Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Billionaires Tax

Unable to convince the moderate members of their party to raise taxes in the customary manner, the Democrats have decided to go back to the idea first floated by the left, i.e. a tax on unrealized appreciation in the value of assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate, art and etc. Claims to the contrary notwithstanding, this is a wealth tax, which is laughably unconstitutional and dead on arrival at the Supreme Court, if it even gets that far. It is a direct tax (or there is no such thing) under Article I section 9 of the Constitution and cannot be done at the Federal level of government without triggering the apportionment clause. What the Democrats are trying to do is to redefine income to mean something never before accepted; and they are going into contortions to try and pretend that this is what the 16th amendment was intended for. I doubt this will even make it to the Supreme Court, unless the justices want to drive a stake through its heart so it never again rises from the grave. 

The cynic in me believes that almost everyone in DC understands this, even the Democrats. They know this is going down in legal flames, but they are going to vote for it anyway because it gives them political cover for the massive amount of debt they are about to add to our already crushing sea of red ink. Once they pass this they can throw up their hands and blame the debt on the right wing Supreme Court.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Quote of the day...

"It wasn't one of my better moves." -Matthew Tulley after super gluing his face to a public street in London as part of ongoing protests over climate change. Apparently the process of separating his face from the pavement was both protracted and painful.  

Patriarch Bartholomew Hospitalized

Patriarch Bartholomew has been taken to George Washington University Hospital on the first full day of a scheduled twelve day visit to the United States. There is no word on the nature of his illness beyond a short statement that he had felt unwell and was taken to the hospital out of an abundance of caution. A later statement said he is now feeling well and would likely be released tomorrow. His All Holiness is 81. 

Monday, October 18, 2021

San Francisco to New York in 1852

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

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Civil Asset Forfeiture is legalized theft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest here.

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

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

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

And sometimes mob ties, too.

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

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

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

Read the rest here.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Pro-Life British MP is Assassinated

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

Memory eternal.

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

Saturday, October 09, 2021

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

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

Nicea II and Papal Supremacy

Monday, October 04, 2021

100 Years Ago

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

Story here.

Things money can and can't buy

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

Can't buy: Common sense.

Friday, October 01, 2021

Alex Jones Held Liable for Defamation

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

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest here.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Insanity on Trial


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

Friday, September 24, 2021

China: All crypto-currency related activities are illegal

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

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

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

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

Read the rest here.

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

Thursday, September 23, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest here. (longish read)

Donald Trump is suing his niece and the NY Times

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

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

Analysis

Inflation: Team transitory is getting nervous

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest here.

Friday, September 17, 2021

France recalls its ambassador as anger with Biden grows

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

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

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

HT: Blog reader John L. 

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

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

Monday, September 13, 2021

Noted Apostate John Shelby Spong has Died

Kyrie eleison.

Vigil for the Exaltation of the Precious Cross

The Coronation of Pope John XXIII

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

Didn't I see this in a movie?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Covid 19 has become a pandemic of the willing

They are the new 99 percenters — the vast majority of Americans who are getting serious cases of COVID-19 or dying are unvaccinated.

While COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the US, the overwhelming majority of deaths and hospitalizations from the virus continue to overwhelmingly be among unvaccinated Americans, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 30, about 99 percent of hospital admissions were among those who hadn’t been fully inoculated, which is defined by the CDC as two weeks after the second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna shot or two weeks after Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose jab.

As of Aug. 30, a little over 1.6 million Americans were hospitalized with COVID-19 — but only about 0.65 percent of them, or 10,471 patients, were fully vaccinated, the CDC data show.

Read the rest here.

Sad news

Via Byzantine Texas word that the parish priest of St. Elizabeth Church, Chesterton IN died very suddenly this last Sunday. In your charity please keep Fr. Anastasy (Stacey) Richter and his family, now in deep mourning, in your prayers. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family here.

Memory eternal!

Bonds (more)

The GOP is once again threatening the US Government with default on its debt by refusing to authorize the routine increase in the debt limit. (One notes they only seem to rediscover their concerns about spiraling debt when Democrats are in power.)  It should go without saying that if they ever actually follow through with their threats, the consequences could be catastrophic

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Bonds? Just say 'no.'

Record low interest rates on riskier corporate bonds are prompting money managers to look far afield in a bid to boost returns.

Faced with yields once reserved for the safest types of government debt, some managers of speculative-grade bond funds are piling into debt with rock-bottom credit ratings. Others are buying smaller, more obscure securities that carry higher yields because they can be hard to sell.

No strategy is likely to be entirely satisfying because of the recent low-rate environment. The average speculative-grade U.S. corporate bond yield reached as low as 3.53% this summer, more than a percentage point lower than it had reached at any time before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Bloomberg Barclays data stretching back to 1995. The average extra yield, or spread, that investors demand to hold low-rated bonds instead of ultrasafe Treasurys is near a record low.

Low yields present challenges to all fixed-income investors, including those who buy higher-quality, investment-grade bonds. Low yields cause particular anxiety for high-yield-fund managers, given that buying the wrong bonds can mean dealing with defaults and drawn-out bankruptcies, not just lagging behind benchmark returns.

An informed client is “more tolerant and they understand that this is the kind of market you almost want your manager to underperform,” said David Knutson, head of credit research for the Americas at Schroders, the U.K. asset- management firm.

Still, he said, there are broad pressures on managers to outperform their benchmarks. Accordingly, for much of the year, many have been piling into the lowest-rated speculative-grade bonds—those rated triple-C or lower. This buying spree has driven yields down so far that purchasers have rarely been compensated less for taking risk.

At the start of the year, investors could obtain 2.79 percentage points of additional spread by buying triple-C bonds rather than those rated one tier higher. By July, that was down to 1.51 percentage points—the lowest over the past 20 years other than a brief period in 2007.

Read the rest here.

My response to all of this is "just say no." After years, arguably decades of aggressive government manipulation of interest rates to its own advantage, causing huge distortions in the broader financial markets, we have reached a point where we can make a few observations...
  • The Untied States Government is running levels of debt as a percentage of GDP that have no historical precedent.
  • The government is, and has been for years. forcing down interest rates in the bond market, thereby facilitating the government's unrelenting apatite for debt.
  • The government is printing money like water.
  • The government is spending hundreds of billions of that newly created money to buy its own bonds, at hugely depressed rates.
  • All of the newly created money, in combination with the largest ever peacetime expansion of government spending, is sparking a sharp uptick in inflation, to the point that...
  • Bonds now carry a de facto negative yield, no matter the credit quality or the duration of the bonds in question. This means that if you are buying a ten year US Government bond, currently yielding around 1.3%, with inflation at 5.4% as of July 2021, you are taking a 4% loss in the value of your investment right out the door as a consequence of currency debasement and lost purchasing power. Or, to put it in plain English, you are paying the Federal Government around 4% for the privilege of lending them money. In order to avoid a loss on that bond before it matures in ten years, inflation would have to drop to near zero or actually go negative for a prolonged period of time.
  • The technical term for what we are seeing is financial repression. In this economic environment savers and those investing in fixed income securities are all but guaranteed to lose money when adjusting for inflation. 
Broadly speaking; my view is that bonds have become exactly what they are not supposed to be, i.e. high risk and no return. That's not something I am interested in. 

(In the interest of full disclosure, I have almost no holding in bonds or any other fixed income securities.)

This raises a lot of questions, like where to invest or even just park money that you don't want to lose value? The stock market has been booming, the S&P 500 seems to be setting new records near daily, which makes me nervous. Valuations are also at all time highs as measured by the price to earnings multiple. A lot of this is likely investors looking for something with actual value that won't be crushed by all the money printing. Though some is also undoubtedly a response to the improvements in the economy after last year. But the stock market is fickle and what it gives it can take away with often breathtaking speed and brutality. 

For now I'd look at hard assets in preference to bonds. Real estate/land, commodities, and precious metals. Right now I'd take gold over a 30 year US bond any day of the week and twice on Sunday. 

But, unless you are anticipating a long term deflationary depression, in which case anyone buying bonds right now will look like a financial genius in five years; I don't see a realistic argument for owning securities that start losing value from day one, and likely will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. If/when bond yields are allowed to rise a few percentage points above inflation I may reconsider. But until then buying bonds as an investment or to save money is a bit like buying a car, and hoping you will be able to resell it in ten years for what you paid for it today. 

Of course if inflation gets bad enough, that might be possible, on paper. 

Friday, September 03, 2021

Anglican Bishop Swims the Tiber

A Church of England bishop who opposed women priests has defected to the Roman Catholic church amid speculation it was not “spiritual” or “orthodox” enough for him. 

Bishop Jonathan Goodall, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, has been a provincial episcopal visitor, known as a “flying bishop”, since 2013, supporting congregations in the Church of England that are unable to accept the ministry of women as priests or bishops.

However, on Friday afternoon he announced that “after a long period of prayer, which has been among the most testing periods of my life”, he was quitting to defect to Catholicism. 

The exact reasons for his departure remain unknown. However, a source close to the Bishop, who has been away on retreat until this week, claimed that he was unhappy with the direction of the Church regarding its spirituality, orthodoxy and allowing of same-sex unions. 

Read the rest here

Idaho's medical system is on the brink of collapse

The state has one of the lowest vaccination rates and hospitals are so overwhelmed that they are preparing to ration care based on the likelihood of survival.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Travelogue: Europe to Dutch Colony in the 1920s


Absolutely stunning film footage shot in the mid to late1920s during a trip by sea from Holland to the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia). Lots of stops along the way. This is part 1 which gets us as far as Singapore. The footage has been stabilized, speed corrected and colorized. 

In 5:4 Ruling The Supreme Court Signals Roe v Wade's End May be Near

It's shortly after midnight on the east coast and the Supreme Court just broke its silence on the Texas abortion law that prohibits almost all abortions after the first six weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions outside of a threat to the mother's life. In a 5/4 decision the court has declined to block enforcement of the new law. Given that the law flatly violates the 1973 decision Roe v Wade, by which the court amended the US Constitution to establish an unrestricted right to abortion during the first two trimesters of pregnancy, it's hard not to see this as a strong signal that there are now five justices ready to reverse, or at least severely narrow Roe.

Deo volente.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

For History Enthusiasts

In general I eschew promotion or endorsements on the blog but I am going to make an exception here and respectfully call your attention to the TimeGhost history channel on YouTube. Among the various items they are producing is a weekly as it happened history of World War II. Currently we are entering September of 1942. There are several subseries covering various aspects of the war in greater detail. They also have produced a number of short series covering other topics such as the Indonesian War for Independence, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and their ongoing series covering the interwar decades. You can peruse their previous uploaded videos and subscribe to their channels at the links above. I have been consistently impressed by the quality and quantity of the material they put out, to the extent they are one of just a handful of YouTube channels I support via Patreon. 

I now return you to your normally scheduled, whatever it is you do at this time of the day. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

China Severely Restricts Video Game Play by Children

Kids and teens under 18 years old in China will only be allowed up to three hours per week to play online video games, according to new rules published by China’s National Press and Publication Administration Monday.

The move is a fresh blow to the country’s gaming giants from Tencent to NetEase which have dealt with an onslaught of regulation this year in areas from anti-monopoly to data protection. That has spooked investors and wiped billions of dollars of value off of Chinese tech stocks.

According to a translated notice about the new rules, people under 18 in China will be allowed one hour a day between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Fridays through Sundays and on legal holidays to play video games. The agency billed the rules as a way to safeguard children’s physical and mental health.

The rules will apply to companies providing online game services to minors, limiting their ability to serve those users outside of designated hours. The companies also will not be allowed to provide services to users who haven’t logged in with real-name registration, preventing them from simply remaining ignorant to their users’ backgrounds.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Congressional Budget Office Forecasts Highest Debt:GDP Ratio Since World War II

The most recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecast is projecting government debt levels in the U.S. not seen since World War II. According to a CBO report released on July 21:

“After all the government’s borrowing needs are accounted for, debt held by the public rises from $21.0 trillion at the end of 2020 to $35.8 trillion at the end of 2031 in CBO’s baseline projections. As a percentage of GDP, debt at the end of 2031 stands at 106 percent, about 6 percentage points higher than it was at the end of 2020 and nearly two and a half times its average over the past 50 years.”

As for the federal budget deficit as a share of GDP, things aren’t looking good there either according to CBO forecasts:

“CBO projects a federal budget deficit of $3.0 trillion in 2021 as the economic disruption caused by the 2020–2021 coronavirus pandemic and the legislation enacted in response continue to boost the deficit (which was large by historical standards even before the pandemic). At 13.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the deficit in 2021 would be the second largest since 1945, exceeded only by the 14.9 percent shortfall recorded last year.”

Growing levels of national debt and deficits are never good news but they are particularly troublesome when the rosy forecasts for GDP growth this year have started to dim as a result of the economic hit coming from the upsurge in the Delta variant of COVID-19.

On August 19, Goldman Sachs reduced their GDP estimate for the third quarter from a robust 9 percent to 5.5 percent. Goldman Sachs cited Delta’s impact on reduced consumer spending on “dining, travel, and some other services” as the reason for their sharp cut of 3.5 points from their earlier GDP forecast.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Gundlach: We're running our economy 'like we're not interested in maintaining global reserve currency status'

Billionaire bond investor Jeffrey Gundlach, the founder and CEO of $137 billion DoubleLine Capital, says his number one conviction over several years is that the U.S. dollar will decline as a consequence of current economic policies, resulting in the U.S. losing its sole reserve currency status.

"My number one conviction looking forward a number of years — I'm not talking about the next few months at all, I'm talking about several years — is that the dollar is going to go down," Gundlach told Yahoo Finance Live in an exclusive interview on Monday afternoon.

It's Gundlach's view that the "places to be in the long-term" are emerging markets and "non-U.S entities." While Gundlach has already rotated into European equities, the investor expects to "aggressively rotate into emerging markets," but notes it's "too early for that right now."

"So the dollar is going down is another reason why ultimately — we touched on gold — I think ultimately gold is going to go a lot higher, but it's really in hibernation right now," he added.

The 61-year-old "Bond King" later highlighted that the United States' status of the global reserve currency is in jeopardy.

"[The] U.S. has enjoyed the status of sole reserve currency globally for decades, and it's an incredible benefit," Gundlach said.

Read the rest here.

The Power of Holy Relics

The mentally ill and those suspected of possible possession are blessed with the incorrupt relics of Saint Gerasimus of Kefalonia.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Black Ribbon Day


August 23 is the International Day of Commemoration for the Victims of Totalitarian Regimes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Palantir bought $50 million in gold bars in August


While some companies such as Tesla are diversifying into bitcoin, data analytics software company Palantir is betting on gold. Palantir bought $50 million in gold bars in August, the company disclosed in its latest earnings statement.

The move reflects a growing company stashing cash in an unconventional asset in response to economic uncertainty spurred by the coronavirus pandemic and governments’ response to it.

Read the rest here.

Court sides with religious health care workers

A federal judge has issued a permanent injunction on behalf of religious health care providers who feared the Biden administration would interpret the Affordable Care Act as requiring them to perform abortions or gender-transition treatment against their conscience.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had argued that it doesn't require religious providers to offer such procedures and has never brought or threatened any enforcement activity against a religious entity in such a case.

But U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor interpreted HHS regulations as forcing the plaintiffs — a Catholic hospital system in the Midwest and a Christian medical association — to choose between their beliefs and their livelihood, resulting in “irreparable injury.”

The decision underscores a continued dispute between conservative religious health care providers and HHS over an issue that has generated a patchwork of rulings that will likely have to be sorted out by appellate courts.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Prayers for Cardinal Burke

Word from NLM that His Eminence has been hospitalized with Covid. It sounds serious. Card. Burke is one of the good guys in the ongoing crisis in the Roman Church and is known to be high on Frank's enemies list. If my memory has not failed I believe he was the first really prominent conservative prelate to be purged by the then new regime. 

It's Over

Afghanistan has fallen. All that remains is to see how bloody the aftermath is going to be. Ben Sasse (R-NE) has blasted both the Trump and Biden administrations for what is starting to look like one of the most spectacular military defeats in US history. Some of that criticism is fair. But what he and others rushing to judgement are failing to note is that the seeds of this calamity were sown as far back as 2001 when we precipitously invaded a country on the other side of the world, with a longstanding nickname as the "graveyard of empires," with no clear long term objectives, no clear resolve to find and destroy our enemies whatever the cost or wherever they hid, and worst of all, no clear exit strategy. This was followed by eight years of government by the other party whose principle objective appears to have been to not have it all come crashing down on their watch. Then comes Mr. Trump whose, for a change, correct instinct was that it was time to get the hell out, but then proceeds to sign a deal with the Taliban that looks and smells like unconditional surrender, setting a May deadline for our exit. So yeah, Biden got stuck holding the bag. But that doesn't let him off the hook for failing to plan for an orderly withdrawal. 

The ugly truth is that this country has not fought a war with the intention of winning since 1945. And IMHO if winning a war is not your objective, and/or you are not ready to do whatever is needed to secure total victory as quickly and decisively as possible, then you really should not be playing that particular game.

Liturgy for the Feast of the Dormition

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Chinese Corporate Bonds Are Sending Warning Signs


Policy moves in Beijing are hitting Chinese corporate bonds and rippling across global markets through the U.S. and European money managers who loaded up on the securities in recent years.

Emerging-markets investors have long been subject to such shocks, but Chinese bonds are now so widely held that swings in their prices are affecting even bond funds that don’t specialize in developing countries, including funds managed by firms such as Pacific Investment Management Co. and BlackRock Inc.

Global bond funds with the most Chinese corporate debt lagged behind their benchmark indexes over the month that ended last Thursday, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from Morningstar Inc. The underperformance coincides with declines in stocks and bonds of Chinese private education, technology and property companies, triggered by regulatory and policy changes.

Chinese authorities recently disclosed plans to make private education companies such as New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc. nonprofit and to rein in technology companies including delivery firm Meituan and internet giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. The government also has sent signals that it wants to restrict excessive borrowing by real-estate developers. Fears mounted in July that heavily indebted property company China Evergrande Group might default on its bonds.

Of the 10 nonemerging-markets bond funds with the largest Chinese corporate bondholdings by dollar amount, nine underperformed their benchmarks at the height of the recent turbulence in Chinese debt markets, analysis of the Morningstar data shows. Some of the funds’ performance turned positive in recent days as Chinese corporate bond prices rebounded.

Read the rest here.

The Catholic Church in Germany Has Gone Off the Rails

Details

Most of the clergy, including its bishops, are openly promoting heresy. Meanwhile the Vatican appears to be unable or unwilling to act. In the face of the present crisis, with the German church in open revolt against not just Catholic, but basic Christian orthodoxy, and the Holy See paralyzed; (small 'o') orthodox Roman Catholic bishops around the world should take steps to contain the cancer. They should warn Rome in no uncertain terms to do its job or they will take emergency measures on their own authority. Such measures should include declaring a state of impaired communion with the bishops and clergy in Germany until they recant. 

Monday, August 09, 2021

Quote of the day

"Ritual is an instrument of the sacred. Every innovation is a profanation." -Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Sunday, August 08, 2021

RIP Dewey Lambdin

I just discovered that one of my favorite authors of maritime fiction died this last July 26. His passing likely marks the end of the Alan Lewrie series (25 books) that he had authored over several decades. 

Memory eternal.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

COVID in Holy Cross Monastery

At least 19 of the monks are ill, some seriously. Archimandrite Seraphim and two monks have been hospitalized though their prognosis is favorable. Due to this serious situation the monastery has been temporarily closed to visitors. Prayers are urgently requested.

Details here.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Maryland Democrats Call for Elimination of Negro Race from Politics

Baltimore, Aug 1- The Democratic State Convention, which met here to-day, declared that the purpose of the party, if successful in the coming election was to eliminate the negro from politics in Maryland, if it is possible under the state constitution. Upon this, the paramount issue of the campaign, will stand the candidates nominated to-day for state offices and those chosen in the various county and district conventions as candidates for places in the legislature of 1902, which will elect a United States Senator to succeed George L. Wellington. That his successor, in the event of Democratic victory, would be Arthur Pue Gorman, is thought to be probable, although no formal announcement of his candidacy has yet been made...

...Under the guidance of Mr. Gorman, the following declaration on the chief issue in the campaign was prepared and adopted.

"The Democratic party represents more than forty thousand majority of the white people of Maryland. They, in common with their brethren of other states into which large masses of colored voters have been injected into the body politic, recognize that the peace, good order, personal safety and proper development of our material interests depend upon our control of the commonwealth by its intelligent white residents. Without the aid of the sixty thousand colored voters the Republican party in Maryland would be a hopeless minority. 

We therefore without hesitation proclaim that the success of the Democratic party will mean that, while we shall deal with perfect fairness in securing all the benefits of good government and full and free opportunities to education for all classes, such action must be taken as to prevent the control of the State government from passing into the hands of those who have neither the ability nor the interest to manage public affairs wisely and well."

Read the rest here.

Some people collect stamps or old coins; others...



A German pensioner who kept a Second World War Nazi tank in his basement for over 30 years was given a 14-month suspended jail sentence and fined €50,000 (£43,000) on Tuesday.

The 84-year-old, named only as Klaus-Dieter F under German privacy laws, admitted breaking the country’s War Weapons Control Act in a plea bargain to avoid being sent to prison. 

He also agreed to pay a further €200,000 (£170,000) to charity under the terms of the deal.

As well as a 1943 Panther tank, he also kept an 88mm anti-aircraft gun, a torpedo, a mortar, 70 assault rifles and over 2,000 rounds of ammunition in the basement of his private villa in Heikendorf, a wealthy suburb of Kiel in northern Germany. 

Prosecutors stumbled on the remarkable trove of weapons when they searched his home looking for stolen Nazi artworks after a tip-off in 2015.

Read the rest here.

Monday, August 02, 2021

Pour yourself a drink

The New York Times has an article listing the 25 most significant works of post war architecture. 

"Taste is relative, is the excuse adopted by those eras that have bad taste." -Nicolás Gómez Dávila

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.