Thursday, December 30, 2021


Russian Church forms "Patriarchal Exarchate of Africa"

Woodrow Wilson

Part I

Part II

If you're a fan of Mr. Wilson, I suggest you skip this. Or, take a valium before watching. FTR I don't rank him as the worst president. But he is definitely in the bottom tier. I think he did a lot more harm than his much maligned successor, Warren Harding.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Russian court orders closure of country’s oldest human rights group

Russia’s supreme court has ordered the closure of Memorial International, the country’s oldest human rights group, in a watershed moment in Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on independent thought.

The court ruled Memorial must be closed under Russia’s controversial “foreign agent” legislation, which has targeted dozens of NGOs and media outlets seen as critical of the government.

Memorial was founded in the late 1980s to document political repressions carried out under the Soviet Union, building a database of victims of the Great Terror and gulag camps. The Memorial Human Rights Centre, a sister organisation that campaigns for the rights of political prisoners and other causes, is also facing liquidation for “justifying terrorism and extremism”.

Memorial International’s closure marks an inflection point in Russia’s modern history, as efforts to publicise crimes under Soviet leaders such as Joseph Stalin have become taboo 30 years after the secret government archives were opened after the end of the Soviet Union. While not quite seeking a return to the Soviet past, Putin has become deeply sensitive to any criticism of it by groups including Memorial.

Genri Reznik, a lawyer who represented Memorial on Tuesday, called the decision to close it “political”, adding that the hearing reminded him of the Soviet show trials of the 1930s.

The decision also follows a sustained assault on Russian civil society this year that has led to opposition leaders such as Alexei Navalny being imprisoned, prominent activists and journalists fleeing the country, and NGOs and media outlets hit with fines and closures under Russia’s “foreign agents” and “undesirable” laws.

The judge, Alla Nazarova, ordered the organisation closed for “repeated” and “gross” violations of Russia’s foreign agent laws, a designation Memorial has called politically motivated but nonetheless claimed to have followed.

Read the rest here.

Quebec prepares strict law promoting French over English

Quebec is poised to introduce a strict new French language law restricting the use of English in public services in what critics have dubbed a "culture war" on its anglophone residents.

The province's ruling nationalist party, Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), say the tough measures are “urgently required” for the survival of the French language given the dominance of English in global popular culture.

“It’s nothing against the English Quebecers,” said Quebec's premier, Francois Legault. "It’s about protecting French."

But the province's anglophone residents say Bill 96, which is expected to come into force in the next year/2022, discriminates against bilinguals and denies them basic freedoms.

The legislation seeks to unilaterally change the Canadian Constitution to affirm Quebec as a nation and French its official language, using a mechanism designed to shield it from constitutional challenges.

The radical bill proposes more than 200 amendments to the province's landmark 1977 French-language charter, including stricter requirements for businesses to operate in French and tight limits on the number of francophones who can attend English-language colleges.  

Among the most controversial proposals are the extra powers handed to government language inspectors to raid offices and access the computers and phones of any businesses - including media organisations - suspected of violating the new law.

The draconian measures have inflamed the rhetoric around the debate, with prominent Canadian lawyer Anne-France Goldwater comparing the new snooping powers to the "Gestapo".

Simon Jolin-Barrette, the Quebec minister responsible for the French language, tabled the bill in response to studies by Quebec's French-language office that indicate the number of people who solely use French at home and work is on the decline.

“The time has come to take strong action,” Mr Jolin-Barrette said during recent legislative hearings on the bill.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Arrests, Beatings and Secret Prayers: Inside the Persecution of India’s Christians

INDORE, India — The Christians were mid-hymn when the mob kicked in the door.

A swarm of men dressed in saffron poured inside. They jumped onstage and shouted Hindu supremacist slogans. They punched pastors in the head. They threw women to the ground, sending terrified children scuttling under their chairs.

“They kept beating us, pulling out hair,” said Manish David, one of the pastors who was assaulted. “They yelled: ‘What are you doing here? What songs are you singing? What are you trying to do?’”

The attack unfolded on the morning of Jan. 26 at the Satprakashan Sanchar Kendra Christian center in the city of Indore. The police soon arrived, but the officers did not touch the aggressors. Instead, they arrested and jailed the pastors and other church elders, who were still dizzy from getting punched in the head. The Christians were charged with breaking a newly enforced law that targets religious conversions, one that mirrors at least a dozen other measures across the country that have prompted a surge in mob violence against Indian Christians.

Pastor David was not converting anyone, he said. But the organized assault against his church was propelled by a growing anti-Christian hysteria that is spreading across this vast nation, home to one of Asia’s oldest and largest Christian communities, with more than 30 million adherents.

Anti-Christian vigilantes are sweeping through villages, storming churches, burning Christian literature, attacking schools and assaulting worshipers. In many cases, the police and members of India’s governing party are helping them, government documents and dozens of interviews revealed. In church after church, the very act of worship has become dangerous despite constitutional protections for freedom of religion.

To many Hindu extremists, the attacks are justified — a means of preventing religious conversions. To them, the possibility that some Indians, even a relatively small number, would reject Hinduism for Christianity is a threat to their dream of turning India into a pure Hindu nation. Many Christians have become so frightened that they try to pass as Hindu to protect themselves.

“I just don’t get it,” said Abhishek Ninama, a Christian farmer, who stared dejectedly at a rural church stomped apart this year. “What is it that we do that makes them hate us so much?”

The pressure is greatest in central and northern India, where the governing party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is firmly in control, and where evangelical Christian groups are making inroads among lower-caste Hindus, albeit quietly. Pastors hold clandestine ceremonies at night. They conduct secret baptisms. They pass out audio Bibles that look like little transistor radios so that illiterate farmers can surreptitiously listen to the scripture as they plow their fields.

Read the rest here

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Pope Francis' new attack on Catholic traditionalists

As predicted in a recent post, the pope has launched the next phase of his war on Catholic traditionalists. Among the new rules are draconian restrictions on the traditional rites for baptism, confession, marriage, and holy unction. The traditional rites for confirmation and ordination to holy orders are now prohibited entirely. Cleary Francis wants to drive these people out of the Catholic Church. This is a man without charity and who believes that he is the absolute master of the liturgy and the rites of his church. That is a dangerous combination. 

How could anyone who is Orthodox contemplate entering into any kind of communion with a church that holds such beliefs and wages war on its own faithful? 



Thursday, December 16, 2021

Archbishop Makarios: The Orthodox Church cannot exist without the Ecumenical Patriarchate

“We Orthodox have a history of two thousand years. If during these two thousand years, the Orthodox Church did not have an Ecumenical Patriarchate, it should have created it. Because she would not have been able to proceed otherwise. I can not imagine the Orthodox Church without the Ecumenical Patriarchate. She cannot exist! Despite what is said and heard; despite the voices, the cold and icy voices from the north; the strange voices; the voices of secularisation, there can be no Orthodox Church without the first of Orthodoxy, who is the Ecumenical Patriarch.”

Read the rest here.

Honestly, he should just go off and join the Roman Catholics. He is clearly 3/4 of the way there already.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The Russian Church throws cold water on union with Rome

Russia’s Orthodox Church dismissed talk of union between Orthodox and Catholic Churches but it confirmed earlier in the week that a meeting between Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and Pope Francis is possible.

Bishop Hilarion, the Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, said that the schism between Orthodoxy and Catholicism has existed for centuries and there are fundamental dogmatic differences between the two churches.

“No one talks about the union of the two Churches because the divisions have existed for a long time, many contradictions have accumulated, they have been living independently for almost ten centuries,” he said, adding “There is no talk of union, but there can be discussions to finally end the state of rivalry, of competition, of hostility, which has existed for many centuries.”

Hilarion, who is in effect the diplomatic envoy of the Russian Orthodox Church, said that he would meet Pope Francis in late December.

“I expect to congratulate him on his 85th birthday on behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, as well as to discuss with him a broad range of issues regarding bilateral relations between our churches,” he noted.

“Among these issues is a possible meeting of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill. Neither the venue nor the date of this meeting has been determined for now,” Hilarion added.

Pope Francis told a news conference onboard a plane as he was returning from a mission trip to Greece and Cyprus that he might meet with Patriarch Kirill in the near future.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Pope John Ireland? (updated)

Pope Francis is now more or less openly at war with the conservative wing of the Catholic Church and is known to hold so called traditionalists, those favoring the pre-Vatican II liturgical and sacramental rites, in particular contempt. In his recent, and perversely named motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis effectively revoked the decree of his predecessor granting broad permission for the use of the ancient rites of the Roman Church. The new rules are far more restrictive and appear to be a preparatory step towards the full suppression of the Tridentine Mass. 

I have already noted the ecumenical consequences of this hostility towards the liturgical patrimony of his church and his belief that he has the power to arbitrarily dictate all aspects of its liturgical life. Any such claimed authority is a non-starter with the Orthodox and a further, very serious, impediment to any talk of restoration of communion. If he believes he can wave his hand and outlaw the ancient rites of the West, why would he, or any of his successors, think they could not do the same to the rites of the Christian East? Indeed, many of the uniate churches have already been subjected to varying degrees of imposed "liturgical renewal" since Vatican II and even well before that. But his hostility to Catholic traditionalists appears to be of a nature where he is not interested in building bridges, so much as burning them. It is widely suspected on both sides of the cultural/theological divide that Francis' ultimate objective is the complete suppression of the old rites which he sees as a rallying point for resistance to the "spirit of Vatican II." There are now rumors circulating that he is preparing to forbid the ordination of priests using the old ritual. This would have the direct effect of crippling the religious orders whose formation and spiritual lives are centered around the old mass and the other sacraments served according to the rites in existence before 1962. It must be a source of continued irritation to liberals to see how these orders thrive, while so many others struggle to find vocations. 

One is left to wonder if Francis is not secretly hoping to drive these faithful Catholics out of his church, in much the way Bishop John Ireland was reportedly none too sad to see large numbers of Catholics whose manner of worship he did not agree with, depart for Orthodoxy. 

Update: Since this was originally posted further confirmation of my above concerns has surfaced. Vatican to implement sweeping worldwide ban on traditional sacraments in accordance with Traditionis Custodes.

HT: Dr. Tighe

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Friday, December 10, 2021


I just noticed several comments that landed in my spam folder and they have now been published. Sorry for the delay.

Inflation is near 40 year high

Inflation jumped to the highest level in nearly 40 years, fresh data released on Friday showed, as supply chain disruptions, rapid consumer demand and rising housing costs combined to fuel the strongest inflationary burst in a generation.

The rising costs spell trouble for officials at the Federal Reserve and the White House, who are trying to calibrate policy at a moment when the labor market has yet to completely heal from the pandemic, but the risk that price increases could become more lasting is increasing.

The Consumer Price Index climbed by 6.8 percent in the year through November, the data showed, the fastest pace since 1982. After stripping out food and fuel, which can move around a lot from month to month, inflation climbed by 4.9 percent.

Prices were up 0.8 percent from October, according to the report. That’s slightly slower than the prior monthly increase, but still an unusually rapid pace.

The question is what happens next. Fed officials have become increasingly concerned about rising price — both because the uptick has lasted longer than expected and because it shows signs of broadening to areas less affected by the pandemic.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

China Faces Massive Corporate Default

HONG KONG — For weeks, global markets have been watching the struggles of China Evergrande, a teetering real estate giant weighed down by $300 billion or more in obligations that just barely seemed able to make its required payments to global investors.

On Thursday, three days after a deadline passed leaving bondholders with nothing but silence from the company, a major credit ratings firm declared that Evergrande was in default. Instead of resolving questions about the fate of the Chinese behemoth, the announcement only deepened them.

The firm, Fitch Ratings, said in its statement that it had placed the Chinese property developer in its “restricted default” category. The designation means Evergrande had formally defaulted but had not yet entered into any kind of bankruptcy filing, liquidation or other process that would stop its operations.

It’s the nature of that next step — bankruptcy, a fire sale or business as usual — that remains unknown. In the United States and many other places, bondholders could push an unwilling company into some form of reorganization, usually in court, and divvy up the pieces.

That may still happen. But Evergrande is faltering in China, where the Communist Party keeps a firm hand on corporate meltdowns to keep them from spreading out of control. With Evergrande, the risk is high: A sudden unwinding of the company could hit the country’s financial system or, potentially, the many homeowners in China who have already paid for Evergrande apartments that are yet to be built.

The company’s largely resigned investors are now waiting to see what Evergrande, under the advice of a group of financial types tied to the state, will do next.

“We all expected that Evergrande was not going to be able to pull a rabbit out of their hat,” said Michel Löwy, chief executive of SC Lowy, an investment firm that has a small position in Evergrande bonds.

“Now, the ball is in their court to come up with some form of restructuring proposal,” he said.

Evergrande did not respond to a request for comment. Fitch said the company had not responded to its own request for confirmation about whether it had met or missed an $82 million payment to bondholders due on Monday, which prompted the ratings firm’s Thursday move.

Fitch on Thursday also put Kaisa, another large and distressed developer, into its “restricted default” category after the company failed to pay bondholders $400 million earlier this week.

Read the rest here.

For more background information, see this

New Zealand Embraces Prohibition

New Zealand on Thursday announced plans to prevent young people from ever being able to buy cigarettes as part of an initiative to make the country entirely smoke-free by 2025.

The measures will mean that anyone born after 2008 will not be able to purchase cigarettes or tobacco products in their lifetime, while the level of nicotine in cigarettes available to older people will be reduced.

The number of retailers able to sell cigarettes could also be cut substantially, officials said. The legislation is expected to be enacted next year.

Health officials and campaign groups have welcomed the move, recognizing the proposed reforms as one of the world’s toughest crackdowns on the tobacco industry.

New Zealand already requires plain packaging and has high taxes on cigarettes, but the health ministry says more action is required if it is to reach the goal of making the country smoke-free.

“This is a historic day for the health of our people,” Dr. Ayesha Verrall, associate health minister, said in a statement.

“We want to make sure young people never start smoking so we will make it an offense to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth. People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco.”

Read the rest here.

Monday, December 06, 2021

China is secretly preparing a military base in the Atlantic

BATA, Equatorial Guinea—Classified American intelligence reports suggest China intends to establish its first permanent military presence on the Atlantic Ocean in the tiny Central African country of Equatorial Guinea, according to U.S. officials.

The officials declined to describe details of the secret intelligence findings. But they said the reports raise the prospect that Chinese warships would be able to rearm and refit opposite the East Coast of the U.S.—a threat that is setting off alarm bells at the White House and Pentagon.

Principal deputy U.S. national security adviser Jon Finer visited Equatorial Guinea in October on a mission to persuade President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his son and heir apparent, Vice President Teodoro “Teodorin” Nguema Obiang Mangue, to reject China’s overtures.

“As part of our diplomacy to address maritime-security issues, we have made clear to Equatorial Guinea that certain potential steps involving [Chinese] activity there would raise national-security concerns,” said a senior Biden administration official.

The great-power skirmishing over a country that rarely draws outside attention reflects the rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. The two countries are sparring over the status of Taiwan, China’s testing of a hypersonic missile, the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic and other issues.

World-wide, the U.S. finds itself maneuvering to try to block China from projecting its military power from new overseas bases, from Cambodia to the United Arab Emirates.

In Equatorial Guinea, the Chinese likely have an eye on Bata, according to a U.S. official. Bata already has a Chinese-built deep-water commercial port on the Gulf of Guinea, and excellent highways link the city to Gabon and the interior of Central Africa.

Read the rest here.

University alumni are withholding donations, demanding free speech reforms

Two years ago Cornell University asked a California real-estate developer and longtime donor for a seven-figure contribution.

Carl Neuss didn’t write the check immediately, saying he was worried about what he saw as liberal indoctrination on campus and declining tolerance toward competing viewpoints.

To allay Mr. Neuss’s concerns, the development office introduced him to some politically moderate professors, he said. The attempt backfired. The professors, he said, told him they felt humiliated by the diversity training they were required to attend and perpetually afraid they would say something factual—but impolitic.

“If you say the wrong words, you could lose your position or be shunned,” said Mr. Neuss.

Joel Malina, Cornell’s vice president for university relations, said “robust debate and a discussion of all views remain hallmarks of the Cornell experience both in and out of the classroom.”

Mr. Neuss, who graduated from Cornell in 1976, withheld his donation and then helped start the Cornell Free Speech Alliance. It is one of about 20 such dissident alumni organizations that have taken root on college campuses over the last couple of years—including several this fall.

Many of the groups are driven by politically moderate or conservative men who graduated from college in the late 1960s and 1970s, according to interviews with several of the group leaders. They believe progressive groupthink has taken over college campuses, and are urging schools to protect free speech and encourage a diverse set of views. In some cases, alumni are withholding donations to pressure schools to take them seriously.

“This is a battle for our culture and, in many ways, for Western civilization,” said John Craig, who heads a similar organization at Davidson College in North Carolina called Davidsonians for Freedom of Thought and Discourse. “Open and free expression is what makes our country great, and if we lose this, our country is in deep trouble.”

Some faculty and students say campus politics are more complicated now than it was when many of these baby-boomer alumni were in school because student bodies are much more diverse.

Students carefully calibrate their remarks because people from so many more backgrounds and beliefs are listening, said Carol Quillen, president at Davidson.

“A little intellectual humility is not a bad thing,” she said

Read the rest here.

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Bitcoin Plunges (Again)

Crypto craziness was on display again with the latest huge sell off in Bitcoin, which dropped around 17% over the last 24 hrs. Yet its proponents continue to tout it as a "safe haven" for currency volatility. Meanwhile in Turkey; the lira continues its rapid decline with inflation now running around 20%. Turks are rushing to convert their money... into dollars and gold.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Roe v Wade is on life support

Arguments today before the Supreme Court strongly suggest a majority (probably 5) of the justices are ready to reverse Roe. Chief Justice Roberts hinted at the possibility of severely curbing Roe while in theory leaving some part of it intact. He was probably thinking about limiting abortion rights to the first trimester. But it didn't sound like the other five conservative justices were interested. Seeing the writing on the wall, the three progressive justices were basically left to mourn the imminent demise of murder on demand as a judicially invented constitutional right.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Notre-Dame interior faces woke 'Disney' wreckovation

Paris' fire-ravaged Notre-Dame cathedral risks resembling a "politically correct Disneyland" under controversial plans for its renovation seen by the Daily Telegraph.

Critics have warned that the world-famous cathedral will be turned into an "experimental showroom" under plans to dramatically change the inside of the medieval building.

Under the proposed changes, confessional boxes, altars and classical sculptures will be replaced with modern art murals, and new sound and light effects to create “emotional spaces”.

There will be themed chapels on a "discovery trail", with an emphasis on Africa and Asia, while quotes from the Bible will be projected onto chapel walls in various languages, including Mandarin.

The final chapel on the trail will have a strong environmental emphasis.

“It’s as if Disney were entering Notre-Dame," said Maurice Culot, a prize-winning Paris-based architect, urbanist, theorist and critic who has seen the plans.

"What they are proposing to do to Notre-Dame would never be done to Westminster Abbey or Saint Peter’s in Rome. It’s a kind of theme park and very childish and trivial given the grandeur of the place,” he told The Telegraph.

A senior source close to the renovation said the plans risked turning the global beacon of Christianity into an “experimental showroom” that would “mutilate” the work of Viollet-le-Duc, the celebrated architect who restored the cathedral following the ravishes of the French Revolution in an effort to recapture the spirit of Medieval Christianity.

“Can you imagine the administration of the Holy See allowing something like this in the Sistine Chapel?,” said the senior source with access to the latest plans. “It would be unimaginable. We are not in an empty space here.”

“This is political correctness gone mad,” said the senior source. “They want to turn Notre-Dame into an experimental liturgical showroom that exists nowhere else whereas it should be a landmark where the slightest change must be handled with great care."

Read the rest here.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving


Wishing you and yours a blessed feast. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Ireland in 1902

Remarkable film footage of the people and city of Cork in Ireland taken in 1902.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Putin Moves to Suppress Memory of Communist Atrocities and Modern Rights Groups

MOSCOW — In the days after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the upheaval and uncertainty that gripped Russia were accompanied by a liberating climate of openness, in which free expression, historical examination and political dissent could flourish.

But in the two decades since Vladimir V. Putin took power, the government has steadily rolled back those rights. Mr. Putin has tamed the oligarch class, muffled the media, jailed religious groups and dissidents and suppressed political opposition.

Now Mr. Putin has set his sights on rewriting the memory of one of the most painful times in Russia’s turbulent history: the era of the gulag, when millions of Russians toiled and died, mostly in the first half of the 20th century. Russian prosecutors are moving to liquidate the archive and human rights center of Memorial International, the country’s most prominent human rights organization, which is dedicated to the remembrance of those who were persecuted by the Soviet Union’s often-brutal regime.

Activists and dissidents consider the threat to Memorial a watershed moment for independent thinkers in Russia — a sobering example of the government’s determination to silence its critics and sanitize the narrative surrounding the Soviet Union, which Mr. Putin views as a heady era of Russian influence and power.

Mr. Putin is obsessed with “making Russia great again,” said Aleksandr Baunov, editor in chief of the Carnegie Moscow Center’s website. “Putin’s Russia builds itself on the denial” of the 1990s, with its reforms, self-criticism and social and economic upheaval, Mr. Baunov said, because to him it represents the time in recent history when Russia was its weakest.

Eliminating Memorial, Mr. Baunov said, would help Mr. Putin suppress a forensic examination of one of Russia’s most shameful periods, even as descendants of its victims continue to grapple with the consequences.

“You know this expression ‘power vertical,’” Mr. Baunov said, using a term that has come to define Mr. Putin’s autocratic governing style. “The state wants to build a ‘Memory Vertical,’ too. It does not deny victim status to victims, but it wants to control the repression narrative.”

Two court hearings this week may decide Memorial’s fate. On Tuesday, Moscow’s City Court will consider allegations that Memorial’s Human Rights center “justifies terrorist activities” because it included members of imprisoned religious groups on its list of political prisoners. Later in the week, the Supreme Court will take up charges that Memorial International, which houses the group’s archive, violated a draconian “foreign agent” law.

Read the rest here.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Met. Hilarion of the Russian Church Serves With Met. Tikhon of the OCA

His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, visited St. Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania over the weekend, after his visit to St. Vladimir’s Seminary.

During his visit, His Eminence had the opportunity to serve with His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon of Washington and All America and Canada in the monastery’s Church of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk.

St. Tikhon’s is the oldest Orthodox monastery in America, founded by the future Patriarch St. Tikhon during his time serving in America. It has been connected to many of the great saints who served in America, and is home to the relics of St. Alexis Toth, as well as the miraculous She Who is Quick to Hear Icon of the mother of God and a miraculous icon of St. Anna.

Met. Tikhon, the primate of the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America, is a monk of St. Tikhon’s Monastery.

Following the service, Met. Tikhon greeted Met. Hilarion and briefly recounted for him the founding of St. Tikhon’s Monastery by St. Tikhon and the venerated Archbishop Arseny of Winnipeg, as well as the first Divine Liturgy at St. Tikhon’s celebrated St. Raphael of Brooklyn, St. Alexander Hotovitsky, and St. John Kochurov.

Met. Tikhon then gave Met. Hilarion an icon of St. Nikolai of Žiča, who was rector of and reposed at St. Tikhon’s Seminary, and relics of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, St. Isaac of Syria, and St. Hilarion the Great.

In turn, Met. Hilarion noted that this was his first visit to St. Tikhon’s, but that he deeply venerates St. Tikhon as an apostle in America. He also noted that he especially venerates St. Nikolai as both a hierarch and theologian. Met. Hilarion then presented Met. Tikhon with an episcopal Panagia.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Inflation tops 6%

Consumer inflation surged in October as fuel costs picked up, supply chains remained under pressure and rents moved higher — bad news for economic policymakers at the Federal Reserve and for the Biden White House, which had been emphasizing a recent slowdown in price gains.

Inflation picked up to 0.9 percent last month from September, a Labor Department report showed, faster than the prior month’s increase of 0.4 percent and well above economists’ expectations. So-called core price gains, which strip out products like food and fuel, also accelerated.

Overall prices have climbed by 6.2 percent over the past 12 months, the fastest pace since 1990.

The fresh data scupper a White House talking point. Officials had regularly pointed out that while price gains were faster than usual, at least they were slowing down from rapid summertime readings.

But instead of cooling off toward the end of 2022 as many policymakers had expected, inflation rates remain far faster than the 2 percent annual gains the Federal Reserve aims for on average over time. While the Fed sets its goal using a separate measure of inflation — the Personal Consumption Expenditures index — that too has picked up sharply this year. The C.P.I. reports come out faster, and help to feed into the Fed’s favored gauge, so they are closely watched by economists and Wall Street investors.

Administration and Fed officials alike still expect rapid inflation to eventually fade. But they have had to revise how quickly that might happen: Supply chains remain badly snarled, and demand for goods is holding up and helping to fuel higher prices. As wages begin to rise in many sectors amid labor shortages, there are reasons to expect that some employers might charge their customers more to cover climbing worker costs.

“It is now clear that this process will take longer than initially expected, and the inflation overshoot will likely get worse before it gets better,” Goldman Sachs economists wrote in a research analysis this week.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Patriarch Bartholomew is hospitalized again

The 81 year old patriarch was hospitalized in New York City on the last day of his scheduled visit to the United States. He is reported to have undergone a coronary procedure involving a stent at Mt. Sinai Hospital. The procedure is fairly routine for patients with heart conditions and Bartholomew is expected to be released later today.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Off Year Election Results Signal Warning to Democrats

Tuesday’s elections left the Democratic Party reeling after one Republican won the governor’s race in Virginia and another posed an unexpectedly strong challenge to New Jersey’s incumbent governor, with the race still too close to call.

The twin blows raised alarms about the Democratic Party’s fortunes heading into next year’s midterm elections, with President Biden’s approval ratings sagging and Republicans eager to wrest back control of Congress.

The most surprising unknown on Wednesday morning was the fate of the governor’s race in New Jersey, a state that Mr. Biden carried by 16 percentage points last year. Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat seeking a second term, was locked in a razor-thin contest with a little-known Republican challenger, Jack Ciattarelli, a former assemblyman.

Mr. Murphy pulled ahead of Mr. Ciattarelli on Wednesday morning, but by a small margin. With 88 percent of the expected vote counted, Mr. Murphy was ahead by 1,408 votes, according to The Associated Press.

The other governor’s race on Tuesday, in Virginia, offered foreboding signs of the political environment for Democrats more than nine months into Mr. Biden’s presidency.

A year after Mr. Biden won Virginia by 10 percentage points, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, failed in his quest to win back his old office, losing to the Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, in a contest that was closely watched for what it could signal about voters’ satisfaction or lack thereof with the incumbent president and his party. Mr. McAuliffe conceded to Mr. Youngkin on Wednesday morning.

The setback in Virginia was the latest in a series of stumbles for Mr. Biden, who came under sharp criticism for his handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and who has struggled to unite Democratic lawmakers behind his domestic legislative agenda.

A number of other notable races remained unresolved.

In Minneapolis, where residents rejected a bid to disband and replace the Police Department, the mayor’s race was still too close to call because of ranked-choice voting. Mayor Jacob Frey received nearly 43 percent of first-choice mayoral votes, far more than any challenger but short of the majority threshold needed to win outright. Election officials planned to tabulate ranked-choice selections on Wednesday.

The race for mayor of Atlanta was headed to a runoff. Felicia Moore, the City Council president, was the top vote-getter. But it remained unclear whom she would face in the runoff; Andre Dickens, a councilman, was vying with Kasim Reed, a former mayor trying to make a comeback, for the other spot in the runoff.

In Seattle, a Republican candidate for city attorney and a pro-police candidate for mayor each held large leads, as voters appeared to reject rivals who had sought more aggressive overhauls of policing and the criminal justice system.

If the results hold, Seattle would elect a Republican to citywide office for the first time in three decades, with a city attorney candidate, Ann Davison, who has vowed more prosecutions for low-level crimes in a traditionally liberal city grappling with homelessness.

The debate over policing also figured prominently in the race for mayor, with one candidate, Lorena González, endorsing steep cuts to the police budget last year and another, Bruce Harrell, advocating the hiring of more officers. Early results showed Mr. Harrell in the lead.

Read the rest here.

A call to fight wokery with your money

My friend Richard updated his will a couple of weeks ago. He asked for his bequest to an Oxford college to be removed. The solicitor was not surprised. “I’ve had a lot of clients doing the same thing lately,” he said. “Those universities are starting to lose serious money.”

When I asked Richard why he had cancelled the donation to his alma mater, he sighed: “General wokery. The environment is so different to the culture that we benefitted from when we were there – the link with the past, the hope for the future. Why would I want to support an organisation that has changed so markedly to something I do not recognise or understand? It’s gone, very quickly, from a place that I loved, and which loved me, to one where I now feel deeply uncomfortable and distinctly unwelcome.”

Whatever contortions they are obliged to perform by their professional bodies, workplaces and vigilantes on social media, I sense that a sizeable proportion of my generation has had enough. We are quietly voting with our chequebooks and our direct debits which, increasingly, we withhold from the National Trust and other formerly venerable bodies now idiotically abasing themselves before the monstrous ideological police. “Sir, I am running out of memberships to cancel,’’ complained Charlotte Mackay, wonderfully, in this paper’s Letters to the Editor. Trust me, Charlotte, you are not alone.

Where once we would have taken pleasure in giving something back to the institution that shaped us, now we look on appalled as that same institution capitulates to rabble-rousing brats almost entirely ignorant of the achievements of the historical figures whose statues they demand be torn down. (Or removes their great works from the curriculum, to be replaced by poets who cannot rhyme.) Not to mention the growing reluctance of certain universities to admit the highly qualified offspring of their own graduates. As one female barrister put it: “I got into Cambridge from a council house and a crap comp. I gave my kids a much better education than I had, and now my university doesn’t want them on account of their ‘white privilege’. Give me strength!”

Dozens of donors have cancelled financial gifts to the University of Edinburgh since it renamed the David Hume Tower over the philosopher’s comments on race more than 250 years ago. The presiding genius of the Scottish Enlightenment, Hume held views which now look either radical and laudably ahead of their time or discordantly ugly. An opponent of slavery, he helped his patron Lord Hertford buy a slave plantation. Guess what, human beings were as complicated and flawed back then as they are now. Edinburgh said it had to act to protect student “sensitivities”. Many alumni disagree. “Hume was cancelled in life by the Scottish universities for failing to fall in line with the religious tenets of his day,” wrote one, “so I admire him in death for having the same effect on the grandees of this new [woke] religion.”

I suspect that graduates of Imperial College London will have a similar reaction on hearing that a building named after Thomas Henry Huxley, the great biologist and anthropologist who determined that birds descended from dinosaurs, is set to be renamed. A report by the university’s chillingly named “independent history group” has recommended that the name Huxley be excised because of his beliefs about human intelligence. The group cites Huxley’s essay of 1865, “Emancipation — Black and White”, which it says “espouses a racial hierarchy of intelligence, a belief system of ‘scientific racism’, legacies of which are still felt today”.

You have to hand it to old Huxley. He cunningly hid his racism by being a leading voice in the movement for the abolition of slavery. Yes, some of his observations make us recoil today. But, yesterday, I looked up that self-same “offensive” essay, and here is a very different sort of paragraph: “We find girls naturally timid, prone to dependence, born conservatives; and we teach them that independence is unladylike; that blind faith is the right frame of mind; and that whatever we may be permitted, and indeed encouraged, to do to our brother, our sister is to be left to the tyranny of authority and tradition. With few insignificant exceptions, girls have been educated either to be drudges, or toys, beneath man, or a sort of angels above him... The possibility that the ideal of womanhood lies neither in the fair saint, nor in the fair sinner; that the female type of character is neither better nor worse than the male; that women are meant neither to be men’s guides nor their playthings, but their comrades, their fellows and their equals, so far as nature puts no bar to that equality, does not seem to have entered into the minds of those who have had the conduct of the education of girls.”

Read the rest here.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Has "Wokeism" Become a de-facto religion for the left?

Growing up in the 1990s, I was raised to be optimistic about American society. That society welcomed my parents from Pakistan with open arms; it produced the Georgia man who, in the days after 9/11, approached my family and told us that if anyone harassed us in any way because of our Muslim faith, he would come to our aid.

I knew the country still had problems. I decided to become a journalist so I could shed light on society’s imperfections. But I did so in a spirit of hopefulness.

In recent years, however, a much darker vision has emerged on the political left. America isn’t a land of opportunity. It’s barely changed since the days of Jim Crow. Whites, universally privileged, maintain an iron grip on American society, while nonwhites are little more than virtuous victims cast adrift on a plank in an ocean of white supremacy.

This worldview has swiftly implanted itself into major institutions, from our universities to our corporations. Why has it captivated so many people?

The Columbia University linguist John McWhorter attempts to answer that question in “Woke Racism,” which seeks to both explain and rebut this ideology. (McWhorter and I both sit on the board of advisers of the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism.)

McWhorter, who also writes a newsletter for The Times’s Opinion section, is a Black liberal who dissents from much of the left’s views on race issues. In 2000, he published “Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America,” where he argued that counterproductive cultural beliefs and practices, not racial prejudice, were the main forces preventing more African Americans from succeeding. Some of his targets in that book were left-wing academics, who he worried were helping transform victimhood “from a problem to be solved into an identity in itself.”

Yet in the two decades since, those academics seem to have become more influential than ever. In his latest book, McWhorter suggests that’s because their ideology has been elevated into a religion.

“I do not mean that these people’s ideology is ‘like’ a religion. I seek no rhetorical snap in this comparison. I mean that it actually is a religion,” he writes. “An anthropologist would see no difference in type between Pentecostalism and this new form of antiracism.”

While praising earlier generations of civil rights work, he objects to what he calls “Third Wave Antiracism,” which preaches that “racism is baked into the structure of society, whites’ ‘complicity’ in living within it constitutes racism itself, while for Black people, grappling with the racism surrounding them is the totality of experience and must condition exquisite sensitivity toward them, including a suspension of standards of achievement and conduct.”

Borrowing a term from the author Joseph Bottum, McWhorter refers to the prophets of the Third Wave as “the Elect.” They see themselves as “bearers of a Good News that, if all people would simply open up and see it, would create a perfect world.”

McWhorter says that the Elect’s unshakable convictions have led them to persecute people with unfair accusations of racism. He cites cases like that of David Shor, a young white progressive analyst who was fired from his consulting firm for tweeting a study showing how violent protests can backfire. Many of these inquisitions have been led not by people from minority groups but from the white Elects themselves, who are described as carrying a sort of “self-flagellational guilt for things you did not do.”

Read the rest here.

This prompted me to see if there were any other reactions of a this sort and Google produced no shortage of links to similar reflections

Grand Lux

Accommodations at the Wisdom Hotel in Wisdom Montana, April 1942. You know you're in a classy establishment when they make that effort to reduce lines and wait time.

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. 


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.