Friday, July 30, 2021

Latin to be more widely taught in UK

Latin teaching is to be rolled out in state schools as the Department for Education launches a drive to ensure the subject is not "reserved for the privileged few".

A new £4 million Latin Excellence Programme will see thousands of state school pupils in deprived parts of the country offered lessons in the ancient language.

Latin is taught in just 2.7 per cent of state secondary schools, compared to 49 per cent of private schools, according to the British Council's latest report on language trends. 

Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, said: "We know Latin has a reputation as an elitist subject which is only reserved for the privileged few. But the subject can bring so many benefits to young people, so I want to put an end to that divide.

"There should be no difference in what pupils learn at state schools and independent schools, which is why we have a relentless focus on raising school standards and ensuring all pupils study a broad, ambitious curriculum."

Officials at the DfE believe Latin can help pupils learn modern foreign languages such as French, which has been in steep decline at state schools over the past decade. They also think it will benefit students more generally by broadening their horizons and could lead to improvements in subjects such as English and maths.

From next September, 40 state schools in England will be selected to take part in a four-year pilot of the programme, aimed at boosting uptake of Latin at GCSE. Staff at each school will be trained and given classroom resources to assist them in teaching Latin to children aged 11 to 16.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Theodore McCarrick is charged with sexual abuse

Theodore E. McCarrick, the former Roman Catholic cardinal expelled by Pope Francis after the church found him guilty of sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians over decades, was criminally charged on Wednesday with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy in 1974.

The criminal complaint makes Mr. McCarrick the highest-ranking Catholic official in the United States to face criminal charges in the sexual abuse crisis that has plagued the church for decades.

Mr. McCarrick, 91, the former archbishop of Washington, was charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person age 14 or over. He is expected to appear in Dedham District Court in Massachusetts for arraignment on Sept. 3.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

A Non-Catholic Defends Eucharistic Discipline

If you don’t agree with or abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church, you aren’t Catholic. Clinging to the label when the substance is gone is like cherishing wrapping paper after discarding the gift. 

Read the rest here.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Pope Francis Restricts Use of Traditional Roman Rite (Tridentine Mass)

Pope Francis has issued a motu proprio, "Traditionis Custodes," which effectively abrogates Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum," by which the former pope had  liberated the ancient rite of the Latin Church. The new decree imposes sweeping restrictions on the use of the older liturgical rite and grants local bishops the authority to refuse to any priest the right to celebrate mass according to the old form. All priests must now secure permission to do so including those who have already been using the missal. For priests ordained after the publication of the new motu proprio (that is after today) permission to use the older rite is now reserved to the Apostolic See. 

There is no possible interpretation of this document that does not lead one to conclude it is meant as an attack on conservative Catholics and the sensus fidelium of the Roman Catholic Church as it existed for its first 1900 years or so. That a pope would attempt to effectively suppress the heart of the liturgical patrimony of the Western Church, is quite simply scandalous. What was sacred for most of two millennia is now suspect, and those attached to it are clearly not quite right.

There is no charity or love in this. Only calculated cruelty.

ANAXIOS!

The full test of the motu proprio and the accompanying letter may be found here.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Miami's hot condo market just got very complicated

MIAMI – The tragic collapse of a residential tower spooked South Florida homebuyers and real estate investors alike into reassessing the risk of buying in the Miami-area condo market.

The market had been booming before Covid. Then it soared even higher as the work-from-anywhere culture took hold. But then in late June, scores of people were crushed to death in the Champlain Towers South collapse in Surfside.

Now, the market is focused on engineering inspection reports from older towers, which are required by the state to get recertified every 40 years. Insurers are also under scrutiny, as they hold the keys to new purchases in the market.

“No one in their right mind is going to buy a condo built before 2000 unless they have a safety certificate for the structure of the building, and it doesn’t exist today,” said Peter Zalewski, a South Florida condominium expert, consultant and analyst.

The Miami area has long been a tale of two condominium markets: those built before and after the year 2000, when strict new building codes born of damage from Hurricane Andrew went into effect. Now, after the tower disaster, the divide is suddenly even wider.

“Zoning was upgraded to the point where Miami Dade County zoning is probably some of the toughest in the state or the country, and as a result of that we were able to build again,” said Zalewski. “The thing is people weren’t aware of it prior to Champlain. Now, everybody knows about it, so there’ll be a great divide.”

While condo boards are rushing to send letters of assurance to owners, Zalewski said potential buyers cannot see inspection reports.

“No condo I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been here since 1993, has ever openly shared that information. There is a lack of transparency in the condo market here, by design, it is a sell-side market,” he said. “The condo association might put out the information right now. How did they find these engineers and why haven’t they shared them previously?”

Read the rest here.

I don't think this should be looked at as a purely Florida situation. Anyone looking at buying a condo, anywhere, should exercise their due diligence. Three things to look at for older buildings are the most recent structural integrity survey and how old it is, the current level of cash reserves held by the HOA to cover not just routine but also major repair expenses, and the annual HOA fees. In particular if the seller is unable or unwilling to provide the actual structural inspection report, or if there has not been one within a reasonable period of time, then I'd walk away. In Florida condo associations are not typically required to provide that to prospective buyers and in the past have rarely done so. I don't think that is going to fly anymore. 

Polish Courts Defy European Union Sparking Speculation Over Its Future

Poland's membership of the EU was plunged into uncertainty on Wednesday after its judges defied a European court order to reverse some of its controversial judicial reforms.

Stanisław Piotrowicz, a senior Polish judge, said that interim measures by the EU’s highest court, which ordered Warsaw to suspend the reforms, were “not in line” with the Polish constitution.

The defiant ruling is the first of two verdicts due to be issued this week by Polish judges which appear to question a fundamental requirement of EU membership: that EU law takes precedence over national laws.

The ruling prompted Guy Verhofstadt, a prominent MEP and former chief Brexit coordinator, to warn that Poland’s eurosceptic government was trying to drag the country out of the bloc.

“Against the wishes of the vast majority of Polish people who want an EU future, the populist governing PiS [Law and Justice] party is determined to take Poland out of the EU,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Will anyone act to stop them before it is too late?” he added, and claimed that the rule of law in Poland was breaking down.  

The Polish ruling came after the European Court of Justice [ECJ] issued an interim order for Warsaw to suspend its “disciplinary chamber” of the Supreme Court, which was part of measures to overhaul the Polish legal system.

Under the Polish reforms, which came into effect in February 2020, the disciplinary chamber has powers to strip judges of immunity and cut their salaries. The reforms also prevent judges from referring certain points of law to the ECJ.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, a right-wing populist and eurosceptic movement, has clashed with Brussels for years over the hugely contentious reforms.

Read the rest here. (paywall)

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

BITCOIN ‘Black Swan’ author Nassim Taleb says bitcoin is worth zero and fails as a currency and a hedge

Nassim Nicholas Taleb has reversed his stance on bitcoin.

The author of “The Black Swan” said in a recent paper that the largest cryptocurrency by market cap has failed to satisfy the notions of it as a currency without government, as a hedge against inflation and as a safe haven investment.

“Few assets in financial history have been more fragile than bitcoin,” he said.

Taleb had previously spoken more favorably on bitcoin, particularly on its potential to help people circumvent capital controls in markets that rely on them to manage their exchange rates. He called it “the first organic currency” in the foreword of “The Bitcoin Standard” in 2018 and “an insurance policy” against government control over currency.

In his recent paper, “Bitcoin, Currencies, and Fragility,” published in late June, Taleb, a probability researcher and former longtime quantitative trader, says bitcoin is worth “exactly zero” partly because it requires a sustained amount of interest to maintain it.

By contrast, “gold and other precious metals are largely maintenance free, do not degrade over an historical horizon, and do not require maintenance to refresh their physical properties over time,” he said.

Read the rest here.

Beating one of my favorite dead horses.

Monday, July 12, 2021

New York's Gilded Age Glory


A look back at some of the lost Gilded Age architecture of New York's upper east side.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

The case against indexing

To critics of the $11 trillion passive boom, active management is the original form of ethical investing — and time is running out to save it from the indexing onslaught.

“On a societal basis, it’s potentially disastrous,” says Michael Green, chief strategist at Simplify Asset Management, referring to the passive frenzy. “There’s an impending crisis that requires people to make changes.”

Fifty years since the first fund was created to mimic the moves of an entire market, naysayers fear the industry is now so big it threatens the capitalist social order.

Yes, it lowered costs, brought investing to the masses and improved returns for many. But the dark side according to the critics: It’s funneling money to undeserving businesses, distorting price discovery and intensifying volatility.

“Markets are ultimately not about funding someone else’s retirement but instead about allocating capital efficiently within an economy and creating the signals that encourage investment in the better companies,” says Green.

Read More: ‘Anarchist’ Mac McQuown Started an Index Revolution 50 Years Ago

His fears over the demise of stock picking are shared by a vocal contingent in full knowledge they’re likely fighting a losing battle.

Inigo Fraser Jenkins, head of global quantitative strategy at Sanford C. Bernstein, once declared passive investing to be worse than Marxism. Michael Burry of “The Big Short” fame tweeted that “passive investing’s IQ drain” is fueling a stock bubble. Yves Choueifaty, a Frenchman known for his $10 billion “anti-benchmark” strategies, once called it “completely toxic.”

Read the rest here.

FTR I'm not buying it. Whatever downsides there may be to indexing are completely outweighed by its advantages.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Use of Latin is severely limited in St. Peter's Basilica

VATICAN CITY, June 30, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — The Vatican has moved to ban Latin, the traditional language of the Catholic Church, from the celebration of most Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The traditional blog MessainLatino.it broke the news and posted a picture of a note sent by Msgr. Franco Camaldo, who wrote on behalf of the Cardinal Archpriest of the Vatican, Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, O.F.M., who was appointed by Pope Francis earlier this year.

Camaldo wrote that the new rules coming into force are the result of the June 9 Vatican Chapter meeting and were based on what was “proposed” at the meeting, combined with “mature reflection.”

As of June 29, wrote Camaldo, the Eucharistic celebrations would follow the procedure already in use in “papal celebrations.” That is to say Mass would be celebrated only in “Italian,” with the readings and prayers of the faithful permitted to be said in “various modern languages.”

Latin would only be permitted in the “fixed parts” of the Mass, the “Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Pater and Agnus.”

The new rules will apply to the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, as well, as the note states that such recitation “may also be celebrated in Italian,” although keeping the Gregorian melody. Some Latin will be retained, but only for the “Hymn, Antiphon, Benedictus, Magnificat and Pater.”

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Vacation

I am currently on vacation with the family and am trying to limit my time online. Please bear with me if responses to emails and/or comment approval takes a little longer than normal. 

Russian Orthodox Church Opposes Abortion in All Circumstances

Human life has an absolute value and rape is not grounds for abortion. That’s according to the Russian Orthodox Church, which revealed that the institution’s official stance is that termination of pregnancy can never be justified.
Speaking to TV channel Russia 24, Metropolitan Hilarion, the Moscow Patriarchate’s official spokesman, said the circumstances of conception are not a good reason to terminate a pregnancy.

“The church’s opinion is that even if a girl gets pregnant as a result of rape, this is not a reason to have an abortion,” he said.

The Metropolitan also claimed that clergymen have experience working with rape victims who decided to keep a child, and “the child subsequently brought them happiness.”

“An unborn baby is still already a baby. It is a person. It is a living being. Every such person has the right to be born,” he said.

The Orthodox Church has long been opposed to abortion and has even supported proposals to include abortions in mortality statistics. It has also suggested granting human rights to embryos.

The leader of the Russian Church, Patriarch Kirill, once compared abortion to the death penalty, urging women who are not ready to raise children to turn them over to the church instead.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The NY Times asks why police are quitting in droves (really)

Just the latest sign that the left is starting to worry about the effects, political and otherwise, of the harsh anti-police rhetoric emanating from their more strident members. With rising crime and civil disorder there are increasing fears of a backlash at the polls against Democrats. 

Read it here.

Rudy Giuliani is suspended from practicing law

Rudy Giuliani has been suspended with immediate effect from the practice of law in New York State for making false and misleading statements about the general election while representing then President Donald Trump. 

Read the court order here

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Seven Greek Orthodox bishops injured in acid attack by priest

Seven bishops from the Greek Orthodox Church have been hurt in an acid attack by a priest undergoing a disciplinary hearing in Athens, police said.

Three of the bishops were still in hospital following the attack late on Wednesday, while a police officer who was at the scene was also being treated, police added. Local media in Greece reported that those attacked had suffered burns, mostly on their faces.

The suspect, a priest who risked being expelled from the church, was accused of being involved in drug trafficking, according to the ANA press agency.

Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the president of Greece, condemned the attack, while Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the prime minister, spoke to the head of the Greek church, Ieronymos II, the archbishop of Athens.

Mitsotakis said he was deeply sad and assured the bishop that the state would “offer all possible medical assistance for the victims’ speedy recovery”.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Supreme Court Backs Catholic Foster Care Agency in Gay Rights Case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously sided with a Catholic foster care agency that says its religious views prevent it from working with same-sex couples as foster parents. The justices said the city of Philadelphia wrongly limited its relationship with the group as a result of the agency’s policy.

Philadelphia violated the Constitution in limiting its work with the agency, Catholic Social Services, the court said.

“The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

Roberts said that the group “seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else.”

Catholic Social Services is affiliated with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Read the rest here.

FTR I fully expected the court to back the Catholic Church. I did not expect the decision to be unanimous. It may be worth noting that there have been quite a few unanimous, or nearly so, decisions coming out of the court of late. I suspect the justices may be sending a subtle message to those talkig about court packing. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Two Cheers For The New Navalism

At the end of the 19th century, the United States was gripped by a sudden enthusiasm for sea power. The immediate impetus was literary in nature—in one of the most massively influential works of military strategy ever published, American naval officer Alfred Thayer Mahan developed a view of history which linked the fortunes of states to their command of the seas. Applied to his own country—then in what Mahan considered “a period of commercial and naval decadence”—this theory suggested the United States needed to seriously build up its maritime power, or risk losing out to rivals who did. His calls were taken seriously by “navalist” statesmen like Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge, who eagerly set about turning what had been a moldering collection of Civil War relics into one of the world’s premier battlefleets. 

Fast forward to 2021, and a similar anxiety about the state of America’s navy is playing out among a growing coterie of legislators, national security officials, and defense commentators. Like their turn-of-the-century forebears, today’s navalists see maritime dominance as critical to national power, and worry the country is being outclassed by its competitors. They note with alarm China’s rapidly expanding naval capabilities: Last year, Beijing acquired, in terms of sheer numbers, the largest fleet on the planet, even as the U.S. plans to cut its own shipbuilding budget. The geographic arena of Sino-American competition is also adduced to bolster the case; clearly ships, submarines, and naval aircraft will play a more important role in the Western Pacific than tanks and infantry. 

For adherents of this view, the obvious prescription is to boost investment in maritime capabilities—and that is exactly what they have been pushing for. Some have advocated for diverting money from other areas. “You can’t get to where you need to be if you just continue to cut the pie one-third, one-third, one-third,” the chair of the House Seapower Subcommittee argued earlier this year, “the Navy’s share of resources have to grow.” Others have been blunter:  “We need more money” was the message the Chief of Naval Operations offered in January. All agree, as a recent cover piece for National Review put it, that the demands of great power competition mean “America must become a sea power again.”

Although skeptics will understandably wince at the invocation of what is already a hoary national security cliché, an explicitly navalist strategy does have considerable attractions. China, despite the frequent exaggerations of some foreign policy circles, is still America’s number one geopolitical challenge. It is the only country which even approaches peer status, and the only serious alternative hegemon on offer. So, if the U.S. is going to maintain a serious military, it makes sense to tool it for an actual threat, rather than the counter-insurgency phantoms the Pentagon has chased for the last two decades. This is especially true when one considers the importance of commercial sea lanes, which—since they account for 80 percent of global trade—Washington is interested in keeping open and safe.

Moreover, prioritizing the Navy at the expense of other services can act as a check on strategic adventurism. For a country like the United States, which lacks serious threats from its neighbors, strong ground forces are almost inherently expeditionary; their very existence, in addition to being rather expensive, can create a strong temptation to use. A powerful navy, on the other hand, can serve a more naturally defensive purpose, guarding potential avenues of attack and patrolling commercial sea lanes without posing an overtly offensive threat (although of course there are exceptions to this general rule—recall the recent use of submarines in launching missile strikes against Syria). It is for this reason that enthusiasts for what is now termed “foreign policy restraint” have long held navalist sympathies: “From Cromwell to Cobden,” as one 19th century newspaper proclaimed, “good radicals have ever insisted on an all-powerful navy.” 

Read the rest here.

Hungary bans the promotion of homosexuality in schools- effects seen as far reaching

Viktor Orbán stepped up his war on LGBT rights on Tuesday as Hungary’s parliament passed legislation banning the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

Mr Orbán's government claimed that the latest in a string of anti-gay measures was aimed at protecting children and fighting paedophilia.

The bill outlaws LGBT people from featuring in educational material or TV shows for the under-18s. It means that films featuring gay character or seen as promoting homosexuality could only be shown at night with an 18-plus certificate.

Movies that could be affected include Bridget Jones's Diary, the Harry Potter films and Billy Elliot, broadcaster RTL Klub Hungary said.

Companies would also be forbidden from running adverts showing support for the LGBT community if the commercials are thought to target under-18s. More than 5,000 people protested outside Hungary’s parliament as it passed the amendments.

Read the rest here.

Monday, June 14, 2021

The liberal argument against NATO

Read it here.

I have had decidedly mixed views of NATO post Cold War and the author makes some solid points here. But it is also dangerous to think that history stopped in 1991 and that NATO is the bad guy in the world today. Both China and Russia represent serious threats to their neighbors and the broader international community. Contrary to shop worn clichés, history rarely repeats itself. But it does contain warnings. Allowing bullies to push people around indefinitely usually ends badly for everybody. 

The Vatican Warns US Bishops Against Denying Communion Over Abortion

Details.

Friday, June 11, 2021

In Congress a Bipartisan Push to Rein in Big Tech

House lawmakers proposed a raft of bipartisan legislation aimed at reining in the country’s biggest tech companies, including a bill that seeks to make Amazon.com Inc. and other large corporations effectively split in two or shed their private-label products.

The bills, announced Friday, amount to the biggest congressional broadside yet on a handful of technology companies—including Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. as well as Amazon —whose size and power have drawn growing scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators in the U.S. and Europe.

If the bills become law—a prospect that faces significant hurdles—they could substantially alter the most richly valued companies in America and reshape an industry that has extended its impact into nearly every facet of work and life.

One of the proposed measures, titled the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, seeks to require structural separation of Amazon and other big technology companies to break up their businesses. It would make it unlawful for a covered online platform to own a business that “utilizes the covered platform for the sale or provision of products or services” or that sells services as a condition for access to the platform. The platform company also couldn’t own businesses that create conflicts of interest, such as by creating the “incentive and ability” for the platform to advantage its own products over competitors.

A separate bill takes a different approach to target platforms’ self-preferencing. It would bar platforms from conduct that “advantages the covered platform operator’s own products, services, or lines of business over those of another business user,” or that excludes or disadvantages other businesses.

The proposed legislation would need to be passed by the Democratic-controlled House as well as the Senate, where it would likely also need substantial Republican support.

Each of the bills has both Republicans and Democrats signed onto it, with more expected to join, congressional aides said. Seven Republicans are backing the bills, with a different group of three signing on to each measure, according to a person familiar with the situation.

“Unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D., R.I.), the top Democrat on the House Antitrust Subcommittee. “They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers, and put folks out of work. Our agenda will level the playing field.”

Rep. Ken Buck (R., Col.), the panel’s top Republican, said he supports the bill because it “breaks up Big Tech’s monopoly power to control what Americans see and say online, and fosters an online market that encourages innovation.”

Read the rest here.

Anti-trust laws have largely fallen into a coma over the last forty or so years and the new tech economy urgently needs some regulation. I haven't read any of these bills, but in principle I support doing something to check the dangerous level of power these monster companies now wield. The fact that both parties, that otherwise can't seem able to agree on what time their committees should take a bathroom break, seem to be moving in the same direction here, is encouraging. 

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

James Carville's Warning to Democrats on Crime: "Own the issue or it will own you."

I first became familiar with James Carville back in the early 2000s when he was on Crossfire. Those were the show’s thunderdome days, when the cameras soared over the cohosts and tense music blared in the background and the whole setup seemed like an answer to a question no one in human history had ever asked: “What The McLaughlin Group were directed by Michael Bay?” Carville was one of the “from the left” hosts whereas I was a young conservative, and I remember being irritated by his pugnacity. I also remember noticing that he sometimes wore jeans underneath the desk.

Today, Carville is something like a begrudged eminence grise of the Democratic Party. No one can dispute that he won that 1992 election for Bill Clinton, but then Democrats have about as much interest in reviving the Clinton years as they do in taking cues from Grover Cleveland. The party has moved on. Yet Carville is still there and he has developed a penchant for telling difficult truths. That’s what he did in the Wall Street Journal last week when he took up an issue no one else on the left wants to talk about: crime.

There’s a lot to object to in Carville’s piece, starting with its headline, “Democrats Are the Anticrime Party” (uh-huh). Carville all but credits Bill Clinton with the steep drop in crime that occurred during the 1990s even though the reasons for that plunge still aren’t fully understood. He attacks Donald Trump because the crime rate increased on his watch even though Trump had little control over that and in some places violent crime had already been going up for years (Baltimore’s murder rate, for example, jumped following the Freddie Gray riots in 2015). He claims that Trump is part and parcel of this crime wave, that he “broke laws, obstructed justice,” which is…rich coming from a signed-in-blood Clintonista.

Still, it’s hard to argue with Carville when he warns Democrats not to “pivot on crime. Own the issue or the issue will own you.” The man surely remembers the tough Democratic losses of the 1970s and ’80s when the far left was exerting influence and the party was seen as being too soft on social pathologies. And with Trump having injected some steel into the GOP’s law and order plank, with violent crime spiking across the country and expected to grow worse over the summer as COVID restrictions lift, Carville is worried this could prove a possible road to recovery for an ailing Republican Party.

Read the rest here.

Making satire redundant

 You can't make this up. 

Coincidence?

Last night it was announced that the Feds had managed to seize a large chunk of the roughly $5 million paid to a Russian ransomware crime gang in order to release a major east coast pipeline that they had managed to shut down. That ransom was paid in the de facto currency of organized crime, Bitcoin. Cryptocurrencies, and especially Bitcoin, have become the go to venue for largely anonymous financial transactions. In this respect they have replaced the now illegal practice of anonymous banking such as the legendary numbered bank accounts that once upon a time every narco kingpin, terrorist and dictator used to stash their money untraceably in places like Switzerland. Its pretty common knowledge that BTC's wild swings are being partly driven by naked price manipulation on the part of celebrity endorsements and criminal syndicates who use it both for money laundering and as a high tech ponzi scheme believing that its relative anonymity makes them near invulnerable.

Today Bitcoin took a dive, at one point losing more than 8% of its value. Hmmm...

Monday, June 07, 2021

Deutsche Bank warns rising inflation could become a serious and long term problem

Inflation may look like a problem that will go away, but is more likely to persist and lead to a crisis in the years ahead, according to a warning from Deutsche Bank economists.

In a forecast that is well outside the consensus from policymakers and Wall Street, Deutsche issued a dire warning that focusing on stimulus while dismissing inflation fears will prove to be a mistake if not in the near term then in 2023 and beyond.

The analysis especially points the finger at the Federal Reserve and its new framework in which it will tolerate higher inflation for the sake of a full and inclusive recovery. The firm contends that the Fed’s intention not to tighten policy until inflation shows a sustained rise will have dire impacts.

“The consequence of delay will be greater disruption of economic and financial activity than would be otherwise be the case when the Fed does finally act,” Deutsche’s chief economist, David Folkerts-Landau, and others wrote. “In turn, this could create a significant recession and set off a chain of financial distress around the world, particularly in emerging markets.”

As part of its approach to inflation, the Fed won’t raise interest rates or curtail its asset purchase program until it sees “substantial further progress” toward its inclusive goals. Multiple central bank officials have said they are not near those objectives.

In the meantime, indicators such as the consumer price and personal consumption expenditures price indices are well above the Fed’s 2% inflation goal. Policymakers say the current rise in inflation is temporary and will abate once supply disruptions and base effects from the early months of the coronavirus pandemic crisis wear off.

The Deutsche team disagrees, saying that aggressive stimulus and fundamental economic changes will present inflation ahead that the Fed will be ill-prepared to address.

Read the rest here.

In Israel the Ultra-Orthodox Face a Loss of Power

JERUSALEM — Still reeling from bearing the brunt of Israel’s coronavirus pandemic, then a deadly stampede at a religious festival, Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jews now face the prospect of losing the power they have wielded in government — a setback that could relax some of the strictures on life in Israel.

The heterogeneous coalition that is emerging to replace the 12-year rule of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spans the Israeli political spectrum from left to right, including secular parties, modern Orthodox politicians from the religious Zionist camp and even a small Arab, Islamist party.

Missing are the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim, a Hebrew term for those who tremble before God. Their political representatives have sat in most, though not all, governments of Israel since the late 1970s, when the right-wing Likud party upended decades of political hegemony by the state’s socialist founders.

Over the years, the two main Haredi parties have forged a tight alliance with Mr. Netanyahu, the Likud leader, and leveraged their role as linchpins in a series of governing coalitions. There, they have wielded what many critics view as disproportionate power over state policy that became apparent as they successfully fought or, in the case of some sects, simply refused to follow pandemic restrictions.

The influence and official privileges of the ultra-Orthodox, who make up about 13 percent of the population, have created resentment among mainstream Israelis and alienated many Jews abroad who practice less stringent forms of Judaism. The ultra-Orthodox-run Chief Rabbinate, the state religious authority, dominates official Jewish marriage, divorce and religious conversions and does not recognize the legitimacy of Reform or Conservative rabbis.

Haredi politicians promote a conservative social agenda that opposes civil marriage, gay rights, and work or public transportation on the Sabbath, often blocking a civil rights agenda held dear by many members of the new coalition. They support an independent education system that focuses on religious studies and largely shuns secular education for boys.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Communism is evolving. But the new version isn't any less toxic than the old

On Thursday, I debated against the cult Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek at the Cambridge Union. The motion? “This House believes that Marx was right.” It is extraordinary, on one level, that such a debate can still be held. No one would dream of discussing whether Torquemada or Mullah Omar or Anders Behring Breivik was right. In the grisly tally of murder, Marxism stands unchallenged. The abominable Atlantic slave trade claimed ten million lives. The Nazis, their evils protracted by the lights of perverted science, killed 17 million. Communism has so far slaughtered 100 million. Marx may not have killed anyone with his own hands. Neither, as far as we know, did Hitler, but no one tries to claim that this exculpates him from the horrors unleashed by his doctrines. Only communists get a special pass here. Every barbarity they inflict is explained away as “not real socialism”.

To see how absurd that is, imagine arguing that Hitler’s crimes were “not real fascism”. Fascism, like every other doctrine, is judged by its actual record. Only communism is treated as textbook theory, too pure and numinous to be sullied by real- world examples. Yet history has furnished us with some laboratory-standard experiments: China versus Taiwan, East Germany versus West Germany, North Korea versus South Korea. While free-marketeers are generally prepared to accept that, say, South Korea, marred by occasional corruption and abuses, is an imperfect capitalist state, Western communists resolutely refuse to allow similar inferences to be drawn about North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela or anywhere else. Such, at any rate, were my arguments in the debate. But I was uneasily aware as I made them that they were unlikely to hit home. Marxism is more like a religious sect than a political creed. The more palpably absurd its tenets become, the more the faithful flaunt their piety by embracing them. Marx insisted that his doctrines were scientific truths rather than political opinions. Yet every prediction he made turned out to be wrong. The market system did not destroy the bourgeoisie – it enlarged it. It did not concentrate wealth in the hands of a tiny oligarchy – it increased it across the board. It did not exhaust resources – it kept finding more. Most obviously, it did not collapse under the weight of its contradictions.

Yet, in every generation, a new crop of devotees arises to explain that this time it will be different, this time the prophecy will be fulfilled. Marxists resemble nothing so much as doomsday cultists, constantly shifting the date of their Armageddon as it keeps failing to materialise. Then again, religions evolve, adapt, spawn heresies that sometimes displace them. During the debate, Žižek told me that he had become something of a hate figure among younger Leftist radicals because he diverged from the woke line on some gender and identity issues.

Read the rest here. (paywalled)

The ACLU's drift from champion of civil liberties to champion of the left

It was supposed to be the celebration of a grand career, as the American Civil Liberties Union presented a prestigious award to the longtime lawyer David Goldberger. He had argued one of its most famous cases, defending the free speech rights of Nazis in the 1970s tIt was supposed to be the celebration of a grand career, as the American Civil Liberties Union presented a prestigious award to the longtime lawyer David Goldberger. He had argued one of its most famous cases, defending the free speech rights of Nazis in the 1970s to march in Skokie, Ill., home to many Holocaust survivors.

Mr. Goldberger, now 79, adored the A.C.L.U. But at his celebratory luncheon in 2017, he listened to one speaker after another and felt a growing unease.

A law professor argued that the free speech rights of the far right were not worthy of defense by the A.C.L.U. and that Black people experienced offensive speech far more viscerally than white allies. In the hallway outside, an A.C.L.U. official argued it was perfectly legitimate for his lawyers to decline to defend hate speech.

Mr. Goldberger, a Jew who defended the free speech of those whose views he found repugnant, felt profoundly discouraged.

“I got the sense it was more important for A.C.L.U. staff to identify with clients and progressive causes than to stand on principle,” he said in a recent interview. “Liberals are leaving the First Amendment behind.”

The A.C.L.U., America’s high temple of free speech and civil liberties, has emerged as a muscular and richly funded progressive powerhouse in recent years, taking on the Trump administration in more than 400 lawsuits. But the organization finds itself riven with internal tensions over whether it has stepped away from a founding principle — unwavering devotion to the First Amendment.o march in Skokie, Ill., home to many Holocaust survivors. Mr. Goldberger, now 79, adored the A.C.L.U. But at his celebratory luncheon in 2017, he listened to one speaker after another and felt a growing unease. A law professor argued that the free speech rights of the far right were not worthy of defense by the A.C.L.U. and that Black people experienced offensive speech far more viscerally than white allies. In the hallway outside, an A.C.L.U. official argued it was perfectly legitimate for his lawyers to decline to defend hate speech. Mr. Goldberger, a Jew who defended the free speech of those whose views he found repugnant, felt profoundly discouraged. “I got the sense it was more important for A.C.L.U. staff to identify with clients and progressive causes than to stand on principle,” he said in a recent interview. “Liberals are leaving the First Amendment behind.” The A.C.L.U., America’s high temple of free speech and civil liberties, has emerged as a muscular and richly funded progressive powerhouse in recent years, taking on the Trump administration in more than 400 lawsuits. But the organization finds itself riven with internal tensions over whether it has stepped away from a founding principle — unwavering devotion to the First Amendment.

Read the rest here.

Friday, June 04, 2021

Latest opponents of solar energy farm in Mojave Desert? Environmentalists

MOAPA VALLEY, Nev.—This windswept desert community is full of clean energy supporters including Suzanne Rebich, an airline pilot who recently topped her house with 36 solar panels. About 200 homes generate their own solar energy and a quarter of the local electricity supply comes from hydroelectric power.

All the same, many here are dead set against a planned solar plant atop the Mormon Mesa, which overlooks this valley 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Slated to be the biggest solar plant in the U.S., the Battle Born Solar Project by California-based Arevia Power would carpet 14 square miles—the equivalent of 7,000 football fields—with more than a million solar panels 10 to 20 feet tall. At 850-megawatts, it would generate nearly one-tenth of Nevada’s current electric capacity.

“It will destroy this land forever,” Ms. Rebich, 33, said after riding her bicycle on the 600-foot high mesa.

Across the U.S., more than 800 utility-scale solar projects are under contract to generate nearly 70,000 megawatts of new capacity, enough to power more than 11 million homes, equivalent to Texas and then some. More than half this capacity is being planned for the American Southwest, with its abundance of sunshine and open land.

These large projects are increasingly drawing opposition from environmental activists and local residents who say they are ardent supporters of clean energy. Their objections range from a desire to keep the land unspoiled to protection for endangered species to concerns that their views would no longer be as beautiful.

Unlike past fights between polluting industries and environmentalists, this one pits people who say they want more renewable power against companies that want to generate it. It threatens to significantly slow efforts by the Biden administration and businesses to fight climate change by reducing America’s carbon emissions.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Miami and South Florida Are Starting to Face Some Tough Choices

MIAMI — Three years ago, not long after Hurricane Irma left parts of Miami underwater, the federal government embarked on a study to find a way to protect the vulnerable South Florida coast from deadly and destructive storm surge.

Already, no one likes the answer.

Build a wall, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed in its first draft of the study, now under review. Six miles of it, in fact, mostly inland, running parallel to the coast through neighborhoods — except for a one-mile stretch right on Biscayne Bay, past the gleaming sky-rises of Brickell, the city’s financial district.

The dramatic, $6 billion proposal remains tentative and at least five years off. But the startling suggestion of a massive sea wall up to 20 feet high cutting across beautiful Biscayne Bay was enough to jolt some Miamians to attention: The hard choices that will be necessary to deal with the city’s many environmental challenges are here, and few people want to face them.

“You need to have a conversation about, culturally, what are our priorities?” said Benjamin Kirtman, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Miami. “Where do we want to invest? Where does it make sense?”

“Those are what I refer to as generational questions,” he added. “And there is a tremendous amount of reluctance to enter into that discussion.”

In Miami, the U.S. metropolitan area that is perhaps most exposed to sea-level rise, the problem is not climate change denialism. Not when hurricane season, which begins this week, returns each year with more intense and frequent storms. Not when finding flood insurance has become increasingly difficult and unaffordable. Not when the nights stay so hot that leaving the house with a sweater to fend off the evening chill has become a thing of the past.

The trouble is that the magnitude of the interconnected obstacles the region faces can feel overwhelming, and none of the possible solutions is cheap, easy or pretty.

Read the rest here.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Traveling

 I will be traveling for much of this week. Little or no posting for the time being and I may not be checking email or approving comments as quickly as usual. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Is Prince Harry a republican?

I'm not going to link to any of the numerous stories about Harry and how he is torching his family at every opportunity online, in the mass media and press. They are all over the place. A Google will get you scores of links. But I am starting to wonder if his bitterness has not reached the point where he just wants to burn the institution down? 

To be clear, I accept that Harry got dealt some really crappy hands at the card table of life. Fancy dinners, gilded furniture, and lots of servants can only compensate for so much. Everyone in that family lives in a very large and well appointed fish tank. And yes, the press/media pretty much killed his mother, for which he still, understandably, has a chip on his shoulder. I doubt he will ever forgive them. 

But since he threw the whole royal thing overboard and bolted from his own country, ultimately landing in California, he seems to have become an arsonist with a particular preference for bridges. Of course, Harry is hardly the first royal to feud with the family. The Duke of Windsor (formerly Edward VIII) had a notoriously chilly relationship with his brother and successor, George VI, and the late Queen Mother who detested him. But for the most part the family was able to keep the more unpleasant aspects of that story under wraps until after the Duke's death. 

By contrast this little civil war is starting to get downright ugly. And if Harry has a deeply ingrained loathing for the press, he seems quite willing to use them for his own purposes. Which brings me to a couple of observations. If Harry is not out to bring down the monarchy, he certainly is not going out of his way to reassure those who suspect exactly that. 

Beyond which, there is something unseemly in a man who owes everything he is and will ever be to the accident of birth that put him in the British Royal Family, suddenly going all woke and bleating endlessly about privilege and racism. All the while cashing in on his titles to the tune of well over $100 million and the stardom that only Hollywood can confer on the deserving. And while we are on the topic of privilege, I would note that there are billions of people in the world who have issues with their family. Almost none of them have the 'privilege' of being able to trash their relations in the global press with a virtual guarantee of front page coverage by the very people loathed, if possible, even more than the offending relatives. 

Real men, in the real world, deal with family problems in private. They reach out and try to set things right without causing scandal. And mayhap that won't work out. In the real world not every movie is a Disney picture with a happy ending. If an honest effort has been made, but failed, sometimes you just need to man up and say, privately, 'it's not working and we need to go our ways in peace.'

But I'm not seeing anything like that. I am seeing a man who is consumed by bitterness directed at everybody but himself, and who appears to be staging one of the most spectacular tantrums in recent memory. The tabloid press and his woke Hollywood pals will indulge this for a while. But sooner or later the public is going to get tired of the endless carping and moral lectures from one of the most privileged men on God's Earth. And then I fear he is going to discover the loneliness of being a man without a family or country. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Bitcoin gets hammered as China issues warning to investors

Bitcoin fell below $37,000 for the first time in over three months on Wednesday, continuing a major sell-off that began a week ago.

The digital currency was down 20% in the last 24 hours, according to Coinbase. The cryptocurrency hit an intraday low of around $36,189 at 7:30 a.m. ET. It was the lowest level since early February. Bitcoin is down more than 30% in the last week, according to Coinbase.

That means bitcoin has now erased all its gains following Tesla’s announcement that it would purchase $1.5 billion worth of the cryptocurrency. It’s also down about 44% since hitting a record high of $64,829 in mid-April.

Negative news over the past week has dampened sentiment for bitcoin.

On May 12, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the electric carmaker had suspended vehicle purchases using bitcoin, citing environmental concerns over the so-called computational “mining” process. This is where high-powered computers are used to solve complex mathematical puzzles to enable transactions using bitcoin.

Musk’s comments caused over $300 billion to be wiped off the entire cryptocurrency market that day.

Read the rest here.

In related news; JP Morgan believes large institutional investors are losing confidence in crypto-currencies and are moving into gold as a hedge against inflation and other potential issues that could weaken the dollar. 

Details here. (Paywall) 

New York Widens Probe Into Trump's Finances

The Manhattan DA's criminal probe has a new ally. Last night the New York State Attorney General (a highly partisan Democrat) announced that their hitherto civil investigation into the Trump Organization and Trump family's taxes, has now become a criminal probe. It would have been better if the AG had appointed an independent prosecutor, but whatever. The former president is now the subject of at least three criminal investigations, that we know of. 

Details.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Supreme Court to Review Roe v Wade

With the current composition of the court, I figured this was coming. Fasten your seat belts folks. Things are about to get crazy. 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Democrats Divide Over Israel

The left's support for a people who backed Hitler and who have refused to recognize the right of Israel to even exist is not exactly shocking, except within the ranks of the Democratic Party. They bleat about occupation and civilian casualties, but only one side is deliberately targeting civilians. And it's not the Israelis. 

Details.

Gay Cops Not Welcome in NYC Pride Parade

For years cops and firemen were forced to join this parade in uniform. Of course this was inevitable. 

Details here.

Friday, May 14, 2021

When Late Night Was Funny

Big companies are taking big hits in San Francisco real estate

Cloudera exited its downtown San Francisco office early last year with plans to sublease the space and move its employees south to the software company’s Silicon Valley headquarters.

But the pandemic left the company with nobody to take over the office, forcing it to take a substantial real estate write-down.

At DoorDash’s nearby former headquarters, a tenant defaulted on rent a month into lockdown, resulting in lost income for the food delivery company, which was doubling as a landlord.

Airbnb said in its earnings report on Thursday that it took a $113 million impairment in the first quarter “related to office space in San Francisco that we deemed no longer necessary.”

Combined, those three companies have recorded nearly $200 million in real estate impairments in the past year after Covid-19 turned the Bay Area office market into a dead zone. That dollar figure swells to almost $1 billion when adding in lease-related write-downs from large tech employers Salesforce, Dropbox, Uber, PayPal and Zendesk.

While software and internet companies continued their stratospheric ascent in 2020, the plush offices they call home sat dormant, leaving San Francisco’s commercial real estate market with an unfamiliar supply glut. Much of the financial fallout was borne by the very tech companies that led a decade-plus bull market and expansion spree, snapping up massive amounts of space at record prices and often subleasing out full floors to start-ups and out-of-town businesses that were seeking a Bay Area outpost.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Smartest Guys in the Room Call Bitcoin “Rat Poison Squared,” “a Colossal Pump-and-Dump Scheme” and “a Big Criminal Scam” but Federal Regulators Look the Other Way

Anne Goldgar wrote of the Dutch Tulip bubble in her 2007 book, Money, Honor, and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age, that “the f1000 one might pay in January 1637 for one hypothetical Admirael van der Eyck bulb,” could have bought “a modest house in Haarlem,” or “nearly three years’ wages” of a master carpenter. Comparing that to U.S. dollars in 2007, the year her book was released, Goldgar says it would be like one Tulip bulb selling for $12,000.

Goldgar notes that as historians have looked back at this episode, the tulip mania of the 1630s in Holland has become a “byword for idiocy.”

In his 1841 classic on market bubbles, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, the Scottish journalist Charles Mackay wrote this about the Tulip bubble: “The rage among the Dutch to possess them was so great that the ordinary industry of the country was neglected…”

Four centuries have apparently not cured the propensity toward idiocy when the lure of riches beckons. The market cap of Bitcoin is now in excess of $1 trillion, despite the fact that it is backed by absolutely nothing.

No amount of disdain toward Bitcoin by the smartest guys in the room can stop the creature’s incessant climb. Bitcoin has multiplied more than five-fold since September, trading yesterday at over $56,000.

Bitcoin has been thoroughly discredited by some of the smartest people in the investment community and global finance, but that hasn’t stopped the oldest futures exchange in the U.S., CME Group, from offering futures and options trading on Bitcoin. CME Group’s federal regulator, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), explains in this podcast that all that CME Group had to do to launch its Bitcoin futures was to “self-certify” its plan with its regulator, the CFTC. The self-certified plan may be just fine – it’s the underlying product based on nothing that the regulator seems to have ignored.

(We’re thinking of submitting a self-certified plan with the CFTC to trade futures on spinning straw into gold. We’re toying with calling it the RumpelstiltskinCoin.)

The CME Group has exchanges that provide for futures trading based on real things: like milk, wheat, soy beans, oil, gasoline, ethanol and so forth. These are real things that fuel economic growth in the United States and/or feed a nation of 331 million people.

To paraphrase Mackay in Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds to sum up today’s Bitcoin craze in the U.S.: The rage among speculators to trade Bitcoin was so great that the harm this would do in the long-term to the reputation of integrity in U.S. markets was simply ignored by Congress and regulators.

One of the most respected investors in America, Warren Buffet, summed up Bitcoin like this in May 2018: Bitcoin is “probably rat poison squared.” In January of the same year, Buffet told CNBC in an interview that “In terms of cryptocurrencies, generally, I can say with almost certainty that they will come to a bad ending.”

Also in 2018, Bill Harris, the former CEO of Intuit and PayPal, wrote a detailed critique of Bitcoin for Vox, under the headline: “Bitcoin is the greatest scam in history.”

Read the rest here.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Germany's Catholic Church is Schismatic in All But Name

If the German Catholics possessed a shred of honesty they would just join the Anglican Communion or the Lutherans. But they don't, and the only man in Rome who can put a stop to this is pretty obviously in their corner. 

The crisis in the Roman Church is dangerously close to reaching a tipping point. The problem of course, is that Catholic ecclesiology has no contingency plan for when the church is overrun by heretics and the Pope is one of them. 

Details.

France: Soldiers are writing open letters warning of civil war

Serving members of the French military have fired a second salvo at Emmanuel Macron’s government in an open letter accusing it of “cowardice, deceit, perversion”, just weeks after a first letter said the country was heading for “civil war”.

Like the first letter, it appears in the rightwing magazine Valeurs Actuelles. It was reportedly signed anonymously “by active military personnel” and is appended with a petition on the magazine’s website for others to sign.

The letter’s signatories refer to the seventh verse of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, that refers to the “avenging” slain elders or following them to “their coffins”.

It was published in support of the first letter, published on 21 April, the 60th anniversary of a failed coup d’état against General Charles de Gaulle over his support for Algerian independence.

Signed by a number of retired generals as well as at least 18 serving soldiers including four officers, it warned of the “disintegration” of France evoking what it called the “perils” of Islamic extremist and “the hordes from the banlieue”.

It also accused anti-racism groups of creating “hatred between communities” and cautioned that “lax” government policies could spark chaos requiring military action to “protect our civilisational values”.

Afterwards, furious ministers accused the signatories, who were supported by the far-right Rassemblement National party leader, Marine Le Pen, of breaking military rules and threatened legal action against them. The armed forces minister, Florence Parly, said: “The armies are not there to campaign but to defend France”, while the interior minister, Gérard Darmanin, accused Le Pen of having her father Jean-Marie Le Pen’s “taste” for the sound of marching boots.

The second letter, published late on Sunday evening, batted off threats of punishment and launched an all-out attack on the government, accusing it of “trampling” on veterans’ honour and “sullying” their reputation “when their only fault is to love their country and mourn its visible decline”.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

As Deficits and Money Printing Increase, So Do Fears of Inflation

The US Federal Reserve and Treasury are repeating one of the most disturbing episodes of the 1940s and risk stoking a destructive inflationary boom, a leading monetary watchdog has warned.

The Centre for Financial Stability (CFS) in New York says US money supply data is flashing a red alert and that excess reserves in the banking sector threaten to set off an “explosion of lending” as the recovery accelerates. The Fed is riding a tiger by the tail and may have great difficulty extricating itself from a torrid monetary experiment that is reaching its limits.

The CFS said its "divisia" measure of the broad M4 money supply rose 24pc in March from a year earlier, and narrow its M1 variant rose 36.9pc. “Those monetary growth rates are potentially alarming,” said Professor William Barnett, the institution’s director.

Barnett said de facto collusion between the Fed and the Treasury is much like the 1940s, when the Fed served as a fiscal agent for Democratic administrations and mopped up the vast bond issuance needed to pay for the Second World War and its aftermath. Inflation reached 17pc by mid-1947 and creditors were gradually expropriated in what amounted to a stealth default stretched over several years.

The US output gap has already closed and President Biden’s $6 trillion fiscal plan is expected to push economic growth above its pre-pandemic trajectory by next year. Five-year "breakevens" measuring inflation expectations have jumped to 2.71pc, the highest since the pre-Lehman boom. Yet the Fed is continuing to buy $120bn of bonds each month.

The situation is fundamentally different from waves of QE after the global financial crisis. Stimulus at that stage was needed to offset a contraction of the money supply as banks slashed lending and sought to beef up their capital ratios to meet tougher Basel rules. Today’s QE is monetisation of fiscal deficits and is leading to a surge in bank reserves. This money will catch fire if monetary velocity returns to normal as the economy recovers. 

The Bank for International Settlements - the venerable club of global central bankers in Basel - also fired a shot across the bows on Thursday, warning that it would be a grave error for policymakers to let rip on monetary growth in the hope that social inequalities could be cured with inflationary stimulus. 

The poor tend to suffer most when the consumer prices suddenly start to rise. Agustin Carstens, the managing director of the BIS, said: “We should not forget the long-lasting scars of uncontrolled inflation on inequality. History abounds with episodes of high and runaway inflation that increased poverty and inequality via sharp reductions in real wages.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

German Clergy Defy Vatican On Gay Blessings

Catholic clergy are preparing to bless gay couples across Germany in defiance of a recent Vatican ban on the practice, in the latest sign of how far liberal German Catholics are pushing the boundaries of the Vatican’s authority and teachings to forge a more progressive version of their church.

Priests and some lay ministers are planning coordinated ceremonies blessing gay relationships in about 100 Catholic churches and other venues in Germany, including Essen Cathedral, over the next few days, most of them on Monday. Almost 20 events will be live-streamed.

Such blessings have become common over the past decade in Germany and some other parts of Northern Europe, but they have usually taken place quietly, in places other than churches. Monday’s highly visible ceremonies will mark a protest against a Vatican declaration in March, approved by Pope Francis, prohibiting the blessing of same-sex relationships on the grounds that God “cannot bless sin.”

“It always has been a little bit kind of a secret,” said the Rev. Christian Olding, a Catholic priest in the northwestern town of Geldern, who says he has blessed about 10 same-sex couples in the past eight years. “This is the first time that we are going this way in society, to do it visibly for everyone.”

Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has contended with deepening divisions in the global Catholic Church between conservatives, including in the U.S. and Africa—who are uncomfortable with his more liberal approach to matters including divorce and homosexuality—and progressives, with Germany in the vanguard, who are impatient with what they see as a reluctance to back substantive change.

The prohibition of gay blessings by the Vatican’s doctrinal office was seen in Germany as an example of that resistance to change. Vatican officials are anxious about a national synod of German Catholics, under way since last year, that is debating a number of overhauls, including the ordination of women, greater roles for laypeople in church governance, and the revision of church teaching on homosexuality.

Conservative bishops in Germany, the U.S. and elsewhere have warned that such changes could lead to a schism in the universal church. Pope Francis and Vatican officials have more than once admonished German church leaders not to go their own way.

The German synod “is an instrument to adapt the teaching of the Catholic Church to the demands of the Western world that has largely fallen away from God. It neither respects the apostolic tradition nor seems to care about the majority of faithful believers in the universal church,” said Gabriele Kuby, a German writer and sociologist.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Paris in '39

Color home movies of Paris in 1939. I'm guessing this was in the spring based on the absense of summer type attire.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Holy Week


Wishing everyone a blessed Holy Week. Little or no blogging is likely until Pascha. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

‘Black Swan’ author calls bitcoin a ‘gimmick’ and a ‘game,’ says it resembles a Ponzi scheme

“Black Swan” author Nassim Taleb on Friday criticized bitcoin as a “gimmick,” telling CNBC he believes it’s too volatile to be an effective currency and it’s not a safe hedge against inflation.

“Basically, there’s no connection between inflation and bitcoin. None. I mean, you can have hyperinflation and bitcoin going to zero. There’s no link between them,” Taleb said in a “Squawk Box” interview.

“It’s a beautifully set up cryptographic system. It’s well made but there’s absolutely no reason it should be linked to anything economic,” added Taleb, whose bestselling 2007 book examined highly improbable events and their potential to cause severe consequences. He said bitcoin has characteristics of what he calls a Ponzi scheme that’s right out in the open.

A Ponzi scheme is a type of fraud whereby crooks steal money from investors and mask the theft by funneling returns to clients from funds contributed by newer investors.

Taleb had once held favorable views toward bitcoin, which was created in 2009 and is the world’s largest cryptocurrency by market value. However, he told CNBC he was “fooled by it initially” because he thought it could develop into a currency used in transactions.

“Something that moves 5% a day, 20% in a month — up or down — cannot be a currency. It’s something else,” said Taleb, a former derivatives trader who serves as scientific advisor to hedge fund Universa Investments.

“I bought into it ... not willing to have capital appreciation, so much as wanting to have an alternative to the fiat currency issued by central banks: A currency without a government,” Taleb said. “I realized it was not a currency without a government. It was just pure speculation. It’s just like a game ... I mean, you can create another game and call it a currency.”

Read the rest here.

I think this guy has been reading my blog. Also in today's newsfeed...

$200 billion wiped off crypto market overnight. Bitcoin down over 20% since April 14 (ironically the day I last posted on this subject). 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

First Class Staterooms on the Titanic

Some video recreations of various first class staterooms on the Titanic based on surviving images as also of her near identical sister ship, Olympic, and builder's plans.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

High Tech Tulips

For those contemplating diving into Bitcoin consider its current valuation...

  • 35 x the value of gold
  • 2,400 x the value of silver
  • 63,000 x the value of the US Dollar
If you are thinking of buying Bitcoin you need to be comfortable with these valuations and expect them to go higher. And IMHO that is not rational. Bitcoin is not a bubble in the traditional sense of the term. The bond market and Tesla might be bubbles. But Bitcoin has moved way beyond that. It has become a speculative mania being fueled by frantic buying on the part of people who are afraid they will miss out on the greatest get rich quick opportunity in the history of investment markets. 

Or to borrow an old line from Wall Street professionals "dumb money chases hot money." And I suspect the hot money has mostly cashed in their profits and left the building. 

But with trillions now parked in Bitcoin, what is likely to happen when this all blows up? The honest answer is, I'm not sure. There isn't really any modern event to compare it to. You'd have to go back almost 400 years to find anything comparable. The Great South Seas bubble of the 1720s was comparatively tame in terms of its overpricing. As was the railroad bond bubble that precipitated the Panic of 1873 and the stock mania that blew up in October of 1929. 

If it deflates slowly (probably the best case scenario) it could limit the systemic risks. But a sudden crash could cause chaos. It could also inflict staggering losses on people who can ill afford to lose a lot of money. If Elon Musk, a big BTC enthusiast, loses a few billion, honestly who cares? But there are a lot of working and middle class people who have been putting a great deal of their hard earned money into this. These people could take a hit they aren't ready for. 

Update: On the subject of smart money cashing in their Bitcoin, CNBC reports that Jim Cramer recently sold half of his BTC and paid off the mortgage on his house. Cramer's description... "Phony money paying for real money."

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Jesuits should be suppressed (again)

The evidence for this has been overwhelming for many years. But if more is needed, there is this.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Monday, April 05, 2021

Constantinople suggests more changes to church calendar

Archbishop Job of Telmessos- The year 2025 will mark the 1700th anniversary of the first ecumenical council, the council of Nicaea (325), which initiated a new chapter in the history of Christianity. On this occasion, the World Council of Churches is planning to organize a World Conference of the Faith and Order Commission in order to celebrate this anniversary and to reflect on the transmission of the apostolic faith today. The purpose of this conference will not be to study the history of the council nor to study its theology, but rather to reflect on what “visible unity” means today to different Christian Churches and how Christians can collectively promote, preach and live the apostolic faith today in the context of so many contemporary challenges, such as secularization and religious pluralism. 

We often forget that the council of Nicaea did not only promulgate a Creed that ought to become universal, but also ensured a common celebration of Easter for the entire Christendom. In front of division caused by schisms and heresies, it was then necessary to ensure a common celebration of the Resurrection in order to manifest unity in faith. As we know, in the pre-Nicene period, there was no such common date, since some Christians celebrated Easter alongside with the Jewish Passover and others celebrated it on the following Sunday. The rule established at Nicaea was to observe Pascha on the first Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox. Thus, the council referred to astronomic data – the equinox and the full moon – to determine the date, rather than to a specific calendar or a particular feast, such as the Jewish Passover. 

Although Nicaea established this rule ensuring a common date of Easter for the entire Christendom, unfortunately, today, Christian Churches are divided with regards to the celebration of this great feast. The reason is that not everyone is using the same tools. Indeed, the Orthodox still use the Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC, which is at the present moment thirteen days behind the astronomic reality, and they also use old lunation tables, leading to a belated date of Pascha, that may be one week or even one month after the Western date of Easter. 

While being determined by the Julian calendar, the date of the spring equinox (March 21) corresponds to April 3 of the Gregorian calendar, which is used worldwide today. Therefore, if the full moon appears before this date, the Orthodox must wait for the following full moon, and in this case, there will be a difference of one month between the Western and Orthodox Easter, as it will be the case this year. According to the astronomic data, the Orthodox then celebrate Pascha on the Sunday following the second full moon of spring, which contradicts the principle of Nicaea. If the spring full moon appears after April 3, Christians are supposed to celebrate Easter on the same day, as it indeed happens on occasion. However, since the Orthodox use old lunation tables to determine the date of the full moon, which are a few days behind the current astronomical data, in some cases the Orthodox must wait for the subsequent Sunday to celebrate Pascha, and this explains that there may be a difference of one week between the Eastern and the Western date of Easter. But in that case, according to the astronomic data, the Orthodox celebrate Pascha on the second Sunday following the full moon of spring, which also contradicts the principle adopted at Nicaea. 

For these reasons, the question of the revision of the calendar and the common date of Easter was raised in the Orthodox Church on several occasions during the 20th century: first by the patriarchal and synodical encyclical of Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim III addressed in 1902 to all the Primates of the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches[1], and once again by the encyclical of the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued in January 1920 addressed “unto the Churches of Christ everywhere” calling for the “the acceptance of a uniform calendar for the celebration of the great Christian feasts at the same time by all the Churches.”[2] The calendar reform was subsequently discussed at the Pan-Orthodox Congress of Constantinople of 1923, convened by Patriarch Meletios IV of Constantinople, which led to a partial revision of the calendar: facing the reluctance of some Orthodox to adopt the “Roman Catholic” Gregorian calendar, a Serbian astronomer, Milutin Milankovic, proposed a revised Julian calendar, which was actually more precise than the Gregorian one, and it was accepted by some local Orthodox Churches only for the feasts that are observed on the same fix date every year (such as Christmas), but not for the Paschal cycle. 

The question of the calendar and the common date of Pascha was listed among the 17 topics to be examined by the future Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church by the inter-Orthodox preparatory committee which met in 1930 at the monastery of Vatopedi on Mount Athos. It was kept on the list of issues established by the first Pan-orthodox Conference in Rhodes in 1961 which launched the process of the preparation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church and remained among the ten topics on the agenda determined at the first pre-conciliar pan-orthodox conference of Chambésy in 1976. In preparation towards the council, a specific congress of Orthodox astronomers met in Chambésy in June 1977 to prepare both a revised calendar, even more accurate than the Gregorian one, and review the lunation tables according to the most accurate astronomic data. Unfortunately, the Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches held in Chambésy in January 2016, decided to exclude this question from the agenda of the council, fearing that a calendar reform would create a new schism within the Orthodox Church. Thus, no decision has been taken on the issue by the Orthodox to this day.

It is worth mentioning that in 1997, the World Council of Churches held a consultation in order to establish a common date for Easter and recommended maintaining the Nicene norms (that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the first full moon of spring), to calculate the astronomical data (the spring equinox and the full moon) by the most accurate possible scientific means, using as the basis for reckoning the meridian of Jerusalem, the place of Christ’s death and resurrection[3]. 

Perhaps, the celebration of the 1700th anniversary of the council of Nicaea in 2025 would be a good occasion to educate Christians on the necessity of a calendar reform and of a common date of Pascha in order to remain truly faithful to the decisions of the first ecumenical council. The fact that the Eastern and Western dates of Easter will coincide on that year should be taken as an encouragement towards that direction!
________________
[1] Patriarchal and Synodical Encyclical of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of 1902. G. Limouris (Ed.), Orthodox Visions of Ecumenism. Geneva: WCC Publications, 1994, p. 1-8. 
[2] Encyclical of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of 1920. G. Limouris (Ed.), Orthodox Visions of Ecumenism. Geneva: WCC Publications, 1994, p. 9-11. 
[3] Towards a Common Date of Easter. World Council of Churches/Middle East Council of Churches Consultation, Aleppo, Syria, 5-10 March, 1997.


Meanwhile, the Russian Church has no interest in tinkering with the calendar.

And the SSPX news service has a story on the subject.

I don't see this going anywhere absent a hard push from Bart. And given current tensions in the Church, I think any attempt at unilateralism could re-awaken the semi-dormant calendar wars and exacerbate the already severely strained relations between Constantinople and those churches sympathetic to Russia over the ugly business in Ukraine. 

On a side note; I don't understand how Archbishop Job proposes to discuss what "visible unity" means without discussing theology. We are not all Episcopalians. 

(HT: Blog reader John L)

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Happy Easter

Wishing a blessed feast to all those celebrating today.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Rhine Meadows "Death Camps" Hoax

Claims that the Allies ran a network of de facto death camps where up to a million German POWs died from deliberate maltreatment, including starvation, have been rampant on the internet for years. While it is true that the administration of the camps were not without serious problems, mostly beyond the control of Allies; the claims made by various revisionists and conspiracy theorists have been repeatedly investigated by both governements and reputable historians, and found to be false.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Birthrate decline in the West is accelerating

During the past year, living in the shadow of Covid, I have been completing a book on the big global trends in population. This forced me to ask – what effect will the pandemic have on birth rates? There are countless factors to consider.

On the one hand, with more time at home and fewer distractions, we might expect there to be a baby boom. On the other, with couples under each other’s feet from dawn to dusk, sexual attraction may be waning. Delayed weddings, a lack of dating opportunities and a shortage of contraception in the developing world will all be taking their toll in various ways, too.

Then there is the fear factor. With the pandemic raging, women don’t necessarily want to get into a situation in which they will end up in a hospital, where the chance of picking up an infection is high. We now know that a woman of child-bearing age is unlikely to get seriously ill from Covid, and the chance of her passing on any infection to a foetus is probably zero – but that was not clear at the start of the pandemic and might have had the effect of putting some couples off procreation. Economic uncertainty and job insecurity compound the fear.

Overall, in more developed countries like Britain, the data shows that the net impact of these various factors has been a sharp drop in birth rates. Surveys of couples during the early days of the pandemic suggested that many were abandoning plans to start or grow a family, both in the short term and permanently. Meanwhile, early data suggests that the number of children born in the US this year will fall by at least half a million. In continental Europe, the picture is worse: in France, it looks like births are down 13 per cent, in Italy and Spain, 20 per cent.

If this were just a short-term dip, the overall economic impact would be limited. But it isn’t short term. Before anyone had heard of Covid, births were depressed across the developed world. Fertility rates in North America and Japan have been below replacement level for decades, and sinking. Even the better performers among the rich countries – the US, the UK, France and Scandinavia – were already set for steady population decline, mitigated only by ever higher levels of immigration. And small family syndrome is catching. The end of the One Child Policy has done little or nothing to increase childbearing in China; an increasingly educated and urban population, focused on material advancement and now long accustomed to small family size, has no interest in taking up the increased rations in family size now permitted to them by the Communist Party.

Read the rest here.

Marine Insurance Firms Brace for a Wave of Claims

More than $3 billion of insurance is in place for liability claims against the owner of the grounded container ship Ever Given, officials with its insurance program said Friday.

It is unclear whether that will be enough to cover losses that are likely to be claimed by some of the more than 200 ships in the canal as of Friday, plus the owners of the cargo they are carrying, if the vessel continues to block the Suez Canal, industry executives said.

Cargo-delivery delays are where a lot of the economic damage would be expected if the critical waterway doesn’t soon open up again to traffic. Delayed shipments could result in manufacturers’ not receiving parts needed for assembly lines or retailers’ not getting spring merchandise in time to stock shelves. At the same time, shipowners who anticipated using their vessels for other cargo loads lose that opportunity as they sit in the canal.

Some ship and cargo owners could end up filing claims with both their own insurers and Ever Given’s insurer—and ultimately suing the container ship’s owner—to receive compensation.

A total of $3.1 billion of liability coverage is available to the ship’s owner, Japan-based Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., through a longstanding shipping-industry program that relies on 13 so-called Protection & Indemnity Clubs, said Nick Shaw, chief executive of the international association of those clubs, which are not-for-profit mutual insurers.

A spokesman for the Club in the U.K., to which Ever Given belongs, said by email, “P&I insurance would cover the shipowner’s legal liability to the cargo owners.”

Read the rest here.

Clearly nobody paid any attention to the bumper sticker on the ship's stern...