indeed of Western foreign policy -- in places like Afghanistan, which is a metaphor for all of the Middle East and Africa. The words are Stewart's; the added emphasis is mine.

Without the time, imagination, and persistence needed to understand Afghans' diverse experiences, [Western] policy makers would find it impossible to change Afghan society in the way they wished to change it.

Critics have accused this new breed of administrators of neocolonialism. But in fact their approach is not that of a 19th century colonial officer. Colonial administrations may have been racist and exploitative, but they did at least work seriously at the business of understanding the people they were governing.

They recruited people prepared to spend their entire careers in dangerous provinces of a single nation. They invested in teaching administrators and military officers the local language. They established effective departments of state, trained a local elite, and continued the countless academic studies of their subjects through institutes and museums, royal geographical societies, and royal botanical gardens.

They balanced the local budget and generated fiscal revenue because if they didn't, their home government would rarely bail them out. If they failed to govern fairly, the population would mutiny.

Post-conflict experts have got the prestige without the effort or stigma of imperialism. Their implicit denial of the difference between cultures is the new mass brand of international intervention. Their policy fails but no one notices.

There are no credible monitoring bodies and there is no one to take formal responsibility. Individual officers are never in any one place and rarely in any one organization long enough to be adequately assessed. The colonial enterprise could be judged by the security or revenue it delivered, but neocolonialists have no such performance criteria. In fact, their very uselessness benefits them. By avoiding any serious action of judgment they, unlike their colonial predecessors, are able to escape accusations of racism, exploitation and oppression.

Perhaps it is because no one requires more than a charming illusion of action in the developing world. If the policy makers know little about the Afghans, the public knows even less, and few care about policy failure when the effects are felt only in Afghanistan.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Swaziland girls doing the reed dance -- VIDEO!

Walt has finally figured out why "Where next? Swaziland next?" has a perpetual lock on our "hit parade". It's not the text you're looking at, right? Could be the National Geographic-style picture of nubile Swazi maidens?

Never let it be said that Walt doesn't heed the wishes of 1000s of readers. [Have you considered that it might be just the one guy, looking at it 1000s of times? Ed.] Here is a three-minute video clip of the famous Swaziland reed dance. For anyone who cares, notes on the cultural aspects of the dance may be found below the video window.

Umhlanga, or the Reed Dance ceremony, is an annual Swazi and Zulu tradition held in August or September of each year. Tens of thousands of unmarried and childless Swazi/Zulu girls and women travel from their villages to participate in the eight-day event. In Swaziland they gather at the Queen Mother's royal village, which currently is Ludzidzini Royal Village, while Nongoma is the site of the royal reed dance in Kwazulu, a province of South Africa.

After arriving at the Queen Mother's royal residence, the women disperse to surrounding areas and cut tall reeds. The following night they bundle them together and bring them back to the Queen Mother to be used in repairing holes in the reed windscreen surrounding the royal village. After a day of rest and washing the women prepare their traditional costumes consisting of a bead necklace, rattling anklets made from cocoons, a sash, and skirt. Many of them carry the bush knife they used to cut the reeds as a symbol of their virginity.

Today's Reed Dance ceremony developed in the 1940s and 50s from the Umkwasho custom where young girls were placed in age regiments to ensure their virginity. The official purpose of the annual ceremony is to preserve the women's chastity, provide tribute labour for the Queen Mother, and produce solidarity among the women through working together.

The women sing and dance as they parade in front of the royal family as well as spectators, tourists and foreign dignitaries. After the parade, groups from select villages take to the centre of the field and put on a special performance for the crowd. The many daughters of King Mswati III also participate in the Umhlanga ceremony and are distinguished by the crown of red feathers in their hair.

The notes are by Alex Ohan, producer of an excellent slide show of the Reed Dance. With regard to the last two sentences, Walt presumes that the king's daughters are ineligble to be taken to wife. Although, Africa being Africa, and Mswati being Mswati, my presumption might bear further investigation.

To all Walt's Canuck friends: Happy Canada Day!

A big Wide World of Walt Canada Day greeting to all my friends and followers in the Great Not-so-white North! "Not-so-white" because it's summer, of course...

Last week a significant number of Canadians [3? Ed.] were asked what thing or image most represents Canada. The top four answers were:

4 - Hockey. Of course. Let other countries play wimpy games like soccer.
3 - "O Canada". Would have ranked higher if they could remember the words.
2 - The maple leaf flag. So cool that American travellers stitch it on their backpacks.
1 - The Canadian wilderness. Presumably the poll was not taken in Toronto.

Walt has a little present for you Canadians, in which the third and fourth items on the Canadian icon list are combined effectively by a former Canadian icon, Roger Doucet.

Nobody before or since sang "O Canada" like Roger. Hope he's learned the new words and is singing in heaven today.

Footnote: The bottom two entries in the survey referred to above were: second-last, Her Britannic Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II; dead last (but not dead yet) Justin Bieber.