Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Off Again

I am traveling for the next two weeks or so. There will be little or no blogging during this time.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Texas Supreme Court Rules In Favor of Break-Away Episcopal Diocese

The Texas Supreme Court today issued a decision in the long-running property dispute between the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and its former parent body.  (See prior related posting.) In 2007 and 2008, the Diocese withdrew from The Episcopal Church (TEC) and affiliated with the more conservative Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.  In Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth v. The Episcopal Church, (TX Sup. Ct., May 22, 2020), the court held:

Applying neutral principles to the undisputed facts, we hold that (1) resolution of this property dispute does not require consideration of an ecclesiastical question, (2) under the governing documents, the withdrawing faction is the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, and (3) the trial court properly granted summary judgment in the withdrawing faction’s favor....
Explaining its holding, the court said in part:
At bottom, the disagreement centers on what effect the majority’s disassociation vote had on the Fort Worth Diocese’s identity specifically, whether the majority faction constitutes the continuation of that entity or whether the majority left as individuals and became something else. ...
In sum, TEC’s determinations as to which faction is the true diocese loyal to the church and which congregants are in good standing are ecclesiastical determinations to which the courts must defer. But applying neutral principles to the organizational documents, the question of property ownership is not entwined with or settled by those determinations. The Fort Worth Diocese’s identity depends on what its documents say. To that end, the Diocesan Constitution and Canons provided who could make amendments and under what circumstances; none of those circumstances incorporate or rely on an ecclesiastical determination by the national church; and nothing in the diocese’s or national church’s documents precluded amendments rescinding an accession to or affiliation with TEC. Applying neutral principles of law, we hold that the majority faction is the Fort Worth Diocese and parishes and missions in union with that faction hold equitable title to the disputed property under the Diocesan Trust.
The court went on to also reject TEC's claim that the Diocese's property was held in trust for TEC.

From Religion Clause.

Woo hoo! Not a lot of good news lately. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Q Anon

If you were an adherent, no one would be able to tell. You would look like any other American. You could be a mother, picking leftovers off your toddler’s plate. You could be the young man in headphones across the street. You could be a bookkeeper, a dentist, a grandmother icing cupcakes in her kitchen. You may well have an affiliation with an evangelical church. But you are hard to identify just from the way you look—which is good, because someday soon dark forces may try to track you down. You understand this sounds crazy, but you don’t care. You know that a small group of manipulators, operating in the shadows, pull the planet’s strings. You know that they are powerful enough to abuse children without fear of retribution. You know that the mainstream media are their handmaidens, in partnership with Hillary Clinton and the secretive denizens of the deep state. You know that only Donald Trump stands between you and a damned and ravaged world. You see plague and pestilence sweeping the planet, and understand that they are part of the plan. You know that a clash between good and evil cannot be avoided, and you yearn for the Great Awakening that is coming. And so you must be on guard at all times. You must shield your ears from the scorn of the ignorant. You must find those who are like you. And you must be prepared to fight.

You know all this because you believe in Q...

The latest bat $%^& crazy conspiracy theory to be embraced by the lunatic fringe is the Q Anon.


cf: Rod Dreher 

HT: Dr. Tighe

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The civil war on the left

The progressive magazine The Nation published an open letter last month in which former members of the radical 1960s organization Students for a Democratic Society pleaded with a younger generation of leftists to support Joe Biden for president. The letter, titled “To the New New Left From the Old New Left,” warned that the re-election of President Trump would jeopardize “the very existence of American democracy.”

The signatories expressed fear that some supporters of Bernie Sanders, including members of the Democratic Socialists of America, would “refuse to support” Mr. Biden because they consider him “a representative of Wall Street Capital” — and therefore, in essential respects, not fundamentally better than Mr. Trump.

The letter was fair and sensible in its reasoning and right-minded in its conclusion. Given that the difference of a few thousand votes in states such as Michigan and Wisconsin might allow Mr. Trump to win a second term, a quixotic display of socialist principle in the 2020 election could have disastrous repercussions for the nation and the world.

Unfortunately, the letter’s fears were well-founded. The Democratic Socialists of America had already declined to back Mr. Biden. It has been joined in that refusal by Jacobin magazine, an influential publication among young leftists.

Read the rest here.

Friday, May 08, 2020

Ray Dalio: The Changing Value of Money

This is neither light reading nor short so I am not going to do more than link it for those interested in history, economics and monetary policy.

Read it here.

My own take is that long term Dalio's points are solid. But in the near term I am not worried about inflation and currency debasement. All evidence suggests we are in the early stages of what could turn into the first real deflationary depression in the last hundred years. But yes, long term the astronomical levels of debt coupled with unrestrained money printing is going to become a problem. 

How bad is unemployment really?

Detailed discussion at the NYT...

Bottom line; the 14.7% number is certainly low. The real number for April is close to 20%. That does not include what has happened in May and there are anticipated corrections for the first quarter coming as well. So unemployment is at its highest level since 1940 when it was hovering around 20% until FDR and Congress reinstated the military draft in October. John Williams over at Shadow Stats puts unemployment for April at 19.5%. My SWAG (scientific wild ass guess) is that we will probably hit bottom around mid summer with unemployment at >25%. Due to the ripple effects of mass unemployment and the need for continued social distancing likely to last well into 2021 I am not seeing much that supports Wall Street's expectation for a V shaped recovery. One can never be sure about the future, but part of my definition for a depression is unemployment of 20% or higher, with sustained unemployment above 15% for at least two years. At this point, I think that is more likely than not.

On a sad note one of my favorite chain restaurants, Sweet Tomatos, won't be reopening. Add another 4000+ to the ranks of the unemployed. We will be seeing a lot more of this.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Unanimous Supreme Court rebukes 9th Circuit on immigration law

The Supreme Court is often divided on ideological lines on hot-button issues, and tends to write unanimously when dealing with procedural questions where a lower court just went off the rails. So, when the Court takes a unanimous stand in a case involving a controversial political issue and goes out of its way to dress down the lower-court judges, you know they really went overboard. That’s what happened this morning in an immigration case, United States v. Sineneng-Smith. Justice Ginsburg herself delivered the lecture to the Ninth Circuit to knock off the antics and stick to the cases before it.

The Sineneng-Smith case involved an immigration consultant who made $3.3 million from clients (mostly Philippine immigrants) by filing applications for lawful permanent residence when she knew they were not legally entitled to that status. There were two potential victims here: the immigrants, if they paid for something they were never going to receive, or the government, if it approved illegal applications. Sieneneng-Smith tried to make herself more sympathetic by arguing that she was only scamming the immigration system: She “argued that labor-certification applications were often approved despite expiration of the statutory dispensation, and that an approved application, when submitted as part of a petition for adjustment of status, would place her clients in line should Congress reactivate the dispensation.” Neither of these was an argument that her clients had any legal leg to stand on, just hope that they might get away with it.

Sineneng-Smith argued that she had a First Amendment right to file bogus applications, under the Petition and Free Speech Clauses. When her appeal reached the Ninth Circuit, however, it landed before notorious liberal activist judge Stephen Reinhardt (who died after the case was argued, and has since been the subject of other controversies), on a three-judge panel with two Clinton appointees, judges Marsha Berzon and Wallace Tashima. Instead of hearing the arguments Sineneng-Smith made against her conviction, the judges thought up their own argument — that the federal statute against “encourag[ing] or induc[ing] an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law” is itself overbroad and should be thrown out in its entirety.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Lusitania leaving New York for the last time

Original film footage shot at the Cunard pier on May 1, 1915. See also this post for background on the ship and numerous images of the liner.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Breaking: US Treasurey to sell $3 trillion in bonds by July

The Treasury Department plans to borrow $2.99 trillion from April through June to cover the federal government’s massive response to the coronavirus pandemic, issuing a tremendous level of debt to try and limit the economic impact on U.S. businesses and workers.

Last year, Treasury borrowed $1.28 trillion over 12 months. The $3 trillion in borrowing Treasury plans to do now would be done over just three months.

Congress has approved nearly $3 trillion in new spending in the past two months to try and arrest the economic fallout of the crisis. Because revenue levels are falling, Treasury is planning to issue large amounts of debt to cover these costs.

Read the updates here.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

The dangerous liberal ideas for censorship in the United States

Almost everywhere you turn today, politicians are telling the public to “get used to the new normal” after the pandemic. For some people, this means public health precautions from social distancing to banning handshakes. Others have quickly added long standing dreams for everything from the guaranteed basic income advocated by Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, which was also recently raised by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to mailed voting elections advocated by many Democrats.

The most chilling suggestion, however, comes from the politicians and academics who have called for the censorship of social media and the internet. The only thing spreading faster than the coronavirus has been censorship and the loud calls for greater restrictions on free speech. The Atlantic published an article last week by Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith and University of Arizona law professor Andrew Keane Woods calling for Chinese style censorship of the internet.

They declared that “in the great debate of the past two decades about freedom versus control of the network, China was largely right and the United States was largely wrong” and “significant monitoring and speech control are inevitable components of a mature and flourishing internet, and governments must play a large role in these practices to ensure that the internet is compatible with society norms and values.”

The justification for that is the danger of “fake news” about coronavirus risks and cures. Yet this is only the latest rationalization for rolling back free speech rights. For years, Democratic leaders in Congress called for censorship of “fake news” on social media sites. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have all engaged in increasing levels of censorship and have a well known reputation for targeting conservative speech.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Trump is in trouble

A sampling of recent polls...

Florida: Biden +3
Pennsylvania: Biden +6
Michigan: Biden +8
North Carolina: Biden +5
Minnesota: No polling data within last 30 days. Last poll Biden +12
Arizona: Biden +9
Wisconsin: No polling data within last 30 days. Last poll Biden +3
Texas: Two polls released within 72hrs of each other First Biden +1 / Second tie.
New Hampshire: Biden +8
Utah: Trump +19
New York: Biden +36
New Jersey: Biden +16
Indiana: Trump +13
Virginia: Biden +10
Ohio: No polling data within last 30 days. Last poll Biden +4

All polls cited are most recently available and unless otherwise indicated, are within the last 30 days. Generally polls with margins greater than 5% are considered outside the margin of error.

Brett Stephens on Joe Biden and the Shifting Standards of the Left

Regarding Tara Reade’s allegation that she was sexually assaulted by Joe Biden in 1993, and what the allegation could mean for Democrats this fall, some stock phrases come to mind. Hoisted on their own petard. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Be careful what you wish for.

Above all: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Let’s not start with the Brett Kavanaugh precedent. Or with the vindictive excesses of the #MeToo movement, typified by the Aziz Ansari story, the “Shitty Media Men List” and Al Franken’s resignation from the Senate. Go back further than Juanita Broaddrick’s appearance, like Banquo’s ghost, at the second debate in 2016, which did so much to blunt the Clinton campaign’s case about Donald Trump’s moral unfitness for office.

Rewind instead to 2011, when then-Vice President Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced a new policy of “comprehensive guidance” on matters of sexual violence and harassment for any school, college or university receiving federal aid. The guidance, issued in the form of a “Dear Colleague” letter, demanded that campus administrators use a “preponderance of evidence” standard — also known as “50 percent plus a feather” — to adjudicate accusations of sexual assault.

As with so many such policies, the intentions were irreproachable. To take a zero-tolerance attitude toward every form of sexual abuse. To transform the way that women thought of their experiences of abuse and of their rights. To teach men to think much harder about their behavior and their responsibilities. As Biden put it in a 2015 speech, “We need a fundamental change in our culture. And the quickest way to change culture is to change it on campuses of America.”

But if the goal was laudable, the means frequently were not. It’s one thing to use a “preponderance of evidence” standard in a civil case. It’s another when there’s a 50 percent minus a feather chance that an innocent person might have his (and occasionally her) reputation destroyed and life wrecked by a dubious accusation.

Within a few years there were at least hundreds of such cases. Accused students, sometimes facing charges based on ambiguous sexual encounters, were left to fend for themselves in campus tribunals with little regard for due process. Guilty verdicts in these kangaroo courts tended to run high, but so did stories of financial settlements between schools and the families of the accused.

Read the rest here.

(Note: I had previously posted this with links from the Times in the text. Unfortunately, for reasons beyond my 1980's technical knowledge, the html seems to have wiped out the blog's sidebar. So if you want to read the whole thing with the original links embedded, just click above.)