Monday, October 18, 2021

San Francisco to New York in 1852

For those with an interest in life in the land of long ago; there is a remarkable journal of a trip from the city of San Francisco to New York fully twenty years before the completion of the trans-continental railroad. The voyage takes the gentleman on a primitive steamship down the coast of California to the Isthmus of Panama, thence overland to the Caribbean side and then up to New York with various stops and adventures along the way. The story begins about halfway down column four on page six of the New York Tribune here. To be honest, I found the entire paper to be a fascinating glimpse into a world now long gone, right down to the advertisements and the pouting about the results of the recent election. 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Civil Asset Forfeiture is legalized theft

It's been a while since I've posted on this subject.

A pair of New Mexico businessmen were driving along Interstate 40 in Oklahoma late one night in April when a sheriff’s deputy flipped on his lights and sirens and pulled over their BMW sedan.

The two men, Nang Thai and Weichuan Liu, were on their way to a hotel in Oklahoma City. They planned to catch some sleep before heading out in the morning to close on a 10-acre plot of farmland they’d agreed to buy for $100,000.

But now, at about 2 a.m. on April 19, a Canadian County sheriff’s deputy was peering into their car.

“We didn’t understand why he pulled us over,” said Thai, 51, a Vietnamese immigrant and father of two from Albuquerque. “I was driving under the speed limit.”

They had no way of knowing at the time but Thai and Liu were about to begin an hourslong ordeal that would leave them stripped of all their cash and searching for answers. Their experience highlights the controversial law enforcement practice known as civil asset forfeiture, in which police can confiscate a person’s cash or other property even without bringing criminal charges.

The deputy asked the two men for their licenses, where they were going and whether they were carrying any money, according to Thai.

They had a large amount of cash in the vehicle: more than $100,000, which Thai says they brought to pay for the property. Thai — who speaks English with a heavy accent (Liu speaks very little English at all) — told the officer they were headed to a hotel and, yes, had cash on them.

The deputy said he suspected they were involved in “illegal activity,” according to Thai. A criminal background search would have turned up a 2017 conviction against Liu for growing marijuana in California.

After a second officer arrived at the scene, the men were driven to a police station and interrogated for hours. Deputies emptied a backpack and suitcase full of cash, then pulled apart the inside of the BMW but apparently turned up no guns, drugs or any other illicit items.

Thai said he told his interrogators they had saved up the money for years and were planning to use the land for farming but hadn’t yet determined which crops to raise.

“They kept saying, ‘This is illegal money,’” Thai said. “I said, ‘Okay, prove it. We didn't do anything illegal.’”

The two men were released without being charged or even issued a traffic ticket, but the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office did not return their cash. Court papers filed by District Attorney Michael Fields say the money was seized because it was intended to be used to violate drug laws or resulted from illegal drug transactions.

The men are now fighting to get it back. Adding insult to injury, they contend that the amount the sheriff’s office says it confiscated – $131,500 – is actually $10,000 short of the total they had in their car that day.

“Now I have to prove I’m innocent, and they are the ones who illegally took my money and basically stole some of my money, too,” said Thai.

Read the rest here.

In Sicily some Catholic bishops are saying 'no' to the Godfather

...That weekend in October, the Roman Catholic diocese of Catania enacted a three-year ban on the ancient tradition of naming godparents at baptisms and christenings. Church officials argue that the once-essential figure in a child’s Catholic education has lost all spiritual significance. Instead, they say, it has become a networking opportunity for families looking to improve their fortunes, secure endowments of gold necklaces and make advantageous connections, sometimes with local power brokers who have dozens of godchildren.

God parenting, church officials said, had fallen to earth as a secular custom between relatives or neighbors — many deficient in faith or living in sin, and was now a mere method of strengthening family ties.

And sometimes mob ties, too.

Italian prosecutors have tracked baptisms to map out how underworld bosses spread influence, and mob widows in court have saved their most poisonous spite for “the real Judases” who betray the baptismal bond. It is a transgression most associated with, well, “The Godfather,” especially the baptism scene when Michael Corleone renounces Satan in church as his henchmen whack all of his enemies.

But church officials warn that secularization more than anything led them to rub out the godparents, a Sicilian thing that’s been going on for 2,000 years, or at least since the church’s dicey first days, when sponsors known to bishops vouched for converts to prevent pagan infiltration.

“It’s an experiment,” said Msgr. Salvatore Genchi, the vicar general of Catania, as he held a copy of the ban in his office behind the city’s basilica. A godfather to at least 15 godchildren, the monsignor said he was well qualified for the role, but he estimated that 99 percent of the diocese’s godparents were not.

Read the rest here.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Pro-Life British MP is Assassinated

Sir David Amess, a staunchly pro-life member of the UK parliament has died after being repeatedly stabbed at a routine meeting with constituents. Sir David was a Tory with more than 30 years of service in the House of Commons. In addition to his firm opposition to abortion, he also was a euro-skeptic and supporter of Brexit, a supporter of the reintroduction of capital punishment and a fierce opponent of cruelty to animals. As of this post there has been no indication of the motive behind the attack beyond a statement from the police that a man has been arrested on suspicion of murder. Sir David is survived by his wife and five children. He has been described as a devout Roman Catholic.

Memory eternal.

Update: The police are now confirming this was a terrorist act.

Saturday, October 09, 2021

David Shor Is Telling Democrats What They Don’t Want to Hear

This is a longish and somewhat wonky piece, but well worth the read. In a nut shell one of the left's more clever pollsters and data analysts is cautioning that the Democratic Party is alienating moderates and some working class of all ethnic backgrounds in ways that could spell long term disaster for their party. Almost as fascinating as the article is the comments section (now closed). I had no idea there were that many moderate Democrats and a lot of them have apparently been waiting for someone to give them a voice. Some of these folks are hopping mad. There are people claiming to have never voted for a Republican and who are saying they would vote for Liz Cheney over a Bernie Sanders/AOC bot in the next presidential election. 

Nicea II and Papal Supremacy

Monday, October 04, 2021

100 Years Ago

The first true "subway series" is set when the Yankees win the AL pennant beating the Athletics. They will play the National League champion New York Giants in a best of nine games series.  Because the Yankees do not yet have their own stadium, all games will be played at the Giants home field, the Polo Grounds. 

Story here.

Things money can and can't buy

Can buy: A seat for a 90 year old former television star on a rocket ship going into orbit. 

Can't buy: Common sense.

Friday, October 01, 2021

Alex Jones Held Liable for Defamation

Probably the best news I've read in weeks. Alex Jones, the serial liar who falsely claimed the Sandy Hook massacre was staged and who when challenged by the understandably distraught relatives of victims, sicced his lunatic followers on them even to the point of death threats, has been found guilty by default for defamation and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. Jones and his legal team have been repeatedly sanctioned for their "vexatious and generally bad faith response" to court orders and routine procedures related to legal discovery. On at least one previous occasion he was held in contempt of court. Jones will now face a jury trial to determine what damages are owed. FWIW I am not a fan of our hyper-litigious society, but there are times when recourse to the courts is justified. And this is one of them. Jones is a thoroughly despicable individual who inhabits the fringes \where extremist politics and conspiracy theories intersect with a long history of spreading the most outrageous lies. And when called out, his customary defense is claiming that he is just an entertainer. I sincerely hope that when the jury hands down its damages that Alex Jones is left walking out of that courthouse in his boxer shorts. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Washington Post: In the heart of Latin America, large numbers of indigenous people are converting to Orthodox Christianity

When the clergy and seminarians of the St. Andrew’s Seminary in Aguacate, Guatemala, roll into town they have their work cut out for them. 

“On day one, we did the liturgy, 10 baptisms, and seven chrismations,” explained the Fr. Thomas Manuel, an Orthodox Christian priest. “Then the next day, we did another visit, we had nine confessions, the Divine Liturgy, four chrismations, three weddings and a baptism.”

The men’s workload is their own doing. Established only a decade ago in a country traditionally dominantly Roman Catholic, Guatemala’s Orthodox Christian community is so successful that its few clergy are in a constant state of being overwhelmed...

...Estimates of how many converts there are vary widely. Claims that the community numbers more than 100,000 seem exaggerated: The last time the Eastern Orthodox Church saw a mass conversion on such a scale, it was the pagan Slavs of Kievan Rus, a precursor to the Russian Empire in the 9th century. Manuel is far more conservative, putting the total between 10,000 to 15,000 at most.

What’s inarguable is that in the last decade, Orthodox Christian communities have popped up in some 120 villages across northern Guatemala and southern Mexico. The largest is in Aguacate, where the seminary is located, with about 1,000 members. Most churches draw closer to 100.

“It’s still a pretty staggering number of people,” said Manuel, a U.S.-trained missionary who relocated to Guatemala with his family to help build the community into a self-sufficient parish of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Even if you put it at 8,000, or 10,000, you know, that’s still a huge population of people that go from one tradition to another overnight.”

There are only five native priests to serve the community, including their vicar, Fr. Evangelios Pata, but Manuel is hard at work training more. 

Read the rest here.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Insanity on Trial

A documentary on the assassination of James Garfield and subsequent trial of his assassin, Charles Guiteau.

Friday, September 24, 2021

China: All crypto-currency related activities are illegal

China’s central bank renewed its tough talk on bitcoin Friday, calling all digital currency activities illegal and vowing to crack down on the market.

In a Q&A posted to its website, the People’s Bank of China said services offering trading, order matching, token issuance and derivatives for virtual currencies are strictly prohibited. Overseas crypto exchanges providing services in mainland China are also illegal, the PBOC said.

“Overseas virtual currency exchanges that use the internet to offer services to domestic residents is also considered illegal financial activity,” the PBOC said, according to a CNBC translation of the comments. Workers of foreign crypto exchanges will be investigated, it added.

The PBOC said it has also improved its systems to step up monitoring of crypto-related transactions and root out speculative investing.

Read the rest here.

I'm not generally a fan of China these days but to borrow a well worn cliché, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And they are right about this. On a related note; Bitcoin and the other major cryptos are all getting hammered.   

Thursday, September 23, 2021

The 'Quad' is on the rise in Asia-Pacific: Game theory has a prediction about its future

China remade itself into a giant economy, and more and more it enjoys the giant benefits that go with it: national confidence, diplomatic clout and military power.

Other big powers are paying attention. As China has shown new swagger in its dealings with the world, four big democracies — Australia, India, Japan and the United States — have formed a counterbalance.

The future of that "Quad" has tremendous significance, not just in the Indo-Pacific, but everywhere. Decision-makers, risk managers, investors, CEOs, and regular citizens increasingly are aware of rising stakes in a new, global balance of power.

The leaders of the world's biggest economies want to know what's next for the Quad.
A very complex computer algorithm may have delivered the answer.

Read the rest here. (longish read)

Donald Trump is suing his niece and the NY Times

The former president's niece, Mary Trump, had a ton of Trump's private and confidential financial records including tax returns. She got them during another lawsuit, one she filed against her uncle from whom she is estranged, alleging he defrauded her of rightful inheritance following the death of her father Fred Trump Jr. She later passed much of that to the New York Times which published a damning analysis of Trump's financial dealings and elaborate schemes at tax avoidance, and arguably tax evasion. It is pretty common knowledge that Donald Trump is a one man full employment program for  lawyers. And it is also well known that he uses lawsuits and the threat of suits to browbeat his enemies. His deep pockets means he can often cow critics and those with whom he has had business dealings that went bad by the simple fact that he can throw money away on lawyers and lengthy litigation, even if frivolous or patently designed to intimidate, that his opponents can't. And he has been very successful using these kinds of bare knuckled tactics in the past.

But, according to the below linked legal analysis, Trump may actually have a case against his niece, although it is unlikely the Times is in any legal jeopardy. 


Inflation: Team transitory is getting nervous

All year the Federal Reserve’s message on inflation has been consistent: This year’s surge is transitory, and inflation will soon return close to the central bank’s 2% target.

Yet look more closely, and it is clear officials are turning less sanguine—and that explains growing eagerness to start raising interest rates.

Last September, long before the supply bottlenecks emerged, the median forecast by Fed officials was for core inflation (which excludes food and energy) in 2022 of 1.8%. Every few months since then they have nudged that up, and in the forecasts released Wednesday they see core inflation next year at 2.3%.

While current-year forecasts get pushed around a lot by temporary factors such as a jump in oil prices, the next-year forecast reflects where inflation is expected to settle once temporary factors recede. The message from the Fed’s latest projections is that “transitory” is lasting an awfully long time. Indeed, next year’s projected 2.3% is the highest next-year core inflation forecast since projections were first published in 2007, according to Derek Tang of Monetary Policy Analytics.

This might explain why the Fed is accelerating plans to raise interest rates. The Fed is now buying $120 billion a month in bonds and wants that to fall to zero before it starts to raise rates. On Wednesday, the Fed signaled it would likely start tapering those bond purchases in November, which means the process would be over by mid-2022, clearing the way for a rate increase. Half of Fed officials think rates will start rising by late next year. Just last March, a majority of officials didn’t see that happening until 2024.

What changed? It isn’t because the economic outlook is stronger. In fact, officials now see slower growth and higher unemployment than they did in March. Chairman Jerome Powell explained that some officials simply wanted more confidence the expected recovery would materialize. But inflation risks clearly play a part.

Read the rest here.

Friday, September 17, 2021

France recalls its ambassador as anger with Biden grows

PARIS (AP) — France said late Friday it was immediately recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after Australia scrapped a big French conventional submarine purchase in favor of nuclear subs built with U.S. technology.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a written statement that the French decision, on request from President Emmanuel Macron, “is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements” made by Australia and the United States.

He said Wednesday’s announcement of Australia’s submarine deal with the U.S. is “unacceptable behavior between allies and partners.”

Earlier Friday, a top French diplomat spoke of a “crisis” in relations with the U.S.

The diplomat, who spoke anonymously in line with customary government practice, said that for Paris “this is a strategic question concerning the very nature of the relationship between Europe and the United States about the Indo-Pacific strategy.”

He would not speculate on the effects the situation would have on France’s relationship with the U.S. “There’s a crisis,” he stressed.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

If Francis can abolish the ancient liturgical rites of the West; why can't (or wouldn't) he do the same to the East?

I am not going to excerpt this piece but rather encourage reading it in its entirety here. The implications of the pope's recent decree that comes dangerously close to the outright suppression of the Latin Church's 1500 year old liturgical patrimony, are breathtaking. Setting aside the obvious lack of prudence in Francis' decree, the suggestion that it is even within the legitimate powers of his office to do such a thing, should bring any talk of restoration of communion with Rome to a screeching halt. 

HT: Blog reader John L. 

P.S. This comment received via email... 

I'm surprised that Geoffrey Hull, the author of "The Banished Heart," hadn't gone full Byzantine - his entire thesis is that Rome had destroyed or mutilated every one of the liturgies of its non-Latin "sui iuris" churches long before Vatican II and the 1970 "reforms".

Monday, September 13, 2021

Noted Apostate John Shelby Spong has Died

Kyrie eleison.

Vigil for the Exaltation of the Precious Cross

The Coronation of Pope John XXIII

Rare film footage from RAI of the coronation of Pope John XXIII, the second to last pope to observe the thousand year old custom. Appx 2 hrs 45 mins with naration in Italian.

Didn't I see this in a movie?

Ten thousand years after woolly mammoths vanished from the face of the Earth, scientists are embarking on an ambitious project to bring the beasts back to the Arctic tundra.

The prospect of recreating mammoths and returning them to the wild has been discussed – seriously at times – for more than a decade, but on Monday researchers announced fresh funding they believe could make their dream a reality.

The boost comes in the form of $15m (£11m) raised by the bioscience and genetics company Colossal, co-founded by Ben Lamm, a tech and software entrepreneur, and George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School who has pioneered new approaches to gene editing.

The scientists have set their initial sights on creating an elephant-mammoth hybrid by making embryos in the laboratory that carry mammoth DNA. The starting point for the project involves taking skin cells from Asian elephants, which are threatened with extinction, and reprogramming them into more versatile stem cells that carry mammoth DNA. The particular genes that are responsible for mammoth hair, insulating fat layers and other cold climate adaptions are identified by comparing mammoth genomes extracted from animals recovered from the permafrost with those from the related Asian elephants.

These embryos would then be carried to term in a surrogate mother or potentially in an artificial womb. If all goes to plan – and the hurdles are far from trivial – the researchers hope to have their first set of calves in six years.

“Our goal is to make a cold-resistant elephant, but it is going to look and behave like a mammoth. Not because we are trying to trick anybody, but because we want something that is functionally equivalent to the mammoth, that will enjoy its time at -40C, and do all the things that elephants and mammoths do, in particular knocking down trees,” Church told the Guardian.

Read the rest here.