Friday, April 16, 2021
Thursday, April 15, 2021
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
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
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Friday, April 09, 2021
Tuesday, April 06, 2021
Monday, April 05, 2021
Sunday, April 04, 2021
Thursday, April 01, 2021
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Saturday, March 27, 2021
Friday, March 26, 2021
Thursday, March 25, 2021
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Monday, March 22, 2021
Thursday, March 18, 2021
Ursula von der Leyen has invoked the nuclear option of the Lisbon Treaty. By threatening to activate emergency powers under Article 122 she has told the world that Europe is no longer a safe place for private capital or inward investment.
The clause allows Brussels to seize factories, take direct control over the production process and redirect vaccine flows. It enables war-time occupation of companies.
A regime that behaves like this is liable to impose capital controls without compunction, or block energy flows through the interconnectors, as has been threatened three times already (I keep count). And as we have seen, anything can be politicised, even random stochastic blood clots. Will global pharma ever build a plant again on EU territory after this episode?
“We want to see reciprocity and proportionality in exports,” said Mrs Von der Leyen. Delicious. The EU is currently refusing to reciprocate temporary UK waivers to smooth post-Brexit trade flows or to reciprocate on bare-bond equivalence in financial services.
If these daily antics from Brussels and Berlin continue, the eye-wateringly large capital outflows from the eurozone that have already been occurring may accelerate into something closer to outright capital flight.
HSBC says outflows reached half a trillion euros in the fourth quarter, an annualised pace of 20pc of GDP. It quickened to €250bn (£214bn) in the single month of December. The scale is breathtaking. It happened before the vaccine debacle condemned Europe to an extra quarter of economic recession and social despair.
“Relative to GDP, these outflows were the largest we have seen going back 20 years,” said Paul Mackel, HSBC's currency chief. Hedging contracts have prevented this setting off a disorderly slide in the euro but that does not change the fundamental picture.
You can interpret these outflows in many ways but one thing they are not is a vote of confidence in eurozone growth and recovery, or indeed the political management of the EU. The exodus is likely to gather pace this quarter as American reflation and the vast funding needs of the Biden treasury suck capital out of the global system.
But the accelerant is what the German vice-chancellor calls the vaccine “sh-- show”, made more destructive by the failure of every major EU state to heed the lesson from Britain and to let the B117 variant run rampant. The waning epidemic from the old variant and the rising epidemic from the new variant created an illusory stability in case numbers. Epidemiologists issued warnings. Politicians again refused to listen.
Read the rest here.
Sunday, March 14, 2021
This last year has been a brutal one on so many levels. I beg forgiveness for any offense I have given by act, word, or omission, and most especially for anything posted on this blog.
No blogging before Clean Thursday.
Thursday, March 11, 2021
Amazon.com Inc. AMZN 1.83% said it recently removed a three-year-old book about transgender issues from its platforms because it decided not to sell books that frame transgender and other sexual identities as mental illnesses.
The company explained its decision in a letter Thursday to Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Braun of Indiana and Josh Hawley of Missouri, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The senators had written last month to Chief Executive Jeff Bezos requesting an explanation of why “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment” was no longer available on Amazon AMZN 1.83% nor on its Kindle and Audible platforms.
“As to your specific question about When Harry Became Sally, we have chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness,” Amazon said in the letter, which was signed by Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, referring to sexual identities that include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, among others.
“When Harry Became Sally,” written by the conservative scholar Ryan T. Anderson, was published in February 2018. The book focuses on a variety of issues including gender identity.
“Everyone agrees that gender dysphoria is a serious condition that causes great suffering,” said Mr. Anderson and Roger Kimball, the publisher of Encounter Books, the New York-based nonprofit that published the book, in a statement Thursday in response to Amazon’s letter.
“There is a debate, however, which Amazon is seeking to shut down, about how best to treat patients who experience gender dysphoria,” they added, calling their book “an important contribution” to that conversation. “Amazon is using its massive power to distort the marketplace of ideas and is deceiving its own customers in the process,” they said.
Read the rest here.
Pope admits charges of ‘heresy’ are ‘risk’ he’s willing to take to ‘move forward with other religions’
ABOARD PAPAL PLANE, March 10, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis said charges that he acts against “Catholic doctrine” and is even on the verge of committing “heresy” are a “risk” he’s willing to take to move forward on the path toward “human fraternity” with believers of other religions.
“This is important, human fraternity, that as men we are all brothers, and we must move forward with other religions,” said the Pope on March 8 while speaking to reporters on the plane returning from his trip to Iraq.
“The Second Vatican Council took a big step in this, and also the institutions after, the Council for Christian Unity and the Council for Interreligious Dialogue,” continued the Pope.
“Cardinal (Miguel) Ayuso accompanies us today. You are human, you are a child of God and you are my brother, period! This would be the greatest indication, and so many times you have to risk to take this step,” he said.
It was at this point that the Pope mentioned the risks he is willing to take.
“You know that there are some criticisms: that the pope is not courageous, he is a reckless person who is taking steps against Catholic doctrine, that he is one step away from heresy, there are risks. But these decisions are always made in prayer, in dialogue, in asking for advice, in reflection. They are not a whim and also are the line that the Council taught,” he said.
The Pope made these comments while responding to a question about his meeting two years ago in Abu Dhabi with Imam Al Tayyeb of Al Azhar where both Pope and Imam signed the controversial Declaration on Human Fraternity, sometimes referred to as the Abu Dhabi statement.
The document stated, among other things, that the “pluralism and the diversity of religions” are “willed by God.” At no point does the document mention the name of Jesus.
A number of prominent Catholic clergymen and scholars reacted by accusing Pope Francis of committing heresy. In an April 2019 open letter to the Pope, they charged him of backing the notion that “God not only permits, but positively wills, the pluralism and diversity of religions, both Christian and non-Christian.”
Read the rest here.
HT: Blog reader JL.
Sunday, March 07, 2021
Probably not, and it's OK. I never heard of the guy until I checked to see when, if ever, New York has impeached a governor before. As it happens "plain Bill" Sulzer has the dubious distinction of being the one and only New York Governor to be impeached and removed from office.
In a nutshell he was a reform minded Democrat back when political machines ran both parties. He won the office in the 1912 election and promptly announced his support for bills to require open primaries that would determine the nominees for public office. The practice hitherto was that party bosses typically met over drinks and cigars to decide who their candidates would be. He also told Tammany Hall (the Democratic machine from downstate) where they could go when they sent him a list of party hacks they wanted given state jobs. Once the Democratic bosses figured out that Bill really meant the things he had promised in his campaign and that he was not in fact their boy, things got ugly. Suddenly, claims were made that he had lied under oath about some campaign finance money which it was said he actually used to buy stock for himself. And there were assertions he had been sued for "breach of promise" back in the 90s by some woman from Philadelphia among other salacious claims. Evidence supporting at least some of these claims appeared rather mysteriously with efforts to question or challenge said evidence being disallowed.
In short, historians largely agree that the whole thing was a frame up and the resulting impeachment and trial were a farce. The machine boys wanted him gone and they made it happen. He was governor for just over nine months.
Thursday, March 04, 2021
Pope Francis will fly to Iraq on Friday for the first ever papal visit to the country and his first international trip since the start of the pandemic.
The four-day trip is meant to reassure Iraq's dwindling Christian community and foster inter-religious dialogue.
The Pope will meet Iraq's most revered Shia Muslim cleric, say a prayer in Mosul and celebrate Mass at a stadium.
He has insisted on travelling despite a new spike in Covid-19 infections in Iraq and concerns over his security.
Hours after a rocket attack on a base hosting US troops on Wednesday, the Pope said Iraqi Christians could not be "let down for a second time".
Pope John Paul II cancelled plans for a trip at the end of 1999 after talks with then-President Saddam Hussein's government broke down.
In the two decades since then, one of the world's oldest Christian communities has seen its numbers plummet from 1.4 million to about 250,000.
Read the rest here.
Wednesday, March 03, 2021
- Usual Pomp Absent From Ceremony
- Wilson a Pathetic Figure as He Retires in An Atmosphere of Deep Sympathy
- New Cabinet is Confirmed in Ten Minutes
- 3 Generations of Coolidges See Calvin Sworn in as Vice President
A series of home movies shot while traveling in Europe. The nature and sequence of the footage suggests it was likely shot over more than one trip and visual evidence strongly points to the second half of the 1930s as the approximate time frame. (appx 1 hr with AI clean up and coloring added)
Tuesday, March 02, 2021
It looks like a lot of crossed fingers and hoping for a best case scenario. I live in south Florida, on the other coast, about 20 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. Given my age, I doubt I will live long enough to see it. But I am more or less resigned that my home and a lot of this end of the state is going to be underwater by the 2050s. Most people are in serious denial about how much of the coastal US is in danger.
JERUSALEM — The question of who is and isn’t a Jew has always been a subject of debate within Israel. Since the state was founded, the government has largely deferred to Orthodox Jewish authorities, who do not view converts to more liberal forms of Judaism as Jewish.
But on Monday, the Israeli Supreme Court struck a symbolic blow for a more pluralistic vision of Jewish identity: It granted the right to automatic citizenship to foreigners who convert within the state of Israel to Conservative, also known as Masorti, or Reform Judaism.
The decision was mainly symbolic because typically, only 30 or 40 foreigners convert to Reform or Masorti Judaism in Israel every year, according to the Israel Religious Action Center, the rights group that led efforts to obtain the court ruling.
But the ruling chips away some of the monopoly Orthodox rabbis have held over questions of religious identity that are central to frictions within Israeli society. It also inflames a long-running debate about the relationship between Israel’s civil and religious authorities — and particularly the role of the Supreme Court.
The Israeli right has portrayed the court as a bastion of the country’s secular and liberal elite, acting without democratic legitimacy. And though the court delayed ruling in this case for years, hoping Parliament would vote on it instead, the court’s critics were already making political capital from the decision on Monday night.
The party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a regular antagonist of the Israeli courts who is on trial on corruption charges, swiftly cited the decision as a reason to vote for the party and “ensure a stable right-wing government that will restore sovereignty to the people.”
Israel’s “Law of Return” gives foreign-born Jews, or anyone with a Jewish parent, grandparent or spouse, the automatic right to claim Israeli citizenship. Those who convert to non-Orthodox Judaism in another country have been able to gain Israeli citizenship for decades.
Read the rest here.
Sunday, February 28, 2021
A vast painting of The Last Supper that has hung in a parish church in Herefordshire since the turn of the last century is being seen in a new light following the discovery of crucial evidence that links it to the workshop of Titian, one of the 16th-century’s greatest masters.
A 12.5-foot-long painting in St Michael and All Angels church in Ledbury, was long assumed to be a much later copy. Hanging high on a wall, in a dark and dirty state, its potential had been missed.
Ronald Moore, a conservator and art historian, removed centuries of discoloured varnish and was astonished to discover Titian’s inscribed name, a bold under-drawing worthy of Titian himself and an apostle that must be a portrait of him as the facial features precisely match his self-portrait.
In a three-year study, he linked it to a 1775 letter in which its former owner, John Skippe, an Oxford-educated artist and noted collector, wrote of buying “a most capital and well-preserved picture by Titian” from a wealthy Venetian family, adding that it was commissioned by a Venetian convent. It was donated to the Ledbury church in 1909 by one of Skippe’s descendants.
“It’s so big and nobody’s taken any notice of it for 110 years,” Mr Moore said. “Anything coming from Titian’s workshop is very important indeed.”
Read the rest here.
Saturday, February 27, 2021
Bradley Wilkinson is the owner of a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, and the kind of electric-vehicle diehard who knows how to squeeze every last mile of range out of his vehicle.
Even so, during his most recent road trip, from Tampa, Fla., back home to Fort Carson, Colo., he spent about 58 hours on the road. In a gasoline-powered vehicle, on average, the 1,900-mile journey would take about 30. His relatively sluggish pace was due to his need to regularly power up the Bolt’s battery at a “fast” charger—so called because they’re many times faster than typical home chargers.
Less experienced EV owners report far bigger inconveniences than Mr. Wilkinson’s. Those include: too few charging stations, too much demand at the stations that are available, broken chargers, confusing payment systems, exorbitant electricity rates, and uncertainty over how long their cars need to charge.
While EVs can be powered up at home, industry analysts and academics believe that a fast-charging infrastructure is essential to getting beyond their current limited adoption. This next wave of slightly-less-early adopters is critical to a global automotive industry betting heavily on battery power.
Yet so far, only one carmaker has offered a reassuring pitch about conveniently and reliably recharging on the go: Tesla. And Tesla’s fast-charging technology doesn’t work on non-Tesla cars.
Building the requisite charging infrastructure for the rest of the EV universe will be expensive. The Biden administration has proposed building a network of 500,000 chargers in the next five years, which would cost billions. The fact that many believe such a government investment is required shows just how little faith many industry insiders have in the ability of private enterprise to solve this problem. One issue: Building out the nation’s charging infrastructure might not be profitable.
Read the rest here.
Friday, February 26, 2021
Wild moves in the $21 trillion US Treasury market have become disorderly. Shockwaves are pulsating through the international financial system and threaten to snuff out Europe’s economic recovery before it has even begun.
Central bankers have long been fretting over what might happen if incipient inflation and gargantuan debt issuance starts to set off an exodus from global bond markets. They had their first real taste late on Thursday. The cost of borrowing rocketed.
The US Federal Reserve in particular must navigate a narrow strait between the opposite perils of Scylla and Charybdis: damned if it does nothing, and allows the turmoil to continue; but equally damned it capitulates again, opts for easy stimulus to suppress yields, and falls even further behind the curve (in the eyes of bond vigilantes).
As matters now stand, the Fed has lost control over US monetary policy. Investors are betting that the overhang of excess M3 money created since Covid began will combine with the Biden Administration’s war economy stimulus - 13pc of GDP, including the pre-Christmas package - to lift the economy rapidly out of its long deflationary malaise.
Rightly or wrongly they are pulling forward an inflationary implication. Futures markets have priced in a full rate rise in 2022 and two more rises in 2023. This is self-fulfilling and will soon start rippling through financial contracts unless corrected.
Put another way, bond traders are dictating policy. They are tightening long before the Fed is ready or thinks that the coast is clear. So much for the charming idea of “running the economy hot”.
Nobody was spared on Thursday after investors shunned what was supposed to be a routine auction of seven-year US Treasury bonds, but instead sparked the worst bid-cover ratio on record (2.04) and a violent intraday spike of 30 basis points.
The spillover smashed into the vast Japanese bond market, where 10-year yields blew through the upper band of the Bank of Japan’s yield control regime.
Australia’s Reserve Bank had to intervene with emergency QE to hit its yield target. Junk bonds fell out of bed, giving up almost all the gains since vaccination euphoria began last year.
Equities have stopped rising in lockstep with bond yields for the first since the pandemic began. The Nasdaq bloodbath on Thursday was a sight to behold.
Ark Invest, the momentum ETF, is down 18pc over the past two days and is fast becoming a systemic threat in its own right, epicentre of a nexus of leverage. Saxo Bank warned that the “Tesla-Bitcoin-Ark risk cluster” could set off a toxic feedback loop that sucks other interlinked tech stocks into a downward vortex.
Read the rest here.
LONDON (Reuters) - From the United States to Germany and Australia, government borrowing costs on Friday were set to end February with their biggest monthly rises in years as expectations for a post-pandemic ignition of inflation gained a life of their own.
Australia’s 10-year bond yield and Britain’s 30-year yields were set for their biggest monthly jump since the 2009 global financial crisis. Long-dated New Zealand yields were flirting with their biggest monthly surge since 1994.
The move, which began in the U.S. Treasury market at the start of the year on prospects for a huge fiscal boost and economic recovery, has spread globally.
Even after a Friday respite from this week’s brutal drubbing, Australia’s 10-year yield is up 70 basis points in February and New Zealand’s 10-year yield is up almost 77 bps.
Australia’s 10-year bond yield has soared almost 40 bps this week alone to 1.8%, its biggest weekly jump since 2013 .
And as three-year bond yields moved above their 0.1% target, the Reserve Bank of Australia on Friday made an unscheduled offer to buy A$3 billion ($2.35 billion) of three-year bonds, on top of a similar amount on Thursday, to calm markets.
“Given how expensive bonds have been, meaning yields have been depressed, it was expected that when the selloff came it would move at great speed,” said Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors.
Read the rest here.
Thursday, February 25, 2021
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Rifle Association filed a countersuit against New York Attorney General Letitia James, saying she lacks authority to invoke state laws governing nonprofits in her zeal to destroy the gun rights group.
In a Tuesday night court filing, the NRA, which filed for bankruptcy last month, accused James of “weaponizing” her powers to pursuing a “blatant and malicious retaliation campaign” against it because she dislikes what it stands for.
James’ office did not immediately respond on Wednesday to requests for comment.
The attorney general had sued the NRA and Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre last August, saying the nonprofit diverted millions of dollars to fund luxurious trips for officials, no-show contracts for associates, and other questionable expenses.
“James commenced her investigations and this action against the NRA with the sole purpose of seeking to dissolve a political enemy,” the NRA said.
The NRA said the Democrat’s “selective enforcement” of state not-for-profit laws violated its constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection, warranting the lawsuit’s dismissal.
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Monday, February 22, 2021
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen issued a warning Monday about the dangers that bitcoin poses both to investors and the public.
Despite a sharp slide in price to start the week, the cryptocurrency continues to trade above $53,000 as it has received boosts from various sources. Elon Musk’s Tesla recently made a substantial purchase and has said it will accept bitcoin for transactions.
However, Yellen said there remain important questions about legitimacy and stability.
“I don’t think that bitcoin … is widely used as a transaction mechanism,” she told CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times’ “DealBook” conference. “To the extent it is used I fear it’s often for illicit finance. It’s an extremely inefficient way of conducting transactions, and the amount of energy that’s consumed in processing those transactions is staggering.”
Mining bitcoin requires users to solve complex mathematical equations using high-powered computer setups. The electric consumption used in the process leaves an annual carbon footprint equal to the nation of New Zealand, according to Digiconomist.
Read the rest here.
Saturday, February 20, 2021
ROME— Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Robert Sarah as head of the Vatican’s office for liturgy, removing an outspoken conservative and possible future pope from the ranks of Vatican leadership.
The Holy See Press Office announced Saturday that Cardinal Sarah had stepped down. No successor has been named.
The cardinal submitted his resignation as required by church law when he turned 75 on June 15 of last year. But the pope frequently lets cardinals serve two or three years past that age, though not past 80. Last June, the cardinal wrote on Twitter: “For my part, I am happy to continue my work” at the Vatican.
In accepting Cardinal Sarah’s resignation, the pope has removed a subordinate out of step with his approach to liturgy, homosexuality and relations with the Muslim world. The cardinal is a hero to many conservative Catholics, some of whom see him as a future pontiff. He will still be able to vote in a conclave to elect a pope until he turns 80.
Last year, the cardinal raised controversy with a book widely interpreted as an attempt to influence Pope Francis’ decision on whether to allow the ordination of married men as priests. The episode led to embarrassment for the cardinal when retired Pope Benedict XVI asked to have his name removed as the book’s co-author.
The Guinean cardinal’s retirement leaves only one African as the head of a Vatican department: Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, which focuses on issues of social justice.
Cardinal Sarah didn’t reply to a request for comment on Saturday. Shortly after the announcement, he tweeted: “I am in God’s hands. The only rock is Christ. We will meet again very soon in Rome and elsewhere.”
The cardinal was born in the small village of Ourous, Guinea, in West Africa, where his father was a farmer and a convert to Catholicism. At the age of 11 he was sent to a seminary in Ivory Coast. Pope John Paul II made him archbishop of the Guinean capital of Conakry at the age of 34, and he was the youngest archbishop in the world at the time.
Read the rest here.
Friday, February 19, 2021
A Democratic New York state lawmaker who accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of threatening him over his criticism of the handling of COVID-19-related nursing home deaths said Friday that support is building within the state legislature to begin an impeachment investigation.
“It will take a little time to build that consensus, but every day we are inching toward the impeachment process,” Assemblyman Ronald Kim, a Democrat from Queens, said in an interview with the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery.” He estimated that, along with “virtually all” Republicans, between 25 and 30 Democratic legislators currently support an impeachment inquiry into Cuomo — a number he suggested is growing steadily.
Kim, who considers himself a progressive socialist, made the comments after recounting how Cuomo called him up at home and “berated” him, threatening to destroy his career if the lawmaker didn’t immediately retract his comments accusing Cuomo’s administration of withholding evidence about nursing home deaths. Kim said Cuomo’s comments “traumatized” his wife and prompted him to hire a lawyer.
Cuomo has adamantly denied Kim’s account, and during a news conference in Albany on Friday he pushed back on the accusations against him, charging that his critics are spreading “lies” and “misinformation” about nursing home deaths.
Read the rest here.
New York is effectively a one party state, so this is going nowhere without Democrats onboard. That said Cuomo is not well liked within his own party and he has a long track record of stepping on toes and trying to push people around. So who knows.
Thursday, February 18, 2021
They don't like each other. Certain elements in the Wiki community have made a regular, bordering on tendentious habit of trying to get Fox News deprecated as a reliable source. Translated into plain language that means that the Wikipedia Reliable Sources Noticeboard (WP:RSN) routinely sees editors opening discussions trying to get the community to declare that Fox News is not a reliable source and may not be cited in support of claims of fact in the encyclopedia's articles. This happens to a lot of conservative news outlets. And in fairness, some really are pretty shoddy with a history of lousy fact checking or just making stuff up. Of course one rarely if ever sees similar concerns raised about nakedly biased websites from the left.
Well today Fox shot back with an article accusing Wikipedia of blatant leftwing bias, especially in articles dealing with sensitive subjects like Communism and Socialism. Their article on Communism is actually a good example. It is an open secret that there is a cadre of left leaning editors who carefully guard the article and mobilize to ensure "consensus" is against anything too negative getting into it. Bluntly that article has been so thoroughly sanitized you could use it for a surgical ward.
Full Disclosure: I spent a good part of ten years working on the encyclopedia (close to four as an admin) before I resigned, in large part over the naked bias and hostility to conservative editors. I still think that if your looking for information on non-controversial/political subjects, it's a good resource. But the hostility towards conservatives and conservative view points is very real.
Life expectancy in the United States dropped a staggering one year during the first half of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic caused its first wave of deaths, health officials are reporting.
Minorities suffered the biggest impact, with Black Americans losing nearly three years and Hispanics, nearly two years, according to preliminary estimates Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This is a huge decline,” said Robert Anderson, who oversees the numbers for the CDC. “You have to go back to World War II, the 1940s, to find a decline like this.”
Other health experts say it shows the profound impact of COVID-19, not just on deaths directly due to infection but also from heart disease, cancer and other conditions.
“What is really quite striking in these numbers is that they only reflect the first half of the year ... I would expect that these numbers would only get worse,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a health equity researcher and dean at the University of California, San Francisco.
This is the first time the CDC has reported on life expectancy from early, partial records; more death certificates from that period may yet come in. It’s already known that 2020 was the deadliest year in U.S. history, with deaths topping 3 million for the first time.
Read the rest here.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A surge of Republicans quitting the party to renounce Donald Trump after the deadly Capitol riot could hurt moderates in next year’s primaries, adding a capstone to Trump’s legacy as president: A potentially lasting rightward push on the party.
More than 68,000 Republicans have left the party in recent weeks in Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, crucial states for Democrats’ hopes of keeping control of Congress in the mid-term elections in 2022, state voter data shows.
That’s about three times the roughly 23,000 Democrats who left their party in the same states over the same time period.
Compared to the Republicans who stayed put, those who fled were more concentrated in the left-leaning counties around big cities, which political analysts said suggested moderate Republicans could be leading the defections.
If the exodus is sustained, it will be to the advantage of candidates in the Republican Party’s nomination contests who espouse views that play well with its Trump-supporting base but not with a broader electorate.
That could make it harder for Republican candidates to beat Democrats in November, said Morris Fiorina, a political scientist at Stanford University.
“If these voters are leaving the party permanently, it’s really bad news for Republicans,” Fiorina said.
Read the rest here.
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Vatican City, Feb 15, 2021 / 11:01 am MT (CNA).- Pope Francis has praised the courageous witness of the 21 Coptic Orthodox Christians killed by ISIS in 2015, calling them “saints of all Christians.”
In a video message for the “Day of Contemporary Martyrs” Feb. 15, the pope said, “I hold in my heart that baptism of blood, those twenty-one men baptized as Christians with water and the Spirit.”
“I thank God our Father because he gave us these courageous brothers. I thank the Holy Spirit because he gave them the strength and consistency to confess Jesus Christ to the point of shedding blood. I thank the bishops, the priests of the Coptic sister Church which raised them and taught them to grow in the faith. And I thank the mothers of these people, of these 21 men, who ‘nursed’ them in the faith,” he said.
Read the rest here.
Monday, February 15, 2021
BRUSSELS (AP) — The rumors began almost as soon as the disease itself. Claims that a foreign adversary had unleashed a bioweapon emerged at the fringes of Chinese social media the same day China first reported the outbreak of a mysterious virus.
“Watch out for Americans!” a Weibo user wrote on Dec. 31, 2019. Today, a year after the World Health Organization warned of an epidemic of COVID-19 misinformation, that conspiracy theory lives on, pushed by Chinese officials eager to cast doubt on the origins of a pandemic that has claimed more than 2 million lives globally.
From Beijing and Washington to Moscow and Tehran, political leaders and allied media effectively functioned as superspreaders, using their stature to amplify politically expedient conspiracies already in circulation. But it was China -- not Russia – that took the lead in spreading foreign disinformation about COVID-19’s origins, as it came under attack for its early handling of the outbreak.
A nine-month Associated Press investigation of state-sponsored disinformation conducted in collaboration with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, shows how a rumor that the U.S. created the virus that causes COVID-19 was weaponized by the Chinese government, spreading from the dark corners of the Internet to millions across the globe. The analysis was based on a review of millions of social media postings and articles on Twitter, Facebook, VK, Weibo, WeChat, YouTube, Telegram and other platforms.
Chinese officials were reacting to a powerful narrative, nursed by QAnon groups, Fox News, former President Donald Trump and leading Republicans, that the virus was instead manufactured by China.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says Beijing has used its expanding megaphone on Western social media to promote friendship and serve facts, while defending itself against hostile forces that seek to politicize the pandemic.
“All parties should firmly say ‘no’ to the dissemination of disinformation,” the ministry said in a statement to AP, but added, “In the face of trumped-up charges, it is justified and proper to bust lies and clarify rumors by setting out the facts.”
Read the rest here.
Saturday, February 13, 2021
The divergence between the Eastern and Western calendars with respect to Lent and Easter is pretty much at its widest this year. Roman Catholics and those Protestants who observe Lent will mark Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Fast on the 17th instant, whereas on the Orthodox Calendar Lent begins on March 15th. Western Easter is on April 4th and we celebrate the Resurrections on May 2nd. One upside to the late date for us is that the Apostles Fast (no longer kept in the West) will be extremely short, just fourteen days for those on the Old Calendar. For those of us on the New Calendar... if you blink you will miss it.
Thursday, February 11, 2021
The Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church decided that the Assembly, at which a new patriarch will be elected, will be held in the crypt of the Temple of Saint Sava.
This possibility was announced earlier by the Metropolitan of Dabar-Bosnia and the guardian of the patriarchal throne of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Chrysostom, in an interview given to Tanjug a few days ago, when he stated that due to the epidemiological situation, the option of holding the Assembly in the Church of St. Sava is being considered.
As he pointed out at the time, this will be the first time that the Assembly will be held at a location outside the Patriarchate, and he announced that the name of a monk who will pull out one of the three envelopes with the name of the candidate for the new patriarch will be chosen at today's Synod session.
According to the procedure, the archbishops first choose three candidates from among themselves, and then the chosen names are placed in the gospel, from which the envelope with the name is taken out by a monk from a monastery who is considered to be a great clergyman.
After the death of Patriarch Irinej, who died of the consequences of coronavirus infection, until the election of the new leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Chrysostom of Dabar-Bosnia was temporarily appointed in his place.
The Catholic majority in Mexico is slipping, as Protestants surpassed 10 percent of the population in the country for the first time ever.
According to recently released data from Mexico’s 2020 census, the Protestant/evangelical movement increased from 7.5 percent in 2010 to 11.2 percent last year.
The Catholic Church has historically dominated the religious landscape across Latin America, but especially in Mexico, which ranks among the most heavily Catholic countries in the region. Today, though an overwhelming majority of Mexicans still identify as Catholic, declines are accelerating.
It took 50 years—from 1950 to 2000—for the proportion of Catholics in Mexico to drop from 98 percent to 88 percent. Now, only two decades later, that percentage has slipped another 10 points to 77.7 percent.
Read the rest here.
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
(Reuters) - Dozens of former Republican officials, who view the party as unwilling to stand up to former President Donald Trump and his attempts to undermine U.S. democracy, are in talks to form a center-right breakaway party, four people involved in the discussions told Reuters.
The early stage discussions include former elected Republicans, former officials in the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Trump, ex-Republican ambassadors and Republican strategists, the people involved say.
More than 120 of them held a Zoom call last Friday to discuss the breakaway group, which would run on a platform of “principled conservatism,” including adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law - ideas those involved say have been trashed by Trump.
The plan would be to run candidates in some races but also to endorse center-right candidates in others, be they Republicans, independents or Democrats, the people say.
Evan McMullin, who was chief policy director for the House Republican Conference and ran as an independent in the 2016 presidential election, told Reuters that he co-hosted the Zoom call with former officials concerned about Trump’s grip on Republicans and the nativist turn the party has taken.
Three other people confirmed to Reuters the call and the discussions for a potential splinter party, but asked not to be identified.
Read the rest here.
Monday, February 08, 2021
In Romania a six week old infant boy recently died shortly after being baptized. Authorities believe the death was directly related to his being baptized by full immersion according to the immemorial rite of the Orthodox Church. The tragedy, not surprisingly, has caused a firestorm of commentary including criticism of the Church's baptismal rite.
Romania is generally regarded as one of Europe's most religiously observant countries with a little over 80% identifying as members of the Orthodox Church, around 7% as Catholics (mostly Latin Rite but a small number of Eastern Rite), and approximately 5% self identify as some form of Protestant. Somewhere around 2-3% are Muslims or Jews with the rest being either non-believers or having no formally expressed religious beliefs in the latest census.
Friday, February 05, 2021
Since taking control of the state Legislature in 2019, Virginia Democrats have enacted a run of progressive laws — on gun control, abortion access and the removal of Confederate monuments. Now Virginia is poised to become the first state in the South to abolish the death penalty, a sign of ascendant liberal political power in a state that has executed more people since the 1970s than any other except Texas.
Read the rest here.
With the exception of intentional murder committed by already life sentenced inmates and a handful of very rare crimes like treason and wartime spying, I am an opponent of capital punishment. So this doesn't particularly bother me. But I must note the hypocrisy of Gov. Northam who bemoans the machinery of death while doing everything in his power to facilitate the legal killing of children by their mothers purely on the basis of their not yet having been born.
Thursday, February 04, 2021
Read it here.
Executive Summary: Low cost broad based index funds or near equivalent ETFs are very hard to beat. Even the so called professional money managers, who often charge scandalous fees, rarely beat the dirt cheap fund that just tracks the S&P 500.
Pope Francis: Vatican II must be taught as part of church teaching, or ‘you are not with the church’
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Religious education must focus on leading people to a personal relationship with Christ and building a community of believers where the talents of each person are valued and where all go out to share the Gospel and serve the poor, Pope Francis said.
"The first protagonists of catechesis are those messengers of the Gospel, often laypeople, who generously get involved to share the beauty of having encountered Jesus," the pope said Jan. 30 to participants in a meeting organized by the Italian bishops' National Catechetical Office.
Catechesis must "express God's saving love, which precedes any moral and religious obligation on our part," he said. "'You are loved, you are loved' -- this comes first; this is the gateway."
Catechesis does "not impose the truth but appeals to freedom, like Jesus did," he said, and "it should be marked by joy, encouragement, liveliness and a harmonious balance which will not reduce preaching to a few doctrines which are at times more philosophical than evangelical."
However, he said, a catechist always must teach what the church teaches and that includes the vision and teachings of the Second Vatican Council.
"This is magisterium: the council is the magisterium of the church," he said. "Either you are with the church and therefore you follow the council, or if you do not follow the council or you interpret it in your own way, as you wish, you are not with the church."
Read the rest here.
HT: Blog reader John L.
Tuesday, February 02, 2021
Monday, February 01, 2021
The same crowd that drove up GameStop stock by 1600% while inflicting huge losses on several hedge funds in a coordinated short squeeze have turned their attention to the silver market. Silver has long been the subject of conspiracy theories about mysterious but powerful entities short selling it. The metal was up more than 10% in overnight trading.
Silver is both an industrial and precious metal and its movements can be hard to predict. But unlike GME it is not a stock and the market for silver is huge with multiple avenues for investors to gain exposure. These include stock in silver miners, the bullion backed ETF SLV, physical bullion that can be purchased in bulk on the COMEX or in smaller quantities from local coin shops and online bullion dealers. Also unlike GME, most Wall Street analysts have been bullish on silver (and gold) for a while and silver was already at multi-year highs before the arrival of the #silversqueeze crowd.
It will be interesting to see where this goes. But one indicator is that I checked my two favorite online bullion dealers this morning to see what they had in stock and what they were charging in premiums (the mark up above spot price for retail oriented bullion). Both of them look like the toilet paper aisle at Walmart did last March. They have been almost completely wiped out of their silver inventory and the little that's left is being sold at extortionist premiums. I would be careful about reading too much into that though. Only a small percentage of silver is refined/minted with ordinary investors in mind so whenever precious metals spike there is often a near term shortage in the small bars and rounds popular with retail investors or collectors.
Disclosure: I have had a smallish position in silver for several years and do not have any plans to add to or sell any of it in the immediate future. But if the price goes nuts...
Update: No surprise. The rally fizzled as silver has given up almost all of its gains. And in related news GameStop is also falling like a rock as the short squeeze ends and people realize they were paying hundreds of dollars for a company whose stock is probably worth no more than $25 a share in fair market valuation. A few people made a ton of money. but a lot of the folks late to that trade and those who didn't realize that it was already over, are getting hosed. They can join the hedge fund guys in licking their wounds.
Wall Street is a rough neighborhood.
(Reuters) - Dozens of Republicans in former President George W. Bush’s administration are leaving the party, dismayed by a failure of many elected Republicans to disown Donald Trump after his false claims of election fraud sparked a deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol last month.
These officials, some who served in the highest echelons of the Bush administration, said they had hoped that a Trump defeat would lead party leaders to move on from the former president and denounce his baseless claims that the November presidential election was stolen.
But with most Republican lawmakers sticking to Trump, these officials say they no longer recognize the party they served. Some have ended their membership, others are letting it lapse while a few are newly registered as independents, according to a dozen former Bush officials who spoke with Reuters.
“The Republican Party as I knew it no longer exists. I’d call it the cult of Trump,” said Jimmy Gurulé, who was Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in the Bush administration.
Read the rest here.
Saturday, January 30, 2021
India’s government plans to introduce a bill in the country’s lower house that would ban private cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and create a national cryptocurrency.
The so-called “Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill” moves “to create a facilitative framework for creation of the official digital currency to be issued by the Reserve Bank of India.”
Additionally, “the bill also seeks to prohibit all private cryptocurrencies in India, however, it allows for certain exceptions to promote the underlying technology of cryptocurrency and its uses.”
Fronted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the right-wing Bhartiya Janata Party currently have control of India’s two houses of Parliament (the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha), giving the legislation a strong possibility of passing.
Bitcoin’s value jumped more than 20% to $38,566 on Friday after Elon Musk changed his personal Twitter bio to #bitcoin.
Read the rest here.
This is one of the main reasons cryptos will never replace gold as the ultimate currency hedge. Governments can effectively regulate or throw the off switch on any or all crypto-currencies at will and there is basically nothing that anyone can do about it.
Online broker Robinhood said that it put temporary buying restrictions on a small number of securities because central Wall Street clearinghouse-mandated deposit requirements for equities increased tenfold.
The decision by Robinhood, a free-trading pioneer and app that’s popular among small investors, drew scrutiny from its customers over the past week.
“It was not because we wanted to stop people from buying these stocks,” Robinhood said in a blog post published late Friday.
“We did this because the required amount we had to deposit with the clearinghouse was so large — with individual volatile securities accounting for hundreds of millions of dollars in deposit requirements — that we had to take steps to limit buying in those volatile securities to ensure we could comfortably meet our requirements,” it continued.
Amateur investors using Robinhood and other apps bid up heavily shorted stocks and caused GameStop shares to skyrocket 400% in the past week, resulting in major losses for hedge funds who shorted the shares.
Robinhood initially told investors they could only sell and not buy new shares in certain companies that were attracting attention from retail traders on Reddit. The brokerage is now allowing clients to buy only a single share of GameStop. A total of 50 securities are now restricted on the stock trading app.
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Monday, January 25, 2021
For the record, I haven't seen any suggestion he was part of the violent attack on Congress that followed.
Update: The diocese is now claiming that the suspension is for other, undisclosed, reasons.
Sunday, January 24, 2021
For many years it seemed that overpopulation was the looming crisis of our age. Back in 1968, the Stanford biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich infamously predicted that millions would soon starve to death in their bestselling, doom-saying book The Population Bomb; since then, neo-Malthusian rumblings of imminent disaster have been a continual refrain in certain sections of the environmental movement – fears that were recently given voice on David Attenborough’s documentary Life on our Planet.
At the time the Ehrlichs were publishing their dark prophecies, the world was at its peak of population growth, which at that point was increasing at a rate of 2.1% a year. Since then, the global population has ballooned from 3.5 billion to 7.67 billion.
But growth has slowed – and considerably. As women’s empowerment advances, and access to contraception improves, birthrates around the world are stuttering and stalling, and in many countries now there are fewer than 2.1 children per woman – the minimum level required to maintain a stable population.
Falling fertility rates have been a problem in the world’s wealthiest nations – notably in Japan and Germany – for some time. In South Korea last year, birthrates fell to 0.84 per woman, a record low despite extensive government efforts to promote childbearing. From next year, cash bonuses of 2m won (£1,320) will be paid to every couple expecting a child, on top of existing child benefit payments.
The fertility rate is also falling dramatically in England and Wales – from 1.9 children per woman in 2012 to just 1.65 in 2019. Provisional figures from the Office for National Statistics for 2020 suggest it could now be 1.6, which would be the lowest rate since before the second world war. The problem is even more severe in Scotland, where the rate has fallen from 1.67 in 2012 to 1.37 in 2019.
Read the rest here.