Thursday, December 31, 2020

Wall Street Traders Lose $38 Billion Betting Against Tesla

Short sellers lost $38bn (£28bn) betting against Tesla in 2020, higher losses than those triggered by any other company.

Tesla’s 730pc rise in its share price during 2020 caused the significant loss for short sellers. Apple caused the second-biggest loss of just under $7bn, according to the data from S3 Partners.

The $38bn loss for short sellers “is not only the largest mark-to-market loss for any stock this year, it is the largest yearly mark-to-market loss I have ever seen,” Ihor Dusaniwsky, a managing director at S3 Partners, told Bloomberg.

Vocal short sellers have for years published claims that Tesla is overvalued but have seen sizeable losses in 2020 as Tesla’s market cap has increased throughout the year.

Jim Chanos, the founder of hedge fund Kynikos Associates has reduced the size of his short position against Tesla and said in December that the position has been “painful” over the previous 12 months.

Tesla’s share price rise has been driven by five consecutive quarters of profit which led to the company’s inclusion in the S&P 500 index in December. Shares in the business rose 33pc after S&P announced the addition of Tesla to the index.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, has publicly mocked short sellers who targeted his company by selling what he referred to as red “short shorts” featuring the Tesla logo.

Read the rest here

Favoring index funds, I don't do much speculative investing. And FWIW I have long though Tesla is overpriced, and I still do. But if I may steal a great line from the HBO series Rome, "This man is protected by powerful gods and it would be a cold day in the hot stinky bad place before I short sell any business of his." 

Biden expected to take a harder line with Turkey

Tensions between the U.S. and Turkey have been mounting for a while.  

But under outgoing President Donald Trump, many of the potential flashpoints between the NATO allies were smoothed over thanks to a friendly relationship between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  

Looking ahead to a Joe Biden administration, there’s a chance that some of those tensions could blow up — but there is also chance for reconciliation. Whatever happens, the next four years for Turkey and its relationship with Washington are likely to look very different from the last four.   

“The only thing holding the relationship together for the last several years has been Trump’s personal relationship with Erdogan,” Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told CNBC. “With Trump removed, Erdogan should be very, very worried.“

That’s because there is no shortage of conflict points between Ankara and Washington; points that reveal contrasting attitudes toward geopolitics, alliances and governance.

Read the rest here.


Like probably 99% of the world I will not be sorry to put this annus horribilis in the rear view mirror. Here's hoping for a better 2021.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

China Stepping Up Pressure on Catholics in Hong Kong

Nuns have been arrested and the clergy have mostly been silenced. The bishop of Hong Kong has ordered his priests to avoid any controversial language in their sermons. 


Saturday, December 26, 2020

Review: A Christmas Carol (2019 BBC)

Yesterday I finally got a chance to watch the BBC's 2019 three part adaptation of the Dickens classic which I had been wanting to do for sometime. In particular I wanted to see if the generally chilly reception it got in the UK was justified. And I have to say it was not. If anything, the generally unenthusiastic reviews fall well short of the truth. 

This is easily and by far the worst adaptation of the many that I've seen over the years. It wasn't just bad. It was dreadful. 

There is almost nothing positive I can say of the miniseries, and that is fairly unusual for me. It was not uplifting. There is no redemption. It bears only a superficial resemblance to Dickens' tale of a miser redeemed, the connection to Christmas being somewhat tangential and with wholesale and very grim departures from the original. This was little more than a social justice warrior attack on capitalism under disguise as a Victorian period horror show. It's so bad (and vulgar) that parents should not allow their children to watch it. 

The one and only positive thing I can note of it was the performance by Guy Pearce in the lead role which I thought was credible, given the material he had to work with. But that really is about it. I can't even tell you to watch it for yourself if you don't believe me. It's so long that if I wasn't gripped by the sheer awfulness, and my desire to write a review, I would have never ventured past the first episode. 

My bottom line is that this was a political act of cultural vandalism, bordering on violence, against one of the great literary classics of all time, and it is to be avoided. If you can't think of a better use for your time, I suggest counting the blades of grass on your front lawn. 

For those seeking better adaptations, my top three recommendations are the 1984 George C Scott, the 1951 Allistair Sim, and the 1970 Albert Finney (musical) versions. All of which were available on YouTube the last time I looked.  

New York City Real Estate in 2020

A very good and detailed analysis of the NYC real estate market over the last year can be found here. The executive summary is that with a few exceptions, it was ugly. Manhattan was the worst hit with the rental market seeing average rent drops by percentages rivaling those of the Great Depression. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Japan plans to phase out gasoline cars

TOKYO—Japan said it planned to stop the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by the mid-2030s, bucking criticism by Toyota Motor Corp.’s chief that a rapid shift to electric vehicles could cripple the car industry.

The plan released Friday followed similar moves by the state of California and major European nations, but it has faced resistance from auto executives in a country that still makes millions of cars annually that run solely on gasoline engines.

Japan would still permit the sale of hybrid gas-electric cars after 2035 under the plan. Many models from Japan’s top car makers—Toyota, Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. —come in both traditional and hybrid versions.

Earlier this month, Toyota President Akio Toyoda said that if Japan banned gasoline-powered cars and moved to electric vehicles too hastily, “the current business model of the car industry is going to collapse.” He was speaking on behalf of Japanese auto makers in his role as head of a local industry association.

Mr. Toyoda said the electricity grid couldn’t handle extra summer demand and observed that most of Japan’s electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels.

Government officials said car makers needed to revise their business models. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pointed to a different portion of Mr. Toyoda’s comments in which the Toyota chief said he backed the government’s goal of making Japan carbon-neutral by 2050. Reducing carbon emissions “should be tackled as a strategy for growth, not as a limitation on growth,” Mr. Suga said.

Read the rest here.

Hierarchical Divine Liturgy for the Nativity

Christ is born!


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Vigil for the Feast of the Nativity

December 23, 1953

Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria, aka the Red Himmler, was shot following a brief show trial where he and six other defendants were convicted of various charges, some obviously trumped up. But his many very real crimes place him in the ranks of the most depraved monsters in history. His six codefendants were shot immediately but Beria was killed separately. Allegedly he died on his knees pleading for mercy not unlike many of his victims. His body was supposedly cremated and the ashes scattered in secret. 

Beria's fall from power represented the last Stalinesque purge where those being booted from office or power were generally liquidated. Stalin had died earlier in the year and Beria was the first casualty of the succession power struggle.  Thereafter actual executions in Kremlin coups and purges became rather rare. But Beria was almost universally loathed and feared by the other members of the Politburo, and with good reason. Even by Communist standards, it would be hard to name a more twisted and thoroughly evil man. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Non-Commuting 'Remote' Workers and Taxes

Ok; you live in tax friendly New Hampshire, but commute to work in Boston, which is in a very tax unfriendly state. Massachusetts generally taxes all income derived from within their state. In fairness, they are not alone here. It's a fairly common practice. But along comes Covid 19 and suddenly your employer orders you and around 90% of the other employees to work from home, in your case that being New Hampshire. So who do you owe taxes to? Massachusetts says you still owe them the money because that's where your employer is based. New Hampshire begs to differ. 

Enter at least eleven states and the United States Supreme Court.


The Greatest Miscalculation of the Post-Cold War Era: How the US Misread China's Xi

BEIJING—In the two years before Xi Jinping became China’s leader in 2012, U.S. officials tried to size him up through a series of face-to-face meetings.

During talks in China in 2011, Mr. Xi, then vice president, asked about civilian control of the U.S. military, shared his thoughts on uprisings in the Middle East and spoke, unprompted, about his father, a renowned revolutionary. When he visited the U.S. in 2012, he was relaxed and affable, chatting with students and posing for pictures with Magic Johnson at a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game.

The U.S. officials’ conclusion: Although Mr. Xi was far more confident and forthright than Hu Jintao, the stiff and scripted leader he would succeed, he likely shared his commitment to stable ties with Washington and closer integration with the U.S-led global order. Some even hoped Mr. Xi would kick-start stalled economic reforms.

It was one of the biggest strategic miscalculations of the post-Cold War era.

In the eight subsequent years, Mr. Xi has pursued an expansive, hypernationalistic vision of China’s future, displaying a desire for control and a talent for political maneuvering. Drawing comparisons to Mao Zedong, he has crushed critics and potential rivals, revitalized the Communist Party and even scrapped presidential term limits so he can, if he chooses, rule for life.

Promising a “China Dream” of national renewal, he has mobilized China’s military to enforce territorial claims, forced up to a million Chinese Muslims into internment camps and curbed political freedoms in Hong Kong.

Now, with Covid-19 under control in China but still widespread across the U.S., he is promoting his self-styled, tech-enhanced update of Marxism as a superior alternative to free-market democracy—a “China solution” to global problems.

“It was clear he was not going to be a second Hu Jintao,” said Danny Russel, who as a senior Obama administration official attended several meetings with Mr. Xi, including in 2011 and 2012. “What I underestimated about Xi Jinping was his tolerance for risk.”

Mr. Xi’s swift reversal of more than three decades of apparent movement toward collective leadership and a less intrusive party has surprised both U.S. officials and much of the Chinese elite. In hindsight, though, the roots of his approach are visible in key episodes of his life.

They include his father’s purge from the top party leadership, his teenage years in a Chinese village, his induction into the military and his exposure to nationalist and “new left” undercurrents in the party elite.

Mr. Xi’s autocratic turn also was catalyzed by a 2012 political scandal that upset the balance of power among the party elite and emboldened advocates of stronger, centralized leadership. It gave Mr. Xi the justification he needed to sideline rivals, rebuild the party and revamp its ideology.

Read the rest here.

Friday, December 18, 2020

House Democrats Snub AOC

House Democrats sent a clear message to their far left colleague Alexandra Ocasio Cortez by snubbing her in a bid for a seat on one of the more coveted committee assignments. Speaker Pelosi effectively filled four of five openings on the Energy and Commerce Committee and then named two candidates for the fifth spot leaving it up to the House Democratic Policy and Steering Committee to decide between the two. AOC was one and the other was fellow NY Congresswoman Kathleen Rice. The vote was 46-13.  AOC has a record of strained relations with the leadership and the more centrist elements of her party, frequently criticizing them and backing primary challenges against moderate Democrats. More than a few Democrats have been dropping hints and anonymously sourced comments that the caucus was getting tired of her antics.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

UK: 'Freedom of speech includes right to offend'

Two judges have struck a blow to enemies of free speech after ruling people should have the right to offend and even abuse each other without facing a police investigation.

Presiding over a Court of Appeal case concerning the misgendering of a trans woman on Twitter, Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Warby ruled that “free speech encompasses the right to offend, and indeed to abuse another”, adding: “Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having”.  

They said it would be a “serious interference” with the right of free speech if “those wishing to express their own views could be silenced by, or threatened with, proceedings for harassment based on subjective claims by individuals that felt offended or insulted”.

The judgment could have far-reaching implications for officers seeking to bring charges over people’s opinions - a move that has seen them branded the “thought police” by campaigners for free speech.

Read the rest here

A Weird Story from the Russian Church

This reads a bit like a hit piece and it must be born in mind that only one version of events is being presented. But clearly something with scandalous tones went down in the Russian Orthodox Church. Setting aside the more salacious aspects of the story, the ROC appointed someone as a bishop who should not have been. 

In general married priests who end up divorced are not allowed to remain in active ministry. That said, I have heard of instances where bishops have exercised oikonomia and allowed it, especially if it was clear that the priest was entirely innocent. But I have never until now heard of a divorced priest being raised to the episcopacy. 


Who is likely to benefit from a warming planet?

One surprising answer might be Russia.

Story here.

The Cult of Christian Trumpism

Well worth the read.

via Rod Dreher

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Michigan Rep. Paul Mitchell quits GOP over party’s refusal to accept Trump loss to Biden


The man was already retiring so I'm not super impressed with this as an act of political courage. But I will give him points for his public statement of principles. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

China is looking to subdue Taiwan

TAIPEI – Months after eliminating a popular challenge to its rule in Hong Kong, China is turning to an even higher-stakes target: self-governing Taiwan. The island has been bracing for conflict with China for decades, and in some respects, that battle has now begun.

It’s not the final, titanic clash that Taiwan has long feared, with Chinese troops storming the beaches. Instead, the People’s Liberation Army, China’s two-million-strong military, has launched a form of “gray zone” warfare. In this irregular type of conflict, which stops short of an actual shooting war, the aim is to subdue the foe through exhaustion.

Beijing is conducting waves of threatening forays from the air while ratcheting up existing pressure tactics to erode Taiwan’s will to resist, say current and former senior Taiwanese and U.S. military officers. The flights, they say, complement amphibious landing exercises, naval patrols, cyber attacks and diplomatic isolation.

The risk of conflict is now at its highest level in decades. PLA aircraft are flying menacingly towards airspace around Taiwan almost daily, sometimes launching multiple sorties on the same day. Since mid-September, Chinese warplanes have flown more than 100 of these missions, according to a Reuters compilation of flight data drawn from official statements by Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense. The data shows that in periods when political tension across the Taiwan Strait peaks, China sends more aircraft, including some of its most potent fighters and bombers.

These encroachment tactics are “super effective,” Admiral Lee Hsi-ming, who until last year was the commander of the Taiwanese military, told Reuters in an interview. “You say it’s your garden, but it turns out that it is your neighbor who’s hanging out in the garden all the time. With that action, they are making a statement that it’s their garden - and that garden is one step away from your house.”

Under President Xi Jinping, China has accelerated the development of forces the PLA would need one day to conquer the island of 23 million - a mission that is the country’s top military priority, according to Chinese and Western analysts. With Hong Kong and the restive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang under ever-tighter control, Taiwan is the last remaining obstacle to the Communist Party’s monopoly on power. In a major speech early last year, Xi said that Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a Chinese province, “must be, will be” unified with China. He set no deadline but would not rule out the use of force.

There has been a “clear shift” this year in Beijing’s posture, a senior Taiwanese security official responsible for intelligence on China told Reuters. Chinese military and government agencies have switched from decades of “theoretical talk” about taking Taiwan by force to debating and working on plans for possible military action, the official said.

Read the rest here.

This is an excellent piece that gives a detailed discussion of the very real threat China poses to Taiwan and the ability of Taiwan to resist an armed attack. I am somewhat worried that the complete non-response from the international community to China's brutal subjugation of Hong Kong, it's invasion and continued occupation of Tibet, the wholesale repression of ethnic Uyghurs in Xianjian including mass incarceration in what can only be described as concentration camps, and China's creation of fortified artificial islands in the international waters of the South China Sea, can only be reinforcing Xi's belief that the international community is incapable of any meaningful coordinated response to China's ongoing outrages. 

And it must be said plainly that the military occupation by Bejing of Taiwan would be a strategic calamity both for the entire region and the United States. It would give China a base of operations capable of threatening all of the independent states in the region, including Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand as well as the capacity for the Chinese Navy to project itself into the broad reaches of the Pacific. 

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Routine Updating


I am in the process of reviewing the sidebar and verifying all of the various links as well as adding a few new ones. Frankly this has been overdue for sometime, probably years. In the course of this I have already found a large number of dead links which, with sadness, I am removing. Also any linked blogs that have not been posted to in more than a year are likely to go away unless there is material there that I deem so good that it should remain linked. In those cases the link will likely be moved to the section for abandoned blogs. I hope to have this process finished in the next couple of days. 

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Russian Orthodox Church warns against DIY exorcisms

The Russian Orthodox Church has warned worshippers against performing exorcisms at home, saying that casting out demons should be left to members of the clergy.

Metropolitan Hilarion, who heads the church’s Department of External Relations, made the comments in reaction to a viral video showing parents attempting to expel a demon from their 10-year-old son with holy water and garlic in the Volgograd region. In the video, the parents can be seen taking turns trying to restrain the screaming boy and pushing his face into the couch.

“If questions arise as to whether demons should be driven out of this or that person, first of all, you need to turn to the priests. Any [personal] initiative in this is completely unacceptable,” Metropolitan Ilarion said during a news program on the state-run Rossia 24 broadcaster Saturday.

The state-run RIA Novosti news agency cited the abbess of the local monastery in the Volgograd region as saying that the 10-year-old in the exorcism video was “a normal, healthy boy who was ready to make contact, talk with a priest and confess.”

Metropolitan Hilarion condemned "the blatant discrepancy between the actions of these parents and the teachings and practice of the Church."

The Russian Orthodox Church strictly prohibits performing any type of exorcism on children and mental health disorders should never be confused with demonic possession, he said. 

Proper exorcisms usually performed by a priest only after being granted a special blessing from a bishop. During the ritual, a priest reads special prayers for casting out the demons, Metropolitan Ilarion explained.

At least two people have died as a result of exorcisms in Russia since 2011.


That this needs to be actually said is alarming. Nobody should be studying or have anything to do with demonology or exorcism unless they have been given a blessing from the competent church authority. And those blessings are rarely given for good reasons, and then only to persons who have a legitimate need and who are known to be spiritually mature. For anyone else, dabbling in this field is the spiritual equivalent to playing with a loaded gun.

Monday, December 07, 2020

Pearl Harbor

Part 1 of a ten part series (all of which are linked) covering the attack on Pearl Harbor including the background, and a near minute by minute as it happened examination of the actual attack. The people who are behind this have been doing a whole series of videos on historical events including their weekly episodes of World War II in real time, of which this is a part. It's been going on for a little over two years now. The narrator also did a four year long as it happened weekly history on the First World War for the centenary. Their stuff is high quality and may be of interest to any history enthusiasts out there.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Metropolitan Hrizostom (Jević) is hospitalized

The acting primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church has been hospitalized with Covid 19. Metropolitan Hrizostom assumed the position following the death of Patriarch Irenej on November 20.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Calexit continues

Elon Musk has told friends and associates he plans to move to Texas.

On a personal note, I left California five years ago. Since then two of my friends have also left.

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Still trying to make satire redundant

San Francisco (who else?) has banned smoking by private citizens in their own homes (apartments). However, they did write in an exception... for weed. Yep. You can be fined $1000 for lighting up in your own home, unless it's a joint. 

From here.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

The latest from Trump World

  • The FBI and Department of Justice have found no evidence supporting President Trump's lies about supposed electoral fraud. This according to Trump's own Attorney General. 
  • A senior election official in Georgia has called out Trump's rhetoric for creating a situation that could lead to violence.
  • Trump has discussed granting his lawyer Rudy Giuliani a pardon. For what? No one is saying.
  • Trump has also apparently begun discussing pardons for his family. For what? No one is saying. But seriously; who didn't see this coming? [He is going to pardon himself as well before he leaves office.]
  • The Justice Department is reportedly investigating a scheme to secure a presidential pardon for an unnamed Federal prison inmate via bribery. News sources are quick to note that details are thin and the DOJ is refusing to name names for now. President Trump's name was not visible in any of the heavily redacted court documents that are the basis for the reports. 
  • Multiple sources in the White House are stating that President Trump will not concede the election under any circumstances. He will not call the president elect or invite him to the White House and he will refuse to attend the inauguration. Instead, Trump plans to announce his candidacy for the 2024 election and hold his first campaign rally on inauguration day. 
Note: In Burdick v United States (1915) it was ruled that the granting and acceptance of a pardon constitutes a de-facto admission of having committed one or more crimes. The only generally recognized exception being in cases of gross miscarriage of justice where a person having been convicted in a court of law of a crime is later found to have been in fact innocent.